Friday, August 10, 2018

COLUMN: Hunting

One of my favorite things about our home office's recent move to East Moline has been getting to know the pair of Canadian geese that appear to have set up shop somewhere on our grounds.

Every day, you can find the literal lovebirds in or around our parking lot, nibbling on grass, happily honking, and generally just goose-ing it up, seemingly oblivious to the building full of stressed newsies running around in desperate attempts to beat advertising goals and print deadlines. It's a relatively safe space, and I like seeing them flourish rather than becoming someone's dinner.

My new guilty pleasure is reality shows like "North Woods Law" that follow state game wardens on patrol. I'm a sucker for any program that tails cops around, but after awhile, there's a finite level of drunken domestic abuse calls one can watch without becoming queasy and worried about the future of society. The Animal Planet shows, on the other hand, just show clip after clip of game wardens making life hell for hunters, and I'm all for that.

I realize I may lose a few readers with this one, but I don't care: I'm not a fan of hunting. I don't understand how it's considered a "sport" to sit in a tree waiting for something cute to come along so that you can put a hole in it. If that's sporting, then I should be considered an athlete every time I play video games. At least Grand Theft Auto requires you to push some buttons.

And yes, I know. The only way I can truly be an anti-hunting crusader without being a huge hypocrite is if I became one of those self-righteous vegan types, and I'm not. Vegetables are too icky and cows are too delicious, sorry. I prefer to live my life in denial that those chicken breasts I bought at the grocery store were once attached to actual chickens.

I just don't get how killing something cute, furry, and innocent can possibly be fun. Besides, I've tried venison once or twice and it's not my thing. Maybe I'd be an avid hunter if the only way I could enjoy a cheeseburger is by stalking wild cattle through the woods. I just don't get how any of this is sporting unless the deer have crossbows, too.

If you want real sportmanship in nature, forget deer and geese. If you really want to experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, you need to match wits with the fiercest and most cunning creature in all of nature. I speak, of course, about the domestic housecat. You might enjoy waking up early to go hunting. I get it to do it every morning without leaving the house.

One of my elderly cats suffers from kidney problems. Twice a week, I'm supposed to sit her down, poke her with a needle, and pump her with a few hundred cc's of subcutaneous fluid that she needs to help flush her system. The internet is filled with how-to videos of patient cats happily purring away while their owners administer the life-giving fluids.

To this process, my cat says "thanks, but no thanks." That's a loose translation. She really just says "Hisssssssssssssss!"

In fact, she throws such a literal hissy fit that I can't do it at home without investing heavily in Bactine and Band-Aids. Ergo, twice a week, I have to take her to the vet, where they tell me she's a "total angel" who's a "perfect patient." They don't hear her in the car, where she spends the entire six-block trip giving me an earful of meows that range from angry to livid to, well, catty. Then I get her home, and she's instantly the affectionate purring lap cat I know.

She remains that cat for two days, and then I don't see her. As it turns out, I don't raise stupid cats. She knows that vet trips happen every three or four days, so she's lovely and underfeet for two days -- and then she hides. But only until it's night out. Once the sun sets, she comes out purring -- she knows vet trips only happen during sunlight.

Where she spends her day hours is anyone's guess. Sometimes it's under my bed where I can't reach. Sometimes it's under the basement stairs where NO ONE can reach. It's only during those few times when she comes out for food or the litterbox when I can grab her. I've tried playing with her toys, I've tried shaking the food box, I've tried luring her with tuna.

Every time I grab her, she learns more about how to evade future traps. Every week, it gets harder and harder to catch her slipping up. I never expected the most challenging aspect of my day would be matching wits with an animal who once ate an entire shoestring.

So have fun in your duck blinds and deer stands, hunters of the world. The real sport happens in my living room. I fear it's only a matter of time before I wake up tied down with rope like Gulliver until sunset. It's worth it, though. Life's a little bit better with work geese and lap cats.

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