Bob Boese, Louisiana

September 22nd, 2008

Dogs and Cats
By Bob Boese, Louisiana

Louisiana is currently in the midst of its every afternoon thundershowers routine and, between lightning strikes, my quite large dogs are shivering, while attempting to possess the exact space I happen to be occupying. Meanwhile, the cat, Yogi, is sitting under the carport on the truck hood daring anything to flee from the wet within his range of view. Fly fishermen can learn a lot from dogs and cats. The lessons they teach aren't the same, but they are related, in a perverse sort of way.

Dogs eat practically anything – dog food, leftovers, garbage, road kill and the oyster poorboy you put on the back of the stovetop thinking it was safe. Anything. Don't believe for a minute dogs and chocolate are antithetical. My sled dog will gnaw on a cereal box, but that's about it, yet he will hunt through the cupboard for Oreos and leave nothing but mangled cellophane. Halloween's leftover York peppermint patties went down and out foil and all. He gnawed open a new jar of peanut butter and lapped out half. Yep, dogs are voraciously omnivorous. They consume whatever is available with gusto and enthusiasm, grateful for any opportunity to snack. Dog psyche says "eat it fast or someone else will" … even if there is no someone competing for the food. There is serious doubt that dogs taste half of what they take in, unless it is that heartworm pill you have to hide in a pat of butter to get swallowed.

Cats are basically carnivorous and eat only what they want only when they want, even if the offering is the finest of canned feline gourmet fare. And even a hungry cat will ignore the most expensive cat food if it thinks someone is trying to get it to eat. [Interestingly enough, a cat can't survive solely on dry dog food because dog food lacks the necessary percentage of meat protein for the feline constitution.] Cats like killing things and frequently like eating their kill, but mostly they like killing things. Of course, leave a grilled chicken breast alone for a while with my house cat and you'll know he is related to tigers … as the spirits of birds and lizards and mice and squirrels will confirm. Dogs are simply vacuums for what's easily available, unless the cat killed it, in which case they are suspicious the cat left it as bait.

Largemouth bass and big bluegill don't usually eat each other, so they don't mess much with each other. Bluegill are laterally compressed (plate shaped), and, contrary to general belief, large bluegill are harder for bass to swallow than much bigger torpedo shaped fish (like other bass or shad) and are harder to get down than most bass are willing to deal with, thus are not usually on the entree list. Tolerance doesn't mean they like each other – au contraire – and they frequently compete for the same food. But, bass are the dogs of the pond. Other than vegetation, if it's alive and in or on the water, it's on their menu. Bass fry change their diet from zooplankton to fish as soon as possible and turn into deadly hunters in only a few weeks. Bass can digest most anything in their environment and have the ability to swallow prey nearly their own size. Tasting is not part of the pre-feast protocol and if it might be edible it's worth a try. Hence the success of the resembles-nothing buzz bait. Bass eating insects is like your dog taking in pizza crumbs – not very filling but tasty. Fingerling bass eat a lot of insects and remember how swell a nymph tasted as they grow. Given the choice between a shad, a crawfish and an ant, the ant comes in a poor third. But ….if the ant happens to be hanging around as a bass hunts for shad or crawfish, it's snackage. For this reason, a fly doesn't have to look too much like an insect to get eaten, just sort of food-ish.

In comparison, while their diet is varied, a large bluegill's mouth is only wide enough to accommodate relatively small items and their preference is easy-to-catch delicacies, like insects. Bluegill spend most of their young lives not wanting to get eaten, so they develop an educated palate for the various types of vegetation they hide among. Because they are familiar with water plants, they learn to be selective in both their vegetarian diet and live entrees. In cat-ish fashion, they sort of play with their food, tasting before eating, sometimes tasting several times first. Big bluegill generally ignore dead fare and, given a choice of main course, will select dinner by either mood or memory. If the bluegill feels like eating and your fly looks like food and something resembling your fly tasted like food before, bluegill think it's probably food.

Yogi is an indoor-outdoor cat who rules his domain with fang and claw. Even when sleeping he is hunting and his very sharp claws will extend and retract with dreams of prey. He will occasionally venture to the neighbor's yard, but only to show off for the neighbor's calico. Dogs like exploring…because it might take them near food. Let Ozzie, my daughter's sled dog, loose and you will find him miles away, head cocked to the side, wondering why it too you so long to catch up. Cats like marking territory and staying nearby. Dogs are smell oriented and, while running past things, they barely notice whether they are black or white or grey-ish and darker grey-ish. Cats practically count the leaves on every bush in their territory and, unless it saves a cat the trouble by moving, a feline can distinguish a chamaeleon based on leaf count. Dogs will chase prey for long distances. Cats, unlike their larger cousins in the wild, like waiting for prey to enter the danger zone then attack in short quick movements. In the lake, bass don't explore so much as they prowl a water body, hunting for any might-be-food that moves, like fish and ducks and frogs. Their sense of smell is sharp but primarily they hunt with their lateral line nerve system, which can detect the slightest vibrations. Since they are usually the top of the food chain, anything they detect moving is a potential meal. Just because they haven't eaten a chartreuse popping bug before doesn't mean they aren't going to test it's edibility. Meanwhile, bluegill stalk quietly around vegetative cover and prefer food that won't move fast, such as insects floating in the water. In most instances, a fly has to come much closer to a bluegill to entice it than it would for a bass.

Yogi visits the lake shore occasionally, presumably to kill something, but I think he is discussing strategy with the bass. Both the cat and the bass are night hunters. Cat night vision is excellent and, after dark, bass use a combination of vision and lateral line to find prey. In June a full sized mocking bird was careless and, as darkness fell, it soon became a clump of red streaked feathers that was deposited by the backdoor next to a too slow field mouse. About that same time we had been concerned with lake damage from new nutria offspring. It was an unwarranted concern as the bass had only to decide whether to choose from Column A with duckling puffs, Column B with bullfrog sushimi, or Column C with the nutria tartar.

There is a tenuous peace in our house I have yet to fully understand. She-Ra, my smaller dog (50 pounds small), used to come unglued at the thought of a cat, and then Yogi and Ozzie moved in. Things were very tense until a while back when a bad ginger cat backed my good ginger into a corner and was actually winning, which tells you something about the badness of that other cat. The dogs heard the cat fight and Ozzie bolted from his leash to get a mouthful of bad cat. She-Ra was standing with her hackles straight up, just waiting to play tag team and eventually got her own taste of the evil feline – who has never been seen since in our vicinity. Duh. Now Yogi sleeps in the dogs' beds and the dogs share the cat's food, and they all climb in bed, together, with my daughter. Strange bedfellows for sure. Bass and bluegill – naw, it'll never happen.

Bubba's son, T'Bub, on tour with his Army Reserve division in Afghanistan, had just gotten a furlough from several weeks of intense action on the front lines. Finally granted R&R he was exhausted and boarded a train bound for Cairo with a platoon of British troops. The train was very crowded and T'Bub walked the length of the train, looking for an empty seat. The only unoccupied seat was directly adjacent to an expensively dressed French woman and was being used by her poodle. The nasty tempered little dog growled and snapped at T'Bub as he asked, "Please, ma'am, may I sit in that seat?"

The French woman looked down her nose at T'Bub, his chest filled with campaign and award ribbons. She huffed and said, "You Americans. You are such a rude class of people. Can't you see my Little Fife is using that seat? Look you have upset her."

T'Bub walked away, looking to find any place to rest, but after another trip down to the end of the train, found himself once more facing the woman with the dog. The dog snarled as again he asked, "Please, lady. May I sit there? I'm really very tired."

The woman wrinkled her nose and snorted, "Sacre Bleu! Americans! Not only are you rude, you are also arrogant. Connard!"

Now, T'Bub didn't speak much French, but the Cajun boys in his platoon had taught him some of the more notable insults, and this was near the top of the list. Without saying anything else; he leaned over, picked up the unpleasant little dog, tossed it out the window of the train and sat down in the empty seat. The woman shrieked, hit him with her purse, then stormed off looking for someone to deal with T'Bub.

An English officer sitting across the aisle spoke up, "You know, sir, you Americans do seem to have a penchant for doing the wrong thing. You butcher the language. You eat holding the fork in the wrong hand. You drive your autos on the wrong side of the road. And now, sir, you've thrown the wrong bitch out the window." ~ Bob

About Bob:

Robert Lamar Boese is has fly fished for five decades. He is an environmental negotiator, attorney and educator who has provided environmental legal services for more than thirty-three years including active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Justice. He is a well known fly tyer with several unique patterns to his credit. He has developed and authored federal and state regulatory programs encompassing a broad spectrum of environmental disciplines, has litigated environmental matters at all levels of the federal and state court systems, and is a qualified expert for testimony in environmental law. He has authored over 60 published text chapters, comments or articles on environmental matters, is a member of the Colorado, District of Columbia and Louisiana Bar Associations, and is a certified mediator. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Boese has been a high school teacher, an associate professor of Environmental Law and Public Health, has authored numerous fiction and sports publications, and is a softball coach and nationally certified volleyball referee. He is the president of the Acadiana Fly Rodders in Lafayette, Louisiana and editor of Acadiana on the Fly. He has been married for thirty years and is the father of two fly fishing girls (25 and 21). For additional information contact: Boese Environmental Law, 103 Riviera Court, Broussard, LA 70518 or call 337.856.7890 or email coachbob@ymail.com.


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