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The ghost of LaBelle the Cat (01/10/2007)
By Frances Edstrom

On one of our recent gray days, the dog-who-must-not-be-written-about was sitting in front of the window where the squirrels like to play outside. He seemed more pensive than usual, but I was determined to ignore his sighs and mutterings of "Oh, me, oh my." I've learned over the years that we have lived together that if I give in and ask, "What's the matter?" it puts me at a disadvantage in the ensuing debate.

So I outwaited him.

"I've been thinking," he sighed, "that I should have an Advance Directive."

"Okay," I said, "go to your bed two minutes from now."

"Why must you belittle every subject I broach with you?" he said. "This is very serious! I have been thinking of filling out an Advance Directive, capital A capital D. You know I'm not getting any younger, and I think I should make my wishes known to you and John on end-of-life issues. You have heard of Advance Directives, formerly known as Living Wills, have you not?" he said with no little sarcasm.

"Of course!" I said. The Winona Health Auxiliary volunteers have a free service to help people complete them, and I made the whole family fill one out during the Terry Schiavo ordeal.

"But, um, isn't it unusual for a dog to have an Advance Directive?" I could feel I was stepping out onto thin ice here, and vowed to proceed carefully.

"Well," he said, "I suppose you might think so. I've heard you talking about the demise of a couple of your former pets. With your history, it occurred to me that I had better have some legal protections."

I couldn't help it, I blurted out, "I happen to be a very responsible pet owner!"

"Oh, really? How many times have I heard the story about you refusing to have a life-saving pacemaker put in LaBelle the Cat?"

"Excuse me? She was almost twenty years old! She had no teeth""

"I suppose dentures were out of the question?"

"You bet they were! She was a cat for heavens sake!"

"Well," he said, yawning widely, "I guess I'd better take care of my teeth!" And he snapped his jaw shut in that loud way dogs have.

"This is a ridiculous conversation," I said. "I have taken very good care of your health. All your shots are up-to-date and I buy the best food""

"Oh, yeah?" he said. "Well I happen to have information that questions whether or not those shots are good for me!"

"Since when have you been reading tabloids at the grocery store?" I asked.

"Ooh! Welcome to the twenty-first century. Don't you think I watch television and go on the dog blogs?"

"Actually, I thought you slept all day," I said.

"Well think again, girlie, because I have taken charge of my own destiny, and it is clear to me that I need protection from you on these end-of-life issues."

"Wow. Is this the Twilight Zone?" I thought. "Um," I said, "do you have a lawyer?" 


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