• We escaped the smoke, but not the fog

  • As I write, a sunny upstart year blinks and opens its innocent eyes. That lucky old sun is trying to make a liar of me, as I'd planned to expose it for the foggy-lidded flirt it's been in recent days.
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  • As I write, a sunny upstart year blinks and opens its innocent eyes. That lucky old sun is trying to make a liar of me, as I'd planned to expose it for the foggy-lidded flirt it's been in recent days.
    The frozen gloom reminded me of its opposite cousin of a few months ago, when weeks of wilting heat and smoke from a siege of forest fires shrouded the valley and made my house smell like a slew of damp campfires.
    Sometimes having a good memory can backfire on you, because I distinctly recalled blithely telling my cats, Oliver and Cassidy, sometimes referred to as the boys, "I'll take freezing fog over this blinding, choking inferno any day." Or something like that.
    Even though I generally resist allowing challenges to pass without locating their funny bones, I will admit to a certain level of desperate panic at the time. After all, when the going gets tough, the tough pack their bags and get going to Klamath Falls with two buffalo-sized cats in tow, don't they?
    I could see by the look in their eyes that the boys needed a break from the fear of imminent death by flames. Or perhaps from my pacing and fretting.
    "Do the boys want to go on a trip?" I asked them, not realizing it was the same tone of voice as, "Do the boys want treats?" I took their eager faces for yes and began planning.
    I found a nice, pet-friendly hotel not far away — the three of us had never enjoyed a lark away from home — so Klamath Falls was a perfect choice. Ever the optimist, I made reservations for two nights.
    Each stout fellow had his own carrier. I tossed a favored toy inside and gently but firmly shoved each reluctant traveler inside his cozy conveyance. That's when the duet began. Either they'd figured out how much fun we were going to have and those were exclamations of, "Goody! Hooray, a change of pace!" or not.
    A particularly vicious string of yowls, which sounded to me like feline sailor talk, caused me to turn and look aghast at Oliver, who'd clenched the cage door with his teeth. I kept calm, turned the radio on low and refrained from sticking my fingers through the bars to pat his head.
    When we arrived at The Cimarron Inn, the friendly clerk said, "Oh, yes, you have the cats."
    "Yes." I smiled at the others checking in, who smiled back. People traveled with their dogs all the time, treating them more like children. So, why not bring my cats? I would learn the answer.
    At this point, I should mention that publicly unloading the giant litter box was possibly the worst of it. I tried timing it between neighbors moving in, but the hotel was full for the night.
    Once inside, Cassidy kept making a circuit of hyper-exploration, visiting each station: food bowl, water and litter box, if only to paw up dust. Oliver bee-lined for the darkest corner of escape behind the bed. I thought only mice or gerbils could flatten out their bodies like that. I made myself at home on the bed, demonstrating what relaxation looked like. Cassidy would flit back to me, lie down briefly, and then take off on another tour of duty.
    When both cats joined me on the bed, I breathed in relief, confident that my plan was a good one after all. Nope. Not as far as my two insomniacs were concerned.
    At 6 a.m., refreshed, cat-free people began slamming trunk lids and sliding van doors just outside.
    After downing something free from the breakfast bar, I visited the front desk. I could have kissed the clerk when he said calmly, "Of course you can cancel the second night. Just be checked out by noon."
    "No problem," I said through watery eyes. I packed everything up and headed for home.
    I think we'll bear with the freezing fog.
    Peggy Dover is a freelance writer who works from a 1900 farmhouse in Eagle Point. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com.
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