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Cabin fever drives man to bite dog — almost

There is no doubt the recent rare appearance of that strange pale yellow disk in the winter sky saved our dog, Waldo, from being bitten.

But in my defense, you need to know it would have been the first time I've actually sunk my teeth into him, even though he has been egging me on for weeks.

Before you jump to any conclusions about man-biting-dog abuse, you need to hear my side of the story.

After months of snow and rain, Waldo has developed an alarming case of cabin fever in our rural home south of Jacksonville. It's a sad thing, watching your dog's mental state diminish daily.

The chow hound of dubious ancestry has taken to rolling over on his back, placing a furry foreleg over his woeful-looking eyes and yawning loudly.

The first time was funny. The next couple of times were mildly amusing. But now I know he is simply making sport of me.

"You are making dogs throughout the state of Jefferson howl with embarrassment," I told him. "Do you think Old Yeller or Cujo ever laid around yawning? Knock it off."

His response was yet another long, slow yawn.

"Please stop bickering with Waldo," my wife said for the umpteenth time in recent months.

"He started it," I responded. "I'm tired of listening to his doggerel. And you always take his side. How would you like to be mocked by a mutt?"

Maureen's "Oh Please!" was nearly drowned out by what clearly was a giggling yawn from the hairy hound. My wife says she never heard a thing, of course.

Hey, I try to be understanding. After all, I've also noticed the house has grown considerably smaller this winter following endless days of snow and rain and sleet and what can only be described as dog-drooling drizzle. I know the muck outside is strong enough to pull the calk boots off a logger.

I'm fully aware there is a half-done garden fence out there, mocking me with its state of incompletion. I can almost hear the brush I haven't cleared laughing as it shoots up for the coming fire season. And I would dearly love to get out of the house to take a long leisurely walk in the sun.

But an ever-shrinking house is no excuse for Waldo's rude behavior.

When he isn't yawning, he likes to pretend he's deep in a midwinter night's dream. That's when he'll moan in his sleep as though he's being pestered by Puck, that mischief maker. His feet twitch and his tail thumps.

And, I swear this is the truth although Maureen is in denial, he opens an eye a little to see if I'm watching his performance. Disgusting, I tell you.

Over in Ashland, Shakespearean actors preparing for the Feb. 22 season opening would throw forearms over their eyes and cry out in anguish at the antics of this flea-bitten thespian.

God knows I've done my best to soothe his feverish obsession with the weather. I told him about surviving the 1964 flood in Southern Oregon as a youngster and living in Alaska as an adult.

"The high in Fairbanks on Thursday was 31 degrees — below zero," I said. "Up in the Last Frontier, we ate snow for breakfast. I've known sled dogs who walked miles in the snow to school — barefoot."

But he threw in a derisive snort with his yawn to let me know he thought I was the one losing it. Very sad.

Yet he seemed to come out of his feverish state on Saturday, thanks to the hint of spring weather. Even I had a spring in my step.

Sadly, weather prognosticators say we have more dreary days ahead before the sun returns in earnest.

Indeed, the U.S. National Weather Service forecast for Jackson and Josephine counties calls for 50 percent chance of rain today, 20 percent Monday, 40 percent Tuesday ... and so it goes, ad nauseam.

But I have discovered a way to help Waldo cope. When he started to yawn during one recent dog-drooling day both within and without the house, I bared my teeth and growled.

"Oh please!" my wife interjected.

Waldo stifled the yawn and edged over to Maureen, eyeing me warily.

He's definitely got a serious case of cabin fever, poor fellow.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.