In early December 2005, Mark Saunders and his wife, along with their dog and cat, packed up their 21st century jalopy, a black Audi Quattro with a luggage carrier on top, and left Portland, Oregon, for San Miguel de Allende, three thousand miles away in the middle of Mexico, where they knew no one and could barely speak the language.
Things fell apart almost from the beginning. The house they rented was as cold as a restaurant’s freezer. Their furniture took longer than expected to arrive. They couldn’t even get copies of their house keys made. They unintentionally filled their house with smoke and just as unintentionally knocked out the power to their entire neighborhood. In other words, they were clueless. This is their story.
Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty by Mark Saunders
Making a road trip with pets is much like making the same trip with kids, except pets never complain about your choice of music or pinch each other when you’re not looking. Furthermore, you can’t leave your kids behind in the car with a window cracked while you go inside to get something to eat.
In my case, we were making a six-day drive with a dog who had a bladder the size of a caper, a Standard poodle named Cassie, as well as a cat named Sadie, who believed a cat’s reach should never exceed its claws. We were traveling from Portland, Oregon, to San Miguel de Allende, in the middle of Mexico. By the end of the trip, we were all tired of the road and of each other.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
In an amazing feat of both endurance and stubbornness, our poodle stood the entire way, in the backseat just behind the driver. Not only that, she had to have the window rolled down, at least halfway, so she could stick her head out. We suspect Cassie was prone to motion sickness and required deep breaths of whatever was passing for fresh air at the time. By the end of a typical 10-hour day of standing in the car, our black poodle had usually turned green.
Sadie was a different story. Once she was inside the car, you barely knew she was there.
The catch was getting her in the car, a cross between a Herculean task and a Three Stooges routine.
The morning after our first day on the road, Sadie hid under the bed, hanging tough on a carpet that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since Y2K. When my efforts to grab her failed, we tried Plan B and began sweet-talking her with soft chants of “Kitty, Kitty, Kitty.” When that inevitably failed, it was back to Plan A, only this time I used a long piece of wood, sweeping it under the bed like a broom, which worked.
The second morning gave Sadie new hope, since the night before we had upgraded to two beds. She scurried back and forth, from bed to bed, until I tipped one of the mattresses on end. She hit the mattress, scaled it like a rock climber on amphetamines and reached the top, just as I grabbed her.
The third morning, we checked everywhere, from under the bed to behind the armoire, as well as all points in between. I turned on the closet light to find Sadie crouching inside a trough of transparent plastic that served as a tacky storage unit above the closet rod. Cat nabbed, case closed.
Three weeks after we arrived in Mexico, Sadie disappeared. We searched every corner of our house, inside and out. We walked up and down the street, calling her name as if a cat would ever deign to respond.
We found her, of course. Sadie had burrowed her way inside our bed’s mattress batting. Even with six days of cat retrieval experience, it took me twenty minutes to extract her.
But now, with the mystery solved, we knew Sadie’s hiding spot and the next time she crawled in there, we let her stay.
Release: November 2011
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An award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and cartoonist, Mark Saunders tried standup comedy to get over shyness and failed spectacularly at it — the standup part, not the shyness. He once owned a Yugo and still can’t remember why. Nearly 30 of his plays have been staged, from California to New York - with several stops in-between - and two plays have been published.
With three scripts optioned, his screenplays, all comedies, have attracted awards but seem to be allergic to money. Back in his drawing days, more than 500 of his cartoons appeared nationally in publications as diverse as Writer’s Digest, The Twilight Zone Magazine, and The Saturday Evening Post.
As a freelancer, he also wrote gags for the popular comic strip “Frank and Ernest,” as well as jokes for professional comedians, including Jay Leno. Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak is his first book.
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