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Tales From the Bark Side column: 'The Shadow Nose,' part 1

Welcome back to the bark side of life here in Ottertail, where a gray morning hides a secretive sun behind a veil of tear laden clouds, as the last desperate grasp of winter slowly slips away into a resourceful spring. Flowers are popping up like lost relatives after a person wins the Powerball lottery.

The woods awaken to the soulful serenade of cheerful birds; beckoning to the dawn with rapturous glee. It may not feel like it today, but I do believe that spring is here.

What I'm sure is here, is another great tale for the "Logic vs. Instinct" contest from one of our readers. You, too, can enter the contest by e-mailing me at If you prefer, you can also write to me at Keith Alan Ross, Richville, MN 56576 or phone me at 218-495-2195. So, without further ado, here is the first part a two-part tale from Merl and Zona Johannes of Fergus Falls, called "The Shadow Nose."


I have been following your pet stories in the local newspaper, and we have one to share! For many years we had a cat we called "Shadow." She was so attached to humans; she seemed to belong with us. She had been raised by an older farm lady in the Wadena-New York Mills area who always enjoyed her "barn cats." Whenever a cat had a litter of kittens, she moved them into her home as babies until they were old enough to be on their own in her barn and outbuildings.

She was in the habit of picking up one of the kittens to snuggle in her apron front in her lap. As she rocked them, they were touched and talked to... no wonder they grew up placid and used to humans.

Shadow was such a good companion to me as I went about all my household duties. She loved Christmas; the papers, the bows, and all the ribbons to choose and play with. She went with me wherever I went and would play until she fell asleep when she was tired.

My husband was away a lot at work, or in town, or maybe to the Lions in Underwood. She was my constant pal -- but I'm writing this because she was also an extremely intelligent cat. On our coat closet (in the living room and in one bedroom) we had large, double-folding doors. They were split open in the center, with another split on each side where they folded back when opened.

One night as Shadow returned from her litter box, in the back utility room, I was on the couch watching TV with my husband. All at once, behind the couch, the folding doors began to make a noise. Shadow was there, taking a front foot and pulling on the bottom of the center crack, until she popped it open just a little bit.

She worked at the doors until they opened ,little by little -- just enough so that she could walk into the coat closet. She taught herself how to open those folding doors so she could go in and snoop around. I could not believe my eyes, or how wise she was.


Next week, we will have the conclusion of "The Shadow Nose." They say curiosity killed the cat, but many a cat has gotten away with being a very curious critter for many a long year. I believe when any creature (including us humans too) uses their native intelligence on a daily basis, it prolongs their life considerably. The "use it or lose it" theory applies quite appropriately.

If you would like to read more, Tales from the Bark Side (the book) is now available at The Red Willow in both of its Detroit Lakes locations, at the Washington Square Mall or down the hill at the intersection of Washington and Willow streets. I will be doing a book signing at one of the two locations sometime in the middle of June... I'll have more on that subject in a future column.

Keep those terrific tales coming in folks, they are great! Until next time...