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The Mast-Head: Queequeg on the Go

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 12:19

Up with the dogs at my house means stirring before sunrise. Not that I mind as I sit upstairs with my first cup of coffee, looking at the bay and listening for the birds between the dogs’ various post-breakfast snorts and grumbles.

It is, as is usual in the Rattray household, a sorted assortment of pets, our pig having outgrown a domestic setting and gone to live among his own kind in Southampton.

The Sag Harbor carnival goldfish pretty much keeps to himself; the dogs are a whole other matter. Lulu, a one-eyed deliberate crossbreed now in her dotage, gets up first, nails clicking on the bare pine floor as she hops to get my attention. The big dog, Weasel, the most easygoing of the three, will do what I do, that is, if I ignore Lulu, then he will, too.

Luna the pug, we believe, may be the dumbest dog we have ever owned. Or the smartest. After breakfast, she waits halfway up the stairs to the living room where I am writing and barks to be carried the rest of the way. Lulu, in need of a bath, grumbles until she, too, is lifted onto the couch.

Queequeg is the latest addition, a hedgehog who came for Christmas. Spring has seemed to agree with her. As the days have grown warmer, her perkiness level has increased. When Ellis takes her out of her cage in the evening to run around, her explorations are something to behold.

As usual, this year, I let the lawn grow long before the first cut, having read probably online that it is good for the roots. On the first really warm weekend day, Ellis took her outside and let her roam.

Queequeg is so named after the “Moby-Dick” harpooner, her sharp quills and all, Quee-Quee for short. It was something to see as she plowed around the lawn, leaving trails the width of a baking potato in the grass that towered above her like a canebrake. If a hedgehog can be exuberant, she was. Each time Ellis picked her up to move her away from the poison ivy or some other threat, she did not curl defensively, but rather stretched her head as far out as possible, as if to implore, “Put me down again!”

It is funny that the kids call her Queequeg; when we first meet the Polynesian harpooner he and Ishmael closely share a bed in a New Bedford rooming house before their journey. Queequeg will sit comfortably on Ellis’s lap as he watches TV, but that’s about it for cuddling. It reminds me of the old joke about porcupines and how they make love — carefully.

I’ll be here all week, folks.


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