"Whatcha doin', Dad?" our cat Pickles asked, taking a seat beside me on the couch where I sat with my laptop.
"Typing a column," I said.
Pickles looked at the blank computer screen and then at me.
"I don't see any words."
"It's still in the planning stage," I responded.
"You should write about me," Pickles said, beaming.
"You doing what?" I asked.
"OK," I agreed, "let's hear one."
"OK!" Pickles exclaimed. "Did you hear about the kidnapping on the bus?"
"Yeah," Pickles continued, "the driver had to wake him up! Get it? Kid-napping? AHAHAHAHAHAAA! I love that one!"
I shook my head.
"You're not typing anything," Pickles said. "Here, let me type it in for you."
Pickles crawled up on my belly, and, after thoughtfully studying the laptop keyboard, pressed a few key combinations with his front paws.
"Feel free to use that one," Pickles added.
"Thanks. You've been a great help."
"You're welcome," Pickles responded, looking sleepy.
As Pickles purred himself to sleep, I turned off the computer and headed to the barn.
"No idea for your column, eh?" our dog Hazel asked as I stepped outside.
"How'd you hear that?" I asked.
"News travels fast around here," she responded.
"Fine," I said. "What's your idea?"
"OK, I've got an idea for a series of stories about a canine superhero," Hazel said excitedly.
"Starring you, I suppose?"
"That'd be great!" Hazel responded. "And we'd call it 'Southern Fried Ninja Dog.'"
"Southern Fried Ninja Dog?"
"Yes," Hazel said, matter-of-factly. "And the first adventure would be based on what happened here two nights ago."
"What?" I asked. "When you wouldn't stop barking and running around the yard?"
"I saved the farm from a cougar! A cougar!" Hazel shouted. "I chased it into the big oak tree!"
"Unfortunately," Hazel said, "it got away when I was distracted by you yelling at me to shut up."
"Southern Fried Ninja Dog," Hazel said.
"I'll think about it," I said, turning toward the barn.
"Hey," Hazel said, "did you hear the one about the kidnapping on the bus?"
I was barely half way to the barn when another cat Sascha stopped me.
"An aging, nearsighted sentry dog," she said.
"Your column will be about an aging, nearsighted sentry dog who mistakes humble barn cats for cougars and chases them into trees."
"Sounds familiar," I said.
"All too familiar!" Sascha added. "Thank goodness someone told her to shut up or I'd have never gotten away."
"And this column will be about you?" I asked.
"No," Sascha answered. "It's more universal than that. I'd like to think the story is about 'everycat.'"
"I have a nap to take, but you can interview me after that," Sascha said.
In the barn, our horses Vander, Madison and Brownie were debating their own ideas for the column. I didn't want to know how they'd found out about my writer's block.
"You should write about Brownie pooping in his water bucket," Madison said with a giggle.
"I think you should write about Vander ripping the tail flap off of Madison's blanket," said Brownie.
"I think you should write about how you gave us a bunch of treats," said Vander, "like, now."
"Write now?" I asked.
"No," Vander said, "right now."
The animals were wearing me down. I handed out several treats to each horse.
"Yeah," Vander said. "This column is practically writing itself. Can I get another cookie?"
"Hey," said Madison. "You should talk to Hazel about column ideas."
"Yeah!" added Brownie. "She caught a cougar!"
"And she's got some great jokes!" said Vander with a chuckle.
"I know, I know," I said. "The kidnapping on the bus? Yes, very funny."
The horses looked at me with confused expressions.
"No," said Vander, "I mean the one about the cowboy, the Appaloosa and the leprechaun."
"Yeah!" shouted Brownie. "Then the Appaloosa goes 'OK, little man, but what about the gold coins in my feed bucket?'"
"AHHAAAHAAAAHAAAA!" The horses roared with laughter.
"Man!" exclaimed Vander. "That dog's got a twisted sense of humor!"
I nearly tripped over another cat Macy as I fled the barn.
"One word," Macy said. "Kidnapping."
I didn't stop running. The horses' and Macy's laughter trailed off behind me as I neared the house.
Our other dog, Pepper, and cat Jack had joined Pickles on the couch by the time I came in and sat down. I was winded and sweaty.