The state trooper guarding Mahonia Hall, the Oregon Governor's mansion here in Salem, gave me some faulty intelligence. I'm not blaming him; the enemies I asked about are notoriously sly and unpredictable.
So began a saga that could have ended in a public relations nightmare for the Willamette Humane Society. Imagine the headline: Oregon's First Cats terrorized by dog pack at lunch won by donors at Humane Society event.
My wife, Laurel, organized the lunch with Cylvia Hayes, Oregon's First Lady (who is the partner, but not the wife, of Governor John Kitzhaber -- which earns her some undeserved criticism from cultural Neanderthals for using the title).
We'd successfully bid on the lunch back in October at the Humane Society's Boo Bash fundraiser. Cylvia had agreed to host a lunch for ten, with Iggy's Catering generously providing the donated meal.
It took a while for Laurel to coordinate arrangements with Mary Rowinski of the Governor's Office, but today we and our two dogs set off for Mahonia Hall under electric power in our Chevy Volt (appropriate, since Cylvia has worked in sustainable economic development and clean energy for over twenty years.)
Laurel wasn't sure whether we should bring in old dog Serena and young dog Zu Zu. Mary had told us that the Governor's mansion was dog-friendly and our canines were invited to visit with the First Dog. Also, that Mahonia Hall was home to two cats.
Now, to our dogs "dog-friendly" and "home to two cats" wasn't a contradiction.They love to chase cats. Cats are fun! Especially when they run.
But Laurel and I were worried that the mellow vibe of our lunch with the First Lady would be endangered (to put it mildly) if our dogs not only caught sight of the cats, but also caught some part of them. I worried even more that this would happen after our dog pack had careened through antiques, historical memorabilia, and other fragile furnishings in Mahonia Hall.
However, the state trooper's cheerful assurance that Serena and Zu Zu were welcome to attend the lunch assuaged our anxieties. Here's Laurel (in light blue jacket) being greeted by Cylvia and the First Dog, Tessa, a good-natured and attractive Rhodesian Ridgeback. Serena is in the foreground, scoping out the First Scents in the driveway.
(Martha Russell photo)
iPhone camera in hand, I started to document our tour of the Governor's mansion that Cylvia said she'd take us on while Ian Johnson of Iggy's Catering was finishing the lunch preparations. Serena and Zu Zu seemed to feel right at home. In retrospect, though, I should have paid more attention to how eagerly Zu Zu (at the top) was sniffing around.
Because when we rounded that corner of the room, my worst fear -- and our dogs' greatest joy -- came into view. Cat!!! Strangely, I saw the cat sitting on the back of a chair before Serena and Zu Zu did. Maybe because the room was so filled with feline smells, they couldn't tell exactly where the cat was.
Some excitement, but no disaster, followed. I yelled Cat, Cat! while putting a leash on Serena and holding Zu Zu by her collar.
Just in time, because First Cat #2 materialized on the floor. Serena got her nose swiped at, but the claws missed. At that point I started to be more worried about whether our dogs would get hurt, than whether the cats would.
Cylvia reassured the cat that all was well, even with two strange dogs running around the Governor's mansion. The First Cats then were escorted to another part of Mahonia Hall. We never saw them again.
(Along that line, as a blogger I'd like to repeat some juicy stories Cylvia told us about what goes on under the covers of the bed she and Governor Kitzhaber share, but I'm going to hold off in hopes that the National Enquirer will pay me for the lurid details involving sleeping arrangements with a Canis lupus familiaris.)
A low-light of the tour for us came in the basement, where Zu Zu unexpectedly peed on the rug. She never has done this at home. Guess she wanted to leave her mark on the Governor's mansion (we didn't know our young dog was a Republican). Laurel cleaned the wet spot up with some paper towels from the kitchen.
Fortunately, we were told that the basement is the lair of Governor Kitzhaber's 16 year old son and his friends when they come to visit. Having been a teenage boy myself, I know that a little dog pee is well within their gross-out comfort zone.
The upper floor features what Cylvia described as a ballroom with a nice wood floor. Zu Zu and Tessa enjoyed a bit of dog-dancing play on it. We were shown a small side room where, in the good old days of male dominance (I've heard of those days; haven't experienced them) men would retire to smoke cigars and engage in political man-talk while the women folk exchanged recipes, or whatever, in the ballroom.
Laurel and I had requested healthy vegetarian food, being health-minded vegetarians. Ian came through, big time. If you're looking for a quality caterer in the Salem area, check him out. We were impressed with the taste, looks, and organic-ness of the salad and main dish he served. (Naturally Ian also can go meat'y, if that's your thing.)
Martha Russell, a talented Willamette Humane Society volunteer, did some quasi-formal photo-taking after lunch. Here's Laurel and Cylvia with Serena, Zu Zu, and Tessa.
Check out Martha's Adopt an Oregon Dog web site. She's an excellent photographer with a good sense of humor.
Many thanks to Cylvia Hayes, Oregon's First Lady, and Ian Johnson, Iggy's Catering, for a delightful lunch/tour at the Governor's mansion. And a special thanks to the First Cats for adding some zest to our visit.
Tonight our dogs will be dreaming of their next trip to Mahonia Hall. I'll sneak into that room from the other direction... then slink behind the couch... and pop up right in front of that darned cat... and... [censored].