Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Well, we asked for rain, and boy are we getting it. Buckets full of never ending precipitation keep falling from the sky. My, oh my. Intellectually, I know this is exactly what our parched trees and dry fields need. However, trying to get things done in all this water when you add strong winds to the equation, can make for a hot mess getting around. I’m sure people in colder climates looking out their windows right now onto huge banks of snow are simply rolling their eyes and going, “ya right”.

The problem lies in that the storms are arriving in succession. Like soldiers stacked up in the queque at mess call, one falls in line right behind the other. With no time to regroup in between, our fire ravaged hillsides begin to give way, rivers overflow, and roads flood. Next, the soggy ground allows tree limbs to slip loose causing downed power lines or damaging homes, and often electricity becomes spotty. Since it is Saturday and I am working, I am tucked away most of the day with no need to go anywhere. Yay.

I woke up around 2:00 night before last to the sounds of Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, emptying the contents of her puddy cat tummy onto the pillow next to me. I assure that sound is not particularly welcome any time of the day, but in the wee hours of the morning it’s even less palatable. Poor Boo. So, I got up and washed her little cat face, then stripped the bed. New sheets in place, and the crisis seemingly over, both of us crawled back in under the covers and went back to sleep. Yesterday before I headed to work, I dropped her off at the vets for a quick once over to make sure everything was in working order. Her senior status, requires looking a little more closely when something seems off. I worry we will have to say goodbye some day, and part of my heart will simply be broken. The vet called me report that other than being a bit portly (rather rude, if true), and having a bit of tartar around her teeth, the cat seems in great shape for the most part. That being said, her kidneys are beginning a slow downhill slide. Apparently, this is quite common in older cats such as Miss Boo, and takes several years often to progress to the end stages of the disease. When I picked Boo up after work the bill came to nearly $500.00. After that news, I too needed medical attention. I knew it would be high. Well, I knew it would be high, largely because it is never low when you take an animal to the vet. Before proceeding, the receptionist had called to confirm I was comfortable with the price for the procedures needed, a urinalysis and blood panel, which she said added up to around $350.00. Well, I’ve got to be honest, I wouldn’t say comfortable would have been the word I’d have chosen. $50 is more my comfortable range. What are you going to do? Ah well, for Boo, the sky, apparently, is the limit. I got to wondering after I hung up, how they perform a urinalysis on a feline. Certainly they don’t hand her a little plastic cup and point her in the direction of the ladies room. I decided some information naturally falls under the TMI category. So, I am feeling a bit melancholy this morning on this gloomy day. Thinking back seventeen years, I consider myself blessed that little white paw reached out and stopped me that day in the animal shelter. Looking in the cage at those two scared beautiful blue eyes staring back at me, I said without hesitation, “I’ll take this one”, and never regretted the decision for one minute. I know how lucky I am to have shared space with Boo all these years, but the very thought of letting her go makes my heart shed a tear. The only way I know how to proceed with dignity for both of us, is to enjoy her as much as I can for the time that we have left and that is all I know how to do.

In a way it was literally raining cats and dogs over the holidays. A friend of mine got a furry gift for Christmas on a cold blustery day in December. She opened her back door to let her white German shepherd out to enjoy his usual morning pottie break. The dog got immediately agitated when the door opened and began to circle excitedly. Looking down to see what had caught his attention she saw a small orange and white tabby kitten curled up on her doormat wet and shivering in the cold. In a way, this small bundle fell right in with something the family had decided to move forward on prior to the holidays. They have a dog and cat in residence, but the cat was getting quite long in the tooth and they felt they wanted to add a kitten to their brood. Perhaps Santa had actually tuned in to their conversation, and here was the answer to their request. Gathering the little animal up in her arms, my friend brought him inside and dried him off. Once he was more comfortable, he enthusiastically lapped up a saucer of milk and then curled up by the fireplace as if he owned the place. Doing her due diligence, my friend placed ads on all her social media sites with a picture of their new boarder asking if his owner was looking for him. No responses forthcoming, “Dasher” has now become the smallest member of their pet family. I guess they’ll have to add another cat to the little caricatures they have decorating the tailgate window on their SUV. One image for every member of the family. Everybody seems to do that now. Yesterday I saw a window with about ten little figures draped across the back including what looked to be a grandma and grandpa on one end. Must have mother-in-law quarters at their house. Interesting, they don’t often call them in-law quarters, almost always deferring to mother-in-law. Women aren’t the only people to lose spouses, though they do seem statistically to survive longer than their male counterparts.

When looking at Boo’s head hung over the other night, my heart immediately transported itself back to losses in the recent years. For a moment I was held in the firm grip of the pain losing someone or something you love brings to the table. It also reminded me how many steps forward I have taken on my quest to find myself again. You never emerge on the other side of grief quite the same person as you were when you began your journey. Each phase you complete along the way, eases you into the one to follow. I liken it to a final in school. You have to complete each chapter in the book in order to know all the answers on the quiz. The pain must be felt, the loss duly noted, before you can go on to the next part of your life. You cannot love without understanding there is loss associated with the doing of it. People and pets are only on loan to us for the time we are allotted to spend with them. The joy they bring us, and the heartache when they are gone, are all part of the process of genuinely caring for someone or something beyond ourselves. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. For me, it is well worth the price of admission.

I recently met a lady in a new inner circle of people I have been associating with, who is a published writer. With seven books out on the market, she had a lot of valuable information to share with me. Sitting in her tidy office with bookshelves on either side of me lined mainly with titles she had created, I found myself a bit star struck. Always in the back of my mind, a book has lingered. Friends have encouraged me along the way to actually do something of a more substantial writing endeavor beyond the vignettes I pump out here and there on my blog. I have several half completed manuscripts gathering dust in my closet, but somehow taking them over the finish line seems such a daunting endeavor. The woman asked me, “what have you got to lose”? I really Couldn’t think of a good comeback for that statement. What do I have to lose? My grandmother used to to say to me, “the only thing worse than failing, is never trying in the first place”. There’s a great deal of merit to that statement.

At any rate, we have a new year stretching before us. For whatever reason, I feel this year brings with it much magic and promise. That theme, at least, keeps resonating in my mind. Perhaps it is time to take a few chances and step off the ledge. Who knows what is ahead, but how exciting to imagine what might be.

Happy Saturday to you. If you’re in California keep that umbrella handy and stay dry.

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Well here we are perched on the precipice of another year. I do like a nice brand spanking new year to look forward to. Three hundred and sixty-five days, clean and unadorned, as yet untouched by any regrets or missteps. A year unspoiled by words spoken but not meant, dead batteries on frigid winter mornings, burned garlic bread when the boss is coming for dinner, and crying babies on a plane trip to France. Yay. I tend to be a “glass half full” kind of girl. For me, the days spread out before me fraught with possibilities. Who knows what lingers beyond the farthest fence post? Perhaps the prospects of a new job are just out of view, maybe I will be afforded the possibility to cross a much desired item off my bucket list, or visit an exotic location I’ve always wanted to purchase a ticket to. A face, not yet familiar to me, may begin to appear across the table from me. Always, in my world at least, there are magical experiences to be had. This is not to say I don’t anticipate a few rocks to be strewn in the road along the way. Though I am considered an old “fairy dust spreader” from way back, certainly I am enough of a realist to expect life to provide you not only with happy, uneventful times without sprinkling some angst and tears into the mix for good measure.

I have had a slow end to this week. Thursday I reluctantly submitted my arm for a COVID booster. This was my second booster, so for the time being I believe I’m caught up. I’m listed under the heading of “vulnerable population”, being long past voting age at this juncture in my life, with asthma. It’s not that I was resistant to the shot per se. If there is a vaccine available, it makes sense to me to take advantage of it. Rather, it was the side effects generally accompanying the vaccine, I was hoping to avoid. The first day when I receive the shot, I’m always lulled into a false sense of security because I am generally symptom free. As the day progresses my mind begins to think I’ve dodged the bullet. However, some time during the second day, the side effects move in and take full possession of my body. Yesterday was to be no exception. I found myself again shivering under the covers with the cat, unable to summon up the energy to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom. The fatigue arrived on the first train into the station, followed quickly by chills in the club car, and then came a caboose carrying with it a sort of general ennui. Blah and double blah. By way of a bonus, this time there was an additional wave that moved in in the middle of the night last night. I had not experienced this part of the program with the previous three injections. I woke up around two. The moment I opened my eyes, I began to feel decidedly unwell. Aside from the room spinning slightly, perspiration began to flow down the back of my neck and sprang up under my hair, and in minutes I found myself literally soaking wet. Whew. This phenomenon, though off putting, seemed to be my body’s way of ridding itself of whatever was plaguing it. Once I was devoid of any excess perspiration, I felt so much better. I took a quick shower and went back to sleep, remaining there until my alarm woke me up around five. Today I feel fine.

Continuing on the medical vein, I know how exciting that subject can be (yawn), I finally got my heart monitor off. Two weeks was about thirteen days too long in my estimation. What an annoying little contraption that can be. They are small now, with no wires attached, as opposed to older models. That, at least, is a blessing. The device adheres to your chest with what feels like Gorilla Glue when you go to peel it off. I believe half of the skin on my upper chest went out with the FEDEX return package I mailed off yesterday. On the plus side, the smaller version doesn’t really show under your clothes unless you are wearing something with a v-neck. There is a cell phone, included with your device. The phone has to be kept within a certain distance in order to monitor your heartbeats while you have the unit on. It you go beyond that parameter, the phone alerts you of your transgression, then stops monitoring. After doing that repeatedly, I began to have compassion for people with an ankle monitor attached. To remember to keep them in close proximity, I got in the habit of sticking the phone in the back pocket of my jeans. Twice, I almost deposited it in the toilet, and I sat on it so many times I’m amazed it continued to function. I was asked to wear the monitor as my cardiologist wanted to prescribe a blood thinner for me, since my family history includes strokes. Before doing so, she had to get a feel for what my heart was doing with regards to my irregular heartbeat. I’ve had this condition most of my life. Its not the alarming version of atrial fibrillation that can be life threatening, but rather a type of the condition that is more of an annoyance most days, but could be concerning if the irregularity ever got out of hand. As we get older, like dated vehicles, our parts begin to show signs of wear. I am mostly functioning with my original factory equipment. Some of it, thankfully the less important parts, have gone missing by this turn in the road, but no titanium has entered my body and I’m in good shape for the shape I’m in, or so I like to believe.

Aging is not a process I spend a lot of time thinking about. Whatcha going to do? We’re all going to do it if we stick around long enough. I have to admit though I worry at times of late about Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats. She is seventeen now, this no longer qualifying her as a “spring chicken”. I can’t say much about the spring chicken label when it comes to myself either. While she’s aged, I’ve gotten riper right along side her. I like to console myself the cat has been duly spoiled, and certainly is entitled enough that there hasn’t been much wear and tear on either her feline psyche or her little puddy cat body beyond stretching and the occasional wide mouthed yawn. The thought to me of life without my beloved kitty is just too much to think about, so I choose not to. Instead, I prefer to concentrate on enjoying every silly moment I share with my crazy cat, imprinting each day on my memory bank for times when I will need to call up a memory to find her. Richard, the man in my life, believes I’m a little overly concerned with Boo’s welfare. Cats, to hear Richard tell it, are independent creatures not needing much human interaction for their well being unless it involves putting food in their dish, refreshing the litter box, or stroking their furry little heads. I disagree. Unless he has actually been a cat in a former life, I’m not sure I put much validity in any thoughts he has on the subject, as he’s speaking to a point he really can’t have much personal knowledge about. Also, he has a bit of a vested interest in convincing me Boo will be fine on her own because I have been away from home more often since I met Richard. Aside from time spent with him, I have a job these days which keeps me away from the house two days a week. Though, on those days, once off work, I am home for the night. When I leave, I turn on the TV so the cat will have some noise in the house and always say goodbye and offer up a pat or two on her noggin before closing the door and locking up. I will just hope that my kitty sets the all time record for feline longevity and sticks with me for many years to come. Someone said to me a while back after losing her beloved dog, she couldn’t bear to get another animal because the pain is too great when they pass away. For me, animals bring so much joy when they are here. That joy somehow balances out the pain when they have to leave. As always, that’s just my take on the subject. I’m sure there are people out there rolling their eyes going “what channel does Boo watch while you are gone”? Whatever. FYI she’s very fond of FHV’s.

We, or at least most of us who read or show an interest in our world, have opinions on most everything going on around us. In so many ways we are alike, and in so, so many others we are so very different. I have one friend, for example, who only wears blue shirts. This, while another man I know prefers only white tee shirts with his jeans. Yet another friend loves mushrooms, but can’t stand them raw on salads, while the guy standing next to her wouldn’t eat a mushroom raw or cooked if it was the only food selection remaining on the planet. Each of us are so uniquely “us” it is totally fascinating to me. Particularly when you consider there are about 8 billion versions of the same model of human being out there roaming the planet as I write this. Isn’t it amazing in that vast number of beings, no one fingerprint is just like the next, no DNA an exact replica of another, and each face, though perhaps similar in features to another face out there, in the end end remains a singular work of art with only one wearer. Along with our unique facades, we each have our own take on the world, the people in it, the people in charge, our neighbors, friends, family, coworkers. This is such an interesting place to find oneself. If I begin to ponder the infinite possibilities of how we got here, where we go once we leave here, and what we are doing here in the first place, my eyes will begin to glaze over. In my opinion, we don’t have all the answers perhaps because we couldn’t handle what the answers might reveal. It is my thought we are meant to know what we do, learn at a certain pace to help ourselves while here, and discover what goes on when we move on when, well, we move on. So far no one has seen fit to come back and bring us up to speed.

As we approach another holiday season I am reflecting on the empty chairs at the table. Rick, gone four four years, Dale, one year and a few months, and my mother since April. They know some of the answers I ponder while sitting her today, but thus far I haven’t received any additional clarification from any of them since our goodbyes were made final. I did have an experience the other day that was interesting. I was sitting in a recliner at Richard’s early on in the morning. Richard was still cutting up a cord of wood in the back room. I felt someone tickle the top of my head. “Richard”, I said, “you up”? No answer. Again, I distinctly felt the tip of a finger mess with the back of my head. “Richard”, I said again? Again, no response. Standing up no one was in the room but me. I felt goosebumps rise up on the bottom of my legs and march spit spot up the full length of my body ending at the very top of me where the finger had touched my skull. Hmmmmm. My mother loved to tickle my hair or my neck. Somehow, whether one believes in ghosts or not, I know it was her saying hello. If it wasn’t, well it pleases me to think it was.

So, that is Susie’s take on the world for a Saturday. Make it a good one. Hug your grandbaby, take your dog for a walk, smile at a stranger. Make life better for someone else, if just for a passing moment.

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A friend of mine lost his old dog recently. Missing furry companionship, he has been toying (a little dog humor) with the idea of opening up his home to a rescue. In an effort to help him find a small breed dog, I looked through some adoption sites showcasing available dogs in our area. So many eager, and some pitifully sad, faces looked back at me. Each new picture tugged at my heartstrings. The largest percentage of potential adoptees on all the sites I visited were definitely pitbulls or pitbull mixes, followed by other larger breeds such as German shepherds, mastiffs or boxers. Even though I enjoy dogs of all size, I lean toward smaller breeds. Large breeds need space, something that is a premium at my house. Also, being small myself, I sometimes find bigger breeds a lot to handle. Scattered in between the pictures of the larger breeds, smaller faces were also represented. Lots of dogs in this group were tagged “seniors”. I wondered if perhaps these dogs had owners who, like themselves, had a little mileage on them. Perhaps the owners had either passed away or moved into a retirement facility and had been unable to take their pets with them. Senior animals require special hearts to offer them a home. Little kids pulling on their ears or dragging them by their tails would probably not be activities a senior animal might enjoy. Older dogs are more likely to have health issues requiring more vet outlays, and won’t be with you as long as a younger pet would. They will, however, usually be so very grateful for your kind attention and give you lots of love and appreciation in return.

Some of the animals on the sites I visited were labeled “eviction dogs”. This tag identified them as pets sacrificed by their owners when the owners had been dispossessed by eviction. Their people moved on, having to leave their beloved pets behind. In most cases the owners couldn’t take their animals with them so left them at a rescue, but in others they simply abandoned them at the house or wherever they’d been staying. I’d like to think perhaps the owners had no choice. However, I believe we always have a choice when it comes to doing the right thing. How terrified a family pet would be to find their owners gone and no food in their bowls or nowhere to find shelter. Animals trust us to do our best by them. I am always disappointed when we don’t even come close to measuring up to that bar.

On the opposite side of the coin there are people like my dear friends in the Bay Area who have now “adopted” eleven cats. They are not an organized cat rescue by any means, just two nice people with a soft spot for puddy cats. Three of the eleven cats are siblings. All are beautiful white cats with distinctive eyes, one blue and the other greenish yellow. Neighbors left them on the front porch of their recently sold home and moved away. Word out in the neighborhood there was a soft touch down the street, the three made their way to my friend’s front door and were welcomed into the fold. These cat rescuers provide not only a home and three squares a day but make sure the animals are neutered and all their vet needs taken care of.

I too have a huge soft spot when it comes to animals. When looking for a volunteer opportunity when I first moved to the mountains, I jumped at an ad asking for volunteers at the local shelter. When filling out the volunteer application, in the section titled Areas of Interest, I checked the box next to dog walker. Upon meeting me in person, the staff decided putting me in the cat section would be a better fit. They explained some of the dogs were big, muscular animals, and the owner felt I might have trouble managing them by myself. Once I became familiar with the routine I looked forward every week to seeing the sweet faces peering at me out of the cages. Some had been abused so hid under blankets or in cocoons provided for them, but most of them were excited to have a good ear rub and a clean cage so were glad to see me. The kitten cage got most of the attention, but the older residents came and went at a steady pace too. Even if I got attached I was always delighted to see one of them leave out the front door.

Pitbulls were the primary breed at that facility as well. Curious, I asked why. According to the owner, people often got pitbulls as puppies only to find when the animals matured they couldn’t control them. Also, as per their reputation, some of the dogs leaned toward aggressive behavior or had been trained to be aggressive. Pitbull lovers will argue this point, but it certainly seems true it is often that breed mentioned when a vicious dog attack is reported. For me if I have an animal in my home I don’t ever want him to be scoping me out as a lunch order.

At this stage in my life, it’s a cat for me. I enjoy the freedom sharing space with a cat provides me. Boo does not require a walk or three every day, uses a litter box to relieve herself, and though she loves me immensely (or so I’ve convinced myself) the cat does not need me present 24/7 for her to enjoy her quality of life.

Over the years, I’ve had cats, dogs, rabbits. hamsters, birds and fish. At the time my kids entered high school our roll call included two cats, two dogs, and a rabbit. An entire wall in the garage was devoted to storing dog kibble, cans of wet dog food, cat food, cat litter, rabbit food, and flea abatement products. The local pet shop sent us a thank you note over the holidays for keeping them afloat. The two dogs included Sushi, a four year old Shih Tzu, and Barnaby, a three month old golden retriever. Barnaby was husband No. 2’s dog. Before he came to live with us I felt we had enough players on the field with three kids, one dog, two cats and the bunny. However, after much cajoling, I caved in, and the search began for a puppy. Apparently Sushi was a little fru-fru for my husband. He preferred larger, more “manly” dogs. Insert testosterone here. After many visits to local breeders, Barnaby was selected from a boisterous litter of eight pups. The first thing my husband noticed about him was his exuberant personality. The first thing I noticed about him was paws the size of Clydesdale hooves. At first we called him Atticus, after Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (my favorite movie). Enduring two weeks of hearing my kids yelling, “Abacus” and “Attica” when calling their new puppy, a family meeting was held and the easier to remember name of Barnaby was agreed on.

My husband’s job took him on the road about three weeks out of four. Though Barnaby was to be his dog, I had a sinking feeling he was going to my responsibility. Quickly, Barnaby lived up to his exuberant personality. Busy, busy, busy. Busy chewing a hole in my Italian leather couch, busy gnawing the frame off the laundry room door, and busy not using my lovely back yard as a place to go to the bathroom. Aside from the fact I took him outside to do his business every half an hour, he far preferred the recently installed Berber carpeting inside the house when feeling the need to relieve himself. The first month he lived with us I went through an industrial sized bottle of carpet stain remover.

Being a large animal, he required space to run in. When my husband was home, he walked Barnaby (a manly walk) before he left for work and again at night after dinner. When he was not home, one of us was tasked with the job. When still a puppy, walking Barnaby was not a problem. But, as he grew into those gigantic feet, walks began to be contentious enough to have us drawing straws to see who got tasked with the duty. While on his walks, Barnaby did not miss once single trace of scent. Covering a one block radius could take an hour or more. The dog stopped to investigate every tree, bush, discarded ice cream wrap, and trash can. Training him to a leash was another thing not going well. Even on an extension leash, your arm was fully extended the entire time he was attached to the other end. If another animal crossed his path , he took off as if a torch had been set to his tail. Once I set a world’s record for wire fence hurdles trying to keep up with him while chasing a terrified tabby cat.

Another fly in the ointment was Barnaby was, by nature, a retriever. We owned a rabbit. It didn’t take Barnaby long to realize that rabbit fell just after quail on his list of prey. When really engaged with the rabbit the dog could be found en point outside the rabbits room quivering with excitement. The rabbit, Cinder by name, was also quivering, but not so much with excitement. Cinder was a Valentine’s present from my husband. She was a pure black lop eared bunny, who should have been named Beelzebub. Before getting a rabbit, I read stories about people who owned bunnies as pets. Tiny creatures who greeted their owners at the front door endearingly thumping their little paws. Animals easily trained to the littler box with gentle, sweet personalities. You know, like Thumper in Bambi. Cinder had not availed herself of this reading material, nor I believe, had she seen the movie. If you tried to pet her, she would reveal sharp razorlike teeth. This, was not by way of a welcoming grin. When I introduced her to the litter box, she ate the lining. Done with her meal, she deposited an entire room full of bunny poops on the floor for me to clean up as a thank you. Once, when trying to get her out from under my son’s bed I tried to gently nudge her with a broomstick handle. She gnawed the stick in half before I could rescue it. After we had her for about a year she escaped through an open door into the back yard. (No, I did not offer her a gentle nudge. Not that the thought hadn’t entered my mind.) The back door was left open by accident one day, and out she went. Being a rabbit, she immediately got to work digging a rabbit hole, where she made her home for the next six months availing herself of my garden whenever she got hungry.

While Cinder enjoyed the new found freedom of her spacious outdoor rabbit hutch, Barnaby was driven crazy by the scent of rabbit floating in the yard. If we let him out, the dog would maniacally dig holes in the grass and dirt around the hutch. Dirt would be flying in the air for hours, his brown snout only rising for meals. Each day we would fill the holes, and the next day he would dig new ones. For six months our yard looked like a band of marauding gophers was having their way with it.

Aside from being adept at digging holes Barnaby wasn’t up to speed in other areas. No matter how hard we tried he remained totally resistant to any type of training we attempted. Finally, at a friend’s suggestion, we enrolled him in Obedience School. The class was to be held in the local park for eight Saturday’s in a row. I, of course, was the one to be taking him five out of the six days as was the usual way of things. In all fairness to Barnaby, this training should have started much earlier than a year after we brought him home. It was what is was at that point, so we decided to move forward with positive enthusiasm. The first Saturday proved to be a gorgeous early summer day. There were probably thirty dogs on leashes at the appointed meeting spot by the time Barnaby and I arrived. Barnaby, excited at the prospect of all his “people” around him, nearly dislocated my shoulder trying to say hello to all his new friends. Twice, he wrapped my legs like a mummy with his leash running around me in circles trying to get a look at all the other dogs. The instructors introduced themselves as a married couple with twenty years experience. The first day, we were told, would be devoted to teaching our animals to about positive and negative reinforcement, how to correct your animal, and basic hand signals for tricks you want them to perform like sitting and lying down. Barnaby spent most of his time with his nose at the backside of whatever animal passed his way. Watching him perform, or not perform, the instructor finally came over and offered us a little personal instruction. Barnaby immediately jumped up on the man leaving two large paw prints on the front of his shirt. Ah, there’s that enthusiasm again. If he got an A for that he might have passed the class with flying colors. In spite of his abysmal showing, the man assured me Barn would do better as the weeks passed. I tried not to notice the dirty paw prints on the man’s nicely pressed shirt as I dragged Barnaby away from all his new friends and got him back in the car.

At any rate, we persevered for the next seven weeks. Barnaby sat when he was told to stand, yawned when he was asked to sit, and ate grass and threw up if I tried to rein him in when he was walking next to me. The instructors told me on his last day they had rarely failed a dog. Because Barnaby had a sweet spirit, if not a willing one, even though he hadn’t mastered any part of their course he would nonetheless get a certificate along with the rest of the dogs. Truly, though retrievers are generally known for their intelligence, Barn was never the sharpest pencil in the box. We loved him though and he gave us many laughs and stories to tell at family gatherings over the years.

Animals are comical, loving, and loyal. They bring so much to a family, or fill a lonely spot for a single person or add a dimension for a couple. Most probably there will never be a time in my life that I can’t find space for one.

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finalCurrently I am engaged in fighting an uphill battle with the leaves in my yard. They are one of the downsides to living among the gorgeous trees prolific in our area. In autumn dry leaves blanket the ground, stop up the gutters, litter the roofs and decorate the vehicles if parked outside. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy walking along the road hearing them crunch beneath my boots. However, when they gang up on me I pick up my rake and prepare to do battle.

The backyard simply goes to mulch. I got an estimate once on what it would cost to clear it. Several times I caught the man giving me the estimate glancing at me as if to say “You want me to clear all the leaves?”. What? After handing me a quote of nearly $1,000, he suggested it might be better simply to let nature take its course and allow the downed leaves to remain where they fall. For $1,000 I’ll let them stay there and serve them dinner.,

Rick finds it amusing, so he tells it, to watch me outside with my weapons of choice, a rake and blower, cleaning up one huge pile of leaves as more fall all around me.

I am by nature a neat person. I prefer things to be in order and tidy. Working in a chaotic environment, say the kitchen, for me leads to experiments gone bad and take-out bags in my trash can. My grandmother began my habit of cleaning up as I go I think. Her kitchen, though well used, was never a disaster. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Nature does not conform to such rules, instead adhering to its own way of doing things. Thus, no matter how many times I fill up the yard waste bin with nature’s castoffs it will continue to toy with me by sending down a new lot to be picked up.

An upside of living in the high foothills, one of many really, was the sight outside my window yesterday. A six point buck stood majestically beneath my blazing red Chinese maple sniffing at the air. Close by, a doe was helping herself to the last of the purple flowers blooming on my hanging vines. I tried to get a picture of the buck out the front door. Every time I lined up a shot he lowered his ears and moved aggressively in my direction. I ended up with several unclear pictures taken from behind my window and one blurry one as I ducked back in the front door.

Not that I’m chicken really. Well, perhaps it is exactly I am chicken. When we lived in the Bay Area we had deer in our yard every day. Not just one or two, but whole families showed up to pick at the grass or enjoy an occasional apple thrown their way. My stepson was working in the yard one afternoon in close proximity to a buck, several does, and some younger deer still sporting their spots. Pointing out the buck to Rick and I standing on the deck, the animal decided this was enough familiarity. Laying it’s head down it began to run in my stepson’s direction. Throwing the rake, my stepson began a mad dash towards the house. Looking back it made for quite a picture. Reaching the house he vaulted up the steps. Amazingly the animal ran up after him. Rick got the door closed just before we had an uninvited guest for lunch. The animal remained guarding the door for some time before deciding he’d made his point (no pun intended). After that I choose to keep a respectful distance from our animal visitors.

Rick went out in the garage in our last house to retrieve something. Opening the door he startled a large buck helping himself to a snack from the cat food bag. Hard to tell which of them was more scared. Rick nearly beat himself to death trying to retreat. Meanwhile, the deer, in a frenzied effort to escape, slipped on the cement floor and fell. Struggling to right itself, it managed to squeeze between the two cars parked there without harming itself or the paint jobs. He did leave a mess by the cat food leaving me to locate a new storage place for Boo’s food.

When I was living in the Bay Area, Martinez to be exact, my washer and dryer were located in the garage. I went out to put a load in the washer one weekend only to be confronted by a baby possum. For a little creature he was equipped with a large set of teeth, and wasn’t afraid to display them. Deserting my clothes I bolted back inside to alert my husband of the intruder. Grabbing my favorite throw from the back of the couch my hero went into the garage to confront the wee beast. I was instructed to open the garage door so he could shoo the little guy out. The possum apparently hadn’t read the definitive book on how to behave when in someone else home and decided not to cooperate. It ran up a large wrapped vent pipe leading to the ceiling. Possum’s are very near-sighted so when cornered as a defense mechanism it made snarling sounds and barred its spiky teeth. A ladder was employed to reach the critter. Once my husband had him wrapped in the throw the possum began to fight vigorously wriggling and squirming while being carried to the driveway totaling my blanket. Last we saw of him he was hightailing it towards the border a piece of fabric still dangling from one paw.

To digress here before closing, yesterday they were speaking on the news about the new birth control for men. The side effects are being found intolerable by many of the men opting to take the medication.  Women are up in arms on social media declaring they have been enduring birth control side effects for years and men should “man up”. One woman made a comment telling women to lighten up on the guys as who are they going to call when they find a spider in the bathroom. I felt this didn’t serve either sex, but that is just my humble opinion. I have to admit I get Rick immediately if there is a bug in the house, or an unexplained smell, noise, or happening.  Most certainly this is not the only reason I keep him around. However I do appreciate him answering the call to arms when I need him.

Today is at last election day. Hopefully we can enjoy an end to all the mud-slinging and accept the results graciously. Go out and vote. You can’t complain if you don’t participate. Have a great day.

Lemon Chicken Pepper Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. scallion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup orange bell pepper, sliced 1/8″ thick and halved
3/4 cup red bell pepper, sliced 1/8″ and halved
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked angel hair pasta (drained and cut in half)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In small skillet heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat. Sprinkle cubed chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and turn and toss for 3 mins. or until chicken is browned.

In stockpot heat remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, scallions, and garlic. Cook and stir for 6 mins. until onion is translucent.

Add all remaining ingredients through frozen peas including browned chicken. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 mins. Remove from heat and add pasta and lemon juice.

Serves 4



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The first few weeks of a new year always leave me a little depressed. Not weepy, or anything, but rather with a letdown feeling such as might set in after going to a much-anticipated party or event once it is over. Perhaps it’s not having the Christmas lights twinkling on the tree, or the anticipation of family and friends coming and going, or simply a new year opening up before me and not knowing all that it might entail. People seem to hibernate a bit during January. The weather, usually on the blustery side during the earlier months, encourages inside activities with people holing up with a good book or a project. Unless, of course, you have snow on the ground and a pair of skis strapped to your feet. As much as I enjoy seeing snow falling in our yard, the idea of heading up our steep driveway and onto the slippery streets keeps me closer to home during winter months.

I was soooo sad to hear that David Bowie passed over the weekend. Always it amazes me that with so many like beings on this planet there continue to be those individuals whose lights shine a little brighter than the rest of the bulbs. It puts me to wondering why some come into the world armed with such natural musical talent while others, like myself, can’t read a note. Even if I could read it, guaranteed I’d empty a room if I attempted to sing it. If someone had a gun to my cat’s head saying “write the notes on the scale on this piece of paper or the cat gets it”, Boo, sadly, would be a goner. Sorry Boo.

Speaking of Boo, the old cat is starting to show signs of wear, sleeping more and playing less. I try not to notice because the thought of not seeing that silly kitty face over my coffee cup in the morning is too much for me to bear. 2006 was the first time Boo and I shared space. I had been looking for a furry adoptee for months scouring the rescue centers in our area. For some reason, as many sweet scared 7f74ae549237ce937e6fd124aaf3e35f_180faces as I’d looked into I hadn’t found exactly what I was looking for in a companion. On the prowl again (if you will), I visited the SPCA in my town. As luck would have it (for me not the feline population) business was booming in the kitty room. All the available cages were occupied and extra cages had been set up towards the back of the building for the overload. I peered into each cage as I passed. Curious faces stared back at me as if to say “pick me, pick me”. Deciding to take a peek out back before making a decision, I walked along a dark bank of cages. Standing beside the last group a white paw reached out and touched me on the arm. The cage was in the center of a stack of three. Leaning down I found inside the prettiest white cat with muted gray and tan calico markings. One huge slightly crossed blue eye winked at me. Without another thought I signaled the attendant I would be taking “Snowball” home with me.

After filling out the appropriate paperwork and posting bail for Snowball, I loaded her in my cat carrier and put her in the passenger seat. All the way home she howled, telling me her sad story and expressing her doubts about going to a new home. Once released in the house she disappeared to the lower floors. It took me nearly a day to locate her. Such a scaredy cat. I knew she was around because the dish of food I left out would diminish from one day to the next and the food eaten recycled in the litter box nearby. Tentatively she began to show herself to us, venturing out a little longer on each visit. Snowball morphed into Boo Boo as her easily spooked personality emerged. Soon she was eating on the upstairs floor where we spent 90% of our time. At the end of the first month she had claimed the comfortable chair by the window as her own and if not curled up there spent much of her time on the sill behind it watching the hummingbirds swarming around the feeder on the deck.

Since then we have become fast friends, and I use friend exactly as it was meant. She finds my lap when I’m sick, and wakes me up in the morning with a friendly lick to have coffee with her while she enjoys her first treat of the day. After that I sit in my chair reading the paper while she takes up her place in Rick’s chair right next me. A creature of habit she never varies from her behavior unless something external causes a change in plans.

Of all the cats I’ve owned, and there have been a few, she is the only one who actively engages in hide and go seek. Also, the only one who participates in what we call “clean sheet day”, getting under the new sheet while I’m making the bed and while tented generally making a nuisance of herself.

I worked for several years at our local shelter in the “cat house”. Sad to read the stories posted on their cages, often chronicling poor treatment by the humans tasked with their care. I could have adopted them all. In Boo’s case her owner gave her up because she had white hair and shed on her furniture. Ummmmm, she’s a cat. To avoid this problem in the future adopt a Sphynx, or hairless cat. Problem solved. Of course, you have to look at the cat every day without hair. A bit unnerving on the best of days. Cats are likely going to scratch, Sphynx_Catoccasionally bite, definitely shed, and if male probably spray. If you’re looking for one expecting it not to exhibit any of these qualities I suggest you head for the stuffed animal section at Toys R Us. Like humans their personalities range from lovable to ornery, but certainly when you get a good one they bring far more to the table then they take away. So many are waiting for “forever homes”. If you find you have room for one more, be sure to take a look.

This curried cauliflower is a lovely change of pace. A little heat or a lot, it’s up to you. I like a dollop of plain yogurt on top or a squeeze of lime as well.

Curried Cauliflower with Red Potatoes

6 small red potatoes, sliced in 1/2″ slices
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
2 cloves, garlic minced
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. coriander
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
8 oz. fresh spinach, trimmed
Plain yogurt and lime wedges

Boil potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes until soft. Add cauliflower and continue cooking 6 mins. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, scallions, and garlic and cook for 8 mins. on med. low heat. Add curry powder and corinader and cook for 1 min. Add chickpeas, coconut milk and vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for 15 mins. or until tender. Add spinach in batches until wilted. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt and lime wedges.

Serves 4

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final salad

At the shelter this morning we were greeted by a full complement of cats. Between the felines smelling the food we were mixing, and the dogs responding to the yowling cats it was a cacophony of noise. My ears are still ringing. My heart always goes out to the old timers. Those animals logging months of time in the cages rather than the newbies only having been there a matter of weeks. It is almost comical how their faces reflect their moods. Big, sad eyes peer out of cages occupied with the older, less adoptable cats while kittens look well, kittenish, playfully tossing their toys about with or draped engagingly from cat towers. Let’s face it baby anything’s are cute. Even a newborn crocodile might be somewhat endearing. As we age, like the leaves on the trees, we tend to get a little crinkly around the edges.

There are two cats in residence at the moment each with only one eye. The older of the two is appropriately named Old One Eye, while the other one answers to Myron Cohen, for God knows what reason. Both old gentlemen have easy-going natures despite viewing their world through only a single lens. In either situation the injuries were due to human neglect rather than fighting, making their loss slightly more disheartening. There is also a small female with one ear partially missing. She sleeps in the litter box provided for her, as if the high walls offer some protection. According to the notes on her cage her owner, tiring of the cats in his charge, decided to use them for target practice wounding several before help came. Little angers me more than people deriving enjoyment from inflicting pain on animals or children who cannot fight back. Such a cowardly way to conduct your business. I am not of a vengeful nature but if there is retribution for our acts on this earth, this is one case where I believe an eye for an eye in the most literal sense would be justified.

On the way into the shelter, however, I witnessed a lovely bit of human kindness. The drive takes me along country roads winding back through the unincorporated areas of our city. It is beautiful in these rural neighborhoods, mostly populated by small farms or white fenced horse ranches. Crops line up along neat rows of furrowed chocolate-colored soil, and cows and goats roam across the pastures stopping to graze at the ground or nudge a fly off their rumps. Rounding a curve I found cars stopped in both directions, a line forming. As I slowed I realized there was a parade in progress, led by a mallard and his rather large duck family. Waddling slowly across the asphalt, the male duck looked to the right and left as if to check for oncoming traffic. Mom followed closely behind, quacking responses to the dialog coming from her mate most likely regarding the 8-10 fuzzy little youngsters excitedly hopping about in a haphazard formation behind their parents. Drivers waited patiently in their cars, while one little duckling, obviously not the sharpest pencil in the box, weaved in and out of line finally turning and heading in the completely opposite direction. Mother duck, sensing a flock member out of control flapped her wings and quacked angrily until the errant youngster made his way back to the group. Finally the small family reached the safety of the opposite side of the road and traffic once again commenced to move. It was a nice way to start my day.

Cats are funny creatures, prone to do what they want to do at any given moment, rather than follow the path you’ve chosen for them. If I want Boo to right, it is assured she will go left. She has shared quarters with us since 2006 and up until this point, I haven’t seen her vary this behavior one iota unless there’s something coming her way should she capitulate.

My mother, who as I wrote in my previous blog suffers from OCD, owns a cat. The cat, unfortunately also named Susie, has not read the pertinent books on the subject so has no idea what the rules are when living with a person suffering from the disease. At first I thought the pairing was going to go about as well as downing a glass of Zinfandel with a Twinkie, but amazingly they have survived the initial rough spots and have now been together three years. Who would have thought?

Mother’s kitchen is antithetically clean. You could easily plop on the floor and make a sandwich on the tile and remain untouched by any bacterial invasion. While there the coffee pot is ritually cleaned by my other half on each visit, a chore Mother has deemed his. Mine would be making the coffee once the pot is cleaned. As I am usually the first head out from under the covers this serves us all well. Making my way to the kitchen on our first morning there, I switched on the light to find Susie perched on the counter, eyes wider than the Cumberland Gap, licking the butter dish. Derision in the ranks. Seeing it was me and not her mistress, she cast one last eyebrow lifted look in my direction and went back to the task at hand. I gently put her on the floor, tossed the butter, and kept her secret safe when Mother arrived on the scene. We all have to break the rules from time to time. I did suggest she either put the butter in the refrigerator or keep the lid tightly sealed. I love kitties, but prefer my toast without fur, thank you very much.

They have an excellent working arrangement. Mother chases Susie around the house saying, “Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Kitty”, glad I passed the baton on that one, and Susie continues on doing exactly what she was doing lending a deaf ear to the conversation. Blankets have been laid over the furniture for the cat to sleep on. That being said you will find her curled up on any number of uncovered spots, taking an afternoon “cat nap”, if you will, leaving a spot of hair here and there to mark her passing.

We’re never going to fully train them, and would we want to? We have taken them into our homes and domesticated them, but in the end they are cats not human beings, and should be treated as thus. If I put Boo in a lion costume on Halloween, I assure you she would pack her Kitty Treats and her favorite mouse and be out of here before you could say “trick or treat”.

This salad was lapped at a party over the weekend. It was pretty and colorful in the dish and crunchy and delicious in your mouth. I found containers of baby heirloom tomatoes which made the perfect blend of flavors.

Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Salad with Tarragon Dressing

2 lbs. of small heirloom tomatoes, halved
8 large mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 yellow bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/2 orange bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/2 green bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
Feta cheese for garnish

Place all ingredients in bowl. Toss with dressing. Serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese on top.

Tarragon Dressing

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh basil
1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon
1/2 Tbsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Whisk together all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use. Toss well with vegetables.

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I just hit the last “submit order” button for this Christmas season.  You can’t see me, but I’m doing the pee pee dance.  After spending several days in the stores fighting lines, sitting here in pj’s and fuzzy slippers, sipping coffee and firing gifts out to family members across the country as if we could afford it, is a blessing. I have to admit, the sales are off the charts this year.  Free shipping, reduced prices, if the retailers keep this up we’ll get a check from them if we place an order on their site.  I like it, I really do.

We’re traveling off and on over the holidays.  Since my mother broke her pelvis the first of the year, traveling the four hours to us is not doable for her.  Not having her in the house at Christmas until the last-minute is a plus, as keeping a secret from her, when you’re in the same house is nearly impossible.  As a kid, I can remember all packages bearing her name had small holes in the bottom where she’d poked a finger in to see if she could determine what was inside.  For me, I like to be surprised, or sometimes.

Most of my life I’ve been teased for being kind of skittish person.  By this, I mean I’m jumpy. If you walk in the room and I’m unaware you are there, when I do lay eyes on you, I’m liable to thrust my hands up in the air, throw the cat across the room, or attempt to two-step my way to Beijing.  It’s a personal problem.  I offer no explanation for this odd behavior, other than the possibility I was dropped out of a second story window as a baby and landed on my head. As for my other half, always searching for the silver lining, he views this as a positive trait.  In his eyes, in the event a masked intruder should break into the house, upon observing me exhibiting these peculiar behaviors he would assess me to be wired incorrectly and vacate the premises post haste for his own protection.  Always nice to be reassured that I’m making a positive contribution to the household.

Before my children moved out on their own, they found this endlessly entertaining, sneaking up me often, thus signficantly reducing my life expectancy.  Once, they hid in the closet when I came home from work, specifically, my closet.  Calling their names and getting no response, I did what I usually did upon walking in the door at night, kicked off my shoes and headed for the bedroom to get out of my work clothes.  Peeling off my jacket and opening the door to hang it up, I found my two potential inmates standing stock still, hands at their sides, looking up at me.  Triggering every fight or flight response in me, I first ripped every button off the front of my blouse, and then in a knee-jerk reaction my right foot shot out and nailed my son directly in the crotch bringing him down like a deflated hot-air balloon. Looking back on it, I believe that that defense would have held up in court.  It’s amazing we don’t eat our young, like guppies.

It seems that I attract others of my own kind, because our oldest cat, Boo Boo (the name alone would suggest where I’m going), has similar idiosyncracies.  If you round a corner and sneak up on her, she will turn sideways and on tiptoe, sidle across the floor Halloween cat style as though she was the lead ballerina in the feline production of Swan Lake.  Hysterical.

Socializing the old cat with the new remains an issue.  Better these days, they’re still far from perfect. They’ll be alone in the house for four days while we’re gone and we’re entertaining outfitting them in diminutive suits of armor in order to keep them from harming one another.  Not really, hold the comments, we’re putting them in separate parts of the house and hiring a pet sitter.  Ach.  On one trip down to the Bay Area we attempted to bring the older cat.  On our way home, we let her freely roam in the back of the car.  Ecstatic to be uncrated, she hopped back and forth between the back seat and the tailgate of the SUV, stopping now and then to gaze out the window in the back seat.

After coming to a stop sign and beginning to pick up speed, she climbed up to look out the window resting her paw on the automatic window button.  Uh-oh.  It is set up in a way that it has to go all the way down before going back up,  and in the interim the cat jumped out.  I practically dislocated my other half’s neck getting him to pull over to the side of the road.  Having apparently all nine lives to spare, she zigzagged across the road between traffic and hid in the meridian under some bushes leaving only her tail showing.  My other half did his own pee pee dance behind her dodging cars.  Calling her name and getting nothing, and with no other option he got down on his hands and knees and began the humiliating process of coaxing a frightened animal back out of a hiding spot.  You animal lovers will recongize this scenario, it’s the one when your voice rises two octaves above normal, and you’re reduced to making empty promises involving lifetime supplies of Greenies and Fancy Feast when they arrive home.  At last, the deal sealed apparently, she jumped into his arms and they were back in the car.  Note to self:  Turn on babylock when cat is in car.

Cats are strange beings.  We invite them into our homes and provide food and shelter.  In return they use your $4,000.00 designer couch for a scratching post, and the $75.00 scratching post purchased precisely for that particular activity remains pristine and untouched. A litter box is provided and cleaned regularly for their use, and yet they seem to find your potted plants so much more convenient for eliminating all that high-end kibble they’re consuming.  We treat them like children, lavishing them with love, affection and gifts and still they view us with indifference and disdain, dispensing affection at their will, for which we are unnaturally grateful.  Good Lord, this is sounding like our last family get together.

Try these little bundles, they don’t fight back, and there is no writing of checks involved. I serve these before a pasta dish usually with a dipping sauce of Ranch Dressing. For a holiday party I tie the haystacks in the middle with a length of chive making a bow. Yum.

Italian Green Bean Bundles

1/4 lb. or approx. 64 green beans
8 scallions, halved
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 cup olive oil for frying
Salt to taste
Ranch dressing or sour cream dill sauce for dipping
Wooden toothpicks

Bring 6 quarts of lightly salted water to boil in large pot. Add trimmed beans to pot and continue cooking on medium boil for about 3 mins. Do not overcook. Beans should be slightly under el dente. Drain beans on a clean kitchen towel on a cookie sheet until cooled.

When cooled line up in fours and cut to the same length, about 5″. At the same time halve your green onion tops and set aside. Place 1/2 onion top in center of each group of green beans.  Secure in the center with a toothpick placed horizontally.

Beat two eggs in shallow dish.  Mix together dry ingredients in separate shallow dish.  Dip each bundle first in egg mixture and then in flour mixture, shaking off excess.  Place on paper towel lined cookie sheet in single layer.

Heat oil in large skillet over med. heat to about 360 degrees.  In batches add the bundles turning often until golden brown on both sides.  Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Serve immediately with Ranch dressing or dill yogurt dip.

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My pets have always been a rich source of entertainment in my life.  As a little girl growing up in my grandparent’s house, I wasn’t allowed to have one of my own, as my grandmother was neat as a pin and animals, or so she perceived, didn’t always follow the rules of the house. I opted for the next best thing and adopted our neighbor’s cat, Mr. Whiskers, who apparently had enough love to share and obligingly divided his time between the rocking chair on our front porch and the one across the street where his owner’s lived.  Although preferable to no pet at all, in a perfect world, this arrangement fell slightly short.

I got my first “very own” pet when I was eleven, a golden-haired persian kitten, who was dubbed Peaches.  Peaches  instantly became my best friend and constant companion until she met with a bad end four years later over a disagreement with a car’s tires.  Over the years I have welcomed a literal menagerie of furry types into my homes, each a character in their own right, and most leaving me with silly stories to remember.

When my children were entering their last years of high school, my son a junior and my daughter a senior, I began to feel the first twitches of “empty nest” syndrome.  Soon they would be going out into the world and our roles would be changing, never to return to exactly that place again.  After some deliberation, I sat them down and laid out a plan to make these years more memorable.  My husband had passed away several years prior, and after selling the house we had found a rental in the same general area.  This left us with less roots, other than their school, to keep us tied there.  Being a total water baby since my first venture out of the womb, and having put a couple of difficult years somewhat behind me, I proposed that we pull up stakes and rent a house in a newly built community about forty miles north.  The advertisements I’d read boasted homes on man-made waterways with communal access to the Sacramento Delta.  It was agreed that we would at least look at the properties available and make a decision based on whether or not we found something that would inspire us to make the move.

Several issues on the table were the fact that not only did I have two teenagers in tow, but the rest of the baggage included an enthusiastic and varied selection of two felines, three canines, and an incredibly onery rabbit.  Not exactly a landlord’s dream of rentors for a newly built home.  After several weekends spent touring the area and viewing many different homes, one finally hit a chord in all three of us.  I filled out a lease agreement, plopped down a hefty $2500.00 in pet deposits, found Cinder the bunny a new home, and began packing up my house once again. 

The house was lovely.  Windows all along the back of the house showcased the lovely view of the water beyond.  We were at the open end of a water cul-de-sac, if you will, that led out to Delta itself.  Each house on the cove came with a dock, most occupied, and tiers of decks leading down to the water from the house.  Ours was no different, except I’d sold our boat at the same time we’d sold the house, so our dock was just for show.  As usual, I’d done things backwards.  First I had a boat and no dock, now I had a dock and no boat.  Sigh.  Many of these homes, although quite large, were mostly used as weekend getaways for Bay Area residents, and we along with two other families were the only full-time occupants in our circle.

A dog run was added on the side of the house to accommodate our golden retriever and Samoyed, the Shi Shu, Sushi, preferring the house as she being the smallest of the group tended to get trampled underfoot by her larger comrades.  As for the cats, they shared space beneath the deck in the shade, and adapted quickly to their new environment.

Barnaby, the golden retriever, was the largest, but definitely not the sharpest pencil in the box, but he was good-hearted and gentle.  Sugar, the Samoyed, had gone to obedience school three times, failing miserably at each turn, and was voted most likely to be found by the side of the road with a sign reading “take me please”.  Both loved the water, but had to be watched because there was nothing between them and the Delta but water.  On a Saturday soon after we moved in, I bought a huge round inflatable raft suitably an eyesore with a large palm tree sticking out of the center and six seats around the outside with drink holders.  It took us two hours just to blow it up.  My kids went off in their own directions and having finished preparing for a barbecue later in the day, the dogs joined me on the dock for a few moments of quiet. I hung my feet off the dock and enjoyed the afternoon sun.  Barnaby, being a hunting dog, had much interest in the ducks floating along just out of reach, pacing back and forth, barking and shivering as they tantalized his nose from a safe distance. 

On this day a large flock of them drifted in a little too close for him to resist and in an instant he flew off the deck and began paddling out toward the open water.  I yelled after him, but as I mentioned, being a bit slow he just kept moving forward.  Having no boat, and my son out on the jet ski, the only available rescue craft was the lime green raft.  On I hopped and using a paddle made my way out to the middle of the waterway, finally catching up to the tiring dog.  I grabbed his collar and pulled him onto one side of the raft.  In his excitement to see me he began hopping around and impaled the plastic with his sharp claws.  Quickly the raft began to deflate.  Jeez.  Paddling like a lunatic I headed back towards the cove, which seemed to be getting farther away rather than closer.  The raft now bubbling away beneath the water was going down fast, and shortly would be just a flat memory of its former well-filled self.  Dragging the dog, the raft, and the paddle I managed to get back to the dock with my neighbors waving amiably as I passed. Thank you, by the way, for your help! Barnaby, looking somewhat subdued allowed me to drag his sodden behind up out of the water.  Never again, did he bother the ducks, or show any interest in them at all.  They could have laid an egg on his food and he would have eaten around it.

This is a nice variation on potato salad with barbecue season just around the corner.

Colorful BLT Potato and Pea Salad

4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
5 russet potatoes, peeled
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 onion chopped
1/2 cup diced cheddar cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. prepared yellow mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender but not mushy. Remove from water and cool. Chop into bite-sized chunks.

Put potatoes in large mixing bowl. Toss with 1 Tbsp. white vinegar. Add cheddar cheese, bacon, tomatoes, peas, and chopped onion and toss lightly.

Combine mayonnaise, yellow mustard, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Gently fold into potato mixture. Refrigerate for two hours to marry flavors.

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