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Posts Tagged ‘pets’

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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I have to say, Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, has stepped up to the plate in a big way since Dale passed away. As it does after someone dies, the house goes from a hotbed of activity, to a quiet, sometimes deafeningly quiet, refuge. Family and friends return to their lives, and you are left alone (if just the two of you) to sort out the remnants of yours. Boo has been my steadfast companion over the past weeks, and I don’t know what I would have done without her. In times where I felt lost, she would find me. Her beautiful silly furry face would lift me up from whatever dark space I had crawled into, and pull me back into the world. God bless animals, really. We could learn a great deal from them about humanity.

I have had many pets over the years. I never say I owned my animals. To my mind you can’t own a living entity. You share space, possibly rent one for a while, as they can be costly, but never own one. My first “pet” was a loaner who haughtily sauntered into my life when I was about the age of six. Whiskers was a grey tabby with attitude, who lived with our neighbors, The Bells, in the house directly across the street from ours. Not permitted an animal of my own, Whiskers and I made a silent agreement to meet every day in front of the garage for scratches behind the ears and a few moments of cat to human companionship.

I didn’t get an actual pet until third grade, when three guppies, and two angel fish showed up in a small aquarium under the Christmas tree. A puppy was what I had written on my Christmas list, but fish were what Santa delivered. Watching them milling about inside the glass I believe for a moment I thought about leaving him a hunk of coal instead of chocolate chip cookies and milk the following year. To give Santa his due, we lived in an apartment with a “no pets” policy, so fish were all I was allowed to own. He must have read the lease before crossing my golden retriever off his list. They were entertaining, for creatures that basically just swam around, pooped and ate, but they weren’t much when it came to going for walks or playing in the yard. Santa had included a manual detailing the care and feeding of each species, however, it included nothing about the reproductive status of guppies. As things will happen when you put males and females of a species in the same environment, one of the guppies got pregnant. When she produced her offspring, I watched in horror as the father immediately gobbled up all his own children. It seems this is not an uncommon phenomenon among the male guppy population, which leads me to wonder there are any guppies in the aquariums at the north pole to provide for children over the holidays. The following day, my mother found a new home for my tank.

To ease the loss of my guppies, a new furry face arrived on the scene in fourth grade. A Boston terrier by the name of Puck. That is Puck, from Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a P. To be honest Puck was not a name I might have chosen for obvious reasons, but he came to us at six months old, and his previous owner had a leaning towards Shakespeare. Not wanting to confuse him, Puck he was, and Puck he stayed. Puck was a little black and white shivering bundle of energy. He had one blue and one brown eye and was prone to passing truly obnoxious clouds of gas at the most inopportune moments. His favorite game, if left alone and the bathroom door open, was to grab the end of a roll of toilet paper and run through every room of the house until the roll finally came to an end. Often I came home from school to find him sitting in clouds of Charmin looking really pleased with himself. In his defense, the only companion the dog had when I was in school was my mother’s roommate’s brother’s mynah bird. Follow that trail if you can. The black menace, was a contentious feathered creature answering to the name “Uncle Charlie”. Uncle Charlie could match expletives with the vilest of sailor’s mouths and could often be heard in his owners room blaspheming loudly to his little hearts content. Puck’s bent for flatulence, unfortunately, turned out to be more than just socially unappealing, but also an indicator of an underlying serious intestinal condition resulting in his demise before he celebrated his second birthday.

I didn’t venture into the realm of pet ownership again until the eve of my thirteenth birthday. The doorbell rang that night just after we had cut my cake. I opened the door, to find a delivery man standing there carrying a cage. Reading from a card he had in his hand he announced he had a special delivery for Susan Dennis, which at time would have been me. Handing the cage across the threshold to my waiting hands, he turned and walked down the driveway. Looking inside, I was more than surprised to find two large frightened looking topaz eyes staring back at me. “Hello”, I said? Taking the crate in the kitchen, my mother determined the gift had come from my Aunt Eleanor. Eleanor was not really my aunt, though I called her Aunt El, but rather an old friend of the family. Eleanor was in her seventies at the time (I perceived her as ancient and more than a little eccentric). The woman lit one cigarette off the last, drank vodka by the truckload, owned three beagles who smelled like old socks, and was a retired legal secretary. She had never married, had no children (except her beagles who she called her “girls”), and her only relative was a rather unproductive brother who lived in her spare room with Mr. Charlie the foul mouthed mynah bird. Aunt El, however, in spite of her many quirks, had a heart the size of New Jersey. Knowing it was a difficult time in this girl’s life, she knew a kitten might just fill the fill. Had she asked my parents permission, I’m sure the answer would have been a resounding no. So El came at the situation like she did most situations she had during her life in the legal field, and just cut through the red tape. The eyes as it turned out were attached to a peach colored persian kitten, who aptly came to be called “Peaches”. Peaches was gorgeous even by persian standards. In the dark, her golden eyes shone brightly like the orbs of a underworld goddess replete with locks of flowing curly golden hair. Her regal bearing belied an underlying love of martinis, which came to the fore after a night of partying on the part of my parents and a group of their friends. I woke up to find the living room littered with the remnants of the previous night’s festivities including half filled martini glasses and bowls of crusted over guacamole. In the middle of the disaster sat Peaches happily lapping up what had to be her second or third gin martini.Oh-oh. On seeing me, the fuzzy sot weaved across the carpet in my direction getting about halfway to where I stood before dropping on her side like a possum caught in the headlights of a car. Thankfully, the amount of alcohol she consumed did not do her in, but the next day she had the same look on her lovely face I’d seen on my parents the day before. Peaches would be my steadfast friend and companion for the next two years, before being hit by a car on our street and having to be put to sleep. My young heart, as they say, was broken.

It was to be, that once again I was to mend my broken heart from the loss of one furry friend by finding another one to step up to make me smile. Don’t misunderstand me, you can not simply exchange one pet for another and make everything all right, any more than you can with human beings. Each animal, like each person in your life, if special, occupies a certain space in your heart and mind that is unique and belongs only to them. Their imprint, can never be written over with a new one, but will rather stand side by side with the others. Such was the case with the little Pomeranian puppy given to me on my sixteenth birthday by my mother. Mandy, like another guardian angel, arrived on the scene when life was a bit bumpy at our house and a loving companion was just what was needed.

When Mandy came into my life I was sweet sixteen, with more emphasis on the age than the description. My home life was complicated, and in reaction to that chaos I was a bit rebellious. Toss all those ingredients in a bag and no matter how much sugar you added the cake it still didn’t taste that delicious. My mother and I were trying to find a way to communicate, and teenagers aren’t notably gifted in this area, and my stepfather, well that’s for another blog. Mandy helped to iron out some, not all of the wrinkles at home, making life a little easier for all concerned. Small in size, with a pointed snout and a bush of reddish gold hair, she resembled a little fox. Before long we were inseparable. She understood me, didn’t ask a lot of questions, and was an excellent snuggler, and for a small being, a fierce protector. What more could I ask for? My stepbrother, Mike, also had a dog, Chip. Mike’s parental visits included every other weekend at our house during the school year, every other holiday, and a month during the summer break. Chip accompanied him on the summer break the first year Mandy came to live with us. My mother and I had discussed getting Mandy fixed as soon as her first heat and come and gone. Apparently Chip, an ardent suitor, hadn’t read that far in the book. Sure enough, before the surgery could be done, Mandy was pregnant. The vet said the pregnancy was too far along so we would need to complete the journey. One night I noticed Mandy was very restless. She stood up, then laid down, yawned, and then whimpered. This went on for some time. Alerting my mother something was wrong, she called the vet and they said we should bring her in. After an xray revealed two puppies, one too large to come through the birth canal, (Chip was a mutt, but a mix of larger breeds) Mandy was prepped for a C-Section. This would end up costing my mother nearly $400, pricey even in those days. Mother was not wearing her happy face on the drive home two puppies richer. Mandy produced her only offspring, Chip and Dale. The boys were healthy but an odd pair, with Chip being at least double the size of his brother. When they were old enough,we put them up for adoption and they were scooped up before the ink was dry on the ad. Mandy remained with me until I got married three years later. She stayed with my mother until I could find an apartment where I could bring her. I think she died of a broken heart, though they said it was liver failure. As I’ve said often, life is a series of hellos and goodbyes.

There have been many other memorable fur babies between Whiskers and Boo. If I mentioned them all you’d have to put on a fresh pot of coffee. Dale’s memorial is tomorrow. Nursing a big case of sad this morning but Boo is here at my feet keeping a watchful eye on me. Happy Saturday!!

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I am uncharacteristically grumpy today. Usually I try to at least begin my days in a sunny and upbeat mood. This morning was no exception. I sat quietly next to the cat enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee, watched enough news to want to turn it off, and read a couple of affirmations to help jump start my positive energy. When my smile was adjusted perfectly on the lower half of my face, I set off to have a productive day. Over the course of the morning, one call came in after another. It seemed each person on the other end of the line was either upset by what’s going on in our world, or upset by something going on in theirs. Before long, the barometer on my end seemed to adjust to the mood shift, and my smile began to droop slightly along the edges. There is no denying the outside world is a bit rough to deal with lately. The persistent virus continues spreading like wildfire, and in our area, the wildfires are spreading like, well, viruses. People are feeling unsettled and irritable. I caught the mood from someone somewhere along the way, and now seem to be a carrier.

Adding to the macabre feeling of gloom and doom, the outside air is heavy with smoke and the sun is surrounded by an eerie crimson ring. Reminds me of one summer up at the lake, where Rick and I bought our first house. It was our third summer in that house, and it was a long, and tedious season, we referred to as the “red summer”. Fires raged on all sides of us during most of the hotter months. An ever present reddish cloud hung ominously over our heads. Even when the blinds were shut, the reddish glow managed to seep in through the cracks. My asthma was as bad as it has ever been. Worried about my health, Rick planned an escape in an effort to find some fresher air. “ROAD TRIP“. Immediately, I jumped at the idea. Had it simply been a matter of us hopping in the car and heading for the open highway, we would have been gone that day. However, there was also Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, to consider. Boo, is not a good traveler. In a normal situation, our regular pet sitter would have been the obvious solution. Boo could have remained at home with all her creature comforts. But, with fires nipping at the fringes of our county, it didn’t seem prudent to leave her behind. So, it was either take my feisty feline along for the ride, or stay home and wait for fall to arrive. As miserable as the conditions were, the decision to take her with us was was not one we made easily. We’d traveled with the cat before. It was not an experience fraught with heady, happy memories. Only once before, actually, and on a relatively short trip to my mother’s house in the Bay Area.

The trip going down to my mother’s passed uneventfully. Boo howled annoyingly part of the way, but we tried to tune her out. On the way home, we decided to allow her to roam free in the back seat in an effort to keep the complaining (both on her part and ours) to a minimum. We were just pulling out of my mother’s 55 and up housing community, when I caught sight of Boo out of the corner of my eye. The cat was standing on her hind legs looking out the window in the back seat. While I watched, she placed one paw on the control button for the window and down the window went. Sensing an avenue of escape, Boo plunged out the window into the oncoming traffic. At that point, I lost my composure, and began yelling for Rick to stop. By the time he pulled to the side of the road and I got out, Boo somehow made it safely to the meridian, and was hunkered down under some plants and shrubs with only her tail visible. Praying she would not make a run towards me, I waited for the remaining cars to pass, and ran to where the cat was hiding. Finally, after coaxing, pleading, and perhaps some ardent begging, she climbed into my arms and I got her back in the car. Releasing her to the back seat, one of her claws got stuck in the skin over my left thumb. Panicking and still terrified, she sprang out of my arms taking half the skin off the top of my thumb with her. In seconds, a gusher rose up out of the gash. I was staring at my mangled hand while Rick, unaware anything was amiss, was looking out the window trying to merge into on coming traffic. Seeing my hand when he turned back, his mouth hung open. Again we pulled over, this time to try to stop the blood flow. The only paper in the car was a map, so Rick grabbed his tee shirt and wrapped it around the side of my hand. First, he asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. I’m not fond of ER’s. We would have been there for hours, and again, we had the cat. If no medical attention was forthcoming, it was obvious I would at least need some kind of first aid items so we pulled into a drug store parking lot. Leaving him in the car, I went inside looking like the victim of a shark attack. I asked the lady behind the counter where I might find bandaids. Horrified, she suggested a local Doc in the Box instead, but I declined. I bought first aid cream, disinfectant and bandages. By the time we got home my thumb looked like an over inflated water balloon. Amazingly, I didn’t get an infection, and my thumb remained attached where it was intended to be next to the four fingers associated with it. But, when it came to traveling with the cat once again, you can understand how I might be hesitant to give it another go. To add to my trepidation, this trip was to take us much farther afield. First, to a friend’s house on the outskirts of Boise, Idaho, then west to Oregon to visit another friend of mine living in Ashland. Three weeks was to be the total time away from home.

Even though we would not be in the vehicle the entire time, the thought of those moments shared with Boo in between destinations was a bit daunting. One thing we had learned from our first debacle was to ensure the “child lock” was on when the cat was in the car so her window trick couldn’t be repeated. The SUV was a good sized vehicle, but with Boo loose inside, a tour bus didn’t seem like it would provide us with enough wiggle room. The reason she has to be loose is because if confined to her much detested crate, caterwauling ensues until you give in out of total desperation and let her out. After about two hours of the endless yowling, your mind begins to unravel. Images of the cat sitting by the side of the road with a sign around her neck reading “Free Kitty” begin to pervade your brain.

Another bump in the road, aside from the above, was locating pet friendly accommodations along the route we were to be following. Hotels or motels allowing furry friends were few and far between crossing Northern Nevada at the time, particularly along Highway 50, touted as the loneliest road in the United States.

After some research, a motel was found and booked. We went through the usual song and dance associated with getting the cat in the crate to transport her to the car. Sophisticated secret agent avoidance tactics must be employed to stealthily maneuver the cat into crate without her knowing this is the desired end result. If Boo sees the crate, game over. Get a beer out of the fridge and relax on the couch for a few hours until she resurfaces. I swear she’s a shape shifter. When she wants not to be seen, you can look under every bed, in the back of every closet, and behind all the furniture and no furry face will be looking back at you. I believe Boo morphs into a potted plant on the window seat. I could swear I saw a blinking eye in the middle of the wandering Jew. Successfully completing our mission, Boo was loaded in the car with the rest of our gear. Relaxing a bit, we gassed up and headed out of town.

Leaving the red sky behind as we made our way east, felt like dropping a heavy burden you’d been carrying onto the ground. My lungs, though already impacted by the incessant onslaught of tiny particles, were even feeling somewhat less restricted. Boo began her siren song about five miles down the road, but after a while even tired of the game herself, and found a place to settle down on top of some duffel bags for a nice long nap. Quiet returned to our world.

Entering Nevada, we began our trek across the high desert. Looking out the window there wasn’t much to see beyond cactus and tumbleweeds, but possibly more cactus and tumbleweeds. Occasionally, a road sign would pop up or an abandoned building could be seen hinting at some sort of life form existing out there. Pretty much, though, it was mile after mile of the similar nondescript scenery. Deserts are not my favorite part of the world. I do have to admit they offer up a certain sort of stark beauty. Coming from an area replete with green forests and deep blue seas, I think for me I find them a bit one note. All the muted and subdued colors blending together in a melange feels desolate and bleak, like a property abandoned by it’s owner, all overgrown and scruffy.

My step daughter is always trying to sell me on desert living. She lives in Phoenix, has for many years, and loves it. I am not a person who enjoys extremely hot weather. Perhaps it’s because I hail from a colder climate, or it could be as simple as I don’t like hot weather. For me temps in the eighties are perfect. I can live with 90’s, but when the thermometer starts pushing up over 100 I’m all about air conditioning and swimming pools. In Phoenix during the heat of the summer the average temperature ranges around 106. Not for me. Nope. Also, when it starts to really amp up and climbs into the hundreds and teens, even the swimming pool isn’t an option because it will cook you like a crab in a pot. I can remember going on a trip to Arizona when my kids were toddlers. Their dad thought he wanted to go to college in Phoenix, so the visit was sort of a scouting expedition, to see if I would consider it. While checking out the campus, we walked out on the tennis courts to give the kids a chance to run off a little excess energy. The expedition was a short one. It was so incredibly hot, I had to abandon my tennis shoe on one of the courts because the sole melted onto the asphalt. For all I know, that blue Van slip on is still a permanent part of the back court.

In the end, all my worry about the trip to Idaho was for naught. Boo behaved herself most of the way. She rode along like the queen bee that she is, allowing her minions (that would have been us) to transport her in and out at our various stops and destinations, empty her litter box, and fill her feed bowl, without giving us much push back. The only real issue we had was coming back into California stopping at the California/Nevada border inspection. Boo, it appears, is considered to be an alien of sorts, in need of papers. Who knew? A certificate from the veterinarian is required stating that your animals have their pertinent vaccinations and are in good health before they are allowed to cross the state line. Oh-oh. Here I thought he would be more interested in the bag of peaches I had tucked away in my overnight bag. Darn. For a moment, I thought my dear sweet feline was going to have to be relinquished to kitty jail while we drove back to retrieve the necessary documents. We got lucky. The border patrol guard was either a really nice man, or in a good mood that day, because he allowed us to go through. Whew. As annoying as that old cat can be, she and I have been through a lot over the years and I have big love for her.

Driving over the hill and back into our town it was like driving back into the bowels of hell. Everything was still touched with a hint of red from the midday sky to the leaves on the trees.

Thankfully, here today the wind will come up and blow the smoke out of the valley so we will have a respite for a while. The problem is when it leaves here, people down wind have to deal with it. Also, more wind doesn’t bode well for the fires already burning.

What a strange couple of years it has been. We sit here dry as a bone hovering one spark away from disaster, while residents on the east coast are floating around in their backyards in kayaks. I heard Tennessee got 17 inches of rain in a two hour period. When all the bad vibes pile up on me, I try to remember to be thankful for all the gifts in my life and concentrate on that. So easy to allow a glass half empty mood to overcome you, if you let life take you down. Make it a good one. Hope your smile is perfectly placed for a Tuesday.

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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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1

Rick and I have been toying with the idea of getting a dog. Men, at least those in my life, often lean towards more substantial animals like retrievers or mastiffs leaving women to defer to smaller breeds like Yorkies or some of the hybrid versions like doodles (Dachshund/Poodle mix) or dorkies (Dachshund/Yorkshire Terrier mix). Definitely we are agreed on adopting a rescue dog, should we go forward with this plan. Neither of us possesses the patience to deal with a puppy, no matter how adorable, these days. An adult dog would be our choice. House training a must. Having volunteered at the local animal rescue facility, I saw firsthand the sweet and soulful faces of the adult animals abandoned, lost, or simply unwanted. The need is too great for older dogs seeking homes to get a puppy whose sweet little face will have no trouble selling itself to a willing owner.

Over the years I’ve trained my share of dogs. Training a puppy is a job requiring dedication, a strong stomach, excellent carpet cleaner, patience, and time. When my children were in high school we were a three dog family. Sugar, the Samoyed, Barnaby, the golden retriever, and Sushi the Shih Tzu shared space with myself, my husband at the time, our combined brood of three, two cats, two hamsters and a rabbit. To say the least I was a familiar face at the local feed and grain, not to mention the markets.

My husband traveled seventy percent of the time. In his absence I manned the oars and ran a fairly tight ship. He claimed all this travel was pressed on him by supervisors but secretly I believe he volunteered to go simply to escape the din at home. Barnaby originally came in a small package equipped with four huge paws the equivalent size of plump loaves of sour dough bread. The most rambunctious of his eight litter mates, he was a busy, busy, little puppy. From the onset he was my husband’s dog through and through, deferring to me only when there was kibble to be dished out or a present left in the back yard to be disposed of. Once I went out with my shovel to find piles of technicolor dog poop thanks to a box of neon crayons he had consumed earlier in the day.

As Barnaby grew into his paws, all his unbridled energy needed a place to relieve itself. At the time we had a beautifully landscaped back yard, fenced both for privacy and to keep the animals inside. For Sushi and Sugar the fence served as a suitable deterrent, but Barnaby viewed it simply as a challenge. Most days on arriving home from work I found all three dogs sitting on the front porch. Out back there would be cavernous tunnels and piles of dirt where Barnaby had dug under the fence. Over and over we refilled and packed the holes only to find new ones replacing them the following day. Thankfully, the dogs weren’t destructive while roaming the neighborhood and we had good neighbors who were kind enough not to complain. However, it is illegal to let your dogs roam free and decidedly increases the chance of them getting hit or stolen. We tried everything from chain link barriers to wooden panels. When it became obvious none of these solutions were going to work we hired a cement contractor to pour a cement wall deep under the soil by the fence which put an end to Barnaby’s digging period.

Unable to dig his holes, Barnaby contented himself with what else was at hand. On days when it rained I left the dogs either in the garage or in the house. Left outside the two smaller dogs would seek shelter in the large dog house provided for them in bad weather, but Barnaby, one brick short of a full load would sit in the rain until he drowned unless someone came to rescue him. One day the dog, too much time on his hands, ate the wooden framework off the door connecting the laundry room and the family room and the wallpaper off one wall. I had just made the last payment after having the designer paper professionally hung. Without a clue in the world he lay snoring atop a pile of the lovely paper with the delicate reeds strewn across it. Pointing to the damage the dog sat looking from side to side like a Felix the Cat clock. Really? Fortunately I had no weapon at hand.

One weekend I had my stepdaughter visiting. While the children were occupied I decided to color my hair. Foaming the last of the gloppy dark goo on my head a commotion arose out back. Barnaby, asleep on the floor, was triggered into action as a strange dog rounded the corner. Before I could yell stop, the dog sailed over the living room furniture and made a bee line for the screen door. On reaching the door he continued right through the netting as though it had been constructed of water vapor. A large gaping hole flapped in the wind behind him. Sigh.

Trying to keep the goop out of my eyes I ran to the yard where the agressive springer spaniel male from next door was challenging Barnaby with snarling teeth. My son, defending his beloved dog, got in between them before I could grab him. Manned with a broom I got the other dog off rescuing my son and the dog ushering everyone in the house. Chasing the intruder back over the fence with my broom (please no comments) I surveyed the damage. One dog bite to my son’s hand, and one goofy dog with a huge messy flap over one eye.

No time to rinse my hair I called the vet to alert them I was bringing the dog in, and pulled on some shoes. Grabbing my purse, the whimpering dog, the children and my keys I rallied the troops in the car. At the vet they kindly made no mention of the fact that my hair, now hardened to my head, left me looking a bit like a department store mannequin or a feminine Ken doll. I left the dog to be tended to and drove to the doctor’s office where once again I endured the curious eyes staring at my hair while waiting to get stitches for my son.

Barnaby, to his humiliation, had to wear a large red bucket over his head for ten days until his stitches were removed. I had to replace the screen door, the wallpaper, and reframe the door. My hair fortunately did not fall out in clumps. However, the dye staying on far longer than recommended left a perfect band of color framing my face which lasted for several days.

Talking to my husband on his return I said either he got his dog in hand or he was going to disappear suddenly with no explanation and I wouldn’t be responsible for the consequences. Looking back I’m not sure if I was referring to the dog or my husband, but that’s another blog. Truly I could not follow through with this threat but it surely felt good to say it out loud. We enrolled the big lug in obedience school (again, the dog) which he soundly failed. The teacher, as I recall, said some dogs were born untrainable. Poor old Barn. He lived to a relatively comfortable old age, despite hip dysplasia. Never the sharpest pencil in the box, but always willing to cuddle at any given moment.

Do I want to take all this on again? I’m thinking about it. Boo, the Queen of Cats, has cast her vote and has threatened to veto any yeas coming down the chute.

I had this lighter version of potato salad at a potluck recently and asked for the recipe. Equally as satisfying as it’s mayonnaisey partner, I had to share it.

Green Bean and Red Potato Salad

6 large red potatoes, diced
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1 red onion halved and thinly sliced
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/8 cup crumbled blue cheese

Dressing

1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. mint

Cover the potatoes with water in large saucepan. Bring to boil Reduce heat and cook until fork tender, about 20-25 mins. Drain and allow to cool. Dice.

Cover beans with water in saucepan. Bring to boil and cook until tender. Drain and cool. Cut in half if longer beans.

Add diced potatoes, beans, onion, bacon, and blue cheese to large mixing bowl. Whisk together dressing ingredients. Toss with vegetables. Refrigerate at least 2 hrs. or overnight.

Serves 6

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