Not a Pet-Friendly Year

It’s been a rough year for animals, at least in our family and circle of friends.

Zorro is coughing almost non-stop, at least when he’s awake, and while we have drugs to help him, he’s refusing to take them, and has to be hovered over and watched in order even to eat dinner. His new food-avoidance (and this is an animal who will do anything for food) means he’s also not taking the pain killers for his torn ACL. He IS, however, jumping onto the bed with apparent ease, so maybe the pain isn’t bad, or isn’t phasing him. I’m thinking of hiring neighborhood kids to drug him for me, since he knows, now, when we’re doing it.

More immediately, my friend “MeliBabe” at LiveJournal (not linking, on purpose) said good-bye to her cat, Aoife today – she discovered she (the cat) had cancer not that long ago.

Another friend, whom many of you know as Ms. Eclectic has learned that her cat, Dorey, has terminal cancer in his lymph nodes. She’s elected not to put him through chemo, and she said estimates are that he’ll live about a year, give or take. Please go wish her – them – well.

The worst thing about a sick pet is that you can’t explain to them why they need to swallow the nasty pills, or why they’re not allowed to jump onto furniture any more, and when you deny them something for their own good, they give you the big liquid eyes that go right to your heart.

Do You Remember…?

I have a long memory that is at some times vague and at others very specific.

My earliest specific memory is from when I was two or younger, and involves my grandmother’s back door, with the gauzy translucent curtain that veiled (but did not completely obstruct) the view through the heavy glass of the door, and their black dog, Misty. There are no details, beyond the presence of the dog, the fact that the door was closed. I think she may have wanted to go out, but I was far too little to even reach the doorknob.

It is somehow appropriate that I remember this dog in soft focus, as she was to fade from life before I really had memories of interaction before.

I wonder if I was born a “dog person” or made one, later. I’ve always responded more to canine pets, even before cats began to make me sneeze.

Basil and Earth

When I went to bed last night, before midnight, I was tired from working with garden plants, and my hands smelled like rich earth and two kinds of basil. Yesterday was an odd day for me, especially for a weekend:

– I woke around 5:30, because the sky was calling my name, and I needed to watch the sun. A little bit groggy, I made some orange/grapefruit juice, then took the dogs for a walk. We returned home just after the sun’s golden light was warming our front yard, and I watched the triangle of light creep across the dewy grass while I drank my coffee.

– Around eight or nine, I went back to bed, inexplicably tired, and COLD. I slept until about noon, read a bit, and slept some more. Finally tumbled out of bed around two. Made an omelet while Fuzzy showered, and we ate at the kitchen table while watching birds visit the feeder in the back yard.

– At 3:30, we left the house, and went to the pound, because our recycling bin blew away in a major storm and we never bothered to replace it. We were initially told we needed to pay $5 for any but the first bin, but when we got there, the women at the desk said, “Naaah, just take one.” So we did…

– … but first we walked through the kennels, and fell in love with every dog and a litter of black and charcoal kittens (is it a litter, if it’s kittens? I know it is for dogs, but I’m not a Cat Person). There was a mama Rottie ferociously defending her puppies – they’d been brought in earlier that day and she was traumatized, poor thing. I want a Rottie puppy! Fuzzy is afraid of Rotties though, and any of the breeds on the List of Seven (Akita, Rottie, Staffie, Pit Bull, Chow Chow, Dobie, Boxer) mean special insurance. Also, unless you get them as puppies most of those breeds are not chi-friendly, and Zorro is old, and sick, and it wouldn’t be fair to bring another animal into his house. (For the record, I have no problem with big dogs. Rotties and Dobies are sweet creatures, and most behavior issues are related to treatment and training, not genetics.) My dream dog is still a Manchester Terrier or a Basenji. Fuzzy wants a Chow mix.

– From the pound, we went to Home Depot, because I wanted to do some container gardening. Our yard is not set up for a proper garden, and the soil here is mainly clay and fire ants, so containers are easier. I bought four large pots, soil to fill them, and an array of plants: tomatoes, cucumbers, crook-neck squash, purple basil, sweet basil and lavender. I also bought a new wand for the front hose, so I can keep the flower bed watered.

– A quick trip to Starbucks netted me an iced vanilla latte. (I wish they hadn’t discontinued almond) and I sipped it while Fuzzy was in Radio Shack looking for some telecom device to tweak our cabling situation.

– We then went to Tom Thumb for light groceries (razor blades, toilet paper, cheese) and, because I like to do special dinners on Sundays, and they had Cornish game hens, already dressed, I bought two. (We’ll cook both tonight, probably share one, and turn the other into soup.) Irises were $6 for 10 stems, so I bought two bunches, because I like to have fresh flowers in the house.

– We came home, put the groceries away, and fed the dogs, and Fuzzy went upstairs to putter on his computer, and I went out into the cool of the evening to plant my vegetables. I saved the basil for last, and put the lavender under our bedroom window. When I went inside, covered in dirt, and happily exhausted, my hands smelled like loamy soil and basil leaves.

– A hot shower soothed away the aches from bending over pots, and washed away the dirt, and then I made a “peasant” dinner of hot dogs, baked beans, and potato salad. We watched a DVR’d episode of John Amsterdam as we ate. We have one more waiting, the season finale. Is anyone else watching this show?

– We had fresh raspberries and chocolate ice cream for dessert.

– I went to bed with decaf vanilla chai tea and a thick book, finished the tea, fell asleep reading, woke up enough to tell Fuzzy three am was late enough, and please come to bed, and then tumbled back into sleep, until Zorro woke me by scratching on the door (his signal that he needs to go out) about half an hour ago. And now? I’m going to step outside, grab the Sunday paper, and then crawl into bed for a while longer.

It strikes me, however, that “Basil” would be a good name for a dog.

Peeking

We just got back from our tour of the neighborhood, in which Zorro marked every tree and Miss Cleo, in her unerring clumsiness, managed to tromp through every fire ant mound in the mile-circuit we generally take. This was the shorter of our two mid-length routes: around the corner, through the park, across the street, around another corner, and down the long block home. I’m not sure what messages the dogs got this morning, but I noticed a few things:

  • – The neighbors who share our back fence, and thus face the park, were in their driveway (all four of them) staring at their SUV and their boat, as if there was a telekinetic element to hitching the former to the latter. I noticed they have a shiny new (unstained) fence around the boat, separating it from the rest of the back yard. Of course, they hired someone to build the fence. I’m thinking they should have hired someone to teach them how to hitch up a trailer. I’m a city girl and even I know how to do this.
  • – The neighborhood teens are being sloppy. The bench at the far end of the park had a pile of Dr. Pepper cans sitting on it. I realize the only trash can is at the play area, on “our” end, but still, we’re talking a length of maybe half a block. (Of course, we really should have trash cans at both ends.)
  • – The people at the opposite end of the part from our back-fence neighbors have added one of those fire-pit tables to their front courtyard. It’s not a porch – our neighborhood doesn’t have them – but they’ve made a lovely outdoor courtyard in front of their main window. It’s a little too chi-chi even for me, though, with the gnomes and the fake parrot and such, but, whatever. It’s nice to see people sitting outside in lawn chairs on balmy evenings, and not in laz-e-boy recliners in the garage, which will forever strike me as tacky and weird.
  • – The people with the cement dog that Miss Cleo barks at have new flowers – they look like Gerberas but they’re so perfect I suspect they’re fakes. We didn’t cross their lawn to confirm.
  • – The people a few doors down from us who are trying to sell their house had some lovely wine racks in their always-open, apparently unattended garage. They also had something that looks like a lemonade stand sitting on the driveway. It was red.
    It made me want lemonade.
  • – Our peach tree is still peaching. We lost some peachlets in the storm the other night, but the birds and bugs are feasting on those, and I think we’ll have a decent amount of peaches. I think they’ll be about ripe when my parents arrive in 2.5 weeks, but it might take a little longer. Also, the flowers in front of our main window? Are cheery and bright, and I’m glad we planted them.

And on that note, time to make coffee. and maybe a mushroom and dill havarti omelet.

Snuggly?

The problem with allowing your dogs to sleep in the bed with you, especially if they’re terrier-esque, is that they tend to dig in the covers. The first time, it’s cute. The second time, less cute, but a bit annoying. After that? You tend to imagine that you can hear their little claws picking apart the sheets and comforter thread by thread.

It is, therefore, no surprise that I look at comforter sets and sheets sets in every store we enter that carries such things, though I rarely buy them. Sheets and quilts are surprisingly expensive, and I’m picky. 100% cotton is a given, but high thread counts, pretty colors, nice patterns. Our bedroom is really my second (third?) office, and I need the space to reflect that.

I tend to do for nautical stripes, blues and crisp reds, more than sweet floral things (to Fuzzy’s delight) but lately I’ve been straying on the pink side, if for no other reason than I wouldn’t have to worry about my hair staining the pillow cases.

I wonder if my froufrou taste in bed linens encourages the dogs.

Windy

I don’t know if they make an Alli equivalent for dogs, but I’m beginning to think Miss Cleo would benefit. Why? Because she’s got fatty cysts.

Okay, okay, I know that a fat blocker wouldn’t really help the cysts. They’re a normal sign of aging for a dog of her size and breed, but she does need to lose five pounds, and so in the interest of not feeling like a lump myself, and in helping her accomplish this, she, Zorro, and I walked a mile in the wind today.

It wasn’t hot, but I must still be mildly sick (I know I am, because my throat and ear are still achy when I swallow), because I felt hot even though it wasn’t more than 73 degrees, and despite the fact that the wind had a distinct bite to it.

I like rainy springs better than windy ones.
Really.

Anyway, in the back of my mind there’s a line from a play – Into the Woods, I think – about fleeing or fearing the wind.

A throwaway line, but in my head nonetheless.
Weirder things have happened.

Doggy Diet

Our dogs have always been relatively healthy, Zorro’s ideopathic epilepsy aside, but when her senior dog checkup showed that Miss Cleo had some fatty cysts, and needed to lose five pounds (which is a LOT for a dog her size) I went into doggy diet-guru mode.

I didn’t buy her lipovox or anything, though from what I read about the stuff, I might try it myself. I did, however, buy her some all natural crunchy dog food, with no wheat or corn. Instead it’s made from potatoes and meat – the flavor we tried first was sweet potato and duck, and yes, I know duck is fatty, but this is actually less so than the rolled food from the same company (the Dick Van Patten stuff) they’ve been eating ever since Zorro began to refuse the raw meat diet.

Surprisingly, Zorro, who is rapidly running low on teeth, likes the crunchy stuff too – it’s a small bites blend – which pleases us, because feeding them separate stuff is really difficult.

A Murderer of Crows

A group of crows is called a murder, but my dog, Miss Cleo is now a murderer of crows. Or grackles, at any rate. I let her out earlier to do her evening business, and heard her take off after a critter. There was a yowling sound as if she’d chased a cat from the yard, and then a pitiful screeching alternating with her barking, as she chased a grackle across the ground, to the lava rocks under the living room windows.

I called her away, hoping that the bird was merely stunned, and called Fuzzy for help. I yelled at Cleo. I don’t like yelling at dogs, and I’m ashamed that I did it, especially when she’s got a mix of terrier and spaniel in her, and a pretty high prey drive for such a relatively small dog. I realize that she was acting on instinct, but I was still appalled.

Fuzzy went out to see to the bird. It had a mangled leg, and its neck was broken, he said, though it was still moving. As a point of mercy, he had no choice but to finish the job, wrap it in a cocoon of paper tie it into a bag and put the whole thing in the trash can in the garage. He also said he suspects that the cat struck the initial blow, and dropped the bird when Cleo came out.

He grew up on a farm, and was calm about it.

And me?

I told Cleo I didn’t want kisses from her tonight, and then I shed tears for a grackle, a bird most people around here think of as a nuisance, the way people in New York and San Francisco think of pigeons.

I feel like it’s my fault.

Mmm. Blueberries.

I woke up this morning to a pounding headache, one that had been threatening to arrive all day yesterday, but didn’t really come on in force until I tried to go to sleep last night, and the sound of Fuzzy grumbling in the bathroom. It seems that L, our new housekeeper, did such a great job of cleaning the bathroom vanities, that he can’t find anything.

(Mind you, he is afflicted with the inability to see any object that requires moving another object. I always thought this was limited to looking for items in the fridge, but it’s universal, apparently.)

Outside, while the temperature is mild, the wind is not, and it’s making a howling sound that the dogs are clearly disgruntled by. Poor sensitive chihuahua ears. Zorro’s been giving me his patented slitty-eyed look all morning. As if I can control the wind.

I found the perfect way to soothe my own grumpiness, however. I made oatmeal, laced it with honey, and mixed in half a container of fresh blueberries.

Mmm. Blueberries.

My head still hurts.
But I’ll survive.