Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Twilight Zone of Geriatric Pets

It was inevitable.

I now share my house with geriatric pets, and they are not shy about letting their oldness get the best of all of us.

Maybe it's not something people think about when they adopt pets, all young and full of energy with zero health problems. I know, rationally, that eventually animals will age, just as I will age, and they will develop problems as they age.

One is just never prepared for it when it finally happens, even if when it's expected.

For almost ten years I have shared my house with Tess, Percy, Puckett, and Willow, in that order. I've had Tess the longest. Percy came quickly after her, so they are close to the same age. Puckett was older when I adopted her.

And now that I've had them almost a decade, they have all entered the twilight zone of elderly animals.

Just like elderly people, they develop health issues. They aren't as energetic as they used to be, they have digestive issues and weight gain, their fur isn't as shiny and thick as it once was. I think the cats at least are in the early stages of dementia since they can't seem to remember when they ate last even if it was just five minutes ago, and Tess' eyesight is definitely going.

Plus Tess is starting to smell like "old dog." German shepherds, when bathed regularly, do not have the natural "doggy odor" that many other breeds are cursed with. Hounds and bully breeds seem to suffer the most from "doggy smell." And I'm not a huge fan of "doggy smell," which is one reason German shepherds have always been my top breed of choice.

There is no denying that Tess smells. She gets bathed. She also spends a lot of time outdoors. That never used to contribute to her smell when she was younger, but it does now. She smells like "old dog," and she has super bad doggy breath despite the fact that she gets her teeth cleaned once a year.

The cats smell too. Percy farts like a horse, has the nastiest diarrhea that just gets worse as he ages thanks to his Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and the fact that he will eat whatever presents itself to him and moves. It doesn't even have to move. The other day he was chewing on plastic just because it was there. He also tried to gnaw on one of my rosebush stems, because, well thorns feel good in the mouth.

Willow has the nastiest smelling poop, and she's the only one who can't be considered geriatric yet. I think she's about seven years old. She just acts like the others because she's always been an emulator and has no mind of her own. I think she just doesn't want to feel left out.

Puckett's old age is noticeable as she has given up trying to jump up on the bed and will literally haul herself up by her front claws, ripping up the bed sheets and blankets in the process. She gets constant mats in her fur from lack of grooming. Come to think of it, so does Willow. Declining hygiene is also a sign of old age. Where they once obsessed over licking themselves and each other clean, they no longer seem to care. Percy still grooms, but he too doesn't seem to have as much enthusiasm for it.

The loss of control of bodily functions is the biggest sign of the end of their lives approaching. My carpet is absolutely ruined. Tess has peed on the bedroom carpet enough times now that there is nothing left to do but throw it out. Puckett yaks up her breakfast and/or dinner every other day, and it's usually on the carpet. Percy can't seem to get everything in the litter box when he's using it, so he tracks his business across the floor, and inevitably ends up on the carpet. Willow can't seem to get her whole, and I might add, tiny butt into the litter box so she always manages to pee over the edge. That's a lovely surprise in the morning when I grab the box to clean it and get a handful of cat pee.

I realized the other day just where I was at in the life cycle of pets when I stood in the Petco and stared at an aisle full of "How to keep your pet from soiling your house" products. Among them, doggy diapers, pet wipes, and potty pads. I know these are marketed for other reasons - potty pads for housebreaking puppies and doggy diapers for females in heat - but my dog is incontinent and she has reached the point where she just doesn't bother holding her bladder anymore.

You know you've reached doggy old age when you are contemplating diapers for your dog, and giving up on housetraining altogether. You buy potty pads just to save the carpet. Plus, I think the cats might enjoy potty pads rather than trying to drag their old butts into the litter boxes. That obviously seems to be too much work.

My solution has been to buy a doggy gate and just keep Tess out of the bedroom. That way, if she messes on the floor during the night, she'll do it on the kitchen floor that is tile and easy to clean up.

I have to keep the gate braced in the doorway slightly elevated so the cats can crawl underneath it, as they no longer leap or climb over it. Too old or too lazy. Or maybe a combination of both, but you should see the shitty look they shoot me when I put the gate up, and they actually have to make some effort into getting into the bedroom.

Incidentally, they don't want to go into the bedroom until I've put up the gate. Then they absolutely have to be in there, and even crawling under the gate seems to be beneath their dignity.

Like, "How DARE you barricade this otherwise open doorway for me to use whenever I want??"

Just breaks my heart to watch it, really. Those were the days when even Puckett would leap over the gate and land with an audible thump on the other side. She wasn't very graceful about it, but she did it and it kept her active and fit.

Well, somewhat fit.

Now she just sleeps.

Tess still runs up and down the stairs of the deck, but she mostly just likes to sleep on the deck as well.

Winter will be hard with everyone once again cooped up and even less space to roam now that the dog is banned from all things carpet.

The worst thing about the animals getting older is my lack of patience. I tell myself everyday, they are old, they can't help it, it's only going to get worse, but then I stare down the barrel of the gun of litter scattered everywhere, piles of the most vile-smelling poop I've ever experienced deposited five times a day, and puddles of pee and puke, and sadly, I tend to lose my mind. I know I should be more patient, and I don't yell at them for it. Yelling at Tess for peeing on the floor at night because she can't hold it, or yelling at Puckett for throwing up her breakfast because her stomach can't handle too much food at once will only make them more miserable. They are animals. They don't understand.

But I do lock myself in my bedroom and scream silently into a pillow. Or I cuss to myself as I clean out the litter boxes and sweep the floor for the tenth time that day. This of course upsets the animals anyway. They don't know why I'm cussing at myself, they just know I'm agitated about something, and they disappear.

My entire life outside of work is cleaning up animal messes.

Plus Tess is almost offended at having been banned from the bedroom. She has a huge soft doggy bed in the hallway just outside the door, but I get it. She thinks she's being punished. I'm just tired of smelling dog urine in my bedroom, so out of the bedroom is where she must stay.

It's the most awful limbo. I don't want my pets to die, of course. I also don't want to keep cleaning up mess after mess after mess and I know, horrifically, that the only light at the end of that tunnel is the eventual inevitable death of my pets.

This is the worst part of pet ownership. It's the price we pay for wanting to share our homes with these furry, happy creatures that have a lifespan one tenth of ours. If we are devoted pet lovers, we can go through this awful cycle many times in our own lives. And every time we promise ourselves, never again. After this lot, no more dogs, no more cats, not even a friggin hamster! I can't do this again!

And then six months after they are gone, or maybe a year, we find ourselves at the animal shelter and yet another pair of big sad brown eyes gets our attention, and we get sucked in all over again.

And the cycle begins again.

 Percy clearly does not have enough toys to play with so he has to actually force himself into the toy box.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Warts and All

Last week it took five seconds for a lady to make me feel completely inadequate and bad about myself.

It was nothing she did on purpose. I didn't even know her. She didn't even know I was alive as her back was to me. She flitted about the restaurant where I was having drinks and dinner at 5 PM with my friends because we are senior citizens.

The gal wore a tight little black dress that accentuated all her curves and fit her as if it had been painted on her. She wore spiked black heels, and had long, smooth, black hair - the kind of hair one can only get in a blowout at a salon, or if one happens to be magically-inclined.

Maybe she had a coven.

No one can look that good in small town Wyoming and be a normal human being. I thought maybe she was a movie star or something, but she kept going into the kitchen of the restaurant, so she either knew someone back there, or she worked at the restaurant.

Worked as what, I don't know. She was not a cook or a waitperson, and I don't think she was the hostess.

Meanwhile, I felt a little ridiculous in my washed out jeans, black flats, flat hair, and "Books are good for you" T-shirt.

This girl was probably fifteen years younger than me, and I was the one who looked like a teenager or a college student. Believe me, that made me feel even more inadequate. Not only did she look better, she was also younger, which is the only thing we still revere in this country.

Now I know it's silly to compare myself to a complete stranger, but with society's obsession of youth and effortless beauty, sometimes it's hard not to beat oneself up about the fact that they cannot and will never measure up.

Since I know I'll never measure up, I think I might have just given up. I used to take some care into getting ready to go out. Now it's almost like it's too much work. I don't know if that's a good thing because I no longer have the energy to be completely superficial, or if it's a bad thing because I just don't bother to try anymore.

Not that I could look like this girl. Forget that. Few people look like her. But, you know, I could make some effort.

I've been feeling really inadequate lately. And ungrateful. And like I'm from another planet. Or else I'm the last surviving member of the human race and everyone else here is from another planet. I'm sure everyone feels that way (I've read countless books on the matter), but it's still a lonely feeling. While you know everyone else feels this way and that you are not alone, you still feel really alone.

I've gotten really good at letting other people make me feel bad about myself. I have a coworker who refuses to make eye contact or basically even acknowledge my presence, and that makes me feel bad. Like, I'm so beneath her, and she makes it so obvious that I'm beginning to believe it myself. Like the lady at the restaurant, she is striking and stands out. People notice her. It's up to her whether we are worthy to be noticed in return and clearly I am not.

A look, a harsh word, a negative comment in my direction, they all magnify my feelings of inadequacy. I'm not sure why. It used to be that I had run out of energy to give a fuck. Now I've just run out of energy to make any sort of effort, and rather than make an effort, I just feel bad.

I don't understand. I've gotten everything I've ever wanted. I'm a published author, I have the German shepherd of my dreams, I have my black cat, I have a great boyfriend who is nice to me and loves me, and I work at a library where I love doing my job (if I can't write for a living, then ordering books and cataloging them all day long is the next best thing).

The problem with getting everything you want, the problem that no one ever tells you when they tell you can have whatever you want, is that it will never look like the way you thought it should. I'm a published author, but I've had a few articles published in the local paper and one story in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Along with those are three times as many rejections of other stories I've written, and I'm losing my will to write anything else. I have a great boyfriend who loves me, but he lives two hours away. So I only get to see him once a week.

Yes, I have a German shepherd and a black cat, but the shepherd is a neurotic basket case and the cat really should be used for biological warfare. Tess has peed on the floor twice this week, and Percy made such a mess in all four litter boxes, it took me an hour to clean this morning.

And while I love my job at the library, there is the constant threat of budget cuts, no raise, no way to move up, and one person who makes me feel inadequate and unworthy (yes, I realize that's on me and not her fault, but still).

Then there are the things you thought you wanted and you realize how thrilled you are that you never got them. Like a horse. Or a cowboy. I used to want a horse in the worst way. After playing nursemaid to four codependent animals who cost roughly the same as the down payment to a house, I'm relieved I don't have a horse. I don't want one anymore either.

That kind of makes me sad, though. I used to dream of owning horses and how amazing it would be.

It must be the universe's way of keeping things in balance. That way you never get too full of yourself or too big for your britches.

Or maybe it's just a mindset. If you feel inadequate you will be inadequate. It's up to you to look in the mirror and tell yourself "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me."

Except that most days I don't feel good enough, I'm definitely not smart enough, and I'm really beginning to question if people like me at all. I feel very unlikable much of the time, and I suspect that's my own fault.

Probably because I just don't make the effort I used to.

There are days I want to just run screaming from the library, never to return.

There are days I want to just tell anyone off who is being rude.

Remember that episode of Wings when cool, calm, responsible Joe finally had enough, told everyone off, mounted a motorcycle, and just took off?

I feel like that a lot.

Coping mechanisms no longer work. I write, but I've grown to hate it, and yet, like the sexy bad boyfriend, I can't break up with writing. I'm miserable if I don't write everyday. I'm miserable when I do.

I am crippled by my inability to look away from a train wreck, and that train wreck is my writing career.

Other coping mechanisms include baking, which has lost its joy since I can't eat anything I bake and I'm tired of bringing it to work. I suspect my coworkers may be tired of it too. The last few cakes didn't get completely eaten so either everyone is on a diet, or else I'm not as good as I thought I was.

Chocolate used to help. So did making chocolate. And wine. I've discovered it's actually not that hard to get sick of chocolate and wine. A couple of pieces of chocolate, one or two glasses of wine, and it's like, okay, totally over that.

And it's REALLY easy to get sick of 72 or 80% cacao dark chocolate. The latter is sometimes like eating cardboard.

Again, you can have everything you want. Just don't expect it to look like how you thought. I can have all the chocolate I want. I just can't have all the milk chocolate I want.

I can, however, have all the wine I want, because usually all the wine I want is a glass or two on the weekends. I usually don't want more.

But I digress.

I suppose we just have to keep on keeping on, but I admit my give a damn is broken.

Meanwhile, yet another beauty waltzed by me while writing this piece, all tight jeans, stylish cowgirl shirt, and blonde hair. What a knockout.

The universe is laughing at me now. Once again I feel inadequate. And the only thing I've managed to write is a blog piece that is nothing but complaining, because well, I'm just whiny that way.

And the radio is playing Journey. Nothing forces one's inadequacy home like Journey, probably because they were big when I was in high school, and I was really inadequate then.

The secret then is not The Secret by Ronda Byrne, all Law of Attraction and positive thinking and the universe will give you what you want. The secret - the real one - is embracing your inadequacies. Because you will always be inadequate to someone, but probably mostly to yourself. You can read all the books you want about accepting yourself and loving yourself, but maybe the best thing to do is to accept the fact that you are inadequate and that's okay.

I will always fall a little bit short. My animals think I could do better, my father thinks I should make more money, my boyfriend thinks I should just move in with him, my friends think I should quit whining. The library doesn't think I should be doing three jobs, I should be doing four. What they don't understand is that they are all 100% right and I agree with them. I can do better, I should make more money, I should try harder, I should quit whining. I should be able to keep four balls in the air without dropping one.

Sometimes it's all I can do just to get through the day. Everyone feels like that. We just need to learn to accept it. Warts and all.


At least I can grow pretty things!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Welcome to the Circus

My mornings have become a three-ring circus.

Maybe a five-ring.

I have animals doing tricks for food, and freakishly strange animals showing up to entertain anybody who happens to be visiting.

My morning begins with yowling. Percy starts the festivities by squalling, yowling, and screeching while running through the house. Meanwhile someone else is downstairs going crazy in the litter box. Usually it's Puckett because Willow reserves her litter box behavior for the small one in the cage on the fourth landing. Any other time she'll use the litter boxes downstairs. At night and in the morning she uses the one on the fourth landing.

No doubt because it's closest to my bedroom and thus, I can hear her better.

Once Puckett is done downstairs (and believe me, it doesn't matter where they use the box, I can hear them just fine), Willow or Percy or both will proceed to use the litter box. Like Willow, Percy will always use the one downstairs except in the mornings, when he uses the one underneath the cage because, most likely, it is also closest to my bedroom.

After litter box activity, there is more yowling. Percy races through the house, and Willow sacks out on the floor at the foot of the bed and attacks the blankets hanging off the mattress.

Tess paces around, first from bedroom to downstairs to the kitchen, then back upstairs and into the bedroom. Then she'll go to her bed which is just outside the bedroom. Then back into the bedroom.

Sometimes there's a bit of whining. Usually because Percy is annoying her. If I ignore his yowling he starts bothering Tess.

So after the litter box scratching, the yowling, and the thundering of cat paws throughout the house, all I hear is "click click click" as Tess paces.

Then Puckett comes into the bedroom and sits next to the bed, staring up at me with her big eyeballs. She doesn't make any noise, just stares.

Finally, I get up because I can't take it anymore. I let Tess outside. She explodes down the stairs of the deck either to do her business or to lap up the entire bucket of water outside.

Keep in mind I do not dehydrate my dog on purpose. She can't drink water after 9 PM because then she pees on the floor. She's either too polite or too lazy to ask to be let outside when she has to pee.

I also don't dehydrate my cats on purpose, or even at all. They have a huge water bowl in the living room they have access to all night long.

Upon getting out of bed, I take a shower and Percy immediately is on the ledge of the bathtub lapping the water drops that spray from the showerhead. So I play with him a little. I move aside and the water hits him. He screams - and I do mean SCREAMS - at me, jumps down and takes off like a shot. A second later he's back on the tub, lapping away. This time I'll aim the shower head right at him. Bullseye, one drenched cat.

This time he screeches the equivalent of a banshee threatening to end a life. The devil himself as taken over my cat's body and turned him into a fluffy demon.

He takes off like a shot once again. Then he sits by the door and grooms himself.

He comes back. I flick water at him with my fingers.


Thump. Scurrying as he races out the door.

This goes on until the shower is over. I get out, dry myself off, and go into the other room to get dressed and make the bed.

Almost immediately Willow streaks into the bathroom like someone shot her from a cannon, launches herself into the bathtub, and starts lapping away at the drain like she is dying of thirst.

There is soap in that water. And hair (mine and the cats' as they have taken to playing in the tub). She has a bowl of clean water downstairs. She doesn't care, she'd rather drink drainwater.

Okay, then.

I pull the curtain aside, she looks up at me with huge eyes like she's been caught stealing the Mona Lisa, and leaps out of the tub, streaking from the bathroom.

As soon as I leave the bathroom she's back in there.

As soon as I walk into the bathroom she jumps out of the tub and thunders away like the devil is after her.

The devil is after her and has possessed Percy.

Where is Puckett, you ask? Either using the box again once she's eaten or else yakking what she has just eaten all over the floor.

Tess is outside, under the deck, ignoring everyone because she's pretty sure we've all lost our minds.

Then it's time for codependent breakfast.

I feed them after I've gotten dressed and made the bed. They each eat a few pieces of food, then leave to go do their crazy stuff - Puckett in the box, Willow in the bathtub. Percy actually calms down after eating and lays in the sun for awhile. He will eventually use the box too, though.

I go about my own business, but every time I set foot in the kitchen they are all right there again, eating because clearly food cannot be consumed unless I am there to supervise.

Right before I leave for work I pick up all the bowls (my cats each eat something different and they also don't need to be hogging out all day, that just encourages more pooping and they do enough of that). As I put my shoes on and pull my keys out of my purse, they all magically appear and start yowling for food again. They obviously haven't eaten for hours, maybe days, and they let me know it as I walk out the door.

Amazingly they are all still alive when I come home at lunch to feed them again.

One morning last week I left my house to a chorus of chirping and meowing only to find this hanging out on my walkway, right outside my front door:

Let the freak show begin.

He was oddly grasshopper-shaped which made me wonder if he hadn't just consumed one.

That's fitting because when I got home from work later that day, I pulled a few carrots, neglected to check them before bringing them into the house, and had to contend with a grasshopper hopping around my kitchen. I caught him and tossed him into the front garden where that monstrosity above happens to live.

At least I assume he lives there as I had to prod him off the walkway that morning just so I could get to my car. I wasn't about to step on him and ruin my shoes (and really, why? Spiders are people too), and I definitely wasn't going to walk past him. He might have decided I was his next meal. I used a stick to nudge him off the cement and at first he was quite sluggish about it. I guess he was taking a nap.

What a stupid place for a nap. Any bird could have come down and snapped him up.

I know what you're thinking:  I should have just let it.

I finally managed to prod him off the cement and he scurried into the garden, where the rosebush lives. I just hope he doesn't end up in the house. He was too big to kill (can you imagine the mess he'd make on the carpet?), and too big to trap. Even I won't brave dropping a glass over something that size. I'd just move. Grab the pets and leave the furniture for the spider.

It occurred to me that the freakishly large spider is my own fault. He's probably one of the critters I trapped and put outside years ago, and that's only allowed him to grow to the size of Montana.

God, I hope he hasn't eaten Fred and Winifred. Or any of my other jumpers. My boss made the comment that if I hear a knock at the door and there is nobody there when I open it, I should probably just run for my life.

Welcome to the circus.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

When One Has Writer's Block

I got nothing this week.

The pets have their usual antics, of course, though they are getting older and not doing as much crazy as stuff as they used to. Just the same old ones over and over, like kicking litter out of the box, flooding the box (there are generally three HUGE clumps of pee in both boxes every morning), and playing in the bathtub.

Otherwise, they sleep and eat.

I, on the other hand, got another rejection and lost a contest, so I'm feeling a little inadequate as a writer right now. I have two story ideas I'm working on that just sound ridiculously stupid to me, and one personal essay that I will never finish at the rate I'm going because I can't figure out how to make it "edgy."

So here is a picture album of things that happened this week since I don't feel like writing:

The harvest from my garden was more impressive than I expected. Several onions, carrots, cucumbers, and melons have already made it to my table. The melons are small but sweet, the carrots few, but tasty. And the onions have taken over my garden.

The rosebush is thriving and has decided to burst into a very late second bloom. I will attempt a few more cloning experiments with the abundance of blooms, but the ones I've already tried have expired. I just dumped my last can of beer on it, so it should be happy the rest of the season.

 This was dinner Monday, following a weekend of seriously bad eating and watching documentaries like In Defense of Food, What the Health, Forks and Knives, and Food, Inc. All can be found on Netflix.

 My favorite was probably In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I love his little slogan, "Eat food, not a lot, mostly plants."

So I did what he said.

I only had two of those chocolate squares, but that little spread is a little bit of heaven, isn't it?

And what's dinner without a huge cup of Sleepytime Extra tea?

I was out like a light.

Then I woke up about three times throughout the night, desperately having to pee.

Maybe not the best combination there.

On my way to the bathroom, I encountered this hiding in the shower...

Meanwhile, Puckett was engrossed in The Secret on Netflix.

And Willow was snuggled up with a stuffed wolf on the back of the couch.

And here is Tess, pouting because I tried to take her picture when she was playing with Percy. It's the darndest thing. I can pick my phone up a million times to check texts or play Words with Friends, but as soon as I pick it up with the intention of snapping a picture she goes into hiding. It's like she knows...

So that was the last week. Not very exciting, a lot of documentaries, a lot of random pictures, and a lot of stupidity at work. I will definitely have earned this by the weekend:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

We Could all be Dead Soon.

Everything seems to be dying.

Rosebush 2.0 did not make it. The second one is still holding on by a (root) thread.

Scooter fish died. Apparently he decimated his pod stash which is the only thing he feeds on and ended up starving to death.

The clam I got for California Guy's aquarium also did not make it, but at least we have a nice empty clam shell to commemorate the brief moment when we had a clam.

Crab Cakes is still alive and kicking, but another fish California Guy bought for me, a Canary Blenny, also did not make it, and damn it, I liked that fish.

California Guy's favorite purple wrasse died recently along with several of his new fish.

Aquariums seem high maintenance and expensive, and I thought my pets were high maintenance and expensive.

Meanwhile, the melons are still alive, so that's a plus. Though one plant is kind of suffering.

The cucumbers are thriving.

I have not yet killed my cats and dog, so they are still with us, though Percy is really treading on thin ice. His and Willow's new thing is to play in the tub. Percy started it, and of course Willow, who has no mind of her own, has to emulate it. Percy usually starts the morning off with crawling into the shower while I'm in there and then getting butt-hurt furious when the water sprays him. This happens every morning. I don't get why he still gets mad when he gets sprayed. But he gets his revenge because he leaves litter particles and fur all over the bathtub.

Willow has just taken to getting into the tub after the shower is done and licking water out of the drain. Clearly I do not give my cats enough water or else they just like the taste of soap. Never mind that there are two huge bowls of water placed around the house for them to enjoy.

They might think they are not getting enough water, but I'm pretty sure they are if the huge multiple clumps of pee in the litter boxes tell me anything.

The soap then makes them sick and they puke.

Well, duh.

Puckett has also been puking, but only because she has hairballs. At first I worried that her health issues were flaring up again until she yakked up a considerable ball of hair right in the middle of my carpet.

Thank you.

This went on for a couple more days, and given that she no longer has mats in her fur, she must have decided to start grooming again.

Apparently her literary debut in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cat Really Did That? has convinced her that she is a diva and must act accordingly.

Her newfound diva-dom was illustrated this last weekend when I came home from visiting California Guy. I spent three hours cleaning the car, the house, and taking care of the garden. Then I finally sat down on the couch with my dinner and my wine to watch a little Hot in Cleveland, and Puckett hissed at me.

Puckett never hisses at me.

But she has become that territorial about the couch, as well as being a diva.

I removed her from the couch and threatened to paddle her little behind. That resulted in a dirty look from her and a pile of poop in my shoe.

Tess has decided she is afraid of the dark. I'm not sure what her deal is, but once it gets dark in the backyard she wants nothing to do with it. She'd rather just pee on the floor than brave whatever horrors await her. Whoever heard of a dog who is afraid of the dark? Isn't she supposed to protect me from the bogeyman? Instead when I go outside to set my beer traps or spray slugs off the fence in the dark, she cowers on the deck and refuses to set foot in the yard.

Nothing has killed me yet so I'm not sure what she's so scared of.

Though if my attempts at cloning the rosebush and California Guy's fish are any indication, we are all headed for the eternal beyond. I'll either kill my cats or they will kill me. Surina has been giving me the hairy eyeball every time I come around (or she comes around my house), and I'm pretty sure she is waiting to kill me in my sleep. And on that note she might want to watch her own step since she's taken to counter surfing and clearing the leftovers every time our backs are turned for five seconds.

One would think that dog never gets fed. She should hang out with Willow who has a similar belief.

Meanwhile, Tess found a new way to be obnoxious while riding in the car and I almost killed her. While driving to visit California Guy, she decided to poop in the car. One minute we were driving along with me singing to the radio, and the next this putrid smell filled the car. When I turned around to look, Tess had managed to shit all down the back of the backseat, leaving a pile on the bench. Which she was standing in, because thanks to my contraption to keep her contained, she couldn't move.

It smelled so bad. And we still had forty-five minutes left to drive.

She was so pissed, having to stand in her own poop. She probably wanted to kill me.

Thank God I had that bench cover one can buy at Petco made of canvas and plastic to protect the car seats. Tess also got a much needed bath as soon as we got to California Guy's place. Thank God it's summer and there are hoses outside.

Somehow I always knew I'd end up that way: Hurtling through the dark Wyoming night with a whining, shedding, shitting ball of anxiety that passes itself for a German shepherd. Shit is, after the all, the foundation of my life. I'm lucky we didn't die on the highway right there when I almost lost my shit at realizing my dog had literally lost hers.

It's been a shitty weekend.

This weekend was also the preclude to the solar eclipse so according to some people the end is nigh. We got 96% totality in Wyoming, and it got dark enough Tess probably shit herself again out of fear of the dark.

Maybe we are all just having a serious off-month.

Or a serious shit month.

I blame the eclipse and the influx of nuts coming into Wyoming as we were right in the path.

Maybe when September rolls around things will calm down and return to normal.

Or as normal as it can around here.

They look so innocent. 
And there is no picture of Tess because along with being terrified of the dark, she is also afraid of the camera.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

World Garden War 1/2

The codependency of my plants is really getting out of hand.

I used to think my animals got pissy when they didn't get enough attention.

The last couple weeks, I've been outside every night after nine with a flashlight, taking out bugs that have decided to take up shop in my muskmelons. Leave those bastards alone for one night and the melon plants get gnawed down to little more than sticks.

Now that's codependent.

It all started with the monsoon that blew through my town a couple of weeks ago. July in Wyoming is usually hot and dry, creeping into the nineties and triple digits. Things suffer in the heat and need to be watered regularly.

Muskmelons and cucumbers thrive in the heat. They soak up that sun like tanning bed addicts. Of course they still need water as do the rest of my plants, so the area in which they sit is usually slightly damp from all the watering I do.

 My monthly water bill is on the wrong side of fifty dollars.

When I first moved in I paid forty dollars every two months.

I'm not sure how the city is justifying this, but whatever. I water a lot, but not that much.

One morning I noticed holes in the leaves of my muskmelons. There were holes in my cucumber leaves too, but that was because of the hail that came along with the monsoon. Driving rain also came along with the monsoon, and that whole week had been rainy and pretty wet.

Imagine my horror when I went out one night and my fence was just covered in slugs.

I have a solid white aluminum fence. Perfect for slithering over as it's a smooth surface. I scattered slug pellets all around my plants, but apparently it wasn't deterring the party raging on the fence.

Slugs can decimate a garden in a couple of nights. That many slugs can decimate a garden in a matter of hours.

So I got out the big guns. More slug pellets and a spray bottle filled with water and vinegar. I went out there and just took out the fence in streams of vinegar water, target-popping each slug and sending them sliding into the dirt as they died. Apparently their sticky slime doesn't hold up well in vinegar, and who the hell wants slug slime all over their fence anyway?


At least they were small, even if there were fifty or sixty of them. On the west coast I'm told they grow to the size of small cats.

It was remarkably satisfying, aiming that spray bottle at each slug and taking it out. The next morning while it was still damp I went out again and picked off the survivors.

Yet, holes still appeared in my muskmelon leaves. I had to step up my preventative tactics. The slug pellets work, but not nearly as well as is bragged about on the bag. I also set out beer traps, trellised my cucumbers, and surrounded them with dog hair (apparently slugs can't slither over hair). Then I did some research.

Turns out while slugs were a nuisance around my plants (and my fence), what was actually going after my muskmelons was earwigs, or pincer bugs. They chomp holes into leaves, strip the leaf stems, and they can decimate a garden in a few days too, if there is enough of them. Plus they love damp conditions, and with all the rain, I'm probably harboring a small city of them somewhere.

Once again I went online to find out how to combat these little pests. According to my friend Google, you can kill the little bastards by luring them into oil traps seasoned with soy sauce. The soy sauce attracts them and when they fall into the oil it gums up their works and they drown.

It didn't work.

What did work? Well, just like the slugs, beer worked great. In the evenings I can go out there, shake the leaves of my melon plants, and a bunch of the little jerks fall out. Then they discover the beer which I set out in shallow plastic plates, and it's goodbye pincer bugs.

Now every evening I put out shallow plastic trays, fill them with beer, and wait for morning. The last few mornings I've found dead slugs, dead pincer bugs, and dead wasps floating around in my beer. The beer is discarded into the rosebush and everyone's happy.

Especially me as I still have my melons.

I had an issue with grasshoppers too for a while. One day they were everywhere, jumping around, climbing up the long grass that grows along my fence, and the next day I noticed the herd had been considerably thinned. I thought at first it was Tess, as she likes to snap up things that fly around. It's one of her games. She chases flies, wasps, and grasshoppers, and snaps them up. She's done this for years, and never been stung. She's the reason I don't have yellow jackets building nests under my deck anymore, as one summer I came home from work and the deck was littered with yellow jacket carcasses.

I'm not the only one declaring war on pesky insects. My dog is at it, too.

The only thing I don't like about this little dog quirk is the occasional snap she takes at a big fat bumblebee. I'm sad to say she has killed one before. They just can't get their big fat butts into the air fast enough to get away from her.

Not okay, dog.

Anyway, the grasshoppers pretty much disappeared from my yard, and I couldn't figure out what had gotten them until the other night when this cute little black snake bolted across my foot and under the cucumber tub.

Most people would have screamed. I was all, "Oh, aren't you just the cutest thing?"

Some people hate spiders and snakes. Me? I love them. I especially love them in my garden.

I went ahead and named him Hiss.

I was also thrilled to discover more little jumping spiders crawling around on the cucumber plants and taking care of the vermin there. I still remember a few summers ago when I was weeding one of my raised beds, and here came this rather large spider just dragging a grasshopper carcass along behind him.

It's deadly out there.

So beware, slugs, pincer bugs, and grasshoppers! There's Hiss the Snake, Tess the dog, plenty of spiders, a collection of shallow plates filled with beer, and me and my spray bottle of vinegar just waiting to take you all out.

Let the war begin.

Who knew gardening was such a bloodbath?


My pride and joy - six muskmelons!

And some carrots!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

War of the Roses

I might have codependent pets, but I also have codependent plants.

Actually, I think I'm the codependent one when it comes to the plants.

My mood shifts from sad to happy as soon as I see my petunias. It physically hurts every time I have to shear them down halfway in order to prevent "legginess" and to encourage the plants to bloom more. When I went on vacation for a week I had to cut all the blooms off and trim the stems halfway because I knew the Cowboy would not deadhead them while I was gone and I didn't want the plants to die.

I cried.

Rationally I know they grow back, but it still hurts me to cut beautiful flowers off when they are just exploding in blooming color.

It makes my deck look happy.

I landscaped my backyard several years ago and had plants put in along the border of the fence. I also planted a crabapple tree in the corner. That tree died at the end of last fall and the winter did nothing to revive it. When spring hit this year, it remained a skeletal statue of broken twigs with no leaves. Usually by mid-May it would sprout beautiful reddish/purple leaves and start bearing fruit by June. I'm not sure what happened to it, but sadly, it had to be chopped down.

Meanwhile, it had inadvertently reproduced. I had a tiny crapapple twig sticking out of the ground in May and after watering it all summer, it is now a good three feet high and getting bushy with leaves.

Every summer I attempt to plant a garden, and usually I yield a few carrots, some peas, and maybe a cucumber or two. This year, I planted four cucumber plants, four muskmelon plants, some radishes, some peas, and several types of herbs. I have about eight carrots. The radishes became food for pincer bugs, and although the cucumber plants are busy and beautiful and popping with flowers, I have all of three cucumbers trying to grow, and none of them the size they should be by now.

The muskmelons are doing the best. I have six melons all bigger than a softball, and I'm out there in my yard constantly, arranging their vines on trellises, watering them, rearranging the melons themselves so that they don't strain their vines, and eliminating pests as they attempt to destroy all my hard work.

It's exhausting, but I'm attached to those damn muskmelon plants.

My favorite plant is this crazy wild rosebush in my front garden. It's right up against the front of the house and it came with the property when I moved in fifteen years ago. At that time I rented, and I didn't pay much attention. The thing took care of itself, reviving every spring and blooming rose blossoms from mid June through August, and sometimes into September. I rarely watered it, but it didn't seem to care, and no snowstorm, windstorm, or burning 90 degree heat seemed to faze it.

After I bought the place I started taking care of it more, mostly because I admired how hardy it was
and I felt a little bad for not caring for it. I started to water it in the summers, particularly when it got really hot. Also, the Cowboy had planted other plants around it that need to be watered constantly so the rosebush reaped the benefits of that. Someone also told me that rosebushes love beer. One year after a particularly harsh winter when I wasn't sure the bush survived, I dumped a huge can of cheap beer on it, and within a week that thing exploded. Since then it gets a can of beer every year and also my coffee grounds daily.

It has flourished.

If it won't die lacking water and being beat on by dry hot sun, imagine what happens to this thing when it's actually being nurtured?

It took over.

The Cowboy had to get in there with shears and trim it back before it covered my kitchen window and crawled across the front lawn.

And since my lawn isn't big, it would have been crawling into the neighbor's lawn. I doubt they'd appreciate that because the thorns on this thing are wicked.  It acts like the perfect barrier against deer and rabbits for my tulips. The tulips grow right underneath the rosebush and nothing bothers those.

Over the last fifteen years I've become extremely attached to this thing. Added to the fact that it just won't die barring a nuclear winter (and even then I think this is the only thing that would survive), it's just a neat bush. It's not like those hothouse roses or domestic rosebushes. You can't buy these plants at the nursery or Home Depot. I don't know where it came from since it's been in my front yard since I moved in, but it's crazy, wild, and out of control. The guy at the feed store told me it's probably one of those old throwback bushes that grow wild in the mountains.

That makes me like it more.

I like to think of it has the protector of the house.

Wild rosebushes are said to repel vampires, like garlic and crosses.

It's not doing a very good job since California Guy still manages to cross the threshold, but hey, legend says, so it must be true on some level.

Now being faced with the possibility of maybe selling my house and moving, I'm in a conundrum. I refuse to leave this bush behind. The other plants are replaceable, but this rosebush has sentimental value, and let's face it, it's like one of my pets. No one will be able to care for it like I do, and true, it seems to do just fine on it's own, but still. We've become pals. We've bonded.

So California Guy had the bright idea of trying to clone it. When the time comes I might still hire a professional to dig it up and help me transplant it, but meanwhile, in case that doesn't work, I'd like to at least take some part of it with me. 

We bought some cloning gel, followed the directions, and tried to clone three branches from the bush.

We did it wrong and they all dried out and died.

A couple of weeks ago, we tried again. The directions aren't that hard. You find a branch with a spent bloom and snip it about 8 inches at a 45% angle. You dip the clipped end into cloning gel and plant it in a container with fluffy soft planting soil, the bottom lined with rocks. Then you spritz it with water, put it in a bucket and cover it with plastic wrap, making sure to keep the stem leaves moist at all times. It requires several spritzings a day. Set it in indirect light so it doesn't cook in the sun and cross your fingers.

So far both clippings are still alive. Despite my fussing and checking and rearranging the plastic wrap over the bucket, the clippings are actually thriving.

I can't seem to leave shit alone and just let it do its thing. The clippings would probably develop roots a lot faster if I'd just leave them alone and go away.

I have to say, I was skeptical reading the directions. Does this actually work? Coupled with the fact that we killed the last three we tried this with, I really didn't know how this last one would make out. We made some bad mistakes with the first three though. California Guy took them home which was a two hour drive so they dried out and started to die then. And then when he put them in a box and wrapped them, they just couldn't stay wet enough because the plastic wrap wouldn't cooperate.

I discovered the bucket was much easier rather than a box. With two clippings in there, it works like a greenhouse.

I have one more month to do this as the bush will continue to bloom through August and I can still get my hands on spent blooms. I have visions of cloning ten of these guys and planting them everywhere I go.

Otherwise it's another year before I can entertain the idea of moving as I will not leave this bush behind.

It's my baby.

But if these two twigs I have survive and actually become Rosebush 2.0 then I will definitely believe that nothing can kill this bush.

It'll be the cockroach of plants.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Rosebush 2.0 - it reminds me a little of Baby Groot