Friday, May 16, 2014

Not Quite Love at First Sight, but Perhaps Fate

Despite the Cowboy and the three cats, I still maintain that my German shepherd, Tess, is my longest, most successful relationship to date.  She is the love of my life, second only to the lovable, blue-point Himalayan I had as a teenager.  Tess might have her flaws - the bad breath, her aggression towards male dogs, her rampant infidelity - but I still very biasedly believe her to be the best dog ever to walk the Earth.

I actually found Tess on  I had just purchased my house and was beginning what I thought the long quest to find the perfect dog, now that I had a backyard to keep her in.  In the past, as with all burn out crushes, I'd always rushed in, seduced by a pair of big brown eyes and floppy ears and wet nose.  I love animals and I love pets.  My dogs in the past were shelter mutts, lovable in their own way, but secretly what I really have always wanted is a female German shepherd.  They have always been my favorite breed.  The closest I ever came to having what I wanted was the shepherd/collie mix that my mother and I rescued from the animal shelter when I was seventeen.  He happened to be a male, and he was a great dog, but he was my mother's dog.

My other favorite breed is the Papillion, another dog I hope one day to own, but they seem to be a bit harder to come by.

Having just bought a house, I was ready to start looking for a dog, but not quite ready yet to rush to the shelter and grab the first homeless pity case I ran across.  This time I was determined to look, research, and get exactly what I wanted.  I had just broken up with my ex-boyfriend and I wanted the perfect dog to make up for the subpar, not-so-perfect ex-boyfriend.

I found Tess the second day I searched  She was listed at the Casper Humane Society as a one-year-old female purebred German shepherd.  I was going out of town in a week for a doctor's appointment, I was absolutely not prepared to bring a dog home yet, let alone one two hours away that I couldn't even go visit, but I called the Casper Humane Society to inquire about the dog.  They told me that someone had already called interested in her and they were fairly certain they wanted to adopt her.  They had her spaying surgery scheduled and when that was done she would be ready to go home with her new family.  They said they could put my name on the list - I would be number 2 - just in case this family decided not to adopt her.

"But," the shelter employee assured me, "They aren't going to change their minds.  They are definitely going to take her."

"Okay," I said.  "That's no problem.  I just wanted to call and see about her."

"Do you still want us to call you in case the adoption falls through?"

"Yeah, sure.  Give me a call if something changes."

"Okay, we have your name on the list.  But nothing will change."

"Thank you."

The next afternoon there was a voicemail from the Casper Humane Society on my phone telling me that if I was still interested in the German shepherd, the adoption had fallen through and I was the second name on the list.  Of course I called them and made an appointment to drive down that Saturday and check her out.  I still wasn't sure at that point if it was a good idea to bring a dog home so soon - I had planned on spending several months finding the perfect dog - but I thought I should at least go check this dog out.  The fact that her "guaranteed adoption" fell through worried me, but how much trouble could a dog be?

I drove down that Saturday to check her out.  She was a Tazmanian devil in her kennel, up on her hind legs, barking in a high-pitched, spoiled, crazy bark.  She was a little sable, smaller than I expected, and just beautiful.  Her conformation was perfect and she had the big brown eyes and small pointed muzzle that always makes me fall for a dog. I wanted to see her out of her kennel so the shelter employee (who was not bad looking himself) put a leash on her so we could take her into a different room.

Talk about not leash-trained!  She jumped up on the employee, twirled around on the lead like a dancer, got herself all tangled up and nearly tripped and fell flat on her face.  She bounded ahead and got pulled up short by the lead, choking herself.  Then she tried to bound back to the employee to give herself slack only to run into his legs.  They both nearly went down.

In the separate room, she raced in circles and sniffed everything.  The shelter employee wasted no time.  "So you want her?"

I asked why the first adoption had fallen through and why she was surrendered in the first place.  Apparently the family who had originally bought her as a puppy from a breeder had surrendered her to the shelter because she was too active and dug in the yard.  They had made a deal with their neighbors to take her off their hands but the neighbors were on vacation and the family just couldn't keep her anymore.  Then when the neighbors returned from their vacation, they came to the shelter to adopt her.  They decided they didn't want her when they found out she was scheduled to be spayed before they could take her home.  They'd wanted to breed her and of course the Human Society does not allow adoptions for breeding.

Against my better judgment - the trip I had scheduled just a day after I brought Tess home, her extremely high energy, and absolutely zero training - I agreed to the adoption.  For the first four months I wanted to kill her.  Now I can't picture my life without her.  She has come a long way from the day in the shelter with no leash skills, bad manners, and an alleged accusation of digging in the yard.  Incidentally the only hole she ever dug in my yard was to bury a very large bone I'd bought her.  Tess has stuck by me through four different boyfriends and five cats (three of which are still living, of course).  The Cowboy has endured partially because he makes an effort with Tess and she loves him and has welcomed him in her pack.

Tess and I were fated to be together.  As for love at first sight, well she reserved that for the Cowboy, but she's still all mine.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Cat vs. Tomato Plant

I have learned my  lesson.  Plants and pets obviously don't mix in my house.  Let's face it.  I do not possess the greenest of thumbs to begin with but the Cowboy and I had managed to grow a few things last summer and I decided to try again this year, if for no other reason then I absolutely adore fresh grown tomato soup.

This year I started my tomato plants early.  I also planted some oregano and I started some peas outside.  The peas, unlike the pets, are the least high maintenance.  A little water, a screen to keep the dog out, and they are good to go.  The oregano has found a happy spot on top of my dresser, the one piece of furniture the cats have not figured out how to jump onto yet.  The tomatoes started as tiny little seeds in a starter kit and I kept them on the refrigerator for the first two weeks, adequately watered and shrouded in a plastic bag.  The cats never went near them.

Of course it was too good to be true.  After all, Percy has been deemed the biggest feline jerk this side of the Rocky Mountains, and considering we live right at the foothills, that's a pretty big area for him to cover.  Don't get me wrong, I love my Percy, but one must face facts and that is that my dear sweet little black ball of lovable fur is actually a great big jackass.  He will poop right during my lunch and make sure it is as smelly as possible.  He chases and terrorizes Willow.  He knocks stuff off the bathroom counter.  He is constantly dancing around my night table, trying to get at my glasses (my glasses are the most interesting toy, I believe).  He waits until I am just about to drift off for a nap and then starts yowling at high pitch and streaking through the house, sounding like a herd of elephants.  It has always amazed me that a twelve-pound cat can make the sound of a stampeding buffalo herd.  He makes the whole house shake.  So adorable fluffball aside, he is actually quite facetious.

The other day I decided it was time to put the tomato plants in sunlight so they can grow.  They had just sprouted.  I had tiny little greenies and I was pretty excited.  So I set them up by my top level window, barricaded with catproof barriers.  I should have known better.  Where there is a will, Percy will find a way.  And he did.  I came home at lunch and he had managed to move the barriers aside and eaten half of the tiny green sprouts.  I'm sure Willow got up there and helped him, but the main culprit is Percy.  He is obsessed with green stuff and I have had to keep all houseplants as far away from him as possible.  Out of twenty plants I managed to salvage nine.  Nine isn't too bad, considering the Cowboy told me that four plants would be plenty to bear the fruit we'd need.  I had planned, however, on giving away the others.  I'm just lucky Percy hadn't been hungry enough to eat all of them and then walk through the dirt and track it around the house.  I am sure that would have come next had I not removed the plants.  I spent the afternoon transplanting each mangled little plant into its own container and then set the containers up in a radio flyer wagon the Cowboy brought over.  The plants are still too small to sit outside at night so I brought the wagon inside and draped it with towels.

Now most cats do not like surfaces that are not stable enough to stand on.  A radio flyer wagon with small pots inside draped with towels does not make a solid surface on which to stand.  This, however, did not deter my cats.  Even Puckett got in on the action and that is rare for her.  She was the first to stalk over, place her front paws on the edge of the wagon, sniff, and then jump up.  She looked genuinely surprised that the surface was not solid and even more surprised when I hollered at her to get down.  She spent the rest of the evening sulking on her box, face mashed in the wall.  Next came Percy.  He and Willow were content to sit underneath the wagon for awhile.  I was reading.  Just as I started to drift off for a short nap, sure enough, Percy jumped onto the towels himself, woke me up, and freaked out because the surface wasn't quite as sturdy as he thought it should be.  In Willow's defense, she only jumped into the wagon because she was too busy chasing a bug.  As usual my little airhead didn't seem to realize that the other two cats got reprimanded for jumping in, so she was going to get it too.

I gave up and took off the towels, replacing them with a big crinkly black garbage bag that I arranged so that it didn't even look remotely like a solid surface.  This didn't deter Percy who started poking around underneath the bag, trying to get in that way.  I am sure once he found his way inside the bag and the wagon he would have panicked and had a heck of a time getting himself back out.  Puckett, after she stopped sulking, came upstairs and poked around as well, even trying once again to jump onto the bag just to see if there was any way she could turn this addition to the household into her new throne.

And as for Tess, she came inside, sniffed the wagon once, wagged her tail against the bag, causing it to rustle (and further exciting the cats) and proceeded to trot to the food bowl to see if anything new had materialized.

I have to say, I love that dog.  Sometimes I swear she reads minds.

This morning, it was already sixty degrees.  Dog, radio flyer wagon complete with ailing tomato plants, and the pot of sprouting oregano went outside to bask in the sunshine.  I left the backdoor open for the cats to enjoy the spring air as well.  With any luck the weather will hold now so that I can leave those plants outside and not have to bring them in anymore.  I honestly don't think I can handle another night of cats vs. tomato plant drama.  The last thing Percy had to say about the whole thing was the huge pile of nasty he left me in the litter box.  Worse than usual, I might add.  It turns out tomato plants are actually toxic to cats.  Considering these were seedlings and barely sprouted and he hadn't really gotten to too many of them, I didn't anticipate him getting too seriously sick.  But he did let me know what his final thoughts were.

When it comes to plants I suppose Tess is my "good child."  I may be eating my words this afternoon when I go home and find my porch strewn with tiny greenies and doggie tracks of dirt.