Tuesday, December 29, 2015


A month ago one of my very good friends basically handed me my ass on a silver plate.  To be honest, he didn't believe I deserved the silver plate even.  He just handed me my ass.  The most frustrating thing is that he was 100% right when he gave me a rundown of all my transgressions and offenses and it's taken me a year to realize just how true everything he said was.  I haven't been listening to anyone.  I've just been acting like a stupid jerk and wondering why I've been so miserable.

I was so miserable to be around the days following my epic telling off, even the animals wanted nothing to do with me.  Everyone stayed upstairs, well out of my way, giving me a wide berth as if my very presence in their orbit was distasteful to them.  That's when you know you really have a problem.  The animals are avoiding you.  To be fair, the cats were obsessed with the new bedspread on the bed so they were spending a ridiculous amount of time on it, and the dog had developed a distrust of the stairs. She has since gotten over that now that the Cowboy fixed them with some kind of no skid treatment so she wouldn't keep falling down the stairs.

At my request of course.  The poor dog.

Once again it all comes down to compassion.  I treat my animals with so much compassion.  Tess pees on the floor and my first thought is she has a bladder infection or kidney issues so she needs to go the vet to get checked out.  It's happened twice now.  I don't yell at her or scold her for having accidents.  She feels bad enough already as peeing in the house is not something she does regularly.  There is no reason to punish her.  It's the same with the cats, particularly Willow.  Her peeing on the floor became such an issue, instead of getting rid of the cat, I got her a kennel with her own litter box and tore all the carpeting out, opting for hard floors.  Now if she pees on the floor, it doesn't matter (it does still irritate me though - I mean how hard is it to just walk the extra four inches to the box and get in it?).  Still, I can clean it up, no problem.  I accommodate the cats.  I've changed their food to accommodate food allergies, changed their litter to make going to the bathroom easier, had the floor treated for Tess' benefit.

I even rushed Puckett to the vet when there was absolutely nothing wrong with her.  Precious just wanted her breakfast in a china bowl.

Why then is it so hard to treat my fellow man with the same amount of compassion I show my pets?  Why do I believe people aren't as deserving of compassion?  Obviously when one is behaving like a miserable cow, one isn't capable of compassion even for oneself. However, the thing I've learned over the years is that when people are at their absolute worst that is when they need compassion, love, and understanding the most.  Unfortunately that is when it's the hardest to give them that compassion they so desperately need, and more so because one has as good a chance as any of having it flung back in one's face for having the nerve.

How dare you try to make me feel better!  Get along with you, ruffian!

Animals behave similarly at first.  Following abuse and trauma they will lash out at first, distrustful and terrified.  However, abused animals, once they have been moved into a safe environment and undergone a bit of behavior therapy, live in the moment, move on and forget their trauma. Unfortunately many abused or mistreated animals are in such bad shape initially that few people want to deal with them and many may end up being euthanized. Humans aren't as simple, but they need compassion just as much, and more so because they are capable of behaving like the nastiest pieces of work anywhere to be found.  After all, they can't just be put down when the rest of society doesn't want to deal with their issues.  I should know.  I've been one of those people. I'm pretty sure some of my former friends wouldn't have minded having me put down. My knee-jerk reaction when I feel I've been wronged or hurt is to shut down, bottle up, and lash out in unhealthy ways.  I get easily overwhelmed by others' emotions, behaviors, and actions and I'm so sensitive to mood shifts, I take a lot of people's behavior towards me personally.  This can culminate into me reacting to what I perceive as a slight and it all goes downhill from there.  Also I sense people's moods around me and the longer I know them the more easily I can pick out their emotions.  So when someone changes their behavior towards me without any explanation or I feel a wall go up or a door slam in my face I get very agitated.  I respond with my own round of doors and walls.

I'm not always very nice.

Animals are so much easier to be around because they are sensitive to moods themselves and generally don't project a lot of emotions on others.  Unfortunately when my emotions (and others' emotions) overwhelm me so badly that there is nowhere for them to go but up and out, the animals dive for cover.  They are compassionate too, but there is really only so much they can take.  They wait for the volcano to subside before they come back around.  I don't really blame them for that and again I seem to be able to forgive them sooner than I do their human counterparts.  They forgive me as well.  I live with four role models who are constantly teaching me about compassion and forgiveness and yet, I still struggle with it.  I still fall short.

I am working on it though.  At the end of the day, I do believe that most people mean well, they just sometimes don't know how to get there either.  I guess this includes me, even when I am being a miserable cow.  We should all take a lesson from our dog friends and be more compassionate towards each other and towards ourselves.  Soul searching is never easy and sometimes it leads you to the conclusion of what others might already know, that you suck and you could use a lot of work.  Admitting that is step one.  It's only a place to start.  Step two then is maybe not being so hard on oneself.  After all, no one will show you any compassion if you aren't capable of showing yourself any, and especially if you don't believe yourself deserving of it.

And don't we all suck at times?  Couldn't we all use some work?  Don't we all need understanding from each other that we aren't going to be perpetual breaths of fresh air?  None of us are perfect all the time.  All of us are human all of the time.

We can aspire to be like the animals, but we will never reach their level of grace.

This is definitely the season to reflect and think about what we all can do for others and for ourselves, how we all can do better.  It is definitely the season for compassion.  The world is hard.  Life is hard.  Let's help each other.

I'm ready.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Little End of the Year Wisdom...

This hasn't been the best year for me, but I have learned a few things in the last twelve months that have actually turned out to be useful tidbits of knowledge.  I'd like to take a break from the animals and share some of my amazing wisdom here to wrap up the end of the year.

Not to worry, my amazing wisdom is still trumped by the fact that Tess is smarter than me, Puckett is definitely smarter than me, Percy pretends he's not, but really he is, and Willow, well, we keep her around because she's so damn cute.  Who knows, by this time next year, there may be a ridiculously smart bird in our midst too, because while I like to put on an air of being a rational human being, my closest friends all know I'm full of it.

The following are just things I've learned that work for me, not tips that I demand everyone should utilize because they are the only way to go.  Go out and have your own experiences and create a list of your own.  And please feel free to try mine to see if they work for you as well.

  • 20 minutes of Pilates Perfect Stretch performed everyday is almost as beneficial and way cheaper than going to the chiropractor or the massage therapist.
Recommendation:Ten Minute Solution: Pilates Perfect Body with Suzanne Bowen.
  • Stay flexible.  The older one gets, the harder it is.  This is where Pilates come in handy.
  • Consuming a shake consisting of water, spinach, avocado, cocoa powder, bananas, and berries at least three times a week is one of the easiest ways to get nutrients and feel better.
  • Butter is not bad unless one is lactose intolerant (or one eats the whole stick at once).
  • Everything in moderation and balance is the key to health and weight loss.  Fancy diets and exercise manuals are just some health guru's way of making money.  
  • Yes, chocolate is acceptable in a healthy diet (but REAL chocolate, not "chocolate-flavored").
Recommendation: Ghiradelli chocolate caramel squares.
  • Free range and organic is not just a racket, but it depends on where one shops.  Read labels.
  • Sometimes you  need help and that is not admitting defeat.  Set up an appointment with that mental health professional.
  • Wine is good.  Just not too much wine.
Recommendation:  Rioja Bordon.

  • Drink lots of water.  Lots of it.
  • One of the best things you can do for your health is to cut out soda.  I know that's not what anyone wants to hear, but there it is.
  • Coconut oil makes the best moisturizer.
  • A mask of avocado, crystalized honey, and lemon juice is better than any beauty product you'll buy from a makeup line. Avocado moisturizes, the honey scrubs, and lemon juice brightens. Seriously, save your money.
  • Olive oil and sugar make a great body scrub.  If you have itchy skin I recommend you try it.
  • Cream highlighters and illuminators cover blemishes better than concealer.
Recommendations: Urban Decay Naked Illuminated Shimmering Powder for Face and Body; Laura Mercier Face Illuminator Powder (both available at Sephora).
  • Wear sunscreen.  Lots of it.
  • Men will say anything to get a woman into bed, even those claiming to be friends.  This is not a criticism, it's just an observation.
  • You really do find out who your friends are in your darkest hour.  The others come back when the drama has passed.
  • Soul mates do exist, just maybe not the way you envision them.  Expanse of time and distance does not sever that connection once it's established.  Sometimes they have fur and four legs.
  • Social media is not a substitute for face-to-face interaction with good friends, good wine, and good food.  Make time for that (and I don't care how addictive Pinterest is).
  • Very few women will stand by their insistence that they will never drop their girlfriends for a man.  Don't be that woman.  Hold on to your girlfriends.
  • If he causes you to drop your girlfriends, then he's not worth it.
  • If you're embarrassed to tell your friends about him, he's not the right one.
  • Make sure one of your good friends is a handyman type.  They are so handy to have around. Be nice to him.  Make him cookies.
  • It is possible to meet the perfect guy at the absolute worst time.
Recommendation:  It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single by Sara Eckel.

  • God has a wicked sense of humor.  Be specific or you'll look back and think "Well played, God.  Well played."
  • God really does answer prayers.  You don't see it while it's being done and it may take longer than you'd like, but keep a record of your prayers and look back periodically. 
  • We are not alone.
  • What you believe is no one's business but your own and getting upset with each other for their private spiritual beliefs wastes time and energy because it will never be resolved.
  • Don't use your beliefs or religions as an excuse to be an asshole.  That goes for everyone.
Recommendation: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

  • First and foremost, always try to show compassion.  It's hard and generally when people are at their worst is when they need compassion the most.
  • We all have different perceptions in every situation.  Your point of view is not the same as someone else's.  Respect that.
  • It's not all about you.  Narcissism may be fashionable, but it is not attractive.
  • Self awareness of your emotional situation is a powerful tool.  I learned I'm an empath. It's answered a lot of questions.
  • The best self-help books out there are F*ck Feelings by Michael Bennett MD and Sarah Bennett; and Talking to Crazy by Mark Goulston.
Recommendations:  See above.

  • Always be open to learning something new.  If you feel stagnant maybe you just need a new challenge.
  • Coding is a great skill to learn in today's day and age.
Recommendation: Codecademy.com
  • Writing well begins with passion.  If you hate writing, you won't write well.  If you hate it, then don't torture yourself with it.  Find something else to do that you like.
  • Learn to garden.  Even if all you have to show at the end of the season is a few tomatoes and one giant zucchini, there really is something satisfying and fulfilling about eating something you've grown yourself.
  • Read nonfiction as well as fiction.
  • America is not full of morons and idiots.  Unfortunately we just can't seem to keep the most ignorant of us off the television and out of reality TV.
  • Don't live outside your means.  Struggling to catch up is miserable.
  • Debt sucks.  If you can, pay your credit card off every month.
  • Not having a monthly car payment is a wonderful feeling.
  • Create a monthly budget.  And STICK TO IT.
  • Always keep some emergency coffee cash on hand.  Stash it somewhere in your house where it can be easily accessed when needed but not tempting to be spent on something useless.
  • Invest in stocks.  But invest in GOOD stocks so do your research.  Or just talk to my dad.
  • Treat yourself occasionally but don't spend money on a lot of useless material things.
  • If there is something your really really want you will find a way to pay for it.
  • Invest in your future.
Recommendation: The Leap: Launching Your Full-Time Career in Our Part-Time Economy by Robert Dickie; The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey; Fidelity.com

And finally, a little quote from William Ritter's The Beastly Bones, the second novel in his Jackaby series (a series I consider extremely clever and deeply underrated): "...the greatest figures in history are never the ones who avoid failure, but those who march chin-up through countless failures, one after the next, until they come upon the occasional victory...Failure is not the opposite of success - it's part of it."

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Super Diva

Puckett is most definitely a force to be reckoned with.  She has outsmarted me and I have this uncomfortable feeling that she has done this before at least once and I seem to fall for it every time.

When I got home from Colorado, I knew Puckett wasn't herself and I attributed it to her being angry with me for leaving.  Then she seemed to get steadily worse.  She has sulked in the past in response to me leaving her, but never this long and by the middle of the week she stopped eating completely, wouldn't drink, didn't use the litter box, and spent most of her time facing the wall and ignoring everyone.  I know Puckett well enough to know when she's off and boy, had she been off.   She's not a huge eater, but she is consistent in eating.  She eats a few times a day, a few pieces at a time, and then she will consume water at camel proportions because she only drinks once a day.  She also uses the box like clockwork.  Last Tuesday there was none of that.  Just a very lethargic cat facing the wall and showing no interest in anything.  At one point she did come upstairs and did her "Feed me, I'm starving" dance, but as soon as I put food down, she sniffed it and turned away.  She refused all food, hers, Percy's, the canned food that I thought smelled better than some entrees I've ordered at restaurants (this is grain-free Candidae in various delicious flavors, like rabbit, because if I can't eat gluten, neither can my pets).  Puckett even refused her Greenies treats which she never does.  I also attempted Lysine supplements to help her immune system and she barely glanced at those.

Meanwhile Willow went to town on the canned food and Percy went to town on the Greenies.  No appetite issues there.  One would think those two would be fat as pigs, but they aren't.  One would also think I never feed them.  They eat more than Puckett, she gains all the weight, and they stay slim and trim, proving that the unfairness of weight gain is as much alive in cats as humans.

This morning it was the same deal.  I fed all three cats and Puckett acted like she was hungry, but as soon as I put her bowl down she turned her nose up and walked away.  I am one of those people who Internet-scares herself so all the webpages I read on cats not eating convinced me that a trip to the vet was in order.  The webpages scream if the cat doesn't eat for 24 hours there could be SOMETHING SERIOUSLY WRONG!  BRING YOUR CAT TO THE VET IMMEDIATELY TO AVOID LIVER FAILURE AND BEING BRANDED AS THE WORLD'S WORST PET OWNER! I was doubly worried as my best friend had just lost her cat the same week and that whole fiasco started the exact same way - with a cat refusing to eat or drink and a complete personality change.

Good grief.

Puckett ended up at the vet for the whole day.  I had them examine her, run a whole panel of blood tests, and check all of her vitals and levels.  Everything checked out.  Everything was normal.  The only thing that was concerning was the fact that instead of losing weight from not having eaten in a couple of days, she'd actually gained a few ounces.  Considering she's been moping around like a cat on the brink of a serious illness to say nothing of the skipped meals, I was beside myself with confusion.

We always get hyper-aware of our own pets when a dear friend has just lost her precious pet.  The fact that Puckett's mysterious illness came on the heels of Breyer's passing really freaked me out.

I even had the vet run a feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiancy virus test.  Both came back negative.

A hundred and ten dollars later I'm left asking myself, "What the heck is wrong with this cat?"

The answer?  She's a hypochondriac.  And she's kind of an asshole.  I picked her up after work and took her home where she immediately went into her starving kitty dance, and this time with no lethargy.  I fed all three cats and once again Puckett refused everything.  All three bowls, her food, Percy's food, the canned food.  She continued to dance around and chirp her "feed me" demands.  I finally took some of her food - the stuff she's been eating for years, the stuff she's been turning her nose up for the last two days - and put it on one of my coffee cup saucers.  My elegant white Nespresso saucer to be exact.

She started eating.  She cleared the whole plate.  Then she went downstairs and used the litter box.

Are you kidding me right now?

The rest of the evening she behaved like her old self.  She even sprawled in the middle of the kitchen floor and watched me do dishes with those unblinking eyes almost like she was demonstrating how pleased she was for what she put me through.  She went along her usual nightly business just as though the last few days had never happened.  She even drank her usual gallon of water.

I'm at a loss.  I mean, I can't even right now.

Well played, Puckett.  Well  played.

Puckett - 1; Human - 0

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Bond

My best friend lost her cat this week.  When one is an animal lover few things are more devastating than losing a cherished pet.  I am of the opinion that one can form connections with animals just as powerful as those one can form with humans, and sometimes more so.  You can choose your family (or at least those family members you choose to interact with or choose to acknowledge the existence of), you can choose your friends, but one thing you can't choose is which animal you'll connect with on a spiritual level. They do that for you.  Animals do come and go through one's life, and they are all special, but there are those who transcend special and become almost like an extension of one's soul.

Breyer was like that for my friend.  This tiny six-pound Bengal cat became the one thing sometimes standing between my friend and utter despair.  There were days, when she was going through one of her darkest spells, that she said Breyer was her only bright spot.  She called Breyer her sunshine.  My two best friends and I (the three of us have been best friends for over fifteen years) have gone through many pets over the years and comforted each other through many deaths, but there are those that stand out.  They are the ones that form a deeper connection with us and the ones we feel the loss of just a little more keenly.  I've loved all my pets over the years, but most of them have belonged to other family members like the two ferrets,  Jesse James and Belle Star who belonged to my brother; my first German shepherd, Flag, who was really my parents' dog; the cats, Jasmine, Dukie, Splinter, and the Dachshund, Daphne who all belonged to my mother.  When I moved to Wyoming I adopted two overweight cats, each missing a limb - one her tail, the other a leg.  I loved both those cats but never fully bonded with either one.  By then they might have been too old, dumped at the shelter after the death of the person who they probably really were bonded to.  I do wonder sometimes if that is harder on an animal than it is on a human, to lose their soulmates.  Usually they are unlucky enough to be dumped off at the animal shelter without a second thought.  Many don't get a second chance.

Among my friends' pets were Baroness, Bear, Singer, Tanis, Chipper, and the dogs my friend in Texas went through that she never got completely attached to because she never knew when she would lose them.  The ridiculous school of pugs that belonged to my Colorado friend's mother are in there somewhere too.  At the height of that trend, I walked into their house and was immediately surrounded by at least fifteen snuffling, flat-faced little dogs, annoying but cute as hell.

I think of all these animals with fondness.  They all have a place in my heart, but there are the ones that stand out, for me and for my friends

Mindi, the first cat I ever truly bonded with, was my blue-point Himalayan, my angel cat with mystical abilities.

Colleen was a four-week old tri-color collie puppy I fell in love with when I was fourteen, working at the animal shelter.  My coworkers commented often that she only had eyes for me and would watch me constantly while I went about my work.  I guess she imprinted on me, but unfortunately I lost her four weeks later to parvo.

Grey Lady belonged to my Colorado best friend (the one who lost Breyer), an independent, slightly crazy half-Thoroughbred mare who wouldn't let anyone rider her but my friend, though she'd love on anyone who'd give her the time of day. 

Beauty was my Texas best friend's first horse. I never met her as my friend had her before we became friends, but she still talks about Beauty as the first and only horse she ever bonded with.

There was the nameless red heeler puppy my Texas friend imprinted on a few years ago at a flea market that she was unfortunately unable to adopt.  She said it was love at first, an instant connection, probably a similar feeling I had with Colleen.

Constance, my Texas friend's black cat, was the only one out of forty barn cats her family owned when she was growing up that she felt that strong bond with.

Zulu is the Rottweiler with bone cancer who is the doggy soulmate of my friend here in Wyoming.  She's shared her life with a lot of animals too, but Zulu is the one who's remained constant at least over the years I've known her, the one she describes as having the closest relationship with.

Of course there is Breyer whose bond my best friend can't even begin to describe, that's how strong it was.  Fortunately among friends who know that bond, we are past having to explain it because words are clearly not enough.

And of course the four for me that are still alive - I love all four of them, but Puckett is the one I call my kitty soulmate.  The only other two animals I've felt that strong of a bond with were Mindi and Colleen.  All of my precious darlings get rushed to the vet the moment there is something allegedly wrong, but Puckett is the one I actually feel sympathy pains for, even when she's only faking it and using her status against me when she thinks I'm not paying enough attention to her.  She knows me intimately enough to know how to punish me for leaving her for four days even though she loves me too.  I am her savior after all, having pulled her from the animal shelter, practically  hairless with an upper respiratory infection.  Love can be painful and she is definitely no angel cat like Mindi.  I still can't imagine my life without her.

That bond is what makes us swear we will never own another animal when we've watched a beloved suffer and pass on, yet we go out two, three months later and bring a new friend home, enriching our lives all over again.

It's a devoted pet owner force feeding her cat, every day without fail, a calorie rich diet and water in an effort to keep her alive because she can't bear to watch her starve to death, even when deep down she knows there is nothing else to be done.

It's curling up on the couch with a cat until four in the morning who is in the final hours of her life because that is the only comfort left to offer, until she finally passes on from kidney failure.

It's holding a disease-ravaged puppy in the vet's office as the injection is administered because it's the last act of love left, to be there as the life leaves her.

It's the guilt one feels for not being able to do more, for not catching the illness sooner, for not ending the misery sooner, or trying a different medication, or being supernaturally capable of loving the illness away completely.

And it's the knowledge that one's life will never be the same, but will always be a little bit better, a little bit brighter, and a little bit more worth it for having known them.  We like to think we are their stewards and caretakers, but very often they are the ones taking care of us, keeping us sane and making our lives that much more bearable.

Here's to the animals, the ones that deem us worthy enough to connect to their souls and trust us enough to see into their hearts.  They will never be forgotten and they can never be replaced.  If one is lucky, they get to share their lives with any extraordinary animal.  If one is truly blessed they find a Mindi or a Zulu or a Breyer or a Puckett.  May you all be so blessed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How Could You Leave Me?!

My pets are very upset with me.  I spent four days in Colorado and came home to four very confused, very irritated animals.  They each compensate in different ways.  Tess is the least affected, I'm afraid to say, as she actually enjoys spending four days being completely spoiled by the Cowboy.  There are no boundaries when the Cowboy is in charge. Whenever I leave town, the Cowboy stays with the animals as he is the only one who can deal with their idiosyncrasies and put up with their codependency.  He is also the only person I trust to take care of the animals the way I do, though of course he falls short from my attentions as anybody would.  In my self-absorbed, egotistical mind no one can care for my pets the way I do, and they are used to a certain style of care and living that only the Cowboy can even hope to duplicate only because he was crazy enough to stay in a relationship with  me for three years.  He also continues to hang around despite the fact that our relationship is over and only friendship remains.

Of course he is also "Fun Dad" and doesn't enforce any of the rules and boundaries the pets are used to following.

I don't think Tess could bear a complete dissolution of my friendship with the Cowboy.  If I sent him away she would no doubt demand custody visits.

Because of this Tess is fine, if a bit clingier than usual.  It's the cats who are pissed.

Percy makes his displeasure known by being twice as obnoxious in yowling when using the litter box, terrorizing Willow twice as much, and making himself generally unpleasant though he still puts on a fairly good show of rubbing against my ankles and purring up a storm whenever he's near me.  When I leave the room he begins his mischief.  He's very obsessed with the Christmas ornaments and makes every effort to abuse them whenever he thinks he can get away with it.  The other night I heard a slight creak and went downstairs only to find Percy sitting on the table attempting to attack the garland wrapped around the railing overlooking the bottom level of my townhouse.  He jumped down as soon as he saw me so I know that he knows what he is and is not allowed to do.  He just enjoys pushing the envelope, and more so now that he is sure I deserve it anyway.  The look he shot me as he minced off was nothing short of a satisfied smirk.

He also lets me know that the Cowboy is the current favorite when he comes over.  Percy runs to him when he opens the door.  When I come home from work, Percy merely glares at me from his perch on his kitty shelf.

The nerve of me, going away for four days.

Puckett is very angry.  She has been a snotty bitch for two days now.  She refuses to purr when I try to snuggle her.  She makes a show of marching into the bathroom in the morning and giving me the "feed me" look, yet refuses to spend any more time in my presence than she has to.  She sits with her back to me rather than trying to crawl into my lap.  She comes slowly to the food bowl and eats with an air of reluctance, as though she wishes to punish me for leaving.  She doesn't come when I call as usual.  I have to go looking for her and then she challenges me with that unblinking gaze of hers, as if daring me to try and pet her.  She has never been a mean or aggressive cat. but one definitely knows when she is displeased with one's actions.  Where she is usually sweet and ready for a cuddle, she becomes aloof and distant.  She turns her head away, twists an ear to the side, gazes off in the distance or else looks right through one.  Getting back in her good graces always takes a few days and I'm lucky if she doesn't poop in my shoe.

And to add insult to injury, for the last two weeks she has been sleeping downstairs in the living room beside the heater while I watch my movies and work on my writing.  These last two days since I got back she has very pointedly been sleeping upstairs on the dog bed and refusing to have anything to do with me.

Willow is the opposite.  Instead of behaving angrily and sullenly, she is twice as clingy as usual.  Truly one has not felt the true impact of a cat who misses her human desperately than when one is attempting her Pilates and her cat is unashamedly under her nose.  I performed my twenty minutes of Pilates last night.  I did not do it alone.  I attempted the Saw.  Willow climbed up onto my extended leg and purred, trying to touch my nose with hers.  I flattened my back to stretch out my shoulders and Willow danced underneath my chest and ran her tail under my nose, making me sneeze.  Child's Pose turned into Cat Curled Between the Elbows Pose.  I did a thigh stretch and Willow's butt was in my face.  The Cat Stretch was performed with an actual cat beneath me.  Downward Dog became Upward Cat as she rolled under my face and stared lovingly up at me, purring as loudly as she could muster.  I finished my routine with some abdominal exercises while Willow rolled around on the carpet beside me, having a really good time doing her own Kitty Pilates.

I think I will probably think twice before leaving again.  I'm not sure I can handle the drama upon return.  I try to behave as though nothing has changed and keep things at status quo in order minimize the trauma of my leaving and returning, but it doesn't do any good.  Leaving my four codependent darlings just throws everything into disarray and urges them to the edge of collapse.  It doesn't help that we are now under a winter advisory and two weeks away from Christmas.  Between the barometric pressure and all the sparkly ornaments everywhere, along with the fact that I was gone for four days (might as well have been four years), my animals are complete basket cases.

I've already put in the order for four straitjackets.  Thank God for catnip and doggy biscuits both of which are shamelessly begged for at all hours, and freely given.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Tuning Out

My pets have stopped listening to me.

Don't get me wrong.  I have never been under the delusion that they listen to me much at all, but they have, over the years, learned a little bit of discipline that keeps them mostly off the furniture, out of the trash can, and for the most part, from sitting on my face at night while I sleep.

 Not that they don't push buttons every chance they get.

I am lucky in the sense that, given what I've viewed in other homes, my animals don't really run the show (ha ha ha ha).  I just let them believe they do, like Puckett.  (Of course as I write this, Tess is licking the recycling bin).  Puckett believes she is queen bee and then is genuinely shocked (and disgusted) when I demonstrate an air of discipline, demanding she stop doing something she isn't supposed to be doing.

For example, the rule in my house for as long as I've had the cats is that they are perfectly welcome on the bed.  They are just not welcome at the head of the bed near the pillows.  They are certainly not allowed ON the pillows.  I have allergies and rather than get rid of the cats, I assume that moving their furry proximity down towards the feet will relieve these allergies somewhat.  Silly human, I know, but it was worth a shot.  The cats have recognized this rule for some time now until recently.  I found Puckett one morning sacked out lengthwise along the pillow, her head practically resting on it.  When I picked her up to move her back to her designated area, she dug all four sets of claws into the bedspread letting me know that if she is going to be moved, the bedspread is going with her.  I moved them all into a pile onto the foot of the bed.  She removed herself from the pile and marched back up to the head of the bed, shooting me a look that was the equivalent to a middle finger at twelve.

As if that wasn't bad enough, she has taught Willow to follow her example.  They are all constantly teaching each other bad habits.  Now Willow and Puckett are sacked out alongside my pillows, shedding as much hair and dander as they can that if I don't vacuum the bedspread every night before I got to bed I will surely suffocate, or at the very least wake up in the middle of the night with the feeling of a cat sitting on my face.

Tess, who has been an angel lately on walks and in the dog park alike, managed to break away from me the other day and run down the poor mailman.  In her defense she did listen to me the first time I hissed at her and told her no and to stay. She stayed.  For a second.  Then the temptation became too much for her and she barreled into the poor man, begging for a scratch behind the ears.  Luckily for me and for her, the man was a dog sucker and Tess is not one of those dogs that hates uniforms. Usually when I let her run loose and I tell her to stay or to leave something she is very good about following orders.  I could almost see her middle finger as she pranced away from me, tail waving, to insist on her position as center of the universe to the mailman.

Plants are off limits to the pets in my house and they know it.  I have one that sits on a shelf inaccessible to the cats.  It's been there for at least four years.  I inherited this poor plant from the library.  Up until about a week ago it has sat in its space unmolested.  Now Willow has figured out how to get up on the lower shelf in order to reach up and gnaw the lowest hanging leaves off the plant.  She left a trail of them the other night for me to find when I got home from work,  I blamed Percy since he's the one who usually attacks anything that isn't edible and then mopes around for hours with a bellyache.  I caught Willow today clambering up onto the shelf and sniffing through the leaves.  There were teeth marks in several of the leaves.  I told her no and shooed her away, then went back to my book.  Not a minute later she was up there again, more quietly I might add, chewing on the leaves.

It has always amazed me that a cat can sound like a herd of elephants when stampeding through the house, but when they are getting into something they shouldn't they are basically soundless.  I have lived with the little beasts long enough that I can pretty much sense when they are doing something they shouldn't.

Willow has also began to systematically dismantle her cage at night when I'm asleep.  She does this at the decibel level only a gnat can hear.

Tin foil has taken care of the problems currently, both with the bed and the plant shelf.  When I resort to tin foil (it's not the first time), I really get daggers and a middle finger shot my way through three pairs of eyeballs.  The Cowboy has reinforced the cage and Tess, well, she may have to go back to leash-walking if she can't control herself enough not to mow down every friendly face that happens across her path.

Of course, if she is going to stop listening to me and start running people down, the least she can do is find a hot guy that is suitable husband material.

Why these guys don't use their powers for good is beyond me.  After all I feed them and provide them with a warm place to sleep.  One would think I've earned something.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Bird Brain

I am thinking about getting a bird.

Obviously, because I don't already have enough codependent pets who are clamoring for my attention 24/7.

I'm not sure when the idea hit me.  I think it was sometime between realizing my life was a meaningless shell when I was constantly crying, and an intense drive to land myself in the insane asylum because if I actually do get a bird, that is where I should be.  It could have been that moment when I was at Petco, buying my cat's amazing cat litter (BEST LITTER EVER) and saw the adorable parakeets fluttering around in the display cage.  That might have been when the idea seedling began to sprout into full blown insanity.

The idea took on more power when I was at the grocery store the other night and locked eyes with what is possibly the most adorable baby I've ever seen in my life.  She smiled and cooed and waved her tiny arms and I went home and cried because I now know I will never have one of those for myself.  I am the eternal steward of animals.

Thus the bird.

I have cats and dogs.  Might as well mix it up a bit, and since I've already had ferrets and never again, why not?  Seems perfectly logical to me.

At least I'm not going off half-cocked and getting pregnant.  That stupid I'm not.

I have always wanted in the back of my mind an African Grey Parrot something along the lines of Alex, the one that could count and do math, but since I already have a dog who is smarter than I am, I really don't think acquiring the bird who is smarter than the both of us put together is such a hot idea. I'm not worried about such a bird being eaten by the cats.  I'd be more worried about coming home from work one day with the African Grey out of its cage and somehow having manged to put all three cats IN the cage, and possibly in the oven.

Having taken the ""What is your Ideal Pet Bird" Quiz my top three choices are the canary (woo-hoo, I'm not as out of touch as I thought as that was exactly what I was thinking about if I ever seriously went through with this!); the parakeet (cute, cute, cute! and you can get them in GREEN!); or the lovebird (well, I really don't want TWO birds...).  My "What is your Ideal Pet Bird" asked such important questions as "Is this your first bird?" (yes); "Do you live in an apartment or house?" (technically it is a townhouse, so it's tiny); "Do you have allergies?" (yes, and the cats do too); and "Do you wish your bird to be able to talk?" (NO NO NO!).  Having answered all these questions truthfully, I was pleased to see my intuition for adding more useless pets to my household is still intact since canary showed up as number one and that might be all I can handle right now.

Truthfully, if I want something to fit right in with the rest of this rabble, my ideal bird should be a cockatoo.  Apparently these birds are so codependent that if they do not get your attention 24/7 they start pulling out their feathers and pine away to the point of having to go to the bird version of a shrink.  There are actual cockatoo shrinks out there hired to help these birds when they are mismatched with owners who don't consult with them for every minor decision (like leaving the house to run to Starbucks for five minutes).  I am smart enough to realize with the four nuts that already inhabit my house, another creature that desperate for attention is going to overwhelm me and they really will be carting me off to the Funny Farm. I not only will have cat paws on the laptop. I will have bird beak glued upside down to the screen while I type. Plus they are something called "powder birds" meaning they are bad for allergies and leave feather dust everywhere.

Just no.  I vacuum enough as it is.

The decision has not been made yet and of course I will go rescue if I decide to pursue this particular avenue of insanity.  My friend is on the board of the Dog and Cat Shelter and she said they get birds in all the time.  I have seen cockatoos there and also parakeets.  Cockatiels are nice birds too, lovey-dovey like cockatoos but maybe not quite so codependent.  Again, they are powder birds and that's not something I really want to deal with.  My biggest obstacle will be Willow, the eternal murderer. Tess accepts anything in the house as part of her pack.  Puckett could care less as long as it is understood that she is queen, and Percy just wants to play with everything.  As usual Willow is the wild card.

If I got an African Grey, it would be as big as her, so that would solve that problem.  A macaw is just out of the question.  I don't need something that big, that noisy, and that diabolical fluttering around my house.  I have cats that are diabolical enough.  Macaws are the assholes of the bird world.  My cats are the biggest assholes of any other cats so let's not put that together.

Meanwhile, I might have to go back to the therapist and discuss this sudden wish for a bird.  Do I really want to spend my days keeping the cats away from the cage and cleaning bird poo off the floor?  To say nothing of the fact that the Cowboy will yell at me for making him feel inclined to custom make yet another cage for one of my spoiled rotten pets.  I know most people think it might be cruel to bring a bird into a home with so many cats (I have a place they can't get to that would be perfect for a bird), but my cats really are pretty good about accepting new creatures into the home, even if it is a bird.  Like the dog, once they realize it belongs to the family, they don't bother stuff.  Well, all except Willow, and she's confined to a cage herself a lot of the time.  At any rate such an addition would cause plenty of drama.

Fodder for the blog.  When things get dull, shake them up a bit so you have something to write about.

I probably won't go through with it.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a rough year that pretty much began with January 2nd when three friends and I, in the spirit of "A Brand New Year," decided to try something different and go to a comedy club. I ran into the ex, the love of my life, owner of Scary Alice, my tarantula soul mate.  Everything kind of went downhill from there.  Seeing him after three years was such a shock, I think it shook my equilibrium.

Throughout the year, I seemed to just be off.  Nothing catastrophically horrible happened, but it was a series of picks, one after another, that chipped away at my faith, my hope, and my mental health. Two very good friends, people I would have trusted my life with, used me and dropped me, I met an amazing young man that I liked so much - would have seen a future with him had he been older - at such bad timing that I had to let him go and I still miss him.  There have been issues with my job, my family, my friends, this town, and through it all I've been battling anxiety, depression, loneliness unlike anything I've experienced before, and the constant temptation to slip back into the bottle which is where I spent a good deal of my time after the love of my life exited my life, complete with Alice.

But I digress. Mr. Love of My Life has his own story in my short story, "Snake Bit."

Thanksgiving has never been my holiday.  I'm of Swiss heritage - my parents were both born in Switzerland - so we never really celebrated this strange American holiday where everyone stuffs themselves to the gills with turkey and then passes out on the couch in a food coma.  My family doesn't mind food comas, we just aren't turkey fans.  So I usually treat Thanksgiving as a much needed day off for mental health because everyone is off spending the day with family and friends.

I am left in peace to contemplate where exactly my life went off course.  Don't get me wrong, I do get invites and it's nice of everyone to invite me, but there is something about spending the day by yourself knowing that the usual street traffic and people rushing about is not an issue because everyone is indoors battling the food coma.  Besides, I always feel like I'm imposing.  Thanksgiving is a family holiday.  My family is 1,000 miles away.  One spends Thanksgiving with the ones they love.

And today I realized as I took my dog for a much needed run in the snow, that I am spending the day with the one I love.  As usual on a holiday, there was almost no one about.  A few cars drove by, but the streets were deserted.  For one of the few days of the year I was able to let her run free off  leash for most of the walk.  I leashed her on the one busy street.  In my neighborhood it was so deserted that I think we passed one car driving by the whole time we were walking.

At the dog park we encountered a nice lady with two labs - a black one and a white one - and Tess did so well with both of them.  I wasn't sure what to expect given her aversion to other dogs, particularly labs.  She ran around the dog park and wrestled with the younger dog.  Then she raced the cars through the fence. Then she played with the other dog some more.  She got her much needed run and exercise and I got a bit of social interaction with the owner of the dogs.  A lovely trio, if ever I saw one.  Her dogs were well-behaved and sweet.  She was friendly, but not too in-your-face. After a spell Tess and I left the dog park and continued our (off leash) walk.

I mentally went through the list of things I'm thankful for today.  My dog, after a long spell of loneliness herself because of her isolation from other dogs, got some much needed social interaction with others of her own kind.  She did great.  She got to run and play and roll in the snow, once again acting like the one-year-old pup I remember adopting almost eight years ago.  She was happy and I am thankful for that.

I am thankful that Tess is almost nine years old, yet still behaves like a puppy and looks ageless.

I am thankful that given the fact she is a purebred German shepherd, she has zero health problems (aside from her awful teeth).  No hip dysplasia, no eye problems, no ear problems.

I am thankful that I have been able to share my life these last few years with such an amazing dog. After all she is one of my dreams along with "publish best-selling novel" and "open chocolate shop."

I am thankful for the fact that having her with me is one of the reasons I feel like I am starting to climb my way out of this black hole of despair that I've been trapped in for almost a year.  Today was one of the first days since January where I have gone for a walk with my dog and remembered why I love this town so much.

I am thankful that when I feel like I've lost all hope in humanity, people have let me down and hurt me, and I am battling that terrible loneliness, I have this dog who reminds me that there are wonderful, nice people in this world.  She finds them all the time.  All I have to do is look in her eyes and there is hope because with her, how can anyone be lonely?

And then I realized the other things I'm thankful for:

My family even if they are 1,000 miles away.

My true, good friends, even if the circle is shrinking.  I still know who the solid, important ones are.

My job.  There are issues, sure, but I love my job.  It's a good job, my coworkers are great, and my boss is great.

My cats, who are an endless source of amusement.

I have a few bucks in the bank, my physical health (mental is touch and go), a roof over my head, and food.

Things aren't so bad.  It's taken almost a whole year to see it, but I do finally see that light.  Things aren't so bad.  In fact, things are pretty okay.

And I'm thankful for that.

I am also extremely thankful for the huge pan of double fudge brownies I just pulled out of the oven.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What a Good Girl!

I took Tess for a walk on Sunday.  This is nothing new, but Sunday it was colder and there was snow on the ground so I assumed not a lot of people would be out and maybe I could sneak a visit to the dog park.  Tess gets sick of walking on her leash.  Our usual ritual is to take the walking paths to the river and then I let her loose to sniff around the river and jump in for a swim.  I haven't taken her to the dog park in a couple of years for two reasons.  One is that she started getting snarly with other dogs, particularly labs, and since everyone and their brother owns a lab in this town, the dog park stopped being a safe place to go.

The second reason is that some people who go to the dog park seem to have developed a God-given right and authority to tell other people how to raise their dogs.  I had one too many know-it-all big mouths tell me when my dog was getting overly stressed and needed to go home, as if I wasn't smart enough to see it myself.  I just live with the dog.  It's not like I can tell when she's getting overstimulated.

I do know when it's time to take Tess home, thank you very much.  And I may be biased, but in the past a lot of the reason she would snap at another dog or put one in the ground is because the other dog was behaving badly and she was just doing her alpha duty.  If we just tossed the dogs together in the park and let them work it out for themselves instead of getting in the middle, thinking we know better, everyone would work out there pack hierarchy just fine and no one would be neurotic.

Sunday was a nice day.  I let Tess loose to walk along the river.  When we walked past the house with the two annoying white labs and yappy dachshund, she started to run over and I called for her to stop and come back.  She did.  Whenever she strayed too far or into someone's yard, I called to her and she would come right back and stick close to my side (well, until there was a bush or tree stump to mark).  We made it to the dog park.  There were two other dogs there, a black lab puppy and a white lab puppy.  I kept Tess on her leash and walked her the perimeter of the park, getting her re-used to the place and giving the other dogs a chance to sniff her without getting bullied.  I love my girl, but she can be a bully.  Of course the black lab puppy, full of himself and full of energy, barreled face first into Tess and tried to wrap his paws around her neck.  This is bad behavior in the dog world, and Tess growled and snapped, but did not pick a fight.  The white lab puppy was immediately submissive, recognizing right away that Tess is alpha.  She rolled over on her back and let Tess sniff her.  Considering how long it's been and both dogs were labs, Tess did really well.

After awhile both dogs left and we had the park to ourselves.  Tess loves to chase the cars through the fence.  She's the worst cheater at it too.  She waits until the car is within sight before she races along the fence line, trying to beat the car to the other end of the block.  The more she does it, the sooner she takes off, so that she wins every time.  She's slowed down over the years, but she still loves to run and this is still her favorite game.  She never chases cars when she's loose in my yard or walking along the path loose.  She's smart enough to know this is only okay when there's a fence between her and the cars.

And I realized how lucky I am to have this dog.  When I was younger I used to pray for the German shepherd of my dreams.  I had one growing up, but he was my mom's dog.  Tess is all mine and while she's bossy and crabby with other dogs, I really couldn't ask for a better dog.  She doesn't stray, she comes when she's called, she's housebroken.  She's not a cuddly dog but she's attached to me.  She doesn't chew or dig in the yard or bark.  She's not a counter surfer and she's not particularly food oriented so she doesn't beg.  She gets along great with cats.  She really is a great dog.

So I got her home, congratulating myself on my awesome dog, and fed and watered her, and gave her a doggy pop. Then I got wrapped up in a project. Hours later, going upstairs, I noticed the wood floor in the hallway had a trail of puddles.  At first I thought it was water until I checked the carpet in the bedroom.  There was a puddle there too and this one smelled of urine.  It's hard to tell with female dogs - harder than cats of course because their urine stinks.  Tess' urine has such a faint smell that it took me a moment to realize that my dog had an accident in the house. My dog does not have accidents.  She has not had one since she was about a year and a half old when I was still housebreaking her.

Looking back, while wrapped up in my project, I do remember that she had come to stare down at me several times, but I thought she was just being needy and irritated that I was hiding in the basement again working on something rather than hanging out with her.  Turns out she probably really really had to go and was trying to tell me.  When I failed to realize her cues, she peed on the floor.  She felt terrible.  She moped around the house all evening, acting like she did something wrong. I told her multiple times she was not in trouble, as she did nothing wrong.

I still believe I have a pretty amazing dog, despite the accident.  I'm the one obviously who needs some work, since it's entirely my fault the poor dog lost control of her bladder in the house.  Maybe she needs Mrs. Ladypants for the next time I get so wrapped up in something that I can't even distract myself long enough to let the dog out.

She's such a good girl.  Bad owner, though.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Off to the Vet - or the Funny Farm

I think maybe my animals are not only codependent on me, they are codependent on each other.  Or maybe they just enjoy making my life a challenge especially since our lives just aren't very exciting as of late.  The most exciting thing going on is that we make a trip to the vet's once a week.  Maybe they are trying to shake things up by creating a competition of who can get rushed to the vet faster.

Of course there is something to the power of suggestion.  When one cat eats, all cats have to eat. When one cat uses the litter box, suddenly the other two have to use it as well.  Naturally if one animal gets sick, the rest of them have sympathy pains, or at least a sympathy need to lighten my pocketbook.

Since Tess' trip to the vet where she went in for a teeth cleaning and came out missing eight teeth, Puckett seems to think that she needs to catch up in the vet department.  It was several weeks ago when I took both of them to the vet, Tess for her shots, Puckett because she was acting lethargic, and it became a two-for-one special.  Just bring the cat in too, and we'll take a look at her!  That was when they told me Tess needed her teeth cleaned so she went back two weeks later where she wound up losing her eight teeth.  Not to be undone, now Puckett has taken up coughing and sneezing like some kind sinus infection patient, and the other morning she actually woke me up by sneezing twenty times in a row.

Maybe she really did have sympathy pains for Tess, I don't know. I do know the vet bills are piling up fast.  Then on top of it I'm probably a little codependent on my animals as well, because I spent the day crying when I brought Tess home from the vet after her surgery.  When I left Puckett at the vet for the day to find out what her deal is, I felt the most enormous amount of guilt ever, just because of the look she shot me when the vet techs carried her into the back (or lugged, as the case may be).  She continued to make me feel guilty when I picked her up and they informed me she was perfectly fine and hadn't sneezed or coughed all day.  She continued to not sneeze or cough the rest of the evening as if she was sticking it to me for having the nerve to take her to the vet at all, given that there is nothing medically wrong with her.

Or so she'd have me believe if for no other reason than to make me feel worse for making an unnecessary trip to the vet.

She forces me to take her to the vet, and then she makes me feel super guilty for it.  This is actually just a part of her whole diabolical plan.

If Puckett ain't happy ain't nobody happy.  And Puckett sure isn't happy unless she's causing some kind of discord in an otherwise placid, almost boring, household.  She likes to shake things up.  She also does not like it when the dog gets all the attention, unless of course, she is the one paying attention to the dog.  That isn't always fun for the dog.

Of course Percy and Willow, also not to be outdone, are both due for their shots and I'm fairly certain Percy is due for another teeth cleaning as well. He'll probably need another tooth pulled too, though hopefully not eight. Then the whole drama of hysterics will start all over again.  Percy can be a little asshole, but as soon as he's injured or sick I go all to pieces.

Incidentally Tess is now perfectly fine, back to eating hard food, with no memory of having ever been in pain or on weird medication that made her see two of me, and yet I'm still feeling the emotional affects of it.  I could also just be a weepy, emotional mess for the most part, and that is a fair bet anyway.  I sure cry a lot so I might as well cry over my pets.  At least they deserve my tears even if they do treat me like I'm absolutely crazy most of the time.  Pretty soon they start acting all depressed and crazy too, so we are definitely something to see, the five of us moping around like someone has just informed us that The Walking Dead has been canceled.

I have not yet scheduled the next vet visit (I believe it's Percy this time) but I need to get on it.  I have, however, scheduled my next visit to the therapist, so not only am I paying an arm and a leg for the health of my pets, I'm also shelling out a good deal of money for my own.

Mine isn't working.  Puckett is a hypochondriac.  Tess seems to come back from the vet missing parts. We've got a good thing going here - we all depend on one another to have some issue or other so that someone is constantly visiting the doctor and the rest of us can feel sorry for whoever the lucky candidate of the week is.

This week it's my turn to see the therapist, and as I've spent a good deal of the week already sobbing my eyes out, I don't anticipate the appointment going so well.  The animals are sure to be here when I get home to sympathize and choose one among them to develop something chronic so he or she can join in the sympathy party.

We are all going to need straight jackets eventually.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Your Cat May Be Codependent If...

Codependency in cats is easy to spot because most cats conduct themselves with a general air of "Screw you and the horse you rode in on" with absolutely no regard for the feelings of others.  It's all about them.  Most cats seem to walk around with a perpetual middle finger raised.  With codependent cats, it's all about them too, but it has to be all about them with the caveat that you cannot leave the room, ever, or they become completely dysfunctional.  How can you tell if your cat is codependent?

1.  The codependent cat will only use the litter box when you're in the house.  If you happen to have a full time job or just leave for a weekend (this is ill-advised because the codependent cat will be on the verge of collapse when you come home Sunday night) your cat will actually hold it to the detriment of his bladder until you get home, when he will fly to the litter box as soon as you sit down, preferably with your lunch.

2.  Your cat refuses to eat unless you are in the kitchen, standing right beside the food bowls, preferably holding the bag of food for immediate refills.  The codependent cat will also come find you, chirping her "Feed me" song until you go to the kitchen where you realize her food bowl is already filled to capacity, she just wanted company while she ate.

3.  Showering is a spectator sport.  If you have a codependent cat, learn to live with the fact that you will never shower alone again.  Privacy is out the window.  The codependent cat might even try to get into the shower with you depending on his bravery concerning water.  Remember, it is always your fault if he falls in and gets wet.

4.  Going to the bathroom, like showering, is also a spectator sport.  If the door is closed it will be forcefully banged open as the cat marches into the bathroom as if he has every right to be there.  The codependent cat will even try to get in your lap as you try to relieve your bladder.  If you lock the bathroom door for a few precious moments of privacy, paws will soon be seen in the crack under the door, beseechingly reaching out towards you, pads turned upwards in a desperate plea of "Why did you leave me?!"

5.  As soon as the toilet flushes, scratching can be heard in the litter box.

6.  As soon as you sit down to dinner/lunch/a snack with your favorite TV program, scratching can be heard in the litter box.

7.  As soon as your head hits the pillow after a long, late night of writing during which all three cats have been sacked out in a deep sleep, scratching can be heard in the litter box.

8.  Having finished eliminating, the codependent cat will run through the house like a herd of stampeding elephants, yowling and caterwauling, demanding recognition and praise for a job well done.

9.  As soon as you sit down and open your laptop to get some work done, there is a cat in your lap with paws on the keyboard.

10. When you get up from the couch to grab a snack or to pick up a piece of lint on the carpet, your codependent cat will immediately slip into the exact spot you were just sitting in, regardless of the size of the couch.

11. The codependent cat cannot function or get any exercise while you are out of the house, thus developing a reputation for laziness.  As soon as you get home, tired and crabby from a long day wanting nothing more than a quiet moment of rest, the codependent cats will start fighting or chasing each other through the house, making as much noise as they can.

12. When the codependent cat thinks you've been asleep long enough, he will race through the house once again like a stampeding elephant, always making sure the bedroom is the main stop for each lap.  If banished from the room with the door shut, the codependent cat will then sit just outside the door and make extremely sad, pitiful noises as though he has just found out his favorite brand of catnip has been discontinued.  

13, The codependent cat will only sleep comfortably on the bed if you're in it.  She will get as close as she is allowed, preferably by your side or on the book you're reading.  Sometimes it's easier to just sit on your face.

14. If your codependent cat's wishes are ignored (like you're not spending 23 hours a day with her or you walked by her without stroking her) she will let you know of her displeasure by foregoing the litter box and leaving her offerings in a shoe.  Most likely your best and favorite shoe.  If she can fit, she'll leave it in your Uggs so that you won't see it until you attempt to put your foot in.

15. The codependent cat is always thrilled to see you so he or she will greet you at the door as soon as you walk in.  Likewise the codependent cat does not appreciate you leaving the house, ever, so he or she or all three will attempt to trip you on the way down the stairs so that you sprain your ankle and can't leave the house for several weeks.  This is all part of a greater plan to keep you bedridden so they can surround you with their love and purrs and make you just as codependent as they are.  After all, can you really imagine your life without them?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Heart of A Pet

If there is one thing about animals that always truly amazes me, it's their capacity to love and forgive.  Unlike humans they really don't hold grudges.  My animals don't anyway, except maybe for Puckett.  It doesn't seem to matter how many times I yell at Percy for destroying a knickknack or taking a dump right when I'm in the middle of eating my lunch, he is always right back in my face, purring and begging for a scratch or a cuddle.  The same goes for Tess.  Minutes after she is disciplined for bad behavior, even if it doesn't happen very often anymore, she is right back at my side, tongue hanging out and ready to play or go for a walk.  Puckett might hold a grudge longer, mostly because she is the one who gets disciplined the least, but she too will forgive me almost any slight eventually.  There is the occasional poop in my shoe when I've really made her mad, but once we're even, we return to the status quo.  Willow is so neurotic she just begs for love and attention no matter what's happening.  Most of the time she doesn't know what's happening anyway because she spends her days in a fog.

 I remember one episode with Percy and Willow.  I still feel bad about this.  Percy was on the brink of bullying Willow.  I caught him in his stance, ready to pounce and ruin her day so I chucked a candle holder towards him, intending to throw it just to his side so that it would make a loud thunk and distract him.  It hit him square on the head.  It made a thunk all right.  I couldn't have hit better had I actually been aiming for him.  It did the trick and distracted him, but he was furious with me.  He went under the couch and sulked.

For five minutes.  Five minutes later out he came and crawled into my arms, purring and rubbing his head under my chin.

I doubt I would have been as forgiving had someone thunked me on the head with a candle holder.

My animals definitely have the capacity to be assholes, don't get me wrong.  Percy bullies Willow, annoys the dog, releases his anal sacs all over my bedspread, and makes really foul stinks when he goes to the bathroom.  Tess will still pick fights with other dogs if she thinks she can get away with it, and she still will knock me over in her rush to get to the Cowboy whenever he comes over since he is still part of the family even if we have broken up.  Puckett likes to bang the cabinet door with her paw to annoy Tess whenever she thinks Tess is too comfortable or I'm trying to take a nap.  And of course the pooping in my shoe if I have crossed some kind of line with her.  Willow pees on the floor, scratches the furniture, hisses and spits at the dog for no reason, aggravates Percy into bullying her, and rips me to shreds if I attempt to brush her or clip her claws.  Despite all of this the four of them have a bond unlike anything I've ever seen among three cats and a dog.  They behave like siblings.  They annoy and bully each other, yet at the end of the day they have true compassion and love for each other.  Percy, the only groomer of the three cats, grooms Puckett and Willow.  Tess will groom Percy.  I've caught Tess and Willow snuggled up together on the dog bed at bedtime.  Willow will curl up right between Tess' legs.  I've caught Puckett and Willow doing the same thing.  Percy and Willow play.  Percy and Puckett play.  All of them play with the dog.

On cold mornings all three cats are curled up on the bed, sharing each others' warmth, and no one chases anyone else off the bed in a territorial fit of pissyness.

And they all surround me when I'm sad and crying.  The cats purr and join me on the bed.  Tess licks my tears. 

I've been crying a lot lately.  I've been extremely unhappy.  Sometimes I know why, sometimes I don't.  My animals are constantly there.  They especially hate the loud sobbing and snotty crying.  That they put a stop to by getting right in my face, all three of them, and purring as loud as they can. 

It's hard to keep crying like that when three cats have their butts in one's face.  Although the snottiness gets worse as all that fur and dander aggravates the allergies.

Crying spooks Tess anyway.  It makes her think someone is breaking into the house as she keeps making trips to the door whenever I'm having a moment in tears.  Perhaps she is just waiting for the Funny Farm to come pick me up.

I'm definitely not as forgiving as my pets and I have trouble with compassion towards my fellow man.  I have my mother's road rage.  People on the road are frequently cursed as idiots for entering my orbit without permission.  I'm not proud of this, it's just a fact. I've had a rough year with friends and boyfriends and I always seem to wind up getting devastatingly hurt.  One in particular was a friend first, then a boyfriend, and treated me so poorly that I've had several fantasies on how to get back at him.  One was to quadruple knot the horrendous underwear he'd given me around one of the mirrors of his truck.  The second scenario involved me marching into the bar, underwear in hand, and dropping it on the pool table mid-shot before flipping him off.  The third required just wrapping the underwear around his neck and saving us both the trouble of his existence.  I can't forget the bad treatment (and the underwear is especially insulting as I would never wear such filth as what he gifted me) and I can't seem to forgive.

Another "friend" behaved similarly minus the ugly underwear.  At least he spared both of us that stupidity though I have now been using his name to describe what Percy does in his litter box, inspired by "Just Go With It" starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston.

I still can't forgive the love of my life, the one with the tarantula named Scary Alice, though honestly, I may be unwilling to forgive him because he divided me from Alice forever.

I still get angry with the Cowboy for no reason and I'm not very nice to him sometimes.  I'm probably lashing out because I'm still angry that he ended the relationship, yet insists on hanging around as a friend.  Like the pets he has an endless capacity to forgive and just let me rant.

How would my pets handle such slights?  Tess would forget a slight even happened and wrap herself around his body begging to be pet and loved (or maybe slyly tripping him into a pile of dog poop).  Puckett would poop in his shoe and then glare with those eyes that say "Take that, human!" and then everything would go back to normal.  Willow would be in his lap, purring and gazing into his face with mushy eyes.  Percy would do the same.  They just don't care when someone hurts their feelings.  They move on and get past it so quickly it amazes me.  I wish I could be like that.  I wish their capacity to love and forgive was as easy as just emulating them.  They forgive me, they forgive each other, and they care.  It's not rocket science that exercising compassion and loving each other makes life more bearable and us crabby, disgruntled humans happier.  If you don't believe me, just look at the way animals handle hurts and slights, and everyone loves them even when they are being assholes themselves.

And their lives are super happy.   

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ghost Cats and Witch Kitties

The first cat I ever loved was a blue point Himalayan named Mindi.  I adopted her from the animal shelter when I was fifteen and right away I noticed there was something weird about this cat.  If there is one thing Mindi taught me it's that true witch kitties are not black.  They come in disguises.  Mindi looked like an angel cat but underneath that package of fluffy silver-cream fur was a devious little beast.  Puckett has picked up this torch and carried it in Mindi's stead now that she has passed on.  Puckett is twenty pounds of tabby and white load who uses her bulk to get what she wants.

Mindi and Puckett have two things in common.  Mindi had huge eyeballs that she used to stare unnervingly and unblinkingly at people as they went about their daily activities as does Puckett. My best friend from college used to joke that if one crossed Mindi she would stare at them until she cursed them. Mindi was also ridiculously intelligent just like Puckett. Of course I am biased and believe all my pets are intelligent except for Willow, but Puckett is exceptionally so.  She has not yet learned to teleport, however, which is something that Mindi was quite good at.  Or possibly Puckett just has no reason to teleport as she can go wherever she wants.

I am kidding of course.  I don't really believe Mindi could teleport, but on several different occasions witnessed by several different family members, Mindi had somehow managed to escape from my bedroom where she was usually confined and found her way upstairs.  One episode sticks out in particular.  We kept Mindi in my bedroom because our other two cats didn't like her and expressed their displeasure by refusing to use the litter box.  Mindi was my cat anyway so she spent most of her time in my room, keeping me company in my hermit ways.  I was on my way out of my bedroom one day and Mindi was sitting on my bed in the middle of a circle of stuffed animals.  I sometimes wondered if she didn't consider these her minions as she sat among them a lot.  I said  goodbye to her, promising to come back later, looked her right in the eye, and closed my bedroom door.  I latched it.  It was shut.  I went upstairs to help my mother with something and she asked me why Mindi was out of my room.  There was Mindi sitting on the windowsill in the breakfast room, staring out the window.

She pulled this same trick with my brother.  On another occasion she was in his bedroom because I wasn't home for the weekend and he said Mindi was lonely.  He too said he swore he closed the door, looking at the cat while she sat smugly on his bed, and then went upstairs.  An hour later she trotted into the living room like nothing was amiss.

One night when I was about sixteen I scared myself silly with scary stories and evil presences.  I was sure I felt something dark in my room.  It was almost tangible with its oppressiveness, like there was this heaviness in the air, closing around me.  Even the darkness seemed darker.  I hid under my covers shaking and trying to control my panic and about ten minutes later I heard extremely loud purring and Mindi eased onto my chest.  She sat there for about an hour, purring, until I felt the heaviness disappear and my room lightened. Mindi liked laps but she never sat on me when I went to bed.  She always slept next to me or at my feet.  I may sound crazy but I think she was protecting me.  Whatever I felt in my room that night she somehow warded off.  She never sat on my chest again.

After my brother and I moved out completely my mother still kept Mindi in my bedroom until she had to put the other two cats down.  By then Mindi had escaped several more times or merely beamed herself out of the room as my mother liked to say.  It became a family joke.

When I moved to my own apartment I took Mindi with me.  She'd joined me at college a few times, living in my best friend's apartment and watching lots of sports on TV with his roommate.  Mindi had a fondness for large men sitting in easy chairs.  It provided a lap for her to sit on.  My best friend cat sat for her a few times too and he said she pulled her tricks with him as well.  He'd find her in the strangest places and one time he found her outside, just sitting under a tree.  When I moved Mindi to my apartment after I graduated college she had the run of the place except for my roommate's bedroom to which we kept the door closed.  Most days I would come home from work and call for Mindi, search the entire house for her, coming up nothing.  Two hours later when I would get really nervous she would trot out of my bedroom as though I hadn't been tearing the house apart looking for her.  I think she had a hidey hole under the bed (and I did check under the bed, every time to no avail).  I also think she kept an office somewhere behind the walls where she did her plotting to take over the world.

One time I found her in my roommate's room even though the door was shut.  I have no idea how she got in there.  I have no idea how I found her considering the mess he left behind.

When I moved to Wyoming I took Mindi back home to my mother.  By then she was fairly old and a move across the country away from everything familiar I feared might be too much for her.  As she was the last and only pet she became almost boringly normal.

After Mindi passed on I came home a couple years later to visit my family and my mother put me in the guest room as my old room was being remodeled.  About three o'clock in the morning I awoke to the sound of what can only be described as a cat pawing very loudly against a door.  I am very familiar with this sound since Mindi did it all the time when she still lived in my bedroom.  The weird thing was my parents no longer had any pets.  I turned on my light and looked around expecting to see something but there was nothing in my room.  I would have chalked it up to a dream but a year later my sister-in-law slept in the same room and said she heard the same thing. I hadn't told her before then what I'd experienced.  My mother jokingly said it was the ghost of Mindi.

I have a black cat, Percy, but he has no particular magic powers or uncanny abilities other than to stink up the house when he uses the litter box.  One thing I love about him are his fangs.  I call him vampire kitty, but Puckett is my witch kitty now.  I have never met another cat like Mindi until I met Puckett at the animal shelter.  She has the same spark in her eyes as Mindi. While she doesn't demonstrate an ability to beam, I do believe she wards off evil spirits and she's a good luck charm, if for no other reason than nobody really messes with someone who has a twenty plus pound cat who is not afraid of anything.  That could be the beginning of a monster movie.  Attack of the Twenty Pound Cat.

Happy Halloween everyone!

The Vampire Kitty

The Witch Kitty

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Three Dog Night

Two of my best friends and I are total wimps when it comes to our pets.

I took Tess in for a routine teeth cleaning and she ended up needing eight teeth pulled.  I was devastated.  Partially because of the hit to my pocketbook, but mostly because Tess came out of surgery with quite a few teeth missing and several holes in her gums.

The poor baby.

She looked miserable when I picked her up at the vet, yet that did not stop her from running all over the place trying to sniff whatever she could and peeing on tufts of grass like the male dog she isn't.  Really, there isn't much that keeps this dog down.  The receptionist at the vet said she was up and tail wagging almost as soon as the anesthesia wore off.

That's my dog.  barely out of surgery, eight-and-half years old, and still acting like a six-month-old pup with too much to do and too much to see.  I wish humans could be as unassuming and drama-free about being sick or injured as my dog.  It does make it kind of a pain to keep her quiet and resting though.

Once I got her home, however, the excitement of being picked up from the vet started to wear off.  I softened food for her and kept her inside with her doggy bed while I went back to work.  Of course on the day my baby had to have surgery I had to work until nine.  I worried about her (and the hit to my pocketbook) pretty much all night and just wanted to go home so I could cry.

I don't like to fall apart in public.  I prefer to do my bawling in private.

When I got home I discovered blood all over the floor and a very ashamed, very upset dog who was clearly in a lot of pain.  I felt like a jerk.  I had softened her food, but there were a few pieces on top that hadn't quite soaked through and she'd tried to eat them.  There was blood on the carpet around her food bowl and all over the tile floor where she'd removed herself to because she's just that good of a dog.  When she's about to make a mess she makes sure to do it on the hard floor where it's easy to clean up.  What a good girl.

She looked at me like she'd done something wrong, like I was going to yell at her, and the tears just came unbidden.  I could not stop bawling as I got her medication - three pills of antibiotics and painkillers - but the dog would not let me near her mouth, not that I blamed her.  I finally managed to get the pills down her throat by burying them in globs of peanut butter.  I do have to say, I am very lucky when it comes to my dog and pills.  She gulps pills like candy.  I have no problem giving her medicine.  Even her heartworm pill is like a lollipop to her, unlike the cats who I have to wrap up in a towel and shove liquid medicine down their throats.  That's a disaster of epic proportions.  I usually come out of that bloody.

Tess on painkillers is simultaneously funny and sad.  She's such an active, energetic dog that she does not like to be quiet and still.  She clearly doesn't know what to do when her body betrays her.  The painkillers make her woozy and she's on two different ones - a fast acting one and a long term one.  They make her wobbly, loopy, and downright doped out.  It's funny to watch her try to stagger around the house on her usual nighttime routine.  It's also rather sad, and then the other night she fell down the stairs because she was so disoriented. I had just turned off the light to go to bed and I heard a huge crash and a thump.  I turned on the light and ran downstairs and there was Tess, her hind paw slightly elevated, looking rather foolish.  I made her come upstairs then and stay.  I'm a little jealous of her medication - I kind of wish I had some of her painkillers - but I'm more upset at the fact that she's obviously in pain but acting like she's the same old dog as always, even doped out.  I've spent most of the week - when I'm not at work - drinking or eating hunks of chocolate so I don't burst into tears whenever I look at her.  She spends most of the time looking at me like I'm crazy and wondering why I keep puddling up.

When Percy punctured his paw on a stray nail from the carpet I about had a heart attack.  This was maybe over a year ago and I  noticed one morning that kitty was limping around the house, not putting any weight on his front paw.  I freaked out, screamed, "Kitty!" and rushed him to the vet.  They put him on antibiotics and said he spent the whole time he was at the vet's purring and rubbing against everyone.  I was in hysterics.  The vet must have thought I was crazy.

My best friend in Colorado has a little Bengal cat that is basically the love of her life over her husband and her stepdaughters.  Breyer has been sick for over a week and it turns out she's got an impacted intestine.  My friend has spent most of her week bawling over the cat, spending ridiculous amounts of money on vet bills and enemas, and force feeding the poor cat different brands of food.  I get constant texts on the Breyer's progress, whether she's eaten, and how much.  My friend is as bad as me, obsessing over the cat, why won't the cat eat, the cat has barely drank any water, why won't the cat get better NOW??  Breyer is finally on the mend.  My friend is about to check herself into the Funny Farm as my roommate.

My best friend here in town has a rottweiler who is her soulmate.  He has been diagnosed with bone cancer.  She's spent three days shut up in her house bawling and working out alternative care to improve the quality of life for the time Zulu has left.  When her Pyrenees died she was a basket case.  I don't think she stopped crying for a week.  Zulu is her baby, though, and now she is taking him to Colorado State University to work out some options.  I have to say I would probably do the same thing if it was Tess.  My friends' pets are going through worse than Tess and I'm acting like the world is coming to an end.  Tess doesn't need the sedatives, I do.

To be honest I cry when someone squashes a spider.  I think I actually miss my ex-boyfriend's tarantula, Scary Alice, more than I do him.

When it comes to animals my friends and I are wrecks and we see no reason to apologize for this.  Yes, there are worse things in the world, but to us, the animals are our world.  Tess is my longest serious relationship, Breyer is my friend's sanity, and Zulu is my other friend's soulmate.  They touch our lives in a way humans can't.  Tess has been with me through multiple boyfriends and she's outlasted several friendships.  Even when it seems like everyone's walked away she's still there with her big brown eyes and those adorable radar ears.  I can't imagine my life without her, though one day I know I'll have to try to go on without her.  For now, she's my closest companion and as long as she's in pain I will codependently feel sympathy pains with her.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Conversation with Dr. Gustafson, DMV

For this blog I interviewed my veterinarian, Dr. Blair Gustafson, DMV and owner of the Country Hospital for Animals (he's also a renowned polka dancer!). Check out the clinic at:  https://www.facebook.com/Country-Hospital-for-Animals-159249807440513/

1.  How long have you worked with animals?
Dr. Gustafson:  I've worked with animals my entire life. I grew up on a small hobby farm where my family raised calves and lambs and there were always dogs and barn cats around. Both my sister and I had horses, and like a lot of kids I brought injured wild animals home to nurse. I worked in veterinary clinics for 4 years as a stable boy and kennel cleaner while I got my undergrad degree, and then spent 5 years completing my doctorate and post-graduate work. But if you're asking how long I have formally worked as a veterinarian, the answer is almost 28 years.  Boy, I'm old.

2.  What made you decide to become a veterinarian?
Dr. G:  When I was younger, I was fascinated by nature, I liked working with my hands,  and I loved science. Quietly interacting with animals felt a lot more comfortable to me than conversing with people, which is the common lot of awkward nerds everywhere.  I just didn't know how to tie all that together into a paying career. Then one evening my dad came home from work and gave me a book someone had left  in the caboose of his train.  The book was called "All Creatures Great and Small," by James Herriot, and as I read the stories about his life as a veterinarian in Yorkshire, I knew without a doubt that being a vet was for me. So here I am, the result of a .95 cent paperback novel discarded on a coal train in Parkman, Wyoming.

3.  What is your favorite part about your job?

Dr. G:  My job has a lot of good parts to it. I've learned to interact with people in an almost lifelike facsimile of a friendly person, and have even come to find humans interesting (well, some of them, anyway).  As a solo practitioner - a dying breed both literally and figuratively - I treasure my independence, and  I am flattered by the fact that a lot of the people who walk through the door seem to trust me and treat me like a friend; that's awfully humbling, and much-appreciated.  I like holding newborn animals, and I still enjoy working with my hands to fix things. And not just with my hands: every day, these silent, mysterious cases show up in my hospital, and I have to try to figure them out with very little help from my patients; it's like putting puzzles together all day, and I love that challenge.  But if I had to settle on just one thing, I think the primary selling point of my job is the variety.  Every day, I come to work and I have no idea what might walk in, and what skills I'll have to conjure up. Whether it's implanting a pacemaker in a dog, pulling a tooth on a wallaby, reading x-rays on a turtle or setting a broken wing on a robin some child found in a yard, being a veterinarian is a true exercise in improvisation. I like that my job is never boring.

4.  My pets certainly seem to love coming to the vet and you have a special way with animals.  Do you have pets at home and what kinds do you have?
Dr. G:  You're very nice to say that; it means a great deal to me.  Time has slowly thinned the animal crowd at my house, and we're down to just an old earless, tailless cat and a cavalier King Charles spaniel.

5. With the holidays coming up what are some tips you can give our readers on keeping pets safe and happy?
Dr. G:  
a.  Keep the cats out of the Tannenbaum and your vet won't spend Christmas Day removing tinsel from the resulting intestinal bockage (and large sums of cash from your checking account). Really, that's not a good present for any of the parties involved.

b.  No matter how much those big brown eyes plead with you, don't break down and give your dog rich holiday treats from the table. People often feel like their pets should celebrate along with them, but your beagle isn't aware that it's Hanukkah or Christmas, and besides, most of the animals I know are agnostic anyway.  Well-meaning people sneak the little blighters turkey gravy or pumpkin pie, and that just results in the gift of pancreatitis. If you want to give your pets something they will really love and appreciate, give them a hug or a pat. 

c.  Keep the electrical cords to the Christmas lights up and out the way so they don't become a chew toy. 

d.  Remember that lillies, holly, and poinsiettas can be toxic, particularly to cats.  Incidentally, mistletoe is not only fairly poisonous, but can cause lifelong scarring, particularly if it is held over your head at the junior high  "Back to the '50's" dance so that you are forced, blushing head to toe while your buddies elbow you,  to kiss Ruth Hutchinson, a girl you have had a crush on since 1st grade, in front of the entire giggling class in the gymnasium at the Earle Brown middle school.  Or so I am told.

Thank you so much, Dr. Gustafson for your responses!  And as always, thank you so much for your great work.  My pets are happier and healthier for having known you!