My cats are trying to kill me. I’m absolutely convinced. And I honestly have no idea why. But here’s what happens – daily.

The sunrise alarm clock slowly brings me out of my sleep. When the other clock, the one that plays music, comes on a few minutes later, Jool jumps up on the bed and either greets me or starts yelling at me. I never know which it’s going to be. I suppose it depends on whether she slept on the bed and how much I tossed and turned through the night.

I sit up, put on my slippers and walk to the bathroom. This is where it starts to get dicey, y’all. Because Jool sometimes stops at the end of the bed, right as I’m in mid-step. And so I dodge or trip. Or both. Now, she doesn’t always do this. She’ll do it for days on end until I’ve developed a habit of pausing and reaching my foot out to tap her on the butt to keep her moving. And then she won’t do it for a long time. And then the habit dies.

Jool knows this. Obviously. And so does her sister!

Katie, for her part, is often lying in the doorway. Sometimes she gives me “the eye” which tells me she’s not moving, come hell or high water, and so I step over her. Just like Jool, she does this day after day after day after day. Until I’m in the habit of stepping over her. Then, out of nowhere – after this has been working perfectly for days on end – she jumps up and runs just as I’m in mid-step. Sometimes she runs in the direction my foot is headed, sometimes the other way. In either case, it’s startling. And so I dodge. Or trip. Or both.

Now mind you, I haven’t even made it to the bathroom yet and I have to pee like a stomped-on toad frog, and my cats have tried to kill me TWICE. That’s just rude. You’d think they could wait until I’ve emptied my bladder.

After my bladder is taken care of, it’s time for the dreaded Pilling and Feeding of the Cats. They both have kidney disease, Jool has high blood pressure, and Katie has some idiopathic intestinal ailment (that’s vet-speak, y’all), so they both take medicine every day. Neither of them like it, of course. And I have to hand it to them, although they often try to run from me, neither of them tries to kill me while I’m administering drugs. Maul me, yes. But not kill me.

However, changing their water and giving them food is, I guess, a prime opportunity that cannot be passed up. Apparently, it’s okay to try to kill the person who’s actively engaged in giving you food and water. The food is in the bowl and I’m just trying to put it on the floor next to the water bowl. And they get under my feet. And I trip. Or dodge. Or both.

Katie and Jool stay hidden away after I let the dogs out, but they usually have one or two more tripping challenges for me before I leave for work.

Evenings are more of the same tripping rituals when I feed them supper. Bedtime is slightly less deadly, but only if I go to bed and stay there. Heaven help me if I need to get a cup of water or the phone rings or something.

I just don’t understand this conspiracy of theirs. Why would you want to kill the person who brings you food? Who brushes your fur? Who scritches you behind the ears anytime you want?

Maybe it’s just a cat thing. Or maybe they’re trying to do me a favor. “Mom, we’ve noticed you’re not getting any younger. We’re just doing our part to make sure you have good reflexes. You’re welcome. Now feed us.”



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Aaaand…it’s another birthday!

This time, it’s mine. And, it’s one of those milestone birthdays. When I think about the number attached to that milestone, I shake my head in disbelief. How is it possible that I’ve lived that many years??

When we’re young, it takes forever to finally be old enough to drive a car. Daddy taught me to drive the summer after I turned 15 – ever vigilant for police officers, mind you – and I distinctly remember the intervening four months until I could legally get my drivers permit taking an interminably long time to pass. The next six months until my 16th birthday passed more quickly thanks to basketball games, Christmas holidays, and spring break.

But then the next two years of high school crawled by, with the last summer before college passing at an excruciating snail’s pace.

Somehow, after that, time began to speed up. And now it feels like someone’s holding down the fast-forward button.

I’d like to slow that down a bit, thank you very much!

To that end, I’ve spent a rather lazy day celebrating my birthday. I started the day reflecting on life, as we introspective types are wont to do. All told, I’ve had a pretty good life, even though the life I’ve led doesn’t even begin to resemble the life I thought I’d lead. I assume that’s pretty much how it works for everyone. If it’s not, please don’t burst my bubble!

After that, I went to the movies. Yes, I know. You were expecting me recount some grand adventure with my dogs. If not for pouring rain, I probably would be, but given the soggy situation, Plan B kicked in. (Great movie, by the way! Midnight Special.)

Hungry after the movie, I meandered around the shopping center until I found a place to get something green and relatively healthy for supper…which happened to be near a cupcake joint. But I quickly abandoned any notion of birthday cupcakes when I found out the salad place served bread pudding. Priorities! I have some!

Now, I’m sitting at the lake watching the SMU rowing team practice. A cool breeze is blowing, the chirping birds and lapping waves are serenading me, interrupted only by the occasional runner and a cranky grackle. Oh, how I do love lakes!

Which is why this is where I brought B’Elanna exactly eight weeks ago on our last adventure. So, yeah, I’m shedding a few tears because I still miss my heart-puppy, still have to remind myself nearly daily that she’s not lost in the back yard when she doesn’t come running through the door to get her breakfast. I miss the way she exploded out of her crate, running laps around the kitchen and then prancing back to me before barking and chasing her sisters out the back door. What a delightful little dog! I am so grateful she and I found each other!

Later this evening, I’m off to choir rehearsal…where I’ll probably shed a few more tears because we’re rehearsing the entire Eternal Light: Requiem that we’ll sing in concert next week.

It’s been a relaxing, peaceful birthday. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing today, I hope you get to have at least a small slice of that relaxation and peace. And if possible – and if you like it – bread pudding.



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B’Elanna Torres Hornberger – June 16, 2002 – February 17, 2016

Almost ten years ago, I received an e-mail about a cocker spaniel taken in by a local rescue group where I’d adopted another cocker spaniel, Bailey. I had just lost Bailey a few months prior, and since they knew how much I adored cocker spaniels, they thought I might be ready to adopt again.

“Well, let’s meet,” I said. “If she doesn’t try to eat my dachshund, I’ll take her.”

And so we did. Phoebe gave her approval in about five seconds flat. And so our journey began. Given our rocky beginning that first night, I never would have guessed that she would become my next heart-puppy. She was truly terrified, and terrified dogs bite. A lot. She didn’t trust me at all.

In time, I would earn her trust. But first, I had to give her a name because the one the rescue group gave her didn’t suit her at all. A coworker suggested I give her a strong name, a name she could grow into. B’Elanna Torres, for those of you who aren’t Star Trek fans, was a Klingon/human engineer. Smart. Tough. Strong. Brave. Sometimes emotional. Always dependable.

And that is exactly what my little dog turned out to be.

She was far more than that, though. After she decided I was an okay person, she was absolutely devoted to me. And being devoted to her changed my life. You see, B’Elanna came into my life when it felt like everything was going wrong. Every year since 2001 had brought some huge upheaval or tragedy. My husband had walked out on me. Alex (another heart-puppy) had died suddenly. I was laid off from a job I loved and was currently working at the job-from-hell. Mac (my first heart-puppy) had died after a long battle with Cushing’s disease. And then Bailey had died suddenly, 14 weeks after I adopted him.

B’Elanna distracted me from all my pain, focused my attention on all the good. She loved to ride in the car. She loved to zoom. She never fought with or chased the cats, but she did claim Katie’s bed, even though she had two of her own. She liked bananas. She loved nectarines. She decided one day to give my chai latte a slurp when I stupidly left it unattended. Ever after, she deemed herself my official drink taster. Because it might be poisoned. Or yummy.

B’Elanna hated every dog park we visited, and particularly hated every jack russell terrier she ever met. But she was incredibly tolerant of all the dogs I brought home for overnight stays for rescue groups, even the Saint Bernard, whose enormous presence terrified her.

She was a lap-sitter, a hugger, and a kisser. She liked to jump up in my lap, put her front feet on my shoulders, and kiss my nose while I gave her a vigorous body rub. She didn’t mind sharing her chair or blanket. If one of the other dogs wanted to curl up beside her, that was okay, although she’d often give them an exasperated look. She didn’t even mind sharing my lap. She’d just climb over the big dog and find a spot, no problem.

Bella was the friend that Phoebe and Callie Sue desperately needed. Her very presence seemed to calm them. She wasn’t the gregarious, playful friend. She was simply a constant, reassuring presence.

I suppose that’s what she was for me, too. Sometimes silly, often adventurous, usually opportunistic, and always, always here, touching my hands, kissing my face, curled up in my lap. Here. As if it were her job to reassure me that everything was going to be okay.

Nine years, eight months, and one day. B’Elanna, my sweet, silly, brave little girl, I am beyond grateful for every moment. You were so brave, and you made me brave, too. I know my boys and the Phoebster are welcoming you home.

Posted in B'Elanna, Rainbow Bridge | 2 Comments

When a cat dreams

This is Jool.

The face I couldn't resist!

She likes to sleep on me. Kinda like this:

2012_jool on my shoulder b&w

Only without the “Ohmygod, I’m gonna faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllllllllll!!!” thing going on.

The other night, she was perched on my shoulder and we were peacefully sleeping when I was suddenly aware of a burning sensation in my shoulder. As I emerged from the haze of sleep, it felt more like needles. I moved, the needles dug in deeper. I was fully awake now. To say that I was unhappy about being awakened at 2:30 would be the understatement of the year.

“JOOL! STOP IT!!” She fled the scene, guilty as charged. The little brat.


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The picture I didn’t take

It was late evening, almost bedtime. The pups had been outside for about an hour after their regularly-scheduled early-evening nap. (Seriously. You can almost set your clock by their evening nap time!) While the others were outside, Chassie lounged half on/half off the “dog sofa,” her back toward me, completely consumed in doing…something.

“Chassie, what are you doing?” No response. Not even a head turn.

I naively thought she was probably engrossed in picking mud off her paws since the recent rain and sleet had left the back yard a muddy mess.

“Okay, girls, it’s bedtime! Let’s get cookies!” I called out to them. They scurried off to their respective crates. Except Chassie, who mysteriously, didn’t budge from whatever she was doing.

“Chassie! Cookies!”

Chassie turned and began to trot toward me, a long skinny black something hanging out of her mouth.

“Chassie!! What in the world?!?” At which point – because this girl does not like for me to be upset, especially at her – Chassie spat it out: a headless mouse.

As a graphic picture of my sweet dog gnawing the head off of a mouse for the last 15 minutes assaulted my mind, a horrified scream tried to work its way up and out of my throat. I stifled it just in time. Because I sure didn’t want a repeat of the Baby Bunny Massacre of 2009, wherein I screamed bloody murder – the shock of realizing the “squeaky toy” your dog is playing with is actually a baby bunny will do that to you – and then more baby bunnies were, um, quickly consumed.

“Ooooooooooookaaaaaaaaaayyyy…Let’s get cookies! Go in your house!”

And off she went to her crate.

Just like that! The girl does love her cookies. She got a whole handful. So did everyone else. I’m sure they’re trying to figure out what they did to make that happen.

Next, of course, I had to dispose of the slobber-covered headless corpse. For a half-second (okay, maybe longer), I thought, “This is the grossest thing my dogs have ever done. I should take a picture! And post it on my blog!”

But I didn’t.

You’re welcome.

Posted in Chassie, Stories Along the Journey | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments



I went to the vet two weeks ago because I was feeling puny and had stopped eating. Everybody else looooves Dr. Tate. She may be a talented doctor and a wonderful human being, but I don’t like hospitals, I don’t like being poked and prodded, and I don’t like being confined in a strange place that smells like strange animals. So I don’t like Dr. Tate. At all!

She had to take some blood to try to figure out what was making me feel so awful. It was not pleasant for me, and I made sure it was not pleasant for anyone else, either.

In her notes in my chart, Dr. Tate wrote, “Katie was  fractious today.”


Yesterday, I had to go back to the Evil Vet, even though I was feeling much better and had been eating all of my food for five days. Five days!! And that Evil Person who calls herself “mom” still took me back to the vet!

They thought I was fractious last time, huh? Well, I decided to show them what fractious really means!!


First, I was extremely sweet to Hannah, who took down all the notes about how much better I was feeling and checked me in. Mom made sure to tell them not to scruff me and to take me out of my carrier through the top, not the end. Silly woman thought that would keep me from my Tasmanian devil antics. Ha!

Dr. Tate started her examination, and I started my usual growling routine. I had to step up my game when she tried to draw blood out of my neck. Really? You’re gonna put your hands that close to the mouth of a “fractious” kitty?? After I convinced her that was a bad idea, I thought I was done. But that Evil Vet had another trick up her sleeve. She decided to draw blood from my thigh!

But…I’ve got some pretty strong kickers and I know how to use ’em!!

Drat it all, if Dr. Tate didn’t make off with some of my blood despite my best efforts. But not before I’d horse-kicked her several times and made her hit her head on the surgical lights!! Take THAT, Evil Vet!!


Note from Evil Mom: Katie is on the mend and is most likely recovering from a kidney infection. She does have to go back to see Dr. Tate for at least one more check-up. We’re taking bets on what the adjective of the day will be next time. My money’s on irascible.

All photos were taken by my friends, Teresa and Yasi, who own T&Y PixX Photography.

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Twelve years young…happy birthday, Jool!!

New Year’s Day, 2003, was a bitterly cold day, cold enough to make a little calico kitty follow a stranger and three dogs home on the off-chance she’d get a warm place to sleep for the night.

Despite the fact that my other cat, Katie, immediately and thoroughly hated her…

Despite the fact that I knew next to nothing about cats and would only promise to treat her like a meowing dog…

She decided to stay.

2012_jool with teresa

This morning before I got out of bed, I was recounting the story of her “gotcha day” to her. Jool waited (rather impatiently, because shouldn’t I have been getting up and putting food in the bowl or something?) until the climax of the story…

And then…

With her face about two inches away from mine, she sneezed a big ole juicy sneeze. Gotta hand it to her, that’s one way to get me to get up and give her breakfast!

2012_jool on my shoulder b&w

Happy birthday, Jooly-bear!!

2012_jool in tree 1

All photos were taken by my friends, Teresa and Yasi, who own T&Y PixX Photography.

Update: Why yes, this post was previously called “Thirteen years young…” Apparently, I need to work on my fundamental math skills. Or get more sleep. Or both.

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Snow day!

Ice day, actually. After several hours of sleet, my entire neighborhood is a skating rink. While I have not been brave enough to lace up my snowboots and go for a walk, the dogs are taking the slipping and sliding in stride.

Frankie chased squirrels and generally ran around like it was springtime. I was worried about his bum leg, but I never saw him slip or fall. Yay for physical therapy that works!

Frankie, trying to find that evil squirrel.



JoJo always acts like the snow is no different than grass. And like Linus and his blanket, she is rarely without a toy. This time, it’s the filthiest dog toy in the history of dog toys. You’d think her mom would wash that thing, wouldn’t you? (Pssstt! She’s getting new dog toys for Christmas, but don’t tell her!! Well, they are all getting toys, but she will assume all the toys are hers. I just tell her she has to share and it all works outs.)



My girl has put on some muscle! She weighs the same as always, but she looks much heavier in these pictures. We’re not discussing the ever-increasing white fur on her face. She’s only five and a half, after all.


Ginny and Chassie played their usual stalking game they play each and every time they go outside. So much fun to watch!

They hide behind trees and shrubs and then pounce on each other.


Here’s Ginny, patiently waiting for Chassie to finish her business so they can get on with the game.


And the chase is on!!


Cold weather is really not my cup of tea, but when the white stuff falls from the sky, the resulting landscape can be awfully pretty. I wish I had a better camera because the ice-covered branches along with the last remnants of autumn leaves were breathtaking. I accidentally captured the Evil Squirrels who torment my dogs in this picture. They make fools of JoJo, B’Elanna, and Frankie, who all run around barking long after the squirrels have moved on to the neighbor’s trees.


The Mexican petunias were still blooming three weeks ago, so I had not yet cut them back. They’ll be back next summer, I’m sure. I don’t think anything can kill this plant.


Winter in Texas is nothing compared to real winter in other states. This is about as bad as it gets, usually. But it happens infrequently enough – not even every winter – that it pretty much shuts down the whole place. Cities don’t have the equipment to clear ice-covered roads, so schools and businesses close. We stay home, play in the white stuff, snuggle by the fire, drink hot cocoa, and say prayers of thanks for central heating and flannel sheets. And in my case, also for 60 lb. dogs who nap in my lap and keep me warm and toasty!

Update on the cross stitch project: Finished!! Also? I found my threaded beading needle lying on the floor by the back door. With my eyes, not my bare feet.

Posted in Chassie, Frankie, Ginny, JoJo, Playtime!, Snow Days | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The perils of doing needlework with a dog in your lap

Last night, the biggest little lapdog in the clan was hanging out in the chair with me while I worked on a cross stitch gift. The gift I’m making includes both stitching and beading. I’m coming down the home stretch on this one with only the beading left to do. And I’m encountering a few little snaggles.

  1. Cross stitch needles are large, thick, and rather blunt. Beading needles are small, thin, and quite sharp. I stitch without a thimble. Always have. Did I mention that beading needles are sharp?
  2. To stitch beads into a design, you start the stitch, add the bead on the needle, then finish the stitch. This necessitates having an open container of beads at the ready. I hold the bead container and the cross stitch project in one hand and stitch with the other. This can be a bit precarious if there’s a restless dog in your lap who bumps your hand, causing you to slosh beads all over your lap. This has not happened. Yet. Perhaps I’m testing fate?
  3. Beading needles are small. Did I mention that? Yes? Well, it takes me for-freakin’-ever to thread the dang needle because the teeny-tiny eye is kinda hard to see without going cross-eyed. It takes even longer when there’s a giant head leaning over my shoulder, breathing hot doggie breath down my neck because “Hey! It’s my turn to be petted, Lady!!” Apparently, I do not thread needles well under pressure.
  4. And then there’s the old using-your-dog’s-back-as-a-table thing. Not a big deal when your lapdog is snoozing away blissfully. It’s another story altogether when the snoozing dog suddenly hears barking outside and decides it must be investigated right this instant and all your supplies that were arranged on her back go flying. Which is exactly how I lost my newly threaded beading needle last night. Lost, as in I have no idea where it is. I looked and looked. It’s nowhere. Fortunately, I did not find it this morning when I walked barefoot through the living room. Because, did I mention those beading needles are sharp?
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Can group training work? You betcha. Sometimes.

Over and over, I’ve read that if you have multiple dogs, you should train them individually. If you try to train several dogs all at once, you’re just asking for trouble. And if you try to train one dog at a time while the other ones are right there in the mix, you’re probably asking for trouble, too.

I break this rule. All the time.

Why? Oh, I might have a lazy bone or two. Or, perhaps I’m overly optimistic. Or, I suppose it could be that I’m trying really, really hard to develop that thing called “patience.”

Sometimes, it’s so completely exasperating that I wonder why I’m such an idiot. I make a pinky-swear promise to myself that I’ll never, ever attempt to train my all girls at the same time again.

And then I break that promise. Because sometimes, it’s magical. Like, for example, a few weeks ago when I taught the big dogs “paw.”

It all started when Frankie kept whacking me with his big ole paw. It hurt! I mentioned this to a lady who’s dog-savvy. She said, “Why don’t you put it on cue? Then he’ll stop doing it at inappropriate times and only do it when you ask for it?” Well…duh!! Why didn’t I think of that?!?

So I did a little research on how to teach a dog to put his paw in your hand. It went something like this:

Step 1: Put a treat in your hand and show it to your dog.
Step 2: Close your hand, but hold it close to your dog’s face so he can smell it. He’ll try to get it. First, he’ll use his mouth. When that doesn’t work, he’ll use his paws.
Step 3: Click-and-treat when he raises his paw to your hand.
Step 4: Continue clicking and treating for paw raises, eventually turning your empty hand over and asking for the paw.
Step 5: When the behavior is solid, add the cue.

Simple, right? 

I started with Frankie. The girls were watching very carefully. Because, you know, Mom has a whole lotta treats and how do I get her to give me one?

Frankie learned the whole thing, cue and all, in about five minutes. Maybe less. See? Simple!

Next, I turned to JoJo. She was totally lost. She just sat there patiently waiting for me to GIVE HER THE TREAT ALREADY BECAUSE I’M SITTING, LADY!!!


Next, I tried Chassie. Same response. And Ginny. Exact same response.

Never in a million years did I think I’d ever be typing this sentence: Ginny, Chassie, and JoJo were all too polite to paw my hand. Too polite!

Now, in case you’re new here, “too polite” has never been used to describe these girls. Excitable? Sweet? Exuberant? Energetic? Oh yes. There’s a reason I call Chassie my Tigger dog: she’s bouncy-bouncy-bouncy!

So, I went back to Frankie and we polished the behavior for a couple more minutes. JoJo was watching veeeeeeeery carefully, so I turned to her. “Paw,” I said, and wham! She slapped her paw right into my hand. I thought it might’ve been a happy accident, but no, she had it down.

Next, I worked with Chassie again. She still had no idea what to do. But she wanted those cookies, so she switched to goofball mode. Being cute always gets her some positive attention (she makes me laugh!) and sometimes gets me to give her treats. Finally, she reached up and pawed at me. Click! Treat! A few more minutes, and she had the behavior down, cue and all. Score!!

Next it was Ginny’s turn. And that’s where we hit a snag. Now, Ginny’s not a dumb bunny, but she’s not as quick on the uptake as her sisters are. It was a no-go that day. And the next day. And the next. And the next.

We’ve been practicing intermittently for several weeks now and every time, Ginny just stands there sweetly or sits there looking pretty.

But then…

Out of the blue this week, she put her paw right into my hand! I jumped up and down, squealed with delight, and gave her every single treat I had in my hand. Which was a lot – enough to be a jackpot. But then she wouldn’t do it again.

The next day, same thing. She gave me her paw exactly once and she was done.

A couple of days later, it was an entirely different story. She tried to give me her paw when I was working with Frankie and JoJo. A good sign! She gave me her paw every time I asked her that night.

And now? Well, we just finished a training session and she gave me her paw every single time! It took her a while, but she learned from watching Frankie and her sisters. And they learned from each other.

It is, unfortunately, next to impossible for me to train Callie Sue and B’Elanna when the others are around. Since they’re little, they get shoved out of the way by the big dogs, so they tend to spend the whole training session running around in circles trying to find an open spot to catch a treat. My plan is to work with the two of them together while the others are hanging out in their crates. We’ll see how it goes.

Since I don’t have any training photos to share with you, here’s a picture of B’Elanna, who says, “Hey, I live here too, ya know!”


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