Happy birthday to my beautiful twins!

Six years! It’s hard to believe almost six years have passed since Ginny and Chassie came into my life. All of three months old, they were scrawny, full of parasites, had scaly skin, and coats that felt more like scratchy polyester than puppy fur. But, oh, they had heart!

Ginny and Chassie, soul sisters from the beginning.

Ginny and Chassie, soul sisters from the beginning.

The ensuing years have brought one adventure after another, including some I would prefer to forget, like nearly losing both of them to abdominal obstructions less than six months apart. But, I wouldn’t trade them away for all the money in the world.

Happy sixth birthday, girls!!

Chass (l) and Gin, six months old. Such innocent faces!

Chass (l) and Gin, six months old. Such innocent faces!

Chassie (l) and Ginny, telling me the sprinkler valve broke and oh! what fun they had!

Chassie (l) and Ginny, telling me the sprinkler valve broke and oh! what fun they had!

Still the best playmates!

Still the best playmates!

Chassie, my goofball Tigger dog

Chassie, my goofball Tigger dog

Ginny, my gentle, easy-going girl...except, um, when it comes to puppies.

Ginny, my gentle, easy-going girl…except, um, when it comes to puppies.

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Wordless Wednesday: Playtime!

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Wordless Wednesday: Standoff

Jool and Frankie

Jool and Frankie

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Labor Day Weekend Labors

It was so dang hot this weekend! I hibernate from heat whenever possible, so the girls, Frankie, and I spent the weekend in the great indoors. Frankie and Ginny played endless games of bitey-face. Chassie jumped into the play a time or two. Saturday evening, Frankie got everyone except B’Elanna to play with him – quite a feat!

We awoke this morning to rain. Blessed rain!! And with it, a little bit cooler temperatures. The pups have been able to play outside a little bit more today. I’ll be sweeping up all the mud before I go to bed, but it makes my heart happy for them to be able to play.

And me? Well, I’ve been watching a Doctor Who marathon and finishing up a Christmas gift. Here’s a sneak peek before it’s framed:

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What have you been up to this weekend?

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On being well-trained

When you’re the human in the house, you expect to be the trainer, not the trainee. Alas, that is almost never the case! No matter how much you want to believe that you’re the one in control, that you “wear the pants” in the family, you’re just kidding yourself. Yeah, you may have taught your pup or your kitten a few things. Tricks, polite behavior, avoiding the oh-that-makes-mommy-mad behaviors. But when you have a pet, they’ve trained you as much as you’ve trained them, whether you want to believe it or not.

To wit, my two cats and their eating habits.

Once upon a time, I put food in bowls and it was consumed. Then – in a matter of weeks, I might add – Jool perched herself on top of the refrigerator and stared at me. And I put down whatever I was doing, paused the tv show, and checked her food and water bowls.

Then, I started putting little treats in their bowls, Feline Greenies. Because I believe in being fair, you know, and the dogs get lots and lots of treats, so the kittens needed some, too.

After a while, Katie would stare at me, refusing to eat, until I put the treats in the bowls. Jool was excited to get bonus treats, but since Katie wouldn’t eat without treats, they both got them. A kitty-cat’s gotta eat.

But then…then…I discovered Evo! The kittens loved-loved-loved Evo. They gobbled it up and begged for more. I still gave them treats, but they didn’t care whether they had them or not. That’s how much they loved Evo.

And then an awful thing happened.

Proctor and Gamble bought the company that makes Evo. Yes, the company that makes shampoo, lotion, toilet tissue, tampons, perfume, and detergents bought a pet food company.

You’d think they’d know how to run a company, right? But Natura Pet Products, which had never had a product recall, has had one recall after another due to salmonella contamination in the three years since P&G bought them.

So, I decided to stop buying Evo. The search for a new favorite dry cat food was on. That was at least a year ago. I am currently convinced that no such dry cat food exists. At first, neither Katie nor Jool flat-our refused to eat, but they would subtly let me know that they were not pleased.

This year, they’ve both had to take medicine. Shoving a pill down a cat’s throat is no mean feat, but my cats are fairly easy to pill. Comparatively speaking, of course. To reward them, I put a glob of canned wet food in with their kibble. Their medicine lasted a week, but there was still wet food left, so I continued these little treats until we finished the can.

Oh boy, did I ever set myself up! Here’s what happens now:

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The dry food is already in the bowl. Jool’s staring at me; Katie’s meowing at me.

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“You can add the wet food now.”

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“Waiting on you can be SO exasperating!”

Not only do I have to add wet food before they’ll eat, I have to smoosh it up in the kibble. If I don’t, Jool doesn’t eat the kibble at all.

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Nom, nom, nom...going after the big juicy parts!

Nom, nom, nom…going after the big juicy parts!

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Crunch, crunch, nom, nom, nom …gasp for breath…nom, nom, nom

“There’s some over here on the side!”

“Kinda hard to reach…sluuurp!”

“Okay,”…great big gasp for breath…”I think I’m done.”

Here’s what the leftover kibble looks like:

All of the wet food has been sucked right off!

She sucks the wet food right off and leaves behind this funky, slobbery kibble.

Which I leave in her bowl and add food to for her next meal. Guess I’m not that well-trained after all!

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Wordless Wednesday

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The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Num. 6:24-26)

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Looking for the good

You don’t have to look very hard to find bad in the world, do you? You don’t even have to look as far as the never-ending conflicts in the Middle East. All you have to do is turn on your local news. And even if you’re not a particularly empathetic person, bad news can really get you down.

Last Friday, a 23-year-old Australian man who was attending East Central University in Oklahoma on a baseball scholarship was shot and killed in my hometown. And not just in my hometown, but not very far from where my mother lives. Chris Lane was just out for a jog in a neighborhood that I don’t think anyone who lives there would consider unsafe or even the least bit risky. And now he’s dead.

Teenagers with a bloodlust saw him leave his home and decided to kill him. Just like that.

In 1995, my friend Fabian Dominguez was an off-duty police officer checking out a suspicious car in his neighborhood after a long night of work. Two teenagers and a 20-year-old who fancied themselves “natural born killers” did just that. And Miranda and Michaela grew up hearing about the wonderful person their dad was instead of knowing it firsthand.

So, what do you do when it all just gets to be too much? When bad news hits too close to home? When it feels like the world is going to hell in a handbasket? When all the bad seems to be outweighing the good?

You look for the good.

Like this. (Yes, it’s in Russian, but you don’t have to read the language to get the message. And the music is beautiful. Turn up your speaker volume and let it wash over you.)

And if you look closer to home, you’ll probably find a whole lot of good, too. Here’s some of the fur-filled good in my life, past and present:

Mac & Alex celebrating my birthday with me.

Mac & Alex celebrating my 29th birthday with me.

B'Elanna with one of her favorite toys...before she had a white face.

B’Elanna with one of her favorite toys after she finally learned she was safe and could relax and play.

JoJo with her circle of toys at Aunt Karen's house.

JoJo with her circle of toys at Aunt Karen’s house before she came to live with me.

My little cuddlebug, Jool, not long after she adopted me.

My little cuddlebug, Jool, not long after she adopted me.

Ginny and Chassie, soul sisters from the beginning.

Ginny and Chassie, soul sisters from the beginning.

If your day is looking gloomy, I hope you can look up, look around, and find the good.

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Wordless Wednesday: This is how I feel about my refrigerator right now

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Walking in the dark

I live in a neighborhood that has lovely old-timey-ish street lights at random intervals along the streets. They really are quite nice looking, but they don’t exactly light up the street. In fact, there’s one across the street from my house, but my house, including the sidewalk in front, would sit in pitch dark without my porch and garage lights on. That, combined with pieces of sidewalk that jump up and grab your sneakers (that must be what happens because I am most definitely not a klutz!), makes walking in the late evenings or early mornings rather treacherous.

Enter PupLights. I bought these a couple of years ago and they are every bit as fantastic as the marketing literature says they are. The one for dogs comes with a collar that adjusts to fit just about any dog. The one for humans comes with an adjustable lanyard. The bulbs are powered by three AAA batteries and the bulb housing is adjustable so you can point the light straight ahead or down toward the ground. I adjust mine to point straight ahead and the dogs’ to point down, so they can see what they’re sniffing. I’m absolutely certain that this is imperative and that they are exceedingly grateful.

Here’s what it looks like in use:

Please forgive the lousy photo. Frankie would stand still long enough for me to use the night setting.

Please forgive the lousy photo. Frankie would not stand still long enough for me to use my camera’s night setting.

That’s Frankie’s and my lights together. His is the bright flash right in front of him. Mine is the longer, wider swath of light.

Here’s what it looks like from the front:

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Handsome devil who invariably refuses to look at the camera.

And see? Pointed downward for spotlighted sniffing!

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And here’s what it looks like when you try to use the proper camera setting with an uncooperative dog:

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We’re walking at 5 a.m. now. I just can’t take the evening heat; it’s still in the high 90s at
8 p.m. With a thousand percent humidity. And I never exaggerate. Especially about the heat.

But look! I spy a muscle!!

Slowly but surely, we're building those muscles!

Slowly but surely, we’re building those muscles!

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And the verdict is…

Visiting Dr. Giggleman’s on-campus clinic is always an adventure. Yesterday, I picked an open spot at the end of the room so that B’Elanna wouldn’t have to meet-and-greet a lot of dogs. She prefers to acknowledge another dog’s presence and then move on. Most dogs want to give her the Big Sniff and some dogs want to *gasp!* play with her. She is a fan of neither, so I try to help her out as best I can. We were, however, adjacent to a Doberman who would’ve liked to have had Katie for a snack. Given that, he was actually very well-behaved and only barked at her once. I’m sure that scared the living daylights out of her, but if she has kitty PTSD, she didn’t show it.

I plied her with wet food morsels and B’Elanna with treats while we waited.

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This is not my worried face.

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Neither is this.

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It’s my “Give me the treat!” face. Dr. Giggleman said I had ‘old cocker spaniel’ eyes. Whatever, dude. I still have better abs than you!!

When we were finally in the exam room, the Buglet just did not want to come out of her crate. She pulled her “Pepe LePew’s girlfriend” stunt on me. You know how Penelope just turns into a limp dishrag and slips right out of Pepe’s grasp? The technician sort of motioned to me that I should scruff her. “Oh no-no-no!” I said, “she turns into the Tasmanian devil when you do that!” I moved her crate so I could reach in and scoop her out in all her hissing, growling glory. She calmed down when I sat her down on the baby scale. More wet food morsels and she finally stopped growling at me. Sort of.

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“I’m perfectly happy in here, thank you.”

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“Okay, if I MUST, I’ll stay right here. And for all you haters out there who think I’m fat, I only weigh 10.15 lbs. So there!!”

And then…a horrible racket, the sound of a wild animal about to attack, came from the next room. And of course, Katie freaked out a little bit. B’Elanna and I did, too! There was, actually, a wild animal in the next exam room – a three month old motherless raccoon who was having trouble walking. And was not happy about having his spine adjusted, thank you very much!

After that experience, I figured Katie and B’Elanna would be a piece of cake.

Ha!

While Dr. G looked at her x-rays, I was reading a wall poster (really, I should bring a book to the vet!) when I turned around and Katie was sitting right at the edge of the table staring at me. That could only mean “more wet food, please!” so of course I obliged, well-trained human that I am. It was encouraging to see her acting like her normal self! Alas, it was not long-lived.

Dr. G wanted me to look at the x-rays with him, so I had to go to another room. I didn’t want to risk Katie jumping off the table and I didn’t want to put her back in her crate – and have to take her out of it again – so I scooped her up and took her with me. Bad idea! She hissed and growled and spit the whole time. Sorry, Dr. G!

Dr. Giggleman only saw one other thing on the x-ray than Dr. Tate did. In addition to severely arthritic knees, she also has an arthritic vertebra. (I was wrong about her pelvis – yay!!)

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That little bony spike the arrow is pointing to should not be there. (And did you notice that the poor girl needs to poop?!!)

Otherwise, her spine looked great. It did not, however, feel great. Dr. G explained that while everything looked just fine, when he manually checked her spine, the movement in the vertebrae was not good. He adjusted her from head to tail…and she was pretty darn feisty about it. Fortunately, the good doctor has quick reflexes!

I’ll keep giving her the glucosamine supplements and see if I can get her walking more. Regularly scheduled playtime with Mommy won’t bother her a bit, I’m sure! You can’t reverse arthritis, but supplements and exercise can help.  There are all kinds of medications and supplements you can give dogs to help with arthritis pain and inflammation, but most of the drugs and supplements we give dogs are toxic to cats. Even something as innocuous as salmon oil – which I give to the pups – will cause diarrhea if she gets too much. Um…no thanks! Not fun for the human, not fun for the kitty cat.

This morning, Katie’s walking gate is almost normal. She’s meowing and happy. Mission accomplished!

And B’Elanna? She hid under the chairs most of the time we were in the waiting room. In fact, she was hiding under the chair when a lady came over to say hi to her. This girl was there with a friend and was not dog-savvy. Since B’Elanna was under the chair beside me, I couldn’t see her. The girl, who was crouched down in front of B’Elanna extending her hand, looked up at me, “Will she bite?” I hesitated because I didn’t know how to answer that question. It’s been so long since B’Elanna’s bitten anyone, that I forget that she came to me because she had a bite history. “Well, she tried to bite a little girl once…” I said, and about that time, she snapped and the girl jumped back. The girl was very nice about it, admitting it was her fault and that she was just barely nipped. Still, I didn’t manage that situation very well for my dog or the girl. File that under lessons learned.

B’Elanna got her adjustments like a champ, though. I think she tends to do well when doctors or groomers handle her. But I like to think it helped that I was there doling out the treats. This morning, she’s running and jumping and playing and bossing her sisters around. Another mission accomplished!

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