Beds and Their Inhabitants

Here we see Daisy on the dog bed in Nancy’s office.

Same bed, now inhabited by Pugsy.

The dog for whom this bed was purchased. This is a terrible picture of Riley (there is nothing wrong with his eye, and we do brush him–the ring around his back leg is where the bandaging for his recent surgery rode, and he continues to worry it. His lower leg will appear somewhat thicker once the hair grows back from where they shaved him.)

As you can see from the last photograph, the bed is big enough to comfortably accommodate a 60 pound dog. Daisy weighs somewhere around 12 pounds and Pugsy weighs 20.

If you look carefully at the last photograph you will see a large, unfinished gourd (Nancy’s trash can) and in the very corner of the room a green and white dog bed appropriate for a 12 pound dog. In fact, it came with her. When she sleeps in that corner–which she does often–she crams herself in between the desk leg and the outside of the bed and kind of humps over the orange and white dog toy.

We have eleven dog beds for three dogs. And although they are a ‘bonded pair’, Pugsy is not allowed in any bed that Daisy is already using. (She is ‘allowed’ on his sleeping bed in the bedroom if he is already there.)

Daisy is pretty much allowed wherever she wants to be. The rest of us are allowed to live around her. I still get scolded for moving my office chair when she’s wrapped around the wheels.

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The Road Half-Heartedly Taken

I am uncommonly fond of photographs of cows. This could be misleading; I am not fond of cows. Were I to be wandering in a field and see a herd of cows grazing toward me, I would be immediately trying to decide which is the shortest, most efficient and least-cow-encounter- likely method to leave the field. I would probably never come back. So as annoying as it is, this photograph also includes a necessary element to my study of cows. A fence. I do not have a great deal of faith in cow fences, but I do prefer cow fences to no cow fences. I wrote extensively of my childhood encounters with cows in my first book, Fat Girls and Lawn Chairs, which is now out of print but still available on Kindle.

This blog is not about cows, nor is it about hawking an out-of-print book. It is about those little moments when you realize attitude makes all the difference.

As I’ve blogged in the past, the county closed my favorite road, which was my favorite road because only I and three other people used it. The rights to the land under my road was returned to the individuals who own the fields adjacent to it, and one of those individuals hauled in 6 or 8 cement barriers to plop directly in any path I might choose to ignore his sign, NO TRESSPASSING. I am not feeling kindly toward this individual just now, but then, s/he appears not to be feeling kindly toward me.

The closure of my road has left me desperate to find another rarely-travelled roadway where I can drive 3 mph on the wrong side, studying the roadside weeds for wildlife.

I have found a field a conservation and hunting group filled with wildflowers where I can go, but their intent was to restore this area not as a backyard garden, but rather as a wild meadow. Wild meadows are beautiful. I enjoy looking at it. I do not enjoy leaving my car and walking around in it because wild meadows are filled with raspberry vines and woodbine, both of which trail along on the ground, grab the shoes of unsteady old women and throw them unceremoniously on the ground. To my list of things to be irrationally afraid of (snakes, bugs with more than four legs, attack cows) I have added ‘falling’. I suppose falling in a heap in a field of wildflowers and being unable to get up again is not the worst way to die, but I have made a list of those, too (Ways to Die) and it’s not on it. This field is in the middle of nowhere. I actually prefer places in the middle of nowhere, but I do not want to go down in history as the woman killed by a raspberry runner.

So I went back to the lake road. It’s a road (dirt, owned by someone, I don’t know who.) It goes back to a lake. It is roughly a mile long. When I first discovered it, I thought to myself,

OMG! Nature! Accessible by car!

It has not struck me as so magical lately. I’m not sure why. Perhaps because I’ve been up and down it too many times. Perhaps I’ve discovered all of its wonder. If you follow my blogs, the photograph of the woodbine (aka Virginia Creeper) in all of its scarlet fall glory was taken on the lake road. There used to be more butterflies along the road, as well as dragonflies, both of which I photograph to no end. When I see them.

So perhaps because I am now one-eyed, or because the eye I have left has floaters and requires more light than it once did but less than absolute light which it once could handle and my new glasses aren’t any better than the old ones and….on and on….I just can’t see what I used to see. I now own every piece of camera equipment I’ve ever wanted and I can’ find anything to photograph.

So I was coasting along the outside edge of the lake road on the wrong side, 3 mph, paranoid about sudden traffic and looking for SOMETHING I could take a picture of to make this whole venture worthwhile and I mentally recorded a short brown log lying horizontally in the edge of the woods and just beyond that two wide, brown eyes staring at me, and–way too late to grab the camera or back up–my mind did an autocorrect and said,

“You just drove within ten feet of a frozen doe.”

You did that.

Because there never is and never was any guarantee you’re going to see something wonderful or surprising or worth photographing. Because photography is not about how old you are or how agile you are or how far you’ll travel to find something wonderful.

Photography is about being in the present and paying attention to what is there.

I never would have gotten the perfect shot of that deer. There were trees in front of her. The lighting was wonky. I’ve never had those reflexes. But the point is, I love seeing something I’ve never seen before, or I’ve never seen in that particular light. Without a camera I would probably never stop and look at trees often enough to tell the different between a sugar maple and a white pine. The camera is just a tool. And sometimes that camera takes amazing photographs.

And sometimes it takes photographs of sleepy cows.

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Red, Rude and Brave

This is one of my favorite photographs of all time. (Yes, I’ll give you a minute to ponder. Yes, I know it’s a weed. And a tree branch. and some bokeh (unfocused background.) It contains several of my favorite images; pointy leaves of varying sizes, vines, bokeh, but most of all my friends–it’s red. A beautiful, deep, vibrant red.

That said, I have referred in the past to the aisleway in my workroom/office/craftspace as ‘the hoarder aisle’ so you can imagine how pleased I was , while sorting through boxes with the sole intent of removing, deleting or diminishing objects in my personal space, to find a box that held not one, no three, but 15 copies of this print. All the same print. And then 15 copies of another favorite and another, until the entire box was a series extra prints, all of the same 20 or so photographs.

“Why?” I asked myself. I, who have blogged until you are all tired of hearing of the endless array of photographs I have created, saved, boxed and stored in my lifetime for the eventual delight of whoever inherits my stuff when I’m gone, why would I gather 15 duplicates all in one place?

To do this:

As indeed, ‘this’ is a series of tiny squares of photograph pieces glued to a background to create a sort of quilted effect. All of those many, many duplicate photographs were the raw materials of this project. And where is this project now, you might well ask? Hell if I know. I have another one similar to it hanging on my office wall, but that’s only because I found it however many years later, thought, I wonder how long that took. framed it and hung it.

I’ve never sold one. I’ve only hung one, and that was more a pity hang than a gesture of pride. I don’t think I’ve ever even showed one to anyone else. In fact, I think that happened to the one above is when I finished gluing down the squares the corners sort of popped up, so I found some very narrow black tape and outlined each square. There are several tasks I have learned to drop from my roster of complimentary skills and #1 is Lay Down A Thin Line of Tape…over anything, really. I can’t lay a straight line on anything using any tool if my life depends on it.

So, ever onward, I am…stalling. Collecting, gathering, examining, researching…everything but actually DOING my first stone mosaic. I did break up a ceramic plate. I did arrange the shards in (more or less) the shape of a heart. I did glue these pieces to the stone. I have searched for additional elements to add to the plate bits to kind of…pull the design together.

I spend a lot of time on Pinterest. I have found a ceramic octopus I will buy in a heartbeat the next time I have $1800 to spend on a wall hanging. I’ve purchased a small collection of tiles from various suppliers on Pinterest. Today I bought some beads. The broken plate shards glued to a rock remain on my work table, awaiting a burst of creative courage.

And, yes, in answer to the question have not yet asked (perhaps not even imagined, quite yet:) the plate was red.

I went out to lunch with a friend today for lunch, which is the second time in 14 months I have gone out to lunch with a friend. The first time was last week. Same friend. My friend was marveling to the waitress about how long it had been since she’d been to that particular restaurant and how long it had been since they had seen each other, and as I watched this exchange my own impression was, ‘she has no idea who you are, nor does she care, and I suspect she had has entirely too many conversations with customers about how long it’s been since they last came here Perhaps that time was not been such a marvelous experience for her.’ Anything is possible. Nothing this waitress did after that changed my impression. I’m not sure where she would rather have been, but the realm of possibility seemed almost endless. I have never been a waitress. I have worked at jobs that required a pleasant smile, an even demeanor and a certain discretion in responding to idiots, and I would never try to convince you I have always excelled at that. And I did tip her generously. But when the customer reminds you to bring a menu, just grit your teeth, smile, and bring the menu. Yeah, I know: it’s kind of a no-brainer. Buck up, hon–someday you too will be be 72, hungry, and maybe sometimes a little flakey. We earned it.

And now, the never-ending update:

It would appear that the major obstacle standing between Daisy and a successful crossing of the kitchen floor really was self-confidence and the excess hair between her toes, because we requested a special toe trim and used treats and non-stop encouragement to bribe her, and now she RUNS across the kitchen floor. The night before last, she was One Dog! (As the dogs race out the door for the last out before Greenies, I count them off, One Dog, Two Dog, Three Dog. Usually it is Riley, Pugsy and then, eventually Daisy, but not lately. Lately Daisy is becoming fearless. I forgot and accidentally stroked her butt the other day and she waved her tail at me. I did not get the teeth, in fact, I stroked her butt twice more. Our Daisy is getting brave.

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Almost a Year: Eleven Months

The Littles have lived with us for eleven months now, almost to the date. Pugsy is home, Daisy is as close to home as she will ever be. Riley has accepted his role as pack leader and big brother. The cat’s attitude has improved significantly since we removed the killer rug from the kitchen, which means we offer Daisy even more encouragement to cross the kitchen floor by giving her dried chicken treats which an enterprising stateswoman like Bennie has determined can be snatched from Daisy’s mouth and run away with.

In the beginning I tried referring to them as the Teenie Weenies, but it failed. We call them the Littles. So far we have not stepped on either one of them, although Pugsy’s habit of running around me in circles everywhere I go, crowding up between me and whatever I’m walking past to get by me has put him in occasional danger of being crushed. He spends a great deal of his time patrolling the kitchen floor for food items that might have dropped, which means (among other things) he might be trotting along a half a step ahead of you and then just…stop. Still, he lives. He had has to opportunity to learn some colorful language, these past eleven months, but he is otherwise unharmed.

The photograph above is extremely rare, and the rare thing about it is the direct stare. Although he is by far the most people-oriented dog we have, he is, oddly, the least likely to make direct eye contact.

I was spoiled (again) by our first dogs, our shared dog Murphy, who came to stare at us when she needed something, and Riley, who stares intently into my eyes for everything from, ‘please open the door’ to ‘I love you, Cheryl, you are the best” any anything in between. Annie was nervous about eye contact, but she got over that. Daisy stares at me intently as if telepathy is indeed her only communication skill. Pugsy, by comparison, loves to be stroked, loves to be touched, loves short naps in our laps (we think he over-heats in the long run) love everything about both of us except…looking at us. So it is a quick photographer who catches him head-on.

About every two months Daisy requests a lap sit. It is understood this should be short, although the surface amount of Daisy that can be touched or stoked or lavished affection upon has gradually expanded. DO NOT TOUCH MY HAIR has been modified to TOUCH ME AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. The results remain erratic. At her last beauty appointment we specifically requested they trim the hairs between her toes, and while they assured us they always do, she came home with much tidier feet and she has grown more confident crossing the kitchen floor. (This became a worse problem when the rug tried to kill me and we jerked t out.)

Neither of the Littles are house-trained. Daisy uses pee pads about 75% of the time, but there must be a large supply available, and even then they are sometimes just apparently too far away. Three inches is critical in a small dog. Also, the concept of peeing outside seems…vague, for her. She will spend an hour outside with us in the summer, come in and sigh with relief as she anoints another pee pad.

Pugsy is…not as clear. He was clearly raised with a dog door. We have two, but neither is open because of the cat. So when he needs to pee, he goes out to the kitchen, but this involves no real need to alert the door guards. Also, he goes to the kitchen to forage for food, inspect the cat, check the back door for signs of recent invations and sometimes just for the exercise. If we happen to walk toward the back door when he needs to go out he will run to the door and poke his nose right up next to it. If he lived with a professional cook, this would probably work for him but sadly, he does not. And because he does not like direct eye contact, he lacks Riley’s ability to get that door to open on demand. (He also never paws, never whines, never bumps into us and never barks sharply a specific bark we privately refer to as ‘stupid human!’)

We try to put them out every two hours. However interestingly enough, they are capable of alerting even me to the need to go outside in the evenings. When Nancy and I are relaxing and watching television, The Pom Dance begins. It is hard to miss a pom dance. It starts with a particularly noisy trip t the water bowl in the next room. The pom then returns, stops in the living room doorway, affixes her attention on Cheryl and STARES. Intently. With absolutely rapt attention. If that fails, the pom begins dancing in the middle of the living room floor. She throws her head, she snorts, she snuffles, she looks a little like she might be having some sort of seizure. If that fails, she pees–usually on a pad–prodigiously as if the say, “I warned you.” This occurs every 90 minutes without fail. When the Pom Dance begins, the Pugsy Parade soon follows and this activity apparently awakens Riley from his slumber and soon we will have the the Golden/Lab/Beagle chorus of snorts and sighs and huffs and humpfs. This is Greenie Time, the very best time to go outside, mill on the back step for 2.5 minutes, then race back in the house for the Greenies and treats.

They used to go out around 11pm.

Last night the Dance, the Parade and the Chorus were in full swing at 9 pm.

We figure by the time they’ve been with us for a year, we’ll all be going to bed at 6pm.

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I achieved a new milestone yesterday. One of those life adventures…well, actually one I’ve always said, “Oh, lord, don’t let that happen to me…”

The photograph above is an older photo of Daisy. We’ve changed her hairstyle a little since then. Now that she has a monthly beauty appointment, she doesn’t look quite so straggly.

When Daisy came to live with us the first thing we discovered was she cannot walk on a laminate floor. She’s terrified of the floor, she slips, she slides… Like good dog parents, we dug out every rug we have so she had a broken path from one end of the kitchen to the other. And we lived that way for months.

All of those months were Covid months. It probably doesn’t matter, but they were. The gym was closed. We hauled up a reclining stationary bike from the basement,, but it was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever been on and I noticed eventually that Nancy was good at walking around it, and finally we admitted we both hated it and sent it back to the basement.

We could have taken up walking, but many of those Covid months were winter, and every year of my life brings me more respect for the destructive powers of ice.

And the excuses went on. I haven’t taxed a muscle in probably a year.

I don’t even stretch them.

And I began to notice silly things. Like…my sense of balance can just check out of service anytime.

My feet aren’t always where I put them.

And the rugs on the kitchen floor began to conspire against me.

This is a sign of old age, I thought to myself, and that alone kept me from dealing with the situation for a long time.

Yesterday I was at the kitchen sink, I stepped back, and either my sense of balance went to Bimini or I tripped on the rug. Whichever one it was, I went from standing up the lying flat on my ass in a narrow galley kitchen. I hit nothing. I don’t even have a bruise, and I bruise easily.

So I was lying there on my back on the kitchen floor and a question just popped into my head. The question was, “how do you plan to get up?”

The last time I got up off the floor I hurt myself in ways I’d never previously imagined, and all of those ways are experiencing a resurgence of bodily dissatisfaction right now. My shoulders both hurt if I pick up a glass–forget hauling my ass upright.

So we called the fire department and they sent over two firemen in full flame attire, one blocked my feet, one wrapped his arms around my chest and picked up up. I was standing up before I realized he’s actually gotten serious about the project, so I was sitting on the floor, thinking OH JESUS DO NOT DISLOCATE THIS MAN’S BACK RIGHT NOW and it was over. He survived. I should send him a case of thank-you Bengay.

We thanked them. They left. Nancy and I compared war stories about that rug, which is the rug determined to kill us both and the rug Daisy is standing on in the photograph above.

And we fired that rug. Out, Out, Damned Rug.

So now we are training Daisy how to traverse a laminate floor.

We are good dog parents. Yes, we thrash her once in a while with a stuffed turtle–but there are two of us and one of her, we can pick her up if we have to and she can’t pick up either one of us, and we live in a small town with a limited number of available firemen with good backs.

Anyway. We’ve found treats help.

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The Training Turtle

One of my sisters lives 40 miles from me, and one lives…give or take, 800 miles away. So about once a year my local sister and I discuss the many ways we could traverse the Great Divide (dragging along as many of our toys as possible) to go fifty miles short of the Atlantic Ocean to visit New Bern, North Carolina and our middle member of the sisterhood. Both of my sisters are quilters (I am not, although I have collected fabric in my lifetime). Each time we arrive, The Middle Among Us has presented us with gifts. One of those gifts was a stuffed turtle.

I love my turtle. It lives in a rope basket beside my office chair. For a long time it has lived there without purpose other than to be loved.

As a minor digression, however, let me to refer to the above photograph where, if you are a normal person, you first saw not a stuffed turtle, but a particularly tough-looking street dog in a skirt. He is, in fact, a Dog in Drag. I have had him for years. This should tell you something about me.

How I acquired a Dog in Drag: years ago I was owned by a fluffy, arrogant red tabby by the improbable name of Babycakes. (It was a book title by Armistead Maupin, not a term of endearment.) He was voted The Cat With The Most Inappropriate Name nineteen years in a row, with honorable mention for year twenty. How would you describe Babycakes? The word ‘surly’ comes to mind. He loved me. The rest of the world was…unnecessary. Being cat-owned, however, freed me from having to think about any other distractions until my partner’s daughter was struck ill with an ugly, long-term illness that brought her–and consequently her two dogs–to our house. One dog looked at Babycakes, said, “I’m going to go sleep in bed with my owner, close the door please” and that was that. The other dog, Murphy, opened a whole can of worms that led to my periodic friendship with her, and eventually, to the ownership of my own dog. In the meantime, Murphy received periodic toys from her mistress in the form of Dogs in Drag, which were stuffed dogs3-4 inches tall. Part of their stuffing was catnip. (And I do keep forgetting that.) When presented with a DID, Murphy would pin her victim to the floor with one paw and systematically de-seam them. Her work was fine and meticulous, until the DID presented as several pieces of fabric and a weedy little pile of stuffing.

A kindly woman, Nancy’s daughter presented Babycakes with what was, essentially, a cat toy.

But I liked it.

BC liked little plastic balls he could bat across the room, too–I still have several of them, although he left me several years ago, because as pleasing a s little plastic balls can be, they lose much of their charm when you step on one barefoot.

I saved BC’s DID from Murphy’s dissections as well. I don’t know why. It wasn’t expensive. She gave it to the cat. I just…save things.

So the years went by, dogs and cats and daughters came and went, and eventually I discovered Daisy loves small, soft squeaky toys. So I gave her BC’s DID.

Except, yes. The DID is not a squeaky toy, it’s a catnip delivery system, which led to a particularly ugly standoff between Bennie, who discovered the DID in Daisy’s corner, and Daisy, who had just returned from a trip outside.

But yes: I still have the cat toy for a deceased cat.

But, back to the turtle.

So the turtle reclined in my cloth basket with nothing specific to do in what eventually became Daisy’s corner. (She has a corner by Nancy’s desk, as well.) Daisy has a wonderful corner. It has a metal lamp base to curl around, a big dog bed, a small crate liner (in the picture it’s white and holding the training turtle) and a ditch between all of these objects where Daisy actually sleeps.

When she is not sleeping wrapped around my chair wheels.

Trying to get Daisy to unwrap herself from my chair wheels so I can move has become problematic. It makes her angry to wake up. It makes her angry to have to move. It makes her angry that I move my chair. I’ve tried stroking her with my hand, but she’s still angry, and she bites, and while she doesn’t bite hard, I try not to encourage that behavior. So when I absolutely need her to move, I beat her with the training turtle.

It’s big (in her world.) It’s soft. More than anything else, I think it’s just annoying. And it gives the turtle a sense of purpose. And it amuses me, in some warped way, to say, “Well, it’s time for another training session,” and turn start beating a 12 year-old, 12 pound Pomeranian with a stuffed turtle.

Nancy has threatened to call the store where we picked up the dogs and say, “this is what my partner does to these dogs.” (I don’t do it to Pugsy. He would be mortified. Turtle beatings are for the hard-headed, ‘no, you’re confused, I own this corner’ little dogs.)

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Distribution Is A Problem

This is last month’s picture of Daisy. Since then we’ve trimmed the fringe off her ears, making her look tidier. We don’t do that: we put her in the car, drive her about six blocks to the groomer and walk in, carrying to dog out in front of us, saying, “Sorry…sorry….sorry…she won’t let us near her with a brush.” In the beginning she came home and gave us warning barks for breathing the next several days, but recently she comes home and she struts.

Otherwise life on our city farm goes on. The three surviving hens peck on the back door for their afternoon treats. If you go out with the dogs and sit in lawn chairs, Small will jump up in your lap. She will tolerate a hand stroke or two before she jumps down, although her interest is more directly related to treats than to affection from humans. Nancy said she has two treats she gives the hens, dried mealworms (which are pure protein and extremely good for them) and crack (cracked corn.) True to the overall philosophy of their owners, they much prefer the crack to food with actual substance to it.

Now that we are vaccinated (and the infection rate has dropped in our home state) Nancy and I have ventured out of the house (masks still at the ready.) We went to a Joann’s Fabric store store in Goshen (Indiana has a lower infection rate and is about 12 miles south of us) and we went to a bead store, The Enchanted Bead, in Coloma. The Enchanted Bead is a wonderful store. Last year it was a stuffed garden shed and I loved it then, but this spring she opened a storefront downtown. I had to go inspect (and acquire black bugle beads for a project.)

And my group, Photography and Beyond, has a show coming up in March 2022, so we got together in a back yard by the river and talked for hours, making up for all the meetings we have missed since Covid shut us down last March. It was wonderful, but as we talked we realized we all suffer from the same crafters’ and artists’ dilemma. As Nancy puts it, “Distribution is a problem.” A year ago I took up dirty pour painting. Smeared canvas after canvas with oddly-mixed acrylic paint, artfully (but not necessarily ‘skillfully’0 poured…. And then you look at the canvases you have and the available wall space, and the 30 or so blank canvases you bought to keep up the good work, and you think, “What am I going to do with all this stuff?” I’m a little old to haul it around to art shows and I’m losing my charm. So I’ve boxed up 30 blank canvases, donated them to the Carnegie Art Center, which has art programs for kids (or will, if we ever get rid of Covid) and washed my hands of the whole affair.

But. One of us had recently taken up making garden stones.

(Yes. She makes stones.)

Actually she doesn’t: she takes ordinary rocks and she glues tiles and other bits and pieces on them, grouts them, and sets them artfully around her garden. Which, is nothing else, requires far less wall space. We decided our next show would be named “Paths’, and we will all unite to create garden rocks.

Which reminded me that several years ago I took up making sea glass as a hobby. Truthfully it would have worked better, had I had a sea in the back yard, but a lot of bottles, a hammer and a rock tumbler works marvels. So I squired a whole lot of misshapen frosted glass bits which I thought would make beautiful jewelry. It is pretty. It’s also heavy, and in the end it wound up in a lot of boxes in my storage, which is too full of pointy sea glass and acrylic paint with air bubbles in it to be useful to me.

But I could glue my sea glass to rocks…

So now I have a four pound bag of sanded grout, a package of pre-cut mosaic glass tiles, half a pound of glue…one rock about the size of a potato…

We’ll see where it goes. But wherever else it goes, it has one thing going for it–the finished product was designed to go outside.

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Insert Cool Photo Here

I am not averse to learning. I’m not. I actually enjoy learning new skills.

So I have a Samsung cell phone which for reasons I do not understand, feels compelled to download every photograph I take with it into google photos. I never told it to do that.

For instance, I have 7 photographs of Daisy’s recent haircut on google photos.

And, according to the internet, you can download google photos onto WordPress. You need a program called ‘Jetpack’.

I’ve never heard of Jetpack before.

Before I start downloading program onto my computer, I need information. For instance, if I go through all these steps to download google photos onto WordPress, will I ever be able to download photos I took with my actual camera onto WP, or will that programming just disappear into the mists of Used-to-Be? Why do I need ANOTHER program to do what google allegedly does? Why is it the smaller my CPU gets, the more complex moving from one program to the next seems to get?

Anyway. I have cute photos of Daisy’s new do. I can’t show them to you because Bill Gates had devoted his life to making me look incompetent. He’s doing a fine job.

As I sit here typing Pugsy is in the car with Nancy, taking our frostbitten ‘bamboo’ to the landfill (it’s a weed,, it volunteered to grow in our yard, it looks like bamboo to people who have never seen bamboo.) and Daisy is sleeping in a pile a safe distance from my feet, which just a few minutes ago accidentally landed on her because I was in my rolling chair… You’ve heard this story before.

Bennie the cat is pacing the house, howling plaintively because Nancy left the house and Life as We Know It is over. None of us know why she does this. Of all of us living in the house she likes Nancy best, but they have the classic ‘you failed me again’ cat/human relationship. They spend a lot of time discussing what kind of food Bennie might like today. Nancy usually gets it wrong. Bennie is not much of a lap cat during the daylight hours and at night she sleeps on me because I do not have that annoying habit of moving so much. I am useless to her during the daytime. No value whatsoever.

The hens are outside, petitioning for treats which were due…half an hour from now. Sometimes they peck on the back door, but so far today they’ve just been singing under the open windows.

Riley must be piled in a dog bed in the bed room. I haven’t seen him for a while.

I opened the windows today so there is a breeze ruffling Daisy’s hairs.

She has lived with us since June 21, 2020. We were a difficult adjustment for her. She would come up to us, she would appear to be laughing, and we would lean over, ruffle her ears and then PICK HER UP. No, no, no. I have yet to determine whether she really is that fragile, or she just screams to scare us. We tried for a while to get her acclimated to sitting in our laps, but not only does she shriek when we pick her up, she thrashes and screams when we put her down. Sometimes, on VERY rare occasions she will sit quietly in our laps, but for the most part she remains as still as a board, waiting for us to drop her. She is 11 or 12 now. She might be a little old to learn new skills.

She has begun to relax in our home, after all this time. She allows herself to glance into the laundry room, where all the big, noisy machines live. She passes the laundry room door every time she goes in or out of the house, but only recently has she allowed herself to look.

Not thinking, I was outdoors with the littles yesterday, she came up to me, and I patted her on the butt affectionately. I did not get the teeth. In fact, she just stood there, being petted. This is new; the old rule has always been DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR.

When she first came here I had visions of having to carry her to the back door for every ‘outside’. She was terrified of: the floor, the dishwasher, the dishwasher door, the cat, the oven door, the refrigerator door, the water bucket and the Huge Machines in the laundry room. She would all but belly-crawl through the kitchen and if ANYTHING moved she scurried back to a safe place. But–she likes going outside (as long as water does not fall on her hairs.) The other day she ran the whole length of the kitchen and hall, not because she was afraid, but because she was eager to go outside.

She is braver every day. More sure of herself.

Once a month we take her to the groomers and we say, “we’re sorry—we’re really sorry, but she never bites hard…” When Nancy gets her “going to the groomer’ look, Daisy runs to the Conservatory to hide. But when she comes home… She used to come home and snarl at us for even looking at her.


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Our Friend, Small

This is our friend Small. This particular photograph is on the far end of the friendship spectrum; it is not uncommon for Small to jump up into Nancy’s or my lap, but being stroked, however affectionately, is pushing her limits. She is much more comfortable on the ground around our feet, experimentally tapping my shoes or beaking me in the shins. But of the three hens we have left, Small is by far the most sociable.

Her name is Small because in the batch of pullets she came with there were two barred rocks, and the other was bigger. (Her name was Large.) She also came with a Rhode Island Red and an Astralorp named Lorp, who was their unquestionable leader. Sadly over tme we have lost both Large and Lorp, leaving us with Small, who is now the flock queen, and Red, who has never led anyone anywhere. Lorp went broody on us so Nancy ordered fertilized eggs on Amazon from Georgia for her, Lorp sat on them until they became chicks, and she raised them to be well-behaved and productive hens in our flock. Sadly, the only survivor of the that clutch is Cuny. So we have currently Cuny, Small and Big Red.

Cuny has on occasion fluttered up to stand on Nancy’s knee (Nancy is the flockkeeper; I’m just some human who shows up in the back yard now and then.) Cuny has no patience with foolishness like hand stroking, no, no, no.

Big Red will come up to us and launch some fascinating conversations with us–she sings, she chirps, she purrs–but she is a hen with both feet firmly on the ground.

This is Cuny, standing on the ladies’ gym and rest station. Cuny is suspicious of odd sounds, like the click of a camera lens. You’ll note her expression is somewhat accusatory.

This is Big Red and her sister/hen, Small. I find the water in their dish (they have at least 3 water supplies in the back yard) a little nervous-making, but Daisy has assured me it is the very best water anywhere. She is forced to go outside and fill up on green water regularly during the day because the water offered in the house is…wet.

We (Nancy and I) have been sheltering in place or whatever that phrase is for 13 1/2 months now. We are both vaccinated, but the rate of infection in Michigan is the highest in the US, so venturing out into the world remains a bad idea. We used to have lists of places we would go when the plague expires. Now getting dressed, combing our hair, polishing our social skills seem like…to much work, maybe. I had a meeting with friends yesterday that perished in the paltry snow that fell upon our meeting place, and I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or relieved.

In the meantime I’m beginning to understand more and more of what the chickens say. I think that’s good.

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Because He’s Fat

Pugsy, pictured above, is a Chug, a chihuahua/pug mix. He is eight years old. He has lived with us for nine months. He has settled in. He’s home. His only worry (and Pugsy can become a bundle of worry) is that Nancy or I keep leaving the house. Without him. Recently, often with Riley and his frequent visits to the vet. If we would all just stay home where we’re supposed to be, Pugsy’s life would be nearly perfect.

Well. Except he’s a chug. Because he is half pug, half chihuahua, he has many of the issues of a short-nosed dog. He reverse-sneezes. He coughs. His trachea is not properly shaped and apparently can collapse. He is not a relaxing pet for an asthmatic with COPD. On a good night he coughs sporadically through the night. Last Wednesday night he coughed a loud, honking, pulls-at-the-guts cough for over an hour straight. It was so bad that when he finally stopped I thought, “he’ suffocated. He’s dead.’ So I called the vet. (Well. He wasn’t dead yet, so I called the next morning.)

Pugsy’s vet (who is also Riley’s vet and Daisy’s vet) and I have a long-distance Covid relationship. I’ve never seen her. I suspect somewhere in Pugsy’s file is the notation ‘owner is a hypochondriac’. She has explained the mechanics of Pugsy’s windpipe and nasal issues every time we’ve discussed Pugsy. We also discuss his weight. Pugsy is fat. Pugsy is fat because Pugsy is a living, breathing Hoover of crumbs, scraps, and backyard treasures. We put him on a diet, he runs out to the chicken coop and eats chicken food (which is SO good for him.) He weighs 20 pounds, which is what he weighed when we got him. (He has since lost and regained a few pounds, misleading his vet and her expectations.)

So Nancy took him to the vet. His appointment was four days after I called and I was convinced either the dog or I would die of nerves before that happened, so we went to the internet and looked up natural remedies. And yes, indeed, you can give dogs a little honey mixed with coconut oil to soothe a cough. We did., It did. The only soul unsoothed was the vet’s because we were spoon-feeding our dog sugar and old wives’ tales. I diagnosed his malady as a collapsing trachea, she diagnosed it as kennel cough (against which I had assumed she vaccinated him) because there are other dogs in the neighborhood that breathe. So she felt he had gotten better not because we soothed his cough, but because he was healing. She gave him some cough drops. (Well, she didn’t ‘give’ them to him…)

One of the contributing factors to his illness, she said, was the fact that he’s fat.

Spoiler alert: Nancy and I have both been women of significant substance most of our adult lives. We go to our own doctors who diagnose almost every illness and malady we have suffered as being the result of being fat. apparently skinny people never get sick.

I am not claiming that being overweight is not a health risk. I get it. I am claiming that being over-weight is not the ONLY health risk husky people may face in life. Or, for that matter, husky dogs.

Found on the internet:

How do you know if a chihuahua has a hypoplastic trachea?

  • One of the most common signs of a collapsing trachea is a ‘goose honk’ cough. The cough is dry and usually comes after a dog has been active, excited, or quickly drinking water. If your Chihuahua starts to sound like a goose on occasion, he probably has a collapsing trachea.

Quote, endquote. That’s for a chihuahua. I assumed his problems all stemmed from the pug side of his family. Also, note nowhere in that does it list being ‘fat’ as the reason a chihuahua coughs or honks like a goose. Also note Pugsy coughs most often after he’s been active, excited or quickly drinking water. I do not pretend to be a vet. I do not automatically take the word of an article published on the internet over the word of a trained professional. I’m just saying…we live with the dog, you see him for ten minutes maybe three times a year.

Anyway. His cough is better. And (she chuckles) to get him to take his cough meds, I give him an additional (small) square of cheese.

Updates: Until last night Riley had achieved a donut-free, bandage-free, lick-boot-free life. He looked like a dog again and not a shipwreck survivor. He has also trained himself to report to Nancy’s office after Greenie time for the final inspection of his legs, which Nancy and I foolishly thought we could dispense with, now that he was healed. So each night we follow him into the office and we fondle all of his legs, praise him for excellent leg production and maintenance…and discovered, last night, a budding lick granuloma on his surgical leg not where the surgery was done, but on the spot where the lick boot and the bandaging rubbed. So he got another bandage over the bandaging wound and went happily to bed, knowing he had been properly attended to, while we shook our heads and muttered, ‘we’re probably always going to be bandaging something on this dog.’

Daisy got a new haircut Saturday. They trimmed her ears and shaped her coat, which they must have fluffed, so now even Daisy looks fat. She’s adorable. She had grudgingly learned most of a new command, which is ‘move’ and which requires her to untangle herself from my chair wheels and go lay on her bed (or beyond) when I want to get up. It works better sometimes than others. I was showing Nancy the other day but there was a glitch in my methodology and I was forced to rely on my training aid, which is the stuffed turtle I beat her with to get her to move. (It’s a very soft turtle. It’s more annoying than anything else. I could use my hand, but I’d get the teeth.)

Bennie has taken up escaping. She lies in wait for the exodus of the slow dog, having observed that Daisy always takes longer to get to the back door and once there, often stalls out on the back step before fully leaving the house. This gives a dirt-colored cat the golden opportunity to sneak out the back door and low crawl to something she can hide behind. I have no idea why, in this, her fourteenth or fifteenth years, has become a goal worthy of determined pursuit.

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