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Posts Tagged ‘Pets’

People often ask me if I put up a Christmas tree. I used to put up a beautiful live tree each year, but haven’t in a while. Time being one of the reasons, but over the years, pets became another reason. Have pets influenced your decisions about a tree?

A friend and neighbor, in the face of my treeless status, offered me a small one she had and no longer used. Of course, I have a bazillion ways to trim it collected over the years, but I also had easy access to a few things. There it is, on my oak bench where I can enjoy it when I journal, read, or soon … write rather late Christmas cards.

A very dear friend of mine has a saying which I have now incorporated into my vernacular – “Something is better than nothing.” And indeed, I find it true. It’s small, but it’s something. I find myself fairly mesmerized by this little stranger which reminds me of many Christmases gone by. I like just sitting near it. Funny how deeply ingrained our memories can be.

The good thing is that Jazzy, unlike previous pets, has not decided to pull it over or de-trim it. The first of my beloved pets to have me reconsider the wisdom of having a tree was Mewsette. As is true with many felines, she did her best work at night, and every morning I would come down to find at least the bottom tier of ornaments missing, some broken. OK, let’s just put unbreakable ones on the lower branches. It minimized breakage but didn’t affect one iota my having an ornament scavenger hunt each morning. The final result? Nothing detachable at the bottom of the tree. Not very pretty.

Then we had Chloe, one of my pair of sweet pittie girls. Chloe was determined to see if she could possibly squeeze in the corner behind it. I would come into the room with her shmushed behind the tree, tail wagging off ornaments. Nothing I could do would discourage her efforts. Yet another strike against the concept of having a tree, especially on the occasion when she knocked it over.

Shut the animals out of the room, you say? Who wants to be in the living room, tree all aglow, without your fuzzy ones to keep you company? Or chase them in and out? Eventually, I just gave up. There have always been little spots of Christmas all over the house which, on the whole, none of them ever paid any mind. But this little tree? Perhaps it is my toe into the waters of real trees.

Or maybe this is just perfect for me.

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We can easily be unaware or forget how strong kids have to be sometimes, or to remember how strong even we needed to be at certain points growing up. I don’t know anyone who had a totally blissful childhood, and even those who claim to have had one? It becomes apparent in further conversations or getting to know someone better that that’s the way they prefer to see it or maybe need to see it. We all have had our share of problems and pain growing up – some more, some less.

AlmostHome-JBauer2But if we were lucky, we had something or someone to hold onto – a best friend, a pet, a trusted teacher or adult, or a passion that saved us. And that was the saving grace of Sugar Mae Cole.

Reading Almost Home by Joan Bauer, reminded me of how some kids need to be the strong ones, maybe even the parents, when really all they want and need is their parents to take care of them. In this middle grade novel, Sugar and her mother Reba found themselves evicted and homeless. Sugar’s father, who she refers to as Mr. Leeland, failed repeatedly to be responsible to his family, gambling all their money away instead. Sugar, 12 years old, got it. Her mother, in her delusion, still believed he was their knight in shining armor who was always going to come through, but never did.

The story at first reminded me of Jeannette Wall’s The Glass Castle, her autobiography, in which her mother always believed that everything was going to turn out just fine.  She chose to see and never failed to point out the bright side in everything to her children even though they were suffering horribly. In either case, being the adult is a lot to ask of a kid when one or both parents aren’t grounded in reality.

Almost Home was a great story that drew me in the more I read. Sugar accepted a puppy name Shush from another little girl who foisted him upon her because her father was abusing him. Shush became an important constant in Sugar’s life, as pets often do for a child. The unconditional love offered by an animal is a phenomenally powerful form of healing. Sugar had something else – she wrote. She wrote poetry about what was happening in her life, and she wrote thank you letters to people frequently. She believed in the sweetness in life, though she found herself often struggling to find it during this time. She also had a teacher who believed in her and kept in touch even though Sugar and Reba had moved away.

What made this story such a winner is that I could easily relate to Sugar. I’m sure her reading audience does as well. One doesn’t have to be homeless to understand conflict and loss. Holding on to your dreams and hope in the midst of it all is the challenge, and getting to know this young heroine who wasn’t about to give up is what made this read so worthwhile.

 

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When we cease to learn, we truly cease to be alive. Along the way, here are a few things I’ve learned:
* If I leave my Sunday paper on the sidewalk where the delivery people toss it long enough, even though that’s all of 20′ from my front door, someone will definitely take it.
Claude-On-Sidechair3* If I don’t keep an eagle-eye on how much water Claude drinks while I’m making coffee/preparing their breakfast and meds – because who knows, maybe last evening was really his last meal EVER – he is sure to anxiously consume copious amounts and promptly throw it up in the only appropriate place, the w/w carpeting upstairs.
* If the barometric pressure changes overnight, I will wake up with a sinus/migraine headache and there is no way of heading it off the night before.
* Having a sufficient supply of eggs, milk and bread on hand is always comforting.
* No matter how nasty symptoms from a virus/cold/flu are, eventually they subside and move out. (The catch is trying to remember that while in the middle of it when all you want to do is sleep until it’s over.)
* The unconditional love of animals is a soothing balm to whatever ails the mind, body and soul.
CloudySunnySky2* Temperatures in the single digits eventually become double again.
* Behind the clouds, fog or overcast skies, the sun is always shining and will bathe us in warmth soon enough.
* Buried in the symptoms that make us feel like crap when we’re ill is always the opportunity to learn, (yet again), that we are always safe and loved no matter how we feel. A challenge, yes, but still an opportunity.

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Home, Sweet Home

This may not look much like Home, Sweet Home, but to this tired kitty it most surely is.

In what amounted to two sleepless nights and endless stress for mama, it was what looked like a near brush with death for Gypsy Rose. In the morning, she started staggering, falling over and had no focus whatsoever. She was not in control of any of her movements. But by the time I left for the vet, Gypsy was sitting, looking at me as if nothing had happened.  Despite a thorough exam, there’s not much to diagnose if everything checks out normal. Perhaps a petit mal seizure, considering Gypsy had experienced similar neurological issues about 9 months ago.

Back home. About 5 hours later, imagine that episode times 5. Unable to stand, nystagmus (rapid back and forth eye movement), and head shaking, Gypsy no longer recognized me. Panicked, with my vet no longer available, I called a friend who suggested her own vet. My friend, bless her heart, came and got Gypsy and badly shaken me and took us there. Gypsy Rose was admitted with no sure diagnosis. A brain tumor or cancer could not be ruled out.

Unable to sleep, I ran the gamut of possibilities – from finding Gypsy passed over in the night at the vet’s to her showing improvement. I was/am totally unprepared to lose another cat after having lost two in the last 5 months. But I couldn’t know if it was her time to go or not. I prayed for Gypsy’s highest and best and that I would know what to do for her.

This morning, two days later, I was told Gypsy was wobbly, but walking, the nystagmus had stopped, and she had begun to eat and drink on her own. I brought her home with her medications. As to what is really going on with her only an $1800 MRI will definitively diagnose. The vets and I have opted for symptomatic treatment.

Gypsy can’t be left alone too long right now. She walks a bit like a drunken sailor, but made a beeline to the water bowl in the kitchen and drank a good long time. She wanted to go upstairs and be under the daybed. I brought my coffee and the book I’ve been wanting to read for days.

So now, with a soft westerly breeze coming in the window, sunshine and blue sky, I lie about 2′ away from her on the floor, reading. Gypsy Rose has closed her eyes and is purring in her sleep. It’s the music I’ve been needing to hear, and in this moment, all is blissfully well.

Losing a loved animal is to lose a part of one’s heart. She and I have been blessed with another chance.

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Times come in our lives when we are ready to open our hearts and homes to a new animal. But how do we know which is the right one for us? The one that is truly meant to be ours?

A little over 13 years ago, one of my two pit bull terriers passed away from complications of cancer. She had been starved and brutally abused. She’d had a very high prey drive and was dog aggressive, but she thrived in my care, and in time, also did so with my other pit bull terrier, Chloe. Chloe was at the opposite end of the spectrum; she truly loved ALL animals. With Chloe then twelve years old, I wanted her to truly enjoy her golden years with me and without the competition of another dog. But I knew she’d love a cat, and I began my search.

Every day that I was at work in the large city shelter, I took my lunch time to look at the over 200 cats awaiting adoption, asking that I please be shown the cat that was meant for me. That cat wasn’t there. Or at least not yet. Not so coincidental to this story, by the way, was the fact that in the office adjacent to mine, worked a lovely man in his 60’s. He was about 5’4″, and his wife was about 4’11”. They were a petite and adorable couple, totally devoted to each other from the days of their young marriage. I told him how happy it made me to see a couple still so in love. He told me it was bashert, i.e., “meant to be” in Yiddish. What a perfect word, I thought, and how perfectly fitting for them. I, too, was on the lookout for bashert, but on a much smaller scale.

One day in early August, I needed to go into work on my day off. Traffic on my usual route was at a standstill, so I took the back way through the neighboring town. As I drove over the familiar railroad bridge, I passed what looked like a crumpled piece of paper, but intuitively I knew better. I backed up and spotted a 5 week old tuxedo kitten, waiting to be hit by a car or plunge to his death 100 feet below.

I managed to catch the terrified and elusive kitten, brought him to the medical department for a gentle baby bath for fleas, and then to my office. Too young for inoculations, he wouldn’t fare well in a shelter with so many animals, so I decided to foster him until he was stronger – in my office on workdays, otherwise, home with me. He was so tiny, I was afraid he’d got lost or stuck in the house, so I set him up in my bedroom in a large Great Dane crate, complete with bed, blanket, litter and food and water. He screamed bloody murder.

The next evening the same. I closed the bedroom door and let him out. He made a beeline for a comforting spot under my Chloe’s chin. Mom! For two more weeks I followed this routine, everyone suggesting I keep him. My reason for not wanting to do so was that everyone will adopt a kitten; I would take a middle age or senior cat, a bonded pair, a cat with feline leukemia, i.e., a hard-to-place cat. Someone would surely fall in love with him quickly.

Then it happened. I looked at this very verbal little pipsqueak of a kitten, nestled with his new adoring mom, and found myself saying things like, “Now appearing in the Shakespearean production of I Claudipuss ….” or coaxing him with Monsieur Claude, or “Where’s my Cloudy Paws?” You get the picture.

I had asked to be shown the cat that was meant to be mine, and it had nothing to do with what I thought I wanted, but everything to do with who needed me. And so we need to be open to our choices in animals. I do believe every animal that I have had was truly meant to be mine. Perhaps I saved his or her life, perhaps in some other way, she or he saved mine. Animals are our teachers and guides, and may come to us in the most unexpected species, breeds, time and manner. They may be brought to us, or we to them, but we must always listen to our hearts.

Today that teensy feral kitten is a long and lanky 16 pound cat with tuxedo markings, but with all the features of an Oriental breed – short, smooth coat, long face, body and tail, and oh, yes, the (sometimes very annoying) vocalizations. His names today are Claudie the Dog Boy, (for all the dog tricks he happily performs), Mr. Freshy McFresh Face, and just plain Claude or Claudie. But it was those first silly names that were the tip off,  (that and his instant attachment to Chloe), that he was meant to be mine, kitten or no.

It was simply bashert.

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