Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


Almost Time

My cat is lying in a strange position on a towel near her water dish. She acts like I feel when I’ve had a really tiring day, numb to everything, but I think hers is a more permanent kind of fatigue.

When Sam was about 4 years old it seemed to be time to get him a pet. I had always been a dog person but was concerned a puppy would raise too much havoc in our situation. Sam’s dad Dave had had a stroke while on the operating table to debulk a brain tumor so had a double neurological insult. His walking was very unsteady and I assumed a puppy would get underfoot and cause Dave to fall.

So Sam and I headed over to the Nashville Humane Society where we played with a number of kittens. I had wanted to take home an adult cat, figuring we could at least know the animal’s personality better, but the boy wanted a kitten. First one, then another, and then 3 or 4 or 5 more. I lost count. Finally, there was Tiny Bug. She actually responded to us, enjoying being petted, purring.  I was hopeful she would be a good fit.


We took her home and she promptly got in Dave’s way while he struggled to walk down the hallway. Luckily he did not fall but it became apparent right from the start that we now were blessed with an animal who went where she wanted to go, laid down in front of people walking, and overall was not at all like a dog. She wanted to be the Alpha.

She always was good using her litter box, even as we moved and moved and moved again. Once shown, she would be consistent.

She always ate the same food. Once we transitioned from kitten food to cat food and she ate it well, I always bought the same thing. Dry food. No fancy cans of wet stuff. Easy on my budget. Once we ran out of cat food a day before payday, but no worries. I had chicken and rice and cooked her up a feast. She did not eat.  She gorged when we brought home the dry stuff and barfed. Of course.

We always kept her inside and she always wanted to go out. One day we carelessly let her escape and she was gone overnight. It was summer so not a bad weather time but she straggled back the next afternoon, looking very dirty. She did not enjoy her bath.

Years later, after Dave had passed on, Sam and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado. Graham owned a sun conure parrot, Sollie, and we had to teach Tiny Bug to leave her alone. With the help of a water pistol, the cat learned quickly, but the bird had a mean streak. She often would sit on my shoulder while I had the cat on my lap to clip her claws.


Tiny Bug got even a year later. We were having a screened porch built on the back of the house and as I stood in the open doorway from the kitchen the cat raced ????????????????????????????????????outside. The bird followed, winging quickly. As soon as the cat reached the deck she sat down and licked her paws as the bird circled overhead and then flew off. I had no doubt in my mind that the cat had instigated the whole thing. (We got the bird back a few days later, but that’s another story.)

While we lived in West Virginia my allergies and asthma got worse. By the time a friend talked some sense into me about reducing those allergens that I could we had 2 young dogs, the cat and the bird. We found new homes for the puppies but no one wanted the cat.  A friend was happy to adopt the Sollie.

Tiny Bug was not very social with people, ignored dogs, but attacked other cats. There was not much appealing to anyone to take her, even people who sympathized with my health issue.  I always joked that she would live to 25 just to spite me.

When we had driven back from Colorado to West Virginia in 2007 the cat had slipped out of the car before I had even shut the door. We got a call 2 hours later that she was wandering around the apartment complex. While Graham drove on with the U-Haul, I returned, got the cat and then caught up with him in western Kansas.

So it was maybe not a real joke when I said that if she slipped out of the car on our drive west during our move to Oregon, I would just leave her there.  We stopped for the night in western Kansas and came to the Colorado welcome station pretty early. Leaving the car windows open a little, we went inside to pick up some info we wanted and then back to the car. No cat. We pulled things out of the car in case she was hiding in a little nook. Nope. We wandered around calling for her (as if that would work) and of course, we didn’t find her. After an hour, we left our name and phone number with the people at the center and I drove on. I pulled over and even though Graham is legally blind and not supposed to drive, I couldn’t, so he took the wheel. He had gone about five miles when we heard a plaintive cry from under the driver’s seat.  I didn’t know if I was happy or wanted to strangle her.Tiny_Bug_finds_a_new_nest

She turned 15 last year and started throwing up a lot. The vet said it would cost a lot of money to run tests and maybe do surgery to figure out what was wrong.  It just did not seem right to fight hard at that age, so we asked if there was any other way. They suggested we change her diet to one of their veterinary formulas, give her a pro-biotic for a while to help her gut bacteria improve, prednisone to reduce swelling, and vitamin B shots once a month.  She started improving and after a few months we started dropping parts of the regimen and soon we just were using the diet. She was fine and Sam, returning home for the holidays from Vermont, was happy to see his cat. He offered to take her back with him but I was concerned that he would lose whatever security deposit he had on his apartment because of other issues with her.

banishedAs good as she had been all those years, she stopped using her litter box and would frequently mess on the living room rug (now trashed) and on the dining room table (scrubbed and scrubbed often scrubbed often). We banished her to outside during the day and the garage at night when we were having a house guest who we thought was allergic. (The fact that I suffer and deal with it does not mean anyone else has to when they come here.) We brought her back inside a few days ago.

This afternoon, Tiny Bug stopped moving. Her back legs will not support her. I clipped her claws and she did not complain. I touched her tail and there was no protest. She is there but not there and I believe she is on her way out.

I have horribly mixed feelings. I know my allergic issues will ease with one less allergen but she has been family for almost 16 years. While she never was a “dog” she got used to me calling her “Puppy” and would come to that.  She tried to fit in and we tried to make her feel very much a part of this home. Graham is holding her letting her know she is loved.




The Life of a Pet….Owner

My pet ownership attitude falls between those who believe their animals belong outside and those who believe they belong in their bed.  I’m allergic, so there is no way I have ever encouraged them to sleep in my bed. Not saying it hasn’t happened, but not while I am at home/awake/unaware that the husband needs to be trained better to shut the bedroom door.

I tested positive to being allergic to dogs when I was 5 years old and supposedly informed my parents if the dog left, so would I. I have almost always had a dog since, sometimes two.

airplane_puppy_usI got my boxer Shelby soon after I moved from Nashville to Memphis in 1978. During that move I had herniated a disc and what with the pain and the puppy’s increasing size, I flew her to my mom in New Jersey for a few months. Mom had a marvelous way with dogs, training hers to be very obedient, knowing the boundaries of the property without straying, and they could do marvelous tricks including multiplication and division. (Although one of our dogs when I was young had such a high toned bark we kept her answers to 5 and under to keep our ears comfortable.)  Shelby flew back to me some months later, wonderfully compliant in all I needed and also very happy to be back with the more relaxed house rules.

That dog sat in the front seat of my car with me. When I got married, she moved to the back seat, and as the babies arrived, she moved to the back-back of the hatchback, always with us, always happy. But she lost status…..she was the dog.Dog-in-front-seat

The time inevitably came that she aged and started having problems.  She was unwilling to eat until we enticed her with all the loved forbidden foods: ice cream and bacon. She got some energy back but then, on Christmas Eve had a seizure. We took her to the emergency clinic and they did some tests. The news was not good. It was either this or that, wouldn’t know without exploratory surgery and no, there was no treatment nor cure whichever it turned out to be.   I made a difficult decision and petted her while they gave the injection. The song that was playing on the sound system, Against All Odds, will forever remind me of loss.dog in heaven

We added another dog to the family about a year later, an Australian shepherd and that dog was so amazing, we also bought a male and they had one litter. What happened next was also a hard decision. After Dave was diagnosed with a brain tumor and then had the equivalent of a stroke on the operating table, he had trouble walking. The dogs were then outside in the fenced yard for the day, coming in for the night. It was not my idea of how their lives should be so I was happy when my older kids’ grandparents in Maryland said they would take them. We made the transfer and at least I knew the dogs still were with their children.

But meanwhile, Sam was growing up and I perceived he needed a pet. Since I believed a puppy would cause problems getting in Dave’s way, we decided on a cat. My first cat.

Now, I tried to persuade the 5-year-old that we needed to adopt an adult cat, the better to see her personality, but oh no, it had to be a kitten. We played with all the kittens at the Nashville Humane Society and took home the one who seemed to be the most playful. It was a sham. She was, after all, a cat.

Cat and Dog portrait on a white backgroundAbout five years ago, having added two more puppies to our household, my allergies took a turn for the worst. Maybe the air in West Virginia is just that much dirtier, maybe menopause’s chemical changes in my body made the allergies worse, but I just couldn’t breathe.  Both my sinuses and my lungs were being assaulted in a horrible way. A friend helped me look at the solution I had not even conceptualized: the animals had to go if I expected not to be sick all the time.  The dogs, being young, were not difficult to place but boy oh boy did I hear how I was abandoning them, kicking out of what I had promised would be a forever home from some of my most radical pet loving friends. The fact I was sick because of them was meaningless. Just take an antihistamine was their answer. It HAD been that easy all my life, but this was new territory in allergy response. I HAD to eliminate the allergens I could in my environment.

The cat was another issue, though. She was, simply, difficult. She put up with the dogs but would attack any other cats. She was about 9 years old then and older cats just don’t adopt out easily.  So, we kept her. She’s 14 now. She will live to 105 to spite me. She’s a cat.cat in books

Here in Oregon my new allergy treatment plan is bringing great results but I recently had a setback, perhaps related to the harvesting of the grass seed in the area. The cat has been banished from the bedroom all along. Early this week I completely emptied my office, vacuumed and shampooed the carpet and now she is banned from that space as well. Today I (yes, the woman who wrote she is not a cleaning diva yesterday) removed the area rug in the living room to the back deck, vacuumed bottom and top sides and shampooed it. Then swept and scrubbed the wood laminate floor. Hopefully the cat dander was captured along with the dust bunnies.

For the moment.


Can’t we just get along?

Right-left. Democrats-Republicans. Locavores-Fastfood junkies. We have so many differences.  But we are not the only ones who struggle to communicate and get along.

Years ago, when Sam was a very little boy, we went to the Nashville Humane Society and he selected a kitten that had been tagged with the name “Tiny Bug.” I tried to convince him to chose an adult cat; not only would we be really rescuing an animal but we could see its personality better. But no, Sam chose a kitten.

I had high hopes that I could socialize the animal to be friendly, maybe even playful. She disdained any toys we presented to her.  She slunked away and hid whenever visitors would come into the house.  Basically, she just wasn’t a dog.

Over the past few years as my asthma became a really bad problem we had to make some difficult choices. We got an artificial tree. We found homes for our two young dogs. But the cat, no one jumped to take an elderly cat with a personality problem. Maybe her name should have been Greta Garbo.quote-i-never-said-i-want-to-be-alone-i-only-said-i-want-to-be-left-alone-there-is-all-the-greta-garbo-68263

In our housing escapade here in Oregon we were invited to stay with Neil Clark as long as needed until the moving truck arrives and brings our things. He also offered that if Tiny Bug got along with his cat Intoit (always “into it”), then he would keep Tiny Bug and I could be allergen free in our new home.

Intoit is not a cat; he is a dog that is just shaped like a cat. He came running to see who had arrived, sniffed and licked, and just generally smiled whenever we called his name. He wanted to be with us.INtoIt

We opened the bedroom door, permitting Tiny Bug to venture forth and sure enough, she gradually made her way to the living room where Intoit greeted her gleefully.

Her snarl was immediate. Her back raised and she hissed, Meanwhile, Intoit tilted his head and whined in a plaintive tone. It was clear to me he was saying “Come play with me.”

She jumped on him. We got them separated.

Since then they have sat near each other, Tiny Bug studiously staring at something AWAY from Intoit.

I suspect she will be coming with us to the new house.

Now, can we humans do better?

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On Our Way: 2 days on the road

After a delay because of the moving van loading later than expected….and taking longer than expected….we did not leave on August 31 as planned but on September 1.  We spent our first evening visiting with cousins in St. Louis. It was the easiest driving I have ever had through that city because of the Sunday traffic. st louisa

The second day is one of our longest planned drives. We left around 7:30 and finally pulled into our planned stop in Colby, Kansas 12 hours later. But we enjoyed lunch in Kansas City with a woman who lived in my neighborhood back in New Jersey. Although I did not know her then we have connected through the neighborhood group and I am happy that Bernie Kitzpatrick is now a real friend.lunch in Kansas City

Into Kansas we enjoyed the rolling Flint Hills,DSCF5495 and later passed through a massive wind farm. KS wind farm

In interesting contrast a few of the farms that could be seen from I-70 still had working old wind turbines.KS wind farmab

On the domestic front, the cat is a great traveler and has decided she likes the soft-sided carry case to lie in even while in the car