Category Archives: pets

Bonding over Books

This morning at the library, as I was picking up my held books, I overheard a budding friendship in the next aisle over. Two five-year olds had an extended conversation about what books they were getting, visiting their grandparents, puppies and like all good Minnesotans, the weather.

I met my best friend on April 16, 1983, in a small room 4 floors below the IDS Center. It was my first day at the soon-to-be-opened B. Dalton IDS. Since I was new to B. Dalton, there were several training modules that I had to read through and then take corresponding tests. Sara was transferring over from another store and needed to do some paperwork as well.  We talked while we worked, about books and pets and husbands and boyfriends – probably the weather as well.  Then we went to lunch across the street at Eddingtons where we discovered we also shared a deep love of bread and cheese.

We’ve been friends ever since, through weddings, divorces, parents’ deaths, kids, home purchases, health issues, money issues – you name it. I can only hope that the kids at the library this morning can continue a friendship that started with books!

Where did you meet your BFF?

Brush Your Britches

This past week everyone in our house was groomed and  brought up to snuff, starting with the cats. Our short-haired tabby looks about an inch smaller in diameter since we took the furminator to her on Saturday. The birds have scads of grey hair to line their nests now. Our long-haired tortie has really furry back legs that make her look like she is wearing fuzzy pants.  She gets a slicker brush.  “It’s time to brush your britches” we tell her.  She isn’t real impressed with the procedure.

Husband’s barber moved to a new and improved space with four barber chairs,  a coffee bar, and beer parlour.  The barber is a devout Catholic who named his new shop after St. Martin de Porres, an influential New World priest during the 1500’s and 1600’s in Peru who is the patron saint of mixed-race people, barbers, innkeepers, public health workers, and all those seeking racial harmony.  Husband has curly hair and is fussy how his hair gets cut. He is happy with his barber. He had neither beer nor coffee during his hair cut.

My hair dresser of 30 years had a stroke a couple of months ago, so now I have to get used to a new hair dresser.  She is working out pretty well, but I must admit it takes a bit to get used to a new person messing with my hair, especially since my old hair dresser and I know each other so well and she knows the quirks of my hair and what works and what doesn’t. Change is hard, sometimes.

How would you define your relationship with your barber or hair dresser. How have your animals taken to being groomed?

A Special Gift

Today’s post comes to us from Steve.

Robert was a painter whose wife, Donna, was his agent. Donna contacted me when I was editing a regional outdoors magazine. Robert hoped my magazine would publish a painting that he would create to my specifications. Although Robert had never painted wildlife before, the February, 1978, issue of Fins and Feathers featured a bobcat painted by Robert.

I later asked Robert to paint the cover for my first book, Modern Pheasant Hunting, which was just about to be published. Because Robert didn’t know what pheasants looked like, I invited him and his family for dinner so I could give him a pheasant taxidermy mount to use as a model. That dinner happened in September of 1979. My wife and I were in our third year of living in a pink bungalow in Saint Paul. Our daughter, a chatty toddler, had just turned two.

Robert and Donna were then living in a dinky rental home in South Minneapolis. Although Donna was ferociously romantic about Christmas, their home didn’t offer enough room to put up a scrawny Christmas tree. Robert, a freelance painter, had a meager and erratic income. He and Donna had not felt secure enough to take on a home mortgage.

In some ways, our dinner was “typical,” typical for how we entertained in those days. We served wine—not a “good” wine, for that would have been beyond our means, but a frisky dry white from Napa. I cooked the pheasant casserole that had become one of my signature dishes when guests dined with us. My wife prepared a side dish of wild rice with mushrooms and sliced almonds sautéed in butter.

Because we dined on a crisp night in September, we set a fire in the big fireplace. The old bungalow glowed and filled with the fragrance of burning oak. Robert described his experiences as a combat artist in Vietnam. I probably talked too much about pheasants. Brandy and Brinka, our dogs at the time, wriggled in next to us when we sat on the soft carpets before the fire.

Our dinner happened on a Friday evening. On Monday morning, quite unexpectedly, Robert appeared at my office with an object wrapped in paper. He thrust it in my hands, mumbled something and disappeared.

The gift—for that is what it was—was a watercolor Robert had made of my taxidermy rooster. Robert had painted it in one long, passionate session over the weekend. The painting included squiggly lines on the lower right side where Robert had cleaned his brush when going from one color to another.

On the lower left side Robert had written a message, a note to our daughter. He described the magic meal we shared when she was very young. Robert said he and Donna would never forget that special evening.


I later learned more about that. Robert and Donna were bowled over by the feel of our shared evening. It all blended together—the wine, the talk, the food, the charm of a 75-year-old bungalow, the dancing fire. By the time Robert and Donna got home they had decided to buy a home.

We had dreams, or at least the adults present that evening did. The dreams did not fare well, although Robert and Donna did buy an old Victorian home in South Minneapolis. My wife was going to get her PhD and teach English, but she never did. Robert anticipated a satisfying career as an artist, although that never happened as he pictured it. While I was thrilled by my work as an editor, that dream died in a long, sorry struggle. Worse, both marriages eventually failed. I don’t know what became of Robert and Donna’s children. I don’t know what will happen to the little girl to whom the painting was dedicated, although a splendid outcome is still entirely possible for her.

That’s how it goes. I could dwell on the ways our dreams unraveled, but I don’t. I remember a lovely aromatic evening when everything seemed possible. This is easy to remember because Robert’s pheasant and its heartfelt message are on my wall, and I smile to see them every day.

Do you remember a special gift?


Pack Rat Cat

We have a large throw rug in our entry way  that is soon to be replaced.  The rubber backing has disintegrated and it crumples up easily.  I shook out the throw rug on Saturday and was surprised to find a number of things that had gone missing  under the rug crumples.  I found the stylus for Husband’s cell phone, several twist ties for bread bags that had disappeared from the counter, and a couple of pens.  How did they get there?

Millie, our Tortie cat, loves to knock things off of tables and counters and bat them on the laminate floor.  They spin so wonderfully, and if you bat them to the throw rugs you can hide them under the rugs and then stick your paws under the rugs and fish them out again.  Since Mom and Dad are tired of smoothing out the throw rug,  treasures can stay there for quite a while.

We have a jar of twist ties in the kitchen that I used to keep on the counter. Millie loved to fish them out of the jar and bat them all over the house. Now they are in the cupboard.  Once, in the middle of the night, I heard her sliding something in the hall, and found her trying to put Husband’s glasses under the rug.  What a great kitty game! She is never bored.

What games do your animals play? What games did you like as a child?






Teaching a Kitty New Tricks?

Today’s post comes from Sherrilee.

All I seem to do is go from one pet issue to another.

For many years, I had to keep Zorro (my old cat) and Nimue (the “baby” kitty) apart during feeding. Zorro learned early in his life that he needed to eat at meal time; an earlier Irish Setter was rabid about getting to food, including Zorro’s food, no matter where I put it.  Even after the Irish Setter had gone to the big dog park in the sky, Zorro still came around at breakfast and dinner for his food.

When Nimue came along, she wasn’t even remotely interested in this kind of schedule. She would show up and have a few bites, then wander off.  A classic free feeder.  Since I was already keeping the dog separated between the kitchen and breakfast room, I started keeping Nimue on the counter near the sink and Zorro on the window ledge.  Then the rest of the time Nimue’s food was on top of the fridge, where Zorro couldn’t reach it.

Now that Zorro is 18+, he has decided he can be more relaxed about his meals and has reverted to free feeding as well.   For a while now I’ve been thinking that I don’t need to make sure they are separated at “meal time”, but hadn’t done anything about it.

As you can imagine, keeping Nimue on the counter has engendered some bad habits – mostly that she thinks being on the counter is just fine. Unfortunately when I am using the counter for something else, this isn’t all that fine.  I spent A LOT of time wiping the counter down and pushing her away.  I know, I know, entirely my fault.

Then last week I was making coffee with my one-cup drip and decided to run down to the basement to do the kitty box. As I was coming back up the steps I heard a “clunk”.  You guessed it – she got up on the counter and knocked the coffee over.  And this was NOT an accident; the coffee wasn’t anywhere near the edge.  Coffee, wet coffee grounds went everywhere.  The kitchen still smells a little like a coffee shop.

That was the last straw, so I took her food bowl from the top of the fridge and put it on the window ledge. Now at meal time, I fill up the two bowls on the ledge and no food is put out on the counter.  She’s 8 years old and having a little trouble getting used to the new regime.  Every morning I end up “showing” her where the food is now located and I’m still shoving her (gently) off the counter 8-10 times in the 30-45 minutes I’m in the kitchen before going to work.  Sigh.  I figure it will be a while before she gets the hint.

Any traditions that you’ve abandoned?

Best in Show

Today’s post comes from Crystalbay

I don’t have a whole lot of memories about childhood, but my brother hasn’t forgotten a single conversation, event, image, or visual of all of those years. I wish I could. Just imagine having every aspect of childhood in a file drawer in you brain?

When scrolling through old pictures, I found these two. In the first one, Steve and I are sitting with our beloved pets. Bobo, only three months old, and Timmy, who lived 21 years. Timmy was my only best friend until I left home. Bobo didn’t last too long. He had a habit of eating any shoe in sight and trampling our neighbors flower gardens. In an effort to block him from going upstairs to eat more shoes, Dad constructed a tall gate at the bottom of the stairs. This 180-pound dog took one look at it, leaned into it with his weight, and it went crashing down.  He ended up at someone’s farm. It broke my heat.

The second photo is one of us, dressed up by home-sewn alpine costumes and all set to go to a “Best Dog” competition. We were certain he’d win – especially given our apparel tying into the theme of a rescue dog. All he got was the “Longest Tail” prize.

Who was the greatest pet in your childhood?


Positive Lifestyle Changes

The month of March was pretty difficult for our daughter.  Early in the month she rear ended a large pickup with her Subaru Forester.  She was only driving about 30 mph at the time when the pickup in front of her stopped suddenly. She was cited for following too close.  The pickup sustained no damage. There was only $3000 damage to the front end of her car, but, since all eight of the air bags deployed, the insurance company wrote her car off.  It would cost $16,000 to repair them.  This, then, entailed her getting a rental vehicle, waiting for the damage estimate and the insurance cheque to get deposited in her account, and the purchase of a new vehicle.  There were tons of phone calls to me, with her in anxious agony when adjusters didn’t get back to her when they said they would or when the  cheque wasn’t deposited when it was promised.  (The local car dealership  was having a great sale on new Subarus, and she wanted to get in on the deal. They told her to just write them a cheque and they wouldn’t cash it until the insurance payment arrived.  Since the insurance payment was late, there was angst and heartburn that the cheque to the car dealership was going to bounce.)  This is the second car she has totaled in three years. Thank goodness the insurance company isn’t going to cancel her policy.  She lives in an area noted for horrible traffic and lots of accidents, and she isn’t even considered high risk.

March’s next blow was a doozy.  Daughter lives in a one bedroom apartment with her cat, a cat that never goes outside.  Last week daughter noted that her cat was particularly droopy and was avoiding eating and was hesitant to walk on the carpeted floor.  A closer look revealed that the cat and the carpets were infested with fleas. There were even fleas in her rental car.  Daughter surmises she brought fleas home with her from work.  She does intensive family therapy in people’s homes, and probably picked the fleas up in one of the homes. The same thing happened to her supervisor last year.  Daughter had no previous experience with fleas, so this meant multiple, distressed phone calls to me, trips to the vet, constant laundry and vacuuming, and setting off flea bombs in the apartment.  We are now flea free.

Daughter said that March’s events have prompted her to make positive lifestyle changes. She wants to slow down,  simplify her spaces, and get rid of unnecessary things and be more orderly. She said that when she cleaned her Forester out preparatory to  the insurance adjusters looking at it, she was appalled at all the junk she had there. “Mom! It looked like the Box Car Children were living in my vehicle!”  She stripped down to socks and underwear outside her front door after work the other night and put her clothes directly in the washing machine. I told her she could probably strip in the bath tub for the same results and less alarm for the neighbors.

It does no good to scold someone  when they are distressed, so my internal, unspoken monologue to Daughter during March has been a very constant and rapid “YOU NEED TO START  TAKING YOUR G** D***** ADHD MEDICATION AGAIN!!!  YOU ALWAYS DRIVE TOO FAST! SLOW DOWN! PAY ATTENTION!!  THERE IS NOTHING I CAN SAY THAT IS GOING TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER RIGHT NOW.  DEAL WITH IT!!  HERE, TALK TO YOUR FATHER!!

It is no surprise my dentist told me yesterday that it looks like I have been grinding my teeth in the daytime. This is a recent development since my last checkup six months ago.  I imagine it really increased in March. I paid attention today and noticed just how much teeth grinding I am doing. I hope that as long as Daughter sticks with her positive lifestyle changes, I can make my positive lifestyle changes and save my tooth enamel.

What has prompted, or could prompt, you to make positive lifestyle changes?