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Monday, August 31, 2009

Pet Names

For many people, choosing the right name for a pet is as important as picking the right kind of animal, be it an iguana or a kitten. Some people choose a theme for their pet names, perhaps the owner’s ethnic heritage or the animal’s country of origin, such as a German Shepard called Fritz, or in my family’s case vegetable names.

According to these are the top twenty pet names in the United States based on their Bow Wow Meow pet i.d. tag business:

1. Max 11. Molly
2. Tigger 12. Bailey
3. Jake 13. Sassy
4. Tiger 14. Shadow
5. Buddy 15. Simba
6. Smokey 16. Patch
7. Maggie 17. Lady
8. Bear 18. Lucky
9. Sam 19. Sadie
10. Kitty 20. Misty

Out of all the lists of pet names I found on the internet, my favorite were the non-gender ones including Anchovie, Boink, Conquistador, Kafluffle, Hernia, Mollusk, and Pork Chop. Check out the pet naming guides on for help with a new pet’s name.

How about you? How many of the top twenty names have you used? Is there a pattern to your pet naming? What are some of the most unusual pet names you’ve heard?


Sunday, August 30, 2009

This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse

Monday August 31st: Maureen Hardegree Pet Names
Tuesday September 1st: Introduction to September’s Free Falling Theme
Wednesday, September 2nd: Maureen Hardegree The Perfect Sack Lunch
Thursday, September 3rd: Maureen Hardegree The Best Things in Life Are Free
Friday, September 4th: Q&A and September Noodler New Releases

Friday, August 28, 2009

Q&A Friday

Alfred Hitchcock is attributed as saying, "Never act with children or animals," due to their propensity for stealing a scene. Scene stealing animals can be a problem for writers as well as for actors and directors.

What are some other challenges in writing a story featuring an animal? How can you overcome them?


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cat Sanctuary, the MJ Fredrick Way

I’ve always been a cat person, and most of my cats have been cats I’ve…discovered.

I won’t talk about the litter of orphaned kittens my friend rescued from the vet and gave to me because my cat had kittens. That did not end well.

The first rescue in my adult life was on my first field trip as a teacher. A little black and white pregnant kitty came over when the kids were eating lunch. She was starving and the kids fed her bits of their burgers. The other teachers urged me to take her, since I had just moved into a house. So I took the little cat on the bus and back into my classroom—where she went into labor. She didn’t have the kittens until the next day—and the first kitten was dead—but I kept that little cat ten more years until she died.

Simba was next, I think, my husband’s rescue. He found him in the parking lot after working on the Labor Day telethon all weekend. He had a good long life, too.

One day my sister-in-law called. She had found a pregnant cat at her school and wanted to know if I could take her. We’d just moved into this house, so I took her. She was wary of us, and especially our other cats, but when she gave birth on my son’s bed, she let us help her after the first kitten died. We kept one of her kittens, who we still have, though the mama was hit by a car.

Gir was next, a proud little guy who was just so sweet. One morning my students came in and told me a kitten had been wandering around outside. I told them in the future, to let me know when kittens were around. They came back after school to let me know the kitten was back, and I found him just as he walked into the building. We had a faculty meeting that afternoon and he fell asleep in my lap. The next week was 9/11 and one of my strongest memories is little Gir being beside me, letting me love on him and cry on him. I cried like a baby when he died.

Yaya was after that, hanging out by my truck after the Christmas PTA program. A storm was coming, and I couldn’t just leave her there. I scooped her up and tossed her in the truck. One of my students was passing by with her parents on the way to their car and I mentioned my husband would kill me for bringing home another cat. (Of course I didn’t mean it) The next day, she sent her teacher to check on me. I still have little Yaya, almost 6 years now.


Then there’s Napoleon. Three days before my birthday, the doorbell rang and the little girl next door was there, cradling a TINY kitten. They’d found him in the parking lot at Wal-Mart. I don’t remember why they couldn’t keep him, so they brought him to me. He was too little to eat so we had to get him kitten formula. I bottle-fed him for a week, even taking a couple of half-days to come home to feed him. He was also covered with fleas, but too young for any of the flea treatments, so we had to bathe him every night. The water ran brown with dried blood. But now, he’s a beautiful, strong cat who is too smart for his own good. He knows how to open doors…not good! (He can't work the remote, yet.)


Skippy was next. I was getting out of my car at school and heard a cat crying. My friend Cindi arrived at the same time and dismissed the sound as a bird, but I crossed the street to the park and found a little orange and white kitten in a tree. I coaxed him down and he purred like a little motorboat. I took him over to school, but my principal didn’t want him in my classroom, so I asked one of my student’s dad to babysit. He brought Skippy back after school and told me the little guy followed him around the house all day. Don’t tell anyone, but Skippy’s my favorite.


The latest addition is Mama Kitty. I didn’t name her because my intention was to get her fixed and give her away, but…I got attached. She was another school rescue. The custodian found a litter of kittens by the boiler room and brought me to see them. They were VERY cute, but the mama was just so sweet, and her nipples were raw from nursing these little stinkers. The principal announced a kitten give-away, and I was told someone took the mother as well. A few weeks later, I saw her, though, and brought her home. She hates the other cats, but she’s actually really neat. She chases shadows and sleeps in clothes baskets and has an insatiable curiosity. I’m glad I kept her.


So yes, I feel like a single-handed cat rescue facility. I’m cursed with cat hair, and there’s always a critter moving in the house somewhere, but I love my furry friends.

MJ's latest release, Beneath the Surface, is coming from Samhain Publishing September 1.

MJ Fredrick


Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I've always loved animals. If a time comes when I don't have them in my life, I feel a big void. I love my cats most, I think, especially now that I've developed a small allergy to dogs and can't have them around long. But you've seen lots of photos of my cats, so I'll talk about the others.

It's true, most of my animals have been the usual dog-cat- fish variety (rodents always bite me, so I prefer to avoid them). But I've had this romantic fantasy attachment for horses all my life.

I wanted a horse so badly when I was a kid. Never mind that Mom was deathly allergic to them. He wouldn't have to come home with me. I could keep him in a stable, and I'd go every afternoon after school and feed him and clean out his stall and. . .

Too expensive, Dad said, and besides the horse stuff would get on your clothes and make your mom sick.

But maybe a pony? They don't eat as much. Knights, cowboys, and Indians all had horses. Why couldn't I? Poor Mom. It's a good thing we didn't know about Lilliputians then, or I would've been talking getting rid of the lawnmower.

So I guess it's no surprise that I put a lot of animals in my stories. They're often the heroine's confidant, or the child's best friend. And sometimes they serve other purposes. I love them in my historicals, and I've discovered they're even more fun in paranormals.

In LADY WICKED, my heroine observes the hero's odd ability to attract strays of all kinds, and can't ever say no to them. He's a fish, she thinks, because he'll fall for any line. And she thinks to herself, any day now he'll be bringing home a three-legged fox hound. Well, no fox hound. But at the end of the book she goes out and finds a funny-looking sheep dog with a tail like a wide-sweeping broom, and a grin so wide it super-charges her rear end to wagging so hard, she loses her balance. She hasn't quite got the hang of the tripod stance yet, you see. And Daisy is Davina's gift to the hero, who she finally understands isn't a sucker for every flawed creature in the universe. He's a man with a heart as big as the world, who happens to love her most. Daisy will fit right in.

Daisy was a therapeutic dog, a little like my Muttsy in the photo with Lily the Weimaraner and Jack the Poodle, before such ideas became popular. But all my animals, I think, are therapeutic in my stories.

I've had a lot of fun with the animals in the story I've just finished, FAERIE. It's a very paranormal medieval. Which means the dogs and horses also get in on the paranormal fun.

There are evil creatures, too, like the giant black snake somewhat like a Cobra. We all know there are no such snakes in England. So when my heroine keeps insisting it attacked her then disappeared when the hero showed up, it only adds to his notion that she's a bit dafty. But it's really a demon. They just don't know it.

The hero has a horse named Tonerre, which means Thunder in Norman French (thanks to a friend who got a Master's degree in Medieval French!). He's a great gray warhorse, fierce in battle, with the agility of a young palfrey. And naturally he's trained to the hero' whistle commands. He doesn't have any particular paranormal talents, but he gets a few experiences he might rather forget. I'm sure if he's thinking about it, he'd really rather be in the middle of a melee.

And there's a dog again, Ilse. She would be the ancestor of the Irish Wolfhound, but her personality clearly came from my beloved Weimaraner, Lily. Huge and shaggy, friendly yet immensely protective.

Ilse is owned by the Black Earl of Northunberland, Robert de Mowbray, but she follows a different master, and Robert lets her have her way. She's the gift of the Faerie Herzeloyde, the heroine's mother, who has been missing since the heroine was a baby. Yet Ilse seems to have been assigned the task of finding and protecting the heroine. And that's just the beginning of her special abilities. You see, although Faeries can't fly in my Faerie world-- well, I'm probably giving too much away.

In my Regency Vampire story, DAMNED AND DANGEROUS, there's a little yappy dog, Duki, which means black dog in Cornish (I found that out myself). Duki is white and brown. My heroine is deathly afraid of all dogs, and has no memory of why. But to her horror, a mysterious huge black dog enters her room every night and plops down before the door. He's always gone in the morning, and there are no black dogs even in the neighborhood.

Speaking of black dogs, there are the black dogs of the moors that appear in two of my books. They're as big as calves, and their glowing red eyes, or some say yellow, are huge and round. If the unwary traveler comes upon them on a moonless night and sees their glowing eyes, their paws pound the earth like the thunder of galloping horses and their howls shriek like the wind as they run him to ground. And in the morning, there's not a trace of the hapless man to be found. . .

Stray Cats

Throughout my life I’ve had various cats find their way into my home and life. Lisa, a male cat, (I let the kids name him) has been with us for over ten years now. He’s the sweetest cat I’ve ever met and he loves people. He follows us to the mailbox or down the driveway when we take the garbage to the end of the street. He likes to curl up in whatever room has the most people in it. He likes to tease our Chihuahua and make poor little Sadie shiver. I still remember when he first showed up at our house. The neighbor was feeding him and so were we. Lisa was very skinny. His ribs were showing and his front claws had been removed. The neighbors didn’t know where the cat had come from, so my husband was going to take him to the animal shelter. I told my husband we needed to take care of the cat and try to find his home. We put up flyers and checked with the local vets, but no luck. At first Lisa slept in the garage and then finally finagled his way into the house. He managed to make friends with our grumpy cat, Bart. Lisa didn’t like it when my daughter brought home a new kitten, Maggie. But after six months, Maggie, Lisa and Bart were close friends. After Maggie ran off and Bart passed away, Lisa became more and more dependent on our hugs and kisses. He’s part of the family now and I can’t imagine not having Lisa around. I also like to think that Maggie has found a new home and is cuddled up in a chair with a nice family somewhere out there.

Stray cats always seem to find my mom’s house, too. She had one stray cat stay with her for five years before the cat suddenly disappeared. Every day Mom would go out on long walks looking for the cat. Finally she found him a few blocks away sitting quietly in front of a house. The people living there told Mom that it was their cat and went on to explain that the cat had been missing for the past five years. Mom told them where the cat had been and they were all happy to know their cat had been in good hands.

What about you? Any stray cat stories? Ever have a cat disappear only to reappear months later?

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Canines with Careers—Panzer, Police Service Dog

by Lee McKenzie

I doubt very much you’ll ever find a human who’s as dedicated to his job or his partner as Police Service Dog Panzer is. Panzer is a three-year-old German shepherd general duty dog who is currently being trained for a speciality in detecting drugs. What most impressed me were his boundless energy and his unwavering devotion to his handler, Sgt. Glen MacKenzie of the Saanich Police Department.

Panzer’s Stats
Breed: German shepherd
Age (in human years): 3
Weight: 70 pounds
Food: 4 cups of kibble mixed with water, once a day
Treats: no treats
Favorite Toy: ball on a rope (see photos)
Favorite Activity: tracking bad guys; chasing the spray from a garden hose
One Word That Best Describes Panzer: dedicated

The Canine Unit with this police department has four teams of dogs and handlers. The dogs and humans are carefully matched because the bond between the two is so critical to the work they do, and the teams are trained on site. The department has an impressive minimal force program—of 87 canine arrests last year, there were only three bites.

Panzer has been on the job since he was 18 months old. I was a little disappointed to learn that he doesn’t have his own ID badge—I really think he should, don’t you?—but he does have a bulletproof jacket, a harness with a 30-foot lead, and a tactical harness for being lowered from a helicopter. I didn’t get to see a helicopter demonstration, but you can bet I’d like to.

Panzer is very sociable, enjoys being around people, and loves to play. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him and while he happily tolerated me, he really only has eyes for his handler. It was immediately clear to me that this dog will do anything for Sgt. MacKenzie, and that feeling is mutual.

To stay in shape, Panzer and his handler run six to eight miles every other day. Panzer’s favourite toy is a yellow ball on a rope. You can see him here with the ball resting on his snout. As much as he wants to play, he won’t grab the ball until he’s given the command, “break.” Then a vigorous game of tug-of-war ensues, or Glen throws the ball and Panzer races after it.

Panzer even has his own collector card. How cool is that?

After seeing this dog’s incredible strength, speed and dedication to the job, I can say one thing for sure—I’m very glad he and I are on the same side of the law!

To meet more canines with careers, please join me and guide dog Kimo at The Writer Side of Life, and me and office dog Tipper with the Harlequin American Romance Authors.

Until next time,

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse

Noodlers explore this month's All Creatures Great and Small theme with the following blogs:

Monday, August 24th: Lee McKenzie Canines with Careers
Tuesday, August 25th: Theresa Ragan Stray Cats
Wednesday, August 26th: Delle Jacobs The Fun of Fictional Animals
Thursday, August 27th: MJ Fredrick One Woman Pet Rescue
Friday, August 28th: Q&A: What are some of the challenges encountered when writing a story with an animal in it?

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Q&A Friday!!

First pets occupy a special place in our hearts. What was your first pet?


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Torn between Pets

By Debra Holland

Sometimes I feel like I’m a bad pet mom, mostly because I live in two places—my home and my boyfriend’s house. At my home, I have two cats, Nicky and Pippin. At my boyfriend’s house, we have two dogs, Missy and Oreo.

Each set of animals has one who’s particularly attached to me, and I know misses me a lot when I’m not with them. Of my cats, my fat, odd-eyed Pippin, will love anyone who feeds him. But Nicky is a one woman guy, although I think he’s finally warmed up to my roommate, fellow WNP member, Jennifer Smith.

Nicky was one of an abandoned litter raised by one of my friends at the Orange County Chapter of RWA. She brought the bunch in a cat carrier to our chapter meeting. They were barely a month old. I opened the carrier and passed out kittens to my cooing friends, but kept one for myself, meaning to hold him for a while, then give him back. NOT!!!

Nicky slept in my lap the whole meeting, good as gold. From then on, I carried him everywhere with me, even to work. Then he became too big to stay quietly in my lap, and I had to leave him at home. But he’d still remain near me. As he got older, he became neurotic, and so I adopted a second cat to keep him company. That seems to have worked.

At Don’s house, he already had a collie, Missy, who’s the sweetest dog, always willing to lick the face of anyone who’ll give her some attention. She loves me, but Don is her special parent. After we’d been dating a few months, Don decided to get a second dog, and I suggested a Shetland sheepdog.

One night I came home and the doors to the family room were closed. Wondering why, I opened them, and a beautiful sheltie sitting near the couch perked up. She took one look at me and raced over, instantly adopting me. My Oreo, although we usually call her Orie.

For months she followed me everywere I went, even crawling under my desk when I wrote or sleeping next to my bed at night. It took Don nine months and liberal bribes of treats before she warmed up to him. Now, of course, she loves him. But I’m her primary love.

So, as you can see, at either house, I have happy animals or animals who miss me when I’m not there. So I’m a perpetually guilty pet mom.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Out of the Ordinary Animal Encounters

When I was young and a girl scout, I fell out of my platform tent at night while camping. I think I must have rolled over in my sleeping bag and ended up traveling under the tent flap and off the raised decking. I landed hard on the ground, which was startling enough, but then I looked up and saw an owl with large yellow eyes staring from a tree’s branch extending above me. Luckily, all he did was look and “who—oo.” I consider that my first out-of-the-ordinary animal encounter.

I have touched a dolphin at Sea World. I have seen and smelled sheep up close. I have had way too much interaction with frogs and toads, amphibians I do not care for. Yes, it’s a phobia. I have been left with a stinging welt from a jellyfish’s tentacle. I’ve caught a possum eating from a cat bowl. I’ve seen a family of raccoons frolic on my back porch late at night, and the noise scared me half to death. I’ve had a blue jay dive bomb me for getting too close to her nest.

Tell me about your out-of-the ordinary animal encounters. What creatures, outside of pets, have you interacted with?


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Tale of Seven Cats

My friend Julie sometimes shakes her head at me and says, "Diane. You could say no."

No is not easy for me. So when another friend asked if I could take care of her cat for FIVE weeks so she could go to Lithuania, I said yes. To be fair, I thought her cat would get used to our cats and would just be one of the crowd. Silly me. My friend's cat is an only cat, living alone with a single woman in a one bedroom condo. Why did I think she could handle a five bedroom house with four other cats? When I tried to integrate her with the "fam" she did pretty well, except when New York Cat terrorized her. She peed on our rug three times, so now she's spending the 5 weeks in a bathroom.

Then my son asked if we would take care of his two cats for a week while he and his girlfriend went on vacation. We've taken care of these two cats before and they've done fine. I said yes. Then my son told me one of the cats had developed a habit of pooping outside the box. (Groan) Then a few days before, he told us the other cat had a runny eye. So I've isolated the cats in a bedroom with a litter box and lots of newspaper. The cat managed two accidents outside the newspaper. I took the other cat to the vet ($70) and now have to give her eye cream three times a day.

So I have a cat in a bathroom. Two cats in a bedroom. One cat on the kitchen table. Three others who think they rule the roost.

Here they are:
1. New York Cat who just wants to "play," meaning RUMBLE (cue West Side Story music here)

2. Devil Cat who is really a fraidy cat but he turns it around and acts like a bully

3. Mr. Perfect who gets along with everyone but regularly throws up hairballs

4. Girl Cat aka the cat on the kitchen table.

5. Only Cat who really hates being confined to the bathroom

6. California Cat who is usually mellow, but is now pooping outside the box. He is shown here in more festive times, wearing his Halloween costume

7. Sore Eye who would be ruling the roost because she's a feisty little thing, but she needs to be isolated from the others. (Notice she is on a table. What is it with these cats and tables?)

So....I'm cleaning out 6 litter boxes in three locations and feeding cats in three locations.

I never thought I would say it, but I've reached my cat limit! Exceeded it, in fact!

Have you ever gotten yourself in a situation of too many pets? Or a situation in which you wish you'd said NO?

For more about my cat woes go HERE.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Our Dog Pepper

Pepper was a pound puppy--part terrier of some kind. We rescued him when our two girls were just starting elementary school, and he was part of our family for nearly eighteen years. He was all black and had huge ears that stuck out from his head almost like Yoda of Star Wars fame. As he grew older, his black hair turned gray around the muzzle.

So many humorous stories come to mind when I think of Pepper. If I told them all, I might wind up with a best selling book called "Pepper and Me." Wouldn't that be nice?

Pepper liked to roam. Whenever he had the chance to escape the confines of our house, he was gone. That might have been okay except he liked to chase joggers. Nipping at the runners' heels was so much fun. He was always on the lookout for an open door. When he would get loose, I had to chase him--sometimes while I was still in my bathrobe and big fuzzy pink slippers. He would make a game of it and stand still just until I got close enough to grab him. Then he'd take off again. Finally, as a last resort, I made him wear his leash around the house. That way I only had to get within six feet of him to stomp on his leash and bring him back home. So he roamed our house dragging his leash behind him.

Another story attached to Pepper's leash occurred one afternoon when I was washing and vacuuming my car. We had a two-car garage with two doors. One of the doors was down, and I had hooked the end of Pepper's leash over the door handle. He was lying on the driveway and watched as I worked. While I was vacuuming the car, my husband who had been in the house watching TV decided to drive his car somewhere. He came into the garage and punched the button to the garage door opener on his side of the garage. I was busy vacuuming and didn't hear the other garage door going up or see the dog going up with it. Suddenly above the sound of the vacuum, I heard my husband screaming my name. I looked up just as he grabbed the dog before the poor thing was hung by his own leash. Sometimes, my husband wondered why he rescued that dog, especially on the evening the dog ate my husband's supper while we all went outside to talk with the yard man who had arrived to give us a bid on new sod.

I took Pepper to obedience school, but we both failed. In fact, I think obedience school is more for the owner than it is for the dog. He did learn to sit, stay and heel, but only if he was on a leash. Take the leash away, and that dog was gone. I think he had a Napoleon complex. If there was a big dog nearby, Pepper was sure to attack, even though the dog was four times his size.

Pepper was very protective of his territory--our house. When our girls were in middle school, we had a cleaning lady. I was teaching school and had to leave the house about half an hour before they caught the bus. On the day that our cleaning lady came, I had the girls put the dog in the basement before they went out to the bus stop. One day I got a call from the school office. I went up to the office and discovered that the cleaning lady was calling from my house while she stood on the desk in the kitchen to keep away from the dog, because the girls had forgotten to put the dog in the basement.. I had to go home and rescue her. The next time the girls forgot to put the dog downstairs, Pepper greeted her at the door, and she went backwards through the screen. That was the last of the cleaning lady.

One Christmas Pepper ate one of those huge chocolate kisses that one of the girls got for a gift, but it didn't kill him. Pepper was too tough to die from an overdose of chocolate. All of the different vets we had over the years loved him, and amazingly, he was a model citizen when we boarded him during our vacations. He learned to tolerate three different cats. In his later years, he was great buddies with our cat Allie. In the end, he lost his hearing and his eyesight to cataracts. He slept a lot and didn't bark when the doorbell rang.

He lived longer than we ever expected. He had a stroke when he was nearly eighteen while we were on vacation. So we had to have him put down while we were gone. I always felt bad about not getting to see him again, but my husband said it was better that way. We would always remember him being up and about rather than debilitated by a stroke. Through the years, Pepper brought us a good deal of irritation but a lot of laughs as well. He's been gone for nearly ten years, but we remember him fondly. Everyone in the family has a Pepper story they like to tell.

What kinds of stories do you have to tell about your pet?

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Week on the Wet Noodle Posse

Please join us as we continue August's theme of All Creatures Great and Small with the following blogs:

Monday, August 17th: Merrillee Whren Our Dog Pepper
Tuesday, August 18th: Diane Gaston Seven Cats
Wednesday, August 19th: Maureen Hardegree Out of the Ordinary Animal Encounters
Thursday, August 20th: Dr. Debra Holland TBA
Friday, August 21st: Q&A: What was your first pet?

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Q&A!

We've been discussing dogs and cats this week. So I'm wondering how many of us writers have written experiences with pets into a novel or short story. I personally have used a few in the Mossy Creek series. Biscuit, the fat cat who doesn't like to be picked up in Tale of Two Kitties, is loosely based on my cat Pumpkin. When my daughter picked up Pumpkin (always against her will), the cat would wait to be let go, then nip Cynthia's heels or bide her time and pounce my daughter when she was least expecting it. I also used my beagle Chloe (pet from teenagerhood) as a model for the dog in my young adult novel Haint Misbehavin'. The qualities I poached from memories of this pet were an ability to scarf down any food left unmonitored in record time, a propensity for gas, and a love of pork chop squeaky toys.

What pet qualities have you used or would you like to use in a story?


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Cat Who Lives On The Kitchen Table

We have four cats, none of whom are technically mine, but I'll leave you to guess who cleans the litter boxes and fills the food dishes.....

"Girl Cat," our lone female cat, age 13 years, had her thyroid removed over two years ago (see previous blog). Before then she was an agitated mess and terrified "Devil Cat" who decided that the best defense was a good offense. He and the other two cats kept Girl Cat from the food dishes and (worse) from the litter box. Even after her surgery, they continued to ostracize her and attack her, perhaps because she also developed diabetes and must smell funny to them.

We kept her in the bathroom, but she was lonely there and chewed off the moulding from the door, so we started letting her out for part of the day. She seemed happiest on the kitchen table, and the other cats left her alone there.

Eventually we put her cat bed there and began to feed her there. It seemed easier to carry her to the litter boxes rather than isolate her in the bathroom. We became quickly toilet trained, learning exactly when to carry her to the boxes to prevent accidents (which you don't want on your kitchen table or in the other cats' food dishes-brilliant revenge, but not in the kitchen).

So now Girl Cat lives on the kitchen table.

This may make me seem very heroic as far as pet care is concerned, but I'm not, really. I can tolerate giving up my kitchen table and carrying the cat to the box, but I would not be able to tolerate daily toileting accidents. We decided not to give Girl Cat insulin because she'd hate getting shots and also because we would have to arrange our entire lives around the 12 hour shot schedule. I won't pay for surgery unless there is a good chance it fixes the problem, like the thyroid surgery was supposed to have done. If I'd known she'd still be ostracized, I might have chosen to have her put to sleep instead.

There are limits as to how much money I will spend. One of our cats potentially was a candidate for a surgery costing thousands of dollars with no guarantee of fixing the problem (urinary problem). Luckily he did not need it, but I would never have spent so much money on a sick cat, not even a beloved one. I won't even pay for expensive lab tests and Xrays unless I know that it will make a difference in deciding how to care for the cat.

We once had a cat who needed subcutaneous fluids, but to poke him with a needle once or twice a week gave him such trauma that we decided to stop and just let him live out his life. He lived in comfort for a couple of years before finally failing. This was an important lesson for me. I'd never put an animal through torturous treatment merely to extent the pet's life a year or two. Better for me to let the pet live out life comfortably with whatever time is left to her.

So, even though I don't like to have a cat on my kitchen table, I'm willing to put up with it.

How much have you put up with to care for a sick pet?
Have you ever had to choose between care for your pet and being able to afford the cost?


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Day We Couldn't Find the Cat

In early December of 2007, our cat Pumpkin decided to give our family a little pre-Christmas present, and not of the litter box variety. The day started great. I enjoy putting up holiday decorations outside and was careful not to let her out as I exited and entered the house, my arms straining with tubs of lights and garlands. At least, I thought I was careful. Pumpkin, you see, lived inside since we brought her home as a kitten. The one time she decided to do a little outdoor exploring, she didn’t like it. She slipped outside when no one was looking, and we found her shaking with fear under a bush in the front yard. On occasion, she ventured as far as the screened-in porch, but that was her limit for outdoor adventure.

On that particular December morning, she watched through the storm door as I unraveled the Christmas lights and strung them through the garlands of fake greenery twined along the front porch railing. After lunch, I noticed she wasn’t curled up in her favorite corner of the couch for her usual mid-afternoon nap. I suspected she was in the basement, a place of interesting smells but couldn’t find her down there. I shook her food container, which usually encourages her to emerge from her hiding spots, but she didn’t come. I didn’t panic yet.

By dinner time, no one had seen her, not my husband, not my daughter, not his grandmother who lived with us. Pumpkin’s food bowl hadn’t been disturbed since the morning, when she dropped a couple of pieces of kibble into her water for a little flavor. I started worrying she’d snuck outside while I was putting up the decorations. My husband, daughter, Big Mama, and I called her name repeatedly. We looked under beds, in closets, in cabinets, but we couldn’t find her anywhere. As dark descended, I even walked around the yard with a flashlight, calling her name and searching under bushes.

By bedtime, I was certain she’d escaped the house and had met some tragic end. I’d promised my distraught daughter we’d get another cat if Pumpkin didn’t return. I went out on the deck and called her again, even shook the food container out there, knowing if she was alive, she had to be hungry. That was when my daughter felt something move under the reclining couch. Yes, our overweight cat squeezed herself into a small space she couldn’t get out of and hadn’t bothered to let us know until hours later. My husband and I had to flip the couch over to release her. She promptly meowed, licked her paws like nothing had happened, then headed for her food bowl. We think she finally had reached the point where hunger overcame embarrassment at being trapped.

Have you ever lost your pet? Where did you find it?

Maureen's cat Pumpkin died last year but served as inspiration for the cat named Biscuit featured in the short story "A Tale of Two Kitties" included in Critters of Mossy Creek, Book Seven in the BelleBooks' Mossy Creek series. Critters hits stores next month.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Doggy personality quirks

by Terry McLaughlin

It's incredibly easy to anthropomorphize man's best friends. Those soulful, expressive eyes, those eager-to-please instincts. Those quirks and eccentricities that make them fit right in with the human tribe. I wrote about our current dogs two years ago (June 10, 2007). Hogan and Palmer are still with us, and still as naughty and neurotic as ever.

Our first dog, an Irish setter we named Cory, had an incurable sweet tooth. He'd ignore the meat on the kitchen counters, but if I forgot to put a cake out of reach, Cory would snatch it and smear frosting from one end of the room to the other. Cheese didn't interest him, but cookies would disappear. We never caught him in the act, but we knew he was the culprit behind the missing sweets–yet another vet bill would prove that our sucrose-intolerant dog had stolen yet another batch of pastries.

Cory was an amateur compared to the worst kleptomaniac we ever owned: our beagle, Kelly. Kelly was also an escape artist who could get over or under any fence we built, particularly on trash night, when she'd knock over the neighbors' cans and spread a mess in the street. One morning she scooted beneath the neighbors' garage door just as it closed and then spent a pleasant day devouring their supply of diet dinners. Other neighbors loved to tell the story of Kelly's casual appearance at a barbecue party and of her brazen exit with a bag of hot dog buns.

The second Cory, a Labrador retriever mix, was an easy-going fellow who liked to chase rocks. Not chewy throws or bouncy balls–only a rock would do. And only one thing could turn rock-loving Cory into a frenzied, foaming-at-the-mouth canine monster: house flies. He'd hunt them down and kill them no matter the time of day...or night. I lost count of the times he'd wake the family with his furious barking because he'd discovered a fly in the high staircase window, out of reach. One of us would have to climb from bed and coax the fly down into killer-dog range before we could all get back to sleep.

Some days I think life would be less complicated without my doggy friends. Some days like Saturday, when my daughter called from our ranch road to tell me dozens of buzzards were circling over one of our fields...and I noticed Hogan and Palmer had disappeared. Sure enough, when the dogs returned, they were streaked with filth and reeking of something rotten. Ever cooperative, they froze when I told them to, and then they waited patiently for my approach before shaking their coats and showering me with flecks of disgusting stuff.

What personality quirks or eccentric habits do your pets have?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Learning about love from our pets

My husband and I travel a lot these days, and I would love it if not for having to leave my fur babies behind. It's hard to imagine how much you can miss your babies when you're on the road for weeks at a time. You have to leave their care to others and you just know your babies wonder what's going on. Have you left them for good this time?

But when you arrive back home, you're greeted with welcoming barks and meows, tails that wag so hard they wag the whole body, kisses that leave slobber up and down your face. No recriminations, no accusations of abandonment. Just pure joy that you're finally home. If those fur babies could talk, what would they tell you? Tales of turtles that threatened the family home and had to be chased back into the pond? The dog that dared to come into the front yard, only to be driven back by ferocious barking? The fearful thunderstorms they endured when you weren't there to provide comfort?

How many of the human species offer such total devotion, unbridled adoration, and unconditional love? I don't know of anyone who offers the above like my Daisy and Blue. It takes many petting sessions to reassure them of my continued presence, but I never get baleful looks for leaving them so long. During the times I'm home, they rarely leave my side. Blue sleeps at my feet, Daisy an arm's length away in her favorite chair. I'm offered paws to shake and ears to scratch. And it's amazing how much stress those activities relieve.

I tell myself over and over that once these babies have crossed the Rainbow bridge, I won't get another. That I don't need the stress and worry of leaving a pet behind when I travel. But where will I find that kind of love without them? Though they can't express their love with words, I'm left with no doubt whatsoever that I am loved, and loved deeply and unconditionally.

Back when we had cows, I was constantly amazed at how much affection so-called "dumb" animals could provide as well. Don't let them fool you--cows are not dumb. They are devoted to their babies, and they can communicate with you if you know how to listen. One story I've told before is about a cow I bottle-raised from day one. She had loads of personality and she thought I was her mama. When she had a calf of her own, it couldn't latch on to nurse. We didn't realize this until the calf was 2 1/2 days old and her mama brought her up to our back fence and bawled until we came out to see what was wrong. After assessing the situation, I took off for the local dairy for a bottle of colostrum and a gallon of raw milk.

We got the baby on its feet, fed it with the bottle until it got the idea of nursing, then helped it latch on to mom. My reward was head to knee kisses (cow licks in human terms) from mom. Looking into her eyes, you could see her gratitude and--I swear--love.

I've included a few pictures of Daisy (the smaller, yellow dog. And yes, she is truly a blonde), Blue (the larger, black Blue Heeler), and Dammit and Valentino (the cow and calf in the story above).

Do you have any stories to share about your pets and their unconditional love?