This Month Only!

My blog about surviving pet loss appears on my friend Kathi Holmes’ website this month.  She has been featuring inspirational stories by other bloggers on her site, and was kind enough to allow me a chance.  I don’t  generally think of my self as having a particularly inspirational story to tell, with my sarcastic sensibilities and all, but if you’ve gone through the loss of a companion animal it might help you to learn how someone else has experienced it.  Check it out at

Unfortunately, I had much experience with this subject a year ago, but hey, life experiences make for richer writing, n’est-ce pas?

We’re now up to 405 days without an animal death.   Things can change in an instant, but everybody seems to be in pretty decent shape now.  Even 17 year old Big Kitty, who by now could be called Skinny Old Kitty.   He has a huge appetite, but, rather annoyingly, doesn’t put on any weight.  I need to find out what his secret is.

Big Kitty. Photo by Katie Thering Berger, Kage Imagery.

We Had A Photo Shoot

Please welcome our guest blogger, Luna.  She writes on topics of interest to the Canine-American community. Thanks to Amber Johnson of Modern Life Photo for having the patience to deal with two unruly dogs. – Celayne

Here we are in the backyard. I’m the good-looking girl on the right. Buster’s the shorter guy. He adores me.

So we got to go on a car ride today, me and my foster brother, Buster.  It was longer than we usually drive.  Normally we wait in the car while She Who Keeps the Food goes into the store to buy her own food and it is close to our home and it doesn’t take very long.  Today we sped along the freeway for a while before we got to a place I remember well: Pampered Pooch Playground.  I haven’t been there in maybe a year, but I went pretty often after Daisy died.  She Who Keeps the Food thought I needed to play with dogs and Rusty was too old to play with me.  Like I can’t entertain myself!  But it was fun going there.  Now I’ve got Buster to play with so we just stay home in our big fenced yard and chase around there.  I hope She is not too mad when she sees what happened to the Mugo pine tree…

You can click here to see a video of the two of us playing tug-of-war.  We were tired after a long day with many trips outdoors into the blowing cold, it was warm in front of the fireplace and so we were moving kinda slow motion.  But you can see how well we get along together.  He respects my authority, so of course things are going smoothly!

Anyway, the reason we were at Pampered Pooch was to have our picture taken.  I don’t know why She took us there, because she’s always taking pictures of us.  Embarrassing stuff like when we are sliding off the couch while sleeping, or having one of the cats cuddle against us.  But there we were, so we put on a show.  We pretended not to know what ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ means.  Buster pretended that he always jumps up when he is offered a treat.  And I pretended that I was shy and kept trying to hide behind my mom.  She was getting frustrated with our make-believe, I could tell.

But the photographer, a real photographer with a real camera, was very nice and patient with us. I kind of felt sorry for her and wished we weren’t doing all our pretending.  Despite our antics, she said she got some good pictures of us and will be getting them ready so She Who Keeps the Food can pick them up on Saturday.

So stay tuned. I’m sure She will want to share our pictures with you.

Well, back at it.  There’s still a small patch of pristine snow in the backyard and we want to mess it up before nightfall.

Your canine correspondent,



I’ve been living in a dream world

I thought clean plates and silverware in the dishwasher were safe.  Freshly washed and sparkling, they hold no interest for a curious dog.  I wanted to believe this.  I had no reason not to.

Until today.

I’m a procrastinator, I am lazy, and I am easily distracted.  Sometimes it takes me an hour to unload the dishwasher.

But, it’s not a big deal because the animals will leave the clean things alone.

Sure, I’ve caught a dog with her mouth around a fork, trying to lick the last bit of flavor from it.  Or watched as a big head tries to find enough room to clean up microscopic remainders of cat food from neatly loaded cat plates.  The dishwasher, while several years old, does a fine job of cleaning, not even leaving soap residue behind. Nothing left behind for a dog to enjoy.

My dream world imploded around me this morning.







It’s so disappointing when illusions are licked out of existence.

We Love The Snow

With her heavy shepherd coat and extreme activity level, Luna loves being out in the cold and snow.  Buster Brown, the pit bull terrier we are fostering, does not like the snow.  When we got up Saturday morning and discovered a handful of inches of new snow on the ground, Luna dashed out and danced through it, spraying up rooster tails like a hotshot skier grandstanding to a stop.  Buster was about to step out the sliding door, but held up at the last moment, sniffing the air and wondering what on earth had happened overnight.

I got into my Happy Mode, encouraging him to follow me with squeally-voiced cheerleading: “come on!”;  “let’s go!”; “hooray!” while clapping and hopping up and down, generally making a fool of myself.  Did I mention that I was barefoot in the snow at this point?   But he really needed to get outdoors to relieve himself.  We’d just gotten past the Morning Piddle in the Dining Room stage and I was not about to revert.

Buster did what he was supposed to, and headed back to the door.  “No, you don’t, Buster!” commanded Luna. “C’mon, I’ll show you some fun!” and nosed the reluctant and cold boy back to the expanse of lawn that she’d already decorated with a figure eight. “You do this”, and she jumped up into the air.  “And this”, and pushed some snow with her nose.  “And this”, and she tackled him.

Buster forgot all about the cold as he rolled to his back and began biting Luna’s neck.  Ah.  True love.


Life After Daisy…Is it time to think about fostering a dog?

It’s been eleven months since Daisy died; seven months since Rusty.  It’s just been me and Luna (and the cats, of course) since then, and I’ve been enjoying how easy it is to just have one dog to worry about.  Feeding, walks, clean up: all so easy with just one dog.

Rusty, enjoying his favorite past time, with Cricket looking on.

In the months that it has just been us two, I would occasionally look at dogs on, but despite the appealing photos and touching stories, I couldn’t imagine bringing another dog into our lives.  Too soon since the losses, too reluctant to give up our easy ways.  And then, I wanted to give our relationship, mine and Luna’s, a chance to develop, to strengthen.

Daisy’s premature death shocked me into a numb automaton who just barely went through the motions.  Although Luna and Rusty were mine, I felt like I was caring for someone else’s dogs: feed, let outside, pat on the head, ignore.  I couldn’t do any more than that.

If you’re a dog trainer, you will be shaking your head sadly when you read what I have to say next:  Luna was really Daisy’s dog, not mine.  Sure, I paid her adoption fee, fed her, nominally maintained order, but Daisy ran the show.  Luna was Daisy’s playmate, not mine.  When Daisy went to the back door to go out, Luna was right there, ready to play.  Daisy had rules.  Why do you think she was affectionately known as “The Fun Police”?  Luna was only permitted brief contact with me before Daisy would intervene.  It worked great when Luna was jumping on me.  Instead of having to train the dog to stop jumping, I would call Daisy over and she would get between me and her maniacally jumping and licking charge and it would stop.

Daisy and Luna

Once The Fun Police was gone, Luna and I didn’t know what to do with one another.  I wanted a big dog to press her head into my lap so I could pretend she was Daisy.  She wasn’t used to having her immediate superior be a human.  We figuratively danced around one another, living in the same house, peacefully co-existing, but not working as one.

Gradually, we learned each others’ rhythms and moods.  I discovered that Luna’s short, high-pitched whimperings are just her way of chatting.  That she only needs to be shown something once, and she’s got it down.  That she prefers to eat with me standing nearby.   That she loves a good belly rub.  She found that I can be approached without repercussion and that I’m actually a fun, if slow-moving and short-throwing, playmate.  We enjoy our time together.

So why add a new dog to this mix?  Partly, becasue of my guilt and unease in knowing that there are wonderful dogs out there who need homes.  Partly, because Luna could use more good doggie playtime.  Partly, because the pain of my losses has shrunk to manageable size and there is now room for one more.

Maybe.   I have not committed yet, but I put out some feelers on a dog who is in a local impound. I’m going to foster, not adopt.  That way, I can help a dog into a great forever home without it being my home.  I can help more dogs that way.  But who knows what will happen down the road? Two weeks ago, I told a friend that I never wanted to get a second dog and here I am seriously contemplating at least becoming a dog’s foster parent.

It feels good to have a heart and mind open to possibilities again.

My Guard Dog

Last Friday, a guy came to my front door and stood there for a few seconds before ringing the doorbell.  I don’t know what he wanted; I never answer the door unless I’m expecting the visitor.  I knew he was out there because I happened to see him on the front step.  My house’s layout makes it easy to see comings and goings.

“Get off my lawn!”

Luna, brave watch pup that she is, had no idea he was there until he rang the bell. In a millisecond, though, she was awake, off the bed (yes, my bed) and in full ‘get off of my lawn’ mode.  He didn’t stay long after being greeted by seventy pounds of snarling, barking aggression.  Even through a secure pane of glass, it would scare the hell out of me, if I didn’t know what she is really like.

What she is really like is a silly marshmallow.  Jumping up on people, just to give kisses.  Tail waggling. Excited whimpering.  She has given a few scares to people who startled her, but as she’s been getting out with me more and more, and introduced to all kinds of people in a variety of settings, she’s learned to accept surprises with more equanimity.  Today she even met a new sales associate at It’s A Pet’s Life today with a happy playfulness that made me proud.

When we first started venturing out together, Luna was nervous once we got out of the car, and so was I.  I hadn’t exactly had easy experiences taking my fearful German shepherd Daisy out and about.  Even in the car, she felt she had to warn away walkers, runners, other dogs, bicycles, motorcycles, anything that moved.  You should see the doors and upholstery in my poor Subaru Outback!  Big nails dug into doors while dog rages doesn’t enhance the value of an automobile.

Luna, perfect princess that she is, has only barked a couple of times while we were driving.  And, she actually stopped the noise when I calmly told her to be quiet.  Nothing I did or said could shut Daisy up once she started.  With Luna, when an old lady crossed the street in front of us with a Shih-Tzu on leash, silence.  Those of you who have always had well-mannered dogs might not appreciate this, but to me it is close to a miracle.  A miracle that left me wondering how to react, because it was such an unusual experience.  There’s nothing to be done in the face of a miracle of this magnitude so I just drove on, telling Luna what a wonderful girl she is.

She nibbled daintily on a treat given her at the Caribou Coffee drive-through, and curled up for the rest of the ride.


Luna vs. The Opossum

The whining in the backyard was unusual.  That particular, distinctive sound means that Luna has trapped a cat under the couch or in the cat tree and wants it to continue playing with her.  It was disconcerting to hear the whimpering in the yard.  Since I am a vigilant guard and the cats can’t escape, I knew there was another critter out there with my dog.

Luna wouldn’t come to my increasingly firm calls, so I marched over to one of the hanging bird feeders, grabbed her by the collar and dragged her back to the house — literally, as she was unwilling to leave the small, curled animal that lay there.  iPhone’s flashlight app on, I revisited the scene and found an opossum, curled up and breathing heavily.

Opossums are odd little creatures, with sharply pointed, ghostly faces.  If they aren’t pretending to be dead, they have a beady little stare.  Their short legs make them seem to glide silently along the ground.  I’ve only seen a couple of them in my yard in the seven years I’ve been here, but there could be many living secret lives in the brush and hedges.  I imagine them, silently watching us go about our business, waiting for a chance to come nibble on fallen bird seed.

I love wildlife as long as I don’t have to encounter it personally, and I wasn’t sure what to do.  Is the phrase ‘playing possum’ based on reality or is it a myth?  At any rate, I didn’t want to handle the animal whether it was injured, safe, sleeping, whatever.  A bird who has stunned itself after crashing into the sunroom window, I will pick up.  But something with teeth, no.  Even if it is a comatose possum.   So left it alone, I did.

This morning the little animal was gone. No trail of blood, no poor mangled corpse left behind by a predatory bird.  He must have been feigning sleep for me, beating it as soon as the coast was clear.

I did some quick research on opossums this morning.  It seems that they don’t play dead to fool a predator, so much as they are paralyzed by fear and thus appear to be dead.  It’s tough being a possum.

Playing Possum: it’s true!  Click here: Playing Possum

And it’s tough being my dog when you’ve messed with an opossum.   To avoid a possible flea outbreak, Luna was dosed with Advantix and we’ll be going to the vet this afternoon for a check up.  Her rabies vaccine is up-to-date, and I don’t know if that is much of a concern with possums, but I’m not taking a chance of having a sick dog.

In which we are frightened

Today Luna and I went on a quick trip to our favorite pet supply store, It’s A Pet’s LIfe in Plymouth, Minnesota.   They have a great selection of natural and organic pet foods and treats, plus all the other supplies you need to care for your companion animals.  Plus, they deliver.  This is huge in my book.  When you buy as much animal product as I do, it’s essential.   When I have a small order, though, I will just make the five minute drive and pick the things up.  Plus, Luna really likes to go to the store.  This time, I needed to pick up some frozen raw food for the cats, some canned pumpkin for Luna, and whatever treat or toy would catch Luna’s fancy.  (Spoiled? Not she!)

Luna was kind of sorry she’d insisted on coming along for this one, as there was something really scary in the store.  Was it the resident bird, a rescued grey and white parrot?  A menacing mastiff, with drooling jowls and a low, fearsome growl?   A small, erratically moving child?  Nope, it was Jake, the owner’s four pound Yorkie.  I hadn’t seen Jake in months, maybe a year or more.  But there he was, with his silky coat and pert ears, an adorable little imp.

When I saw that Jake was in the store, my muscle memory kicked in and I gripped the leash more tightly, as my whole body tensed and my lungs took in oxygen in shallow, forced breaths.  My late, lamented Daisy trained me well and I couldn’t help but flash on the scene that would have unfolded had she been the one at the end of that colorful Halloween leash?  While Daisy was a renowned party-pooper and didn’t enjoy surprises at all, she really despised small dogs.  Daisy would go from 0-60 in two seconds and there was little I could do to reel her back in.  It would have been ugly.  Consequently, we didn’t go anywhere together.

Back to the present and Luna.   Jake approached us with the cool assurance of an experienced maitre d’ and there wasn’t a growl or a show of teeth by my brave girl.  They sniffed each other and each dog retreated, Jake with a show of indifference and Luna with a big dog-sigh of relief.  He hadn’t hurt her!

Normally, when we visit the store, we walk around and look at what’s new, maybe take advantage of the dog scale to make sure my active dog is maintaining her sixty-eight pound weight. Luna will let her nose decide which aisle we visit first and my arm is always being pulled in a direction I don’t plan on going.  Today, though, she pressed against my leg while I opened the freezer that holds the raw diet.  Walking to the register, she decided she was ready to leave and pulled me towards the glass door where she looked wistfully out at the safety of the parking lot.   I was firm for once and insisted she accompany me the ten feet to pay for the food, where she positioned herself between me and the counter.

At some point during the transaction, Luna the Bold felt confident enough to sniff at another customer and her cocker spaniel, to eye the parrot and act like her curious self.  But then he returned.

Jake strolled out from behind the counter and looked at her.  I felt my dog stiffen and could almost hear her whining voice: Please, mom, let’s go.  Pleeeeeeeze.  Now.  Let’s go home!

My card had been charged and my purchases stowed in my canvas shopping bag, so we were free to sprint to the door, then hurry to the car where I opened the hatchback and Luna jumped in without giving me time to unhook the leash from her collar.

I have no idea what telepathic communication or canine body language went on between them or why Luna was so worried about the Yorkie.  Jake has always seemed to be a polite and upstanding little guy.   Maybe he didn’t like a big black and tan shepherd barging into his store and demanding all the human attention.  Maybe he reminded her of a rather large squirrel that would take vengeance on her for chasing his grandpa up our  big maple tree day after day.   It’s part of the Infinite Unknowable that the dog world keeps hidden from this human.


What fun we have!

Luna accompanies me everywhere.  She’s always glad for a ride in the car; if she can enter a store or other business with me,  she is overjoyed.   Yesterday, we dropped some plants off at Kelley & Kelley Nursery in my town of Long Lake, Minnesota.  The plants won’t survive two weeks inside the house because certain felines shred the fragrant heliotrope’s leaves, uproot the thirty year old aloes and bat the poor things across the floor, and generally make a mess in the dirt. Run-of-the-mill plants, or ones that cherish neglect can go to my studio in the walkout basement, but the house is dry, I am often oblivious to their needs and everything looks like hell by spring.  I always lose a plant or two or three and rue the five minutes or so I have spent on the things over the six months of winter as time wasted that I will never recover.

Luna and Monty, in one of their less looney moments

Kelley & Kelley has a fine greenhouse with a friendly and knowledgeable staff that takes great care of my plants.  Last spring, I was delighted when I picked up the heliotrope, the aloes and the rosemary plant.  They’d not only survived, they had thrived in their winter home.  As I said, for several reasons, their lifespan in my home would be severely truncated.

So, we got to the nursery, Luna and I.  She waited in the car while I took the small potted heliotrope in.  The rosemary is in a huge clay pot.  While I can lift and carry it, from unpleasant experience I know that my back will be full of spite and resentment the next day, so I asked the woman at the desk for some help.  When I opened the Subaru’s door, Luna greeted her as a long-lost friend with plenty of tail wagging and kisses.  That led to an invitation for my dog to join us in the building.

Luna was happy to meet two more new friends, one of whom was finishing up a yogurt.  The dog tried to help herself to the snack but after a polite rebuff was off to race up and down the mostly empty aisles of the greenhouse, back for a quick recheck of the humans (to see if there was any more yogurt, I presume) then off to the greenhouse again.

Luna was enthusiastically invited to visit again any old time.  Me? I think they can take or leave me.

Meanwhile, it is so much fun for me to have a dog to accompany me on my errands, one that can successfully enter a place of business and BE ASKED BACK.  Until a few months ago, I always had two or three dogs.  Daisy, whom I mourn every day, was nonetheless not an easy dog to take out and about.  She was fearful of most people and wary of new places, scents, sights. It was stressful to a degree that I don’t even want to recall any longer to take that beautiful dog anywhere.   And my old Golden/Lab Rusty was certainly a friendly boy but as he got older, he too got stressed when we weren’t at home so I had 70 pounds of panting unhappiness at the end of the leash.  When Luna wasn’t a Not-So-Lonely Only, I didn’t think twice about leaving them all at home most of the time.

The first few times we went out together, Luna was nervous and would sometimes react unpleasantly, especially when startled, but as she has gained experience her confidence has soared. After visiting a couple of places enough that she was completely comfortable there, we’ve branched out and now we will go anywhere they’ll let us in.  The other day, we stopped in a new little dog food store where the owner commented on what a GOOD dog I had.   Luna was just sitting there minding her own business, but I have seen and handled worse, so was pleased with the compliment.

It wasn’t a conscious training effort on my part, and being lazy to a fault, I like things that take little or not effort.  It was just a matter of letting a good dog learn that going out in the world and being friendly can garner you praise, dog treats and maybe a surreptitious lick  of yogurt.