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.

The Buster Report

I wrote a version of this article for the Carver-Scott Humane Society’s newsletter, Furry Footnotes.  Any time I can write an article and it can be about me and my animals, I am happy.  No hours spent on research!  The newsletter should be online in a month or two.

Buster cuddles with Monty, a fellow impound survivor

Ever think of fostering, but thought it would be too hard, too much work, or just too daunting?  It’s not all that hard, really; the extra work is minimal, and Carver-Scott volunteers are ready to answer any questions you have or help you deal with behavior or adjustment problems that might arise with the foster animal.

In CSHS’ foster-based program, volunteer foster homes are one of the most necessary components to our mission of rescuing and finding permanent, loving homes for the dogs and cats we serve.   Without foster homes, we cannot take animals who need rescue.

I am fostering a year-old Pit Bull called Buster for CSHS.  I have fostered both dogs and cats in the past, but he is my first Carver-Scott foster.  Taking a dog into my home as a foster was not what I was planning in early December, but life has a way of evolving down paths you never expected.

A year earlier, I had three of my own dogs.  In the space of four months, two of them died: one from extreme old age and the other from hermangiosarcoma, a blood cancer.  It was a devastating period for me, and I was left with one lonely young dog and a heart that would not open up to any new canine companions.  Oh, I looked occasionally, but none of the dogs I saw broke through the emotional barrier I’d erected.

About the time my heart was thawing – a bit – I learned of a dog at 4 Paws Animal Control in Shakopee who had been there for three weeks after being abandoned by his owner when she moved away.  Other dogs at 4 Paws had been claimed by CSHS or other rescues, but still Buster waited.   I took my dog, Luna, to meet him.  She was afraid of all the commotion at the impound, but Buster was just happy to meet us, as he was happy to meet any other dog or person there.  Pit Bulls are often this way, despite the bad reputation they have for being aggressive.

Because the first meeting hadn’t gone very well, on Luna’s part at least, I waited until the next day to pick him up.  I felt bad about making him stay at the impound another night but a happy introduction was more important and better for everybody in the long run.  On her own turf, Luna was her usual self — and elated to have a playmate.  After a couple of minutes of sniffing and worriedly following the newcomer as he checked out his new home, the two were playing chase around my fenced yard.  There’s no way a human can replicate the kind of play that two dogs share, especially when your dog is a hard-playing German shepherd and you are a low-energy kind of slug.

The first few days are always a learning curve, as you and your foster dog get to know one another.  Buster’s house training was an unknown, and at first it seemed to be non-existent.  After being kept in a pen at animal control for so long, I shouldn’t have been surprised that he balked at entering the crate I had for him.  But he came with a built-in great attitude, joyfully playing with Luna, inspecting my cats with the utmost respect and never letting his long white-tipped tail stop wagging.  The house training issue was solved after a few days.  He did that part all by himself.  The crate training thing: we have put that one off until later.  He’s not causing problems in the house, even when I’m not here to supervise, and yeah, it’s unpleasant and I am putting it off.

It’s supposed to be three or four weeks in a new home before a dog will show you all he is made of.  At the four week mark, Buster has gone from a dog who showed signs of separation anxiety, who became frantic if he found himself alone in the house or the yard, to a dog who often is happy to stay outside and play alone when Luna has demanded to be let inside.  He’s gotten a little friskier with my cats, but he only wants to play with them.

CSHS foster homes provide love and care for our dogs, cats and exotics until they are adopted into their forever families.   When you foster, you are doing a good deed, but the animals also do so much for you.   They will love you unconditionally, are thankful for a warm place to land, and in the case of Buster with Luna, provide a free exercise service!

New Year’s Eve: in full swing at my house

The story so far:

Monty is excited about spending his first New Year’s Eve as an adult cat.  Having ingested an impressive amount of catnip, he jumps in his favorite chair for a nap.

What’s this? A lampshade? Hmmmm…what to do, what to do…

Whaddya mean it’s supposed to go on my head??? 

Happy New Year, everybody!


Christmas Relics: Ceramic Elves, Tinsel Trees and Such

My mom hung these mischief makers a small white tabletop Christmas tree in the ’60s. They were very stylish to my young mind. The tree is long gone, but the elves live on.

Santa and Mrs. Claus salt and pepper shakers, 1960s. These two were always on our Christmas table.

The Sugar Plum Fairy was one of the first tree ornaments I remember . At least she was one of the only ones I was allowed to handle, the others being fragile glass. The other one I could play with was a carved wooden St. Bernard. The dog was chewed in half by Daisy as a puppy.  I should have been more careful.

The ever-classy tinsel tree. This one is about 10″ high.

This hot mess of wires and bulbs is from the 1930s, or possibly the 1920s. The lights worked when I was a kid, but the cords have been taped so many times I’m afraid to plug them in now. I was always fascinated by the egg-shaped Old King Cole bulb, and the birdcage bulb, on the right. Too bad I can’t use them!

Wake Me When Christmas Gets Here

Buster has made himself right at home, including parking on my bed at night.

Buster seems to know Christmas is coming.  He’s sampled a branch of the Christmas tree and opened one of his gifts – a Nylabone for “powerful chewers”.  His chewing puts Luna’s destruction to shame.   Toys that Daisy had her entire life that later lived through Luna’s puppy years now lay dead or dying after discovery by Buster.  Cat toys don’t stand a chance.

Buster’s only about a year old, and still firmly a puppy.  He’s learning manners pretty well, and I can’t fault a young guy for chewing.  At least he hasn’t gone after any furniture, or my shoes, or the woodwork.

He is completely food motivated.  Today he pulled a fresh almond croissant out of the grocery bag somewhere between the car and the house.  It must have been when I left the bag at the front door and returned to the car for the case of canned dog food.   He didn’t even act guilty.  I guess he thought he needed it more than I did.




Happy Birthday, Baby Dog

December 20, 2003 – December 26, 2011

Daisy would have turned nine years old yesterday. I brought her home as a six-week old puppy.

Our first day together

She was the first dog I ever had all by myself.  She took advantage of my easy-going ways and was domineering, stubborn, utterly frustrating.  She also was highly intelligent, extremely sensitive and greatly devoted to me.  I think she would have given her life for me.  Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing her, but one thing I know is that I was the one true love of her too-short life.

On a Wisconsin adventure, 2005.

I called Daisy by many different names.  When she felt like it, she answered to any of them.  Daisy Queen, Queenie, Baby Daze, Miss Puppy Girl, Sassy Brat.  Her official name, when I registered her with the American Kennel Club, was Celayne’s Darlin’ Daisy. I never called her by that one.  It was too long.



When I sat with her in our vet’s office almost a year ago, saying goodbye as she succumbed to hermangiosarcoma, I called her by all of her names, even her too-long official name.

My good girl, I miss you every single day.

With her best cat-friend, Isis. Isis mourned when Daisy died.




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.


Jolly Old St. Nicholas

My little St. Nicholas figure is one of the first Christmas decorations to come out each year.

You could call St. Nicholas a prototype Santa Claus.  In some northern European cultures, children would get presents from St. Nick on December 6.  He left the gifts in a shoe or sock left at the foot of their bed, or perhaps hung from a doorknob.  In America, cities with German traditions, such as Cincinnati, start the Christmas season off with this guy.

Christmas lights brighten up a dark time of year, as the hours of sunlight diminish. Here in Minnesota our skies are often clouded in December, adding to the gloom.  I like looking out my windows at dusk and seeing the neighbors’ lights coming on.  I really like Decembers where we actually have snow on the ground. (Dear Mother Nature, so ditch the drought already, okay?)

In what is probably a total lack of good sense given the level of animal mischief in this house, I am going to buy my Christmas tree today.  I’ll get a wreath and maybe some pine tops for the patio planters.  The lights are already on the house.  Now we just need some snow.

New Foster Dog. So Far, So Good.

Sunday afternoon, I drove to the animal control impound in Shakopee, Minnesota and brought Buster home with me.  We’re fostering him through Carver-Scott Humane Society.

Buster is a cheerful young pit bull who was taken to the impound after being left behind by his owner, tied to a tree, when she moved away.   He loves to run and chase with Luna, loves chewing on her toys and has staked out space on the sofa.  He’s great with the cats, curiously sniffing them at first and now mostly ignoring them.  I knew right away that he would be okay with them, because only a couple of the cats flew into the basement to get away.  Isis, James and Juliet all let him approach.  They could tell if he had an aggressive aura, right?

Buster hopes his forever home has a comfy couch like this one


Cleopatra, “Kick-Ass Cleo”, repeatedly swatted him with both of her little black paws.  Buster just stood there, placidly taking her blows without flinching or growling.  It was then that I knew he would have a successful stay as a foster dog in our home.

Successful, even though Buster has had no training, even on the simplest of commands, like “sit”.  He learned quickly.  An offered treat, and another, cooperative, dog work wonders.   Buster learned “down” by watching Luna do it twice.  The first time, he didn’t know what to do, just sat nicely and got his treat anyway.***  The next time I tried it, he smoothly slid into his down after Luna did hers, got an abundance of excited praise, and of course, a treat.

Exhausted after the first day of vigorous play, messing up the couch and all the excitement of getting to know each other. Luna and Buster

Fortunately, he can be trusted to be free in the house when I am not here.  It’s a really good thing, because I couldn’t lure him into the crate for treats nor money.  He figured out how to open the sliding door between the sunroom and the kitchen, so that option is out. He would probably claw his way through the crappy hollow core doors that populate the bedrooms and bathrooms.

I’m meeting with a trainer tomorrow to talk about what I should be doing about some of this, and we’ll be setting up a time for a one-on-one session.  I need all the help I can get.

Meanwhile, Buster and Luna are tugging on a toy together.  I’m delighted that I’m not expected to tug with Luna, and she’s ecstatic that she has a tugging partner who can outlast her.  Buster’s just happy to be out of the cold, dark, noisy impound and into a warm, bright, noisy home.

*** Professional Dog Trainers, and those who would like to be: I know I am probably doing everything wrong.  I don’t claim to be a trainer of even poor proportions.  We all just do the best we can.



My Tidy Cat

I’ve found cat toys in all kinds of fun places: in the wastebasket, floating in the counter top fountain, atop shelved books, once even placed gently in the front paws of a sleeping cat statue .  At least all hundred of them aren’t strewn across the floor.

This one gets an award for Most Comical Use of a Cat Toy.

Someone cracked open the litter scoop’s holder and jammed a furry squirrel toy inside.  Odds are that Monty was the culprit.  He has a track record of going above and beyond normal cat behavior.

In my yoga class, our teacher will give us instruction on an exercise, adding “if you wish more work”, you can modify the pose.  I almost never do.  Monty, though, always wishes for more work.  He really ought to be more fit than he is, as he invariably makes his little workouts more difficult.  Playing with a toy isn’t just batting the thing around, it’s batting the toy while leaping over and around the rungs of a chair.  Stretching usually involves pulling something off the wall.   Hanging off the edge of the kitchen counter and opening a drawer with his dangling front paws, that’s Monty.

There may be another culprit in my household, but I’m putting my money on Monty.

The squirrel, brushed off and ready for more fun

Sacked out. Being a house cat is tough work.