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.

Lili and Maci

In late August, 2011 I visited an animal control facility in rural Minnesota.  I had volunteered to photograph the animals there, and to try to find rescues to take them.  In no part of my mind was I planning to bring anyone home with me.

These little girls had other ideas.  They must have known I couldn’t walk by their filthy cage and not make the impulse decision to take them with me.  The tinier one, white with grey markings, especially used her oversized, plaintive meow to let me know that there was no choice in the matter.  They were coming home with me.

Six week old kittens waiting to be rescued, August 2011.

I borrowed a carrier, loaded the pair up and brought them home.  A visit to the vet proved that they were healthy but skinny kittens who needed love and nourishment.  I named the grey tabby Molly and the white one with tabby markings, Meeka.  When they were adopted about three months later, they were given the charming names of Maci (Molly)  and Lili (Meeka)

Molly/Maci at her first vet visit, August 29, 2011.


A couple of days later, I went back to another stray impound and picked up Marlowe, a frightened black kitten.  I had seen him before I met Molly and Meeka but hadn’t yet been informed by the girls that I was again going to be a kitten foster parent.  Two weeks after that, Monty and Marshmallow were jailed in the same place that Meeka and Molly had been.  They came to join the blended kitten family, and the adventure began in earnest.

Feeding frenzy. From top left, Marshmallow, Marlow, Meeka. Bottom left, Monty, Molly.

Meeka was a crafty imp who liked to be held; Molly was the more independent of the two.  One night Luna had come in from the backyard but soon was whimpering and trying to get back outside.  I heard a cat’s meowing not far from the door and assumed it was one of the adult cats who had slipped out under the herd of three large dogs as they went out for the umpteenth time that day.   But no, it was Molly!  She had boldly ventured out under cover of the dogs but decided she didn’t like being outside alone.  She was hiding under a rose bush and was glad to be held that one time.  Other than that, she was mostly a grey streak in the house, racing alone or with the other kittens.

I’m always sorry when the time comes for the kittens to be adopted out, but I’m delighted when they go to a great home and am especially elated when a pair gets the chance to live their lives together, forever.  Gayle was looking for two young sisters, and I had the perfect pair of siblings for her.  The two former impound kittens have it made now.

Meeka/Lili at about 12 weeks

On the year anniversary of their adoption, I received this from their human mom:

It’s hard to believe they have been here a year Thanksgiving.  Time certainly flew. They both are doing just wonderful.  Never a dull moment around here especially when they are on the run.  Lili is a dainty little girl with an iron fist.  She can carry on quite the conversation. She loves to play and brings the ball back for you to keep throwing–whether it fits into your plans or not.  Maci has turned out to be a big girl.  Still hates to be held but more than willing to sit on your lap.  She loves stealing yarn.  She also talks but not nearly as much as Lili.  They had their first experience with a mouse about a month ago.  Poor mouse never stood a chance with those two.”

And here they are today.

Maci and Lili chilling at home and looking great! November 2012.

And more photos of their time in my home.

Atop the cat tree, with Marshmallow

The little girls loved my ‘grandmother cat’, Samantha.

Happy Thanksgiving

We are thankful to have a great indoor home with plenty of good food and lots to do.

–Celayne’s Cats

Thankful kittens gobble up a hearty meal, 2010


I am thankful for all the good treats I get and for the opportunity to be The One and Only Dog on the premises, although I don’t mind a little feline companionship now and again.

— Celayne’s Luna

Luna and Cricket

And I am thankful for my friends; my family, both animal and human; and for the chance to write my thoughts on this blog and have them read by you.  I hope your Thanksgiving Day was fantastic.


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.


Cause and Effect: Temps Go Down, Cats Get More Cuddly

During the warmer months, the cats are mostly solo acts.  They’ll hang out together, but they don’t want to get too close.  If the bare trees, grey skies and Christmas ads on  TV were not clue enough, I would know winter is coming by these scenes of tranquil togetherness.

Monty and Juliet

Cleopatra and Nimue 


Patient Big Kitty with foster kitten Meeka curled up on his neck

Isis, James, Juliet

Halloween is Over: On to NaNoWriMo

We survived Halloween.  I did not go into a sugar coma and Luna only had four groups of kids to threaten with her bark.  The ringing doorbell really sets her off.  Dog trainers will tell you there are ways to desensitize your dog to the bell, so she won’t act like a maniac when someone presses the button, but I prefer to have a large, barking dog there when someone comes to the door.  Who am I fooling?  I could barely train her to sit, much less ignore something as annoying as a doorbell rung by a stranger.  But, it suits my purpose to have her there, letting stray visitors know that it’s not worth pushing their way into the house.  Truth be told,  if they did, she would probably just do a lot of jumping and licking, but on the other hand, I am not really sure what she would do if an actual stranger tried to come in the house when I was not here.

November 1st means it’s NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that participating writers will churn out 50,000 unedited words during the month of November.  This is about the number of words in a typical novel.   NaNoWriMo is the clearest illustration I can think of where you succeed by producing quantity rather than quality.  Editing is to be done after November is over.  I suspect that many writers who make the 50,000 word count are so sick of cramming 50K worth of words into 30 days that they celebrate the Day of the Happy Deletion on December 1.  I would.

There are websites where you can post your progress.  You can sign up for daily inspirational emails to keep you going.  OCD writers can keep charts and graphs.  At the end of the month, you have something you can be proud of — or not.

Me, I’m a cheater.  Give me rules to follow and I can’t help myself.  I start thinking of ways to circumvent them.

The way I write is to edit when I need a little break from creating the story, which can be as often as every couple of pages.  I can’t imagine blithely moving along from a really terrible paragraph, spewing out more junk and not going back to fix it.  My other habit, which makes NaNoWriMo an extreme challenge, is that I jump from project to project.  At any given time, I have seven stories going, one near complete and the rest have terrific, really terrific, beginnings.  I lose my focus too easily to stick with one story for a whole month.  I also fear the horrible possibility that I would pick the wrong storyline for NaNoWriMo and be stuck with it.  If I was going to follow the rules, that is.

I have started work on a November novel maybe three or four times in the past ten years.  I’ve never made it past the 10th day.  Last year, I thought maybe I would but Daisy the German shepherd got sick suddenly, had surgery and was diagnosed with hermangiosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer.  She didn’t have much time left and I was unable to write, to do anything but worry and be scared, after getting the bad news.

This year, no excuses so far.  I pulled out  the story I started two years ago.  Edited the first two pages, and yes, I counted those as my words for the day.   I told you I cheat!


Happy Halloween

I always feel nostalgic around Halloween.  When I was a kid, it was my favorite holiday, better than Christmas.  There was nothing like choosing a flimsy costume with a dangerous plastic mask at Woolworth’s, and waiting with excited expectation for the night I would wear the costume, for that night allowed to run freely through the neighborhood begging for candy.  And getting good stuff, too.  This was long before the ridiculous concept of “fun size” had flickered in some candy company ad exec’s brain.  Real candy bars: Three Musketeers.  Hershey’s.  Snickers.  Milky Way.  Sure, there was the random  health nut (or child-hater) who would hand out small boxes of raisins, but for the most part Halloween night was a sugar junkie’s nirvana.

In fairness to my parents’ nutritional standards, we didn’t get much candy except for those great candy holidays – Easter, Valentine’s Day and, of course, Halloween – so when we did get it, it was a real treat.  It must have been on a Halloween night that I learned the principle, “if a little is good, a lot is better”.  I remember eating until I felt sick.  I don’t remember that the candy lasted me more than a few days.

The first time I used this little jack o’ lantern candy holder, I had just turned a year old.

My first Halloween decoration, which makes it damn near an antique

Ensuing years of Halloweens saw me graduate to ghost- and pumpkin-festooned felt bags, crayola-decorated paper bags and finally, the teenaged trick-or-treater’s dream, a pillowcase.   Ever increasing piles of candy tossed into ever larger bags. I suppose if I hadn’t quit trick-or-treating when I was thirteen, I would now be driving around with a panel truck collecting my share of the Halloween candy.

A couple of years ago in the fall, I couldn’t get this elementary school song out of my head. We only sang it during October; it was sung to an appropriately creepy, dirge-like tune.  For weeks I hummed, “Tonight is the night when dead leaves fly, like witches on switches across the sky, something something something something moony sheen, It’s Halloween”.

One reason I really love the internet, besides its clear utility for wasting vast expanses of time, is that you can look up just about anything and find an answer.  It turns out that my Halloween song snippet was part of an actual poem, written by Harry Behn (1898 – 1973) who was a screenwriter in the 1920s and 30s, and a children’s author.

I’ll leave you today with Mr. Behn’s complete poem.  Some early school lessons really do stay with you.  Happy Halloween!

Tonight is the night
When dead leaves fly
Like witches on switches
Across the sky,
When elf and sprite
Flit through the night
On a moony sheen.

Tonight is the night
When leaves make a sound
Like a gnome in his home
Under the ground,
When spooks and trolls
Creep out of holes
Mossy and green.

Tonight is the night
When pumpkins stare
Through sheaves and leaves
When ghoul and ghost and goblin host
Dance round their queen
It’s Hallowe’en!


Today’s Title is “Not About Animals”…

…because my original title, ‘Poetry’, will scare too many people away!

I was never a huge fan of poetry.  Even as, or maybe especially as, a young reader I wanted to devour my reading material, to get through a story as quickly as possible so I could start on the next one.

Having to consider each word was too slow, too time consuming.  I was all about quantity, not quality.  My speed reading habit continued into adulthood. Poems, when read, were like hastily muttered and unconsidered prayers. Words were read but no deeper meaning was attached to them.

It was rather unusual, then, when I submitted a poem for publication and it was actually accepted.  What was most unusual was that I actually wrote a poem and edited it into submittable form.   It was utterly on a whim.  A random, unpremeditated, illogical whim. If I’d thought about it, the idea would have flitted in and out of my consciousness like a butterfly seeking nectar in my garden – now here, now there, now gone.

The Talking Stick is published by the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc; my poem “a glimpse of god in the eastern sky” appeared in their Volume 17.  I assumed that they published anything submitted to them but have since heard that is not the case.

I submitted a poem called “Still” to the next edition and what do you know but that one made the cut, too! I was on a poetry roll but as I do so often when on a roll, I quit.  I didn’t submit the next year, or the year after that.

Why?  No spark of inspiration, no nirvana moment that spilled from my heart into words and onto the page.  A low-level case of depression, more dreary than devastating, first touched me, then surrounded me.  Oh, I was up, dressed and moving about.  I had to be.  The animals wouldn’t let me just sit and stare out the window, but there was no emotional energy in me to write much of anything.  I didn’t even read much for more than a year.

I’m back now and writing every day.  Last week, in preparation for my writers’ group, I tossed off a few lines of mostly non-rhyming poetry so I would have something to contribute.  I trust the ladies in the group so thoroughly that I am comfortable taking fourteen lines of doggerel and reading it to them.  At least they hold their laughter until we part at the end of the evening.

Does that make me a poet? I’ve got two books right here on my desk that say I am one.  I like playing with words and I’m pretty good at cobbling together a few seeds that could grow into full-fledged plants if I gave them a bit of love.  Maybe poetry ain’t so bad, after all.

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.


I’m glad I only paid $8 for this cat scratcher.

Juliet looks disapprovingly at the destroyed cat scratcher

I brought it home last Tuesday night, pleased with my remainder-table bargain.  By Thursday afternoon, it looked like this.  In a household of many cats, you might think I had to guess at which feline(s) were responsible for this senseless destruction.    I did not.  I knew.

Marlowe and Monty, the M & M boys, are solidly living out their kitty adolescence and have decided to pursue the hoodlum path.  I have had kittens and young cats around the house off and on for years, so I’ve learned not to leave glassware out; pens and pencils, ditto, as they make great spinning cat toys that can disappear into the smallest of nooks and crannies;  jewelry must be securely hidden away, especially anything with a chain; and there is no way on Bastet’s** green earth that I will ever be able to have healthy houseplants again.  Until these two appeared, though, I had never experienced undue destruction of cat toys.  Sure, the carpeted cat trees look threadbare after a while, and the little furry battery operated animals that squeak fall silent after being dropped in the water bowl.  That’s part of the cost of doing business with cats.

Monty, on a self-imposed time out.

Marlowe with some of his handiwork

This cardboard cat scratcher surprised me.  You’d think they wouldn’t normally be that durable, but I’ve had several of them and they’ve all lasted several months, if not years.  I expected the cardboard frame to be pummeled but I never dreamed that they would rend the corrugated scratching surface into two parts.

I guess this means it will be a flippant waste of money to have a Christmas tree this year.

**Bastet, an ancient Egyptian cat goddess