Finding Love Late in Life – A Cat Tale

… Or How to Make Two Cats Out of One

Tigger is our cat, sort of. He is really my parents’ cat, or used to be. He came to live with us when my parents went off to live in Arizona for the winter one year.

Mom and Dad had two cats back then, Tigger and Maxine. And they knew they couldn’t leave their poor babies alone in the house for a whole winter, even if I stopped by the house every other day to make sure there was plenty of food and water and that litter boxes were clean. We all knew this wouldn’t work so well because we’d tried it the first year. It wasn’t fun for the cats or for me.

So when my parents decided that they couldn’t keep their kitties any longer, you know what happened. No, they could not bear to surrender the cats to an animal rescue group. They wanted their babies where they might still visit them now and then. And then they appealed to their animal-loving children to “adopt” the cats.

There were two cat-adopting candidates among my parents’ four children. My brother, Jim was one of them. I was the other. I don’t remember that either of us was all that enthusiastic about this plan, but our sympathy for our parents and the cats was bigger than our resistance. Neither of us could say no to my parents’ request. I called Jim and said, “I’ll take Tigger if you’ll take Maxine.”

Maxine was a long-haired, arrogant cat and she ruled the roost when she lived in my parents’ home. And she had a bad habit of walking on the kitchen table and counter tops. I’m an animal lover, but I did not want any cat feet, cat butts or cat fur in any of the places where my food might be. I did not want Maxine.

Jim agreed to my proposal, I think because Tigger had no personality and he figured he and his family would at least get some entertainment out of this deal.

Tigger has always been skittish. He was very sickly as a kitten and my mom could not stand to see him suffer. She made countless visits to the vet and took every measure to bring Tigger back to health. The vet told her that Tigger was probably much younger than the pet shop had stated when he was purchased. He was probably too young to be taken from his mother. But my mom loved him up and gave him medications and finally, he began to thrive. But the damage was done. Tigger may have had a shy personality to begin with, but it was made worse by those days he was in poor health. He never really bonded much with people. He’d come out of hiding now and then for my parents and sometimes even sat on my dad’s lap. But if others came around, he was nowhere to be found. My nephew, Danny actually thought Tigger was a cat we’d all made up and told stories about. On the day Danny finally caught sight of Tigger, he exclaimed to my mom with utter surprise, “Nanna! You really do have a Tigger!”

So you can imagine how Tigger probably felt when he was adopted out to me and my family. Our cat, Holly was still alive back then and she was extremely curious about Tigger. But Tigger wanted nothing to do with her. Oh, how he howled and cried that first night he was here. For weeks, maybe even months, we might not have known that Tigger was in our house, except that we saw signs that he was eating and using the litter box. Eventually, he settled into a cautious level of comfort, learned to coexist with Holly, and spent most of his days hiding out under our beds, only prowling around at night when he was sure we were all asleep.

Tigger in his younger days

Tigger in his younger days

As the years went by, Tigger began to get a bit… naughty. He peed on any blanket or item of clothing left on the floor for any length of time. One time, he peed in my purse!  This went on for a while. We took him to the vet, but there was nothing physically wrong. We eventually realized that we were being punished, but for what reason, we could never figure out.  Holly was gone by then. Maybe he was protesting her departure. We talked to the vet and she offered some suggestions, but we never really found a solution. Tigger was getting pretty old by this point, so we considered it could just be an old age thing. And as angry and frustrated as we were by his behavior and our inability to change it, we didn’t have the heart to put him down either.

I don’t remember why I thought this was a good idea, but at one point, it occurred to me to lock Tigger into the laundry room in our lower level. I put a pet gate up across the doorway so he could see out, but he couldn’t get out. This was my temporary solution until we could figure out what to do. But as it turns out, Tigger loved being in his own place where people weren’t constantly coming and going and where the dog could not chase him. The gate was low enough that we could just step over it, and apparently it never occurred to Tigger to climb or jump over. This was working! Tigger seemed to feel safer. He did his business only in the litter box. He never liked being near windows or doors and going outside was always out of the question anyway. And no tough decisions had to be made.

It’s been a couple years now and Tigger continues to live in the laundry room. Sometimes I think it’s cruel to keep him there, but then I try to take him out and he panics, telling me he doesn’t want to be out. Why mess with a good thing?

Every morning when I wake up, Tigger comes out from his bed behind the furnace and meows at me for his treats. I give him a few and he even lets me pick him up and cuddle him a little bit. But never being one for too much attention, he always wanders back to one of his hiding spots pretty quickly.

Over the last winter, I noticed that Tigger’s fur was beginning to look and feel a little clumpy. He never let me investigate too much and the times I tried brushing him, the brush just passed over the clumps. I worried that there were cysts or something beneath the fur, but couldn’t seem to find anything of concern when he let me get close enough. We wondered about his health now and then, and quite honestly, figured he was probably in his final days. After all, he is something like 17 years old. Lately, Tigger’s been looking really bad. Last weekend, I thought I might try to sponge bathe him and get to the bottom of his mangy fur. I know. Strange idea. But for some reason, I was determined.

Much to my surprise, Tigger allowed me to sponge bathe him with warm water and a washcloth. It did nothing to alleviate the clumpy fur, but he seemed to be taking great pleasure in the warm water. I’m not sure how we managed it, but Kacey came to join me and kept Tigger distracted by scratching under his chin while I tried to figure out what was going on with his fur. I managed to pick apart a big clump and realized it was just a big, matted hard mass of fur.

The internet tells me this is common in some cats and the clumps are called mats. These occur when the undercoat loosens, but the outer “guard” fur keeps it from fully shedding. The mats can be uncomfortable, even painful and can sometimes get infected. I learned it was recommended to just cut these mats right off. In really bad cases, a vet will shave a cat in this condition. Tigger would never survive the panic of leaving this house, much less going outside and to the vet. Kacey and I took matters into our own hands.

Imagine how awful I felt as Tigger not only cooperated, but seemed to welcome me clipping, brushing and cutting his fur. I kept wishing I’d known sooner what was going on and that he needed help keeping groomed. I hadn’t realized he might have been in pain! I got the FurGoPet deshedder that we use on Lucy and I tried it on Tigger. It worked pretty well and mounds of fur came off of him, even though there still seemed to be more than enough attached to him. After we’d worked on him a long while, he seemed to breathe a huge sigh of relief. He needed more clean-up, but I figured he needed a break. Later on, I went to the pet store and bought the type of cat brush recommended for preventing mats. It was very wiry and I worried it would hurt Tigger, but the online information told me that most cats welcome these brushes, and even like to be brushed somewhat aggressively.

The next morning, I took the new brush to Tigger’s fur. Again, he welcomed my attention and just kept circling and purring as if to say, “Now get this spot. Now this one. Oh, yeah. Like that!”

20140602TiggerAnd the fur that came off of him! I could not believe how much fur just kept coming and coming and coming off of his body. As I brushed him and pulled the excess fur from the brush, I made a pile on the floor beside me. At one point, Tigger sniffed it curiously. It was a giant ball of cat fur. He probably thought it was another cat!

In the days since our marathon cat grooming session last weekend, Tigger now comes to greet anyone who comes near his space. He purrs and meows, asking anyone who’s willing to brush him more and more and more! And more fur keeps coming off of him. He actually looks and feels really good again, if you don’t mind a few patchy spots where I had to cut some really big mats.

He has gone from years of reclusiveness to finally welcoming the human touch. It’s kind of sad that it took him this long to accept our love, but better late than never, I guess. He purrs like never before and when you don’t brush and scratch fast enough, he butts his head against whatever body part he can reach. He still won’t sit on my lap. Probably never will. And I’m not sure he has much time left. He’s smaller than ever and really skinny. He seems a little arthritic – he walks like he has a stick up his butt. Actually, he’s always walked like that. He’s a weird cat.

But we love him. And we’re glad he’s finally accepting of our love!

Teeny Tiny Little Speck of Light at the End of the Tunnel

Not much new here. It’s still cold.

But when I opened the garage door to leave for work today, I heard the craziest thing. I heard a bird singing. It was like twenty below this morning. (That’s my estimate, which may be slightly exaggerated in comparison to reality. But in reality, it was definitely less than zero degrees this morning.) And this bird was not just chirping and peeping. It was singing. You never stop to think how pretty a bird’s song can be until you’ve gone months without hearing it. Maybe there’s hope for an end to this winter.

But in the meantime, it is still cold. And just like everyone else, I am sick to death of being cold. Being cold has a negative affect on me.

I have to admit that I’ve snoozed the alarm a few times, skipping exercise in favor of sleeping and snuggling under the pile of blankets for an extra hour. Just can’t help myself sometimes.

I haven’t used my camera like I said I was going to. There is little of interest to photograph inside this house, and I have no interest in spending time outside if I don’t have to.

I wear big, heavy sweatshirts whenever possible. And slippers over socks when hanging around the house. And Under Armour underneath my work clothes. I’m sick of it.

I haven’t done anything special, really. I did read a really good book, though. And of course, we’re closely following the Olympic events! And I passed the time one evening registering Lucy for a doggy photo contest. She could win what amounts to a doggy spa package and portrait session. But really I’ve probably just registered myself for a bunch of junk email. Still, I’m pretty sure she’s a shoe-in to win. She’s totally the cutest dog in the contest. Lucy would appreciate your vote, if you’re so inclined.

Vote for Lucy Pie. She'll make all your dreams come true.

Vote for Lucy Pie. She’ll make all your dreams come true.

So as you can see, I’m killing time as best I can while waiting out the deep freeze. The singing bird from this morning makes me feel hopeful… and alternately makes me wonder if the extended cold is just messing with my head. What bird is out singing in the arctic cold? It’s probably a good thing we booked a vacation. I hope southern Florida hasn’t completely succumbed to this miserable winter because I am seriously in need of some rays!

The Best of Canine Friends

It’s not easy to capture moments like these. If Lucy notices that I’ve stepped outside, she tends to come running, thinking I’m only there to play or offer a treat. But this time, I was very, very quiet and I caught them in action.

These two pups have proven that friendship can blossom and grow in spite of certain barriers. A little fence can’t keep Lucy and Gracie from enjoying each other’s company. I just wonder how long before Gracie figures out how to climb or jump right over to our side!

The next-door neighbors are early risers too. When I let Lucy out for the first time each morning, Gracie is usually already out in her own yard. As soon as the sound of a patio door can be heard sliding open and shut, the dogs race toward the fence that divides their yards. They greet each other with pure joy, tails whipping side to side, and they race each other up and down the yards along the fence as if it’s been weeks since they’ve been together.

There is often a stick involved in the dogs’ playtime. Lucy finds them under the massive pine tree in our yard, where Mark left a pile of sticks and brush last fall. Gracie? She has to work a little harder to find sticks in her yard. Actually, they’re not so hard to find. There’s just a little work involved in getting one. She goes to the row of shrubs that borders her back yard and grabs a branch in her teeth, biting, twisting and wrenching until one breaks off! I’m not sure how much will be left of the corner shrub come this spring!

Once a stick has been found, the dogs chase again, up and down the yards along the fence. If you listen closely to the video, you can hear Gracie dragging her stick across the chain-link, making a clickety-clanging sound. Sometimes one of them will figure out how to maneuver their stick through the fence so they can play tug of war. Gracie seems to share a bit more easily, passing sticks to Lucy generously. Gracie never seems to remember that once Lucy has the stick, it probably won’t be coming back to her. Still, there never comes a time when she’s not willing to share what she has with her friend.

The layers of snow in our yards seem to grow deeper by the day. I was walking in the yard yesterday. In places where the snow was not disturbed before I came along, it was over my knees! Lucy and Gracie have worn paths along their play area on each side. After a particularly heavy snowfall, Kacey went outside with the shovel to clear Lucy’s way again. The dogs often dig the snow away from their fence, as if thinking they might dig deep enough to tunnel underneath and finally be able to run in the same yard. They dig furiously with their paws and bury their faces in the snow. Lucy often forgets how cold it can be until one of her paws suddenly aches with cold. Then she’ll favor the aching foot and come limping to the door to come inside. Gracie seems a little more immune to the cold and at times like these, she’ll sit on her side of the fence watching sadly as Lucy goes back inside the warmth of her own house.

We’ve often joked with the neighbors that we should just cut a doggy-door in that fence so our “girls” can play together whenever they like.

Dog People

One of the many things I love about my dog is the utter joy she experiences when she is reunited with the ones she loves. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been gone from the house and returned again, or if we’ve just been asleep for the night and are waking up for the day. Lucy Pie demonstrates such sheer joy at seeing our faces, she nearly crawls out of her skin. And if you know what’s good for you, you’ll steer clear of her tail on such occasions.

Mark worked the night shift last night. Lucy and I were just getting our day started when Mark came home this morning. She had already given me my morning kiss and had scratched my neck in an effort to, I think, hug me. Mark was understandably tired after a long night on the job and plopped into a living room chair to sit and chat with me for a few minutes before going to bed. Lucy couldn’t stand the idea of not being near him. She climbed right up on him and displayed her long-standing belief that she is too a lap dog.

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007Last night, Mark and I were playing with Lucy in the family room. Lucy is the princess in this house and she knows it. Mark looked at her and asked, “Do you know how lucky you are, Dog? You were probably on your way to euthanasia until we came along and took you home.”

“We?” I asked. “What’s this ‘we’ business? I believe it was I who went in search of Lucy. I was the one who picked her out and had to convince you to let me bring her home!”

Scratching Lucy behind both ears and pulling her face to his, Mark explained, “That’s because I didn’t think I could love another dog after Shelby. But we got lucky. We’ve been lucky enough to have the two best dogs in the world. And we’ll never have another.”

“Um, yeah we will,” I corrected him.

He looked surprised. “You would be willing to take in another dog someday when Lucy’s not around?”

It seemed an odd conversation. I don’t want to think about a time when my Lucy is no longer around. But the reality is, I am pretty likely to outlive her. I thought about Mark’s question and realized that Shelby and Lucy have taught me what a joy it is to love a dog. As much as I hate to think about a day without Lucy, I can no longer imagine a life without a loving dog. I looked at Mark and answered without hesitation.

“Yep.”

Outsmarted?

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I would move “her” chair away from the windows, but the living room just isn’t big enough that I can keep the window side of the room free of furniture. Lucy loves to sit in her chair and watch the happenings out the front window. She gets really excited when other dogs pass by. The windows inevitably end up covered in nose and tongue prints. I had just cleaned them off while doing my Saturday round of household chores and decided to close the blinds on the two middle windows to keep Lucy off of them. She could still see out the outer windows, but since those are crank-outs and have screens, she wouldn’t be able to leave her mark on them.

Apparently Lucy felt that she couldn’t see as well out of those outer windows from the seat of her chair. She wanted to get closer. Maybe it’s a trick she remembers from the days when her “sister,” Bella was still around.

Still miss our little Bells so much...

Still miss our little Bells so much…

Lucy is a very smart dog. When she first joined the family, she very quickly learned to ding the bell we hung on the back door to let us know when she wants to go outside. She knows how to shake, speak and stay. I think she plays stupid with the command, Come! I keep trying, but always resort to, Whose here? or Treat! Only then will she come in from the back yard, unless of course, she wants to come in.

On Saturday, I was playing find the treat with Lucy. Just like Kacey taught her, she sat when I said sit. She stayed when I said stay. She watched intently as I walked down the hallway with her treat. She watched me go into Kacey’s bedroom and she stayed put while I placed the Milk Bone behind Kacey’s bedroom door. I then walked out of the room and straight back to Lucy’s side before saying, Go get it!

My brainiac dog ran down the hallway, past Kacey’s bedroom and into Jake’s bedroom. She sniffed around for a few seconds before going to Kacey’s room and finding the hidden treasure. I was cracking up as I told her, Good job! I don’t know if she just thinks that part of the game is to go sniff around other rooms before finding her prize, but regardless, she provided me great amusement!

Life with Lucy

Since Lucy’s a rescue dog, we’ve never been entirely sure of her breeding. When we first saw Lucy’s photo on the rescue group’s website and I inquired about her, I was told she was most likely a Boxer/Lab/Beagle/Hound mix. Her body shape and the color of her fur seem to verify that she’s part Boxer. The other breeds aren’t so immediately apparent – until I take her for a walk. That’s when I know that Lucy’s got some Hound in her.

When we go out in the mornings, Lucy spends most of the walk with her nose to the ground. She spreads her front legs wide and literally pulls me along as she chases one scent or another. And just as I get in a rhythm with her pace, she’ll stop dead in her tracks to sniff the grass, a light pole or some low hanging pine branches where some other dog has most likely left his mark. Then, like a toddler with ADHD, she’s off like a rocket again to chase some other smell.

It’s a good thing I have long legs. They make it easier to keep up with Lucy. And if I run to keep up with her, she just moves even faster. I’m apparently not allowed to get comfortable. And to make matters worse, the local bunny population seems to have exploded all of a sudden. These cute and fuzzy bunnies reside in the grasses along the neighborhood paths we walk each day. They hop out into the open and Lucy catches their scent before I can even notice them. Unfortunately, the bunny defense mechanism is to stand completely still. Lucy does her best to yank my arm out of the socket when she lunges after them and I get an arm workout while trying to remind her who is in charge on this walk. I swear, I could hire her out as a farm hand. Hook her up to a plow and put a bunny in front of her and off she’ll go.

Lap DogLucky for Lucy, she’s got such a funny personality. She loves to give hugs and sit on laps. She doesn’t seem to realize she’s a canine. She rarely sits on her back legs, instead sitting on her back end with her hind legs stretched out in front of her.It’s obvious she thinks she’s a people. And she knows her favorite people by name. The other night, I asked Kacey, “Is Connor here?” Lucy leapt up from the floor, woofed and went running to look out the front door.

Sometimes we take her collar off and tell her, “Lucy! You’re naked!” She won’t relax until her collar is back on. Clearly she doesn’t like to be naked.

She has never learned to obey when we say, “Lucy, come!” But if someone even whispers the word “treat,” she’ll come running from the far corners of the back yard. And when it comes to treats, Lucy definitely knows sit, speak, and shake.

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She’s got the prettiest topaz-brown eyes, and she’ll melt your heart when you talk to her directly and she cocks her head to the side as if to say, “Really! Tell me more!”

She constantly makes us laugh and Kacey and I are always remarking at how we somehow managed to find the cutest dog in the world. (Feel free to argue with me, you other dog lovers. I know you will, and we’ll agree to disagree!) We spoil Lucy just a little bit, like when she hears one of us scooping ice cubes from the plastic bin in the freezer. She thinks ice is a treat, and we always give her a cube to chew. We’ve added Princess to Lucy’s long list of affectionate nick names, and she seems to take the new name to heart. But spoiled as she may be, she’s generous with her love and is the best cuddler. Which is probably the only reason I’ll forgive her for waking me up at 3:30 this morning and whining to go out for our daily walk.

A Weekend with the Family

One nice thing about the kids growing up is that they’ve realized they actually like each other. Kacey had plans to come home from school on Friday for the weekend. The school year will be done in only one more week, but Connor had a job interview on Friday and they both decided to use the trip home to move as much stuff out of their dorms as possible before the semester is officially over. Before they came home, Kacey texted me to make sure this was the same weekend that Brad and Heather were coming home for a visit. I confirmed that it was. I like that it is important to her that her visits are timed to coincide with Brad’s.  There were a lot of years when I wondered if my kids would ever get along.

I took the day off from work on Friday. I wanted to get the house cleaned up, do the grocery shopping, and have a nice dinner waiting on all the kids when they arrived home. I thought I might sleep in a little bit on Friday morning but no such luck. My body has apparently developed an internal clock that awakens me early even when I don’t have to be up.

018Oh well. Figured I might as well get started on the day’s chores as long as I was up. And the weather made it easy for me to be stuck inside being all domestic and such. And the day was not without excitement. The new street light was installed across the street in Neighbor Bob’s yard. Now Mark can stop leaving our house lights on all night long in an attempt to compensate for the lack of municipal lighting that resulted from the demise of the previous street light. (Boy, the things you miss being stuck in an office all day!)

By late afternoon, the house was clean and the kitchen was well-stocked with food that would appeal to hungry young people. I had a big batch of chicken chow mein cooking when they all arrived home right around dinner time. And except for Jake, who fell asleep after work due to still making the adjustment from night owl to early bird, we all enjoyed a nice meal together at the kitchen table.

Later on, we decided to watch a movie together in the living room. Long before it was over, Brad, Heather and I had fallen asleep and only woke up long enough to go to bed for the night. We all start our days before the sun rises. There comes a point in the evening where, if I’ve stopped moving, I’m probably falling asleep. Apparently the same holds true for Brad and Heather. Mark had a good laugh at our expense. Easy for him to laugh! He doesn’t get up early unless absolutely necessary!

The weather changed over from snow to freezing rain on Friday and then to just regular old rain, gray skies and a chill on Saturday. I made pancakes for breakfast and tried mine Heather’s way – with peanut butter and maple syrup. They were delicious! The weather made us people feel lazy, but not the dogs. Lucy and Dacotah raced and chased and played tug-o-war in the back yard with the doggie frisbee until they were completely wiped out.

On Saturday night, Mark and I had our bowling banquet for our Saturday league. The kids were probably getting sick of hanging out with us old people anyway, so it was good that we got away for a while. And considering that I felt like my game had really suffered in the second half of the season, I was surprised to learn that I’d earned some awards! I was recognized for achieving:

  • a 225 game
  • a 500 series
  • 75 pins over average
  • the league high women’s average of 153
  • the women’s high game of 247

All in all, it was a fun night and we enjoyed good food and good company. Most of our bowling friends were going to continue celebrating after the banquet ended, but we called it an early night so we could get back home to spend more time with the kids. They had a little celebration of their own while we were gone. They’d found some good steaks in our freezer and cooked them on the grill. They added some baked potatoes and veggies and enjoyed a nice dinner themselves.

Sunday morning was lazy. Brad, Heather and I were up early (as usual.) The dogs know which people to wake up when it’s time to start their day. We sat in the living room watching t.v., sipping coffee and showering the dogs with attention. Before long, it was noon and time for Brad and Heather to head back to Fargo. We said our goodbyes just as the sun was coming out of hiding and the air was beginning to warm.

Kacey would be home a while longer. She helped us clean up the gardens in the back yard and install some fencing around them to keep Lucy out – because she refuses to believe that the gardens are not a part of her domain! It had warmed up so much since Friday’s snow that we were out in t-shirts and Kacey and I had bare feet! Our next door neighbors were outside too, enjoying the sun and doing some gardening in their own yard. Their new family member, Gracie was outside and Lucy was anxious to get to know her. Gracie was a little shy though.

Gracie 2While we got our gardens all neat and tidy, Lucy chased up and down the fence trying to get Gracie’s attention. Gracie began to warm up and I’m sure they’ll be great friends soon enough!

We had an early dinner and Kacey’s ride came to pick her up. We hugged goodbye and the house got quiet again. Brad and Heather plan to visit again in a month. Kacey will be home for the summer by the end of the week. Lucy was sad to see them go, but I think the break will do her good. Clearly she wore herself out!

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A happy ending to a (literally) crappy week

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever been so obsessed with poop as I have been this week. But it was for the best, believe me.

Poor Lucy has had the Hershey’s Squirts since Monday. Of course, I was immediately concerned. The dog has a stomach of iron and eats everything that will fit in her mouth, usually without incident. I had Mark take a stool sample in for testing, but nothing was found. I was advised to cook some white rice and feed it to Lucy with her regular food for a couple of days. But it didn’t cure her loosey goosies.

Lucy Chatting

“Mom? My butt hurts!”

I watched Lucy in the yard last evening. After she did her business, I went to investigate, hoping to see some sign that things were returning to normal. But things were far from normal and I also saw blood, which made me feel a little panicky. Bella had bloody stools just as she got so incredibly sick. I couldn’t sleep last night. I worried that Lucy was getting incredibly sick too. I made Mark promise to take her to the vet today.

Mark called me at work this afternoon. He asked, “Do you want the good news? Or the good news?”

“Umm… the good news,” I said.

“They found a fungus in Lucy’s stool. She has some pills to take for a few days and her poop should get back to normal as soon as this evening.”

I was so relieved! When I got home and Lucy greeted me at the door like usual, I dropped to my knees and hugged and kissed her and told her how happy I was that she was going to be just fine. She put her paws up on my shoulders and gave me a big, sloppy, wet kiss! A happy ending to a crappy week!

On a side note, for anyone wondering, “Why don’t I know who Tigger is?” ….

Tigger

This is Tigger.

There’s not much to say about Tigger. Like some of our other pets, he found his way into our lives when we weren’t even looking. He used to belong to my parents until they couldn’t keep him anymore. It took him a while to get used to us. He never really did, I guess. He now resides behind the furnace for the most part and comes out for treats and a snuggle from me when I get up for work in the morning. Otherwise, he pretty much keeps to himself and prefers not to be looked at or touched.

I can’t say for sure, but I think Tigger is glad that Lucy isn’t feeling so crappy anymore too.

Stray

Lucy frequently barks at things she sees out the windows. School children walking to and from the bus stop. Runners. Dog walkers. Squirrels in the yard. Turkeys in the yard. (Yes, really. But just that one time.)

Last evening, Lucy was gazing out the window of the front door and began to bark and howl, whine, cry and dance like a dog possessed.

“What the heck,” I said, leaving my skillet of Sloppy Joes in the making to investigate. Jake came to the front window just as I did. There we saw Neighbor Bob out in his front yard with Jack, the German Shorthair. And in the middle of the front yard was a cat. The cat and Jack were running circles around each other, Jack trying to play with (or eat) the cat, the cat trying to fend off Jack. Each time Jack tried to approach the cat, Neighbor Bob pressed a button on a remote control which shocked poor Jack who howled profusely which sent Lucy into further fits.

I slipped on my jacket and walked across the street to see if I could help. While Neighbor Bob secured Jack in his back yard kennel, I approached the cat that was now sitting in the middle of the front yard, breathing heavily. Bob came back just as the cat was hissing at me, warning me not to come close.

“Do you know whose cat this might be,” I asked him?

“No idea,” he said. “Maybe nobody’s.”

There are a lot of feral cats in this area. They tend to stay closer to the many ponds and wooded areas, but sometimes one will run through the neighborhood. They tend to be small and skinny and extremely skittish. The cat in Neighbor Bob’s yard did not appear to be feral. He was too pretty and filled out. I was sure he was someone’s pet, but I couldn’t see a collar and he wouldn’t let me near without hissing. I wasn’t up for getting bit, and I told Bob so. He said he wasn’t either and thanked me for trying to help.

I went back in the house to finish dinner. Not long afterwards, I was looking out the front window and saw Neighbor Bob in his front yard with a broom, shooing away the stray cat. The cat alternately pitched and ran and made it as far as across the street. To my yard. Where he found refuge under the deck steps between the chain link fence and a sizable shrub. I went outside once again to check on the cat, now huddled underneath the steps. Neighbor Bob stood in my front yard with his broom, apologizing for sending the cat my way.

I didn’t want to mess with any more of Neighbor Bob’s crazy antics, so I said not to worry and to just leave the cat. The cat was outside of the fence that surrounds our back yard, but close enough to Lucy’s play area to make her crazy when she went outside. And something was clearly wrong with the cat. He wasn’t leaving in spite of all of the commotion. I decided to keep Lucy in the house long enough to let the cat wander off again. But since Lucy’s stomach was still bothering her, I knew I couldn’t keep her inside indefinitely.

I told myself not to think about the cat. I told myself not to worry about the cat. We’ve had enough pet issues recently. I couldn’t afford to take on another pet, especially one who wouldn’t let me near him anyway and one who might be sick or injured.

I checked after an hour. Cat was still hiding out under the steps.

I checked again sometime later, taking a closer look. Cat was still hiding out under the steps. In the rocks. In the cold. With icy snowflakes beginning to fall and a snowstorm on its way.

I told myself not to think about the cat again, but all I could think is how if he were my pet and out on his own, I’d want someone to care for him. I found a box and lined it with towels, hoping Cat would let me get it under the steps so he could get inside. He hissed when I came near, but I could see him shivering, so I knew he was cold. So I just placed the box as near as I could to Cat with the opening where he could see it.

I went back in the house and told myself not to think about Cat as I was getting him some of Tigger’s food. I brought the food out to the deck steps and Cat hissed at me again as I approached, but he allowed me to put the food in the box. I went back inside, then came out again a while later to peek at him and he was eating.

All I could think was that a snow storm was coming and Cat was going to be dead under my steps in the morning.

And I couldn’t let Lucy outside because she’d go nuts and anger the neighbors with babies on either side of our house. I decided I had to do something.

Not my stray cat, but he looked like this one

Not my stray cat, but he looked like this one

A series of phone calls led me to the county animal control agency who assured me that Cat could be picked up and taken to the Humane Society. I didn’t know if this was the best solution for him, but it would be better than letting him suffer and/or die in the cold overnight. Animal Control said they’d send someone out. It was not who I expected. Turns out we don’t have any type of Animal Control services after 7:00 pm in this city. Instead, I got a police officer who was not equipped to remove or transport Cat. Instead, he proceeded to lecture me about how I shouldn’t provide shelter and I shouldn’t provide food and water. He was not on board with my animal loving instincts. He said that I could probably get someone to remove Cat in the morning and for now, I should just leave Cat out there without the box, without the food and without the water.

“Okay,” I said. “But I think the cat is sick or hurt and I can’t let my dog out.”

He said that Cat didn’t look sick or injured to him. Again I was given the same spiel about help being available in the morning. “Just leave him there for now. Don’t feed him. Blah, blah, blah.”

“Yes, I know,” I sighed. “But I can’t let my dog out. But whatever. I’ll figure it out.”

He left, reminding me again. No shelter. No food. No water. I closed the front door behind him and muttered, “Asshole.”

Maybe he felt my disdain. Maybe he felt guilty. Whatever he felt, he was compelled to go the extra mile after he left. My phone rang and the officer informed me he was on his way back with a kennel and if he could get the cat, he would take him to the Humane Society. And true to his word, he arrived within minutes and came out of his truck with a kennel. He managed to get Cat on the first try. As I watched out the window, he gave me a thumbs up and put the kennel in the back seat of his vehicle. I poked my head out the door and shouted, “Thank you!”

I didn’t feel great about the whole thing. I know what happens to cats that go to the Humane Society and who don’t get claimed or adopted. But at least he didn’t suffer out in the cold overnight. I hope that if he has a family, they find him again. But really, I just have to try not to think too much about him.

They’re getting to know us really well at the vet’s office

Lucy’s tummy is bothering her. I knew it was bad when Jake called me at work yesterday to tell me she’d had an accident in the house and he was cleaning it up. I’ll spare the gory details he shared except to say that he mentioned the words green and reeks. He wanted to know how much carpet shampoo to put in the little scrubber machine and also to inform me that he was going to Target for some Spot Shot. I thought it was just a fluke thing. With much of the snow melting, Lucy has spent more time playing in the back yard than she has in months. The grass is matted and there’s probably mold and gross stuff in there after a long winter under the snow. And everything goes in Lucy’s mouth. God knows what she might have eaten.

After I got home from work, she threw up on the deck a couple of times. We kept an eye on her the rest of the night. She seemed normal otherwise and I wasn’t too worried. She continued to drink and eat normally. Dogs expel a lot of bodily stuff. Figured it was just one of those things and she seemed fine this morning.

At work today, I received a call on my cell phone from a number I didn’t recognize. It turned out to be Emily at the vet’s office.

Emily is the one who assisted the veterinarian when we had to have Bella put down. I liked Emily immensely already because she loves Lucy and treats her extra special whenever we visit. I liked her a hundred times more when she cried along with me as I was letting Bella go. That day, I was asked if I wanted to keep Bella’s ashes and have a paw print made. I said yes without even thinking about it. I wasn’t sure if I wanted them or if Connor might want them, but it seemed important to accept them. Emily was calling today to tell me that Bella’s ashes were back and we could come pick her up whenever we were ready. I thanked her and told her I would probably stop in after work.

I seem to be having a harder time moving on from Bella’s death than I did with Shelby and Holly. Both Shelby, our Springer Spaniel and Holly, our gray cat lived to be ripe old ages (fourteen years each.) When their time came to leave this world, we had plenty of warning. They started slowly going downhill and we had time to get used to the idea that they wouldn’t be staying with us much longer. Maybe that made the grieving process slightly easier.

It’s been different with Bella. Her sudden illness took me by surprise and I feel guilty that maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention. Some days I think I’m used to the fact that she’s gone. Other days, some little reminder will bring me to tears again. She keeps showing up in my dreams where I’m surprised and thrilled that she’s come back to us. When Emily called today to tell me I could pick up Bella’s ashes, I felt okay. But as I neared the vet’s office, I felt tears stinging my eyes again. All I could think about was that day when Mark drove me there with Bella dying in my arms and the doctor and Emily waiting for us there, staying late at the office just so we could come in to have our dog put to sleep.

Thankfully, no one was in the waiting room when I arrived. I had brushed away my tears by then and was pulling myself together. A girl I didn’t recognize was at the front desk. When she asked if she could help me I said, “I’m Terri. I’m here to pick up…”

“Oh. Yes,” she said in a careful sort of voice. She stepped back into the office area and reached for a plastic bag. When she returned, she pulled out the clay paw print and explained that it wasn’t baked yet, in case we wanted to add Bella’s name or anything else to it before it was permanent. I nodded and thanked her.

Before I left work today, Mark called me to say that he was watching Lucy in the yard today and it looked like her stomach issues weren’t over yet. While at the vet’s office, I remembered I wanted to ask what they thought, and I was anxious for a distraction so I mentioned it to the girl at the desk. I went over my suspicions of moldy grass and whatever treasures Lucy might be finding in the yard. She agreed it was a good possibility that Lucy had simply ingested something that wasn’t agreeing with her.

I asked if we should be worried or if we should bring her in. I was grateful when she suggested that since Lucy seems otherwise normal, we could just bring a stool sample in for testing. God knows we’ve racked up enough vet bills over the last couple of weeks so if we can alleviate our worries without paying for another vet visit, I’m all for it.

I told the girl that I would assign the job of collecting said sample to my husband and she made me laugh when she said she would write a note to make it official that it was his job and not mine. I was appreciative but assured her that I could convince him without the official paperwork.

On the ride home, I kept seeing the box with Bella’s ashes on the seat next to me and I started to feel sad and teary again. Part of me was feeling embarrassed, thinking how some might think it is silly to feel so mournful over a dog. But another part of me was realizing that my pets have filled a hole that was left by my children growing up and that it’s natural, me being a dog lover and all, to take some time to grieve.

Anyway, when Lucy greeted me upon my arrival home, my thoughts turned away from my sadness. I remembered that I was worried about Lucy. The panicky side of me was worried that something was wrong with Bella that may have been contagious to Lucy. But when I saw Lucy acting her normal, squirrely self, I gave her a hug and relaxed a bit. And when she ate her evening meal as anxiously as ever and wrestled with Jake later on, I felt more certain she was only suffering some temporary ailment.

Also, I remembered the elk antler I’d bought last Friday at the pet store for Lucy to chew on. An online search led to some information about these antler chews being suspected of causing diarrhea in some dogs. Who knows. But Lucy’s been gnawing on hers since I brought it home and she’s done some damage to it. I took it away just in case. Then I called Mark at work to tell him that the vet staff said he was responsible for collecting a stool sample tomorrow. He was a good sport and played like he bought it.

I can’t worry too much as long as Lucy continues to be her mostly normal self. But I’ll feel better when we can get some answers and hopefully all we need to do is work on curbing her habit of treating the back yard like a salad bar.