I Love Lucy Pie

I maxed out the photo storage on my iPhone, so last weekend I backed up pictures to my computer so I could delete them from my phone and make room for new ones. In the process of cleaning things up, I noticed I might be a little in love with my dog. I mean, who can blame me though, really? We took Lucy on a ride tonight and she experienced the Dairy Queen drive through. She was so cute! She tried to ask the girl at the window if they sold Frosty Paws there, but apparently they don’t speak dog at Dairy Queen. I was proud of Lucy for trying, none the less.

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Based on this collection of pictures, you might be tempted to believe that my dog is lazy and does nothing but sit on the furniture, sit on her people or sleep. Wrong. The iPhone camera simply can’t capture her energy without making her look like a fuzzy blur!

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.

Chasing the Light

The sun reflecting through a pair of glasses or bouncing off the face of a watch.

Light from the living room lamp casting shadows on the carpet.

The light beam of a flashlight racing around the floor.

Doesn’t matter which one. Lucy loves to chase light.

She’s smart. She knows how to ask someone to start the game. If you have glasses on your face, she sits and stares. She whines until you take them off, find a light source and create a spot of light on the floor for her to chase. If you have a flashlight? Same thing. When she finds shadows, she can entertain herself.

Considering the fact that she chews most doggie toys to a pulp, it’s the best form of entertainment we can offer her.

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.


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.



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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!