Monday, January 14, 2019

Getting Ready!

Today has been a whirlwind of re-homing plants, gathering bowls, filling litter boxes, and trying to scrutinize the sunroom from the perspective of three rambunctious five-month old kittens. They'll be living in the sunroom for at least the first week, while they get acclimated to their new surroundings.


What in this room could be chewed, scratched, tasted, or played with? Pretty much everything. So it's been a busy day. I decided that yes, they probably would try to climb the plant stands, possibly getting their little legs stuck in the narrow openings in the process. After envisioning the emergency trip to the vet, I carefully covered each shelf with a combination of vinyl placemats and spare towels. Aesthetics has been put aside in favor of practicality and safety.

And the cat tree from arrived today! Unfortunately, it arrived in many pieces. Guess we missed that line "some assembly required."

But now it is almost 11 pm, and everything - *I think* - is ready. The cat tree is put together (it's amazing!), everything scratch-able is covered (I knew there was a reason I kept all those old dog towels and blankets), and even their three little bowls are ready for them...

So cute! :)

Yes, I know that their water bowl says "good dog." But it's a great ceramic bowl, it's the one that Lady, Lucky, Katie, and Lucy used to share. Seemed a shame to buy a new one, when this one is perfectly good. Fortunately, we also had a placemat tucked away with the old pet supplies that helps to clarify things.


I even found Lucy's Christmas present from last year in a plastic bin in the garage. She hated it, despite my repeated efforts to show her how much fun it was. The lighted ball freaked her out. I hope the kittens like it!

Tomorrow is the big day. So exciting! I hope I can sleep tonight!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

And Suddenly, It's 5 Years Later

I can't believe it's been almost five years since I've posted to A Scratch Behind the Ears. And probably almost that long since I've gotten on here and read posts from the blogs I follow! I got burned out, and I think the aging of my four-legged kids dampened my enthusiasm for blogging. They were all getting older, developing the issues and challenges that face all of us if we live long enough.

Love these sweet, white-haired, wise old faces!

And one by one I began losing them. Frankly, that part of being a pet parent sucks. Managing arthritis and chronic age-related medical conditions just didn't provide a whole lot of inspiration for blog posts. So gradually I stopped posting as frequently. Then, just once every few months. And eventually, not at all. I never wrote a "Goodbye" post though, because I always figured I'd get back to it.

Lady, Lucky, Katie, and Lucy are all gone now, leaving in their wake the lasting imprint of love and lives well lived. Each of them was fortunate to live good, long pampered lives, and each passed away from issues that arose from old age. Lucy the Bowtie Wonder Kitty outlived them all! She was an eight pound force of nature who tapped into every one of her "9 lives" during her nineteen years on this earth.

She left us in May of 2018, and that was a hard goodbye. Since that time, the house has been quiet. Some people, upon losing a pet, will immediately seek out a new furry family member to fill the hole left behind. I am not one of those people.

The house has been quiet, and almost freakishly clean. No dog or cat hair, no nose prints, no muddy paw prints anywhere. For the first time in years, there's been no need to keep an eye on the clock when we're out, because no one at home is waiting on dinner, or companionship. And that's been okay. Nice actually. Until lately.

Something happened over Christmas. I'm not sure exactly when or how it started. But I can say, it started innocently enough. Awww-ing over a niece's new kitten (Spencer, so cute!). Another family member's new Australian Shepherd rescue with the adorable name ("Callie O'Malley!"). Then, there was one of those quizzes. Where you fill out the traits that matter most to you, and the website generates your perfect breed of dog or cat. No harm in doing that! It's just for fun.

Next thing I know, it's New Year's Day, and we're driving three hours to meet a trio of American Bobtail kittens! Crazy, right? I've never even heard of the breed "American Bobtail." But American and Japanese Bobtails, and Manx, kept coming up as a good match for all the boxes I checked on that quiz - "friendly, intelligent, affectionate, dog-like." Some of the stories talked about these cats accompanying long haul truckers in their cabs, and enjoying traveling cross-county in RVs. :-) And well, just look at these faces...

 Guess who's coming to their new home on Tuesday??? :-D  Stay tuned...

"Me and My Shadow"

(Upon returning from an almost five year hiatus, I discovered this post still sitting as a draft in my edit window. It was apparently one I started but never finished. The story seems complete though, so I guess I'd intended to add pics and then publish. When I read it today, it made me smile, and brought back fond memories of these two sweet and quirky girls. Decided to go ahead and hit "publish." :-)

Katie has itchy paws, and this makes Lady anxious. That's my fault. It wasn't intentional, but I created a Licking Phobia in Lady. This is how it happened...

A year or so ago, Katie was having trouble with allergies, and when she was itchy she would lick, lick, lick. Benadryl helped, and eventually the season changed and her allergies lessened. But when she was licking, geesh, it would drive me crazy. I'd try not to say anything...telling myself, she's itchy, and the only way she has to scratch the itch is to lick.

But inevitably, it'd get to the point where I couldn't stand it. I'd say "Katie! No lick!" I'd have to say this loud, because Katie can't hear. More often than not, she still wouldn't hear me. So from my desk I'd crumple up a piece of paper and toss it at her to get her attention. Or, I'd walk over and rub her back, do something to distract her.

Lady came to associate Katie's licking with my reaction. I know, now you're thinking that I was yelling hysterically or throwing magazines at her or something. Not true! Most of the time I would just get up from my chair, go over and rub her back and say "'re driving me crazy sweetie."

Nonetheless, Lady began to associate Katie's licking with my unease, which then became her unease. When Katie began licking her paws, Lady would jump up and leave the area. It's like she didn't want to be in the vicinity of "wrongdoing."

But this quirky situation has become even more amusing this year. Katie is now completely deaf, and has adopted Lady as her Hearing Ear Dog. She keeps one eye on Lady, and takes her cues about what's going on in the environment from how Lady reacts. For instance, if Lady hears the food bowls clink, she knows it's time for dinner and jumps up from her bed and hurries to the kitchen. Katie doesn't know what has happened, but she jumps up and follows Lady to the kitchen.

Needless to say, this makes Lady's attempts to get away from Katie's licking "challenging.". Katie licks, Lady jumps up to get away. Katie jumps up and follows, close on Lady's heels. I wish I could take a photo of this, so that you could see the look on Lady's face as the licking Katie shadows her around the house. I've tried to reassure Lady that it's okay when Katie starts licking, and I pet them both, but it doesn't seem to help her unease.

Poor Lady. Funny dogs.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

To Eat, Or Not To Eat...

Anyone with a dog knows that food dropped onto the floor doesn't last long. If it weren't for dog hair, we probably wouldn't need a vaccum. However, the enthusiasm with which a dropped food item is greeted does depend to an extent upon the breed. Katie, who is a Lab/Border Collie mix, consumes steak leavings and celery leaves with equal fervor. German Shepherds tend to be more discerning.

While enjoying a bowl of shredded wheat and blueberries at my desk recently, I dropped a blueberry. Lady, in close proximity to the wayward blueberry, realized right away that she had dibs because Katie was asleep and unaware. This was an exciting moment.


Until Lady remembered: she doesn't like blueberries. Nevertheless, she felt obligated to eat it before Katie woke up. I knew this was going to be entertaining, so was glad to have my iPhone handy. 


With the failed taste test, Lady found herself in a serious dilemma. The blueberry clearly tasted hideous. But would it be better to eat a hideous blue fruit, now slimy and squished, than to let Katie get it? Lady's forehead crinkled with the effort of trying to work this out. 

She decided to rest for a moment and think about it.

After some brief silent reflection, Lady raised herself and again advanced on the blueberry, new doggie determination in evidence. 

I can do this! I can eat this blueberry!

Bleccch... No!! I can't! I just can't do it!! 

All of this angst and writhing about on the floor inevitably woke Katie, and she raised her head in curiosity. Despite being extremely hearing (and I suspect sight) challenged in her old age, she detected a situation worthy of further investigation.

Hey, what's this?!


Did you see that? Katie ate my blueberry. It was mine!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lunchtime Bear Drama

The bears are awake, and hungry! We had some major bear drama this week with the first bear sighting of the spring. It had been a routine morning in my home office - the usual series of phone calls, training proposals, and WebEx meetings. Shortly after noon I went upstairs to make a sandwich for lunch, Lady accompanying me as she always does. When we returned, I was surprised to see a large bear walking past the window next to my desk. Somehow - miraculously - Lady did not see or hear it. She returned to her spot by the futon and lay down next to Katie, and I was able to discreetly move toward the window and take some great pics as Mr. Bear checked out the area in back where I've been feeding the birds all winter. 

At one point he seemed startled by the moon birdhouse. I watched as he huffed at it, then took a cautious sniff, before proceeding to snack on the seed atop the overturned planter.

We haven't had a bear come through here since last fall, presumably due to the colder than average winter. Bears around here don't go into true hibernation the way they do up north, but sightings are less frequent, and I'd been counting my bear-free blessings. Recently however, there have been stories of bears out and about on the other side of the neighborhood, so I knew it was just a matter of time. The warm weather draws them out and they start to roam. Unfortunately for me, this also means it's time to take the bird feeders down. :(

Black bears are beautiful, and I'd probably enjoy seeing them a great deal if they weren't such a nuisance to my bird watching. But, it's hard to fault any creature for taking advantage of an easy snack. This particular bear watching episode was quite entertaining until...


No Mr. Bear, you are not invited to the 1 pm WebEx meeting! Go away! Shoo! I waved my hands ineffectually, not wanting to make noise and wake up Lady. I couldn't figure out why he was looking in the window. Then I realized he wasn't interested in me, he was interested in the feeder hanging on the hook above. 

It was at about this time that Lady realized we were under siege. In 1/1000th of a second she went from peacefully asleep on the floor to full attack mode. It was something to see, my sweet doe-eyed Lady transformed in an instant to a crazed, ferocious junkyard German Shepherd, lunging and frothing, her deafening barks echoing off the walls. The bear backed away briefly, standing on its back legs to its full height to assess the threat. For an endless moment we stared at each other through the window, bear and woman with crazed dog. 

Apparently deciding us to be harmless in spite of the noise, the bear resumed its efforts to get the feeder. When the bear put both paws on the window and the frame began to creak, I decided it was time to leave. 

I was holding onto Lady's collar, but wrangling 85 pounds of extremely determined German Shepherd is easier said than done. She was in such a frenzy, she hit her nose on the window and gave herself a nosebleed. Bouncing and lunging in spite of my efforts to hold her, she managed to fling blood all over me and my office before I finally managed to haul her out into the hall. Katie, bless her heart, is as deaf as a post, and had just raised her head with a quizzical look on her face - "Huh? Is something going on?" - when I slammed my office door shut. Sorry Katie. 

I grabbed a towel from the bathroom and pressed it against Lady's nose, as she continued to bark and try to writhe free, the whites of her eyes giving her a crazed, insane look in the dim hallway. Clearly she thought this was a life and death situation, and it was her job to protect us all. After a few more seconds of attending to Lady's nose and talking to her in as soothing tones as one can muster when a bear is about to come through your window, I ran upstairs and grabbed a pan from the kitchen. People can say all they want about bear spray and such, but in my experience, a pot with a lid is the best defense against a bear. Out on the back deck, I clanged lid and pot together repeatedly, making a huge ruckus. 

The poor bear ran away so fast, he fell halfway down the slope behind the house in his haste to get away. I was relieved to see him get up and continue running, apparently none the worse for the tumble. I didn't want him in my office, but didn't want him hurt either! 

I went back inside and checked Lady. I didn't have any tricks up my sleeve for handling "dog nosebleeds," so was immensely relieved to discover that the bleeding had stopped on its own. Next I returned to my office...oh my... 

There was blood on the windowsill, splattered on the iPod dock, the floor, dripping down the windows. It looked like the shower scene from Psycho. 

In the middle of this macabre scene was Katie, standing in the center of the room, tail wagging uncertainly. I laughed in spite of myself. Sweet little old dog. She knew something noteworthy had occurred, but wasn't quite sure what. Lady came in and sniffed her all over, making sure she was okay. After giving both of them reassuring pats, I went off in search of cleaning supplies.

The most amusing part of the whole experience came after I returned to work. Just before lunch I had been awaiting an important application from an employee trying to snag a last minute opening in a class. As I typed out the email one and a half hours later, I mentally searched for a way to explain my sudden disappearance and the delayed paperwork. Finally I settled on:

"I apologize for the delay, something unexpected came up." 

If they only knew.

My, what big claws you have!! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Promise of February

There's no denying it - spring is on the way. I saw it this week when the first crocus peeked out at me in front of an old rock wall, and I felt it last week warming my shoulders as I shoveled a foot of snow off my driveway. In the mountains, February is the month when it can be 15 degrees one week, and 65 the next. But no matter the temp outside, there's an unmistakable shift in the air. It portends weekends just around the corner spent outdoors, tidying up garden beds that have been asleep all winter, turning over fresh earth, the scent of rosemary and lemon balm plants on my fingers.

The light in February is different. I am more keenly aware of sunlight - the length of it, pattern of it, the contrast of light vs. dark - this month than in any other month of the year. The return of longer days happens this time every year, but somehow still manages to feel surprising, miraculous.

No longer am I racing nightfall on my afternoon walks. Instead, I find myself double checking the time on my phone. Not until sometime in March do I seem able to accept that daylight is possible after 6 pm. Last week, the first thunderstorms rolled through the mountains. The heavy clouds threatened us as we walked around Lake Tomahawk, but didn't hit until later that night. Lady woke me at 2 am to let me know.

The birds sing of February's promise every morning outside my window. They chatter away at the lake, and hop a little more brightly around the feeders in the yard. I find myself scrutinizing the goldfinches. Are they just a bit more yellow this week than last? Yes, I think they are! And I am convinced that this heron we passed on our walk this evening was smiling.

February gives us all a reason to smile with its promise of spring. The only one who isn't paying attention is Lucy, who has continued to busy herself this week wedging herself into places where she doesn't fit and isn't welcome.

If you can slink into the narrow place between body and laptop, it is then possible to gradually
expand your body to normal size, gradually moving the pesky laptop away and toward the knees.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Art of Persistence

Lucy wants on my lap. I've told her no, but the word is fairly irrelevant. "No!" applies to other creatures and circumstances. Dogs, for instance. However, I am reading, and clearly there is no room for both a cat and a book on my lap. I explain this. She pretends not to hear me, but she hears, and understands the message. The change in facial expression gives her away, an ever so slight narrowing of the eyes. Mild displeasure at being thwarted.

Why is it that a lap containing a book or newspaper is such a cat magnet? It's amusing to watch her move in. Lucy seems to believe that if a cat body part moves slowly enough, humans cannot see it. Generally speaking, this is true. I can't tell you how many times I've shooed the cat away, become absorbed in what I'm reading, only to look down a few minutes later and notice that she's sleeping on my lap. How did she get there? I have no recollection. It probably helps that she's always been a petite little cat, and in her old age tips the scale at just over 6 1/2 pounds. Even when she jumps up onto my lap from the floor, it's hardly noticeable.

But today she is employing major stealth tactics. After standing completely immobile for some minutes, slowly, ever so slowly a paw moves forward. Weight shift to that paw. Then, the other paw creeps forward, followed by the head...slow motion progress toward the desired destination.

"The trick is to be persistent, and to shrink your body into the space under the book ever so slowly, so the human doesn't notice. Eventually, because you are so cute, and so persistent, the human will give up and put the book away, devoting all attention to you. And then things will be as they should be."
Works every time!