Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where Did Spring Go?

Everything is in bloom, and the grass is a supersonic green color thanks to the recent rains...but it's cold! 45 degrees for a high today, and a freeze warning tonight. Of course I realize cold is relative, so for some of you, a 45 degree day might sound downright toasty. But it's been 70 here! Where did 70 go?

However even as I look forward to summer, I realize there are things I miss when the warm weather is here to stay. When the nights are balmy, you don't get to enjoy the coziness of a fire in the evening, or the simple pleasure of snuggling under a down comforter. I received an electric throw for Christmas, and honestly I'm not sure how I'm going to survive without it this summer. Each dark, cold evening this winter when I'd settle down on the couch for a bit of TV, I'd pull the electric throw over me, flip the dial and cozy! Lucy is addicted to it too. We may just have to crank the air conditioning up so we can use it on occasion.

For now, while we await the return of warm weather, we'll enjoy a few last naps by the fire.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Crazy Dreams

I would caution against eating a BBQ veggie quesadilla too late in the evening. That's what I did last night and I had the strangest dreams ever. I awoke at 3:24 am from a dream in which I'd just given birth to triplets. It was such a surprise, because I hadn't been expecting triplets. The bigger surprise however, was that the triplets were puppies! I most definitely had not been expecting puppies. The first two were healthy, but the third had something wrong with it, and it was in respiratory distress. The nurses whisked it off to the NICU.

Now quesadilla notwithstanding, I'm sure I had this dream because of an email I received yesterday about a fundraiser for an acquaintance whose baby was born with meconium aspiration syndrome (you can read the story here). Baby is now at home and doing well, but her parents had no health insurance and are now dealing with astronomical medical bills resulting from over a month in the NICU.

Information about the fundraiser and an email address for how to donate can be found here along with an adorable photo of the family.

But puppies?? You know how dreams are though - whatever happens in them feels both extremely real and completely normal. It felt like the most natural thing in the world to be the proud mother of triplet puppies.  LOL!

The next dream wasn't as fun. Lucy had been hit by a car, but I didn't know it and just thought she was sleeping. It wasn't until I returned home from work that I saw the blood. It was AWFUL. But, this dream also had a happy ending. I rushed her to the vet and soon was told that she was fine - all her bumps and scrapes were superficial. Whew!! I was so relieved! So, all was well that ended well. Even so, I think I'll have something besides Mexican food for dinner tonight.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mona Lisa, Without The Smile

I am happy to report that Garden Cat Number 3 is no longer living under a shadow of faceless obscurity (sorry, I couldn't resist). She is now "Mona Lisa." There were some great suggestions and lots of votes for Shadow, which does make all kinds of sense. But when reader Darla suggested Mona Lisa, that was perfect. She absolutely looks like a Mona Lisa to me, even without the smile. Actually, I kind of can see the's just invisible. Darla is on a hiatus from blogging, so she probably won't get to see this, but - thanks Darla!

And now, last but not least - Garden Cat Number 4! I hope you guys can come through for me again with a good name for this one. But you've got your work cut out for you. I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm not even sure if Garden Cat 4 is a boy or a girl. In my defense, however, it is rather difficult to determine, since this particular garden cat has nothing from the neck down except a stake.

What do you think?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Here Lucy Lucy! Time To Come In!

I don't want to come in yet.
I will not come in. 
I am on a mission. 
Get out of my way.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Furry Family Members!

Well, new "extended" family members if you want to get technical about it, but still very exciting. Meet Butter:

Have you ever seen a sweeter face?? No, you haven't! I have no idea why his name is Butter. It was Butter at his previous home, and I'm not sure any of us thought to ask how he came to be named after a condiment. There was a good bit of discussion (generally among the adults) about changing his name, but the kids prevailed, and so Butter he remains.

This was my first up close and personal experience with a gerbil since childhood, when my sister had a Habitrail occupied by several gerbils. Or rather it was several to begin with...then several more...and then several more. This past weekend we were trying to recall how many gerbils occupied the Habitrail during its population peak. I remembered 17 but my sister remembered closer to 30. Either way, it was a lot. Strangely enough, I don't recall either of our parents batting an eye at hordes of gerbils living in my sister's room.

I was reminded this weekend how much I like gerbils. They are such social and inquisitive little creatures. We were in the TV room one night, and I was sitting in the bean bag chair holding Butter. He was perfectly at ease, sitting up on his hind legs and looking around as if it were the most natural thing in the world to watch TV in the palm of a giant.

We put a sign up on the door to the TV room, lest there be any doubt regarding who is, and who is not, welcome.

Part way through the weekend, it was decided that Butter looked lonely. At his last home, he'd recently lost his friend. So after some Internet research about gerbil compatibility, we went in search of a new friend. A new MALE friend, to avoid a repeat of our childhood experience. However the intended quick trip to the pet store turned into something of a gerbil quest as we discovered that  finding a male gerbil isn't as easy as it sounds. For one thing, it turns out that pet supply stores are either "male" stores, or "female" stores. We'd shown up at a female store.

The clerk called around to the other male stores, and managed to locate precisely ONE male gerbil in the county. The fact that a large urban metropolitan county could have only one male gerbil in its midst came as something of a surprise to me. It also added a degree of suspense and urgency to the trip out to the other store. As we wove in and out of traffic, I kept thinking of that background music from the Wizard of Oz where the old woman is riding on her bicycle with Toto. We were on an errand of good will, but nevertheless, it seemed to fit.

And the result of all this running around? Junior!! His name was chosen on the way home, after various other names were ruled out. I liked "Peanut" (Peanut + Butter...get it??). And Pepper was a close contender, seeing as how the new gerbil is black. Olive was briefly considered for the same reason (Black Olive), but we decided Olive is a girl's name. My sister suggested "Leroy," which was my personal favorite. A gerbil named Leroy - hilarious!! In the end, Junior got the most votes. And it fits. He looks like a Junior, don't you think?

If Junior looks wet in the photo below, it's because the pet store clerk suggested that we spray each gerbil lightly with water before introducing them. She claimed it would help minimize their scent, thus increasing the likelihood of a successful introduction. I've never given a gerbil a shower before, and I might have gotten a bit carried away with the spray bottle. I guess I was erring on the side of caution since I didn't want to intervene in a gerbil brawl.

After it was obvious that they were going to get along fine, we tried to dry them off a bit, and brought a lamp over to the tank for extra warmth. They spent the rest of the evening getting acquainted, and aside from one minor disagreement, everything went hunky dory. 

Welcome to Butter and Junior, the newest members of the family! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Animal Rescue Efforts in Japan

I had time yesterday to catch up on my blog reading and discovered that I missed an important event last week - Paws for Japan. This was a hastily organized fundraiser for World Vets, an international nonprofit organization providing veterinary aid in the areas impacted by the earthquake and tsunami. The fundraiser was held on St. Patrick's Day, and I missed it entirely. Nonetheless, I spent a couple of hours reading about the group's work, the rescue groups partnering with them, and the many blogs that featured this fundraiser last Thursday. If any of you are looking for a way to help out, this one deserves a look. It's not too late to donate. I've received permission from Dr. V at Pawcurious to share her post about Paws for Japan (she's got a terrific blog by the way, worth a visit if you haven't been there yet). Her post from March 13th is below.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Paws for Japan
Like many of you, I have been glued to the television this weekend in horror at the disaster that has befallen the residents of Japan. At times like these, our daily concerns about Little League games, the price of gas, or frustrations about the stupid little things evaporate as we take a look around at all the things we are fortunate enough to have- loved ones, security, safety- and imagine them all swept away in the blink of an eye.
We will donate, as always, to the usual organizations providing humanitarian aid. They need it.
Unfortunately, our animal friends have been devastated as well, and are so often left to fend for themselves in a crisis.
To that end, I hope everyone will consider taking just a small portion of any donation they are planning to make to relief efforts, and give that to an organization that is specifically proving animal relief.
Scams abound in these situations, but I am glad to share one organization I am sure of, having met the CEO at the last Blog Paws event. I am a huge fan of Cathy King and World Vets, an organization that has, under her guidance, provided assistance to animals around the globe.
Dr. King has already mobilized a team to go to Japan and provide aid to established groups that are already present. They will need all the help they can get in order to assist in the devastation.
To that end, I’ve joined Blog Paws Be the Change in declaring Thursday, March 17th “Paws for Japan” Day. We will be raising awareness of the World Vets effort and encouraging people to donate to their vital work.
Please consider shelving the green beer, just this once, and spend the day with your fellow pet bloggers getting the word out. I’m just one voice out there, but there are so many of you with so very much collective power in your voices- we need your help! 
Dr. V
And a few stories and photos I'd like to pass along. This one is from World Vet's facebook page:
From this morning's newspaper in Japan - a man is reunited with his mud-covered dog that was rescued. Yeah! World Vets is coordinating with a coalition of animal welfare groups near the epicenter. Our colleagues in Japan are headed into the disaster zone today to rescue animals. (* a note for those of you who, like me, were worried about this man and his dog in spite of the happy caption. I've checked thoroughly, and multiple sources confirm that this IS a happy reunion. The dog is not dead, just exhausted.)

The following stories of Yusuke and Shane were posted on facebook by JEARS, Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, a coalition of three animal rescue groups in Japan responding to the crisis. 

Before we hit the disaster stricken area of Sendai,we spoke to this woman on the street toward the center of the city. She broke down and in tears, told us she was from a hard hit area, but didn't evacuate because they wouldn't let her take her dog (Yusuke). She stayed with him in a shaking house for three days she said, and told us that Yusuke was extremely stressed from the ordeal. She thanked us for being there to help.

One of our favorite stories so far from the road...

We met a man at an evacuation centre in Sendai, Miyagi (the worst-hit area by the tsunami - 10,000 estimated to have died in the area alone) who told us a very touching story about his Akita dog, named Shane. The man is a pillar in his community and when he heard the tsunami warning he rushed to warn his neighbors after letting Shane free in the yard. After notifying his neighborhood, he tried to get back to his house to get Shane, but the tsunami was rapidly approaching and he was forced to go to the local school on higher ground. He had given up hope of ever seeing Shane alive again. But, 6 hours later, one of the people staying in the center said they saw a dog outside. The man went to look, and it was Shane!! Shane had never been to the school before, but somehow, his instincts lead him there. The dog swam through chest-high water before being reunited with his owner.

The man took us to Shane, who was staying at his house several blocks from the school (the water had receded of course). Shane must have hung onto debris, as he cut both his elbows on something. We instructed the owner on how to clean his wounds and gave him some ointment to ward off infection. We were able to leave fuel with the local veterinarian, so he will return to check on Shane and provide him with antibiotics to ensure his wounds heal.

Shane and his owner, reunited
I apologize for the awkward formatting. Pulling photos and captions off various websites really plays havoc with a blog page. I tried mightily to force the formatting to submit to my will... with only modest success. I hope you will consider making a donation to the animal rescue efforts. Even a small amount can make a difference. If 100 people donated just $5 each, that's $500! You can learn more about these groups, and/or make a donation by clicking on the following links: 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Taking The Day Off

The old desk chair is empty today as we spend the day enjoying springtime, away from the computer. Lucy hopes all her friends and visitors are having a fun weekend!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Me and Mama Turkey

Here's a bit of turkey trivia you may not know - mama turkeys rarely leave their nest once they begin laying on the eggs. I learned this on "Work Day" one spring. We have a fun group of friends who once or twice a year take turns at each other's homes working together during the day, then enjoying a big potluck dinner at night. It's sort of like the old fashioned barn raising, and I'm here to tell you - it's an amazing thing. Everyone should do this. You have a lot of fun, and get a lot done. Somehow 8-10 people seem to accomplish as much in one afternoon as it would normally take twenty.

On this particular Work Day, one of the projects involved rebuilding a retaining wall. The guys had just gotten started when I heard them calling my name from the other side of the yard. "We have a bit of a problem," they said when I got over there, pointing at the brush on the far side of the wall. I stepped closer to have a look. A turkey!! It was a female turkey laying on a nest. Great. The one opportunity to take care of the crumbling wall and there's a turkey in the way.

After a few moments deliberation, it was decided that they would continue the work, but remain a comfortable distance away. We could just finish the end of the wall at some future date. I checked on Mama Turkey from time to time, and was surprised to see that she remained on the nest throughout the day, despite the fact that they were making quite a racket.

They actually got closer to her than I wanted, but she stayed where she was so I let them continue. That evening I did some research on the Internet, and read that the female turkeys are most vulnerable to predators while sitting on the eggs. Gee... ya think??? We could have just reached over and picked her up!  I admired her dedication, but think a smarter plan would have been to fly up into the tree and keep an eye on the nest from a safe distance.

So Mama Turkey made it through the day amidst all the hammering and building. Then, late that evening it began to rain. Hard. The steady plip plop of raindrops gained momentum until soon a full fledged monsoon was roaring outside. In my nice warm, dry house I began to worry about Mama Turkey. Poor thing. She was out there getting drenched. And it was chilly. Guilt set in.

See, another of our Work Day projects had involved doing some clearing on the hill below the retaining wall. We discovered several moments too late that one of the lanky "weeds" was actually providing shelter for Mama Turkey and her eggs. After one of our group cut it down, we realized that now the nest and turkey were much more out in the open than they had been. Hence, my guilt.

Suddenly I had a eureka moment. A-HA! I ran out in the pouring rain and grabbed the patio umbrella and propped it against the fence on the other side of the nest. Perfect. It could lean against the fence and provide shelter for the nest there on the other side. And if the wind picked up, it would just fall sideways, not on the nest. Mama Turkey wasn't there, but I saw 3 eggs in the nest. I ran back into the house, wet but pleased with myself and my good deed. Or act of reparation, rather. I checked on the nest once more that evening. Mama Turkey was back, nice and dry under the patio umbrella.

The next morning, the sun was shining bright on all the trees and shrubs dripping from the previous night's soaking. I eagerly ran outside to check on Mama Turkey, but stopped in my tracks as soon as I rounded the corner. All I could see of the large patio umbrella was the post and hand crank sticking up into the air. The umbrella had somehow gone OVER the fence. AAAAAAAA!!!!! I hurried over to the nest, dreading what I would find. Mama Turkey impaled on the point of the umbrella??? But no, thank heavens. The point of the umbrella had stopped a good 18 inches above the nest. But she was gone, and only one egg was left in the nest. She never came back, and by the next morning, the remaining egg was gone as well.


There's probably a moral to this story. Resist the urge to "help" wildlife? Avoid doing yard work? Fortunately for my conscience, the turkey population seems to be reproducing just fine, despite my misguided - if well intentioned - efforts to help.

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's The Season of Love!

For turkeys, that is. The wild turkeys around here start getting amorous in mid February (yes, Valentine's Day), and they carry on well into April, the toms strutting their stuff for all to see. Until I moved to the mountains of western North Carolina, I'd never seen a wild turkey up close in any circumstance, much less during their remarkable mating display. I have to give them credit - it's quite a show. The tom turkey's head turns blue, his wattle (a word I didn't know before moving here) turns bright red, he puffs out his chest, and fans out those magnificent tail feathers. Then he'll drop his wings and begin strutting back and forth in a most dignified manner. The sound made by his wings scraping on a hard surface is much louder than you'd think possible. Oh, and that hairy little beard thing that hangs off his chest - how strange is that? He really puts on quite a show.

All right, now forgive me if you've seen these photos before, but they're the ones best suited to give you a proper visual image of the show. Hopefully you all know the Right Said Fred song "I'm Too Sexy." Please sing along as you scroll down and view the photos below...

I'm too sexy for my love too sexy for my love
Love's going to leave me
I'm too sexy for my shirt too sexy for my shirt 
So sexy it hurts

And I'm too sexy for your party
Too sexy for your party
No way I'm disco dancing

I'm a model you know what I mean
And I do my little turn on the catwalk
Yeah on the catwalk on the catwalk yeah
I do my little turn on the catwalk

Tomorrow, a post about the outcome of all this carrying on, and the story of my misguided if well intentioned effort to help a mama turkey...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Alexander Makes His Debut

Rescued from an obscure life as Metal Garden Cat 2, "Alexander" has been looking quite proud these last few days, now that he has a name. As soon as I heard that name (the very first suggestion!) I knew that was it. He looks like an Alexander! I think his name has been Alexander all along, and I just never knew it until now. I have to admit I was swayed briefly when the suggestions Wirez and Mewse came along, they were so very clever. But he's an Alexander if ever there was one. 

Now, on to the girls. Garden Cat 3 is likely to be the most difficult to name. It's hard to get a read on a cat's personality when she has no face. But you readers are a creative bunch, so hopefully you'll come through for her. Take a look and see if anything comes to mind...

The drenching rains of last week have greened up 
the grass and made the daffodils sing.

(Can you hear them?)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Our Hearts Are In Japan

This blog was created to be a happy little corner of the world, a place you can visit when you need a smile or giggle during your busy week. But today we are just sad, our hearts with those who are suffering amid the devastation in Japan.

A disaster of this magnitude almost defies my ability to comprehend it. Last night I found myself glued to the surreal scenes on television. Today I made a conscious decision to leave the television off. Those who know me well know that I hold pretty strong opinions about the psychological impact of living in an era where we can watch the most intimate and horrifying details of personal tragedies, natural disasters, and/or war     24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I just don't think it's healthy. But I'll resist the temptation here to get on that soapbox.

So friends, no funny stories or pictures today. Our hearts are heavy as we keep our friends across the sea close to heart. May we all take time this weekend for a moment of silence or a prayer for those affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Spectacular Tongue-tacular!

Our friend Anna the German Shepherd has organized a super fun contest, the "Spectacular Tongue-tacular!"  It started back on Feb. 23rd, and ends today at noon. Being a sucker for a good contest, I knew I had to get Lady and Lucky in on this tongue competition. I immediately began plotting my strategy. I would wait for a warm day, and pull out the camera as soon as we got back from a walk/run. Unfortunately, about the time I decided on this course of action, the warm weather came to an end. As the deadline crept closer day by day, hour by hour, with no tongue photographic opportunities, seeds of desperation began to sprout into despair and hopelessness (okay, maybe not really, but I've got to build in some drama here).

Finally this morning it came to me, as if in a vision: PEANUT BUTTER!!!

Friends, may I present to you:
"Lady and Lucky's Most Awesome and Award-Winning Tongues"

"More? More peanut butter? More?"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rain, Rain....

This is what it has been doing here ever since Sunday:

The only difference is that the cats and dogs in this house do NOT have big smiles on their faces. They are bored, bored, bored. Lady has been employing that dramatic sigh of hers. Sometimes it means "oh, I'm so tired" or "Lucky is in my bed and that's just not right." Today it means "I am about to die from boredom."

Last night we broke out the treat balls, which were good for about a half hour of entertainment. You poke treats and food down into a hole on one side of the ball, and the dog has to roll it around to get the treats to fall out the other side. Lady is a master at this. She picks it up and goes running off into the living room with it, getting all her treats out while Lucky is still nosing the ball around the kitchen floor trying to make the first few drop out. Poor Lucky always needs a designated bodyguard until he's finished, because Lady thinks that finishing first means you get to steal the other dog's ball.

But you can only entertain the dogs with treat balls every so often, otherwise they become ball-shaped themselves. So today, alas, it's just boring. On days like today I envy those people with little bitty dogs. They can give their dogs a complete workout just by tossing a ball up and down the hall.

My sister once came up with the term "dog rot" to describe the state of utter dog boredom. She and her husband were reseeding the grass in the backyard, so Molly the boxer had to stay indoors and off the grass. Molly must have been pretty bored, because my sister called to tell me she was suffering from dog rot. That totally cracked me up - "dog rot" is a perfect way to describe it; I knew exactly what she meant. It should be noted that the state of dog rot is accompanied by lots of human guilt that the dog is not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation.

Here is what dog rot looks like at our house today:

And here is Lucy today. For some reason cats never look bored, only cozy.

Even though the dogs are bored, I can't bring myself to complain about the rain. It's been a very dry winter, so all this rain just as things are starting to bud out has brought joy to my gardener's heart. And at least it's not snow. If all this rain had fallen as snow, we'd be buried up to our eyebrows. So it could be worse. Meanwhile, if any of you out there have ideas for keeping big dogs entertained indoors, feel free to pass them along!

P.S. Special note for "E and A" - do you see all those toys scattered around the living room floor? We need "toy-putting-away" lessons from Miss M!

P.P.S. Regarding the "P.S." above - for those of you who are interested, check out the video in the post below. I was SO impressed!!!

**UPDATE:  Did I say "at least it's not snowing?" Well, the Friday morning update is that it's snowing sideways with a 20 degree windchill. The forsythia and daffodils are looking mighty cold. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Meet Rusty!

Friends, I would like to introduce you to Rusty (the cat formerly known as Garden Cat 1).

There were some great suggestions, and in the end it was a tough decision between 'Chuck' and 'Rusty.' I tested out each name and ultimately decided that Rusty best captured his character. Doesn't he look proud to finally have a name after years of anonymity? I didn't realize until taking this photo, however, that the poor guy lost an eye somewhere along the way. So I guess now he's visually challenged. But he doesn't appear to be letting that impact his self esteem.

Now that Rusty has a name, the other two Garden Cats are jealous. The one closest to Rusty has been giving him the stinkeye, and snide remarks have been tossed back and forth. So it looks like I'm going to have to bestow names on the others. Can anyone help me out with a suggestion for Garden Cat 2?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Let's All Have Cake and Presents!

Lucky, Lady, and Lucy are of the firm belief that birthdays should be a communal affair. Or at least that's what one would deduce from photos of a recent birthday celebration. Take a look and see what you think.