11. March 2008 · Comments Off on Spring Daze · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, General Nonsense

There’s one terribly inconvenient and sort of disgusting thing about daylight savings time… well, aside from the bit about setting the clocks ahead one hour. The additional daylight in the evening is nice, very nice. Nicer when I was working until 5 at various corporate hellholes, and usually arrived home after dark throughout the winter months; very pleasant, all the way around to arrive home with an hour or two of daylight remaining, and sit out on the back porch and go through the mail, while the birds squabbled around the feeder. But it puts the dark at the other end of the day now, and when I set out at sevenish for Spike and the Lesser Weevil to drag me around several blocks at the end of their leashes, it is still quite defiantly dark. Dark when we head out the door, dark when we jog up the street, with the Weevil leaping and pirouetting like gazelle on amphetamines. And dark when we get to the corner and run along Creekway street… where, with luck one or both of them will want to poop.

Good god, do you know how hard it is to see dog poop in the dark, let alone be sure of getting all of it into the plastic bag? Even with a flashlight, it’s no picnic. A couple of lines of dog poop blending in with un-raked leaves and uncut grass, especially when everything is wet… definately no picnic, I assure you. There are means of training dogs to use a king-sized litter-box or pan of something or other, so I have been told. By summer, I might very well consider that.

Lesser Weevil’s socialization continues apace. She will sit and hold her bearing, when commanded in a sufficiently masterful voice, while other dogs trot by… all but the bad-tempered little black and white rat-terrier from up the street. His name is Peanut, since he is hardly larger than one. He barks to beat the band, whenever he sees us. Spike goes into hysterics of barking – noisy but relatively harmless. Lesser Weevil seriously wants a piece out of Peanut, and stalks onward, turning her head towards Peanut and growling in a fairly menacing way. One of these days, she seems to be saying. One of these days, you piebald little rat.

On the other hand, Weevil is perfectly amiable to the pretty young Weimaraner female, who lives along one of the side streets and comes to the iron gate to be courteous, whenever we pass. She got out one Sunday and followed after us, which is how we came to know her. The family who owned her had just moved in, and discovered only too late that she could squeeze through a gap in the iron fence. They tell us that they had another dog, an older one who died about eight months ago, and that she misses the company. So, when we walk together, Blondie takes Weevil up to their gate so they can pass a few minutes together; rather odd because Weimaraners are supposed to be rather standoffish about dogs they haven’t been carefully socialized with

Then there is Horatio, the cat who is more dog than he is cat. Horatio is black and looks rather like my own Morgy and Little Arthur, is extremely sociable and doesn’t seem to mind dogs. He lives mostly in the garage of a house up the road, where the garage door is very considerately left six inches open to facilitate Horatio’s social life. When we pass by the house, we usually stop and call him, and he trots out to say hello. Blondie likes him very much, saying that he is such a cool cat and she doesn’t think his people appreciate him nearly as much as they ought. If she didn’t already have two cats of her own, she would have taken him home already.

It rained, rained buckets yesterday, accompanied by amazing quantities of thunder and lightening; no way of knowing if this spring and summer will be as rainy as last year – which was so rainy —

—-how rainy was it???—-

That the spring wildflowers lasted all summer, and some of them were still going strong in the fall. And instead of turning light brown and crispy by mid-summer, fields and brush remained pretty green all year. Kind of nice, seeing Mother Nature do all our lawn-watering for us, but I just don’t think we’re going to be that lucky. Whatever weather we have in Texas… there’s always too damn much of it.

27. February 2008 · Comments Off on Villa Junque · Categories: Ain't That America?, Critters, Domestic, General, Home Front

‘Villa Junque’ (pronounced in Spanish as Hoon-kay’) – sounds so much better than ‘garage full of junk’, which is what mine has descended to, what with Blondie enthusiastically collecting ‘stuff’ for her eventual first apartment/house/place of her own. A couple of years ago, I saw a tee-shirt/sweat shirt with “It isn’t an empty nest until all of their stuff is out of the garage” and truer words were never printed across the parental chest. All of her accumulated stuff from two hitches in the Marines came home with her – the large TV, the stereo system, a lot of Target and Walmart bought kitchenware, a microwave, and several boxes of shoes and bedding. And a strangely comfortable metal-framed armchair and footstool which was apparently the prize of the Cherry Point single barracks, as it gravitated from room to room until my daughter inherited it from a friend and shipped it home with her stuff. She pleaded with me to re-upholster it, which I did… and to give it houseroom in the den… which I also did. As I said, it is strangely comfortable. Her TV and stereo also were allowed in, with some reluctance on my part. They were newer than mine by about a quarter-century, so a bit more complicated… but worked a little better. The classical station still receives badly, but that’s an eccentricity of their transmitter.

Her dog and her two cats were also folded into the household, and it generally works out, although three of my cats hate the dogs and prefer Blondie’s end of the house to mine. It’s all her other stuff which has made my house into the Villa Junque, although I do admit that some of the stuff I moved into the garage was specifically dedicated for her first place – the dining table that was too big for the dining area, some bookshelves superfluous to my needs once I put up hanging shelves and some other small stuff. Really, it wasn’t a patch on what I notice in other people’s garages. I could actually get my car into it, still. (Well, I could until Blondie moved in her stuff.)

Besides being drawn to the 70%-off shelves at fine retail establishments (where we have snapped up plenty of Christmas ornaments and wrapping paper for next year) Blondie is also a dedicated yard-sale shopper. Walking the dogs early on Saturday morning is nothing more than a disguise. She is actually reconnoitering for yard sales. With luck and walking the dogs, we can beat the roving pros, descending with their battered step-vans and pickup trucks and snapping up the good stuff. I don’t know where these people go with their oddly assorted gleanings; they are usually Hispanic and go for the furniture and the used appliances, but do not distain the clothes, bedding and toys. Blondie now has a nice collection of glass and silver-plate knick-knacks, garden lanterns and ornaments, chairs and crockery. She hopes that some of it may be Antiques Road Show-worthy some day.

I think our neighborhood is moving up, socio-economically; there is a better grade of stuff at yard-sales than formerly. Even the stuff put out for the trash – especially when someone is moving and is sick to death of making decisions about stuff – is a better grade. We struck a bonanza this year with pots and plants, but the absolute prize was spotted Sunday afternoon by our equally bargain-fanatic neighbor Judy. She saw a love-seat placed by the curb with a lot of other trash and made a special visit to our house to tell us where.

It turned out to be upholstered in leather, only a little worn on the seat cushions and two tears in places, and so heavy that it probably is a good grade of furniture. Well and I know that because of the chore it was for the two of us to load it in the back of the Montero and then carry it into the house. Whatever it will be to reupholster a solid hunk o’ small sofa like that is still less than it will cost to buy new. And it is amazing the difference that some cleaning solution, and some carefully placed throws and pillows will accomplish.

The Weevil loves it, since it is large enough for her to sprawl in comfort; Spike and the cats love it because the back and arms are broad enough for them to stretch out in equal comfort and all of them together. And I have to admit – it is a very comfortable place for humans to lounge as well.

But – we are swearing to everyone that we actually scored it at a yard sale for $20.

04. January 2008 · Comments Off on Random Thoughts on Interstate Highway Travel · Categories: Ain't That America?, Critters, Domestic, General, Literary Good Stuff, Memoir, Site News, Working In A Salt Mine..., World

Topmost on my list of such thoughts is – oh, god, it’s good to be home! It’s good to be able to sleep in ones own bed, to stretch out and not have cold feet, cold hands, cold-whatever-body-part-winds up pressed against the side panel of the Montero and is just a thin sheet of metal and some miscellaneous plastic bits removed from the frigid, wind-whipped New Mexico or West Texas weather.

Oh, yes, it was bloody cold out there; there was no snow to show for all that cold, but some nice patches of blowing dust and sand. The winds kicked up the day before we left Mom and Dads and made such a racket we couldn’t sleep that night anyway – and followed us all the way across three states. Nothing says “I want to go home” quite so much as vacating the area at 2 AM.

The best thing about departing in the wee hours on New Years Day – no traffic, once you finish dodging the drunks. There was one suspiciously careful driver, weaving gently down the Valley Center grade, which Blondie felt obliged to try and call 911 about – but all we got was it ringing about twenty times and then an answering machine. On 911; I guess they had their hands full. And the driver we were worried about didn’t look to be the reckless sort of drunk driver.

The “Starbuckifaction” of the coffee-drinking element has spread it’s what some would claim is an insidious influence far and wide, yea my brethren even to the truck plazas and gas stations along the interstate highway system. The Flying J/Pilot stores provide a surprisingly excellent selection of coffee… and have half-and-half on tap. Not just exclusively that ghastly powdered chalk non-dairy “cream” muck, thankyouverymuch. Extremely drinkable and for about a third of the cost of an equivalent at a Starbucks. No demerara sugar, though, but I expect that to appear by the next time I do a long, long road trip.

Oh, and speaking of coffee in the wee hours, I must pour scorn and derision upon the Carls Junior, just off the 1-8 in the eastern suburb of San Diego where we attempted to purchase some handy breakfast comestables and coffee at 4 AM. Yes, I know it was 4AM on New Years Day and the single unfortunate young person running the place was so junior as to make drawing fuzzy end of the lollipop and working that shift inevitable… but still; no breakfast items? We were told that only lunch items were available… oh, and sorry, the coffee brewer wasn’t fired up. And payment could only be made in cash. Yeah, so he wasn’t senior enough to have the keys to the debit-credit card processor or the coffee urns, but lunch items at 4 AM? Jesus jumping key-rist on a pogo stick, the whole damn reason for 24 hour fast food places is to dispense coffee!

Gas prices – not to shabby once outside California, and Blondie’s Montero got very good mileage on the highway. We filled to the top four times and came in well under budget, having allowed for gas at $3.25 a gallon when we planned the trip. Most gas stations along the interstate in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona had it within a nickel of $2.90, either way.

What to call the road-kill count – Bambi Bits? Bambicide? Whatever it is, the deer population takes a hell of a beating; that stretch of 1-10 through the Hill Country is a veritable holocaust for them. As a stratagem to keep ourselves awake and amused after coffee ceased having the required effect, we counted road kill from Mile 300 to Mile 511 in the median, on the roadway and off on the shoulder. Not counting various nasty looking smears and blots on the paving, our grand total was 49 deer, 8 raccoons or opossum, 3 skunks, 3 large birds (turkey or guinea-fowl of some sort) and 23 U-L-O-M, which is our acronym for “Unidentified Lumps ‘o Meat”. At that, we probably missed about a third as many, off-sight on the opposite side of the highway.

So – we’re home – and when I get home, the first thing I find is that Eric at Classical Values posted a lovely review of “To Truckee’s Trail” and Da Blogfaddah linked to it. With a resulting uptick in sales through Amazon. Maybe I should go away more often. Oh, never mind – provision of good bloggy ice cream will commence as soon as I finish going through my email in-box.

26. December 2007 · Comments Off on Greetings from Sunny Valley Center · Categories: Ain't That America?, Critters, General, Wild Blue Yonder, World

OK, so we arrived after an epic drive of about 20 hours, and three stops to cat-nap uncomfortably in a car full of dogs, Christmas gifts and luggage – variously in Lordsburg, someplace about two hours farther west than that, and a rest-stop in the mountains above Tucson. Look, when it’s too cold to sleep, and the air mattress has developed a slow leak and the dog and your child are bogarting most of the available space anyway… well, you may as well drive. Dunno about what rush hour traffic is like in Tucson these days, what with all the new construction, but it’s a breeze at 2AM!

We haven’t killed any Californians yet, we had a nice Christmas and will return with less stuff than we came with, the dogs haven’t fought too much with my parents’ dogs, they think the Weevil is a charmer (except for her chronic tail injury opening up and her painting blood all over the place… thank god for the invention of liquid bandage and lots of paper towels and spray cleaner….) and Spike is as cute and fluffy as ever.

Blondie is spending a couple of days in Pasadena with Pippy and her family, and my youngest brother, I am holding the fort at Mom and Dads – where they still refuse to move into the last quarter of the previous century and venture into the wild uncharted waters of the internet. But they do have a functioning computer, and I am pounding out a couple of reviews and another two or three chapters of the Adelsverein Trilogy, or Barsetshire with Cypress Trees and a Lot of Sidearms.

Yes, we’re alive, nothing has blown up in our absence, and I just emptied 3,000 spam comments out of the queue – about par, considering.

Merry Christmas, to everyone but whoever is running the spam comment generator. (You should be tossed out naked in a field of poison ivy and fire ants.)

Sgt. Mom

22. October 2007 · Comments Off on The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, World

…or at least that portion of it encompassed by the inside of a small tract house in a north-side San Antonio tract house. Yes, the Meek-cat, whom Cpl/Sgt Blondie brought home from her workplace is adjusting to being a sheltered and protected indoors cat. His fur already seems to be thicker and plusher, thanks to a diet of premium cat kibble. He talks – that is, he is one of those cats who is responsive to remarks addressed to him, answering up with a variously pitched “meow”. I think of him as “Chatty-Catty”. Blondie calls him “Meow-mix”. He frequently curls up adjacent to Percival, and indulges in some mutual-ear washing, but is still a little wary of the dogs. Not total feline-claws-and-hissing-spazz-out whenever he happens to encounter Spike and Weevil in the very same room, more of a delicate unspoken negotiation not to try and occupy the same spot on the same chair at the same time. He is perfectly amiable about occupying different parts of the same chair at the same time, though. Usually when we are all watching TV of an evening: he and Sammy are lounging on the back of the sofa, Spike on my lap, Percy on the arm, and Weevil wedging herself onto the cushion next to me… TV watching in our house sometimes bears a close likeness to the stateroom scene in “A Night at the Opera”.

Yes, we have a lot of animals. Those people who see it as their life mission to find the perfect home for a dog and cat would doubtless look at us and curl their lips contemptuously. That is, if we would ever be demented enough to go to one of those oh-so-select shelters like the infamous Moms and Mutts and pay out a wad of money for the privilege of being condescended to, and having a couple of snoopy busy-bodies dictate the terms of pet-maintenance to us. Five cats, two dogs, erratic income and working hours… really, who do these people think they are?

A number of years ago, through no fault of my own, (other than not being able to afford the $500 vet bill that it would cost to neuter a female cat on the Spanish economy, or the long drive from Zaragoza to Torrejon to have Patchie neutered by the American vet there) I occasionally had litters of kittens to place with a suitable family. Since Patchie allowed Blondie and I to handle her kittens practically upon birth, they were always beautifully socialized as well as being very attractive kittens. (Damn that handsome orange tom!) Our home then was in Torre San Lamberto, just outside urban Zaragoza. It was a development of townhouses and four-unit garden apartments that were popular as summer rentals. Popular in a less savory way was the summer renter’s habit of abandoning their pets when they returned to their city apartment in the fall. There were always cats and dogs who had been abandoned by summer people, thrown upon the charity of those of us who were susceptible to appeals of our dumb chums; every one of them pathetically grateful to be taken to live indoors again, and fed properly.

So on this particular occasion, I had an ad on “swap shop” for two of the extraneous cats – one of Patchies’ get, and one of the strays. A listener called me at work and said she would take both the cats: her husband was going TDY to Germany, and by the time he returned she wanted to present him with a fiat accompli. “Cats – oh, those cats! I’ve had them for ages, darling – why do you ask?!” Could I bring the two of them to the base, and she would meet me at the station and take them home.
“B-b-b-but don’t you want to see them first?” I asked, somewhat boggled by how she had made up her mind already.
“No, I’ll just take them,” she answered, and explained that in her experience the cats which she had spent a great deal of time over choosing had never seemed to work out well. In fact, the cats which had been the most satisfactory were those who she had accepted on the spur of the moment, or which had just walked in and made themselves at home. Her husband had left the very day that she heard my swap shop ad for the cats; as far as she could see the timing was perfect. Those were the cats she was supposed to have. She showed up at the station with two carriers and took them away without any fuss at all. The powers that dictate such things had already ruled, and she had been chosen.

We do not choose our pets – they choose us. I just hope that there is no other cat out there, walking down the street, casting a businesslike eye on my house and deciding that yes, it would do very nicely. There isn’t much room left on the sofa….

05. October 2007 · Comments Off on Sucker for Our Dumb Chums · Categories: Ain't That America?, Critters, Domestic, General, Rant

There may be a chance – albeit hopefully a distant one – that at some point in the future either Blondie or myself will be taken away by kindly attendants in white coats while horrified animal control authorities remove a zoo of cats and dogs from an unspeakable house as neighbors gape in horrified disbelief and the news cameras roll. Unless there has been a mega-spectacular crackup in rush-hour traffic or Teddy Kennedy has been found in bed with a live boy or a dead woman, the resulting story will be about third or fourth down in the evening newscast.

Sigh.

Which is by way of saying that my daughter has brought home another animal! To add to the menagerie! In a very small house! And like a sucker, I said yes! Like a sucker I tried to insist that this one MUST go to the no-kill shelter eventually! Like a sucker, I know that it probably won’t! As soon as it has finished a period of quarantine in the garage, it will join the rest of the happy clan, shredding the furniture, shedding drifts of hair all over the house, fast asleep on anything soft, and it will remain until it pops off of old age!

Or Blondie takes it with her, when she finishes veterinary school and has a place of her own. Jay-sus, she had better qualify as a vet, it’s the only way we’ll ever afford to keep all the furry freeloaders in the manner to which they would like to become accustomed.

This one is named “Meek”. He is a cat, a neutered male, white with a brindle saddle and ears, about three years old. He’s been hanging out at the place in Selma where Blondie works part-time, one of the herd of tame and semi-ferals which she has fed off and on for the last year or so. He’s one of the tamest and the most slavishly devoted to her; she has always thought he was dumped by his previous owner. One of the other tame ones was run over and killed by a car a couple of months ago, and this morning when she left the office to run an errand, Meek ran after her and followed her car almost to the highway. Evidently, he has decided that if he can’t live with Blondie, he doesn’t want to live at all.

Not good survival instincts for an outdoor cat, living adjacent to a highway. The veterinarian pegs him to be about three years old, a real sweetie… and it appears that he has already survived a traumatic event that broke one of his legs and ribs. Hard to say if he was dumped first and then injured… or more horrible to imagine, injured and then dumped.

Sigh. There is a kind of symmetry to it, though. Two dogs, two gimp cats, two grey and two black. I swear on a stack of bibles, though; Weevil, Sam and Meek are Blondie’s critters. And there won’t be any more. Really….

23. September 2007 · Comments Off on Pet Detective, Inc. · Categories: Ain't That America?, Critters, General, Rant, Working In A Salt Mine..., World

There must be something in the water, or a phase of the moon. One of my neighbors blames it all on the comparatively wet summer – another sign of global warming or cooling or whatever. A co-worker from the radio station blames it all on that old devil, the sex drive. Whatever the rationale, it seems to Blondie and I that a very high number of our neighborhood dogs have suddenly developed a serious wanderlust and Houdiniesque escape skills.

Since we have two dogs, whose high point of the day involves towing me at a brisk pace around a long circuit through the neighborhood, we’ve encountered most of the other resident dogs. Mostly they are towing their owners around a similar course, or leaping up and down behind a window or a fence in a frenzy of barking. Most of them we know well enough to know their real names, others only have a nick: Einstein, the not-very-bright young boxer who always goes nuts when we walk by, Goliath the enormous Papillion, Daisy-May the golden lab who likes jumping up on people, Fluffy the little white something or other who looks like an animated fuzzy bedroom slipper bouncing around on four little legs… you get the idea. Weevil and Spike usually have a lovely time barking back at them. It all reminds Blondie of the ‘midnight barking’ in 101 Dalmatians; for all we know, the dogs may be passing on messages.

It’s the other dogs that make our hearts sink right down to our running shoes – the ones who are out and about, unconstrained by a leash, an owner or a fence. Last week it was an elderly German shepherd whom Blondie named “O’Malley”. He lives two streets up and has perfected the technique of slipping between the fence bars. He’s been getting out all summer. By now, everyone recognizes O’Malley and knows where he belongs, but I don’t think his owners have a clue. I’ve walked him back to his house a couple of times, and he hops back through the fence obediently and trots around to the back with the air of a hard-working dog having done his duty for the day. The week before that, it was a fluffy little Shi-Tzu who followed me all the way along Creekway, barking like mad, and dashing out into the street. I thought sure the little wretch would be run over about four times. I tried to catch him; not with any success, being encumbered by my own two, who were going nuts. And I am still pretty damned annoyed at one of the neighbors, who primly refused to let the little dog stay in her yard, tied to a tree for safety and visibility. She had called the pound, though, since the dog had been hanging around for a day or so. I finally turned around and dragged Weevil and Spike towards home, with the stray following after, figuring that I could at least catch it, once I had put the two of them inside. Luckily, a pair of kids walking to school overtook us before I got very far: the stray Shi-Tzu was theirs.

A couple of Saturdays ago, we retrieved another German shepherd – this one a well-mannered female whom Blondie called ‘Lady’ for the lack of a better name. We found her at the bottom of the neighborhood, and Blondie put her on a leash and walked her around the neighborhood all that afternoon, until she found where Lady belonged. And it turned out her name really was ‘Lady’ but her owner was so unenthused about getting her back, it was really no wonder she went wandering in the first place.

We had an easier time yesterday, but still – two loose and lost dogs in a single day. The Chihuahua who lives in the house with all the sculptures got out and went skittering across the road, chasing after us. In all the excitement, Weevil slipped her leash and the Chihuahua, aka Mr. Teeth bit Blondie’s hand… didn’t break the skin, fortunately, and we managed to return Mr. Teeth to his owner. Didn’t latch the gate after himself, and didn’t notice when Mr. Teeth headed straight across the road to pick a fight with two larger dogs and a Marine. Forty minutes later, when we came back down the road what do we find at practically the same corner? A sad little min-pin, a miniature Doberman slightly larger than Spike, with no collar… and as it turned out, no chip, either. But he let me pick him up, and we went through the whole routine, walking down the street asking people if they recognized him. No one did, although he was very obviously a pet and well-cared for. We took him home, where he got on amazingly well with Spike and Weevil. We planned to do the whole sweep of the neighborhood this weekend, but fortunately Blondie spotted the posters that his frantic owners were plastering on the neighborhood mailboxes. They were very glad to get him back, since he had been missing for two days.

And I thought yesterday was the far frozen limit, but I just now came back from being towed around the block and it happened again! There was another Chihuahua-type doggie, innocent of collar running along the creek-bed that I couldn’t catch, and which snapped and snarled at me anyway… and a pretty and affectionate Weimaraner female who came running after us. At least the Weimaraner had a collar with her name on it, a telephone number, a rabies tag and one of those electric-fence restraint thingies. Which is no advertising for that system and the telephone number turned out to be disconnected! But at least today, one of the neighbors helped me catch her and has promised they will keep her safe tonight and call the veterinary clinic tomorrow… if no one comes around looking for her before then (as I am sure they will.)

Really, this is getting past a joke; being a magnet for every sort of lost and loose dog in the ‘hood. I’m really almost afraid to go out tomorrow; at this rate there will be a lineup of the lost and pathetic, waiting for me at the bottom of the driveway. Perhaps we should begin asking for a reward; through repetition, we’re getting pretty good at it..

11. July 2007 · Comments Off on Dogs and Cats Sleeping Together · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, General Nonsense, The Funny

Such an occurrence is popularly said to be a sign of the impending apocalypse, or global wamening (or coolerizing or whatever the current cause for hysteria is) or even just something like another Michael Bay movie.

Wait, there is another Michael Bay movie out? No S#*t?! Well, just goes to show you, there might be something to it.

Because it’s happened, and if I had thought of it and Blondie were quicker with her cellphone camera, we’d have the evidence that the Lesser Weevil and the Percival-Cat are more than just a large, rawboned boxer-pit mix of a dog, and a small, timid grey cat who happen to share the same house and a mutual affection for the same set of humans. They are indeed, the best of friends.

Or they just might share a freakish interest in soft furniture and mutual body-warmth. You can never tell, I suppose. The two of them are a bit of an odd couple, in more ways than just the species difference.

I wouldn’t have expected Percy to have become the boldest of the resident cats, when it came to establishing a rapprochement with the dogs. When I first began to tame him, he was so timid that I thought he was a feral. It was the careful and gradual work of months for him to become so accustomed to me that I could even touch him. Once translated into an indoors cat, he spent the first three or four months huddled miserably in various hidy-holes, fleeing all human approaches besides my own, and having any friendly feline overtures cruelly spurned by the senior cats, Henry VIII, Morgie and Little Arthur.
Over time, though, he adjusted… especially when Blondie’s three-legged flame-point Siamese, Sammy joined the household. Sammy and Percy buddied up together, in the manner of two nerdy kids spurned by the middle-school in-crowd becoming friends… even though they both have since reached some kind of grudging acceptance with the senior cats.

The advent of Lesser Weevil and Spike made for a drastic re-grouping of the territory. Instead of the cats having the run of the house all day and night, and sleeping wherever they wish, the dogs now pretty much have my room, the den and the living room during the day, and the cats have the other half; Blondie’s room, the hallway and the closet where the washer and dryer live. Only at night, with Spike sleeping in my room, and Weevil in her crate, do the cats have undisputed reign over the entire house. The senior cats, that is.

Sammy and Percy don’t seem to care in the least about the dogs. Sammy was raised by some people who kept a large herd of Chihuahuas, so that was no surprise, but for Percy to be similarly casual… playful, even! That’s one for the books. Over the last couple of months, he would romp with Spike, and allow her to nip at him, responding with a bat of his front paws, only fleeing to a windowsill when the play got too rough. He wouldn’t do that with Weevil; she is an enormous lump of dog, compared to his dainty grey self. But when he was curled up on the seat of a chair, Weevil would park her nose and head next to him, and he would set to work washing her ears and licking the top of her head. Very amusing to see; this is why we took to calling Percy our little gay hairdresser of a cat.

Last night, we were watching television in the den, and Weevil came and curled up on the sofa next to me… yes, we let the dogs onto the furniture. I mean, the cats are allowed onto the chairs, and so is Spike who is hardly any larger than the cats, so why not the Weevil? How can we make the distinction? That would be size-ist, or something… and really, she curls up into a very small shape, quite compact for such a large dog. (Look, I hold on to some standards, ‘kay? I don’t let any of them onto the kitchen counters!!) And after fifteen minutes or so, Percy hopped down from the back of the sofa, and curled up next to and half on top of her. They slept so for the best part of “Eureka”.

If I had a big enough den, I swear I would buy another sofa… with the dogs and cats and all sleeping on it, there is barely enough room for me, these days.

25. May 2007 · Comments Off on Weekly Update · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, That's Entertainment!, Working In A Salt Mine..., World

Ok, so this is one of those sort of weeks… although I did get a dividend check from the auto insurance company; a paltry sum but actually very welcome nonetheless, and another agent sent the usual SASE reply saying she is intrigued and can I send her the Whole Entire Manuscript, Please…getting a print of all 336 pages and mailing it will still happen in something less than toot-suite time, and probably cost the whole of the dividend check! Well, things happen for a purpose, I guess.

William is here, a week before I was really expecting and ready for him, missing his flight last night… which I only found out about after I had been waiting at the airport for an hour, this after putting in three hours putting together some brochures for the current occasional employer, the worlds tallest ADHD child. So, out of bed at four AM, doing four circuits of the airport pick-up area; honestly, if I weren’t so fond of him and if it hadn’t been so long since he was here last, I would have just told him to get his ass into a taxi at the airport and I’d have breakfast ready by the time he got to the house.

And I have to re-write the Hot Wells article, it just didn’t suit the editor… but I think I have racked up bonus points for being agreeable about re-writing I was complimented on being completely professional about the criticism… which inclines me to think that a lot of the other writers must be… I don’t know; high maintenance? Prima Donna? Temperamental, even? Eh… if you are paying me enough for bespoke word-smithing, temperament is something I can’t afford to indulge in.

I was worried about Spike the Shi-tzu, AKA the Poop Factory for a couple of days, too. Plenty of input… no observable output. Given that every disgusting thing she comes across goes straight into her mouth, I was afraid it was only a matter of time until she ingested something that would expensively obstruct the old alimentary canal. Not to worry, though. The evidence of normal digestive function was fresh on the doormat last night. The smell of it would have gagged a buzzard, though. (What does that little wretch eat? And do I really want to know?)

I am sure that Spike was the one who dragged Williams boxer-shorts out into the living room around mid morning and left them on the sofa. Blondie to me; “Jeeze, Mom, can you consider that I live here too?” She only rolled her eyes when I said Spike must have dragged them in. From the pile of laundry that William carelessly left on the floor.

Wrote up a book review, over at BNN… is anyone reading me at all this week, or is it just my imagination?

19. May 2007 · Comments Off on The Writer’s Life Waltz: Accelerando · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, Home Front, Veteran's Affairs, Working In A Salt Mine...

Blogging at a minimum this week due to a confluence of other literary demands, and just no enthusiasm for writing about something suitable for here. The WOT is the same old mouthful of well-chewed gristle, ditto for the prelim-presidential-campaign… jeeze, if I feel that way about it now, I’m going to be hiding in a bunker by next year. People, can we give it a rest? Ditto for American Idol (who?) And as regards Paris Hilton; this may be the only time I shall ever mention her.

Over the last month, we have had a very demented bird, a female cardinal who has taken to perching on a branch of the almond verbena, just outside the window to the living room, and flying repeatedly into the glass window. She will do this for fifteen or twenty minutes at a stretch; regularly thumping against the window, as if she is either fighting another female cardinal reflected there, or trying to land on a non-existent branch. We have named her after the stupidest celebrity we know: Paris Hilton.

The pictures of Hot Wells came out very much as I hoped, so finish polishing the article to a high glossy shine, and edit the pictures suitably. I have a thick book to read and a review to write for BNN, ditto a DVD to watch and review… and there is another book on the way. Just when I worked out how to lead into events around the election of 1860 and the secession crisis in Texas, as they affected the characters in part two of Adelsverein; or as a reader described it “Barsetshire with Cyprus Trees”. So I am getting ready to plunge into the operatic drama of the Civil War; murder, lynch mobs, treachery brother-against-brother and all that.

I did get a response from the agent who wanted a look at the first 100 pages; a regretful pass. The first four chapters just did not send her into the transports of enthusiasm necessary to take on representing it, and a paragraph of the usual blah blah blah saying that it was a terribly subjective business, wishing me luck in getting representation elsewhere blah blah blah.

I have sent out fifty query letters for “Adelsverein” including a SASE for response over the last two months, but only gotten back twenty or so letters which usually begin “Dear Author/Writer” and apologizing for the form response. Which leave me wondering where the other queries are, and if they are peeling off my stamps and using them for something else!

Back to work, on Chapter Three, Volume 2. (First chapter posted here)

29. April 2007 · Comments Off on Additional Rites of Spring · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General

Wherever the globe is warming, it isn’t around here. Spring has been mild, and rainy. Some days the temperature climbs up into the eighties, but not for long, and the nights are cool. A storm-front went through this week, threatening high winds, and several hours of thunder-and-lightening starting around midnight that sounded like a WWI artillery barrage and kept the sky fairly continuously lit up. You’d have thought that would have made sleep impossible, but I must have managed it. Local newscasts that evening were breathless with anticipation, repeating the tornado watch warning all the evening beforehand. Blondie says there was a shelter-roof by one of the gates to Ft. Sam that looked like it was trashed, but otherwise we came through OK… no hail, at least. And lots of rain. The trees are well out in leaf, and so is everything else.

We added some plants: a friend had a roommate move out, leaving behind a lot of potted plants. We took a lot of them, as my friend has zilch interest in gardening, and so my place looks even more lush than usual at this time of year. The nice part about working at home is that Lesser Weevil does not get so destructively bored. It’s been almost a year since she killed any plants, or tried digging a tunnel back into the house via the perennial border. Blondie has hit some of the neighborhood yard sales. She returned yesterday with a pair of tall ornamental pillars and a replica of the Venus d’Milo, which will look better once they’ve been brushed with a concoction of watered-yoghurt. This is supposed to encourage moss and mildew and other natural things to grow on them, although I won’t go to the ornamental extreme of one of the neighbors, who has so many statues in their front yard that the place looks like a hobbit graveyard.

The two of us are watching way too much of the Home & Garden Channel…

Another rite of spring: Spike the toy shi-tzu had her summer clip. I’m sorry; life is just too short to maintain her in the style which apparently that breed has become accustomed, with twice-weekly baths and constant brushing of her long, long fur. Off to the groomers she went, for what Blondie described as a “shaved puppy”. (Which sounds uncommonly like some of the p0*n spam I empty out daily). Everything between the plume on her tail and the topknot on her head is clipped down to the skin. I think she feels cooler and more comfortable, especially on the daily morning walk.

Or as one of the neighbors calls it “the daily drag around the block”. The Weevil and Spike tear out ahead of me, lunging at the end of their leashes. I must have become more accustomed to this; it’s been ages since either one of them managed to trip me up or knock me down. The Weevil is especially exuberant during the first few blocks: she leaps clear of the ground, over and over again. “You can tell she’s had her Wheaties!” observed the same neighbor, upon observing this performance. There is also speculation afoot that she might be part jack-rabbit. Taking them both out is not just “walkies”, it’s an upper-body workout too.

Rites of spring, indeed.

16. January 2007 · Comments Off on Global Warming??? · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, Pajama Game

As best I know, Al Gore has not come to San Antonio lately to bang on about global warming; this winter ice storm is just one of the usual South Texas winter things, only colder, icier and more of an inconvenience than usual. Ice, freezing rain, bitter north wind; all the elevated highways and overpasses closed, school classes cancelled, and as many people as possible being urged to stay home. As Blondie lamented this morning to the Lesser Weevil:
“Ya suppose if we gave you the leash, you could just walk yourself?”

It’s a good thing that I still have all of my serious winter gear from when we lived in Utah. At the rate I wear my winter parka, insulated boots, gloves and other necessary winter stuff, they will last me the rest of my natural life, since they only get good use maybe three or four days of the year. This being one of them: our version of a snow day. Residents of northern tier states are laughing their asses off, though. By their standards, this is a good winter day. Only the ice all over the roads is cause for pause. I’ve seen these folks here drive on wet streets, the last thing they need is black ice. I am not keen on being anywhere in the vicinity when Bubbah from the West Side zips up to the big intersection at Thousand Oaks and Perrin-Beitel in his monster SUV, slams on the brakes as he hits a patch of ice and spins all the way down to the Post Office, scattering other cars before him like ninepins before a 3,000 pound bowling ball. I can drive on ice, and in snow, I just have no faith in anyone else on the roads around here being able to do so. After all, they only have to do so about once every five years, and that is just not enough to keep those skills current.

At least we had plenty of warning about this cold front; so all the tender plants are in the garage, or under cover on the back porch; so far the only potted plant badly affected is Blondie’s painted coleus… which may or may not make it. I just don’t think it is any more sheltered in the garage than it is on the back porch.

We walked up the hill with the dogs at about midmorning: treacherous patches of ice in odd places on driveways and on the sidewalks. Spike the toy shi-tzu is always invigorated by cold; must be all that fur. She bounded ahead, displaying every evidence of keen enjoyment. Sometimes I amuse myself by picturing a team of six or eight little dogs like her, all hitched to a miniature sled and dragging it through the Arctic snow. Even if it is a breed which is supposed to be pampered lap-dogs all, I suspect that Spike and her tiny kind actually have dreams of glory, and heroic deeds. Today she skidded on a couple of patches of ice, and did not venture onto a lawn more than once. The trees, the lawns and parked cars are all glazed over with a layer of ice, crackling underfoot as if you are wading through cornflakes. The scattering of trees which still have leaves are coated also; the north wind rattles the leaves and branches like bamboo castanets. We met one of our neighbors, grimly scraping ice off his windshield with a credit card, and we both tried to remember how far down in our respective glove-boxes are buried the plastic ice scrapers.

Blondie was to start classes today; something she was looking forward to after three weeks of being bored out of her mind at home, but classes at most schools today are cancelled. Practically every elevated overpass and freeway ramp is closed, so even if she did still have classes, it would take at least half the day to get across town to them. Public events and lectures have also been cancelled or postponed, and a couple of corporations and city offices are either closed, or ask only essential employees to come to work. No, this is a day to stay home, and stay warm, and work from home. My sometime boss, the real estate broker doesn’t even want me to venture out: the ice is even worse in his neighborhood. And most unusual for here, it looks to carry on for more than one day. It’s rare for a winter storm to discommode San Antonio for more than one day at a time, but this one looks like going for a record. No word on snow, though. It last snowed seriously here about twenty years ago, and people are still talking about it as if it were a blizzard that left fifteen-foot deep drifts.

I’ll flog away on the next book, and Blondie is going to do some loaves of bread: all you can do on a day like this! That is, as soon as we melt the ice around the door lock to Blondie’s car. Global warming, indeed.

15. January 2007 · Comments Off on New Beginnings, Brought to you by the Internet · Categories: Critters, General, Pajama Game

It’s almost 1am, and I’m sitting here, wide awake. Yes, I should be sleeping. Yes, tomorrow is a work-day. Yes, I’ve been awake all day, and should be tired enough to sleep, and Yes, I’ll regret it tomorrow if I don’t get some sleep tonight.

BUT.

Tomorrow is a new beginning for 2 beings. A new start for two critters who should be well past the stage of beginning again. There’s a door in my heart, that was slowly, and sadly closed last September (but not locked!), that is open again, letting air and light into a dusty room. Tomorrow evening, that room will no longer be empty.

Honestly, it’s not empty now. It’s cluttered with memories of my little nuisance, Jessie the Italian Greyhound, but the tears that I’ve shed in the last four months have helped to clean the clutter and the dust away. It’s a good thing, because now there’s room for Zoe.

Zoe is a 12-yr old Italian Greyhound who had to be re-homed by her current mom. Her current mom is actually her second mom – her first mom wanted to euthanize her at the age of 7, I don’t know why. Her 2nd mom was a vet tech at the time, and when Zoe was brought in, instead of going to the rainbow bridge, she went to a new home (with the first owner’s approval). Her 2nd mom recently lost her job, and the housing that went with it. While she has a new job, she doesn’t have dog-friendly housing, and has no idea when her life will get settled again.

She’s tried for weeks to find a new home for her little angel – the rescue groups were full, and the shelters told her that a 12-yr old dog is unadoptable, and if she came to a shelter, she would probably leave by way of the Rainbow Bridge.

In desperation, she poured out her frustrations on a message board. An internet friend of hers, somewhere in Texas, made it her personal mission to find Zoe a home in the day or two that were left before the shelter was the only option. Someone told her about a greyhound message board, and suggested she post there. None of these people have ever met in real life – they only know each other from online.

Late Friday afternoon, she registered on the message board and wrote a post about Zoe. She posted two pictures, and I fell in love as soon as I saw them.

zoe 1 zoe 2

Eight hours, sixteen emails, and two phone calls later, it was all over. Zoe would be mine. We just had to get her from central Florida to northern Georgia.

Not a problem! My dog-sitter’s husband is in southern Florida this weekend, at some kind of airshow (he sells small airplanes). He’d be driving back to Georgia on Monday, and Zoe’s current location is about 30-45 minutes north of where he is. So he’ll be stopping in the morning to pick her up, and then they’ll stop every 3 hours on the way so that she can relieve herself, and by 8:00pm tomorrow, she’ll be in my arms, being fussed over and told how beautiful she is.

Her current mom tells me that she’s in perfect health, with no known medical issues. She expects Zoe to live another five years, which is a good lifespan for an IG. For me, it’s not how many years she has left that matters. It’s that she be allowed to live out the full span of her life, and knowing that she is loved.

She has been loved, and she will be loved. These are facts. I already love her, just from that second picture where she’s cuddled up under her blanket. I am SO looking forward to the little annoyances that come with IGs in the house. The little annoyances that it took me forever to appreciate in Jessie. And I’m looking forward to having a snuggle-bunny again.

I’m not usually one to wish the hours away, preferring instead to try my best to experience the moment I’m in, but boy, I wish it were tomorrow evening, already.

And all of this happening because someone knew someone through an online message board. Other than my friend doing the transport, none of us know any of us that are involved in this. This is truly the power of the Internet.

12. January 2007 · Comments Off on Five Thousand Miles for a Camel · Categories: Critters, General, History, Old West, Pajama Game

In the annals of the US Army, are recorded many strange and eccentric schemes and scathingly brilliant notions, but none of them quite equals the notion of a Camel Corps for sheer daft logic. It was the sort of idea which a clever “think outside the box” young officer would come up with, contemplating the millions of square miles of desolation occasionally interrupted by lonely outposts of settlements, stage stations and fortified trading posts which the United States had acquired following on the Mexican War in the mid 1840s. The country was dry, harsh, desolate… logically, what better animal to use than one which had already been used for thousands of years in just such conditions elsewhere?

The notion of using camels in the American southwest may have occurred to others, but it was one 2nd Lt. George Crossman who first raised a perfectly serious proposal for their use. One senses initially that the notion had people falling about laughing at the off-beat nuttiness of it all, and then slapping themselves on the forehead with a strange gleam in their eyes and saying, “By George, it’s a crazy idea… but it just might work!”

Crossman and other military men kicked the idea around for a couple of years; it had the backing of a senator from Mississippi, who sat on the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, and was in the position to advocate in favor of an experimental use of camels by the US Army. The senator also thought “outside the box” although it would not be clear for another ten years how far outside the box he would eventually go. But Jefferson Davis was not in a position to make a study of camels, US Army for the use of (experimental) happen until he became Secretary of War in 1852. Within three years, Congress appropriated $30,000 for the purpose, and a designated ship set sail for the Mediterranean, carrying one Major Henry Wayne who had been personally charged by Secretary of War Davis with procuring camels. After a couple of false starts, a selection of 33 likely camels were purchased in Egypt. Wayne had also hired five camel drovers to care for them on the return voyage and to educate the Army personnel on the care and feeding of said camels.

The camels arrived at the port of Indianola on the Texas Gulf Coast with one more than they started with, since one of them was a pregnant female; a rather promising beginning to a project so close to Secretary Davis’ heart. The herd was removed to Camp Verde, sixty miles west of San Antonio by easy stages from Indianola, where they were eventually joined by a second shipment later that year. At a stopover in Victoria, the camels were clipped and a local woman spun yarn from the clippings and knitted a pair of socks for the President of the US out of them. Once at Camp Verde they mostly transported supplies and amused and impressed skeptics by carrying four times what a single mule bear, without visible effort. (But a lot of grumbling.) They were also used for an expedition to the Big Bend. Late in 1857, Edward F. Beale, explorer and adventurer, friend of Kit Carson and Superintendent of Indian Affairs for California and Nevada took a contingent of camels on a long scout to explore the southwest along the 35th parallel, all through the vast deserts between New Mexico and California. Beale took twenty-five camels and two of the drovers, who were nicknamed Greek George, and Hi Jolly. The camels performed heroically all the way to California with Beale, and were used for a time to transport supplies from Fort. Tejon.

Alas for the demise of what looked like a brilliant solution; although it might have come to something eventually, but for the Civil War. Just about everyone who was a strong advocate for the use of camels suddenly had much greater problems to worry about than overcoming the resistance of Army muleteers and diverse other potential users. For the camels as draft animals were not readily biddable; they were even less cooperative than mules, which is saying a lot. They spat, nastily and accurately, stank to high heaven, and scared the living daylights out of horses and mules unaccustomed themselves to their presence, and generally did not endear themselves to most of the men who had to work with them. The California herd, those of them which had not been allowed to wander away, was sold mostly to small enterprises and circuses . Those camels, or their descendents who escaped into the desert southwest were spotted for decades afterwards, well into the early 20th century. Beale even took a few of them to his own ranch; a sort of camel refuge as it were. The Texas herd was also sold off or left to wander the range near Camp Verde; although according to this source, one of them found its way into the possession of an Army officer who used it to carry the baggage of his entire company all during the war. The drover, Hi Jolly eventually took a small herd of camels sold as surplus after the Civil War to the Arizona territory and used them to hall water for a time, before turning them loose. And so passed the end of an experiment, and the last of the US Army Camel Corps.

There is one small footnote to this; the story of the Red Ghost, which terrorized south-eastern Arizona Territory, for about ten years after 1883; a huge reddish camel… with the dead body of a man tied to its’ back. No one ever who he was, or how he came to be secured to the back of a camel, with knots that he could not have tied himself.

09. December 2006 · Comments Off on Pet Rules · Categories: Ain't That America?, Critters, General

This was sent via e-mail from a pet-loving friend, and posted for your amusement

To be posted VERY LOW on the refrigerator door – snout height.

Dear Dogs and Cats:
The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate of food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn’t help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep.

It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is not a secret exit from the bath room. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years –canine or feline attendance is not mandatory.

The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat’s butt. I cannot stress this enough!

To pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About Our Pets
1. They live here. You don’t.
2. If you don’t want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. (That’s why they call it “fur”niture.)
3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
4. To you, it’s an animal. To me, he/she is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn’t speak clearly.

Remember: Dogs and cats are better than kids because they:
1. Eat less
2. Don’t ask for money
3 Are easier to train
4. Usually come when called
5. Never drive your car
6. Don’t hang out with drug-using friends
7. Don’t smoke or drink
8. Don’t worry about having to buy the latest fashion
9. Don’t wear your clothes
10. Don’t need a gazillion dollars for college, and
11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children.

20. November 2006 · Comments Off on Run Like The Wind · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, Pajama Game

In the last couple of weeks, I have begun taking both dogs with me for the morning run. This must present a most amusing spectacle; I am certain that people all over the neighborhood are laughing at the spectacle of me, with a fistful of leash in either hand, being dragged at a fast clip by the wildly unmatched pair of Lesser Weevil and Spike. Lesser Weevil is a great rawboned boxer-pit bull mix with a soupcon of retarded thrown in for good measure. Otherwise fairly intelligent and sensitive to a fault, she just occasionally does the most jaw-droppingly bone-headed things such as walking straight into walls, telephone poles, or the deep end of swimming pools. Upon bouncing back, or climbing out, she displays a look of complete surprise and bafflement. She still pulls like a tractor, which gets me an upper-body workout, in addition to the run, and varies her own personal program of exercise by launching herself clear off the ground, leaping and whirling in the air when she is excited. She spends the first three or four blocks being excited, bouncing along with all four feet clear off the ground, leading to speculation that she might be part jack-rabbit as well.

I was told that Spike, as a shih-tzu, and a toy shih-tzu at that, would not cope with the great outdoors very well; she definitely could not handle summer heat, but then neither did Weevil. When I first began taking Spike out for walks on the weekends, I usually had to carry her for at least half the distance. Once the cool fronts moved in, Spike was revived and invigorated; she bounds along tirelessly with her nose up, tail curled proudly over her back, ears flapping madly and her fur blown back in the wind of her passage. (Spikie! Run Spikie, run like the wind!!) She must gallop at top speed to keep up with Weevil, but she never seems to tire now, and both of them are straining ahead, pulling their leashes straight out in front of me… especially when they see someone or something that interests them. Today it was a squirrel, which we surprised as we ran past a pile of yard clippings put out for the trash. The squirrel flashed out in front of us, not ten feet away, and both the dogs lunged after it with the greatest enthusiasm imaginable. I had a good grip on the leashes, though; and the squirrel leaped up onto a fence and then discovered there was another large dog in the backyard on the other side, and had to do that “walking on the edge” thing while all the dogs went nuts in chorus.

They are madly enthusiastic about people; any people, large or small. They are about the two most social dogs I have ever had anything to do with; to them, everyone they meet when we are out and about are their dearest friends in all the world… which wouldn’t bode well for being watchdogs, except that Spike has the expected small-dog propensity for barking at any little noise. And Lesser Weevil at least looks intimidating, so I do have some faint hope that she could bring herself to throw herself on an intruder… even if it would be only to slobber affectionately.

The three older cats: Morgie, Henry and Arthur are still very stand-offish, although it is not for lack of trying from Spike. She and Percival are very affectionate and playful with each other, probably because Percival is the only beast in the house smaller than Spike herself. She is a year old, now, and seems to have hit her full growth at about ten pounds, every bit of it muscled and full of energy. She chases Percival under the chairs, pins him down and nips as his ears, and he bats at her with all four paws, and when he feels like it, takes over her dog-bed. None of the cats want anything to do with Weevil, though; she is just too big. She was entirely flummoxed one morning, when I was talking to a neighbor, and the neighbor’s cat sauntered up fearlessly. I had a both hands on the leash, and a length of it wrapped around my knuckles, but all the cat did was sniff at her, and touch muzzle to hers… much to Weevil’s bafflement. What? Aren’t you going to run, so I can chase you? Whassup with that???!

“She was raised with dogs” Explained the neighbor, but Weevil still looked puzzled. I don’t think any of my current cats will adjust and look on poor Weevil as a good buddy and playmate. Détente is probably the best that can be hoped for, until Weevil gets over the urge to chase fast-moving objects. Which she probably won’t, unless she figures out that Blondie deliberately polishes the floor to a high sheen, just for the fun of watching Weevil and Spike skid and slide on it, while chasing a ball or yarn-bone. We did dress them for Halloween, just to be sadistic: I’ll post a picture as soon as we have that capability again!

22. October 2006 · Comments Off on Walking the Dog, Choreography By Maximum Dawg · Categories: Critters, General Nonsense

and 5-6-7-8 Up and strettttch, prance-prance-prance, prance-prance-prance, nudge the man’s elbow, nudge the man’s elbow. Sit, look cute, pant-pant-pant.”Help” the man put on his shoes, nudge-nudge-nudge. Sit and wait for leash. Leash is clipped and bound for the door.

Walk-walk-walk, sniff-sniff-sniff, walk-walk-walk, sniff-sniff…plie’ and piddle. Leap away, run-run, STOP, darn leash. Walk-walk-walk, sniff-sniff-sniff, walk-walk-walk, sniff-sniff…gran plie’ and fart and pooooooooop, turn-turn-turn, gran plie’ and poooooop, turn, gran plie’ and poop and kick-kick-kick and BOUND away, run and stop, look at man, pant-pant-pant, head for home.

20. October 2006 · Comments Off on G*y Cats and L**bian Dogs · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, Pajama Game

So, now that Blondie and I are supporting a houseful of critters… some of whom interact agreeably with each other, and some others of whom maintain a guarded distance and a policy of non-recognition, and one who spits and snarls in a most hostile manner… we have noticed a rather odd thing. And that is that the two dogs and the two most recent cats have definitely formed affectionate and loyal same-sex unions. (Although one of the gay cats will frequently enjoy a vigorous frolic with one of the lesbian dogs. Wow. That sentence alone should get any number of hits from perverts looking for bizarre porn… yes, I meant you. Zip up your fly and wash your hands.) Yep, and in Texas, too… which ought to completely wig out all those who only know of Texas as Redneckville Central.

OK, so I started back in the mists of time, with a cat, one single cat, way before I had even heard of blogging, although I was aware of that internet thingummy-jig. Said singular cat was the last survivor and the only consistent member of a constantly mutating herd that lived with us overseas. We brought Patchie and her oldest son back to the States with us, the son ran away from my parents’ house while I was in Korea, we came to Texas with Patchie (the queen Elizabeth of cats) where she died of old age and diabetes and I swore that it would be a while before I had another cat, as she had become very high-maintenance in her dotage.

That vow lasted approximately two days; I took in Henry VIII, his littermate Morgie and his little brother Little Arthur over the summer of 1998. Eventually, I began feeding a couple of neighbors’ cats who preferred my garden to their own yards, and tamed a shy little grey catling named Percival… OK, so that makes four cats of the First Degree, although poor little Percy was very much on the outs for a long while with the other three. They regarded him contemptuously, rather like the popular high school kids treat the little, nerdy kid. “Ugh… you lameoid… You’re still here?” He has overlapping teeth; Blondie calls him “the snaggle-toothed wampire-kitty”. But they all rather grumpily adjusted, and then Sammy, the white cat from across the road fell head over paws in love with Blondie, and insisted on staying at our place rather than theirs, and survived being sideswiped by a car whilst crossing the road to get back to our place… well, that was a mark of his devotion. When they moved, he stayed, and officially he became Blondie’s cat. She thinks he is a flame-point Siamese, as he looks like a white cat washed with insufficient bleach, or an orange cat washed with too much. Whatever, he has deeply crossed and near-sighted blue eyes, and hirples around on three legs, holding one front leg up close against his body. Nerve damage, said the veterinarian, although he manages quite nicely, and Blondie says she sometimes thinks she sees movement in that damaged paw.

Since the dogs arrived, the original trio of Henry, Morgie and Arthur prefers Blondie’s room. Sammy and Percival, perversely enough, don’t mind the Lesser Weevil and Spike very much, and spend the long hard hours of a cats’ day and night sleeping on my bed. Curled up together, occasionally waking to wash each others’ ears with attention and deep devotion… oh, yes, they are a matched pair. When Blondie has her own place for Sammy, Percy shall go with them, which I will regret, but I know deep and abiding affection when I see it.

Sammy and Percival like the dogs, and are the only two who play with them, although they tend to favor playing with Spike more than Weevil, since she is so large and intimidating, a sort of canine Xena-Warrior-Princess. Spike is more or less their own size, and Percival does not seem to have any objection to being pinned down by Spike to have his own ears vigorously laved, or to have a good interspecies wrestle. (Sammy only puts up with a little of this.) Percival gives a good account of himself on these occasions; it’s usually a draw.

Now, with Spike and Weevil matches, it would be Weevil all day and all the time, if she didn’t choose to pull her punches. She is a sixty-pound boxer/whatever mix, and at her best and dripping wet, Spike is about ten pounds of dwarf shih-Tzu. On the occasion of their first encounter, Weevil planted one of her great boxer paws squarely on Spike, who yelped heartrendingly… she was only a baby. It hadn’t worked out with the original owner who had taken her home from the kennel from which she was bred, and when Blondie brought her to my house, she was as clingy as an abandoned toddler, and ready to attach. And so she did, to me and to the Weevil, who after that first rather rocky evening, has fondly indulged Spike as if she were a puppy, and allowed her to scramble all over her, and chew on her ears and jowls, without offering any more than token resistance. Funny as hell to watch Spike climb on top of Weevil, and try and rough her up, knowing that Weevil could, if she wanted to, snap Spike’s neck without breaking a sweat. Oh, yeah, they are such a pair. Should anyone ever break into my house in the middle of the night, I will be so protected. I think.

12. October 2006 · Comments Off on What makes your heart stop? · Categories: Critters, General

For me, it was coming to my friend’s house where I’m house-sitting, after an afternoon working out of my own house, and as I’m pushing my way through the throng of dogs eager to welcome me home, looking down and seeing blood and skin on the face of one dog, instead of fur.

Greyhounds have notoriously thin skin, easily damaged. Somehow, Princess has a 3-cornered tear on the side of her nose, directly in front of her eye. Stitching isn’t really an option, becasue of its location. I’m confident it was inflicted by another of the hounds, but no idea which one, so they’re all muzzled now. I know which 3 it was *not,* because they were in the basement all afternoon. They’re muzzled too, though, just in case.

Princess is in the kitchen with me – her own little isolation ward. She’s had antibiotics, and a peroxide cleansing of the wound (she didn’t really care for that), and lots of treats. This is one of Dee’s dogs, not one of mine (Dee is my dog-sitter extraordinaire), and is probably 14 years old, if she’s a day. I’ll leave her in here tonight, safely away from the other hounds, with a soft bed, and lots of towels on the floor in case nature calls.

In the morning, she’ll be dropped at our wonderful vet’s on my way to my house to work (wonderful vet had been closed for half an hour already when I finally got back to Dee’s house after battling rush-hour traffic). Telephone consultation with Dee (she’s in CA visiting relatives) determined that the e-vet would do nothing for us except accrue a horrendous bill. Dee has lots of experience with doing first-aid on dogs – combination of a lifetime of owning dogs, and running an adoption kennel for almost 20 years. Dee also told me not to feel bad – these things happen, and she’s always expecting to see blood when she comes home from being gone for awhile. In her opinion, it happens when the pups are all going crazy waiting for her to come in the house after they hear the garage door open. They get excited, and bump into each other, and sometimes they’ll hit teeth or claws in their bumping. I’m thinking this was caused by a bite, and I have my suspicions about which dog did it, but there’s no way of knowing for sure.

Princess seems to be more or less content, lying on her bed with her head on the cool floor, looking for a way to lie that’s comfortable without hitting that side of her face.

Me? I’m thinking a beer sounds really really good, but I have a personal philosophy about *not* drinking when I think I “need” a drink, or I’ve “earned” a drink. Too many alcoholics in my family. So I’m sucking down bottled water instead. I’ll save the Blue Moon for tomorrow night.

12. October 2006 · Comments Off on Meet Lucy · Categories: Critters

So Gypsy Cat is doing well on her last day of quarantine and one of the gals at the pet shelter is already eyeing her with pure love in her eyes. Gypsy’s going to be fine.

But, Beautiful Wife was there at the shelter and we already have a waiver for three mammal type pets, and this pup and Max just hit it right off and would you just look at that face?

Sometimes you just have to say “Yes Dear.” and accept the inevitable. Smart married men know how and when to do this, divorced married men haven’t figured it out yet.

They listed her as half heeler, half shephard, but she’s kind of long so I think there’s some beagle in there too.

03. October 2006 · Comments Off on Kitty’s in the Slammer · Categories: Critters

While I’m on this TDY thing, Beautiful Wife has had her share of trials in the past couple of days. Gypsy and Miko cats have pretty much given up the upper floor of the house to Maximum Dawg, only venturing out at night and the early morning hour that Max is in the backyard kennel. That’s been working, they get fed and pet in the early morning and at night. Max has the daylight hours. Everyone seemed okay with that until lately.

Gypsy has never been the most friendly of felines. Beautiful Wife eventually became her human and she’s barely tolerated Boyo and myself. And she’s always, always, always wanted to be an only cat. She’s never got along with other cats, but she’s never really attacked them either.

Lately, that’s been changing. Miko has an agreement with Max. You leave me alone, and I won’t take your nose off. Miko’s adjusting to having the dog around. At first Gypsy just ignored Max but now, Gypsy has become even more dysfunctional than ever. We’ve noticed Miko’s been missing meals, hiding, and has had a couple of fur patches taken off. This is not Max’s doing, it’s Gypsy, we just haven’t caught her.

Yesterday, when Beautiful Wife was doing laundry she reached down to give “her cat” a pet and a cuddle and wound up in a doctor’s office for a very nasty cat bite. Two bags of IV antibiotics and a week’s worth of follow up oral tabs later, Gypsy is in a kennel for 10 days of quarantine and then further determination.

Beautiful Wife’s hand is shrinking down to normal from being swollen to about twice it’s normal size. Scarey stuff. Gypsy cat will not be coming home to us.

I’d like to feel worse about this, but besides my wife, I’ve got a 10 year old boy in the house and other animals to consider. Gypsy was near death’s door when we took her in, almost feral, but not quite over the edge. She’s now 15 pounds of fat tabby that’s been increasingly more difficult to live with, mellowing on occaission, but never quite fitting in with the rest of the house. I’m just not willing to risk us or the rest of our menagerie. We didn’t figure she’d “take” to Max, we never thought she’d turn on Miko and us.

I’ve never given up on a rescue before, especially one that’s been around for 7 years, but when it becomes a hazard, I’m quite done. Beautiful Wife isn’t one to give up either nor to be scared by any critter, but this has got her freaked. I can’t blame her.

Of course, when the catchers came to gather her up for quarantine, Gypsy turned into super suck up, purring and rubbing on the capture pole, letting the catchers give her all kinds of love. Beautiful Wife is kind of pissed. Her cat takes a bite from her but sucks up to complete strangers, which she NEVER does.

Maybe she just decided she didn’t want to live with us anymore. Cats do that. I do wish she’d chosen a less emphatic way to tell us.

And I have to admit, there’s a sense of relief knowing that she’s going to be gone. Most of the other critters in our home have come to one sort of agreement or another. Spirit the Cockatiel has Boyo’s room to himself, allowed into the living room only when we’re all around and out only when Max is kenneled and kitties are downstairs. Boyo was awesome at keeping his bedroom door closed for a year to show us he could do it, thus earning the right to keep a bird himself. Max has learned not to chase Miko, Miko just gives him that disdainful “Stupid dog” look. Max is learning to not try to catch the birdie. Spirit is new, this will take time. It’s chaos, but it’s a weirdly organized and non-hazardous to fur or feather chaos.

04. September 2006 · Comments Off on CRIKEY!!! Crocodile Hunter Killed by a Stingray · Categories: Critters, Science!, That's Entertainment!

Ya knew a critter would get him someday, but I figured it would be a Croc, not a stingray.

I’m suprised at how sad I am. I loved watching him do stuff that most folks wouldn’t think of doing.

27. August 2006 · Comments Off on Tails of the Lesser Weevil · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, Pajama Game

The dog that Sgt/Cpl. Blondie presented me with at Christmas when she came home from serving in the Marines, after telling me that I would have either a dog or a gun in the house— my choice — now appears to have grown to her full adult size of about fifty-five or sixty pounds. She is a densely muscled, fawn-colored dog, with a black mask on her face, and a white chest and toes; almost everyone who sees her recognizes her immediately as being part-boxer. She displays much of the boxer temperament as well; friendly, intelligent and companionable, quiet as dogs go, but capable of being quite willful and stubborn.

The Weevil is much admired by the general public, as an attractive, and appealing dog, whatever the mix is. She has pretty well grasped the obedience thing at this point, also. She’ll sit, stay, come when called, knows that she cannot go beyond the garden gate, or into the kitchen, go into her crate with all speed, and these days, only pees in the house if I have frightened her. I yelled at her once, in a scary, Mercedes McCambridge-exorcist voice, one evening, after she swiped some food off the kitchen counter, and she was freaked for hours afterwards. I have even included her in the book I am currently writing, as a minor character, albeit with an intelligence transplant and a little more size to her.

It’s always been a bit of a mystery as to what the other, non-boxer half was, though. Something large, was the general consensus… Doberman, Great Dane, even Rhodesian ridgeback featured among most of the guesses. Blondie originally acquired her from a friend, who had her from a friend of a friend, who was reported to breed pit bulldogs, and I had always ruled that option out, as I assumed that pit bulldogs were generally smaller than Weevil, and her size had to have come from someplace. Working at home on the next book leaves me to run with her slightly later in the day, and last week, I made the acquaintance of a neighbor who took one look at Weevil and pronounced her to be, yes, about half pit bull. But I thought they were smaller dogs, I said, and the neighbor said, no, some of them were of a good-size… and Weevil’s head was just the right shape. She used to have pit bulls, and to her, it was as clear as anything.

I went home and looked up the characteristics of the breed on a couple of websites, and oh, my— some of them fit Weevil to a T. Like being an absolutely rotten watchdog. She loves people, any and all people, and has no inkling in that little doggie brain that she ought to be barking at any of them. William visited this spring, several months after Weevil came to stay. He has a key, and let himself into the house at four in the morning, and never the slightest “woof” out of the Weevil. She wandered up to him with her tail wagging, as a matter of fact, all friendly curiosity. In the event of a crazed, knife-wielding terrorist breaking into the house, I am almost sure the Weevil would be cowering behind me. The destructive chewing, when bored… yep, that’s the Weevil, all right. And the athleticism; she twirls like a dervish when she is excited, leaping and pirouetting in the air. First thing she does when I let her out in the morning, she leaps and spins three or four times in the air.

But the most convincing characteristic of pit bulls that she displays, would be how she reacts to strange dogs… and that is with extreme hostility.. But over the last few months, meeting another dog-walker with a dog on a leash has usually turned into an upper-body workout for me, and a couple of houses with barking dogs in the back yards send her so wild with hostility that I have to use both hands on the leash to pull her away, if I have not already crossed over to the other side of the road. Once or twice, we have encountered loose dogs, on our walk, and the Weevil turns absolutely rigid with tension. I’ve had to wrap the chain leash several times around my hand, hold her close to my knee and talk to her, as we walked by the loose dog.

Otherwise, the Weevil is very fond of Spike, and she was playful and affectionate with my parents’ and sisters’ dogs at Christmas, as well as a lot of other dogs that she met here and there, but I don’t think I will ever be able to take her to a dog park and let her off the leash , and I am not sure I could even take her into Petco, now, not unless I shot her full of tranquilizers, first. And as long as I live in this neighborhood, I shall keep rather quiet about it in any case.

14. August 2006 · Comments Off on Shi Tzu Happens · Categories: Critters, Domestic, General, Pajama Game

We’re still working on that whole housebreaking concept with Spike, the Weevil I Know Nothing Of, or as Sgt/Cpl. Blondie calls her, “The Poop Factory”. Lately, Spike has been parking it in consistently pretty much the same place… lamentably, that place is NOT the out of doors, but we’re working on that, as well as purchasing paper towels in the multiple-roll packages. On the up side, Spike is a pretty fair and alert watch-dog, even if not a particularly intimidating one. I’m sorry, in her heart she may think she is a lion, but a six-pound-dripping-wet-pocket-puppy is not going to intimidate the crap out of an intruder, unless they are incapacitated by a phobia about small, yappy dogs… or fall over and hit their head, because they are laughing too hard at the spectacle of a tiny, noisy Shih Tzu with delusions of grandeur, bouncing up and down and menacing their ankles.

On the other hand, now I know why these people who do have these cute, ornamental toy breed of dogs, carry them around, constantly and ostentatiously! I used to think it was a kind of desperately hip affectation, and the dog was some kind of cute, trendy accessory… but now, through no fault of my own, I have one of those cute, somewhat trendy ornamental toy breeds… and let me tell you, people, it isn’t the owner’s notion…. it’s the dogs’ doing! Dogs have been associated with people for god knows how many millennia, they were bent and bred for our purposes, to do our bidding and with various specific jobs in mind; to herd sheep (border collies), or kill rats (rat terriers), to chase foxes (beagles), to assist the butcher in dispatching cattle (bulldogs), or the soldier in a similar job on enemies (mastiffs), to be draft animals (rottweilers), to dig burrowing animals out of holes (dachshunds), to run after coaches (Dalmatians), to assist dory-fishermen in hauling nets out of the water (Labradors)… In other words, for every dog breed under heaven, there was once a very specific purpose for it, and the very best of them know it to their bones and every fiber of their dog bodies, it is coded so deeply in their DNA that it comes out in their character and sometimes in the actions of those who have never otherwise come within a country mile of their ancestral mission.

I read some months ago of a young Labrador out for a walk with his owner along a scenic riverbank. The dog pulled his leash out of his owners’ hand, plunged into the water and swam to the rescue of a little boy who had been on an inner-tube excursion down the river, and had fallen off. He swam into the middle of the river, and dragged the boy back to the bank, performing as neat a life-saving exhibition as ever could be wished by the painters of sentimental Victorian scenes of the same, in response to his ancestral imperative. Everyone was properly astonished, of course… just as my close neighbors were, a couple of years ago, when they detected the presence of roof-rats, taking up residence in their garage. One of their family pets included a rat-terrier named Jessica, who enlightened them almost immediately as to the reason for the name of her breed, by her eagerness to sally forth into the garage, the resulting hunt-down of the prey and the efficient and total dispatch, once Jessica located them. She was swift, brutal, and so dedicated that she was trembling all over, once they let her loose, although to their certain knowledge, neither Jessica or her immediate ancestors had any first-hand notion of exactly what a rat was, or what indeed she should do about them. The ancestral mission came surging up to the forefront of that doggy brain, overcoming a century or so of conditioning as a family pet.

In the case of Spike, and the other toy breeds, they were bred and conditioned as companion animals, to want to be with or close by their chosen human, twenty-four-seven; in their lap, or at their feet, or as is said of the Chinese breeds, tucked into the sleeve of a long robe. Essentially, they want to be Velcroed to us… and that kind of adoration is hard to set aside. Spike sleeps in a little dog-nest under my bedside table, and when I am writing, she is under my chair, or sleeping on the bedroom rug, or in her doggie nest, in all cases not more than ten feet away. If I get up and move to another room, she follows me, watchfully. If I go outside, and she doesn’t come with me, she sits at the door that I went out of, or goes around to the slider door, or the dining-area window where she can see me, and claws frantically at the glass, until I come inside again. When I had to go to a temp assignment at the Enormous Corporate Behemoth for a week of administrative and creative work (to pay the bills, dontcha know, while I work on the latest Book) she was left in the crate for a good few hours. Even though Sgt/Cpl. Blondie came home at lunch from her job, and let her loose, Spike was so frantic by the time I came home, I had to carry her around in my arms for about fifteen minutes until she calmed down. All that time, of course, she was plastered to me, as clingy as a small child. Don’t even ask me about how she was, when I left her at the groomers’, the week before: talk about the huge-eyed and tearful look of betrayal, leaving a kid at pre-school has nothing on that.

So you see, all those celebs, carrying around those little toy dogs?— It’s the dog’s fixation, it isn’t the owners, I am convinced. Considering some of the celebrities involved, it just might be the dog is the intellectual powerhouse of the two, anyway

12. August 2006 · Comments Off on this from the dog who won’t take a bath · Categories: Critters

04. July 2006 · Comments Off on New Adoption · Categories: Critters, General

Our backyard neighbor came running yesterday morning in an obvious agitated state, having seen “a giant white snake type creature” in their yard. Further investigation revealed that, indeed, there was a four foot white snake curled up in the hosta patch. Not pure white, actually, but with faint almost imperceptible light tan markings and pink eyes. Judging from the shape of its head and its demeanor, and some knowledge of the snakes indigenous to its area, it was not venomous. So, in the spirit of farm boys everywhere, I captured it. It appears to be an albino snow corn snake (elaphe guttata guttata). I don’t know the sex – apparently you have to “probe” (whatever that means), a snake to find that out but it has a pretty docile temperament so we decided to add it to our menagerie. So, off to the pet store to buy some frozen mice, another heat mat, and whatever other accoutrements are needed to keep a snake happy. We learned in short order that, while corn snakes raised in captivity are fine with frozen mice (microwaved to approximate body temperature – with a lemon garlic rub perhaps?), wild corn snakes prefer their meals served live – one per week. Given Real Wife’s affection for pet rats and other rodents, this will clearly be my responsibility. Although I have hunted game, and slaughtered cattle on our farm as a teenager, I do have some misgivings about sending a mouse to certain slow death. I have therefore promised Real Wife and Red Haired Girl that we would only select the ugliest of mice that are those totally lacking in moral values.

The thing that bothers me is how this snake survived in our area, given that we have a couple of owls who make a regular appearance. And with a gazillion kids all over the neighborhood, even a single sighting would have resulted in an urban legend of major proportion. I suppose he may be an escapee, although there has been nothing in the local paper or radio station, nor did a canvas of the neighborhood turn up any leads. The other possibility is that someone turned him loose.

So far he seems to be fitting in. We did have to place a piece of cardboard between his terrarium and that of the gecko, the latter getting pretty excited at the sight of the snake (apparently a natural predator). Pet Store Guy suggested not handling him for a week or so to let him get used to his surroundings. He seems very curious and active. For a hiding shelter I put an old bicycling helmet into service, which is pretty bizarre because when he hears us enter the room he pokes his head out of one of the ventilation slots – kind of a Medusa thing.

While at the pet store we also saw the cutest ferret…

Radar

29. June 2006 · Comments Off on Cats & Dogs · Categories: Critters, Domestic, Fun and Games, General, General Nonsense

(The following is one of those e-mail things that go around: it just seemed to be an interesting coincidence that a friend sent it to me, just when Timmer’s Miko re-appeared, and my own Spike and Percy seemed to be fast becoming very, very good friends… not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

EXCERPTS FROM A DOG’S DAILY DIARY:

8:00 a.m. Oh, boy! Dog food! My favorite!

9:30 a.m. Wow! A car ride! This is a blast

9:40 a.m. A walk in the park! Ate some crap…Delicious!

10:30 a.m. Getting rubbed and petted! I’m in love!

12:00 p.m. Lunch! Yummy!

1:00 p.m. Playing in the yard! I just love it!

3:00 p.m. Staring adoringly at my masters…they’re the best! I’ll wag
my tail in joy.

4:00 p.m. Hooray! The kids are home! I’m bouncing off the walls!

5:00 p.m. Milk bones! Great!

7:00 p.m. Get to play ball! This is too good to be true!

8:00 p.m. Wow! Watching TV with my master! Heavenly!

11:00 p.m. Sleeping at the bottom of my master’s bed! Life is soooooooo
great!
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