Going to the Dogs

IMG_0793Just so there’s no misunderstanding, this entry is about the four legged variety, not the two legged version. 

It’s also about fantasy colliding with reality.  And, for those of us with any years of experience tucked under our belts, we know exactly what that means. 

This all started back when BlackJack moved onto Kitty Heaven and I was pet-less.  I signed up at the local humane society center to be a dog-socializer which was a lot cooler than walking the pooches in 100 plus degree weather. I also signed up to cuddle the cats, but, given truth in advertising, they really needed volunteers to clean the kitty litter boxes and I am past that stage of life.

So, by default, the dogs got me.

Sammie’s Friends, a rural county facility staffed by employees and volunteers, is really remarkable. There are two buildings, one for dogs and one for cats.

The dogs are walked twice a day by volunteers along a mile plus long trail; there are outdoor pens for small, medium and large sized dogs where a behaviorist works with the dogs individually and in small groups, and then there are the socializers, who are also assigned a day or more a week to sit one on one with the animals.

That’s me.  We socializers go into each kennel, all of which are rather large and remarkably spotless. Each pooch has toys as well as a comfy bed, water and food.  The socializer’s job is to spoil the dogs, so we arrive, grab the provided stool, and go into each kennel laden with dog treats and ready to pet, play and cuddle each animal.

It’s a tough job, but given my background as a grandma, I already had the prerequisite training.

Some of the socializers prefer the little dogs, but I like the larger ones.  So, when I was being trained, which was really how to open and close the kennel doors without being run over by an escape artist, I said I’d take the larger dogs.

Then I discovered that most of them were pit bulls.

It’s not that I have anything against a particular dog breed, but let’s just say, some of the breeds leave me a bit leery.  Fortunately, the majority of the pits are actually quite sweet and love the treats.  We get along just fine.

Then, there is Bailey.  It was love at first sight.

I’m beginning to recognize that I’m a romantic at heart. 

Bailey is an eight month old purebred German Shepherd.  She is stunning.  She was also abused by her owner, who should be hung up by his toenails.  Evidently Baily finally did something to protect herself and law enforcement and the courts stepped in. Good for Bailey.  An intelligent Shepherd to boot.

When Bailey arrived at Sammie’s Friends, the staff housed her in a two room kennel, separate from the rest of the animals, their barking and the general confusion.  She was terrified and cowered in the corner. Her entire body would tremble when anyone entered the room. She was under court ordered supervision to watch her temperament so that a decision could be made about her future.

As I’ve had German Shepherds throughout my life, including one retired K-9, the staff told me to go on in.  I took my little perching stool and entered her turf.  She watched me from her corner and, about thirty seconds later, had her front paws planted on my lap and was licking my face. 

Sometimes dogs just know. It was love at first sight.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time with Bailey.  We not only play in her kennel, but also go out to the pens where she can really run and work off some of her puppy energy.  A staff member watched the other day and asked if I wanted to take her out to a park, to my home, or anywhere in the area.  She also mentioned that the courts were going to be releasing Bailey for adoption and would I be interested?

And that’s where fantasy and reality collided.

The heart yelled YES!!! 


OK. But at some point, the knee will be better. Unless, of course, I destroy it again playing at golf.  Who knew golf could be so dangerous, but that’s a topic for another day.

By the time I got home, the mind had won.  Bailey will find the perfect home, just not mine. Hopefully she will be with a loving family, children to grow up with, and acreage.  She deserves nothing less.



The Cat with Nine Lives

IMG_0050 (2)I’ve always had dogs until I inherited my daughter’s cat and that cat got cancer so it was an obvious call when to end things.

Then there is BlackJack.  By my count, even at nineteen years old, he still has five or six lives left in him and  apparently he is determined to use as many as possible before going on to Kitty Heaven.

When he was a youngster, BlackJack was either abandoned or an abused runaway in Berkeley California.  A young couple figured out he was hungry and took him in.

They said the cat was so well behaved.  He never jumped on furniture, was polite to their two other cats and ate whatever they gave him.  But, they soon realized that three cats was one too many.

He came to me and it didn’t take long for the two of us to bond. BlackJack quickly abandoned all pretense of enjoying life on the floor and took up residence on beds, couches or laps.

From tangling with a large bobcat and surviving to getting locked in his nemesis Buster’s basement for a few days, BlackJack has had his share of adventures and used up a few of his nine lives.

A couple weeks ago, we began the new Adventure of Are We Dying or Are We Not?  It has been an emotional roller-coaster, not only for me but for my friends who have cried along with me over the losses of their cats and dogs.

This morning, at my wit’s end and not sure of which way to turn, I took him to a vet who had been recommended by a friend.

Both the vet and I had a list of questions, most of which were unanswerable.

Q:  I don’t know cats, other than BlackJack.  How old do cats live?

A:  oh, hard to tell….most live to 13.  The oldest I’ve seen in here, until today, was 18 and she was in really bad shape. Hello BlackJack, what a beautiful silky coat…

And, so it went, back and forth, with lots of guesswork and I don’t knows.  The only obvious concern was to get him re-hydrated and that was an easy fix. The vet and I finally opted to go over a list of tests, select the ones for which there were easy remedies, and then decide on a course of action once we had some information.  BlackJack was far more interested in checking out the nooks and crannies in the room.

The vet called a bit later.  The cat is perfectly healthy. He’s healthier than I am. 

So, for the time being, things are going to return to more or less normal.  The only Rx is to keep him hydrated and take him for a couple of car rides every week.




It’s been more than a few months since I last visited my blog. Somewhere between looking for a new home, cringing at a presidential nominee whose emotional and intellectual capabilities seem to hover at the lowest bar we’ve ever witnessed (quick, where’s my all’s-right-with-the-world quilt so I can hide beneath it?) and packing, things had to get prioritized.

Just me, coloring outside the lines lost out.

However, now that I have moved in to the new casa, unpacked and hung the paintings, I am home once again. Even BlackJack, the cat, is happy.  And you know what they say, a happy cat is a happy home.  Or something like that.

I have to say, this was a bit of a traumatic move for the cat.  He loved our former home.  As the mountain of packed boxes grew taller, BlackJack grew increasingly morose.  It was not like him.  I realized just how upset he was when,  just prior to The Move, I had returned from carting some boxes to the new house and turned down our very steep Driveway from Hell (think the first twisting drop of your favorite roller coaster and that approximates the driveway).

BlackJack never ventured up the drive; it was simply too steep and there was so much to see on the other side of the house. But there he was, trudging up the driveway, head hung low.  I stopped the car at the bottom of the hill and called out to him.

He paused, mid-step, thought for a moment before responding and then slowly looked back over his shoulder, dramatically milking the moment for all he could and shooting me a look of pure disgust as if to say,  You go. Do what you want.  I’m staying here.  

At that moment I realized BlackJack may well be more thoughtful than the current GOP presidential candidate.  I also realized that immediate action was needed, or the cat was indeed staying put.

Desperate times call for desperate measures.

I turned the car around, drove back up the Driveway from Hell, stopped, got out and called for the cat. Fortunately, he’s been more or less trained as a dog so he begrudgingly came when I called for him. I picked him up and plopped him in the front seat of the car.

This was a new experience for BlackJack, being in a car and not in the despised cat carrier.  At first, he just looked at me like I had forgotten something, but then he realized there was a whole new world just beyond the window.  He sat up straight, looked out the side window, then the front window, turned and grinned at me.  He was quickly buying into our new adventure.

img_0852-1Two miles beyond the soon-to-be-old home and Driveway from Hell, was our soon-to-be-new home with a straight, flat driveway on the opposite side of the lake.  We turned into the drive and drove right into the garage, where I scooped up BlackJack and carried him into our new home.

He scampered from room to room, checking out the new digs, before finding a box in front of the large living room window and an expansive view of the lake. He jumped up and stood, transfixed at the view.  I forgot that the cat had never before seen a lake.  I wondered if he knew about the plethora of fish that were just waiting to be caught.

Three days later, The Move was completed and BlackJack is one happy cat.  He immediately became best friends with two neighborhood cats, and together, they seem to have formed a Cat Pack, racing among the deer, geese and wild turkeys along the fringes of the golf course in the back, visiting each other’s homes or lounging on the front deck and gazing at the lake shimmering across the street.

Happy cat, happy home.

The Logs and the Cabin

There’s a plaque in my home office, given to me by a friend who knows me perhaps a tad too well:


Katharine Hepburn is a lot classier than my mantra:  I’ve never met a rule I didn’t want to break.

All of which brings me to the subject my current passion: quilting.

Let me begin by saying there is evidently a long, long list of quilting rules …measure twice, cut once (fabric, not wood); sew a scant quarter inch (which begs the question:  what is the difference between a scant and true quarter inch??), the way to perfectly mitered corners, perfect bindings, etc., etc., ad nauseum…

It’s enough to make me rethink this adventure, except that I’m enjoying the challenge, learning curve and creativity.  Besides, I am only one month into paying off my snazzy new sewing machine.

This morning, at approximately 2:36 AM, I awoke with a start.  I realized I had totally flubbed my newest attempt:  a simple, straight-forward Log Cabin pattern. What could possibly go wrong with a Log Cabin?  If this were real life, my Log Cabin would have tilted and collapsed. In Quilt Land, my logs, such as they were, were all over the place and the colors clashed.

This would have been perfectly fine if I had wanted a wonky quilt, but this was a traditional pattern with straight lines. So, by 2:38 AM, I was back at the sewing machine, ripping out seams, and preparing to replace wonky strips with ones that blended in and had straight lines.  That meant re-sewing the whole lot with an eye to the perfect scant quarter inch. 

At 2:43 AM, the cat stumbled, half asleep, into the room.  BlackJack’s not a particularly nocturnal animal.  He looked at me with his What are you doing? glare, upchucked a hairball and scooted back to my room, and my still warm bed, to resume his slumber.

And people wonder why I’m not in a relationship.

All these quilting rules remind me of a time, way back when I was taking a zillion classes in order to move over on the teacher salary schedule and increase my income following the split with the ex.

While most of the classes were pretty much worthless and added nothing to a professional knowledge bank, I did take one class that has proven time and again to be of such great value, in life, the classroom and perhaps, even quilting. With credit to True Colors, a simplified approach to personality identification, a list of traits was read to the very large class of adult teacher attendees and we all separated into one of four groups based on our answers.  

I should note that while we each have the capacity to utilize all four quadrants, most of us settle on one or two as our primary go-to personality.

The overwhelmingly largest group was Gold, the people who valued tradition, rules, family and structure. They immediately organized themselves into very straight rows and, with folded hands, waited silently for the assignment.

The smallest group was Green, the people who preferred observation, problem solving and engineering/science/math. Those individuals sat as close to the farthest wall as possible, trying to disappear into the wall while not making eye contact with each other or anyone else as they silently observed the rest of the goings-on.

Blue, the second largest group, was the polar opposite of Green, and a group that immediately embraced every other person’s emotions.  They loved nature, peace, poetry, hearts and flowers. They formed a circle of chairs so that everyone in their group would feel included before quietly introducing themselves and making certain everyone felt comfortable.

That left the final group, Red, a small, motley group that formed the opposition to the orderly Gold contingent. We — ahem — immediately sprawled out on the carpet, sharing stories and laughter with our new-found comrades while communally doodling on the provided large poster board paper without waiting for any directions. We were oblivious to the rest of the room, which was probably good as the Golds began focusing scowls and disapproving tsks at our evidently unacceptable behavior.

The assignment:  list all the things that bring you joy; then all the things that drive you nuts.

In hindsight, it was all pretty predictable: 

Blue: harmony, romance, making love, candles, empathy, creativity, sharing emotions, touching, nature vs. conflict, rational reasoning and stark environments. Their poster board was decorated with very sweet pictures and happy/sad faces.  Blues ask Why and they make certain everyone feels good about any solution at hand.

Green: reason, time to process, solitude vs. too many people, touch, emotions, romance, and being asked to express emotions. Their poster board was virtually blank as they were still thinking.  Greens ask How and they design solutions.

Blues and Greens tend to marry each other and drive one another nuts.

Gold: order, predictability, rules, family, tradition vs. chaos, the unknown, people who are late, break rules and are loud and obnoxious. Their poster board was neat and tidy with very straight columns.  The drive-you-nuts list was very long.  Golds ask What and then put the solution to work.

Red: great sex, new adventures, amazing sex, being in “flow” with whatever you’re doing, parties, fun, great sex vs. just ordinary sex, rules, structure, deadlines, no sex, rigid authority.  No one could read our poster board; it was a total mess, but it didn’t matter because we were still coming up with ideas.  Reds ask What if and, out of the chaos, come up with the idea for the required solution.

And, you guessed it… Golds and Reds also tend to marry and also drive one another nuts.

So, you might be asking, what does all this have to do with making traditional log cabin quilts? 

Probably not a whole lot, except that a little wonkiness here and there really doesn’t matter all that much…


The Old Gang

Once upon a timIMG_0790e, there were three grandsons of preschool age.  There was also one very large youthful black cat.

The boys quickly learned that if they were gentle with the cat, he would reward them with loud purring.

When the grandsons came to visit, they’d race into the house.

The cat raced under my bed.

Within minutes, the kids were down on the floor in my bedroom, circling the bed and the cat. 

Poor BlackJack. He knew better than to bite or claw and he didn’t stand a chance against three boys.  Sooner or later, one of the boys would get his hand on the 18 pounds of fur and muscle and pull the mildly protesting cat out from his hiding place.

The kids had their routine.  The three boys, with the cat in the center, would sprawl on Grandma’s bed and catch up with the happenings of their lives or make plans for their time together.  In time, BlackJack showed the boys his favorite hiding place on the shelf of a large bay window. The four would often curl up on a blanket in bay window, hiding from the adult world behind white linen curtains.

On the bed or in the bay window, BlackJack would eventually roll over on his back and purred along with their conversation while the boys rubbed his tummy.  The cat looked like a furry Buddha.

The kids adored him.

In time, the oldest of the three boys joined the 4H and got some hens and a rooster for his project.  He named the rooster BlackJack.  Neither his mom nor I could ever figure out the connection, but to a seven year old, it made perfect sense.

It was not too long after the year of 4H that BlackJack the Rooster died. Mom wasn’t too terribly concerned about informing the young owner as she had now taken over care of the remaining birds. She waited for her son to come home from school and sat him down.

I have some sad news. BlackJack died this morning.

My young grandson’s lower lip began to quiver and tears welled up in his eyes. Mom was not expecting this.

Honey, he was an old rooster and had lived…

The Rooster? The Rooster?  I thought you meant Grandma’s cat.  Jeez, Mom, he was just a rooster.

But BlackJack the cat…he was one of the gang.

Then, as things are apt to happen, the three boys grew into young men.  They got much taller, much louder with much deeper voices, and BlackJack the cat grew older as well.

During this last visit, the boys occasionally tried to entice BlackJack out from under my bed, but the cat was having nothing to do with the teenagers. He no longer wanted to hear about their adventures or be part of the old gang.

BlackJack spent the better part of their visit hiding under my bed, coming out only to grab a bite of food when the boys were at the lake, or curling up with me at bedtime. 

When the travelers got the car packed and headed off, it was a while before BlackJack ventured out.  He was exhausted and stretched out to sleep first on the couch, then on my bed.

But, for hours, every time a car drove by, his ears would perk up and BlackJack would stare out the front screen door, just to make sure the kids weren’t returning. When a car had safely driven past our driveway, he’d curl up to rest again.  Soon, he fell into a well-deserved deep sleep.

Truth be told, as much as I love everyone showing up, I know just how BlackJack feels.

I think I’ll join him for a nap.



A Cat, A Dog and A Christmas Tree

Over the years, the kids and grandkids have shown up to stay a few days, hauling in luggage, sporting gear, computers and whatever else they could fit into the car. That has also included their dogs.  As BlackJack is the master of the house, the dogs have given him wide berth.  They’re relatively smart dogs and most have known better than to tangle with claws and fangs. 

A long time past, though, daughter showed up for the Christmas holiday from college with an unexpected bundle of grey fluff in her purse.  It was Misha, the kitten that I would later inherit.

I had Fero, the K9 German Shepherd. Fero was not only perfectly behaved, he had been around cats in the kennel and had been friendly with most of them.  He expected to have the same relationship with Misha.

Misha was not so inclined to befriend a dog, especially a large dog.

We would walk into the living room, where both animals were hanging out, to find that Fero had picked up Misha in his mouth, gently gumming her so as not to hurt the kitten, walk her to where he planned to snooze, and then curl up with her to nap.

Misha’s look of terror quickly turned to fangs, claws and hissing as soon as Fero put her down.  Needless to say, Plan A did not work.

So, Fero moved to plan B; that is, wait for Misha to fall asleep and then curl up next to her, with his front legs wrapped around her.  That seemed to work for a short time until the kitten awoke.  Then, all hell would break lose once again.

It was shortly after Christmas, for which I did thank the Christmas Tree Goddess, when Misha awoke from her Fero-surrounded nap.  She had figured out the house sufficiently to know where hiding places were and, with as much of a hiss as a pint sized kitten could muster, Misha bolted out of Fero’s hug, across the room and up the Christmas tree.

Misha was too small to do much harm, but none of us had counted on Fero joining in the fun.  The fully decorated tree crashed to the carpet and the two animals took their chase into the back parts of the house.

Fast forward twenty some years and son, daughter-in-law, two grandsons and a young, very active, very friendly dog named Clementine came to spend this Christmas holiday. BlackJack enjoys the boys, but took issue with Clem and dove under my bed, where he spent most of the weekend complaining.

IMG_0327 (1)BlackJack ventured out to cuddle with oldest grandson when the others ventured out into the snow with Clem, but most of the time was spent keeping an overly friendly pup from trying to play with a grumpy old cat.

That detente seemed to be almost working, with BlackJack taking full adIMG_0322 (1)vantage of his situation by tucking himself into my bed at night and Clem curled up on her bed, exhausted from her day in the snow. Then, during the night after Christmas, about 3 or 4 AM, BlackJack decided to venture out and Clem thought she should join him, probably thinking they could have fun playing.

By the time I awoke to the noise and intervened, BlackJack was in full fur, hissing, and backing his way under the decorated Christmas tree, with Clem in full pursuit.  It was a vision of Christmas past, with the fully decorated fully decorated flippen Christmas tree and ornaments swaying back and forth as two animals faced off.  This time, however, the tree stayed upright, thanks again to the Christmas Tree Goddess.

It was amazing the two animals didn’t wake the entire household with all the hissing, clawing and whining, but everyone, except me, slept soundly as the two animals were successfully separated and tucked back into their respective beds.

Then, once again, peace settled over our home for a few more hours.




Grumpy Old Men

I have an old man of a cat, BlackJack.  He took one look at our new home and immediately claimed it as his own, which is good because a happy cat is a happy home, or something like that.  He does love the outdoors, the deer, the space…he even occasionally enjoys watching the golfers trying to navigate the 6th green.

In short order, BlackJack realized that there is a cute grey tabby two houses away and fell head over paws for her.  It didn’t matter that BlackJack is somewhere around 17 — that’s in his 80’s in human years — he was smitten by Gracie’s siren meow and immediately turned into a teenage TomCat.

Things may or may not work out between the two of them, but BlackJack’s plans have now been placed on hold. Gracie has a housemate, Buster, who is orange and about the size of BlackJack — that is, they both weigh in around 18 lbs.  He’s not much younger, so we’re talking about two senior cats that are each very protective of the sweet young Gracie.

I first noticed there was a problem when BlackJack disappeared for three days.  The cat never disappears and has never missed a meal.  Three days was a very long time and I had all but called out the National Guard to find him. We, Gracie and Buster’s mom and I, finally discovered BlackJack hiding in their storage room off the garage.  As I carried BlackJack out of room, Buster leaned over from their second story deck, sporting a gigantic Cheshire Cat grin. BlackJack found enough strength to snarl back.

Two grumpy old men…funny if they weren’t in the process of trying to kill one another.  The two have gotten into a knockdown/drag out fights, complete with black and orange fur flying and high pitched yowls.  Buster’s male owner yelled at the two of them to no avail and finally turned the hose on full force.  The two were soaked to the skin before finally realizing they should stop fighting.  They both dripped their way home, looking a whole lot like drowned rats with tails tucked between their legs.

After a couple soakings, coupled with superficial injuries, the two cats have come to their senses.  At least we think they have. They still are territorial, they still yowl, growl and howl and they still face off but they now pretend there is an acrylic Berlin Wall between them so no actual fighting occurs. And, they make sure that one of their owners is nearby to call a halt should things get out of control. The grumpy old men have pretty much gotten the whole thing figured out.

Now, the two look for one another so another round of chicken can be played.  Gracie is all but forgotten. If BlackJack isn’t outside immediately in the morning or disappears inside for his naps, Buster climbs the stairs to our deck, first peering over the edge of the deck, then sitting with his nose against the sliding glass door, waiting for his nemesis to appear.  I understand BlackJack makes a similar trek to Buster’s deck and sliding glass door.

The other day I thought there might actually be hope for World Peace.  The two grumpy old men were sprawled on the same lawn below our deck, watching each other and the golfers. Every once in a while, one would growl and the other one would snarl, but it was as if they had just run out of steam, too tired to fight and finally willing to get along.

Detente only lasted one afternoon. By the next morning, they were at it again. So much for World Peace.