One Woman, Four Men, Eight Days Fishing in Canada

Written by on August 17, 2014 No Comments

Once upon a time, Mark decided to take his son, Arthur, his nephew, Terry, his good friend, Jack, and me, to Canada to go fishing. The location Mark chose was Kasba Lake in northern Canada.  For months prior to our August 1 departure, new fishing lures arrived in the mail to my house about every third day.  When it came time to pack, Mark realized, “We have more lures than we can possibly use in eight days.  And if we took them all, they’d weigh more than the 50 pound limit we can have for luggage.”  Packing was a lot of fun.  I think we weighed our bags four times.

To get to Kasba Lake one must either first fly or drive to Winnipeg.  Since Mark and I had spent a small fortune on fishing lures, some of which remained home, we opted to drive.  Lucky for us, Jack had spent his money on a brand new Chevy Traverse, so Mark, Arthur and I loaded up in that and drove and drove and drove to Winnepeg.  There, we met Mark’s nephew, Terry, and hopped onto an airplane that took us further north.

Selfie before boarding the first plane.

Selfie before boarding the first plane.

The plane looked something like this.

Mark about to board the first plane.

Mark about to board the first plane.

We took some small plastic bottles with us to take the edge off.

A wee nip to take the edge off the flight.

A wee nip to take the edge off the flight.

Two hours later, we arrived at Kasba Lake Lodge.

Arthur and Mark in front of the lodge sign.

Terry, Arthur and Mark in front of the lodge sign.

At the lodge we were fed a yummy breakfast.  Note the fine accommodations.

Awesome breakfast before heading out into the hinterland.

Awesome breakfast before heading out into the hinterland.

Afterwards, we helped load up the float plane.  Luggage went into the floats and into the back of the cabin.

Loading up the float plane at Kasba Lake Lodge.

Loading up the float plane at Kasba Lake Lodge.

This is a view out the window of the float plane.  There seemed to be more water than land.

View out the window of the float plane.

View out the window of the float plane.

The pilot, Larry, told us the airplane had a great engine that would allow the plane to continue flying even if something went wrong.  How ominous.

Larry, left, our pilot.  That's our friend, Jack, on the right.

Larry, left, our pilot. That’s our friend, Jack, on the right.

While Jack sat in the co-pilot seat, Terry, Mark and I sat in a middle row seat, and Arthur sat in the back with the luggage.

Arthur, sitting with the luggage.

Arthur, sitting with the luggage.

About twenty minutes after we took off, we landed on the water and tied up to a dock in front of our outpost cabin, which was our home for 8 days.  It’s on Tabane Lake.

Kasba Lake Outpost Cabin.

Kasba Lake Outpost Cabin.

The cabin was made of plywood, with a screened-in porch decorated with a lot of duct tape.  Duct tape held the glass onto the front door, duct tape held the bits of screen together where a bear had punched it in a year earlier, and you can see duct tape on the ceiling in the photo, below.  The cabin consisted of one main room with 4 bunk beds, a stove, fridge and sink.

Inside the cabin.

Inside the cabin.

The bathroom was a tiny affair.  The shower dripped the entire time and the one side was so flimsy it could probably be pushed down by a hoard of black flies.  But, as Mark said, at least we had indoor plumbing–on a previous trip, we had an outhouse.

Bathroom at the Kasba Lake Outpost Cabin.

Bathroom at the Kasba Lake Outpost Cabin.

Food and beer had been left in coolers and in the fridge.  We soon learned that in Canada, a case of beer is only 15 beers, whereas a “flat” of beer is 24.  We had to order more beer via satellite phone with Larry mid-week because of our wee misunderstanding (as in, “Bring in a flat, Larry!”).  Indeed, Larry flew in mid-week with beer, dish soap and other essentials, not including mustard, which Jack watered down so as to last longer. We were the last group to use the cabin for the season.

Our meals consisted of burgers on the grill, steak, and fresh lake trout, amongst other tasty food, compliments mostly of Chef Jack, with help from Arthur.  I must say that the Arthur-Jack rub on the steaks–consisting of Tang, coffee grounds, orange peels, and Mesquite rub–was simply amazing.

Fresh lake trout for dinner.

Fresh lake trout for dinner.

I soon discovered that some men snore at an amazing volume, and with the drippy shower as accompaniment, it was a bit too much for me.  I slept on the porch most nights.  The citronella candles mostly kept the mosquitoes at bay, adding their own symphony to the air.  The lovely cotton liner provided to line the sleeping bags actually stayed in place the first night.  After that, not so much.

Heavy sleeping bags and bag liners anyone?

Heavy sleeping bags and bag liners anyone?

Our eight day stay consisted mostly of fishing, of course.  Arthur hadn’t caught too many fish in his life, so we were all excited when he caught his first lake trout…puny little thing that it was.

Arthur with his first lake trout.

Arthur with his first lake trout.

And when Terry caught his first northern pike ever, it was cause for celebration.  But not as great a cause as when his second-ever pike was 41 inches.  Of course, Mark would later beat this fish by two inches.

Terry with his big pike.

Terry with his big pike.

In addition to fishing in the lake, we also explored three streams, one of which had killer rapids that tried to flip Terry and Jack, another of which took most of the way to get to, and another of which was kinder and gentler.  Everyone caught at least one grayling, none of which cooperated for photos.

Exploring a small grayling stream.

Exploring a small grayling stream.

The first few days of fishing were warm enough for a nifty dip in the lake.

Floating in the water.

Floating in the water.

But mid-week, the temperatures dropped and the warmer clothes came out.

Bundled up in 7 layers of clothing.

Bundled up in 7 layers of clothing.

Between bouts of fishing, I fell for a few of the local critters, including this rabbit, which may or may not be an arctic hare.

My rabbit pal.

My rabbit pal.

The rabbit did something I’d never seen before:  it took off swimming across the lake.  I held my breath the entire time it was swimming, knowing that a big pike wouldn’t hesitate to eat a rabbit.  Luckily, it circled back and returned to land about 500 feet from the lodge.  We still have no idea what it was doing.

Rabbit swimming in the lake.

Rabbit swimming in the lake.

I also fell for the resident jays.  They showed up the first evening and searched around the hull of our boats.  It didn’t take them long to find some trail mix that had accidentally fallen over in the bow.

Jay on the dock, about to check out the two boats for food.

Jay on the dock, about to check out the two boats for food.

I quickly discovered that the jays loved the nuts in the trail mix, but not the raisins or M&Ms.  That worked out great for me, because the raisins and M&Ms were my favorite.  So, I shared the rest of my trail mix with the birds.  I put some on the boat…

 

ACanada - jay with nut on boat

 

…and I put some on a burning barrel.  Jack took up the sport, sharing his walnuts and peanuts by making small piles on the ground.

Jay with its mouth full of nuts.

Jay with its mouth full of nuts.  That’s a caribou antler in the foreground.

Other birds we saw included a boreal chickadee, a redpoll, common loons, an arctic loon, eagles, gulls, arctic terns, three birds I will have to get identified by my Alma College birding pal, and this shorebird.

Greater yellowlegs.

Greater yellowlegs.

I also took time to shoot the smaller things…

Spider web.

Spider web.

…including the lichen and other macro-life.

I took a liking to the lichen.

I took a liking to the lichen.

And let’s not forget the fresh blueberries!

Yum!

Yum!

Of course, bears like berries. And we did see some bear tracks on another island.

Tracks of a small bear.

Tracks of a small bear.

In the arctic, the sun doesn’t set in August until around 11 p.m.  Most nights, it was worth staying up for the sunset.

ACanada - sunset

And sometimes, there were still things to do.

Arthur working on a reel.

Arthur working on a reel.

The week went by in the blink of an eye.  The fishing was fast and furious, especially for pike.  The overall size of all three species of fish–lake trout, pike and grayling–was smaller than Nueltin Lake and smaller than at the main lodge, where, at Kasba Lake itself, one lucky guy got a 36-pound lake trout.

Arthur, Mark, Jack, Terry.

Arthur, Mark, Jack, Terry.

But the numbers of fish kept things interesting all week.  As did the weather.

Calm day in Canada.

Calm day in Canada.

And Mark caught enough fish to get boo-boos on his fingers.  Poor fella.

Mark's wounds from pike.

Mark’s wounds from pike.

On our last evening at the outpost cabin, the men smoked cigars, and we all tried to finish off the rest of the expensive beer we’d paid for.  That meant four beers per person.  Burp.

Men smoking cigars.

Men smoking cigars.

The next morning at 7, Larry flew in to pick us up in his plane and take us home.  It was rainy and the plane’s engine wasn’t as loud as when we took off from the lodge, making me a bit worried.  My worry gene was correct, and if you go to my FB page, you’ll see the hairy video flight back to Kasba Lake Lodge, where a cylinder blew on the plane.  Aaaahhhh!

Float plane after we arrived back at the lodge, and after the cylinder blew.  Note the oil in the water.

Float plane after we arrived back at the lodge, and after the cylinder blew. Note the oil in the water.

Larry keeps a sign on the cockpit of his plane that says that “Tipping the pilot helps him remember where he left you.”  Upon landing safely with a blown cylinder, I gave Larry a nice tip!

Tipping the pilot highly recommended.

Tipping the pilot highly recommended.

After another great breakfast at the main lodge, we took the plane back to Winnepeg, which involved a stop-over at Lynn Lake to refuel.  At Winnipeg, we said good-bye to Terry, and Arthur, Mark, Jack and I headed to Jack’s car for the loooong ride home.  This is a parting shot from Kasba Lake Lodge.  Thanks, guys, for the great time!

Jack, Terry, Arthur, Mark and me at the lodge.

Jack, Terry, Arthur, Mark and me at the lodge.

The Thousand Dollar Kitten

Written by on July 27, 2014 No Comments

First, thank you all for being part of International Author’s Day on July 18 and entering to win the free copy of Something Furry Underfoot.  Congratulations go out to Bonnie H. for being the winner of the free, autographed paperback version.  Everyone else that entered can still nab an e-version of my book for 99 cents through the end of July.

And now for the fun story about the latest critter Mark brought home.  Last Thursday, while putting his canoe in the water at a boat launch, Mark saw this tiny black kitten.  Mark had a friend with him and they left the kitten to wander the shore of the lake.  Hours later, the men returned to the boat launch and Mark called for the kitten in vain.  Part way down the road to his friend’s cottage, the men realized that a canoe strap was missing, so they returned to the boat launch and Mark called for the kitten again in vain.  An hour later, after having lunch at his friend’s house, Mark returned to the boat launch area, called for the kitten one more time and out came the kitten from the thick underbrush.

Mark named the kitten Preto which is Portugese for black and also the name of our Amazon fishing guide.  The kitten was mild mannered, gentle and sweet.  The puppies loved him.  I couldn’t get over how black he is.

Preto on Mark's lap.  Mark is wearing a black t-shirt with lightning on it.

Preto on Mark’s lap. Mark is wearing a black t-shirt with lightning on it.

Mark loved the fact that Preto would sit on his lap.  Snickers and Winston loved the fact that the kitty would play.  It took Purrkins 2 days to warm up to Preto.

Preto in box with Snickers, Winston and Purrkins watching.

Preto in box with Snickers, Winston and Purrkins watching.

I brought my mom over to see Preto on Sunday.  She thought he was pretty nifty, too.

Preto with my mom, yesterday.

Preto with my mom, yesterday.

On Sunday, Preto woke up but didn’t want to eat.  He refused milk.  He refused water.  And when I picked him up, he felt really warm.  We drove him to the MSU Small Animal Clinic where the vet suggested blood tests to eliminate the potential for a fatal virus.  And because what Preto had might be fatal, he was taken to an isolated area in the Clinic.  The vet called later to say the blood tests showed nothing and perhaps we should do an x-ray (for like $150) and an ultrasound (around $330).  We countered, suggesting an antibiotic and call us in the morning.

We left Preto overnight.  The next morning, Mark returned Monday and paid the $700 bill at the MSU Vet Clinic (AAAHHHHHH!).  Yes, for emergency services, an IV, antibiotic, fluids, isolation, blood tests.  Gulp. Mark took Preto to the Haslett Animal Hospital where we knew we’d pay less than an arm and a leg per day.  There, Preto was given a new IV, different antibiotic, but his temperature remained the same.  Monday turned into Tuesday with the same results. Tuesday night, I asked Mark how much more he was going to put into this kitten.  Mark said, “I don’t know.  But when I drove him home, I told him I’d take care of him.”

But of course.

This morning, Dr. Melissa Wyatt shaved various sections on Preto looking for a reason for his illness.  Dr. Wyatt shaved Preto here and there, looking closer, looking for reasons for his illness.  And then she saw it, a small hole in his neck where he’d been bitten by a botfly.  The life cycle of a botfly in a kitten or cat is the stuff of a horror movie, so I’ll spare you those lovely details.  I will share that it’s only the sensitive kittens/cats that develop a fever.  It’s just our luck that Mark brought home a sensitive kitten.

Preto sporting two shaved legs where the IVs were and a shaved neck.

Preto sporting two shaved legs where the IVs were and a shaved neck…where the botfly was.

Thankfully, Dr. Wyatt removed the botfly today and–get this–saved it in a bottle for her vet students to see (which is something Mark would do!).  In fact, Dr. Wyatt is my hero, not only for solving this mystery, but because she removed a sewing needle from Purrkins’ mouth once, removed all of Little Dipper’s teeth over the course of three surgeries, and kept her doors open just for me when I brought Dusty in after he’d been attacked by a bulldog.

At home this afternoon, Preto took to the comfort of Mark’s lap.

Snickers saying hi to Preto. Note Preto's shaved tummy.

Snickers saying hi to Preto. Note Preto’s shaved tummy.

Soon, Preto began eating the dogs’ food (in spite of his own food being nearby).

Preto eating the dog's food with the dogs.

Preto eating the dog’s food with the dogs.

After he ate, Preto curled up in the sun for a nap.

Preto sleeping in the sun.

Preto sleeping in the sun.

Winston came by to make sure he was okay.

Winston checking out the sleepy Preto.

Winston checking out the sleepy Preto.

Snickers goes out of his way to be with Preto.

Apreto with snickers on chair

My book Something Furry Underfoot is all about taking care of and spoiling a whole bunch of different animals Mark kept bringing home.  Preto, who has already wormed–or shall I say botflied–his way into our hearts, is just the latest example of why there will always be something furry underfoot in my house.  It just happens.  And it’s always a good thing.

P.S.  Don’t forget–you only have until the end of July to enter the Petspage.com giveaway for lots of great pet-related prizes, including a free copy of my book.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy International Author’s Day! And Enter to Win Great Pet Prizes!

Written by on July 14, 2014 6 Comments

A kindly woman by the name of Debdatta Dasgupta Sahay, who admits to being a book addict from India (and also a site host for my first  book blog tour a few years ago), decided that there should be an International Author’s Day to celebrate authors.  On her web site, she says that she was shocked to learn there wasn’t a day to celebrate authors and that she wanted “to show her appreciation for the hours of hard work that  authors put into their  books.”  She asked authors to join her in the celebration on July 18.  And she suggested we post something on or around July 14.  So here `tis!

As part of celebrating International Author’s Day…. the badge for which is here…

International Authors Day

…I am giving away a free, autographed copy of the paperback version of Something Furry Underfoot, my humorous touching memoir about a whole bunch of pets.  All you have to do to enter to win a free copy of Something Furry Underfoot–which, by the way, is averaging 4.7 stars out of 5 on Amazon.com– is comment on this blog posting.  That’s all there is to it. One winner will be selected on July 18.

SOMETHINGFURRYUNDERFOOT final

But wait, there’s more!

Since my book is about pets, its also part of the Petspage.com summer giveaway.  And in honor of Petpage.com’s month-long giveaway, you can enter to win one of several signed paperback of Something Furry Underfoot!  Just go to Petspage.com and enter to win!  There are a LOT of other pet-related products being given away, too, so be sure to check it out.  You have between now and July 31 to enter the Petspage.com giveaway.  Several winners of my book will be sent copies in mid-August.

So happy International Author’s Day to all authors out there!  And be sure to celebrate by entering one or both of these great contests.

P.S. Debdatta is sponsoring this blog hop to help get the word out about International Author’s Day.  She blogs at (http://www.b00kr3vi3ws.in/)

And Along Came a Bunny

Written by on June 29, 2014 No Comments

While cleaning out my mom’s condominium recently, my stepson, Arthur, stopped by to see if there were any items that would be of use to him in his new apartment.  Now, I was thinking he’d go for things like cooking utensils, and sure enough, he grabbed a colander. But what really intrigued me was when he disappeared under the basement stairs and came out with a roll of leftover linoleum.  “What,” I asked, “is that for?”  He said, “For the bunny I’m going to adopt.”

Well, Mark and I happen to like rabbits, so we invited ourselves on the journey from the Lansing area towards Ann Arbor and into the middle of absolutely nowhere to the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary.  We were intrigued to see the Sanctuary because Arthur had worked there on weekends for a year or so a year up until a few months ago, and my friend Brenda had volunteered there in the past.  So I was excited when we saw this sign.

Sign to where Arthur's rabbit resided.

Sign to where Arthur’s rabbit resided.

Before we got too far walking around, we were met by one of the workers at the Sanctuary whom Arthur had worked with.

Arthur with a former coworker.

Arthur with a former coworker.

Nearby, on the side of one of the barns was this sign.

The second sign.

The second sign.

Inside the barn were a bunch of metal partitions that make up the cages for the rabbits.  In one far corner was a rabbit Arthur had seen online named Ferbie.

Arthur saying hi to Ferbie.

Arthur saying hi to Ferbie.

Ferbie had no idea that Arthur had come to see her to take her home.  In response, she ran off into her poop box.

Ferbie in her poop box.

Ferbie in her poop box.

Arthur squatted down and after a minute or two, Ferbie came up for some scratches between her ears.

Ferbie and Arthur.

Ferbie and Arthur.

And that’s all Arthur and Ferbie seemed to need.  Arthur stood up, went to the office, purchased his bunny and returned with a small animal carrying cage we happened to have had in our garage.

Arthur carrying Ferbie out.

Arthur carrying Ferbie out.

On the way to the car, we stopped to check out another barn that contained smaller bunnies and bunnies that hadn’t been neutered yet.  See, one of the benefits of getting a bunny from the Great Lakes Rabbit Sanctuary is that the rabbit comes neutered, and that’s important to keep a boy rabbit from spraying and to keep a girl rabbit from developing ovarian cancer, and to keep both parties from reproducing, like, well, rabbits.  One of the smaller buns was this cutie.

Baby Harlequin rabbit.

Baby Harlequin rabbit.

After we said farewell to the rabbits and rabbit workers, Arthur carried Ferbie out to our car and sat with her all the way home.

A proud bunny owner with his bunny.

A proud bunny owner with his bunny.

As we drove, Arthur announced that he’d changed Ferbie’s name to Hodor, which is a Game of Thrones character.  Of course, I can’t get used to unusual names very well, so called her Fer-dor and Herbie and everything else.  Later, at home, Mark took the bunny out of the back of our car and held him while Arthur went into our house to get some timothy grass I’d purchased for our outdoor rabbits, and while I picked some fresh dandelions we happened to have in our yard.

Mark holding Hodor's cage.

Mark holding Hodor’s cage and the dandelion greens. I think he looks pretty proud, don’t you?

Then Arthur took Fodor out to his car.

Arthur and Fodor about to head home.

Arthur and Fodor about to head home.

And then Hodor was gone.  Thanks to Facebook, though, we know that Hodor is doing well in his new home.

Fodor in his new home.

Fodor in his new home.  Photo by Arthur Oemke.

We are proud of Arthur for rescuing a rabbit.  And we are proud that when he posted his photo of Hodor on Facebook, he wrote:  “No home is complete without a furry friend!”  Mark and I completely  agree.  In fact, we think no backyard is complete without a furry friend, either.

Bunny relaxing in our backyard.

Bunny relaxing in our backyard.

Congratulations to Arthur and Fodor..I mean Hodor.  May you have many great years together.

 

 

 

When it’s Time to Move the Little Old Lady – Phase 2

Written by on June 26, 2014 1 Comment

In my last post, I shared how my brother, sister and I came to the conclusion that it was time to move my mom.  And while it was tough coming to that conclusion, the act of physically moving the Little Old Lady (LOL) to an assisted living place was even more difficult.  See, while the LOL admitted she wasn’t using her dishwasher, oven, washing machine and dryer, and was sporadically unplugging her TV and phone, she was still adamant that she would make her own decision as to when it would be time for her to move. She had decided that Bickford of Okemos was where she wanted to be some day, but “some day” hadn’t come, said she.

Now, I’m occasionally more stubborn than the person from whence half my genes came, and so I contacted a few close friends to make sure they’d step up to the plate if the LOL refused to move.  Next, I contacted her primary physician to make sure he supported me, and I made sure my brother and sister hadn’t had second thoughts.  Then I took the LOL back to Bickford, because her memory of what it looked like had faded.  I gave her my own tour, touting all the great amenities, including the fact that the cooks  could accommodate her 30-year habit of having oatmeal with frozen blueberries for breakfast.  And I mentioned the fact that some of the residents had four legs, including this 14-year-old dog that Bickford kept when the owner passed away.  That says a lot about a place if you ask me.

One of the Bickford residents.

One of the Bickford residents eating his favorite snack, baby carrots.

After we toured Bickford the second time, I put down a deposit on a room and had another conversation with the LOL.  This time I mentioned who all was behind me.  She responded with, “What did I do to deserve this?” I pointed out that she had done really well on her own, and as with her driving, it was a good idea to quit while she had a good record and hadn’t hurt anyone, including herself.  I said that her safety was my primary concern, and that I was also interested in her getting more social interactions.  She looked at me with a defiant glare and said,  “Okay but not until I see my family doctor.”  The following Saturday, we met with her family physician, who–after beating around the bush and bringing me to a near state of panic–finally looked at my mom and said, “It’s time.”

And that, luckily, was all the LOL needed.

The next step was for me to bring in reinforcements for the move.  Now, every team needs at least three people, so I selected my brother and sister.  My brother , Lloyd, brought from New Jersey a sense of humor, musical abilities and an engineering prowess, while my sister, Aby, brought from Illinois a sense of humor, impeccable organizational skills and a knack for interior decorating.  My brother also brought some interesting t-shirts, like this one which read:  National Sarcasm Society.  Like we need your help.

MM - my helpers

 

The first thing  Team LOL did is go to Bickford and take some measurements.

Aby inside the LOL's new room.

Aby inside the LOL’s new room.

My brother wore a different shirt for this occasion.

MM - lloyds shirt

 

Back at the LOL’s condo, Aby and I put boxes together and packed while Lloyd made miniature pieces of furniture to scale so we could see what might fit where.

Our visual game plan for the move.

Our visual game plan for the move.

While we worked, Mom entertained neighbors who stopped by to say good-bye.

Mom with one of her neighbors.

Mom with one of her neighbors.

We packed everything up on the Thursday before Memorial Day.  The next day, Two Men and a Truck showed up.  That’s one organization that’s perfectly named, because sure enough, two men showed up with a truck to move the heavy furniture.  They gift-wrapped all the furniture, loaded it up on to their truck, drove the 3/4 mile trip to Bickford and unloaded everything.

Two Men without their truck.

Two Men without their truck.

Aby put things away.

Aby unpacking.

Aby unpacking.

Lloyd unpacked.

Lloyd unpacking.

Lloyd unpacking.

I took photos, including a selfie.

Amy unpacking.

Amy unpacking.

We left the LOL at Bickford for her first night, returned to her condo and thought about playing a friendly game of cards.  We couldn’t think of a friendly game, so we played the fast-paced game we call Scrunch.

Lloyd and Aby smiling, moments before I began to trounce  them.

Lloyd and Aby smiling, moments before I began to trounce them.

The next day we took the LOL to Binder Zoo so she could feed the giraffes.  I had my fish-eye lens so that we could get another stellar selfie.

Family selfie at the zoo.

Family selfie at the zoo.

We all got to feed the giraffes. And while I think my mom enjoyed herself…

Lloyd and Mom with the giraffe.

Lloyd and Mom with the giraffe.

…I think Aby enjoyed it the most.

Aby feeding the giraffe.

Aby feeding the giraffe.

We spent the rest of the evening and the next day packing up stuff to donate, taking a few more things over to the LOL’s new place, and getting her new TV remote going (thanks to Lloyd).  We also went out to dinner at El Azteco.

Another amazing selfie.

Another amazing selfie.

On the way home, we, stopped to see an old friend, Sparty, on the MSU campus.

Me, Aby and Mom in front of Sparty.

Me, Aby and Mom in front of Sparty.

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Aby’s and Sparty’s feet.

Aby's and Sparty's feet.

Aby’s and Sparty’s feet.

Lloyd left the next morning (Sunday), Aby on Memorial Day.  Over the next few weeks, I took an entire car load of paper, plastic, etc. to get recycled, and went through every item left in Mom’s condo with her so she had a choice about whether something got donated, sold, stored or taken to her new place.  I also made several trips to the Salvation Army and Goodwill,  the former of which will NOT take Christmas goods this time of year, I learned.

My Element crammed with recycle stuff.

My Element crammed with recycle stuff.

The LOL, meanwhile, was settling in quite nicely at Bickford.  One evening last week, as the LOL and I were about to leave Bickford to clean her condo, she  saw some of the residents in the lobby at Bickford, turned to me and said, “Do you mind if I stay here this evening with my friends?”

Mom's new friend Betty with her dog, Teddy.

Mom’s new friend Betty and  Betty’s dog, Teddy.

I  gave my mom a big hug and said, “No, I don’t mind at all.”

In fact, as I drove to her condo alone, I couldn’t have been happier for her.

 

When it’s Time to Move a Little Old Lady

Written by on June 04, 2014 1 Comment

Once upon a time there was a woman I affectionately called the Little Old Lady (LOL) who lived by herself in a condominium for 30 years.  She was an independent woman, driving hither and yon, doing her own grocery shopping, cleaning her house, and navigating two flights of stairs with ease.  But in 2010 things began to change–after getting lost en route to see her younger daughter in Illinois, the LOL was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s.  In 2011, her driving was limited to 50 miles.  In April 2013, she failed the written driving test and was no longer able to drive.  From April 2013 until just last week, the Little Old Lady’s three children–Amy, Aby and Lloyd–witnessed a slow, but steady decline.

Last week, we moved the Little Old Lady to an assisted living facility.  It was both one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done and one of the best things I’ve ever done.  The LOL’s condominium is a tri-level, so she had three sets of stairs to navigate every day.  Over the winter of 2013-2014, when she was unable to drive and get out to walk on a regular basis, I saw her strength dissipate.  I went to bed most nights hoping she wouldn’t fall down the stairs.

LOL's condo and home for 30-some years.

LOL’s condo and home for 30-some years.

Of course, my fear that she might fall didn’t make it such that it was time to move.  But I did start planting the seeds. And those seeds were quickly dug up and pulverized by the LOL.  See, while my mom acknowledged she had Alzheimer’s and said she would have to move one day, she also thought she’d be able to tell when that day had arrived.  I suggested otherwise…and was pulverized just like the seeds.

So for quite some time, I remained quiet and took her grocery shopping, walked the mall with her once in a while, and took her to doctor appointments.  And I kept notes.  First, I noted little things.  For example, in February 2013, Mom no longer sent birthday cards or anniversary cards.  And that was one of the things she had ALWAYS done.

Mom birthday and anniversary reminders, hanging on the kitchen wall.

 

The LOL also complained that her calendar was all messed up.  One of the reasons, I discovered, is that she had not one, but two calendars.

Mom calendars

I also noticed that she struggled with paperwork, including sorting the important stuff from people wanting her money.  The LOL and I had more than a few discussions about legitimate organizations and the ones I referred to as vultures.

Mom mail

I also noticed a decreasing ability to use electronic devises.   Starting about 12 months ago, the LOL started washing her dished by hand because she claimed the dishwasher didn’t work.  Nine months ago she complained that her oven didn’t cook things right, so she started only “cooking” things via the stove and the microwave.  Six months ago, the LOL unplugged her phones, turned off her answering machine and then didn’t know why nobody called her.  After I reset her answering machine, she forgot to retrieve messages and call people back sometimes.  The microwave went out, but that’s because she blew a fuse, which I was actually able to fix.  And yes, the stove worked, but given that nothing else worked from her perspective,  I worried for a long time that she’d burn the house down using the stove.  The most recent sign that things weren’t quite right in the world of electronics was when I discovered a note she put on a switch plate in the kitchen intended to denote the garbage disposal from the light switch.  Check out the spelling.

LOL's sign on her wall for her garbage disposal.

LOL’s sign on her wall for her garbage disposal.

The LOL also said that people on the TV were staring at her.  That was only a bit disconcerting, and also the reason the TV was unplugged again and again.  I “fixed” her TV several times over the winter (by plugging it back in) and she once hired the very honest and reliable guy from the TV Den to fix her TV, too, which required any actual fixing, either.  And that was all okay, until about three months ago when she told a friend that people were coming out of the TV and walking around her room.  The people were all friendly, though, so her friend wasn’t worried.  But I was worried, so I wrote a letter to her neurologist about what I thought might be hallucinations.  When he didn’t call to express his concern, I let the people continue staring at the LOL and walk around her room now and again.

I also noticed a change in the LOL’s clothing and towels.  For example, a couple of months ago, I noticed that LOL’s favorite corduroy jacket had mung on it and was in need of a trip to the dry cleaner.  I took care of that, not thinking much more of it because other clothes seemed to be clean.  A couple of weeks later, though, I noticed she was wearing the same clothes over and over again, some of which were being held up with safety pins (for reasons that were not clear to me); some had holes in them.  She said she needed to go out and get more clothes, yet she had clothes she’d forgotten about in her two dresser drawers…the contents of which she’d forgotten about.  It was only when we actually finally moved the LOL that we discovered she hadn’t used her washing machine for quite some time.  It, too, was “broken,” she claimed.

A towel found during the move.

A rather stiff, hole-y towel found during the move.

About two months ago, I noticed that the refrigerator and pantry contained expired products and duplicates of the same products.  But since I can claim the same situation in my own house sometimes, I didn’t pay much attention until I noticed that the LOL’s fridge had three bottles of Ken’s raspberry vinaigrette, two opened and half-eaten containers of yogurt, and some deli meat that was moldy.  In her pantry was an opened jar of applesauce that should have been in the fridge.  I also found Kleenex boxes everywhere in the house–every room, every cupboard.  Now, you’d think that since  I took her to the grocery store the last year I would have noticed some of these things, but it wasn’t until the last month that I realized this was going on.

Duplicate and unlabeled items.

Duplicate and unlabeled items. 

Starting around Easter, the LOL got to the point that she couldn’t remember where we were going five minutes after being told, and she often asked where we were going en route to an appointment.  Also, two hours after we went somewhere, she couldn’t tell me where we’d gone.  My sister and brother were both concerned after she spent Easter with Mark and me, and two hours after I dropped her off at her home, said she hadn’t seen me all day.  The next day, she had no idea who Mark was.

As a result of her quickly declining memory loss, I also lost confidence that she was taking her medications.  I’d tried taping a list to the kitchen counter where she kept most of her meds, but she didn’t like a list there. I’d tried putting them in the M-F plastic box she had, but she said that box was only for vitamins.  I had tried calling to remind her to take her meds, only to hear that she couldn’t remember if she’d taken them.  Over the last three weeks or so, I had no confidence she was taking her medications.

Mom's meds.

Mom’s meds.

I also noticed that neighbors and friends fell off the radar screen one by one and rapidly.  Over the course of the last three months, the LOL lost the ability to name one neighbor after another.  Jill, the school teacher–whom she seldom saw–was first to go.  A month later, the LOL failed to come up with Cheryl and Bruce, two people who’d come into her condo to fix things over the years.  The LOL recognized Cheryl but couldn’t come up with her name.  A neighbor named Suzanne and her dog, Lulu, were recognized but nameless.  Cindy, the lady next door, was the only name that has remained of her immediate neighbors.  Her closest friends from Livonia are easily named, as are her closest friends in town.  But my four step kids confuse her; my sister’s two kids (especially her son) are impossible for my mom to come up with; my brother’s two daughters’ names come and go; and neither of my siblings’ spouses are named anymore.

Mom also didn’t act like her old self.  Fact is, the LOL was slowing down in many ways.  While she took pride in the speed with which she walked the mall or went up and down stairs, she was doing both at about half the speed she used to.  She had also become more withdrawn, perhaps afraid to report on things that weren’t working or weren’t quite right in her home or in her head.

In spite of all of these signs–and knowing in my heart that the time had come–I struggled with moving her to an assisted living place because there is no checklist for when it’s time to move one’s mom.  Neither her primary physician or her neurologist had said, “It’s time to move.”  And her friends did not tell me much unless I specifically asked.  

But before my brother, sister and I made the decision to move our mom–and anticipating she would resist–I contacted several of her closest friends to see if they’d observed anything disconcerting about my mom. And once I got each of them to talking, they all expressed concerns about her living alone.  The one friend that had told me that Mom had said people coming out of the TV and walking around her room said she supported the idea of assisted living.  Another friend expressed concerns about the LOL getting lost on one of her walks.  Another said that she was very engaging in conversation but was sometimes repeating herself.

Armed with all this ammunition, I got Mom to agree to go to visit a large assisted living facility that both her parents had lived in “back in the day.”  We were both immediately confused about the lay-out, where the lunchroom was, how to get to the trails.  While all the people were friendly and nice, the place was just too big.  Afterwards, we stopped at the chiropractor, walked the mall, got some ice cream.  It was 3:30 that Friday when I suggested we stop by Bickford of Okemos, a memory care facility less than a mile from mom’s house that we’d driven by hundreds of times over the years but which I’d never thought about.  Amazingly, the LOL’s face lit up when we walked in.  I knew we’d found her new home.

Bickford of Okemos.

Bickford of Okemos.

Getting her there was the hard part, of course.  More about that, in the next blog posting.

Leadership Tip #1: Leaving Early Enough for….

Written by on May 11, 2014 No Comments

Today’s leadership tip:  Always leave the office in plenty of time to get un-lost, fix a flat tire or rescue a dog in the middle of the road.  I’ve never had a flat tire en route to a meeting, but I did once get so engaged in a conversation with a co-worker that we didn’t realize we’d missed the exit to our leadership class in Dearborn until we saw a sign to Toledo, Ohio.  Ever since walking in quite late to that leadership class, I always leave early for meetings.  On Wednesday it’s good I did, because my co-worker Jaclyn and I rescued a dog in the middle of the road.

Beagle my co-worker and I rescued in the middle of the road.  I picked him up, put him in the car, and he went on watch right away.

Beagle my co-worker and I rescued in the middle of the road. I picked him up, put him in the car, and he went on watch right away.

The dog appeared in the road near a big, white farm house.  Jaclyn stopped, pulled over, and I got out, hoping for the best.  I patted my knee, talked nicely to the dog, and he came trotting over.  I grabbed him by the collar, and while Jaclyn opened the door, I whispered, “Please don’t bit me,” and lifted him up and put him in the car.  We did a U-turn, went up the driveway, knocked on the door of the big white farm house, then rang the doorbell.  Nobody answered.  We went down the road to the next house, where a nice lady running a day-care said that the dog did belong to the people in the big white house and that the dog was often found in the road and often escaped from its line outside.  The lady said the nearest animal shelter was in Hastings, 10 miles away.  We were minutes away from our first meeting site at Nashville City Hall, so Jaclyn drove us there and went inside to let the people know that we might be a few minutes late.  Meanwhile, I checked out the dog and determined that he was otherwise well cared for–his nails were neatly trimmed, he was well fed, and his owners had spent some money getting his teeth removed.  He did, however, need a bath, because my hands were turning brown while petting him.  And I was getting dog hair all over me.

Ten minutes, Jacylyn returned to tell me we were to follow the Nashville Police Chief back down the road to the owner’s house.  Sensing our time with the dog was coming to an end, I made sure we had a cute photo of Jaclyn with our little pal.

Jaclyn with the dog.

Jaclyn with the dog.

Back at the big white farm house, the officer took the dog from the car and tied him back up outside.  Before we left, I told the officer that the dog had been panting and seemed to need water, so the officer took some water to the dog.  He also said he was going to talk to the owners about the fact that the dog did not have cover from the elements.  And he was going to speak to him about the dog getting off it’s line again and again.

Officer carrying the dog back to its line outside.

Officer carrying the dog back to its line outside.

So things didn’t quite turn out how I’d hoped.  In fact, for one tiny moment I had imagined that we’d drop the dog off at the shelter, he’d get adopted to a family that recognized him as a member of the family.  Ya know, let him come inside, get snuggled and pampered?

Pup life in my house.

Pup life in my house.

Jaclyn, meanwhile, had emailed a photo of the dog to her husband; he was kind of hoping Jaclyn would bring the dog home.

But rescuing dogs and leadership are both about taking chances, and sometimes things don’t always work out the way we planned.

Oh, but did I mention we were on time for our meeting after all?  With minutes to spare!  I got to see the Nashville drinking water filtration site.

Inside the Nashville water treatment plant.

Inside the Nashville water treatment plant.

And I got to see the Nashville wastewater treatment lagoon.

Nashville wastewater lagoon.

Nashville wastewater lagoon.

And I got to see the Hasting wastewater treatment plant.

Jaclyn with Hastings Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator George Whatshisname.

Jaclyn with Hastings Wastewater Treatment Plant Operator George Whatshisname.

Three sites, one dog, and a lesson in leadership.  All in a good day’s work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Things You Should Know Before You Get a Ferret

Written by on May 02, 2014 No Comments

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In Chapter 3 of my humorous, touching memoir, Something Furry Underfoot, I tell how our first ferret was soon joined by a second, then a third, until we had four crazy, inquisitive ferrets in our house.  As with the other pets that came into my house, I knew nothing about ferrets.  Here are a few things I learned.

  • Ferrets are still illegal in some states, and some local municipalities require permits, so check your local laws and regs before you consider getting a ferret.

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  • At pet stores near me, I can buy a ferret for somewhere around $150. A good cage, water bottle, food dishes, hammocks, toys, and litter can cost anywhere from $200-$300. Vet visits for basic shots and other preventatives, and continuing to provide good food, treats and bedding can cost several hundred dollars a year.  I found ferrets to be more expensive that our cat, Purrkins, and much more expensive than our hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and mice.
  • A good cage is one that will keep a ferret safe during the approximately 18 hours a day they are usually in cages. A good cage will have very little spacing between shelves OR, if there is a lot of spacing, you’ll need to make the potential fall less than 4 inches with hammocks and old sweatshirts. As I wrote in Chapter 3 of Something Furry Underfoot, our sweet little ferret named Chunky cost $1,200 in vet bills because Chunky fell in his cage and the vets back in the late 1990s weren’t able to immediately diagnosis his broken back.  With a lot of help on our part, Chunky recovered, but we hope his story helps people realize the importance of reducing the distance a ferret can fall in a cage.
Big Wuzzy and Rocky snuggled up in their hammock.

Big Wuzzy and Rocky snuggled up in their hammock.

  • Ferrets mostly take to litter boxes, however, they’re not always perfect and they sometimes make messes on the floor. If you can’t deal with an occasional mess, a ferret may not be right for you.
  • Ferrets will explore every inch of every room you give them access to.  They can open and disappear in bathroom cupboards, they might dig up house plants, they can disappear in the overhangs of kitchen cupboards. It is important to ferret-proof your house, putting safety latches on all cupboards they can’t get access to and sealing any cupboard overhangs.
Big Wuzzy in a kitchen cupboard.

Big Wuzzy in a kitchen cupboard.

  • Ferrets need to be kept in safe places or supervised at all times if allowed to explore somewhere new. Our ferret, Rocky, got into the underside of our La-Z Boy chair, and since he could get crushed if someone sat down, we had to watch and wait until he came out, then seal up the underside of the chair with duct tape.  Ferrets were the most time-intensive pets we owned.  And we’ve owned a lot of pets!
  • Ferrets can interact with other pets, but keep an eye on any pet bigger than your ferret.  We had one dog that was great with the ferrets, another dog that tolerated them, and one cat that we had to watch at all times because he sometimes got rough with the ferrets.
Dusty, the Angel Pup, with Chip.

Dusty, the Angel Pup, with Chip.

  • In my book Something Furry Underfoot, Tip #12 is:  Ferrets are curious little thieves that will claim everything as their own. Keep erasers, lipsticks, lip balms, balloons and other similar items out of ferret reach. These non-edible items can cause blockages, which require an emergency trip to the vet.
  • Ferrets don’t make much noise, so it is easy to step on them. Owners need to get used to walking with an eye to the floor.  That’s true even if you have a bunch of ferrets.
Our ferrets loved fresh water, so we put small bowls of fresh water in the tub for them.

Our ferrets loved fresh water, so we put small bowls of fresh water in the tub for them.

  • A ferret can live 6-10 years.  During the first few years ferrets are vivacious, explore everything, and can get into trouble.  But for the last six to 12 months of their life, most of my ferrets needed help getting around.  Chip liked to be pulled around in a shoebox.

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The American Ferret Association web site contains great advice about what to feed—and what NOT to feed—your ferret. The site also contains important information about caring for your ferret, including the fact that because ferrets have high metabolism, it is necessary to get them to a vet as soon as there is a change in your ferret’s energy or behavior.

Because ferrets are quick, curious, fragile, and can get in and out of things quickly, they aren’t right for everyone.  But if one IS right for you, you’ll be taking in a very energetic, curious pet that will want to play with you and with other ferret pals.  If you have a real happy ferret, you’ll get to see a “weasel war dance” which is when they sort of bounce on their little feet and twist around.

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Read more about life with ferrets in Chapter 3 of Something Furry Underfoot, available at Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.  Or go to Amylpeterson.com and click on My Books.  Also, check out my children’s rhyming photo e-book Goodnight, Big Wuzzy about one of our ferret pals.

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Something Furry Underfoot Featured on Lifewithpetsmagazine.com, Wag ‘n Pets and More!

Written by on April 20, 2014 No Comments

When it rains, it sometimes pours…unless you’re in Michigan in mid-April, in which case you might wake up to snow like we did last week.  Anyway, last week an excerpt from my book Something Furry Underfoot was posted on Lifewithpetsmagazine.com  along with some cute photos of pets, and one with me from like way back PGH (pre-gray-hair).  So thanks to editor Angie Brooks for the lovely exposure on her UK pet site!SOMETHINGFURRYUNDERFOOT final

Also PetRadioShow.com featured Winston and Snickers as the Daily Pet.  Included with their cute photo is the story of how they rescued Mark and me.  Thank you to Robert P Hudson for the great coverage and for already re-Tweeting my Tweet about the posting!

I also heard from Jan Keefe from Wag’n Woof Pets and she just posted a most excellent review of my book on her cute web site about pets.

AND to end the week, my book was featured on author Aubrey Wynne’s site.  Her site is mostly for touting historical romances and I think it real swell of Aubrey for featuring a, uh, light  romance about a man and woman that live in Michigan with a bunch of pets.  It’ll be “historical” some day. So thanks for that posting Aubrey!

Next up?  An interview on Pet Show Radio on May 3 at 10:30 PST which is like 8:30 Eastern Standard time.  Stay tuned.

Happy Birthday to Winston and Snickers!

Written by on April 06, 2014 1 Comment

On April 7, Winston and Snickers turn one!

As you might recall, a day after Dusty, the Angel Pup, passed away last August, Mark fell in love with a black and white puppy he saw online and we drove out to Pennsylvania to see him.  When the black and white puppy responded to us with a petrified look and by going catatonic, we asked about a sibling and met a small tan and white puppy with a scratched eye and severe underbite that brought the black and white one to life.  Since the tan-white one rescued the black-white one, and the black-white one rescued Mark, we took the two brothers home with us.

This is what the tan and white pup we named Snickers looked like last August.

Snickers just days after we got him.

Snickers just days after we got him.

Winston looked like this.

Winston shortly after we got him.

Winston shortly after we got him.

The two brothers have been inseparable since we got them–they go outside together, sleep together, and eat together.  And they got big together.  In fact, because of the great food Mark made for them, Snickers is almost as big as Winston.  Oh, and less I forget, they get very, very hairy together.

Winston and Snickers right before getting trimmed.

Winston and Snickers right before getting trimmed.

To celebrate their first birthday–and because they were so very fuzzy–we decided to take them to our favorite groomer to get trimmed, bathed, dried, fluffed and to get their nails and teeth done.  The extremely patient groomer called moments after we dropped the dogs off, explaining that due to the snaggles in the dogs’ fur, she was going to have to trim them pretty short.   While we were prepared for shortness, we were not quite prepared to discover that beneath Winston’s thick coat were so many black spots he appeared to be part Dalmation.

Winston revealing spots we didn't know he had.

Winston revealing spots we didn’t know he had.

Snickers, meanwhile, was buzzed free of the last of the black on his ears and the caramel color that once offset the off-white on his back.  The same thing had happened to Little Dipper back in the day, so Snickers’ look wasn’t quite as shocking to us.  Thankfully, neither dog seemed to care how different they looked.  When it was time for their birthday cake, they jumped right up to the table to pose for a photo.

Winston and Snickers preparing for their birthday party.

Winston and Snickers preparing for their birthday party.

Mark brought the cake over, and the dogs got exactly one good lick of chocolate for the photo before we took it away and pigged out without them.  See, chocolate is bad for dogs (and my waistline) but Mark and I were both craving chocolate.  Not to mention that the contrast of the dogs fur with a chocolate cake is far better a visual than a photo of them with a white cake.

One lick for each one-year-old.

One lick for each one-year-old.

After a bite of cake, the pups got a nice, long walk , a nap, and some new bones…which we took away after a bit because too much rawhide, like cake, is bad for dogs.  Poor things.

A new bone for each pup.

A new bone for each pup.

But all in all, I think it was a good first birthday for our pups, and a good first year.  So happy birthday to my pups.  Thank you for rescuing us.  And may you have many, many more days together.

Winston and Snickers on Mark's lap.

Winston and Snickers on Mark’s lap.

 

 

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