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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 1 Comment

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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.

 

 

Spoiling a Cat After the Arrival of Two Puppies

Written by on February 27, 2014 1 Comment

Two bits of good news! First, I’ve created a new networking opportunity with Critter Joe’s, a nifty site devoted to pets.  Critter Joe’s posted information about my book  Something Furry Underfoot on his site under Helpful Information!  So check it out and all the other great things Critter Joe’s has to offer.

Secondly,  I’ve hooked up with www.ebooksoda.com to promote my book on their site, and in so doing, have lowered the e-book version of Something Fury Underfoot to $1.99!

Now for the week’s post.  Purrkins appeared under our porch ten years ago, and he grew up with two dogs–Little Dipper and Dusty.  Last August, after both of our beloved pups had gone off to heaven, we got two new puppies with boundless energy.  Here’s what Purrkins looked like when he first saw the puppies.

Purrkins checking out the new guys.

Purrkins checking out the new guys.

As soon as the new pups came into the house, Purrkins headed for the closest hide-out he could find.  Lucky for Purrkins, it took the dogs several days to discover this hiding spot.

Purrkins hiding in his box.

Purrkins hiding in his box.

Another favorite hiding spot is the linen closet, but don’t tell Mark.

Purrkins in the closet.

Purrkins in the closet.

Purrkins also found respite in a cat platform he’d ignored for years.

The epitome of interactions between Purrkins and the two puppies.

The epitome of interactions between Purrkins and the two puppies.

Purrkins also got his own feeding station, one raised up high enough that the pups could not bother him while he ate.  

Even with all these get-away places, over the course of several months, Purrkins began to lose weight.  And when I finally stopped and thought about it, Winston and Snickers had gotten all the attention since last August.  So I began trying to spoil Purrkins.  I started by buying him different kinds of canned cat food to make him feel special.

Purrkins experimenting with new, better food.

Purrkins experimenting with new, better food.

Some canned food was better than other.  In fact, some he wouldn’t eat at all.

Various cans of food purchased for Purrkins' dining pleasure.

Various cans of food purchased for Purrkins’ dining pleasure.

We also spent more time together getting fresh water from the bathroom faucet, another of his favorites.

Purrkins at the sink getting fresh water.

And I made time at night to play with Purrkins again, after the dogs were tucked away in the back bedroom area.

Play time with a dog leash dragged under a throw rug.

Play time with a dog leash dragged under a throw rug.

What’s really nifty is that Purrkins started putting weight back on again.  And over time, he not only was spotted in the vicinity of the puppies…

Purrkins in box; dogs on their bed nearby.

Purrkins in box; dogs on their bed nearby.

…he actually let Winston curl up with him for a nap!

Winston snuggled up with Purrkins.

Winston snuggled up with Purrkins.

So I think all life is better for Purrkins, at least when the puppies are calm, if not sleeping.  But just to be sure, I got him a new play tunnel the other day.

Purrkins with his new play tunnel.

Purrkins with his new play tunnel.

See, I knew that it’d take a while for Purrkins to get used to our energetic puppies, but I felt bad that I was a bit slow to realize the real impact on him.  He’s nearly back to his usual weight again.  And every night, when the puppies disappear to the back bedroom area for bed, Purrkins knows it’s our time to play.

Valentines Day to Make Most Women Jealous

Written by on February 15, 2014 1 Comment

It’s true, I’m spoiled.  And this year, Mark spoiled me with not only a Rago Rat fishing lure, but also a chocolate cake with my name on it.

My Rago Rat lure and the allegedly chocolate cake.

My Rago Rat lure and the allegedly chocolate cake.

The Rago Rat lure is the floating lure of choice when going after feisty fish like pike or bass.  Just throw it out onto the water, wiggle it now and again and wait for the water to boil.  The cake needs no explanation, of course, but it did turn out the cake was not chocolate–it was yellow.  The cool thing was that when I told Mark “It’s the thought that counts,” he thought some more and there appeared another fishing lure.  One I’d never seen before.

My waxwing fishing lure.

My waxwing fishing lure.

It’s called a Shamano Waxwing and it looks quite strange because it seems to have fins on the top of its head and underneath its head.  This lure will go down about 1.5 feet and then waggle back and forth under the water.

I then learned one waxwing is not enough, so there appeared another one.

My third and final fishing lure for Valentine's Day.

My third and final fishing lure for Valentine’s Day.

I know, all you ladies out there are super jealous, but consider that it’ll be several months yet before I’ll be able to tell you if these lures catch any fish.  Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying on a delicious–albeit yellow–cake.  How sweet is that?

What Pups!

Written by on February 09, 2014 No Comments

Once upon a time, we had a dog named Dusty, the Angel Pup, who, with his pal, Little Dipper, filled our hearts and our days with happiness.  In August, 2012, Little Dipper passed away and in August 2013, Dusty went off to heaven to join her.  The next day my beloved, retired husband, Mark, spent a full day in the house without a pup.  And that was all he could take.  He was on the Internet looking for a pup the same mix as Dusty and Little Dipper–Lhasa Apso mixed with Bichon Frise.  Soon Mark found this black and white pup.

The face that won Mark over.

The face that won Mark over.

We drove from Michigan to Pennsylvania to look at the pups, and when he froze–absolutely terrified–we asked if he had a sibling.  Out came his brother who made everything okay.  We brought both pups home, get the black and white pup on August 24 and had a contest to name the pups , the winners of which received a free, autographed copy of my humorous, touching memoir, Something Furry Underfoot.  The winning names were Winston and Snickers.

Amy with Winston.

Amy with Winston.

Amy with Snickers.

Amy with Snickers.

The pups have been with us about five months and I can honestly say getting both of them was the best thing we’ve ever done.  From their perspective, having a sibling nearby probably made it easier to leave their mom and other siblings and travel cross-country with two strange people.  Getting used to the noises of the average suburban home–like the dishwasher, the squeak of the front door, and cars driving by the house–was probably easier with a brother around, as was going to the vet and the groomer.

From my perspective, coming home from work and being greeted by two happy pups is awesome.   Snickers likes to get picked up and gives me an old-fashioned greeting.

Snickers' greeting.

Snickers’ greeting.

Winston prefers to give what we call a “nose nib,” which is a super gentle nibble on the nose.

Winston giving me a nose nib.

Winston giving me a nose nib.

The puppies also remind me to have fun, which has been really import an during this very long winter.

Snickers and Winston running on the snow.

Snickers and Winston running on the snow.  (Winston has a leaf).

And for Mark, the pups are the best companions a retired guy could have.

Mark with the pups.

Mark with the pups.

So thanks for coming home with us pups and making our lives full up again.

For more tips and factoids about dogs and other pets, check out Something Furry Underfoot, my humorous, touching memoir about raising frogs, iguanas, hedgehogs, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, a stray cat, mynah birds and tropical fish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of an Indestructible Dog Toy

Written by on February 02, 2014 2 Comments

It turns out our nine-month-old puppies, Winston and Snickers are big-time chewers.  And after the pups chewed a door frame, we decided we should try to find an indestructible dog toy before our house started falling down.

Winston by the chewed door frame.

Winston by the chewed door frame.

Here are some potentially indestructible dog toys.

A selection of dog toys.

A selection of dog toys.

So, let’s start with the  one at the top left, the chicken with the rope on it.  In action, that toy looks like this.

Winston and Snickers with chicken tug toy

This particular toy was a leftover from the “Dusty and Little Dipper Days,” being the days we had our two previous lhasa-bichon mixes (which, by the way, did not chew at all in comparison to Winston and Snickers).   This toy is probably 10 years old.  Its new projected life span is about two days, because after the dogs retrieve the toy, they play tug-o-war.  The good thing about this toy is that while the rope part of the chicken is a few stitches from coming off, the body of the chicken is actually doing quite well.

Next, we explore the multi-celled, super squeaky uh, dinosaur-looking thingy?  Mark had great hopes for this toy, but within hours of its arrival, Winston chewed the head off.  I pondered sewing the head back on, but instead, I repaired  the opening in the body and threw the head away.  The body lasted another day or so before the plastic insides start coming out and I back to was sewing again.

Love is sewing a dog toy.

Love is sewing a dog toy.

Next, we consider what Mark was hoping would be a super long-lasting dog toy.  It’s called the Tubba Wubba, made by KONG.

kong toy

This toy lasted exactly 20 minutes before the dogs tugged off four of the strands from one end.

Of the other toys, I can only say that none were able to withstand the maws of my puppies for long.  An old sock lasted just as long as a twisted piece of rope we paid $8 for at the store.  It turns out the toy that has lasted the longest is the one that has the most prongs on it. It’s a jack-shaped plush.

Winston and Snickers with the best toy.

Winston and Snickers with the best toy, a jack-shaped toy.

Now, for those of you thinking, “They’re plush toys, they’re not going to be indestructible,” I say, “How wise you are!”  See, we had some old toys of Dusty’s to offer our new pups, and after we gave our new pups those, we felt bad about giving them only old ones, so had to try that dinosaur-like thingy, and then Mark saw the KONG pull toy, and so it went.  The fact is, we now take stuffed toys away from the puppies when they are done playing and simply want something to chew–we then give them a dog bone.

Winston and Snickers have also proven that not even dog bones are indestructible.  We bought a Healthy Edibles bone made by Nylabone, busted it in half and found nary a trace of it  when we returned home from dinner an hour later.  And while rawhides do last a while in comparison, we limit the time pups chew on rawhides to reduce the potential for small pieces to cause blockages in their wee tummies.

Snickers with rawhide2

The bones that last the longest in our house are Nylabone DuraChews and the Busy Buddy Bouncy Dog Toy. Even they are not indestructible, and we have to watch to make sure the pups don’t eat any large pieces.

Winston and Snickers with bones.

Winston and Snickers with bones. Winston has a Nylabone DuraChew Double Bone Bacon Flavored Dog Toy, and Snickers has the Busy Buddy Bouncy Dog Toy.

Now, there is one toy missing in our discussion, and that’s the KONG classic dog toy.  We’ve had it for months and stuff it with treats when we leave the house for an hour or so.  There’s not even a knick out of it, making it truly indestructible.  But I struggle with calling this a “toy” because I watched the pups a few times and it seems when the treat is gone, the pups stop playing with the KONG classic dog toy.  So it’s really–at least in our house–more of a temporary treat holder, than a toy.

Indeed, it’s hard to keep one’s house from being chewed by puppies.  But we’re feeling pup to the task.  I mean up to the task, of course.

Snickers with the KONG basic toy, while Winston waits for his turn.

Snickers (right) with the KONG toy while Winston waits his turn.

For more stories about pets, check out my book, Something Furry Underfoot.  A p-awesome review of my book was posted Feb. 1 on GoneBookserk.    Also, the Pen and Muse posted an interview of me on Feb. 2.  AND, Megan Cyrulreski posted another fun interview of me Feb. 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy National Squirrel Appreciation Day 2014!

Written by on January 20, 2014 2 Comments

Thanks to my squirrel-loving friend, Chris Johnson–who recently shared two very cute photos of baby fox squirrels with me–I was reminded that January 21 is National Squirrel Appreciation Day!  Now, there are people who like squirrels and there are people whose spouses arm them with Christmas gifts in anticipation of the year’s event:  for example, a soft blanket, a t-shirt and a welcome mat.

Christmas presents from Mark coming in handy!

Christmas presents from Mark coming in handy!

Hence qualified to write about squirrels, I must share that over the course of the last year, we experienced some very interesting things in the world of squirrels.  We saw a mother fox squirrel nesting in a nest box in our front yard, but we didn’t see her babies until one day, late spring, when she guided them across our roof and onto the fence on the left side of our deck.  There, she tried to entice them onto the deck, which is usually flush with sunflower seeds.  As I took photos of the two babies with their mom, though, I realized that one of the baby squirrel’s tail was injured, as in chopped off.  We named the squirrel Stumpy.

Stump with his brother, shortly after his injury.

Stumpy with his brother, shortly after his injury.

While the mom jumped down onto the deck to show the two babies how to stuff one’s face with sunflower seeds, the two babies would not budge.  When one of them made a squeaky type noise, the mom ran back up the fence, nudged the one baby, then seemly wrapped her arms around Stumpy.  We felt we’d witnessed a very tender moment in the world of squirrels.

Stumpy being comforted by his mom.

Stumpy being comforted by his mom.

Moments later, she guided the babies off the fence, back across the roof, to their nest box in the front yard.  We didn’t see the family again for about two weeks.  When we did, it seemed Stumpy’s tail was healing over!  Mid-summer I took this shot of Stumpy.

Stumpy showing us his tail had healed over.

Stumpy showing us his tail had healed over.

In the fall, on another box in our front yard, we saw another touching moment between mother and baby squirrel.

Mom with baby in the front yard.

Mom with baby in the front yard.

Our yard is also home for a gray squirrel, which is sharing a box with two black squirrels.  She appeared as a young squirrel and is now rather, well, matronly.

Gray squirrel

We also are visited by her black squirrel friends.

Black squirrel dug his way down into the snow to get to the seeds.

Black squirrel dug his way down into the snow to get to the seeds.

I captured this photo after we shoveled the deck off for our pals, during a light snow.

Black squirrel in the white snow.

Black squirrel in the white snow.

And this fella showed me something I’d never seen before.  He was eating the snow, but it looks from the photo as if he was preparing for a snowball fight.

Black squirrel with snow.

Black squirrel with snow.

Our yard is also visited by squirrels that seem to be a mix of colors.

Black squirrel with red tail.

Black squirrel with red tail.

Today we saw six baby black squirrels emerge from a box in our backyard, along with their mom.  Soon, they were racing up and down our cottonwood and creating disharmony for the nearby, resident fox squirrel.  Below is a photo of six of the family members.

Five baby black squirrels on our cottonwood tree.

Five baby black squirrels on our cottonwood tree.

So happy National Squirrel Appreciation Day, all you fellow squirrel lovers!  Oh, and remember, this day was chosen because food sources for squirrel are at their lowest.  Don’t forget to put out some sunflower seeds or corn for your fuzzy pals.

 

 

 

 

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