Thursday, January 21, 2010

That Monkey Doodad

My daughter Sheila is pretty elegant. She and her husband have a beautiful home, two beautiful children, and a pretty darned nice life. When Christmas was almost upon us, I began to wonder what to get for these beautiful and elegant people. I got a sterling bracelet for Sheila's husband, a gorgeous scarf for Sheila and gifts for the kids. I still wanted to get "just one more thing" but it had to be really special.

As luck would have it, I found just the thing. It was like nothing I had ever seen or even imagined before. I'm not sure what it is exactly. Candle holder? Beer stand, my husband Alex thinks. It was incredible. Sheila and her family frankly have everything. So my discovery would astound all of them. None of them have or have ever imagined having anything quite like this.

When I showed it to my husband, he said it was the ugliest thing he had ever seen. When I took it to the cashier, she laughed and said "You're kidding, right?". What possessed me to buy this particular object can only be described as either divine intervention or the devil's work. I had to have this object. I had to give it to my daughter and her family.

How many crystal vases can you have? How many sets of 600 thread count sheets? How many bottles of expensive champagne or perfume? How many towels? None of those things called my name this year. I found the perfect family gift. I just wonder where they are going to put it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

My Name Is Honey

I knew when I was born that I was one of those dangerous females.  I took no shit from anybody from the time I was 4 months old.  I spent a lot of time on the streets and that changes you.  Dad was a no-count Pit Bull from Oakland.  He only stuck around long enough to get mom pregnant.  Mom was a German Shepherd from the Oakland Hills and very nurturing.  She did right by me and my brother.  I think we were her first litter. 

One day, we woke up and there was a man chasing mom down the street.  He had a truck with him and grabbed her and stuck her in a cage-like place.  My brother and I were left alone at that point.  We never saw our mother again.  We stuck together for a while.  We found the Oakland restaurants that put out garbage and we looked through every evening to see what we could find.  Chicken bones, pork, beef, even chicken feet all were on the menu if we went to Chinatown.  It was great.  We slept under the overpass when it was raining.  There were a lot of people sleeping out there.  Some of them were really nice and let us get close.  It helped on cold nights.

This young guy in an SUV pulled up to the curb when he saw me.  He held out something that smelled delicious and I went up close to see what it was.  He grabbed me and put me in the back of his SUV.  We drove for a while and I got completely confused.  I was in an area I had never seen before.  He took me through an alley and into a place that had a bunch of wired cages.  He put a collar on me and shoved me into one of them.  I was worried about my brother, but there was nothing I could do about that.  There was water in my cage but no food.  I was hungry and wondered where and when my next meal would show up.  I found it out would be a couple of day before I would eat again.

There were a lot of other dogs out in this yard.  Some looked torn up with scars and bloody faces.  I realized to survive, I had to grow up and get hard fast.  The first day someone brought a bowl of kibble to my cage, I snarled at the guy and gave him my hardest look.  He backed away respectfully.  I was learning a survival skill.  Some fool left my cage unlocked and I ran off as fast as I could.  I spent another couple of years as a homeless dog.  I was picked up as a stray (or vagrant) and taken to a shelter.  This was bad and good.  I was used to cages but  that was the bad part.  But I did get regular food and water; that was the good part.  People wandered through and looked at me and said, "Damn!  That's a scary looking dog!" and walked on to the cages with the little fluffy guys.  Who gives a shit?  I was getting fed.  It was okay.

A couple came and said, "We'll take that one" about me after a couple of months.  The shelter people did an operation on me before I went home with these people so I couldn't have puppies.  It's just as well.  I didn't want puppies.  We got into the car and we drove to a place called Hercules.  I was put out in the backyard and I was fine.  I stayed outside all of the time.  I was "security" the man said.  They fed me once a day and gave me water.  Still, I felt like something was missing in my life.  These people never even gave me a name.  They called me "the dog".  Still, it was okay.

After some time had passed, I noticed that I had waited a long time for some food.  Nobody came.  The people had moved.  A guy in a uniform came to the back gate and whistled.  I went over to see him.  He put a leash on me and took me to a waiting truck taking me to the Oakland SPCA.  Here we go with the cages again.  But things were a little different this time.  I had a warm place to sleep, plenty of food, and a person came almost every day to take me for a walk.  I stayed at this place for almost 5 months.

One day a lady walked up to my "kennel".  She looked at me and I looked at her and something happened.  We just knew each other immediately.  She called a man over and said, "Oh my God!  This is the one we want!  She's beautiful and I must have her!"  The man said, "Uh, that's a pit bull" and the woman said "Don't be ridiculous; she's a German Shepherd".    They got someone who worked there to take us into the "get acquainted" room.  They both seemed just fine, but who really knows!  I let them pet me and showed them that I had a few manners and that seemed just fine.

Two days later, they came back with a new collar and leash for me and told me  I was going "home".  They put me in the back seat of a car and we drove for a few minutes.  When we got to their house, the lady said "This is your house, Honey".  Okay, my name was "Honey" now.  Not dog, not Fern (as I was called at the shelter" but Honey!)  I liked it.  We took a long walk and I marked every place I could so I could always find my way "home". 

I was given a bath (not so great) and given flea medication, and taken to a "vet".  The vet told these people that I had bad arthritis problems that was causing me to limp and move with some pain.  My people said, "What can we do to fix it?".  I was given medicine and taken to a specialist for something called an MRI.    My people were told that there really wasn't much that could be done except to keep me "comfortable".  The pills helped a lot.  Also, the lady (who I now call Mom) hired an acupuncturist to stick needles in me to try and make me better.  It was okay.  The needles didn't hurt.  (But I did look funny with about 100 needles sticking out of me.) 

Six years have passed.  I have changed in so many ways.  I am well fed, I am well groomed, and I am well loved.  I only eat organic food that Mom cooks for me.  If I can't walk, they carry me.  I live indoors and only go outside when I want to.  I have a brother named Harry and I can bite and growl at him any time I want.  Life is better than before.  Mom worries about losing me.  I worry more about losing her.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Smokey's Trials

I was born poor and black somewhere in an Oakland, California alley. When I was about 3 months old, Mom took off and I was left to fend for myself. I had siblings, about 6 of them, but nobody was around after Mom split. Food was a problem, and so was the cold. So was being on the streets, day in day out for almost a month.

A woman came and got me and took me to a "shelter". This was okay except for being in a cage. I liked to go where I wanted when I wanted, (but I also liked regular food, so it was a trade off.) I sat in a cage by myself most of the time. There were other cats around, but we all pretty much ignored each other. This man came in and he seemed pretty cool. I reached my arm out of the cage to touch him and the next thing I knew, he was taking me "home". What does home mean? The streets are the only "home" I've ever known!

I got put in a cardboard carrier and and taken to a car where we drove for a few minutes. Then we walked inside a place and the man let me out of the carrier. This didn't look too bad, but I knew I had to go find someplace safe. There had been too many people chasing me in my short life already, so I was ready to run if I needed to. I ran up some stairs and into something called a "closet". From this "closet" I found a way up into the attic. This was the coolest thing I'd ever seen! There were signs that other critters had made their home right here! How cool is that?

This woman, (who I would later call Mom), came home after work. She brought up some good smelling food for me and I came down to eat it. She didn't bother me too much and let me go back in the closet for as long as I wanted. It all felt pretty good since I was warm and not hungry any more.

I came out of the closet and went downstairs where the "family" was having dinner. I jumped up on my Dad's lap and he started petting me. It felt great for a few minutes and then it started to annoy the shit out of me, so I scratched and bit him. I ran off and went back to my closet. Things were pretty good for a few days, until Mom had a "Mobile Vet" come to our house. This was a guy who had a big truck outside. He seemed nice, but then he wrapped me in a towel and took me out to his car. (Kids, don't let this happen to you.) I was stuck with a needle and had no idea what was going on until I awoke, again wrapped in a towel. I was carried inside and put into a tiny bathroom space. Something was drastically different. I had crotch pain. Serious crotch pain. Mom and the guy from the truck were having a glass of wine and talking. Yak yak yak yak yak. I woke up and wondered what the hell was going on!

The guy (the "vet") pronounced me "fine" and left. I felt a little sick for a while, and then tried to figure out what had happened. Something was different, but what was it? Oh hell, I still have all these dumb toys, and two people who want to stroke me, give me food and water and keep as their cat. It could be worse! It had been worse!.

My Cousin Winnie

My name is Harry and I'm a four year old dog. I'm handsome and big and people all seem to like me a lot. Other dogs usually like me too, because I love to play and have a good personality. I have a neighbor guy named Dutch, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, who is about my size. Folks say we look alike since we are both that really great shade of orange-red. He and I hang out sometimes and we both love to run. We also like to hump each other but since we are both neutered now, don't take that part too seriously because we don't. Dutch has a house mate named Samson who is a Pug. He's kind of a yappy guy and not nearly as much fun as Dutch. There's another dog there too named Delilah. She's okay. I hear she's a French Bulldog, whatever that means. Dutch likes her better than I do. She yaps a lot too.

I live with Honey. Honey is either my sister or something. She's smaller than me but much meaner and she always gives me dirty looks to let me know what I'm not supposed to do. She can be nice sometimes, but usually not. I mean, Honey will act like she wants to play, but then she gets mad and growls at me or bites my ear for no real reason. Okay, I took her toy, but I was only playing.

We also have a black cat named Smokey who lives in our house. Smokey hisses and spits at me whenever he sees me. Whatever, Dude. Cats are weird anyway. They don't leave me alone with Smokey because as my Mom says, "That would be looking for trouble!"

I have a cousin named Lola. I love Lola. She's little and black and very curly. She lets me put her head in my mouth and hold it there. I love to do that! Then we chase each other and she bites me every place she can reach. She's funny! Sometimes she makes me get tired because I love to run, but Lola never quits. She just keeps running and running and biting me so I'll chase her. And she keeps falling in the fish pond and Mom gets mad about that. Lola also poops in the house, but nobody gets mad at her about it. (What would happen if I tried that? I wouldn't even want to know!) I don't care, I still love her. She comes to visit a lot. Honey has tried to kill her a couple of times, but Mom yells and Honey stops. I hope Lola knows that Honey doesn't like me that much either and we're brother and sister (or something like that).

Now, I have this other guy cousin, Winnie. I've been to his house a few times, and he's come to mine a few times. This guy is trouble if you ask me. Because he's family, I try to love him. It's not always easy though. Mom taught me it's not polite to show my teeth. What does Winnie do? He walks around with teeth showing all the time. And he's kind of funny looking. He doesn't look anything like me and Honey and Dutch. Winnie snarls all the time and he makes really strange noises when he eats. Even when he just breathes, he makes noise. Winnie slobbers all the time too. It makes me mad when Mom says "Oh Winnie! You are so beautiful!" She's got to be kidding. How did this guy get to be my cousin, anyway?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Just How Much Trouble Can A 5-Pound Dog Be?

In 2008, we celebrated New Years Eve with Lola, my son's 9 week old 5-pound Mini-Schnauzer. Lola was spending her new family's holidays with me and my husband and our two dogs and cat. My son knows my weaknesses. He said he and his family were going away over New Years, and since Lola was so young and new, he was very hesitant to entrust her to a kennel or anyone who might be less experienced with dogs than I am. (Yes, flattery will get you everywhere with me!)

Lola arrived bag, baggage and crate on December 26th. A cuter critter never lived. She was feisty, funny and oh so tiny. Lola and Harry (my 90 male dog) formed an instant bond. They were soon chasing each other, chewing on each other and engaging in the most rambunctious behavior I have ever seen. I felt a slight prickle of apprehension over their antics, which included Lola falling into the fish pond with Harry right behind her within 10 minutes of her arrival at our home.

Lola enchanted Harry. She looked like the most perfect girl dog who ever lived to him. Honey, the absolute most perfect girl dog who ever lived, (and my other canine), was less thrilled with her appearance and behavior. In fact, we had a couple of occasions when Honey had Lola by her pretty and furry throat and was showing us that all of this could be over very fast if we would just let her take care of this vermin in her own way.

Thank God for crates! Lola could be protected in her little playpen for dogs. It is also said that the crate is wonderful because puppies won't soil in them, making housebreaking a snap. Uh huh. That's what they say.

Lola spent equal time in the yard with Harry, in the house with us, (when Honey was out in the yard,) and in her crate. She yelped, screamed, and squealed at the top of her lungs if we walked out of the room when she was in her crate. This made it necessary for us to transport Lola and her crate from room to room, so that Child Protective Services would not be called by one of our well-meaning neighbors.

I would separate the pups when meal times came. It was the cowardly but most reasonable course to follow, since Lola had no idea about boundaries and felt the other dogs would not mind in the slightest if she came over to sample the different meals being served. After eating, Lola would scamper from one place to another as fast as lighting to deposit a treasure for us. These perfect little turds appeared in almost every room of the house, along with the little wet spots. In seven days, we used about 2 gallons of Pet Stain Remover.

At night, we put her in her crate in our bedroom. Harry and Honey found their own spaces and Lola would drift off listening the the snores of her two companions. By 3 AM, my husband would awaken me and ask "Do you smell that?" Never mind. You know what "that" was. I was inclined to let her sleep in her mess, but my husband insisted that she be cleaned up, even at 3 AM. Not really that hard to do, since a small sink is all that was needed to perform her ablutions.

We soon realized that as a young puppy, she needed trips outside every 2, 3 or 4 hours, day and night. While this did not completely solve the problem, it was a start. Setting the alarm for every three hours, we began to wonder if the year, and the visit, would ever end. Lack of sleep began to affect our judgment. I let Lola and Harry play alone out in the back yard and heard a splash. Lola was back in the fish pond. Oh, and Lola couldn't swim. She had to be fished out every time, tossed in the sink to make her look less like a "swamp thing" and dried. I have never washed so many towels in my life.

Lola chewed up a table's legs, a duvet cover, three pairs of shoes, two rugs, and a Victoria's Secret Miracle Bra in the first two days we had her. In following days, she ate most of a Gucci bag, two pairs of wool socks, and the stick shift in our car. Damn she was cute! We took her to a New Years Eve party at a neighbor's house and they found a couple of her treasures the next day under the dining room table and under one of the kids beds. She had a wonderful New Years and came home happy from all the attention. We tried to give her away to numerous people that night (yes, we were drinking) but had no takers.

A couple of days after New Years, we packed her belongings and she went home to her loving family. We kissed her goodbye and wrapped her up warmly in her new pink sweater for the trip home. Oddly, the house seemed so quiet without her.

Lola was here for Christmas Eve this year. After she went home, I found that she had left two perfectly formed little turds under the kitchen table for me. Oh, and the leash that Harry had loaned her had been chewed in half. Happy New Year, Lola! You come back now!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Kitten Who Became A Girl

Arianna was born on a hot afternoon in September, two days before her mother’s birthday. We knew her gender and her name before her arrival. The first time I saw her I noticed the magnificent huge eyes, long lashes, and sculpted brows. Arianna had fur, lots of soft fur covering her perfect little form. She didn’t cry like most babies, but she did make an occasional “meow” sound.

When petted as a baby, Arianna would make a sound that sounded something like “coo- coo-coo,” or actually maybe more like a purr. She loved being stroked and I could listen to that wonderful sound for hours. Still, she didn’t cry. If she was hungry, she meowed softly. When Arianna began to crawl, she did it with a grace like I have never seen. She moved like a cat, silent as a Ninja! Arianna seemed to love quietly approaching someone and listening to their gasps of “where did she come from?”

Sadly, all that beautiful soft fur fell off when she was about a year old. When she was one, Arianna was walking as well as crawling. Everyone was amazed because she walked on her toes, always. It was just as quiet as her crawling. She would slip around corners and into small places where she would curl up and catnap. She was self possessed for a baby and could entertain herself for hours just playing with a jingle toy or a ball of yarn.

When she was four, she was at our house during a party. My husband found her sitting on the stairs alone, not moving and looking straight ahead. “What are you doing, Arianna?” he asked her. She looked at him somewhat disdainfully and replied, “I’m breathing, Alex.” She just looked at him with her enormous brown eyes and continued “breathing.”

Arianna just turned thirteen. If she resembles anyone, it’s probably Audrey Hepburn. She’s elegant and quiet, except when she’s playful and noisy! Arianna is a talented dancer and moves with the grace of a young feline; she also has a wonderful singing voice. Sometimes when she doesn’t know I’m watching her, she sits in front of the mirror and brushes her long dark brown lustrous hair and just purrs. She’s fascinating, mysterious, and beautiful. My Navajo husband, Alex, has a relative who was an eagle; I have a grand-daughter who is used to be a cat.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Pretty Cookie

We got our cat Smokey, a black dude with an attitude, a torn ear, and saber toothed tiger fangs in 1997. He was kept primarily as an indoor cat for a very long time. I used to hear him carrying on, vocalizing at least once a day when a big peaches and cream female cat would appear in our yard, on the other side of our window.

Smoke would occasionally slip out of doors and disappear for varying periods of time and God knows where he went or what he did. I would wander the streets at 2 AM looking for him and fear the worst. He had been run over; he had been catnapped and was now going to be used for witchcraft type sacrifices; he was caught by the Animal Police and sent to the pound. By 3 AM, Smokey would be yowling in the space outside our bedroom, annoyed as hell that he had no way back in his home.

The big female cat appeared outside our window about the same time every day. She was a beautiful creature, but so dirty and fearful. I started taking her a bowl of kibble and some water out right before I expected her. I named her Cookie. She ate and drank with gusto every day, while Smokey watched her with equal measures of love and lust. She was something, that Cookie!

We continued this pattern for about a year. One time, during a storm, I tricked her to coming into the garage where I had placed her food, and closed her in. She screamed like she was dying and I didn't have the heart to keep her there. (My idea had been to trap her, take her and get her neutered, and maybe, just maybe make her our cat.) Cookie was not going to be a house cat. I had to let her be free, a beautiful blond warrior princess.

One day she showed up with a bloody eye. Oh I hated to see her hurt! Smokey looked worried as well. She ate her food and rubbed herself languorously against the glass door next to our kitchen. Smoke would yowl and rub himself along that window in a mirror of her movements.

Smokey became more adept at running out of the house when I would open the garage door, or go out after the mail. He would disappear into the cellar at our neighbors house every evening. Cookie began to arrive less frequently for food. Then she stopped coming at all. My next door neighbor found Cookie dead in his cellar and called me. He knew Cookie had been close to Smoke for years. I think she was sick for a long time, and Smokey went to be with her in that cellar until she died. Sad and beautiful, their love affair was over.