Home for the holidays ...

As we are now fully into the holiday season, I find myself reflecting more than usual on the themes of home, family, and all the good times and shared experiences that bind people together, be they related by blood, by marriage, or even through the bonds of long and intimate friendships which often feel as strong as, or stronger than, any blood ties.  The faces I see in my head when I think of the word family include my parents, my sister to whom I'm extremely close, two favorite aunts and cousins, and a few friends with whom I've been laughing and sharing confidences for, in some cases, more than half my lifetime.  

Naturally, there are more than a few furry faces in my minds' eye as well, as there is no doubt that Tucker, Phoebe, Olivia, Tanner, and Finn, as well as other dogs and cats I've loved and lost over the years, are indisputably family to me.  As such, they obviously play a significant role in familial celebrations, which, for me, have even more significance because of the fact that all five of them ended up in a happy, secure home where they are deeply loved and cherished only by the grace of happenstance and random good fortune.  Given their less than auspicious beginnings, their lives could have been far different, and the fact that they all somehow ended up here  is nothing short of miraculous to me, a miracle which, I don't mind saying, has been at least as much to my benefit as theirs, if not more so, because I quite simply couldn't imagine my life without any of them, even while I know that I will someday not only have to imagine it, but live it.  

When my thoughts travel down this particular path, though, I can't help but be mindful of all the people out there who are bereft of family and friends during a time of year when not having the comfort and security of those long and intimate relationships must be particularly painful.  And of course, I also think about all the animals out there who don't have the luxury of lounging on comfy beds or snuggling on couches, who are lucky if they get anything at all to eat, let alone the nutritious (and hopefully delicious) foods I so carefully prepare for my fur monsters, who are in shelters facing the prospect of being euthanized at worst, or, at best, living out their lives in a cage.  I think about the dogs and cats who are roaming the streets with nowhere safe and warm to sleep, scavenging for scraps and garbage, or who are tied up to sheds or in yards or rusting mobile homes with nothing to drink but dirty, slimy water (that is, if the water hasn't frozen in the wintertime).  The scope of the horror, in all its myriad variations, is past imagining, really, and yet it is happening thousands of times over even as I write these words.  

So as the holiday season ramps up to full throttle, I can only be grateful, anew, at my own good fortune.  I have a wonderful family (human and canine/feline), a few close friends I know I can always count on, a secure and stable job, a home I enjoy coming home to, and all in all a pretty darn good and happy life, even with all the stresses and sometimes petty worries that seem to be an unavoidable part of the human condition.  And my heart, therefore, hurts for those who are not as fortunate.  There are a lot of lonely people in the world, as well as a lot of animals facing very uncertain futures.  Wouldn't it be great if some of them could find each other?  

I think about animals like Bruno, a lovely young Husky/Akita mix who is looking for HIS home, both for the holidays and forevermore.  I learned about Bruno on this blog , which is a site devoted to photographer Rachel Lauren's photography clients.  Rachel's blog is one of my very favorites, and one that I try to visit every day.  Her photos are stunning, so if you haven't checked her blog out in the past, you really ought to.  And in fact, she took a beautiful photo of Bruno, below. 

Photo Credit:  with kind permission of Rachel Lauren Photography
If you or someone you know is looking for a beautiful boy like Bruno, you can contact Rachel at rachellaurenphotography@gmail.com

Let's get this guy a home for the holidays, ok?  

And may all YOUR days this holiday season be merry and bright.


On this Wednesday Phoebe is WONDERING ...

Ha ha - just kidding!  I weigh 9.5 pounds which Mom and Dr. H. say is perfect for my body frame.  Mom just thought it was a funny picture!  Mothers!!!! 

P.S.  Tomorrow is turkey day!  YUMMY!


Monday Meows ...

Hi, everyone ... it's me, Olivia!  Can you believe it's Monday ALREADY?  I don't know how come the weekends are so short and the weeks are so LONG! Shouldn't it be the other way around?  

Anyway, we didn't do much this weekend because Mom said she needed to relax.  Fortunately, being a cat, I have a PhD in relaxation.  See what I mean? 

Have a great week, everyone!  Only four days till Thanksgiving!  


A hidden menace ...

Chances are when you think of dangerous animals ... it's probably animals like these that spring most readily to mind:

 King Cobra:  Click link for photo source

Great White Shark: Click link for photo source

But you would be wrong.

The most dangerous animal known to man is minute in size compared to the Bengal tiger or great white shark, and far less fearsome in appearance than the king cobra.  Most frightening of all, they live among us and are brilliant at camouflaging the danger they pose under a deceptively cute and fluffy exterior.  Yes, friends, I tell you true.  The most dangerous animal known to man is ...

Nova, adoptable through The Humane Society of Tampa Bay

No, your eyes do not deceive you.  The picture above is, indeed, of a kitten! 

For the record, no, I'm not delusional.  I'm well aware that most people would not consider a tiny, sweet, essentially defenseless little kitten like Nova, above, dangerous in any way.  The idea, in fact, that those tiny kitten claws and impossibly white little milk teeth could pose any danger is almost laughable.  On the contrary ... the very fact of their defenselessness  triggers the protective nature in even those humans who think they have been immunized against tiny, adorable little balls of purring fluff.

And that, my friends, is how they get you!  (Or, at least, it is how three of them have gotten me in the past, and how one of them ALMOST got me tonight!)  Here's the thing.  I love puppies.  I love absolutely everything about them, from the the tips of their curiously sniffing little noses to the tips of their waggling little tails.  And puppy breath, as far as I am concerned, is the most delicious thing in the entire world.  Why no parfumier has yet found a way to bottle and sell Eau de Puppy Breath remains a perennial mystery to me.  They would make a fortune!  And yet ... for my money, the kitten is the most perfect baby animal imaginable.  Tiny, adorable, innocent, endlessly playful and inquisitive, and ... wait for it ... potty training is factory installed.

Any reasonably intelligent person knows that puppies are a lot of work.   So when you're contemplating getting a puppy you know you're in for three or four months, minimum, of relentless vigilance, and even after that, it's not till the puppy/dog is about two years old, or thereabouts, that you can begin to relax a little.  There is crate training, potty training, leash training, and basic obedience training to master, and as anyone who has ever successfully lived with a dog knows, training is ongoing, or can be, pretty much for the life of the dog.  

A kitten on the other hand is a very different experience.  You bring the kitten home, install the litter box and a cat tree/scratching post, show him where the food and water is, do some basic kitten-proofing, and that's about it.  No waking up in the middle of the night to take the puppy out.  No worrying about leash training or potty training or passing puppy kindergarten.  Just the pure, unadulterated bliss of snuggling with a tiny, sweetly purring little fur creature.   

Plus, who doesn't love the misplaced bravado of a kitten?  That oh-so-ferocious-sounding hiss, the comically arched back and the little spike of fluffed up tail they exhibit when they're startled.  Delicious!

It isn't until about six months later, in fact, that the honeymoon ends.  Overnight, it seems, the halo atop your little angel's head seems to be tarnishing a bit.  They start being able to jump higher and pretty soon they're peering smugly down at you from all sorts of precarious positions, leaving you in constant fear that they'll break their neck, a leg, or something equally irreplaceable.  No possession, no matter how high up or seemingly secure, is truly safe.  And this anti-honeymoon lasts, I am here to tell you from experience times 3, for a very long time.  Far longer, certainly, than the all-too-fleeting weeks or months of kittenhood.

By then, of course, all is lost.  Said kitten-turned-cat owns you, heart and soul, and no matter what they do, or what priceless heirlooms they may destroy, (fortunately for me, I don't have any of those) you remain just as devoted to them as you were when they were small.

Finn, for example, by far the most mischievous of the three cats, has, in his slightly less than two years of life, broken three lamps and my favorite picture frame, and that's just off the top of my head.  The path of destruction he has cut through my home rivals that of a natural disaster.  And yet ... I couldn't possibly love him more.  As I recently said to our long-suffering pet sitter, so long as he doesn't break his neck or a leg, I could honestly not care less what else he happens to destroy.  But even the ongoing anti-honeymoon with Finn has not knocked any sense into me, it seems.

Tonight, I was at Petco, picking up some treats for the pups, and while waiting at the register, my attention was caught by  a little white paw waving frantically out at me from a nearby cage (a local rescue had some kittens placed there for adoption), so of course I wandered over to say hello.  As I stood cooing at the little gray and white kitten to whom the paw belonged,  I was joined by a man.  We got to talking, and I learned that he had a cat and dog at home, but had just lost another of his cats, who he'd had for eleven years.  He asked me whether I was considering adopting the kitten I was fawning over, and I immediately said no, that I had three cats and two dogs at home, but I'll confess ... inside, I was wavering.  Quite frankly, the two female kittens (one tortie and one very unusually marked tabby with lots of white), were far more striking to look at, but the little gray and white guy had some serious personality, and I could feel myself growing weaker by the second.  I was falling under the spell that all kittens seem so adept at weaving.

Fortunately, I was able to talk some sense into myself just in the nick of time.  As I stood talking to this nice man about whether he ought to follow his instincts and adopt one of these adorable kittens to help fill the hole in his home left by the cat he had recently lost an employee approached to ask me if I'd like to take Mr. Personality out of the cage to get better acquainted.  I said no, through gritted teeth, and can only hope that the little guy who so captivated me earlier this evening will be sleeping in a new home before too many more nights have passed.  With a personality like his, I feel sure that he will be.

Meanwhile,  this little cutie:

is sleeping in HER new home TONIGHT!  Formerly Layla, now rechristened Nutmeg by her new dad, she has found a new home for the holidays, and hopefully for the rest of her life, regardless of what havoc she may wreak when that factory-installed kitten halo begins to tarnish, as it inevitably will.

So yes, I may have narrowly escaped the clutches of this most dangerous of all creatures, but another of my fellow humans was not so fortunate.  I wish Nutmeg and her new dad much happiness together, but I have to admit, as I sit here on my sofa watching Finn size up the fireplace mantel and the matched set of potted topiaries thereon that he has previously left unmolested but which all of a sudden seem to have become as riveting as though they were comprised of equal parts catnip and tuna, a tiny part of me can't help but think ... 


Manic Man-Cat Monday with Finn

Hi, everybody - it's me, Finn.  Mom said to post this picture for her today because the way I look in this picture is the way she FEELS!

I don't really get it, but sometimes Mom gets really mad when I don't do what she says. (Also, I have seen her look like this once or twice, and it's never a good idea to argue with her at times like that. Now when I look like this it's a different story ... it just means I'm trying really hard to catch that feather at the end of the long pole!)

Happy Monday, everyone! 


There's A Mouse In My House

There's a mouse in my house.  Or at least there was.  I think ...
Ok, that's a lie.  I know there was, almost beyond a shadow of a doubt. I just don't want to believe it.  Unfortunately, I don't have much choice.  Consider the evidence ... 

Picture it:  my house ... about 7:00 am EST, one week ago.  After a late night at the office (what else is new?) I stumbled, bleary-eyed, out of bed, down the hall, and into my dining room, en route to the kitchen to serve breakfast to the fur people, who were alternately capering ahead of and/or behind me, or twining enthusiastically around my ankles in anticipation of their morning repast.  Whereupon, to my abject dismay, my bare foot encountered something squishy and unidentifiably disgusting, but thankfully no longer warm, where it had expected to find only the same smooth, aged heart of pine floor I traverse each and every day of my life. 

I let loose with a distinctly high-school-girlish shriek, jumped sideways, and landed on one of Olivia's snow white paws, which she, incidentally, did not in the least appreciate, but which was helpful to me as the bone-piercing yowl said indignity elicited from Her Royal Caliconess aided in bringing me more fully to consciousness, and flicked on the light in the dining room.  Peering down through eyes that were still sleepy but nonetheless now wide open in shock and the anticipation of horror, I spied what at first looked to be a very long, rather thick, lizard tail and the much-masticated remains of a lizard-ly lower torso.  

Initially, I relaxed, albeit marginally.  Stepping in lizard guts before I'd even had my first cup of coffee is not exactly my idea of living the dream, but I could deal.  Yeah, well ... think again.  Being the utterly fearless, bad-a$$ girl that I am, I reached down, grasped the end of the alleged lizard tail, and peered closely at it.  Still battling the effects of the previous day's  sixteen hour workday, I at first did not trust what my tired eyes were telling me, and so did an about-face back into the hall to look more closely at what I was grasping under the strong lights in my bathroom.  This is where it all fell apart.

Because in the harsh fluorescent lights of said bathroom, it quickly became all too clear that what I was holding, IN MY BARE HAND I MIGHT ADD, was not a disembodied lizard tail, but rather the tail of a mouse, and that what was attached to that tail were the gruesome remains of said mouse's lower torso and its left hind leg and foot.  

Quicker than you can utter a string of words all approximately four letters long, I had, acting purely on instinct, flushed what remained of the sad little corpse down the toilet, then proceeded to gag into the sink and spend the next twenty minutes washing my hands under water so hot that it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that for the rest of that day I went around sporting first degree burns on hands that, previously sorely in need of a manicure, were now sore in a more literal sense of the word.  All I can say is, it is for precisely situations like these that the acronym FML was coined.

Also, in case you were wondering, my day did not improve one iota for the remainder of that 24 hour period, though it did not, fortunately, get any worse.  Although, let's face it.  Stepping in the remains of a dearly departed rodent, and then grasping said remains in one's bare hand all while scarcely awake and ambulatory is pretty hard to top!

Now for the back story.  A few days prior, I had rather absentmindedly noticed that Finn had developed an apparent obsession with the lower kitchen cabinet to the direct left of the sink, which he has not showed the least bit of interest in for the entire almost two years he's been with me.  

This is not surprising, as it's a seldom-used storage space that plays host to extra rolls of paper towels, assorted serving platters, and other kitchen miscellany.  In other words, it is not routinely used to store anything he would find interesting, i.e. food, treats, or anything even remotely edible. Therefore, it should have clued me in to the fact that something was not as it should be when he took to standing sentry beside it for long stretches of time with all his faculties avidly attuned to something I could not see or hear.

More back story:  I live in the Soho area of South Tampa, a block or so off the water in an area that, due to its close proximity to the water as well as its many historic homes, is known to have issues with mice, as well as their more insidious cousins, rats.  I have lived in my house for five years and never had any problems with them myself, but more than once I have been walking with the dogs along Bayshore Boulevard, a long, winding necklace of prime waterfront strung with the pearls of high end real estate valued in most cases in the multi-millions of dollars ... FYI - in case you were wondering, NO, my mouse-house is not one of these - and stumbled upon the toes-up corpse of one species of rodent or other, so it really should have dawned on me that Finn's sudden and nigh-to-rabid preoccupation with a seemingly innocent kitchen cabinet spelled trouble.  

Alas, it did not.  And I have paid, and dearly, for not paying due attention to what my little house panther's unusual behavior should have been telling me, especially when considering that my next door neighbors, who recently moved out of state and put their as-yet-unsold house on the market, were of the, if you'll pardon the pun, pack-ratly persuasion, and I find it very plausible that in the packing up of the worldly belongings stored in their garage, they may have unwittingly disturbed a rodent domicile or two in the process.

All of this is bad enough.  But as the saying goes ... where there is one, there are likely more.  Which makes me wonder if there are other cousins of the unfortunate mouse dispatched so efficiently, albeit cold-bloodedly, by Finn, lurking in the cabinet by the sink, or elsewhere in my house.  I have not seen any signs of this, but I have nonetheless contacted an exterminator to come out so I can be reassured (or horrified) by a professional assessment of the situation.  I also have to face the almost certain reality that my sweet little kitten not only killed, but also consumed, the unfortunate rodent.  

In the initial aftermath, I was not altogether sure what I feared more ... that Finn had consumed the mouse, or that he hadn't.  After cautiously pulling back my bedclothes, peering  under the bed, and searching various other places throughout the house for any additional pieces of this disturbing puzzle, all the while in fear that my explorations were a Whatever Happened to Baby Jane moment in the making, I was forced to accept the fact that Finn had dispatched his kill in the way cats have been dispatching their kills since time out of mind.  Which, inevitably, led to the fear that the mouse had been poisoned, and that my little kitten might now be in danger of being poisoned also.  

FORTUNATELY, this has proven to not be the case.  Finn, one emergency vet appointment and a full week later, is absolutely fine, thank heaven.  But I have a newfound respect for my youngest "child."  He might be my baby, but he's apparently also got some hunting chops, and he takes his house panther role more seriously than I would have imagined. 

I also, I have to admit, feel kind of bad for the mouse.  Because as bad as my day sucked on the morning that the sole of my bare foot encountered his earthly remains, that poor mouse's day sucked a lot worse.  Imagine if you were a mouse ... and the last thing you saw on this earth were these eyes staring you down ... 

RIP, little mouse.  (And I hope there are no more of your friends in my house!) 


On this Wednesday the MP is WONDERING ...

But have you ever seen a Bulldog on a coffee table? 

Well, you have now! 

THIS ... 

is Bella ... 

my aunt & uncle's 13 month old English Bulldog ...

who happens to have an extremely serious (and seriously cute) pout when she doesn't get what she wants (whatever that happens to be at any given moment).  

You may be wondering ... "and why exactly is it that she is lying on the coffee table?"  As well, I would agree, you might.  And the answer is ... because she wants to.  And although it's not personally something I would enjoy (for one thing my coffee table is glass and the mere thought of cleaning all that Bulldog drool off of it is enough to make me want to rush out and buy tremendous shares of stock in Windex, even were it safe or desirable to allow a fifty-five pound dog to recline thereon, which of course it is not), the simple fact of life at Casa Bella is that what Bella wants, Bella gets.  With very few exceptions.  In fact, just at this moment, I can't think of even one.  

Now, although you have no way of knowing this, Bella is not the first Bulldog I've been intimately acquainted with.  Growing up, my grandparents had a succession of them throughout my entire childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.  So I'm very familiar with their stellar temperaments, their quirky personalities, and their trademark stubbornness.  Although, I must say, those Bulldogs of my younger days were rather well behaved.  They walked nicely on lead, and had excellent house manners. They even did tricks. Bella does none of these things.  It isn't that she's not smart, something that is often said of Bulldogs.  She's plenty smart, and in fact she's a whiz at clicker training, being, as she is, highly motivated by treats.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Bella's intelligence is nigh to genius level.  How else can you explain coercing two otherwise intelligent, rational individuals into letting you sleep on the coffee table? 

Disclaimer:  Bella is actually a great dog, if a bit quirky (to put it mildly).  She is inexhaustibly sweet and loving, is wonderful with children, and wherever she goes people fall in love with her, myself included.  As to the coffee table thing, I am at a loss.  I guess it's a good thing for Bella that she doesn't live at my house.  The rules are a little LOT different, and I'm not at all sure she would appreciate that.