Category Archives: Cats

A PIg In A Poke

Hello, Dear Readers!  I’ve missed you!

Buying a pig in a poke is a much more descriptive way of saying “caveat emptor”.  In other words, if you’re going to buy a pig in a poke ( a sack or bag), look inside to make sure there’s really a pig in there.  It could be a dog or a cat.  Or, if you’re French, you may be buying un chat en poche, a cat in a pocket.  So the work “poke” has a noble and romantic origin.

Sometimes people buy pigs in pokes on purpose.  You’re enticed to buy some item with the promise of a “mystery basket”.  A $25 value!  When you get it, it contains a box of crayons and a plastic flower.  I don’t know why, but this is clearly a very successful marketing tool.  The allure is the mystery, or the “getting something for nothing”.  Remember being a kid and begging Mom to buy a particular brand of cereal because there was a toy inside?  Collecting box tops and sending them off for a secret decoder ring?  We want to possess the secret.

This brings me to the issue of adopting pets.  When you adopt a kitten or a puppy, or God Forbid, buy one from a pet store,  you are always getting a pig in a poke.  You have no idea what it will grow up to be.  Even if you buy a pet from a responsible breeder, you still have no idea.  You have better clues, because you know the genetics involved, and you can observe the behavior of its relatives, but you could still get the one with one tiny mutation that turns out to cause some disease or psychosis.  The black sheep of the litter, so to speak.

If you are a responsible pet owner, you recognize this on the front end.  Pet ownership is a commitment you make before you ever know how it will turn out.  And you keep it and take care of it no matter what.

And that brings me to Toko.  Toko is the little kitten I got on July 3rd, when he was about 8 weeks old.  Toko is now almost 5 months old.  You may remember that I named him after the Tokoloshe, little demon spirits of the Zulu tribe.  How prophetic that’s turned out to be.

Toko has not quite made the connection between me and the regular food delivery.  He is not a cuddler.  He’s independent to a fault, and is a brave explorer.  He’s quite the instinctive hunter (take so far:  one baby snake).  He has shredded my forearms–my reward for picking him up.  And yet…he’s getting there.  He recognizes and associates me with safety.

This morning, I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye.  It was Toko, sitting on the windowsill, looking at me…from outside.  Yikes!  So far I’ve been successful at keeping him in the back yard, but all he has to do is climb the fence or climb a tree and jump down on the other side.  I rushed out and saw him sitting on the walkway, practically trembling.  He had bitten off more than he could chew.  I called him, and he came right to me, and I scooped him up.  Just purring then.  No shredding.

Toko is like a Rottweiler in cat’s clothing.  But I’ve been there, done that too.  It took the Rottweiler three years to decide I was okay, I don’t think it will take Toko that long.

Toko is hyperalert, and very smart.  For instance, he’s teaching himself to read.  Upside down, even.


Toko the Baby Cat

After 10 days, Toko is starting to look and act more like a miniature cat, as opposed to the clumsy cartoon version of a kitten.   My guess is that he weighs about 1 1/2 pounds now.  His body is longer, and he’s more coordinated.  He is starting to exhibit cat instincts, such as, he just ate a bug.  What a joyful occasion that was.

When I’m home, he sleeps in my purse.  When he’s awake, he is either eating or playing like a maniac.  A maniac on drugs.  He’s learned to be patient and lie in wait for something in motion to pass by.  Such as, my feet.  When I get close enough, he leaps in the air at least a foot.  This is pouncing behavior, and he’s learned the part about leaping up in the air, just not the part about landing on the target.

Food is currently an issue.  I’ve been feeding him dry food moistened with a bit of a product called Catmilk, made by Whiskas.  It’s essentially a substitute for cat mother’s milk.  It’s 98% lactose free, and lactose is the problem cats have with cow’s milk.  In my infinite wisdom, I decided I would start to wean him off that, and bought him canned cat food to mix with his dry food.  He did not seem to recognize it as food.  I’m amazed.  What part of salmon flavored stuff mixed with real (!) tuna flakes do you not understand?  And what part of some little beetle-looking thing looks tastier?

He may not have recognized it as food, but the other cat certainly did.  To his 1 1/2 pounds, she weighs 15 and advanced on him and his food bowl like Godzilla.  Followed closely by the dog, whose motto is, if she can eat it, I can steal it.  Eventually, we have to come up with a new operational feeding plan around here.  At the moment, Toko isn’t big enough to protect himself or his food, so I have to hang around and guard him while he eats.  This is very annoying, because I could be wasting my time in so many other important ways.

Toko is a Mackerel tabby, the most common kind, and I like that.  The patterns on their coats are unique, like zebra stripes.  Fakesister said, they named a cat type after a fish? Allegedly, it’s because the stripes on the body look like fish bones, and they have a pattern of stripes on their foreheads that look like the letter “M”.

Here is a link to all you ever wanted to know about tabby cats.






And Never The Twain Shall Meet

This is not a post about Rudyard Kipling, but about dogs and cats who are twain if I ever I saw one (or two, as the case may be).  The occasion is, I have a new kitten.  His name is Toko (short for Tokoloshe).  Since I’m so knowledgeable about both cats and dogs, I predicted that the current inhabitant cat would be thrilled, because she is very maternal and loves to groom.  I predicted it would take the current inhabitant dog a while to warm up to the kitten, helped along by me frequently saying “NO!  Don’t do that!”

Instead, it’s been the opposite.  The dog’s attitude is, Whatever.  This is Day Two.  The current cat spent yesterday in hiding from the moment Toko peeped, and today has progressed to eventually coming out of hiding to hiss at the kitten, then returning to hiding.    You know, since I’m so knowledgeable and all, I got this completely wrong.


Toko, the peeper.  In this photo, he is sitting on his catnip mouse, in case it tries to escape.

On a second note, there is a viral video going around on YouTube and Facebook of the police shooting a Rottweiler in California.  I’ll spare you the video.  But here is the narrative:  dog owner is walking his dog, while blasting music from his car and taking cellphone pictures of the police who are trying to barricade a house across the street.  They ask him to turn down the music and stop taking pictures.  He doesn’t, so two officers start in his direction.  He puts the dog in the car, and voluntarily turns around to be handcuffed.  Then the dog jumps out of the car, perceiving his owner to be threatened.  (You put your dog in the car with the window open?) The police shoot the dog several times when it appears to be attacking, and the dog appears to be seizuring in the street after being shot.

As the owner of a Rottweiler in the past, I can say that you have a special responsibility when you have one.  They are very territorial and protective, and you have to take extra precautions when you have one.  Which includes not putting your dog in the car with the window open.  This guy knew his dog would react this way, and maybe he thought it would be fun to watch the police be “scared” of his dog.  How ignorant can you get?  The police did not kill his dog, he did.  Of course, he says he is going to sue them.  Good luck.

Let’s return to the happier subject of Toko.  I deliberately brought him home on the afternoon before the July 4th holiday so we would have bonding time and that part is going well.  He follows me everywhere, purrs when you pet him or pick him up, and I’ve discovered what it takes to wean him (I thought he already was, but he isn’t).  I forgot how much fun it is to have a kitten.




Facebook and Cats, Part II

I have a Facebook friend who is having a cat problem.  He recently added a kitten to his family, consisting of wife, child, and older obese cat.  The cat weighs over 20 pounds (sheesh! ) and has been on diet food for ages.  Now he is feeding the kitten kitten food–or trying to. The older cat muscles his way in and snarfs up all the kitten’s food.  So the kitten has no choice but to try to eat the diet food.  Which is a good way to get yourself killed.  (Your food is mine, and my food is mine.  Get it?)

My friend started his post by saying he is a control freak, and therefore the cats are driving him crazy.  Well, of course they are.  I responded, feed the kitten in another room (with the door closed!)  And if that doesn’t work, give up.  He said he couldn’t give up, because he would feel guilty letting the kitten eat grown-up diet food.  All I can say is, pardon the expression, Jesus Christ on a cracker.  There are like a gajillion feral cats and kittens on the planet who have somehow survived by eating (I don’t care to know what they eat, so fill in the blank), and who would be very happy to get cat food of any description.

Guilt is a useful concept, and mostly prevents people from doing things like killing the driver who cut in front of you in traffic.  But guilt over what to feed your cat?  Misplaced.

One of his friends said, You have forgotten the most important lesson there is in life, which is, Never get involved in a land war in Asia.

If you think you can control cat behavior, you are seriously deluded.  Well, you can, if the cat allows it.  This reminds me of the joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a lightbulb.  Only one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

Take my cat, Stormy.  I adopted her from a rescue group at PetsMart.  She’s a very talkative, friendly, and engaging cat.  She never met a stranger.  She doesn’t have a shred of suspicion about humans.  If you visit, don’t sit down.  You will become a new lap for her to sit on.  At PetsMart, she was crying in her cage and reaching her paws out to beg whoever came near.  There was a huge crowd in front of her cage.  I took one look at that and went right to the table and plunked down the money.  Then elbowed my way through the crowd.

I was not prepared to adopt a cat that day.  So I had to buy one of PetsMarts’ ridiculously overpriced cardboard pet carriers in order to bring her home.

While filling out the paperwork and forking over the money, I asked the rescue group what they knew of her history.  As usual, the answer was, not much.  They did share that she had been adopted previously to an elderly woman, who recently gave her back. I said, “Why?”  They said they thought the cat was just too much trouble, but they didn’t really know.  Or so they said.

A few days after bringing her home, I was sitting down and Stormy was weaving back and forth around my legs, when suddenly, without warning, she bit me.  After peeling myself off the ceiling from the shock, I thought, now I understand why the woman gave you back. I had never met a cat who was a biter.

I’ve now had Stormy for nine years.  And do you think I’ve cured her of biting?  Ha!  Please re-read everything I previously said about cats here.  But I have learned to recognize the pre-bite signs and signals.  (You know, like leg-weaving.)  I gently push her away.  This does not have any lasting impact.  Bashing her head with a beer bottle might make more of an impression, but there is the risk that I would end up with a dead cat. As pets go, I personally prefer live ones.

This is the perfect example of how well-trained I am.  If you’re under the impression that you can control a cat, all I can say is…you should get a dog. And good luck with that too.  Dogs are better at giving the illusion that you’re in control.


Facebook and Cat Pictures

Back when I was brand new to Facebook, I posted something (knowing me, it was probably political) and two of my original friends hopped on me instantly.  The message was, leave this crap at home.  Facebook is a SOCIAL network.  It’s for socializing.  While I didn’t respond, I thought to myself, I thought Facebook was whatever you wanted it to be.  And I just continued to post whatever I felt like posting.  And both of them are still my friends.

But I think that attitude may explain the predominance of cute cat pictures on Facebook.  I love cats (and dogs too) but sometimes I just want to go, Please.  Could you get serious for a minute?  Cute kitten and puppy pictures are never controversial.  Here are a couple of recent cat pictures from Facebook:

It’s Cat in a tree

It’s quite amazing that this cat could climb anything, as fat as it is.  But here is an amazing (to me) fact:  cats are much better at climbing up things than they are climbing down.  They don’t want to climb down face down, because if they fall, they will fall on their heads.  But they don’t want to climb down tail first, because they can’t see the dragons waiting to eat them at the bottom. It’s a dilemma.

This why you see, from time to time, stories on the news of the Fire Department rescuing a cat from a tree.  I used to think, what a waste of talent and resources.  Then I saw one such rescue where the Fire Department said, we don’t mind.  It gives us practice using our bucket truck.

My neighbor across the street used to have a kitten who one day crossed the street and climbed a huge pine tree in my front yard.  I looked out and there are all these people in my front yard holding a blanket and encouraging the cat to jump.  I thought this was totally fruitless, and went outside, not to help, but to take pictures of these foolish people.  And I’ll be damned if the cat didn’t jump.  I was amazed.

But since I’ve had cats all my adult life, I know that if you leave a cat alone long enough, it WILL find its way down.

Here’s a second Facebook photo…even cuter.  A mother cat cuddling its kitten.  I reposted that photo (which on Facebook is called “sharing”, and said Cats are great mothers–to a point.)

That point is when the cat mother decides it’s time to go, then she will flay the kitten alive if it attempts to come near her.  None of this nursing until you’re three, and living at home until you’re thirty-five.

I once rescued a kitten in New Orleans, whom I guess was at most, four weeks old.  That’s too young for his mother to have abandoned him.  My guess is that he wandered off and got lost, or something really terrible happened to his mother.  It was during a massive rainstorm.  In any case, he wasn’t weaned, and didn’t know how to eat solid food.  Cats are usually weaned between 3 and 4 weeks old.  I gave him cat food, and he didn’t know what to do with it.  Until I poured milk in it.  But that was a mistake too.  If I’d been smarter, I would have known that cow’s milk is bad for cats.  You can actually buy substitute cat milk.  Who knew?  But he somehow survived for 11 years.

For the first week I had him, I tried to find a home for him.  But giving away a stray kitten in New Orleans was like carrying coals to Newcastle.  Plus, he slept the first night on my shoulder, with his little head buried in my hair and his little back feet propped on my shoulder.  Ick.  He was covered in grit and dirt and fleas.  He continued to do some version of that for the rest of his life.

So…I am not immune to the cute Facebook cat pictures.

Fakename’s Animal Planet: Wild Cats

First we will start with a quiz.  Everybody loves quizzes, right?  You have one minute to name all the wild cats you can think of.  As Ted Allen, host of the Food Network series “Chopped” says, Time starts now!  Fakename will wait.

Okay, Time’s up!  How did you do?  You may be tempted to whine that Fakename did not give you enough time, but a minute is a long time, depending on whether you’re having fun or not.  If you’re on the Space Mountain ride at Disney World, a minute passes by blazingly fast.  If you’re in the dentist’s chair, a minute is half a lifetime.  Time is relative.  I think someone else said that once.

If you’re lucky, you got in lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars.  Or you might have gotten only to lions and tigers before you said…damn you Fakename!  I could have thought of five more if you hadn’t asked me!  That would have been me.  I’d be saying, I’ve only got one minute, and I would be fretting more about the time than about the subject.  See, that thing I said about everybody loving quizzes is not really true.

My sister, who has already taken the quiz verbally, came up with ocelots and civets too.  I think she did very well.   So I’m going to guess that the average number would be around six.  But it could be much higher.

But if you only got as far as lions and tigers, or if you got as far as naming six, don’t feel bad.  There are actually thirty-six distinct species of wild cats.  Who knew?  No matter how many you did name, here’s one I bet you didn’t:  the Margay.   I learned about them last night watching the NatGeo Wild TV channel.

This remarkable animal  is a New World cat, which lives from southern Mexico to northern Argentina.  In other words, it’s a rainforest cat.  Maybe most incredibly, it usually lives its whole life in the trees.  It eats things in trees–birds, monkeys, tree frogs.  It’s small, a little less than six to almost nine pounds.  (Contrast that with my own personal domestic cat, who weighs fifteem.)  It has paws that can rotate 180 degrees.  It can climb down trees headfirst (the only other cat that can do this is the clouded leopard).  It can hang from a branch by one paw.  It can run along the underside of branches upside down.  It can jump 12 feet in one pounce.  I sure would hate to be a tree frog near a Margay.  Of course, I probably wouldn’t want to be a tree frog under any circumstances, but you get my point.

The IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) lists margays as “Near Threatened”.  But I have to tell you–I don’t like them very much.  It takes an Act of God for them to declare a species endangered.  There have to be like, two of the animals in question left on the planet.  You get compromises from the IUCN that are laughable.  Because it’s an international organization, you get powerful members like Japan arguing that whales are not really endangered, for example.  Plus, it has no enforcement arm.  That’s how you get Greenpeace.

Even the UN, which arguably suffers from some of the same ineffectual and impotent “compromise”, at least has enforcement.  But this is not a post about the UN.

Margays are endangered.  Who would argue that rainforests are endangered?  And that’s where Margays live.  They are also hunted for their fur, and for the pet trade.  Who wouldn’t want a cute little seven-pound wild cat?  Well, me for instance. (Except I wasn’t always this smart.)

When I was a kid, growing up in the mountains of North Carolina, we would often go to various locations in the Smoky Mountains, and wherever you go, there are signs that say “Don’t Pick The Flowers!”  And there are some fascinating ones:  Lady’s Slipper, Trillium, Indian Ghost Pipe.  I think of margays like I think of the flowers–don’t pick them.

Fakename’s Animal Planet: Domestic Version

Squirrels:  My last post was about a guy who is shooting squirrels in his back yard.  I have mixed feelings about squirrels.  They annoy me, but I have to tip my hat to their cleverness and persistence and comic antics.  I reluctantly admit that my world would be poorer without squirrels.  Once when there was a tropical storm, the wind was so strong that it blew them out of the trees.  I didn’t see a squirrel for a week.  And I missed them.  (You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone.)  I would never shoot them, even if I were in an area where it was safe.  I don’t believe in killing animals you don’t eat.  Oh wait, I forgot.  People here do eat them.

Cats:  At least at night, the weather here is cooling off, and that energizes cats.  Don’t ask me why.  I’m sure there must be some scientific explanation.  But the cat is whizzing around.  That just amazes me, since she is fat as a pig.  Somehow she works up the energy to whiz.  That’s bad for me.  She leaps off the back of the couch and grabs onto me on her journey…somewhere.  I get more puncture wounds than usual.  Plus, I completely cannot empathize.  I’m getting ready to hibernate.

Dogs:  It’s been a real adjustment for me to get used to the fact that I now only have one dog and one cat.  The last time that was the case was 1998.  So I now know for sure that that is a bad idea when it concerns dogs.  (Cats are different.)  But single dogs develop an exaggerated sense of their importance.  Not that they are entirely wrong.  My now Only Dog Pippin is like the winner of the TV reality show Survivor.  Their motto is Outwit, Outplay, Outlast.  And he thinks he has done that.  Well, no, Pippin.  The only part you got right was Outlast.

And in Pippin’s defense, he is still having trouble eating, because mealtimes do not proceed in the previously normal fashion.  He is having trouble adjusting too.  He just can’t talk about it.  So I feel bad for him.

But in many other ways, Pippin is still the same guy he always was.  He does regular perimeter patrols and is alert to all suspicious noises. (It could be a squirrel fight, it could be an unauthorized person riding a bike down the street.)

He is very protective, at least until he is personally threatened, then I figure he would climb a tree and ask the squirrels if he could hide in their nests.

Neighbor dogs:  I have for many years been the friend and protector of my neighbor dogs Shaka (a purebred Rottweiler), and Sugar and Spice (indeterminate breeds, but look like Golden Retriever mixes.)  And now they have disappeared.  I don’t know what happened to them.  I don’t dare ask the neighbors.  They already think I’m the Wicked Witch of the West.

To them, I’m like the guy who keeps shooting squirrels in the yard.  Annoying, but you can’t get rid of me.  I reported them to Animal Control twice, and Animal Control took it from there.  They seized the dogs 3 times.  So did they do it again?  I don’t know.  But I miss them terribly.

Not A Good Day to be Claritin-Free

When I was a little girl, one of the things I wanted most was a cat.  I wanted a cat like some little girls want a horse (say, for example, my sister). She at least had the sense not to beg.  A horse truly would have been beyond our means, but I thought a cat was quite reasonable.  They are certainly cheaper.  But my mother flatly refused, without ever really giving an explanation.  I thought she just didn’t like them.  That does happen.  But as it turns out, maybe she knew something I didn’t.

When we left home, my sister and I both eventually made our dreams come true.  I got a cat, she got a horse.  That’s when I found out I’m allergic to cats.  And so is my sister.  She is wildly allergic, I’m less so, but I think that’s due to exposure.  I eventually got to the point where I could tolerate my own cats, but I couldn’t be in the same room with someone else’s cat.  Then that got better and I could be in the same room, but I just couldn’t touch them.  That’s very hard to do with cats, who are twining themselves around your ankles and purring, and looking generally very cute and begging to be petted.  But if I succumbed, I would be rewarded with my eyes swelling almost shut and itching, and finding it hard to breathe.  So it wasn’t hard to exercise some discipline there.

Eventually that got better too.  The experts call this “immunomodulation”.  I just learned that word today, and what a good word it is.  Sixteen letters, even.  That would be a great Jeopardy clue.  Normally that has to be accomplished with drugs, but it can also be done by exposure, which leads to greater tolerance.  Most of the time.

As an aside, I have to say that I once saw an allergist after an unfortunate encounter with fire ants, and I got the standard test for all sorts of allergens, including cats.  The test showed that I am not allergic to cats, so I promptly dismissed the test.  Now that I know more than I did then about medical tests of all kinds, I know that I was right.  Tests are inadequate.  Period.  They are an aid, but they are not infallible.  I also tend to have what are undoubtedly allergy symptoms every spring and fall, but the test did not show any allergy to pollen, the likely cause.  In spite of that, I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to oak pollen.  The tests did show that I am seriously allergic to fire ant stings  Duh.  This reminds me of my former car, which had a “low traction” light.   You could be sliding across ice and spinning around three times before the light came on.  Duh.  Thanks for telling me.  Lucky for me, the allergist was very smart.  I’ve been lucky that way–to find doctors who are very smart.  He said, I know you’re allergic to something–I just don’t know what it is.

So the exposure thing has worked well for me, except some times.  Because immunomodulation (I just had to say that again) does not mean you’re cured.  One of those times was last night, when I suddenly couldn’t breathe.  Normally I buy Claritin in packs of 10 tabs, which is not cheap, but I don’t need them that often.  Maybe once every three months.  So here I am, pawing through my handbag in the middle of the night, and I can’t find any.  Arrgh!  This is like trying to use the copier in my office, and it’s out of paper.  Who!!!! I scream,was the last person to use this copier without replacing the paper?  In this case, that would be me.  So, I had three choices.  Go to the pharmacy.  Go to the ER.  Lie down and concentrate only on breathing.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.   I picked Option 3.  In between screaming at the cat to get away.  Get Away Now!  Get Away or You Die!  That kind of thing.

So I must end with a story about Fakesister.  Sorry FS, you will now become the unwitting star of this post.  If I have as much trouble as I do, you can imagine what it must be like for Fakesister.  So one day, I accompanied Fakesister to her horse barn.  Where there are horse barns, there is horse food.  Where there is horse food, there are rodents.  Where there are rodents, there are cats.  Ergo, horse barns equal barn cats. QED.

So her horse Hoover has the condo of stalls, and it’s large enough for Fakesister to keep her own tack cabinet in it.  It contains all the minor accessories needed for horse care–brushes, hoof picks, bridles, and bags of baby carrots, etc.  On this day, she is preparing to open the cabinet when out of nowhere, a tiny black barn cat appears.  (Barn cats all seem to be small and stunted.)  The cat is weaving itself through her ankles and I’m like…Alarm!  Alarm!  But she’s wearing leather riding boots, so no harm done. The cat isn’t actually touching her.

So Fakesister opens the cabinet, and what to my wondering eyes should appear?  A bag of cat treats.   I thought, Are you crazy?! But here is what I think the deal is.  My sister loves all creatures, as do I.  It isn’t just allergies that are genetic.

Stormy the Cat and the Mysteries of Cathood

Today I was struck by the differences between Stormy and the dogs.  This does not apply to all cats.  But the Doberman, for example, would never have voluntarily fallen asleep that close to the cat.

Stormy will sometimes park herself in the middle of the floor, for no apparent reason.  If that happens to be in a place where there is no way around her, you have two choices.  Step over her, or get her to move.  Any self-respecting dog would move, since they wisely don’t trust that you won’t accidentally step on them.  On the rare occasions when they don’t move, it’s the law that they must do so as soon as you start to step over them, thereby hopelessly entangling themselves in your legs.  I broke a rib that way once.  Stormy just continues to lie there.  She’s either very trusting, or very clueless.  Possibly both.

When the Doberman died, almost two weeks ago now, my other dog was clearly affected by it.  Stormy did not appear to notice.  However, today I found her lying in the floor in front of his crate, staring inside.  Maybe it just took her a while to notice, or maybe she noticed all along and I wasn’t good enough to pick up the cat signals.

When Troughton the Doberman was alive, he didn’t live in the crate, he just ate there, to prevent the other dogs from snarfing up his food and causing him to have to fight for it.  One of Stormy’s favorite activities was to go in his crate and pee on his sheepskin pad.  Bonus points if he was actually eating in the crate at the time.

Since he died, she hasn’t set foot in the crate.  The door is closed, but she can open it, as she has done many times before.  I guess the bloom is off the rose.

When I first got Troughton, I had three other dogs instead of just one, including a Rottweiler.  Those were interesting times, in a sort of quasi-scientific way.  Interesting to see how Troughton, who had always been an “only” dog,  find his position in the pack.  He was helped along greatly by the Rottweiler, who finally settled the matter by biting Troughton.  Besides being interesting, it was also terrifying, so I don’t mean to minimize it.  I had never been that enamored of Troughton’s alleged intelligence, but in this case, he got the picture fairly quickly.  His place in the pack went… straight to the bottom.  He didn’t really allow himself to be bullied, but neither would he challenge them.  A wise decision:  if Troughton had challenged one of the two smaller dogs, he would have brought on the wrath of the Rottweiler, who would literally die protecting his pack.   If that isn’t some form of intelligence, then I don’t understand the word.

Stormy has excellent cat radar.  She can be lying in the middle of the floor, or in a kitchen chair, but if I lie down on the couch, she is right there in seconds, settling herself next to my chest and purring.  Ahem, Stormy.  My plan was to take a nap.  Who can sleep with this infernal racket going on?  I gaze fondly back at the days when I also had a cat named Erin, who was so quiet that in order to tell if he was purring, you would have to put your hand on his throat.

It’s a well-known fact that dogs are dependent beings, because we’ve made them that way over the centuries.  Cats are considered to be more independent, which, as far as I’m concerned, is not supported by the evidence.  Cats are notorious attention-grabbers, as illustrated by the cartoon to follow.

Over a lifetime association with both dogs and cats, I can confidently say this:  dogs and cats are different.

Critter Update

The Doberman is apparently feeling quite sprightly, which is a good thing, since he is just about 2 1/2 months away from turning 13.  Thereby having already outlived the average Doberman lifespan of 10-12 years.

The thing is, he looks absolutely terrible.  He has a condition called…wait for it…dry eye.  This causes him to produce copious amounts of mucus in his right eye, so that it looks infected, but the vet says it isn’t.  It’s just irritated.  The eye drops they gave me (the doggie form of Restasis for humans) don’t work.  Take a moment here to imagine how much fun it is to put eye drops in the eye of a Doberman.

So lately I have taken to removing the gunk from his eye with a Q-tip.  This is very scary.  Because if he makes a sudden move, I could poke a hole in his eye.  That would not be good.  But he’s a very good and trusting boy, so he mostly stays still…for a short time.  I have a small window of opportunity there.  But I feel compelled to do it, because when I say copious, I do mean that.  It practically coats his eye, which has to be uncomfortable and verging on blinding.  Sometimes he will rub the right side of his face on the couch to try to dislodge it, but that doesn’t work.  It does tell me that he’s uncomfortable.  So I will keep doing it.

Nevertheless, it apparently doesn’t bother him that much.  He’s developed a relatively new short, sharp bark.  He uses this to warn the Basenji mix (aka Pippin the Beast) that he plans to drink from the community water bowl.  As far as Pippin is concerned, the water bowl is far too close to his food bowl.  For it to be far enough away, it would have to be across the street.

It would help if Pippin hadn’t developed the new habit of leaving a few morsels of food in his bowl.  I assume that gives him a reason to be protective at all times.  That must be more fun.

So, what to do?  Well, here’s my strategy.  I stay out of it.  I think that in spite of my alleged status in our tiny pack,  and in fact because of it, I can’t be in charge of everything.  You guys are dogs.  Work it out.  What I would like to do, most of the time, is kill Pippin.  Except of course, I could never do that.  When it’s just him and me, he is the most incredibly loyal and affectionate being who ever existed.  So I inadvertently have learned how to do what the experts say:  Always support the alpha, no matter what.  It may seem counterintuitive (because you’d like to kill them), but if you don’t kill them, supporting them and giving them confidence makes it safer for the other dog(s).

Meanwhile, I have a cat, Stormy, who is solid white and fat as a pig.  If it’s possible, she is even more affectionate than either of the two dogs.  As demonstrated by the fact that at night, she likes to sleep on my knee.  The one I recently sprained.  Which still hurts.  A whole world awaits her out there when it comes to places to sleep.  But, no.  Perhaps she has delusions of having healing powers.  I joke, but it’s gotten somewhat ridiculous.  And I cannot completely dismiss the idea.

But she looks terrible too.  There is a particular place on the back of her neck that she scratches when she has a flea or fleas.  Living here in the near-tropics, fleas and mosquitos are a way of life.  But three days ago I treated her for fleas and all the other evil beasties, and this morning, the place on her neck is worse.  I think she’s become immune to this medication, which happens.

And plus, I have my own health to think of.  Fleas don’t bother me, but mosquitos are an entirely different matter.  It probably doesn’t help that I just finished a book about malaria–even though there is no malaria in the U.S.  But there is West Nile Virus.  Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

If  someone could figure out how to make mosquitos extinct…sign me up.

Meanwhile, I am helping to pay the rent for Cutter, maker of what I would call personal insecticides.  I use one without DEET.  I hate DEET.

I can’t stand not going outside, but I’m well aware that it’s a crapshoot.  That one tiny place on your…elbow, ear, neck…where your insecticide didn’t reach…is the very place you could be bitten by an infected mosquito.  It only takes one.  But I can’t live like that.

So me and the two dogs and the cat are toughing it out.