Patches, Stay Put

My friend, Carol Mazurek of Huntington, West Virgina doesn’t have much of an internet presence.  If you Google her name you she may be part of a list of Carol Mazureks throughout the country.  Now Carol does have a web page thanks to her publisher Mid-Atlantic Highlands, an imprint of Publisher’s Place.  Her web site is part of the promotion of her new book Patches, Stay Put.  If you know to look for the book, you will find Carol on the web. 

I met Carol when hosted an Artist’s Way group in her home.  Carol is  a master gardener, photographer, painter, and multi media artist, and now she has used her talents as an artist to illustrate the story of her pet cockatiel, Patches.  The book begins with Carol and her son in her garden (perhaps taking a hike) making plans for the season, when they find Patches.

“It seems someone took the time to teach him an array of tricks. Patches proved to be smart, silly, sassy, sociable, and always made his presence known. He also had a moody side that would keep you at a distance. I omitted that side of him in the book. Aside from those bouts he was sweet and brought much fun and joy to us,” said Carol.

Patches was her only pet, until she went back to work and purchased another cockatiel to, Bernie, to keep Patches company.  It turned out Bernie, was really Bernadette.  Patches was aloof with her.  Patches found a friend in Carol’s father who came to live with her in 2008 or 2009.   A small timid stray dog also joined the family around this time.  But only Patches inspired her to write and illustrate a book.

“Doing both writing and illustrating is not common but I felt no one else knew Patches like I did. It was uncharted territory, challenging and rewarding at the same time,”  said Carol.

What is Carol’s artistic background?  ” I remember oil painting in the 70’s and other art projects. Not until the early 80’s did I pursue a degree in art from State University of New York at Buffalo. I loved painting but received a Fine Arts Degree in Photography in hopes to be more employable. Today, watercolor is a medium I enjoy but my first love is photo collage which I incorporate watercolor and other mix media.”

“Back in 2001 I won first place ($400) in a juried photography exhibit sponsored by physicians in a hospital I had been employed. Interestingly it was my very first photo collage. I had taken photos of a Victorian garden and was published in “Victorian Magazine”. Through the years honorable mention and monetary prizes have been received for my watercolor art including purchased works.”

“With the writing of “Patches” I have been honored to be juried into “Tamarack”, West Virginian’s prestigious art center,” said Carol.

All ages will enjoy the adventures of Patches.  I hope you will share this book with the children in your lives.

Stubborn Conviction

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Brutus is a dog with allergies.  It is a bad idea to let Brutus on the grass, or to feed him treats of any kind, or to let him run free off leach.  This seems  harsh to most dog lovers.  Never let your dog run.  Never give your dog a treat.  Never even let your dog touch the grass.  It sounds like one of those animal abuse posters with the pitiful looking pup who has had to live in a cage its entire life.

This is hard on us, and hard on poor pitiful Brutus.  Brutus loves the grass.  Brutus likes to take care of his business on the grass.  He rolls in, and stretches out on, and even eats the grass.  Brutus hates the new rules.

To be honest, I’m not at all sure we can keep the new rules.  They are darn inconvenient.

The new rules mean teaching an 8-year-old dog new ways of doing things.  These new ways of doing things are new for us also.  We have to actually walk our dog on a leash in the street and keep him off the grass.  We would have to do this every single time he needs to relieve himself.  This is the hardest for us.  We like to boot the dogs out the back door, fresh from our sheets, and let them in after they have taken care of business.  We actually do this several times a day, on their demand, but that is where grass is.  Until the last time at night, when we tuck them into their little beds.

The new rules mean changing the habit of a treat before bed, not just for Brutus, but for Penny, because you cannot interfere with the pack dynamic by showing favorites.  I tried to fool them by giving them each a little snack of their dog food, but they were not fooled.  Penny barked her protest, and Brutus silently begged.  It also means no more licking off the dinner plates.  The dogs are not happy.

The leash, by now is obvious, plus the fact that neither dog, once loose, wants to run and play where they may, and refuse to come when called.  They always come back, but we have some neighbors who do not love our dogs nearly as much as we do, and of course, the neighbors all have grass.

So why am I putting myself, Hubby, and dogs through all this.  I am putting us all through this, because of a continuously itchy dog, several hundred dollars in vet bills, and allergy testing that shows Brutus is allergic to just about everything, and the vet says we are entering the worst part of the allergy season.

I can hear your question.  Why don’t we give him allergy treatment?  Well, we are, but allergy treatments take months to work.  Repeated skin infections are not being controlled by medicated soap, antihistamines, and anti-itch sprays, and we are entering the worst part of the allergy season.

But even knowing all of this, as soon as I turn my back, Hubby lets the dog go up onto grass.  Hubby thinks it is beyond cruel to not give the dogs any treats at all.   So I have to be stubborn.

Normally stubborn has a negative connotation.  Stubborn is synonymous with obstinate, pig-headed, obdurate, contrary, perverse, recalcitrant, inflexible, uncompromising, and unbending.

But I have the conviction of my knowledge that, for now, this is the right thing to do.  I would never be able to stick with this plan if I wasn’t convinced it was necessary.  I know I’m right, so if you want to call me stubborn, I can live with that.

Feral

Crouched defensively, hissing and spitting with claws drawn.  The message was clear.  Stay away.  Unfortunately this was my bathroom and I needed to be in there.

I know people who have said, “Okay cat, this is your space, and I’ll run down stairs to the guest bath as long as you live.”  The bathroom door is closed, and posted with a keep out sign.  Food and water is shoveled in, and you get in and out to take care of the cat box as quickly as possible.  It’s just life with cat.

Whisper wasn’t that lucky.  Whisper had me, and the door was left open.  Whisper came to our home with our boy, who brought this critter with him when he joined our family.  Trying to prove to us that he knew better, our boy promptly got bit.  We were not going to have a cat biting our boy in our home.  We made a plan.

The food was taken out of the bathroom and the door was left open.  Only our boy hand-fed Whisper, who was his cat.  A bonding experience for cat and boy.  Whisper did get a little hungry before he would accept the food offered.  Ironically, when our boy was first adopted, he got a little hungry when he refused to take part in our family life, and was served his food at the dining room table like a boarder, as the kitchen was for family.  Bonding can be a difficult processes when you haven’t had a loving family.

Feeding Whisper twice a day our boy tested how far he could get the cat to go out of the bathroom.  After a week Whisper was out in the hall, but would run back to the safety of the bathroom.  Fortunately we could use the room again, while the cat watched for any threatening moves.  At the end of the second week, Whisper would come down the stairs to the main level of the house for his food.  It took a month to get Whisper to the foodbowl in the laundry room where our other cat, Francis Ann, would eat.

Once Whisper got out of the bathroom, conflict between the cats was addressed, with a water bottle.  The cat that hissed, or showed any thought of aggression, got discouraged with a spray. Our 85 pound dog, Buster, longed to be friends with Whisper, and would stay just far enough away to be protected from a swipe of the paws.  Eventually, Whisper accepted the big lug.

Getting Whisper out of the bathroom was only part of the plan.  We also needed to be able to handle him without getting bit.  We used a back-scratcher with a long handle to gently touch the cat.  Whisper quickly learned he could not intimidate the back scratcher with his claws.  Soon Whisper was tolerating the scratcher, I’m not sure he ever got to the point of enjoying it.  Slowly I inched my hand to the claw of the scratcher, until I could actually touch Whisper.  A few times a day, I would force this attention onto the once aggressive Whisper.

At some point, Whisper was able to live peacefully with the family, enjoyed petting from everyone, shared the cat box and food bowl, made friends with Buster, and enjoyed the freedom of the entire house.

I call this a happy ending.

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April and Resolutions

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Meet  Brutus.  This small dog will be a major part of my 2016 fitness  program.  Brutus has allergies, to nearly everything!    We have had allergy testing.  Fortunately Brutus is not allergic to the cats.  He is allergic to the most common ingredients in dogfood, grass, weeds, trees, flees, and those invisable to the eye mites.  I can’t control all of these things, but I have spent time the past few days cleaning, vacuuming  (with filters),and moving out as many of the offending  materials as possible.  Keeping this dog happy and healthy is going to be a lot of work.

All of this activity fits in nicely with my New Year’s goal of loosing weight and getting more active.   Normally I am a passable housekeeper, now I need to upgrade my efforts to a higher level.  Allergies and dust do not make for a happy, healthy pup.

Like most people, I start off strong with my weight loss resolutions, renew my efforts just before swimsuit season, and again in September when the start of school has been seems like a time for beginnings for many of us.  Now here we are in 2016 and I am nearly as big as I have ever been.  There are reasons galore  (excuses? ).  I’ve been sick, have some joints going bad, I was grieving the loss of my parents, and distressed over the state of the world.

Throughout the month of December I began recording everything I ate.  Just this one act made me aware of  how much I really eat, and why I eat.  With this knowledge fresh in  mind I have a plan.

  1. My meals will be healthy and delicious.  I am to old to feel deprived.  None of us should be deprived.
  2. I will eat a healthy dessert.   Some say a healthy dessert is impossible, but I  disagree.  Life is just better with dessert,  and I will not be  deprived.
  3. I will continue to use my meal planning app to make sure I stay on track.
  4. I will be more active, thanks to Brutus, and the YMCA and the women in  my water aerobics class.  As I get stronger, I’ll explore the Y and see what else is fun to do.
  5. I will take every opportunity to go out to eat with others, making my friends the focus of the meal.
  6. I  will be prepared for those times that could be a set back.  Those times when I am traveling, sick, of face with unexpected temptation.
  7. I will use my time to write, sew, camp, and find other activities to add enjoyment to my life.

Sure I have tried to do all of this stuff, but I get lazy, careless, and let my old habits take over.  I have come to realize that consistency is the most important skill I need to develop.  Like most of you, I have been on enough diets to know what works, but have been derailed by the exceptions.  I have come to realize that there are no exceptions for my health.  If I want something, I will fit it in.  I will not deprive myself, but the thing I want most is my health.

If I missed anything I need to keep in focus let me know.  If you would like to be kept in the loop on my progress let me know.

 

Finding Your Place

Being under the weather during a polar vortex isn’t the worst thing. I cancelled everything and climbed under a blanket with my pups and a kitten to sleep my way to better health and watched television to keep me company. Unfortunately the news was full of gun violence, including, local people who shot their family members, protests against police shootings of young black men, ISIS violence, the Sony hack, and terrorism in France. I try to bring something positive into the world with my writing, and I was not feeling good about anything.

I don’t know how to bring about world peace, but I thought I would share with you how peace has been restored to my home. In October A Black Cat Crossed My Path. Hubby named her Shadow, and she has grown from shy, frightened kitten into a confident and playful young cat.

The dogs, Penny and Brutus, just wanted to be friends and play, but Shadow didn’t speak dog, and was a frightened hissing ball of claws. Both dogs gave Shadow her space at great cost to themselves. with Shadow occupying my lap, the dogs were fearful of occupying their normal places at my side, or feet. I did not let that go on for long. The dogs were here first, and I did not want them to end up resentful of the kitten, so I installed the dogs in their proper places at my side, and feet and tossed a blanket over all, and Shadow came up to join us. Shadows discovery of the dogs, sent them running, but I brought them back to their places. Shadow quickly learned that is she wanted to sit with Mommy, she had to tolerate the dogs.

Peaceful coexistence grew as Shadow learned the meaning of gentle. Teeth and claws must be put away during petting and playtime, and are not to be used against family members. A flick of the finger was enough to get Shadow to back off, but I would have graduated to a squirt from a water bottle, if that had been necessary. I had several conversations with Shadow, holding her firmly, containing her claws securely, while introducing her to the friendly dogs, allowing the dogs to sniff and come close. Once Shadow learned the dogs would not hurt her, she settled down and the dogs happily made room for Shadow.

Blue was another matter. I figured my handsome gray male cat could handle a kitten, after I made clear to him that this creature was now part of the family. Cat fights are not tolerated between family members. A reminder to be gentle was all Blue needed. If not, the water bottle would have targeted the aggressor. It was enough. They share a food bowl. Blue has asserted his right to play with toys he hasn’t been interested in for a long time. They run through the house after each other, and Shadow is seen peaking around corners stalking Blue who sits provocatively in the middle of the room. Shadow pounces and the wrestling commences. Hubby and I enjoy the show.

Shadow is definitely my cat, but Blue is hubby’s cat. Everyone has found their place, and our new routine has fitted Shadow into the family happily. If only a reminder to be gentle could solve all of our conflicts.

You Better Watch Out

Our dogs got an early Christmas gift: a great tasting food.  I know the food is great tasting because Piggy Penny, our Miniature Pincer, not only gobbled hers up, but Brutus’s share also, and begged for more.  Brutus is a Boston Terrier and he has allergies, and the new food will hopefully help his itchiness and tendency to ear infections.  The new food is half the cost of the not as tasty prescription food Brutus was on, so we thought we would give it a try.

Brutus is a lover with a tongue that a frog would be proud of, and takes dead aim for your mouth.  Brutus is one of the more expensive dogs we have accepted into our home.  Brutus has had nose surgery as a pup to allow him to breathe, knee surgery, continuous ear infections, and now a malignant Mast Cell Tumor.  One problem Brutus does not have is over weight.  Brutus eats when he is hungry.  We can leave food down for Brutus all day and he will only eat when he is hungry.

Min-Pins are known as high-strung dogs, and Penny is no exception, but she is so hyper that she is on doggie Prozac.  She intimidates dogs twenty times her size, and though she has never bitten anyone, she is a snappy dog and I would not put it past her.  No amount of food leaves Penny satisfied.  Penny loves the new food and is begging to eat even after eating Buster’s food also.  Penny is twelve years old, and not slim and trim as the delicate pup she was, but she is lucky to have me to enforce some degree of moderation.

Eating healthfully is difficult for many of us people also.  I tend to eat more like Penny than Brutus.  I once read that those of us who want to eat all the time have more active taste buds.  Food tastes better to us.  Science tells us there are many things that contribute to overeating, including stress, inactivity, distracted eating, boredom, and loneliness.  Whatever the reasons science might find to explain why we overeat, add holiday fare at parties and during family get togethers, and it is easy to understand why some of us just relax our healthy everyday standards of eating and enjoy.  Include the fudge and cookies that are in many homes, and the result is holiday weight gain.

We are all adults here, and I am not going to tell you not to eat.  That is our choice, yours and mine.  Penny has me, and I will keep her at a healthy level.  Now if I could only take care of myself as well as I take care of the dogs.

All God’s Creatures

Pope Francis said all of God’s creatures go to heaven while comforting a boy after the loss of his beloved dog. I will love to see all my dogs in heaven, where there is no shedding, and poop pick up. Or maybe there is shedding and poop pick up, but only the people “in hell” have to worry about keeping everything pristine.

I picture my Dad, Bernhard (Bernie) Schapiro, feeding all the dogs he loved in life little bits of cheese, and tossing them balls and a Frisbee for my sweet Buster. Buster who could bounce a basketball off his nose for the kids, who loved rolling and jumping through snow and chasing snowballs. Buster was a Blue Heeler/Dalmatian, or as we called him, a Dogstralian American, an 85 pound dog who loved nearly everyone. I let him chase squirrels who run to the nearest tree, but not rabbits, and he chased cats if they would run, but he loved all of God’s creatures.

Buster was an 85 pound power house of a dog. At four months old Buster was so strong that we enrolled him into a training program. What we learned in training with Buster has helped us train every dog we have had since. A well-trained, well mannered, dog makes a happy dog and a happy owner. A skilled trainer understands the dogs instincts, which vary for each dog of different breeds, and how to deal with problem you might be having. The trainer teaches you how to communicate your wishes to your dog. Everyone ends up happy, even strangers who your dog will meet.

With proper training your dog can give you a bit of heaven here on earth.

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