Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter...

For my final post of August, I'm pleased to present our new cat. We call her Ruby Tuesday. On Wednesday we call her Sophie. On Thursday, she's Rita. Friday, Rosie. Today we're trying out Peggy Sue. (Peggy for short, and actually we're re-trying it.) Obviously the issue is not quite settled. T.S. Eliot was right: Naming cats isn't as easy as you'd think.

Someone suggested we call her Coco, as in Chanel, since she's number 5. (Had to Google that one. Ha-ha. And yeah, I know--who needs five cats? Believe me, you are preaching to the choir!)

Peggy's obviously not feral, since she walked right up to Jeannie on the hillside behind McDonald's last week for some laying on of hands. A true feral wouldn't do that, not right away, and probably not ever. No, like Rocky and Gracie (our numbers 3 and 4), she was a "dump-ee" who was dropped off by some dunderhead. J had gone there to feed the regular residents, who were no-shows that day. When Peggy appeared, J thought it was Penny, the first feral she ever caught, but soon realized it was a newcomer. Peggy was starved for food and affection and got plenty of both. As J left the colony site to come home, Peggy followed her all the way down to our car. So J called Bob, one of her cat-catching comrades, who brought over a carrier. A short while later Peggy was in our garage, fussing about her new temporary accommodations.

At first J and M were going to name her Rainy (maybe spelled Raney), because just as Jeannie put her into the carrier to bring her home, the sky opened up. But soon that name struck them as overly gloomy. Next they thought about Emmylou, since her voice reminded them of Emmylou Harris's, if Emmylou Harris had laryngitis. Then Mike came up with Peggy Sue, which is the name of a song from the 1950s. It was written by a guy named Buddy Holly and was one of a number of big hits for his band, The Crickets. Buddy Holly is also remembered for his distinctive glasses, which looked a lot like mine:

My sister Jenny likes the name Peggy Sue, since it sort of rhymes with Gracie Lou, the extended name of our other girl cat, and also because she says my extended name could be Buddy Holly. Looking at the picture above, I tend to agree with her. (For more about famous humans named Buddy, click here.)

But other name possibilities kept flitting through M and J's heads, and it wasn't long before they were second-guessing themselves. In addition to Rainy (Raney), Emmylou, Peggy Sue, Ruby, Sophie, Rita, and Rosie, they've thought about Gigi, Gina, Annie, Pippi, Maggie, Dolly, Amy, Carmen, Janis (M says that would be a good match for our second cat, Arlo), Ivy, Jessie, Lydia, Lolita, Mimi, Zelda, Sasha, Fiona, Norah, Dinah, Dixie, Winnie, Minnie, Gabby, Carrie, Hannah, Loretta, Nellie Belle, Sadie, Patsy, Iris, Doris, Milly, Tilly, Ziva, Savannah (maybe Vanna for short), Stella, Willow, Sheila, and Olivia. Oh--they also mentioned Eartha Kitty, apparently inspired by another famous singer with a rather distinctive voice.

My other sister, Bonnie, says we ought to consider Elsie, too, because that was Grandma Grace's first name and it would be a good match for Gracie. (That's true. But unfortunately Gracie can't seem to stand Peggy and won't have anything to do with her, except for hissing and growling at her.) Do you have a favorite from this bunch--or can you think of another good name for Peggy? Or does Peggy Sue sound okay? Please let me know, as the name game is making me nervous. M says it's wearing him out, too. Just for the heck of it, I asked him if any names are off the table, and he said yes: Tabby Turdstockings.

J brought Peggy home a week ago yesterday, just before dark. The next morning she took her to the vet to see if she had a microchip that would identify her owner. Also J was concerned because she thought Peggy looked pregnant. The doctor said no, there was no chip, and that he didn't think she was pregnant, but that she had recently had kittens! This threw Jeannie for a loop, because if there were kittens wandering around on the hill behind McDonald's, they didn't need to be without their mama for three or four days. So she and Mike took Peggy back up to the hill and let her out, to see if she'd head for her kittens.

Peggy just stood there by the feeding station, winding around J's ankles. J fed her and then started walking around looking for kittens. And just like the day before, Peggy began following her, but she didn't act like she knew where any kittens might be. Mike had a camera with him and recorded the event:

Finally, once M and J were sure there were no kittens nearby, they put Peggy back into the carrier and brought her back to the kennel in our garage. On Monday J took her to the Pet Vet Cruiser, then it was back to the garage until Thursday. (By the way, the Pet Vet doc said Peggy had never been pregnant, but that she apparently showed signs of false pregnancy!) When M and J finally brought her into the house, they put her into a small kennel and introduced her to cats 1 through 4 one at a time. Here she is meeting Arlo.

Willis tiptoes cautiously past. Peggy looks pretty bored with the whole thing.

Once she had the run of the house, it didn't take Peggy long to find the chow hall.

 Relaxing with yours truly and showing off her bodacious owie:

Our friend Bonnie brought over a mysterious contraption that has something living in it. Here's a YouTube video of Peggy and Willis giving it a pretty good workout:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A dog walks into a nursing home . . .

That sounds like a setup for a great joke, doesn't it? (A dog walks into a nursing home. The guy at the front desk says, "Why the long face?") But according to Mike, it's the title of a great book by a lady named Sue Halpern.

The book is about the author's dog, a Labradoodle named Pransky, and how Ms. Halpern trained her to be a therapy dog. It goes on to describe the adventures they had visiting people in a nursing home called County. On a deeper level, it's about valuable lessons that Pransky taught Ms. Halpern through their visits with the nursing home residents--lessons about seven things called virtues. In fact the book's subtitle is: "Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher," though I'm not sure what makes a dog an unlikely teacher. I've been teaching M and J all kinds of valuable stuff ever since I let them rescue me from my life in the jungle almost three-and-a-half years ago.

I'm glad that M enjoyed this book and that he told me about it, because I've been interested in therapy dogs for some time. Regular readers of my blog may remember that I was once mistaken for a therapy dog when I went with M and J to visit my Grandpa George in a hospice. As we walked into the lobby, a lady was leaving with a group of children and said, "Oh, look, kids, it's one of those feel-good dogs!" I wasn't sure what she meant at first. But as soon as M clued me in and everyone there started talking nice to me and a nurse gave me graham crackers and another one said I'd make a good therapy dog--man, I was stoked! For a while I thought about trying to become a real therapy dog or maybe some other type of service dog, tempted by glamorous pictures such as this one. But in the end I thought I'd best leave that to dogs with more energy and focus, like Pransky, and stick to what I do best. Things like holding down couches.

Me & Arlo

Because Pransky worked in a nursing home, where the residents usually spend the last part of their lives, it's not surprising to learn that a key player in the book is death. That doesn't mean it's an overly sad book, but rather a realistic one.

I guess one part that is pretty sad from a surviving loved one's viewpoint is where Ms. Halpern talks about how people who love dogs will probably outlive several of their own. This puts them in a more-or-less constant state of "grieving in anticipation of grief." Strange, she says, but love will do that. As a dog who outlived his first owner, I can sort of relate to that feeling, but not completely, since I didn't expect my person to die. But afterwards I was very sad for a long, long time. I'm glad, frankly, that dogs don't have to go through this very often. Some, possibly most, never do. For this reason, I think that dogs who are lucky enough to have good, loving homes are luckier than their people.

Mike says what he liked best about A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home is its positive message of how the seven virtues of restraint, prudence, faith, fortitude, hope, love, and charity can lead to a fulfilling life, even if it doesn't turn out to be as long as you'd like. And he says Ms. Halpern tied things up nicely when she wrote, "Of all the things I learned going to County with my dog, this was the most valuable: though we are made of memories, we live only in the here and now."

M definitely gives the book two thumbs up. I would, too, if I had any thumbs.

Sue Halpern & Pransky

Friday, August 9, 2013

I'll go back to Tara . . .

. . . and as God is my witness, I'll never have to wear window curtains again!

Mike had to explain this one to me. It's a book/movie/TV comedy show allusion to the fact that Bonnie and Fred are moving. They're leaving a place M says is in the Land of the Wind Chill Factor and returning to the Old South. Not the Deep South, however, but someplace called Virginia, where he says it still gets pretty cold. I don't know why they don't just come on down to Florida, instead.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen . . .

Every now and then, when our cats are in the kitchen looking for food, which is almost anytime Jeannie or Mike go in there, J or M will say that they're "sharking around." I never quite got the gist of the term until I saw some recent TV coverage of hungry sharks feeding on smaller fish. (This week, it seems, is Shark Week, so . . . um . . . Happy Shark Week!)

Then today someone sent J a video clip that puts a whole new spin on the cat-sharking-around phenomenon. Check this out:

Let me make a couple of observations: First, that is one clean kitchen floor. The cat in the shark suit must drive the wheels off of that little vacuum to keep everything so spotless. And we know the vacuum really works from the way it finally sucks up the piece of trash lying just in front of the far right cabinet. (Though in this case it appears to drop it again in practically the same spot.)

But second and more importantly, notice which critter very appropriately gets the kiss at the end of the movie. We have that same pecking order in our house.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What soulless numbskull would kill a creature like this?

Ella the Cemetery Deer is dead, shot by "someone with a hard heart and a confused mind," according to Elmwood Cemetery board member Bruce Mathews.

Ella's body was found Sunday, and the details and shocked reactions were reported yesterday by Matt Campbell in The Kansas City Star. Mr. Campbell has followed Ella's story--which has mostly been a happy one--since at least early last December. On December 6th The Star published this article that tells of Ella's growing friendship with a stray dog that had taken up residence in the cemetery.

A follow-up piece on December 11th told of cemetery officials' decision to have the dog, then called ET (short for EpiTaph), taken to an animal shelter for medical treatment and to await adoption, since she would have a hard time surviving the winter outdoors. Both of Mr. Campbell's December articles were the subject of my New Year's Day blog post called "The True But Unfinished Story of a Deer and Her Dog."

On March 14th of this year, television station KCTV5 continued the Ella-and-ET saga by reporting that the dog had been adopted by a local family and renamed Moxxie. (Note: In the original TV news transcript, and therefore my post about it, the name was spelled "Moxie." But a shelter spokesperson tells Mr. Campbell that "Moxxie" is the correct spelling.) The story also said that Ella was still thriving in the 43-acre cemetery despite having been attacked by wild dogs. (It's unfortunate, but just as there are human ass-hats with more bullets than brains, there also dogs that don't know how to behave.) Cemetery board member Mathews expressed hope that Moxxie could come back to Elmwood in the near future to visit her old friends. These events were passed along to my blog followers in my "Good news!" post of March 26th.

And now "The True But Unfinished Story of a Deer and Her Dog" is finished--at least the deer part. Unless, as Elmwood supporter Anita Gorman says in Campbell's latest article, someone with information on the shooter comes forward. Please, Mr. Campbell, try to find the information that will nail this dirt-bag to the wall. Don't let him get away with it.

PS - For a wonderful slideshow of Ella and ET, most of the pictures courtesy of Bruce Mathews, follow this link.