Category Archives: Pets

BELLA

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I sit in front of a blank screen wondering where to begin to describe the story of my dear Bella and how much I loved her. “Oh, come on” some people who don’t understand would say, “she was just a dog.” But that’s not true.  She was my faithful companion, comical sidekick, a full-of-love bunny who spent most of her 12 years keeping me company and moving me forward during a time of transitioning from a full, happy family household to a divorced empty nester living on a shoestring budget of nothing. She gave me purpose, kept me well-exercised and chased the crushing blows of loneliness away with her steadfast companionship and funny antics. To know she was there and needed me, too, made all the difference in the world to me because with her I never felt alone.

Bella came to me as a rambunctious, border-line wild, 14-week-old Labrador retriever puppy.  I adopted her from a family who claimed they became “allergic” to her and had to get rid of her. When I went to pick her up, she was literally bouncing off the walls from one end of the room to the other.  Her name at the time, “Lightening,” was telling. She chewed the furniture, ripped up kitchen linoleum, broke baby gates, and generally drove me to the point of exhaustion. She wasn’t a cuddly dog, but I was never out of her sight, and when I was upset, she would sit by my side and look up at me as she leaned on my legs.

A definite water dog, if I said, “bath” she ran and jumped in the tub. She loved presents at Christmas and her birthday. She loved kids and dogs and cats and snow and swimming. She didn’t mind getting dressed up on Halloween. And she LOVED to eat.  A refrigerator door couldn’t open or a wrapper crinkle without her coming running. She moved with me twice and transitioned from a great big fenced in yard to having to walk down the street to do her business. I had always hoped to own another home with a yard for Bella, but that wasn’t to be the case after all.

In her later years, as she developed diabetes along with diminishing eyesight and then arthritis, she never lost her spirit. She was always willing to go wherever I wanted, and of course, was always by my side. Quick with a kiss. A foodie extraordinaire.

The house is eerily quiet now, and Lucy, my cat, looks for her constantly. They were an odd couple. Sometimes I awake in the middle of the night and listen for her breathing, which was heavy towards the end. I wake up in the morning and for a split second think I must get up and walk Bella.  Then I remember. No, life is not the same without her. No sharing my lunch and dinner.  No daily walks to the park. No sweet company to chase away the blues. Twelve years is a good, long life for a dog, but it wasn’t long enough for me.

I know in time I’ll get stronger, and sorry this is so sad.  But paying homage to the pets I have loved is closure for me. She is missed like crazy, not only by me but all my family and friends who knew her well since she traveled everywhere with me.  Everybody loved sweet Bella.

So, see you in heaven, Belly Jelly (kiss a felly). Have fun with all of our puppies and kitties up there. I love you with all of my heart. Thank you for loving me.

 

BELLA   September 26, 2007 – November 5, 2019

Meow-Meow

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I first noticed Meow-Meow nibbling at some bread crumbs I had thrown out for the birds. I felt sorry for her.  When she saw me, the petite calico cat was quick to greet me with her pretty little face looking up at me. I was allergic to cats, so never much cared for them and had dogs instead for most of my life. But when I grabbed some gloves to put on to pet her and she let me, she stole my heart. Shortly thereafter I starting buying cat food to feed her.  We lived in a rural area with neighbors few and far between, and I asked around but nobody claimed her.  From then on she lived outside our house under the deck and meandered around the yard.  She was content.

I finally decided I should get her spayed and neutered if she were going to stay.  The day I had the appointment I couldn’t catch her.  The next morning I found her – along with her newly born kittens- all males. They were in a sheltered place and safe, so life went on.  Once I bought the kittens some little toys that looked like mice.  The next morning I found a real mouse (dead) lying in front of them.  Meow apparently was trying to outdo me!

My brother unwittingly adopted two kittens, and I just kept the other two.  They were all neutered and spayed and given shots. Time passed, and the cats eventually moved inside the house.  My allergies somehow subsided, and the gang came along with me through two moves.

Meow-Meow was smart and serious and pretty and ruled the roost.  She kept everyone in their place – even the dogs. She watched over me quietly and was attuned to all my moods, sitting with me and comforting me when I was sad or sick or unhappy. Vocally meowing when she wanted my attention – never really demanding much except love and affection.

She outlived all of her sons and just left this world at the age of 16.

So today my heart is aching, and the tears fall for this precious little girl who came into my life and stayed with me through some pretty tough times. Who sat in my chair snuggling with me as I read, wrote and watched TV.  Who cuddled up with me on my bed nightly, even feebly on her last night. I never really felt alone with her since she was always, ever so quietly, present with me.

People say you shouldn’t feed stray cats. But if a cat finds its way into your life, isn’t it something you should do?  Because if not you, then who? And if the worst thing people can say about me when I die is that I took in stray animals and cared for them, then that’s something I am proud of.

I’m one of those people who believes that I’ll be with Meow-Meow again in heaven one day – running around and batting her sons with her paws in a lush green garden. Until then I’ll think of her with fondness until the day she sits quietly by my side again, warming my heart with her gentle purring.

 

 

NO BAD DOGS…really?!

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Bubbles for Bella

Back in the day, world-renowned British dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse wrote a book, “NO BAD DOGS.” She finished that sentence with…only inexperienced owners. Oh, Barbara, I beg to differ. I haven’t been without a dog since the age of 4, having had all shapes and sizes and breeds. And yet, I’ve discovered that even as experienced as I think I may be in the handling of dogs, they literally have a mind of their own and most of the time are going to do what they want when they want to.

Riley

Just rethinking the size of these heels, Mommy!

Take my dog Bella a Labrador retriever, for example, who doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Most of the time, she’s as calm, gentle, sweet and laid back as they come. But take her to the park and let another dog attempt to walk by…uh oh…she yanks me like a rag doll and tries as hard as she might to pounce on the dog. It’s just so annoying. I’m always making excuses for her behavior, especially to those unwitting people who insist that their dog and mine make friends. I find myself saying, “Oh, she actually loves other dogs, so I’m not sure why she’s jumping up and down and acting like an idiot,” or “oh, she’s just a little too excited right now,” or “she’s just a maniac.” It eventually evolves into, “I wouldn’t come too close; she’s just so predictable,” or “NO, SHE DOESN”T WANT TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR DOG!” It’s exhausting. I wish it were different….I wish she would sweetly walk up to other dogs and play. And, honestly, that’s all she really wants to do; she just doesn’t know how to go about it in quite the right way. Where is Cesar Milan when you need him?On the other hand, Bella loves a bath, which is a good thing. All I have to do is say the word bath, and the next thing I know, she’s sitting in the tub. Even if I just say the word in passing, she races to the bathroom. She gives me a good laugh and kind of washes all the other stuff away.

And how about my daughter Megan’s and son-in-law Matt’s dog Riley. Riley has been somewhat of a problem child since puppyhood, especially with barking and annoying people who visit to the point of ad nauseam, and you just pray that they’ll put her in time out (the downstairs powder room) which happens quite often. For instance, Meg and Matt are recent newlyweds, and for her birthday this year Matt prepared her a bubble bath complete with candles, etc., (these are the kinds of things you get at the beginning of a marriage 🙂 ). As soon as Megan got home, she retreated to the tub, closing the door behind her. Riley was left outside the bathroom door and apparently was not too happy about it. She usually gets Meg’s undivided attention and a long walk. I guess she got mad because when Meg finished soaking she came out to find her favorite pair of shoes chewed up by you-know-who. Uncanny!

peanut butter

MMM…MMM…Good!

But, then there’s Lulu, my daughter Katie and boyfriend Blake’s black Labrador retriever. To preface this in Lulu’s defense, she was a rescue dog, a puppy mill mother who at the time of her rescue weighed only 40 lbs. and was in very sad shape. She’s come a long way with a lot of tender loving care and has gone from 40 to 90 lbs. in a hurry. Lulu is sweet and gentle, but has a major food fetish…understandably. Let a bag rustle softly or a refrigerator door open, and she’s there. And when Katie and Blake go off to work, it’s SHOWTIME!

food

Snack time

At first Lulu got into the garbage, although it had a lid. They are now very careful to put the garbage can in the pantry closet before they leave, but sometimes they forget and come home to a big surprise.Then it was the dog food, which used to be kept in a bag in the kitchen until it was ripped open and finished one day. They started storing the food in a plastic bin. No problem…Lulu dragged the entire bin (with a full 20 lbs. of dog food inside) to her bed and snacked all day until it was gone. The bin is now being stored in the pantry closet as well. Blake made himself a peanut butter sandwich one day and left the jar on the counter….another thing proactively being put away in the pantry closet. It’s getting crowded in there.

Garbage

Oh, Lulu…

The last straw came when the Great Houdini somehow opened the refrigerator door…PARTY TIME!!! It must have been so much fun to nose around and help herself to the feast in front of her all day long! Lulu was hiding that day when Katie returned from work…with good reason. Katie went upstairs to the kitchen to find the remains of the day. Items were dragged into the bedroom, onto her bed and around the house. The bed was covered in peanut butter and chocolate from a leftover birthday cake, a bag of cooked chicken was devoured, cheese was gone, etc. Food was strewn everywhere. Katie and Blake tried to retrace their steps to see if maybe they might have left the refrigerator door ajar…or not. No matter, Lulu had a five-star day! And she never got sick…just seemed very satisfied. When Katie dragged Lulu out of her hiding place, she took her to the refrigerator and gave her a scolding, pointing to the handle and saying No, No, No! Then she took her out for a walk. It’s hard to stay mad at Lulu when she cuddles up to you with those sad brown eyes. I’m happy to report she hasn’t gone into the refrigerator since. Must be that experienced dog owner stuff kicking in. But that was only last week. Or did they fit the refrigerator into the pantry closet as well?! Good dogs, bad dogs, we love them all. Eventually their shenanigans become funny stories to tell later on after you have finished crying…maybe…or not.

A GENTLE REMINDER

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A stray dog wandered by my sliding glass door yesterday as I sat writing on my computer.  He/she was picking at the ground under the bird feeder, nibbling at bread crumbs that I had thrown out to the birds earlier.  Dog lover that I am, I jumped up and bolted into action.  First grabbing a bowl and some dog food, and then charging outside to feed him/her as my dog barked wildly and my cats scurried in different directions.

The dog was grateful for the food and ate ravenously.  I was able to get a glimpse of his dog tag, Spencer. “Hi, Spencer, I cooed as I petted him…are you lost?”  I ran inside and grabbed my cell phone, ran outside and plugged in his master’s phone number as he wiggled around me. “The voice mail of the number you have dialed is full.”  WHAT?!  So I memorized the address on the tag, ran inside and map quested the address.  Six miles away.  “What are doing six miles away from your home, Spencer?!”Sheila

I somehow maneuvered the dog into my car with a bag of biscuits and started my six-mile journey with map quest directions in hand.  When at last I pulled up in front of Spencer’s house, I was shocked to find that the lawn was covered with debris and a huge dumpster sat in the middle of the driveway.  I knocked on the door anyway, knowing it had to be vacant, and, of course, no one answered. I looked at Spencer’s pretty brown eyes as he cocked his head towards me.  “Now what, Spence?”  Just then a construction vehicle pulled up and then another.  I talked with the men about the home’s owners and asked how I could return their dog who was sitting in the back of my car.  Turns out the house had been destroyed during awful “Hurricane Sandy.” That name now makes me cringe. I wondered if Spencer had been misplaced since the storm.

The construction worker said he would try to contact the owners who were living, of course, in another location and gave them my number.  As I drove home wondering what I was going to do with this gentle, sweet beast, my phone rang, and I pulled over. “Do you have my dog?” a flustered voice asked. “Well, yes,” I replied.  “Where can I meet you?”  “Where are you?”  Ten minutes later I delivered the dog to the family who had been staying with friends not too far from where I live.  “My son let the dog out,” she explained, “and she got away.”  The kids ran out and happily greeted the dog.  The dog’s name, it turns out, is Sheila, not Spencer…she wore the tag from their old dog who had passed until they could get a new one for Sheila.

I walked away reminded that for so many people here in Jersey; life just has not even begun to get back to normal.  People are still misplaced, their homes are still disasters, their dogs are getting lost in unfamiliar surroundings, and they are not anywhere near leading a normal life yet.  I pray for Governor Christie and thank him for playing hard ball in trying to get funds into the hands of these desperate people so they can start to rebuild.  Why did Washington take so long to get this relief approved?  When will these people be able to move back into their own homes in their old, familiar neighborhoods, where their dogs can safely sniff around their own backyards?

I had almost forgotten about the devastation and the horror of what happened right here around me. We should not forget that life does not go on as usual for a large portion of our population, and thoughts and prayers and assistance are still so badly needed for so many. It took a sweet dog named Sheila to gently remind me.

PRE-DAWN TREK

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1115121919My dog Bella woke me up this morning at 5:30 – yup, lucky me, right?!  It’s actually only a half hour earlier than when my normal workday begins, but its Saturday, its cold outside and last night we had our first snow. Why, Bella, why?!?!  I guess she’s just trying to torture me as she bounces on the bed panting in my face and trying my patience. But, when a dog’s gotta go, a dog’s gotta go. And what’s the alternative?  Cleaning up stains on the rug?  No, thanks. So, I pull on my coat and plop my hat on my sleepy head yawning uncontrollably.  I can’t find my gloves, so I grab an old pair that are too big, and step out into the tundra. I lose my breath to the burst of cold wind that greets me when I open the door.  Awesome…1107121557a

Muttering to myself, I trudge down the snow-covered street while Bella frolics in the virgin white snow. It’s quiet and peaceful on this lonely trail up to the bay, since most sane people without pets are still wrapped up in their cozy beds and won’t rise to daylight for another three hours. I eventually trick myself into thinking that it really isn’t so bad (not) to be the only human being in the universe walking up the snowy path in the dark, which is only slightly illuminated by the pristine snow and full moon hiding behind the clouds.  But if I let it, this pre-dawn trek could be a good thing. Bella immediately does her thing, so I guess she wasn’t just pulling my chain.  Good girl, I praise her.  She looks up at me with that big wide grin, tail wagging wildly, then streaks off into the snow, yanking my arm out of the socket.  Arrgghhh…

The quiet of pre-dawn actually fills me with peace after a very stressful week.  I walk along feeling calm for the first time in days.  I take a cleansing deep breath of the frosty air and blow it out forming circles before me.  Bella sniffs the ground and follows tiny footprints of an animal that arose even earlier than us. The ducks, which are usually quacking quietly in the swamp, have disappeared.  I guess they have finally wised up to the fact that the warmth of the south isn’t a bad idea after all and have probably flown the coop.  I imagine how nice the warmth of the sun would feel upon my skin right about now and yearn for the summer.  Instead we turn to head home to a pot of hot coffee, which I’ll sip as I sit on my chair in meditation and watch the sun rise over the lagoon.

I can’t really say that I’m unhappy to have gotten up as early as I did, thanks to my rambunctious Labrador retriever.  Guess I’m used to braving the weather in the name of walking her outside before she does something inside.  But this morning Bella inadvertently has taken me on a path of mental renewal where enjoying the quiet and peace of an early morning snow has calmed my nerves and given me hope for tranquility on this cold winter’s day. Gotta love her.

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SWEET CREATURES OF THE LAGOON

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I live on a lagoon that is frequented by some very interesting and beautiful wildlife. Swans are one of the more familiar visitors to the docks. They float effortlessly from one waterway to the other, gliding along without rhyme or reason. They don’t seem to be bothered or afraid of the people around here because everyone treats them with respect and kindness. They are, for the most part, quiet curious creatures.  I am often caught off guard while working in the garden with a surprise greeting by one of these lovely creatures stretching its neck to see what I’m doing. Maybe it’s just to say hello, but most likely they are looking for a morsel of food.

The only time they make a lot of noise is when for some reason they take off into flight. It is a deafening, indescribable rush and squawk of maximum velocity. The first time I heard it without seeing what was making it was quite scary.  But for the most part they meander about minding their own business.

If we could take a lesson or two from a swan, I can guarantee life would be more tranquil.

Lessons like:

  • Slowing life down to enjoy the glide
  • Quietly listening and observing
  • Not being apprehensive about others
  • Visiting people often and without an agenda
  • Giving and receiving respect and kindness
  • Stretching our necks
  • Being curious
  • Saying hello
  • Making a lot of noise when needed
  • Going about our own business
  • Accepting gifts thankfully

 

A WALK IN THE RAIN

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I’m a walk-a-holic, so if I don’t get in my 2-3 miles a day (which isn’t really much), by nightfall my muscles start atrophying. And, although I like to blame my rambunctious lab Bella as the reason I’m so obsessed, it’s really my choice. There’s no stress reducer in the world like a brisk walk on a sunny day with a cool wind at your back. Pounding that pavement is so much better than, say, downing a triple layer fudge cake imbedded with chocolate chips.  I’m sure Dr. Oz would agree.

So off I went on this dark, gloomy day with Bella in tow.  Although there was only a light drizzle as I pulled out of the driveway to go to the park, by the time we made it there it was pouring rain.  Bella was itching to do her duty, so there was no other choice then to zip up, pull on the hood and get out of the car.  I opened the hatch and Bella reluctantly stuck her snoot up and sniffed the air.

“Let’s go,” I coaxed…

“Come on, girl,” I pleaded…

“Get out of the damn car!” I yelled as I yanked on the leash. Bella leapt out of the car into a huge puddle and drenched what was left of the dry part of my pants. Off we went to the tune of my saturated sneakers squeaking and squishing.

What’s nice about a walk in the hammering rain is that you walk faster, work up more of a sweat quicker and cut the time of the walk in half.  Add to that the fact that since you are the only whack job crazy enough to stroll along in the sopping wet, you can retreat into the solitude of a private park and do some soul-searching without anyone trying to disrupt your train of thought by saying hello. “What is the meaning of life?” “What is the purpose of my existence?” I ponder. I start getting lost in my thoughts until Bella gives a monstrous shake and douses me with a heavy spray of muddy water startling me back to reality. The soul-searching question becomes, “Why am I not getting in from the rain?”

I rush Bella along now and can tell she is really disappointed that she hasn’t had the opportunity to yank me towards another dog because there is no other creature existing in this place at this time.  Then she spots a squirrel scaling a tree and makes a mad dash toward it through the saturated grass dragging me along like a rag doll.  She boisterously jumps up and down on all fours at her newfound prey, and I am now dotted with mud from head to toe.

I give up.  I’ve had enough. Mile or not, atrophied muscles or not, I’m done. I pull her along the trail towards the car, rain now coming down in sheets and barely make it to my vehicle as I hear thunder clapping in the distance.  Bella happily jumps into the car, I follow, and she immediately shakes again and sprays the whole car with wet and mud. “Excellent…” I mutter.  I drive home with the stink of wet dog permeating the air as Bella sticks her big square head between the seats to help navigate the road with me. The stench is so bad, I can hardly breathe. She turns toward me and gives the side of my face a big, wet kiss.  “AARRGGHH! Thanks, Bella,” I say as I pat her soaking wet head, “Glad you had fun.”

Here’s hoping the sun will come out tomorrow…