Six toes

May 2017

Things have been hectic here in DC, and I needed a bit of a break.  So, I booked a flight, said goodbye to the boys, and headed to Key West, FL for my first-ever solo vacation.  I packed way too much into my long weekend, but I did what I wanted when I wanted.  I stalked all of the famous authors homes.  I ate frozen key lime pie dipped in chocolate.  I collected to-go cups frothy with adult beverages.  It was pretty glorious.

One of the reasons I picked Key West– other than the sun, people watching, and pirate history– is Ernest Hemingway.  Even more specifically, his cats.  He loved cats, and often professed that they were the most emotionally honest creatures living; Hemingway himself was not a particularly emotionally honest human.  He thought they brought luck.

Hemingway was given a white polydactyl cat by a ship’s captain passing between Cuba and Key West sometime in 1936.  This cat, Snow White, became the first six-toed cat on Hemingway’s property.

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Hemingway’s sons with Snow White (a picture of a picture.  how meow-ta)

Polydactyl cats carry an extra gene that manifests as extra toes on both the front and/or back paws.  53 cats currently live on the Hemingway property, and they all possess the polydactyl gene although only (!) 17 of the cats have the extra toes.  So many mitten-feets!

The gates to the property are wide open during the da, and there are trees that stretch over the gates and walls that surround the house, but the cats stay where they are.  They’re born there.  They live there. They are buried there.

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They receive food, treats, medical care and tons of love from visitors. Each cat is named after a ’30s or ’40s celebrity.  And really, they’re as attention-seeking as some of their namesakes:

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The cats are not up for adoption, although about 10 years ago a couple made off with F. Scott Fitzgerald, poor tom-cat.  Now the guides says they take a peek inside the handbags of crazy cat ladies who come through.  I get it.

I’m particularly fixated on polydactyls because of Athena, she of six toes, walking like a runway model because her thumbs get in the way.  I feel like I met her long-lost relatives.  Maybe she’s a descendent of the purloined F. Scott.  SHe’s certainly as surly as I suspect he was in feline-form.

Hmmm…. this bookish girl can hope.

Street Animals of Cuba

October 26-30, 2016

We went to Cuba.  It’s a magnificent and startling and complicated place.

Doodle went to camp for his own adventure.  We missed him, but we were lucky to have a house-dog.  Our casa, the large house in which we rented a room, has a wiggly boxer named Pike who is curious, sweet and extremely well-behaved.

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He’d greet us in the morning and when we returned from the day’s excursions.  We brought in smells from America as well as places in the city he’d never visited.  We hadn’t expected to have a trip mascot, but he was a wonderful surprise.

Something else we didn’t expect– that we didn’t know to ask about in advance to emotionally prepare for– were amount of stray animals.  Because why would we?  How would we know that we’d see dogs and cats, puppies and kittens roaming around appearing generally well-fed but still showing the wear-and-tear of street living?

Some of them joined our tours for a stroll around a square and or exploring Hemingway’s Finca Vigia, vocally letting our guide know how much they liked her explanations.

In some places, dogs wear string collars with index-sized cards attached, like the pup perched on James’ lap.  The cards are handwritten and include the animal’s name.  They mean that someone feeds the dogs regularly.  These animals are still strays, but someone nearby looks out for them.

And yet, with so many animals in need of homes or stability, puppies are sold on the street, costing more than the annual salary of local doctors.

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In Cuba, there is veterinary care.  There is a spay and neuter program through animal welfare groups to try to control the stray population.  There is no such thing as dog food:  domesticated animals like Pike eat whatever their humans eat.  Pike’s breakfast was an enormous portion of freshly cooked rice and boiled beans, and sometimes chicken.  Cubans who own pets or who take care of them share their monthly food rations with them.

Together, James and I took close to 400 pictures.  So many are of the animals that hang around public spaces solo or in packs, calmly approaching humans for food or affection or sniffs.  Sleeping.  Prowling.  Co-existing with the bustle of the city.

And no, we didn’t come home with a new furbaby.  We’d never have gotten out and they’d never have gotten in.  But like so much of our trip, they’re going to be with us as we process our experiences.

Bud and Diamond: UPDATE

Remember these two?

 

I’ve heard from our friends from Alley Cat Rescue, and they have a great update for us:

Diamond, the Staffy-mix with the derpy tongue on the right, has found her forever home.  Three weeks ago, Diamond’s forever family fell in love with her toothy grin and goofy nature and brought her home.  AND SHE LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Bud the lab-mix (on the left) is more… particular about his humans. Here’s what that means: he needs a seasoned/experience dog owner.  He likes some humans more than others.  Just like you (human, reading this post) don’t like everyone, dogs are also occasionally picky about their human companions.  That’s ok!  Alley Cat Rescue partnered with the ASPCA of Anne Arundel County, and Bud and his waived adoption fee have been transferred to them.  He’s working with a trainer every day while he waits for his best-match family.  You can read his profile here.

We’re so excited these two are doing so well.

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Let’s talk about this guy

February 1, 2016

 

When we moved into our house so many years ago, we worried that Zozo was lonely.  That he needed company when we were out of the house.  We thought he could use a companion’s example to follow when his social anxiety acts up.  And so, we brought MJ home.

When we let MJ go in late December, we again worried that Zozo would be lonely.  That his behavioral challenges would become exacerbated in her absence.  We had no idea how we would manage his grief along with ours.

For the first few days, he would look around for her: at meal times, in the yard, when he hopped on the couch for some snuggles.  The house is quiet and still.  It’s cold without the constant pittie shadow-slash-lap-blanket.

Long story very short: Zozo is amazing.  Yes, he’s anxious on-leash without her example.  Yes, he still barks at noises outside tgat we cannot see. He’s also silly and chatty and affectionate.  He’s enjoying the one-on-one with the humans.  He hops on our bed for pre-lights out snoozing.  His goofy personality is on display.  We’re dressing him in his jaunty kerchiefs and bow ties (ok, I’m dressing him).  It’s as if he’s coming out of his shell again.

 

It’s helped our mourning to laugh at him… with him; to enjoy being just us three.  He asks about her.  He sleeps with her crate towel.  We’re finding a new routine, the three of us.

The bundle in the top left corner is her crate towel.

Counting Completed #GivingTuesday

December 2014

On Thanksgiving afternoon, I posted a video wishing all of our beloved readers and lurkers a Happy Turkey Day.  During that video, I issued a “challenge;”  for every “Like” this blog received between Thanksgiving Day and midnight on Giving Tuesday (December 2), I would donate $1 to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington (AWLA).

Soon, I had readers reaching out through Facebook to let me know that they wanted to “Like” the post but they were being prompted to sign into WordPress to do so.  That felt rather inconvenient for them, so I extended the challenge to Likes in WordPress AND Facebook.

And then I sat back and waited.  I might have accidentally-on-purpose allowed a couple more days to go by.  This is the season of giving, after all.

Well, the final count is in.  Over that long weekend, 64 people liked the post.  That means $64 to AWLA.  I am so thrilled you liked me.  I mean, literally, you LIKEd me.

But I thought about it some more.  $64 didn’t feel like enough.  So I’ve been doing some thinking and some internet research.

Remember this little face?

photo credit: Animal Welfare League of Arlington

photo credit: Animal Welfare League of Arlington

 Almost four years ago, this was the picture of MJ that snagged our hearts and took us to AWLA’s door.  She’s been a handful and a riot, and we couldn’t imagine our family without her.  And because of her, we’ve met incredible volunteers and families through AWLA; our community has grown.

If we were to head over to AWLA today to bring home another puppy (puppy=younger than 6 months), our adoption fee would be $200.  For us, it was 100% worth it.

And so, dear readers, with your clicks and support, Peanut Butter & Cheese will be making a donation to AWLA for $200.  It’s not a lot, but it’s food or treats or toys for those furbabies waiting on their forever homes.

On a related subject…please!  If you’re thinking about gifting a pet to a friend or loved one this holiday season, remember: that kitten grows into a cat.  That dog may have accidents while he’s adjusting to home life. That guinea pig will need her habitat cleaned.  A pet is more than just an unveiling moment of suprise and wonder.  It’s for life.

Adopt, don’t shop.  But please adopt responsibly.

All of the treats

Halloween 2014

Last year, I finally succumbed to the voice in my head and dressed the dogs up for Halloween.  This was particularly ineffective since we usually hide in the basement with the lights off and pray no one knocks on the door.  Our’s isn’t a terribly well-trafficked street, and the neighborhood does an indoor candy dispatch in the auditorium of the local middle school.

But it made me deliriously happy, and that’s all that mattered.

This year, both pups got some showy threads. And many pumpkin-flavored treats were sacrificed for the photoshoot.

Happy Halloween, and stay safe friends!

i feel pretty... oh so pretty...

i feel pretty… oh so pretty…

excited AND scared

excited AND scared

Mam told us to smile. #derp

Mom told us to smile. #derp

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too many treats

too many treats

It’s time for Kari’s favorite, seasonal game…

… Am I getting sick, or is this allergies?

Sheesh.

As you know from a previous post, Zozo is quite the caregiver. He’s attentive.  He shares his comfort toys.  He gives kisses on your nose, which I take to be a way for him to gauge temperature and monitor sick-smell.

MJ can be an attention hound.  She wiggles, she smiles, she insinuates.  If there’s a nook into which she can fold herself, you can bet you’re getting a paw-punch to the gut.  However, to our unending surprise, The Bug is an incredible nursemaid.

She’s attentive, quiet and gentle.  She won’t leave your side.

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She’s big on naps and snuggles, and she’s happy to guard the human who needs the most love.  If you go to bed alone, you wake up under her watchful, worried gaze.

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Our pups are awesome.  We’re so lucky they take such good care of us.

Share and share alike.

When Zozo was a puppy, James and I agreed- we made a pact!- that we wouldn’t give him food from the table.  There’s too much that’s not good for his stomach, we said.  We don’t want to encourage bad habits.

Athena was already spoiled by nibbles of corn chips and burnt french fry bits from Five Guys.  We had a second, temporary rescue cat that would snatch whole cheeseburgers from plates and try to make off with scrambled eggs.

So with Zo, no meant no.  Except for maybe just a corner of a pancake (“He asked if he could taste it!”).  Or a bite of pizza crust (“No, see, it fell on the floor and he got it before I could pick it up!”).  Or baby carrots and green beans (“There are vegetables in his dry food.  See, there’s a picture on the back by the ingredients of what I think are veggies.”).  Or inches of apples.  You see where this is headed.

When MJ came home, we redoubled our efforts.  No people food.  None.  She wasn’t interested in food anyway, so fine.  She was, however, interested in smelling it.  We’d make dinner and she’d pad around the kitchen, snout in the air.

“What are you choppin’?”

“What’s that you pulled out of the fridge?”

“Is somethin’ bakin’ in the oven?”

“Can I smell the soap?”

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Snout up, snout down, snout where it doesn’t belong.

Zo would hang out under the breakfast bar, waiting.

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Because he knew. He could sense it.  It was in the air, like the warming naan or the baking chicken or the dishwasher detergent.  Mama’s weakness.

If there is something plain, unseasoned and ok for furbabies, Mama will share.  That’s the number one household rule:  Mama always shares.

Our dogs don’t beg.  They don’t whimper or whine if we’re eating and they’re not.  But they line up, bums on the floor in a perfect sit, and accept an offering like communion.  And then they scoot away.  If there’s nothing for them, they get a treat and then retire to their beds.  It’s now routine.

I’m a failure.  Terrible, terrible failure.

Is there anything, dear readers, you promised you wouldn’t allow as a furparent that’s completely gone out the window?  Am I alone?

You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry

July 2011

Our little girl is coming along nicely.  Yes, she’s bull-headed and pushy and choosy with her crate-training.  Yes, she can leap clear over the top of her baby gate and make herself comfortable on the couch.  But she’s sweet and loves to snuggle.  She barrels into closed doors at the right speed and oomph to pop them open so she can investigate the happenings on the other side.  She wags her entire body.

And Zozo is amazing.  He’s patient and kind and ignores the little girl until she needs to be yapped into line.  He shows off his cues and proves to be a great big brother and occassional alpha.

Individually, they’re wonderful.  Together, they’re their own little wolf pack.  It’s delightful.

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We’re excited to introduce MJ to the people and places we love to take Zo.  We call to schedule her for a bath.

“How old is she?”

“Oh, almost 8 months.”

“Weight?”

“32lbs”

“Breed?”

“Catahoula/Pit mix.”

“…Hold on…. (hold muzaq).. I’m sorry, we don’t groom Pits.”

“Oh, but she’s very sweet and has never shown any signs of aggression.  She loves kids-“

“Sorry, no Pit Bulls.”  Click.

This happens with the daycare we like to take Zozo to.  The Yappy Hour.  I begin noticing people avoiding our pink bully as we puppy-lurch down the road (our leash skills could use some work).  MJ doesn’t understand; she just wants to shimmy and play and give kisses.

I find myself shying away from admitting she’s Pit-mixed.  “She’s Catahoula with some kind of American breed– boxer maybe.”  It’s a lie no one falls for.  She may be gloriously speckled, but her snout is all Pit. 

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And I feel like a coward for betraying her heritage.

Gradually, when I call to make plans for spa days, daycare, boarding and training, I start the conversation off with the following phrase:

Do you have breed restrictions?

The question becomes part of our vernacular.  The answer? Unsurprising: can’t, no pit bulls. 

We became one of those families.  We’re young, living in the suburbs.  We have two rescue dogs.  One is a Pit Bull.  Obviously we’re dangerous drug dealers or thugs and criminals, and she’s vicious. 

And that’s when I get mad.

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: The Eyes of TJ Eckelkitty

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