Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Remembering Jim

Three weeks ago today, I said my final “I love you” to the man who, for the last 21 years, sometimes made me angry, sometimes made me cry, but more often made me happy. He made me a better person.

I miss him.


***

I met Jim on July 2, 2000, at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of North Palm Beach, where I was a member. A woman acquaintance was the day’s greeter. When Jim walked in, she recognized him as someone she had met once before, and introduced us. After saying hello, he went into the sanctuary, and a few minutes later, I followed, only to find that he was sitting in the row where I usually sat. I saw no reason to change my habit, and sat next to him.

Halfway through the service conducted by a guest speaker, I decided to leave. Jim made the same choice a minute later. I am usually shy and don’t initiate conversations with strangers, but for some reason, I drove around to his car and said, “You didn’t care for the talk, either, I guess.” Agreeing, he laughed, and then asked if I would like to have coffee.

Two hours and several cups of coffee later, we said good-bye, but with a date to walk on the beach that evening.

What a walk it was! The waves softly washed at our feet as a soft breeze wafted the sounds of the ocean to our ears. It seemed we walked for miles, just talking, and eventually holding hands. When we finally returned to our cars, he touched my chin and gently kissed me. I still remember the softness of his lips, his gentle touch. It was the best kiss I had ever had.

***

In the months that followed, we slowly became a couple and went to events together. 

We became a couple

I recall two memorable Halloween parties. At the first, we won a prize for the ugliest couple: Jim wore a wig and one of my dresses. He was the bearded lady. I wore my short hair slicked back, painted on a mustache, padded my tummy with a pillow, and wore a man’s suit and tie. We were, indeed, an ugly couple.

The ugly couple

At the second Halloween party, we were going to go as a cat (Jim) and mouse (me). After taking a shower and starting to put on my house makeup, the phone rang. Running to answer it, I slipped and twisted my knee. Ouch! When Jim got home, he wanted to take me to the ER, but I insisted I would be OK, if I used crutches. (We had some.) So, we went to the party. Everyone thought the crutches were part of my costume! Unfortunately, the pain finally forced me to go to the ER. (No permanent damage.)

***

Jim managed a travel agency when I met him. He made me an honorary employee and got me membership into the International Airlines Travel Agency Network. The membership allowed us to travel on “spec” tours free or at reduced rates. One of these was a two-day sailing on a cruise line (I did not like it); another was a week’s vacation on a sailing ship.

What a trip that was! The ship was a true sailing vessel and only entertained a couple hundred guests, unlike the big cruise liners that were small at-sea cities. We sailed out of Granada in the Caribbean, in late September.

The problem with a late-September excursion in that part of the world is hurricanes. One was lurking at sea. The captain of the ship tried to skirt the worst of the storm, but the waves actually covered our porthole, as the ship bobbed in the angry waters. That night, items were had stowed in the bathroom (tooth brushes, combs, etc.) literally flew out of the door. We had to sleep crosswise on the bed, else we would have rolled off. The next morning, the sea was quieter (but not calm), and Jim arose to go to the mandatory life-boat meeting. I sat up, felt the nausea from the still rolling ship grow, and told him they could throw me off the boat, but I staying in bed, flat on my back.

Nobody tossed me into the sea, and I recovered without throwing up. That evening, though, seas continued to be rough, and as we sat down for our meal, there was a sudden lunge. Chairs slid over the dining room deck. 

The next day, all was calm and I was finally being able to snorkel and we strolled in villages on St. Lucie and elsewhere, I never became a fan of any kind of sailing, however.

***

Just prior to 9-11, I had left my place of employment as an editor and began working as a freelance editor/writer. The attack on the World Trade Center changed America’s business outlook. As my freelancing opportunities started to fade, I began to look for another full-time position.

I was given an opportunity to join a publishing company in Pennsylvania. I needed a job, but I didn’t want to move to Pennsylvania. So, I continued to look. A month later, I was offered a position in the Jacksonville area. Of course, that meant moving and leaving Jim.

But Jim had a solution to that weighty problem. “I’ll follow you anywhere,” he vowed.

And he did.

***

When Jim and I decided--four years after meeting and living together--that we should get married, we looked all over Jacksonville for a venue to exchange vows. One evening, while soaking in the swim-spa, we again debated the merits/demerits of the various sites. Suddenly, as we looked out over our backyard “lake” (really a pond), we realized that we had the ideal wedding site­--under the weeping willow, with the pond in the background. It was the loveliest wedding I had ever been to. Under clear skies, surrounded by our families, we pledged our love and friendship forever.


***

Travel had never been a high to-do on my bucket list, probably because I never wanted to travel alone but also because I never had the money for such a luxury. After Jim's mother (who lived with us for about six or seven years) passed away, Jim began teasing me with the idea of buying a recreational vehicle. It took awhile for me to come around; I thought the expense wouldn’t be justified. But Jim finally prevailed, and with the proviso that I would not have to drive it, we bought our first RV. (We eventually bought and sold a total of five RVs. The first was the best, however.)


I admit that I went into RVing “kicking and screaming.” My doubts about RVing gave birth to the Reluctant Rover blog, which served as the foundation for my book, Don’t Back into the Palm Tree.  But long before we sold our last RV (a luxurious and commodious truck camper), I found Jim’s love for camping catching. I was no longer the Reluctant RoVer; I was the Enthusiastic RoVer. In fact, after we adopted our dog Katie and then Lex Luthor (a kitten), we came close to buying a small travel trailer, so that we could travel to state parks and fish. (I am grateful we did not buy one.)

***

Prior to meeting Jim, I was an avid golfer. It was something I could do by myself, as well as with friends. When I moved to Jacksonville, I stopped golfing for awhile. After several years, though, I caught the fever again and introduced Jim to this sport, something he never saw himself doing. Then he caught golf fever. We loved to try out new courses once or twice a week. Golfing, however, was put aside after he had his near-fatal accident (falling off the roof of our RV) in 2013.  As a substitute leisure-time activity, we began fishing.

What a joy! We traveled to an assortment of state parks to cast our lines. We never caught many fish, but we spent peaceful hours by the water and on the beach.


We bought a used bass boat, but sold it when we realized a 10-foot boat was too small to travel safely on the St. John’s River to get to the marshes. We sold it and then purchased a 14-foot Porta-Bote (a fold-up boat), which we could take with us when we went camping. We used it a few times, until we admitted that although we could carry it on the truck we towed behind our RV, it was not as convenient as we’d thought it would be for an octogenarian and a septuagenarian to launch.

Jim decided that to get to the best local fishing spots, we should join a local boat club. As usual, he had to cajole me before I finally gave in.

He really enjoyed driving the various fishing boats; I did not. In fact, I was never comfortable out on the water, despite always wearing my life jacket and being a good swimmer. I did enjoy fishing, however. After about a year of membership, we decided the monthly fees were not worth the cost of membership, especially since the boats were not in the best repair. We had fun while it lasted, even though we didn’t catch many fish. (The fish we caught were the best-tasting ever!)











***

These anecdotes I have written about only highlight the many good times we had and how Jim changed me--and perhaps how I changed Jim. I became more tolerant, (I hope) more loving, and more flexible. I experienced new things with him—not only fishing and camping—but also things like enjoying going to the symphony and relishing the tastes of a wide variety of ethnic cuisines. 

Oh, we had challenging times, too. But I don’t want to dwell on them. I want to remember the good times, the loving and intimate times, which were there right up to the end and will live in my heart forever.

Sometimes I sit on the back porch. Just outside the door are some wind chimes Jim recently restrung. He loved wind chimes; I usually thought they were annoying, although when I saw them in stores, I couldn't help but help them to ring. 

These chimes I think are special: They softly ring in the gentle breeze. And when they do, I choose to believe that my husband is still near me, saying, “Listen! Aren't they beautiful!” And perhaps whispering in their notes “I love you.”


Your Reluctant ROVER,


Linda

 

 






Sunday, November 7, 2021

Katie knows

 They know. "They" as in dogs.

It has been three weeks since Jim left the house never to return. Katie misses him.

Like most couples, Jim and I each had a chair we almost always sat in--one on the back porch, and an easy chair in the living room. Until yesterday, Katie had avoided jumping into either of Jim's chairs.



But yesterday, as I was taking a break outside, she decided to check out his chair on the porch. She sniffed, and sniffed, and sniffed. She could smell Jim's scent. Finally, she jumped up and nested in his seat. She looked sad as she sat there.

She did the same with his recliner in the living room. I cannot smell his scent, but she can; she has a really sensitive super-nose.  (If she could talk, she could probably tell you the name of every dog in the neighborhood and when they last passed by on the sidewalk.)  Just as she had sniffed the outdoor chair, she did the same for Jim's easy chair. She finally jumped up into it. She wanted to sit in his lap; she had to be content to sit in his chair.

We both miss him.


Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

Friday, October 15, 2021

Nurse Katie

In 1979, when I bought a house in Indianapolis, I promised the kids I would get them a dog. Shortly before we were scheduled to make the move to our "new" little house on the northside, we went into a pet store to get some medication for the kids' hampsters. Enclosed in a small pen was a wee little puppy, so tiny! He was a poodle-chihuahua mix, and he cost $15. (I'm sure today he would be considered a designer dog and the price tag would be in the hundreds!)

We took him home and named him Poochi. 

My little Poochi

My little Katie reminds me so much of Poochi, except she is a lot smarter (most of the time).

One thing I remember about Poochi is that whenever I got sick, he took care of me. He would cuddle; he would not demand. He was patient for me to let him out and to feed him. He always made me feel better. 

Fast forward to now...

For almost three weeks, I have been suffering from a horrible ear infection. The ENT thinks it is viral (possibly shingles, although I have had a shingles vaccine), combined with a bacterial infection. The pain at first was utterly debilitating. It finally subsided, but not before I lost my sense of balance to the point of having to use a cane to walk around the house. I went deaf in my right ear; slowly my hearing is returning (as well as balance). The medication (or the illness) caused me to lose my appetite and taste. That is not all bad, because I have lost 13 pounds since September 21. (Now, to keep it off!)

During this time of convalescence, I have not been able to walk Katie. She knows that something is wrong with her mama. 

When Jim puts the drops in my ears, she hops onto the bed and smells my ear (before the drops). She then cuddles up to comfort me. The other night, she had to go out to potty. But instead of licking or woofing me awake (a rare thing to do, incidentally), she jumped on the bed, cuddled and nuzzled. I finally got up, let her out, and she promptly pottied, then went back to her place under the bed (near me). 

Nurse Katie comforts me while Jim puts in my ear drops

Katie is a good nurse. 

Jim has been taking her for walks, but she is often reluctant to leave. And often, once they start, she virtually runs around the block, to get home fast. This a.m., though I was feeling well enough to go on a regular (not a short) walk. When I sat down to put her leash on, she was a happy gal.

There is nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.

Until later,


Your Reluctant Rover,

Linda

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Play time!

You just can’t help smiling. 

When we brought Katie home from the dog adoption agency, she was a trembling mess of curls. So scared. No social skills. She didn’t even know how to walk on a leash. Interaction with other animals, including dogs? Nada

All of that is changing, thanks to the addition of her feline “brother,” a black kitten named Lex Luthor.

Lex Luthor


The playing skills Lex intuitively knows, Katie is learning. Whether by emulation or by having something triggered in her canine subconscious, Katie is coming out of her pre-adoptive shell, and it is so much fun to watch. 

Since we brought Lex home from the Human Society a few weeks ago, Katie has tolerated his cavorting. She has not minded him swatting at her face, grabbing her tail, and attempting to jump on her back. She tentatively even started to reciprocate. 

This week, however, Katie did something new: She started to initiate playtime with Lex from chasing after him in and out of the bedroom, under the bed, around the dining room, through the living room…again and again to urging him to carouse with her: She gets up close to Lex, nudges him with her nose, and tries to (harmlessly) nip at him. She even makes noises at him if he does not respond. But usually he does, and they go at it until they get tired. 



At bedtime, Katie likes to get up on the bed with me and be rubbed. She turns over on her back and starts “running” in place with her two front legs, begging for attention. But the last couple of nights, her play time with Lex has been extended to this "bed" time. Instead of turning toward me for a rubbing, she turns toward him, flops over on her back, and begins her “run,” as a way of begging him to play with her some more. He always obliges. 

I think Katie is a bit confused about feline behavior, though. When we go on walks and she spies a cat, she tries to approach it, thinking it will play with her just as Lex does. Of course, most adult cats don’t want anything to do with dogs. Katie will just have to get used to the rejection. 

 Until next time, 

Your Reluctant ROVER, 

 Linda

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Have clippers, will cut

 Katie needed a haircut.


About two months ago, we took Katie to the PetSmart grooming salon, where she was pampered with a bath, haircut, and pedicure. Cost for seniors? $46. We wouldn’t go the poorhouse spending that much every two months, but it would be nice if we didn’t have that expense. We thought we would try grooming her ourselves.

Years ago  I would periodically shear my little poodle-Chihuahua mix, Poochi. His face resembled a poodle, with curly hair on top. The sides of his body with more Chihuahua-like, soft and long. He did not shed. I confess that it never occurred to me to take him to a groomer. Instead, I would plop him on the floor and take out my scissors and trim him. He was my beloved little Benjie-dog.

Yes, that is a picture of me, holding Poochi, around 1986. 

Poochi really was a Benji-dog. He needed a trim here.

When we decided to adopt Katie, we knew she would need regular grooming. We thought we would take her to a professional the first time and then see if we could do it ourselves. As you know, we are big on DIYing.

Unsure how our grooming experiment would turn out—whether she would be patient with us and if we (Jim) were adept with the clippers—we decided initially to use the equipment we had on hand. Jim rigged up a stand to hold a leash on his potting bench, and we got out the electric hair clippers I use to cut Jim’s hair.



This was the start of our Great Experiment. Jim rigged up a leash by his potting table.

The first phase of our experiment went well: Katie was patient, and Jim was mastering the cutting technique. However, we quickly saw that our Gerry-rigged leash stand needed to be improved, and we should get cordless (and quieter) grooming shears. After one clipping along Katie’s backside and a bit along her legs, the hot sun got the better of us, and we decided to postpone the rest of the grooming until after we purchased better equipment.

Fast forward one week: Amazon delivered our new equipment and we were ready to try it out.

Success! I can’t say Katie was particularly pleased with the leash stand (we finished the pedicure and face-grooming on the ground), but she was good. And the clippers! Wow. It was like shearing a sheep, the way the fur came off.



We are pleased with the results of our grooming experiment. I don’t think we will go into the grooming business, but we will recoup the cost of the equipment with the next haircutting we give her.

Such a pretty girl!

Until next time,

 

Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Play time for Katie?

Katie is an awesome dog: She is smart. She is loving. She loves her walks. She lavishes me with affection whenever I am gone more than 15 minutes. She rarely barks, except to tell us she needs (or wants) to go out or if she wants to play.

Playing to Katie means going through her training routine; it’s a game to her.  “Katie, come!” “Katie, sit!” “Katie, place!” “Katie, up!” She especially like “Katie, up!” because this give her permission to jump up onto a chair or couch. (She rarely does this on her own.)

I sometimes get down on the floor to play with her, but this play is very limited, since she does not know (or care about) tug-of-war or fetch. I’ve purchased several different balls to try to get her interested in playing fetch. The only one she liked was a solid rubber one, which she started chewing. Rubber is not good for the digestive system, so that ball has been put aside.

Play time started to change last week after Jim and I adopted a kitten from the Humane Society.

Lex Luthor

I think the “play gene” is activated as soon as a kitten is born. Lex Luthor (the name the Human Society dubbed this tiny, 10-week-old black kitten) flits from one toy to another—or creates his own by grabbing (and untying) shoelaces, swatting electrical cords, and chasing himself around the house. He especially likes to play with little balls— fluffy greens ones, crinkly rosy ones, and plastic red ones with bells inside.

Katie has decided that if Lex wants to play with a ball (especially the red jingle-bell balls), she wants to play, too. 




As soon as she hears Lex batting the ball around the floor, she comes up to him (no fear of cats) and she noses it away from him, nabs the ball with her mouth, and then tosses it into the air! When it lands, she quickly grabs it before Lex can get to it and takes it back to her “place”—an area rug behind the couch where we keep all of her chewies, unused toys, and grooming equipment. Once she has brought “her” toy “home,” she chews on it for a few minutes, and then disregards it. Play time over. A bit of jealousy?

It is fun to watch Katie and Lex together. As I have mentioned in other blog entries, Katie was raised as a breeder dog. She had no social skills—with people, nor with other animals. She barely knows what to do when she meets another dog. When she spies another canine down the block while taking a walk, she eagerly trots up to within a few feet of the dog. Then she stops. She lets the other dog sniff and check her out. Only occasionally does she reciprocate.

Because of she was cloistered for her first three years, she  does not know that dogs naturally chase squirrels, lizards, and cats. The squirrels and lizards in our yard are safe. When we come upon a cat during our walks, she stops to look but does not do anything else.

Given her lack of experience with cats, we were not concerned about her accepting even a grown cat, although an adult cat probably would not want anything to do with her. So, we decided a kitten would be a good choice.

Lex doesn’t know he is supposed to be afraid of this gigantic canine, and Katie doesn’t know she is supposed to chase this tiny feline. (Perhaps that will change if or when Lex lets her feel his claws.) The two are not best friends, nor are they yet especially playful with each other. But the friendship is new, and it is fun to watch as it grows.

Until later,

Your Relucant ROVER,

Linda

Sunday, June 13, 2021

A Marmaduke wannabe

 In the Sunday comics section of the local newspaper, Marmaduke, a Great Dane, famously buries (and digs up) bones in his back yard. I always thought bone-burying dog behavior was an exaggeration exploited for the funny papers.

It is not.

Katie does the same thing.

We noticed this behavior several weeks ago. I had given Katie a hard-chew  that was shaped like a bone. After gnawing on it for a while, she picked it up and carried it outside with her. She then explored all of the flower beds to find an appropriate place to bury it.

Jim and I both chuckled over this, and didn’t pay too much attention to what she was doing or how she was doing it. But over the weeks, we have continued to watch her and enjoy her treasure-hunting/retrieval.

Just like cartoon canines, Katie sniffs around until she finds her bone (the same one she originally buried). Once she locates it, she exhumes it, takes it in her mouth, and scurries around the yard to scout out another appropriate internment. She will stop, try the soil, and go to another site if the dirt is too hard or if there are too many tree roots with which to contend until she finds the perfect burial ground.

Once she has found the right spot, he uses her front paws to dig a hole deep enough to entomb her treasure. Then she plops the bone into the hole and proceeds to cover it up—not with her paws, but with her snout! (We always know when she has buried a bone: She snorts to get rid of the dust in her nostrils!)

Here is a short video:


Not every treasure gets buried outdoors, of course. Some get buried in the house. I gave her a commercially purchased four-inch long beef bone filled with a peanut-butter concoction. After licking out as much of the “marrow” as she could, she repeatedly has carried the bone around the house until she finds an appropriate grave. I have found the bone hidden in a corner and under the couch, and concealed under some pillows on the couch. She keeps very busy safeguarding her cache.

Surprisingly, Katie does not bury real bones. When we have treated her to the remnants of our barbecued ribs, she enjoys chewing for every bit of leftover meat, grist, and marrow. Then she walks away from them. No burying attempts.

Katie, you are puzzling; you are amazing.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

  

Monday, May 24, 2021

Sit Happens

Even before we adopted Katie, we had decided that we would invest in hiring a trainer once we acquired a dog, if only to reinforce basic commands. The question was, “Which trainer?”

Most pet stores offer some type of group dog training, which would be the most economical, but we quickly realized that Katie would not respond to that training: She was afraid of strangers as well as other dogs and would virtually freeze. Even if she got comfortable in the training situation, she did not respond to treats. She had never had treats as a breeder dog.

One of the people at our vet’s office recommended Sit Happens dog training company. Danny, a representative from the company, came to our house to explain the company’s philosophies, show off its successes, explain how the training worked, and observe Katie.


Danny said Katie’s disinterest in treats was not a problem; Sit Happens recommends using an electronic collar for training. The pulse does not hurt the dog, but the dog responds well (and quickly) to it. We agreed this type of training would be appropriate for Katie, and agreed to purchase the collar. We then debated if we should buy the three-lesson or five-lesson package. (The five-lesson package included lifetime reinforcement training, if needed.) Naturally, we expected Danny to recommend the more costly five-lesson package.

After observing Katie, though, he said, “I don’t think you’ll need the five-lesson package.” He was right; we barely needed the three lessons we bought, because Katie is a quick learner—and because I was committed to do the practicing required. After two lessons she was doing three basic commands: “Katie, come,” “Katie, sit,” and “Katie, place.” (This last one tells her to stay in her bed or her “place” in the living room.) She also quickly learned, “Katie, stay,” although she doesn’t always stay as long as I would like her to. We’re working on that, however.

One of the things our trainer Michele did not have to teach Katie was to stop barking at and jumping on strangers. Once in a while (not always) she will bark when someone comes to the door, but she hushes quickly at my command. And she does not jump on people. Although Michele did not have to teach Katie restraint with strangers, she did have to teach her something that most dogs do instinctively—to jump up onto furniture! Unlike any other dog I have ever known, Katie did not know how to jump on the couch or a chair. Michele showed us how to train her to “up.” After some reluctance, Katie learned and discovered it was fun to jump up!


During those first weeks of training, I diligently worked with Katie on her commands several times a day. As she was learning to obey, Katie decided that our training times were play times. Consequently, whenever she wants to play, she demands going through our training routine, especially the “Katie, up!” command. (Interestingly, she rarely jumps up on the couch or a chair on her own, only when we tell her to.) And when I decide play time needs to end, I command her to “Katie, place” and go to her spot in the living room, where she sits and gets quiet.

I no longer need the collar to make her obey. She can even be out in the front yard without a leash, when we are out there.

The training was expensive, but it was well worth its cost. Sit, does in fact, happen.

Until next time,

 

Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

Sunday, May 2, 2021

An Awesome Dog, Despite Her Beginnings

Before adopting Katie, our rescued Bichon Frise, who was raised as a breeder, I had had only two exposures to dog breeding. The first was about 50 years ago. Our next-door neighbor had purchased an English Sheepdog, a big, beautiful, gentle animal with a full, bushy coat. She was a pet, but the neighbor also intended to breed her and sell the pups. I don’t know if he ever did, since we moved out of the neighborhood before she was bred.

Fast forward to last year: We were storing our truck camper in the backyard of a lady who bred dachshunds. At that time she had a female wiener dog and five offspring. The female was her pet, and I believe she intended to keep most (if not all) of the current litter. She raised the dogs with love and kindness, because they were her friends first and an income source second.

Periodically I had read about puppy mills; there are many in the rural areas of Florida and southern Georgia. These animal farms breed for profit, at the cost of humane care for the dogs. Females in puppy mills are forced to reproduce each time they are in heat, until they can no longer bear. The dogs live in tiny cages, receive little care or exercise, and have no interaction with people. Often their cages are filthy, and they lie in their own excrement.

According to the Humane Society, most dogs sold in pet stores or online are bred in such deplorable conditions.

Katie was raised to breed, but she did not come from a puppy mill. The “dog lady” (the head of Wags-Rescue, in Jesup, Ga.) said she had developed a unique relationship with a local breeder, who had approached her to adopt out dogs when they reached the end of their breeding—five years. The dog lady said the breeder had a dedicated barn in which she raised many different types of dogs. Each dog had its own kennel as well as a dog run and was able to exercise. All of the dogs, male and female, received regular shots and veterinary care. The dog lady had inspected the breeder’s establishment and was satisfied that although the dogs were not pets, they were cared clean, manicured, and cared for. Consequently, she often had purebreds available for adoption.

A very scared Katie, the day we picked her up from the adoption agency.

A key phrase in this description is “not pets.” I didn’t realize the implication of that phrase until we brought Katie home.

On the drive home, I held her on my lap; she trembled the entire two-hour ride to her forever home. Car rides were foreign to her. At home, she quickly learned where her water and food bowls were. And she acclimated to her new bed in our room.

But she had no social skills, actually no “dog” skills either.

You know how dogs are naturally curious and chase squirrels and anything else that moves? She didn’t. I don’t know if she had ever been exposed to a squirrel or a lizard (or even other dogs, except for male breeders), since her life had been limited to a dog run. It was a couple weeks before she was willing to take a walk on a leash. (During the first attempt at a walk, she froze after about 25 feet. I had to pick her up and carry her home.)

For weeks when we took walks, she would stop abruptly whenever she saw another dog, cat, or human being. She would refuse to move until the “creature” went away. 

Fortunately, Katie is learning how to be a "real" dog. I am happy to say that now she is not spooked as often by human beings who are out taking a stroll or bicycling the neighborhood, and although she still goes on alert when she sees another dog, she is willing to passively make friends with it.

She loves to be outdoors, but she still does not venture out on her own, despite our encouraging her by keeping the back door open to our fenced-in yard. Freedom is apparently a learned thing.  

As time passes, however, Katie is gradually coming out of her shell, and her personality shines. My husband said it best: “She is an awesome dog.” More about that later.

Until then,

 

Your Reluctant ROVER
Linda

 

 

 

 

 

   

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dog Decisions

This past winter I caught the “dog bug”—that undeniable urge to adopt a small dog. The bug started small, but intensified as Jim and I began to take weekly (sometimes more often) trips down to the Jacksonville Humane Society.

Almost every time we visited, we would see one or two excellent candidates for adoption—the only problem was that they were already adopted! One day, though, I looked on the Humane Society’s website and saw a small dog that appealed to me. She seemed to be a Yorkie-mix. Usually any small dog pictured on the website was already adopted by the time we visited, but this time, the pooch was still there, homeless.

We couldn’t get a good look at her, since she was lying in her bed and did not get up to greet us, but we decided to inquire about her. The Human Society adoption counselor told us that the dog was a senior. She had just had dental surgery and would recover from that trauma, but she had an eye condition and would require constant care for the rest of her life. Adopting a dog in good health would be quite an adjustment; adopting one that required considerable care was more than I felt able to do. We decided she would not be a good fit for us. The counselor understood, but to help us adopt, she provided a list of local small-dog adoption agencies.

That night I started a search.

One link led to another, and I finally found petfinder.com, an adoption-agency aggregate, which allows you to search by zip code. I found a picture and description of a dog that appealed to me; I showed Jim, then I completed an application online.

Several days went by with no word from the agency. Finally, I received an e-mail saying the dog had been adopted. Darn!

I searched again. This time I found two different dogs and completed an application that included references. I said we would welcome either dog into our home. (Incidentally, my references were called!)

Several days later I received a phone call from the adoption “dog lady.” She said that those dogs were already adopted, but she thought we would make ideal “parents” for another dog. She then described a female Pekingese. I admitted that Pekingese was not a breed I had ever considered. We then talked some more, and she said she also had a male Shih Tzu. I warmed to the idea of a Shih Tzu. More talk, and she finally said she would have a female Bichon Frise within a week. I was familiar with Bichons. My sister Dawn had one many years ago. Her Bichon and my Poochi looked like brothers, at least from a distance.

The Pekingese 

Shih Tzu

Bichon Frise


All of these dogs were purebred. Purebred rescues? Yes! Several years ago, the dog lady explained, a breeder in her area had contacted her about adopting out dogs that were no longer going to be bred. The dogs were usually about five or six years old, both male and female. The breeder did not run a puppy mill, the dog lady explained. A personal visit to the breeding facility proved to her that the breeders were kept clean, healthy, and up-to-date on all shots.

The breeder was done working the Pekingese and Shih Tzu; thus, they were being put up for adoption. The Bichon was, too, but for a different reason: The 3-year-old Bichon had just aborted a litter. Consequently, the breeder would not use her again.

We discussed the pros and cons of each of these three breeds. The dog lady sent me pictures of all three and left it to me to make a decision about which I would like to have.

Each was cute as a button, but I leaned toward the Bichon: With her coloring and her curly coat, she reminded me most of my Poochi. And everything I read about Bichons said that they were affectionate and smart, although clingy. I decided on the Bichon. The dog lady told us we could pick her up in a few days, once she had recovered from being spayed. I could hardly wait.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant ROVER

Linda

 

 

 

 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Scam Alert!

Scam alert!

My dog Poochi died in 1993, but every time I see a Benji-dog with a poodle-ish face and blond coat, I feel the pang of his loss.

I had found him in a pet store when he was a tiny little pup, just weaned from his mama. He was not a smart dog. Some would say he was not even a cute dog. But he was my dog, a loyal companion who moved with me from Indiana to Louisiana, Texas, back to Indiana, then up to Michigan.   He was about 14 or 15 when old age caused kidney failure and numerous aches and pains. I knew when he began to cry in his sleep it was time to say good-bye.




 The cats (Charlie and Xena) I adopted when I moved to Florida filled a void created by the loss of Poochi, but despite my treating them like dogs, they were cats—aloof and independent. They tolerated some petting and occasionally sought some cuddling. But there was no way the cats could tug at my heart strings like my dog did.

Periodically Jim and I talked about getting a dog. He said it was entirely up to me to decide. About six months ago, after we sold our truck camper, I started to feel like it might be time. So, we started going to the Jacksonville Humane Society to check out their dogs. (We also went to the city’s dog pound. However, its location is distant from our house—not as convenient as the Human Society.)

The Humane Society separates small dogs from the big ones. I had my heart set on small lap dog, one that would resemble Poochi. I didn’t care about the gender or the breed, but I preferred one that would not shed and had a terrier-like face.

Several times when we visited, we saw dogs that met my criteria. The problem? They were already adopted. We were told we should come by immediately when the doors opened at 1 p.m. to get “first dibs.” We started doing that, to no avail. I suspect that the pandemic contributed to the paucity of lap dogs.

Frustrated, I started to check other digital sites: Nextdoor, Facebook Marketplace, and Craigslist.

I had seen postings on Nextdoor once or twice from neighbors who could no longer take care of their pet for one reason or another. I had not been ready for a dog when I had seen those postings. Unfortunately, now when I was ready, there were no postings. Facebook didn’t have any either.

Craigslist was a different matter.

I discovered a number of ads for “re-homing” pups. Few mentioned the actual cost of the re-homing fee. Were these fees actually breeder fees (which could be thousands of dollars for a purebred)? Or something reasonable? Curious, I decided to inquire. Every response I received was similar (almost verbatim) to this:

We are glad you are interested in our Yorkie Pups we have for adoption. We have one Male (MARKY)  and one Female  (MILKY) they are pure breed Yorkie  puppies, they are vet checked and will come with all necessary papers. The puppies are very playful and are all of absolute temperament as they also love playing with kids and other household  animals. They are 11 weeks old and are brother and sister. I am giving these pups out for an adoption with no adoption fee, this is because we just relocated to a non pets apartment and we can't keep them any longer. 

I will be very willing to give you these pups if you can promise me of never to sell them, also do get back to me with   answers of the few  questions below so i can have an idea of where our puppies will be going to;

-Have you owned a pet before?

- Do you have a vet doctor?

-where precisely are you located?

- Are you a breeder?

- will you take all or just one? if one what sex?

-Do you have pets loving children at home?

- Give me a Brief Description about your Environment?

-Will you take good care of the babies like your own children?

All I need is just a caring and loving home for our babies where they will be well loved and spoiled to rotten. Thanks and will be waiting to read from you again.

Hmm…This sounded too good to be true. I sent another e-mail, “Where are you located?” (Mind you, these were advertised as available in the Jacksonville area.)

The response:

Am so glad, after reading through your mails, you moved to the number one sport in my heart for potential adopters of my lil pups.
More details on their personality.

*** My Lil Girl Milky *
-she is not yet Spayed,
-she is house broken and potty trained,
-She eat 2 times daily,
-She is socialized with kids and other house hold pets especially Dogs,
-She likes to be carried a lot and be spoiled,
-She likes to be kissed and likes Licking your legs.

*** My Lil Boy Marky ***
-He is neutered,
-He eats 2 times a day,
-He is socialized with kids and other house hold pets especially Dogs,
-He likes to keep him self away from the crowd but is also socialized,
-He feels shy when carried,
-He also likes Licking.

My husband and I have decided to give out these puppies to any one who is ready to take good care of them and we are happy you are willing to do so for them. All we need from you is your love for the babies. I really wanted to meet with you so you can pick up the babies yourself but since you are not in our area and it's a distance of long hours drive on car. I don't know if you will make up the ride to come pick up today or tomorrow.

We just relocate some few days ago to TX here is our address: 9310 Salisbury Avenue Lubbock TX 79401

Better still if you can't make it up here, then a pets transportation company with a great team is located close to us here and they can be registered and will be home delivered to you in less than 24 hours. All you will have to do is pay the transportation fee so they will be home delivered to you right at your doorsteps. We are giving the pups for free since they were given to us as a birthday gift ( at just 6 weeks old) and all I want in return is just you to take care of them and send me monthly pictures so I can see their progress.

Did you catch the sentence, “All you will have to do is pay the transportation fee so they will be home delivered to you right at your doorsteps”?

Yeah, right. Craigslist had several postings similar to this one. I wonder if they were all written by the same scam artist.

Next time—how we found our sweet Katie.

Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

 


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Her Yippiness

 A few months after Mollie (our neighbors’ Yorkie) died, Tommy came over with handful of a surprise—a tiny Yorkie puppy, appropriately named Minnie. She is a miniature version of Mollie. He swears that getting Minnie was Joanne’s idea. Easy for her to want a puppy, he said, since she didn’t have to take care of it all day long. I think his complaints were hollow, though. It didn’t take much for him to fall in love with that tiny pup.

Minnie is a handful of energy.

Minnie is a cutie, who has enamored all of the neighbors. Whenever she is tied up outside and sees Jim or me coming out the front door, she starts yapping, demanding that we come visit and pet her. She is not satisfied until we do. With her constant barking, she could easily be dubbed "Her Yippiness."

She is definitely a sweetheart, but she is not Mollie, who could be demanding but not too much, especially in her last years. Molly was mellow. After playing for a few minutes, she would go lie down and let you go back to whatever you were doing. Minnie, on the other hand, is a 5-pound bundle of energy, who, despite her tiny size, thinks of herself as an alpha. God help any other dog that comes near her yard! I’ve seen her make 80-pound dogs cower before her! Even when she is in her fenced backyard, she somehow knows when someone (or some dog) walks by on the sidewalk or street. Her barking is relentless until the "danger" has passed.

Several years ago, Tommy and Joanne had asked us to take care of Mollie when they infrequently (perhaps twice a year) went out of town for a few days. I enjoyed Mollie’s company; it gave me my “dog fix.” So, when they planned to take a trip up to New Jersey to visit Joanne’s grandkids, Tommy asked if we would watch Minnie. Jim volunteered us (me). Taking Minnie's energy level into consideration, I was not sure if I was up to the task, but I agreed to dog-sit, provided Jim would help.

We never had the chance to take care of Minnie. Before going on their trip, Tommy and Joanne had to get tested for Covid. Unfortunately, Tommy tested positive, although he had no symptoms. Joanne was negative, but had to quarantine because of Tommy. The trip was cancelled.

I figured that once Tommy was healthy, they would reschedule the trip. They never had the opportunity. Joanne, who always appeared to be in good health, suffered a massive stroke and suddenly passed away. It was a shock that reminded us that each day we have is a gift that we should not squander . 

I think it is good that Tommy has Minnie to keep him company.

I don’t know when the yearning for a dog started—possibly around the time that Tommy got Minnie—but Jim and I started talking about adopting a dog. I had to convince myself I was ready.

But more on that next time.

Your Reluctant ROVER,

 

Linda

 

 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Getting My 'Dog-Fix'

 Poochi was my companion for about 15 years. 

I cried when I had to put him down, and for the longest time, every time that I saw a small dog that resembled Poochi, I would tear up. I really missed him. The cats were nice, but they were not dogs.

Several years ago, I think Jim realized I needed a periodic "dog-fix," so he volunteered me to take care of Mollie, our neighbor’s Yorkie, whenever they went out of town—just a couple times a year. Taking care of Mollie gave me a "fix" that would last me several months. (Getting a dog-fix is kind of like getting a grandkid-fix: You get to love them for a while, then leave them to their parents—the best of two worlds.)



Mollie was the cutest little thing—very small—and smart. And she loved to play. For example, when Jim and I were using our computers in the office (in other words, not paying any attention to her), she would come in and yap until we would say, “Go get your toy!” Away she would go to fetch a squeaky toy, with which she would play tug-of-war and fetch until she got tired.

She was a good dog, but she did have the habit of barking to get attention. At times I could quiet her down by holding her on my lap. Other times, by playing fetch with a toy. But it seemed that in the early evening, she just didn’t want to calm down. It took us a while to figure it out: By 7 p.m., Molly was ready to go to bed, and she wanted us to go to bed, too!

Tommy and Joanne, Mollie's parents, were early-to-bed/early-to-rise people. Joanne actually left for work about 5:30 a.m. to avoid traffic, going into the city and returning home. Since she got up so early, they went to bed early—very early. And so did Mollie.

Jim and I, on the other hand, don’t go to bed until 11 p.m. or later. Once Mollie figured that out, she gave up and receded to the bedroom and her bed without us.

One time when Tommy asked us to watch Molly we had already planned a camping trip in our RV. Tommy didn’t care if we took her camping, so we did. I think she loved the experience, since she was able to explore new sights and smells. She was even content when we left her in the camper while we went fishing.


Toward the last time we cared for Molly, we saw that she had become virtually blind with cataracts. She still found her way around OK, but age was definitely catching up to her. If she wandered off, she would get lost—not because she didn’t know her way home, but because she couldn’t see to find it.

Finally, about two years ago, old age finally paid its final calling card, and Molly left this world. I was sad to see her go. She had satisfied my dog craving for many years. Now what would I do?

Until later,

Your Reluctant ROVER,

Linda

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Cats are Not Dogs

Cats are not dogs. 

I knew that, of course, but I guess part of me expected my cats to act like a dog. Shortly after I moved to West Palm Beach in April 1998, I decided it was time to fill my house with a bit of life. Despite my son’s urgings, I was not ready to get a dog. But a cat…I thought a cat would give me companionship without the 24/7 commitment a dog requires. I made a trip down to the local pet shelter to see if any kittens were available for adoption. It was there where I found Charlie, a blonde, neutered male kitten. He seemed to like me, and I, him.
Charlie let me pet him; he sometimes would lie on my lap. He even let me give him pedicures, although that did not stop him from clawing my furniture.( In short order, a couch I had purchased in Chicago was in tatters. I didn’t like the couch anyway.) 

Charlie also had the habit of jumping onto the screens on my screened-in porch. As he would hang there by his claws (probably in a vain attempt to catch birds or lizards), he reminded me of the tomcat Herman my parents had adopted when I was in college: Every night, in search of love or out of natural curiosity, he would wander the neighborhood. When he returned, he wanted back in the house (especially if it were cold outdoors). To get my parents’ attention, Herman would jump up onto the window screens of their bedroom. The funny thing, he always knew which bedroom they were sleeping in. (They had swapped bedrooms with the kids several times over the years.) One time I was babysitting my younger siblings when my parents took a weekend vacation. Trust me when I say that when Herman wanted back into the house, his midnight gymnastics were quite startling. 

 Dog are social animals. I assumed that cats were also. So, I believed that Charlie needed a friend to keep him company. A co-worker told me that a cat in her apartment complex recently had given birth (again) to a litter of kittens. Would I want one? She had one in particular in mind—a black, long-haired cat with green eyes. Why not, I thought. Good company for Charlie. So I picked her up and brought her home. 


It didn’t take long to name her; at perhaps four months old, she was an independent warrior princess. I called her Xena. Xena did not like to be groomed. She also did not like to have her nails clipped. I decided that when I took her in to be spayed, she would get declawed. (Had I adopted her when she was younger, I could have trained her to sit for clippings.) 

 Xena’s independence was also evident. Or perhaps it was just her feline nature. She and Charlie only tolerated each other. They were anything but close friends. 






Despite their differences, Charlie and Xena were my companions, until Jim became part of my life. Then they were his companions, especially Xena. Charlie later adopted Jim’s mother (who had moved in with us) as his person, and would wait for her to come home from the senior center each day. They would then go into her bedroom and both would take a nap together. 

 When we moved to Jacksonville, Jim installed cat doors from the house o the porch and from the porch to the outside, so that Charlie and Xena could enjoy the outdoors. Later, when we began RVing, they became seasoned travelers. So they could continue to enjoy nature, we tried putting them on a leash; however, they were not fond of being tethered. 

 Xena never seemed to be a problem while traveling. Twice, though, Charlie was. The first time was when we left Tucson and drove a couple of hours to Bisbee, Ariz., where we planned to spend a couple of nights. When we pulled into the campsite and put out the slide, Xena was ready to have dinner. But where was Charlie? We looked high and low for him. How many places are there to hide in a 38-foot motorhome? We could not find him. Had he jumped out of the RV while we had been packing up in Tucson? Anything was possible. We called the campground we had left, and the host graciously looked around the area for him. No cat. Jim was despondent, but there was nothing we could do. If he had jumped out and run off, he had become dinner for some coyote. Saddened but hungry, we drove into town for a late dinner. 

 An hour later, we returned, and what did we find? Charlie sitting in my easy chair! We finally figured out that he had jumped in an opening, formed when the RV slide was pulled in, and hid behind the kitchen cabinets. From then on, whenever he disappeared, we knew where he was hiding. 

The second time Charlie did his disappearing act was when we had planned a five-day trip within the state. We hunted high and low for him and could not find him. Finally, we had to leave. We packed Xena into the RV and left a big bowl of food and a two bowls of water for Charlie, under the assumption he would come home. Five days later, we returned. I went out onto the porch, and there he was, sitting in an easy chair, basking in the sun. He looked up as if to say, “About time you came home!” 

 The cats were with us for 18 and 20 years. Charlie was the first to go. Xena became a more loving cat once Charlie was gone. I finally learned that cats were not dogs. 

 Until later, 

 Your Reluctant ROVER,

 Linda

Remembering Jim

Three weeks ago today, I said my final “I love you” to the man who, for the last 21 years, sometimes made me angry, sometimes made me cry, b...