Tag Archive | pets

Pet Therapy

The title of this blog is probably misleading, but it’s the best I’ve got this morning. I’ve had my first cup of coffee as the television keeps me company. About every third commercial had a dog or cat in it, and these ads made me think of my friends and their pets.

March 30 038Most every day I tell Ernie he is the cutest pug in the world. He’s so lovable. As you can see, he really hams it up once we put on a silly hat or other apparatus on his head. His happiest time is when he’s sitting on my lap or Ken’s lap. He is content to just be near us. At eight years old, he could care less if he plays. He doesn’t even want to chew on rawhide bones any more.

poeYesterday I visited with Jackie who took in a boy Maine Coon cat who has quite a personality. She is the process of moving and “Poe” is totally confused because she keeps eliminating his hiding places. She said he looked at her when he went to one of his favorite spots and it had vanished. He let out a loud “meow” as if to say, “What the heck?”

Then there’s my friend Kay who recently took in three stray cats to go with her one house cat. Yes, she has four cats, and no, she’s not nuts. She moved to Florida last year and has found the move more difficult than she ever imagined. I believe the universe sent her these three little boys to keep her laughing and happy. If you have cats, you know you don’t need any other entertainment when a kitten is in the house.

I think we all have these little creatures in our lives because none of us has any grandchildren. Our pets fill a deep seated need to spread our love onto some little being. We always talk about our four-legged children, catching each other up on the latest antics of our pets. A little crazy? I suppose. But that’s okay. When our animals follow us from room to room, none of us feel alone. These little souls give us unconditional love just what we all need.



Chapter 8

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – June, 1939—A few weeks into her summer vacation, Donna Jean became bored with hanging out at the beach, listening to the radio soap opera, “Ma Perkins,” and writing in her diary. Since graduation, her father nagged her every day to go out and find a job, but Donna Jean refused. In retaliation for disobeying him, Donna’s father got physical with her. Any saucy comment resulted in a hard slap to the face.

After the Fourth of July celebration, Josie and Donna met at Joe’s Diner for a Coke and french fries.

Donna sipped her Coke. “The fireworks knocked me out! God, I think every year they get better.”

“Yeah, I love fireworks. So many colors against the dark sky. I only wish I had a boyfriend to keep me warm in the damp summer night.” Josie teased Donna.

“Just because I came with a date and you didn’t doesn’t mean you get to give me the raspberries.” Donna grinned.

Josie said in a dreamy tone. “I can’t believe in six weeks I’ll be off to college.”

“At least you got to enjoy a little bit this summer. Rumors at Joe’s tell you and Bobby did some sparking in the cornfield.”

“You bad girl. I did nothing of the sort.” Josie blushed.

“Josie, you aren’t as pure as you pretend to be. ‘Fess up.”

“I won’t ‘fess up.  Bobby just helped me get the tractor started when the old thing stalled in the middle of the field. That’s all. Nothing happened.”

“Oh, really.” Donna didn’t believe a word.

“Yes. Really. Besides, he’s too old for me. Good looking, I’ll admit. But too old.” Josie got a dreamy look on her face.

“You realized with that dreamy look you just confessed the rumors are true, don’t you?”  Donna said with confidence.

“You and your gossip. One of these days you’re really going to hurt someone by spreading stories that aren’t true.”

“I’ll never hurt you, Josie.” Donna said seriously. “You’re my best friend.”

“Then as your best friend, I’m telling you the truth. Nothing is going on with Bobby.”

“Okay. Okay. I’ll drop the subject.” Donna Jean said. “After graduation I vowed I would enjoy my summer and not look for work until you left for school.” Donna never talked about her father’s abuse.


“Well, right now I’m bored. I can’t be with you because you’re working on the farm. So, how would you feel if I got a job?  I’m going stir crazy with all this alone time.”

“I think you should go for it. I’m surprised you think you need my permission to go to work, especially with the way you like new clothes and shoes. I’m surprised your Dad hasn’t kicked you out of the house by now.”

“Gee. Thanks.” Donna pouted.

“Go get the best job you can, Donna, and I’ll be very proud of you.” Josie said.

Donna said, “First thing Monday morning I’ll be out pounding the pavement, but right now, let’s go down by your pond and skinny dip for a while.”

Josie jumped out of the booth and headed for the door. “Last one to the pond is a dumb blond!”


Donna Jean started her job search early Monday morning. She dressed in her navy blue “career girl” dress, a pair of sensible high heels, and a smart hat to make a good impression. She submitted applications with the city’s biggest employers including Autolite, Allis Chalmers, Northern Engraving, and G. Heileman Brewing. Several of the personnel managers gave her a typing and shorthand test. All day she filled out applications and other paperwork as she walked from one company to the next. By evening the soles of her feet burned, and she acquired a couple of blisters on her heels.

Three days after visiting G. Heileman Brewing, Donna received a phone call from the personnel manager. He told her she scored high on both the typing and the shorthand tests, and he wanted to meet with her for a more informative interview. Donna maintained a calm voice as she spoke with the manager, but the second she hung up the phone, she jumped and screamed, “Mom! G. Heileman wants to interview me!” She grabbed her mother and whirled her around the kitchen. ”

Her mother frowned and broke Donna’s hold. “Don’t get your hopes up. You’re  not as good as you think you are, young lady. At least now I your father might stop screaming at you.” She walked into the living room.

“Gee, thanks, Mom.” Donna’s eyes moistened. Why did her mother enjoy bursting her bubble?

Chapter 9

Berlin, Germany — July 1939—Heidi sat in the kitchen with a glass of milk and piece of strudel as she dreamed about escaping Germany and getting on with her life in a different country. The nanny position might be a good experience. She loved children. She enjoyed teaching and caring for them, and she even didn’t mind doing some light housework, if required by her employer. A job in Poland would also give her a chance to meet some boys who didn’t fall under the spell of the Nazis.

Since she spoke with her mother about working in Poland, Heidi got more excited about leaving home. She went to the library and read about their neighboring country and wrote a letter to her Warsaw cousins. The day she received a reply from her Uncle Hans inviting her for a visit, she and her mother went straight to the train station to buy a ticket.

Heidi’s father didn’t think his daughter should be influenced by  the inferior Poles. He never understood why his brother didn’t return to Germany after his Polish wife died, but Heidi’s enthusiasm to see her uncle and cousins made denying her difficult. But at least she didn’t talk about dancing so much any more.

Heidi kept her eyes on her parents through the train window as the train pulled away from the station. Her father put his arms around her mother as she dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief. For a second, Heidi wondered if she shouldn’t take the trip.

When her parents faded away, Heidi pulled out a book from her bag and began to read in Polish. At an early age her father insisted she speak two languages, so she learned Polish. Learning a new language was fun, so Heidi learned French and English too.

Between children screaming and the jostling of the train, Heidi didn’t sleep the entire ten hours of the trip. She thanked God the train trip ended as she stepped onto the Warsaw train station platform. All around her other languages bombarded her; and her fear of speaking Polish and making a mistake when asking for directions scared her. All of a sudden crippling shyness took over. How strange to hear foreign words. Before she could understand the conversations around her, she needed to translate each word into German. And because the native speakers talked fast, she fell behind and got lost.

Out of the din, a man shouted in German, “Heidi-hier dren!”

She turned around to see a man waving. When she studied his face, she realized he must be her Uncle Hans. His image matched the photograph her father kept on the mantel at home.

“Uncle Hans!” Heidi shouted and ran toward him.

The tall man with bushy eyebrows took her bag. “Did you enjoy your trip?”

“No.  I am so tired. Between the train noise, passengers talking, and children screaming, the journey proved difficult to sleep.”

“Perhaps you are just a little bit nosy to block them out?” Her uncle teased and chuckled.

She laughed with him. “Perhaps a little.”

He escorted her to a waiting car with three children in the backseat. “Heidi, these are your Warsaw cousins – Gertruda, Michal, and Anka.”

Heidi said with a broad smile, “Hello everyone.”

Anka spoke first in German. “We are very glad you are here, Heidi. Father told us about where you live.”

Then Michal said, “Yes. Papa told us that you live in Berlin. What is the city like?”

Gertruda, the youngest said. “Papa said you are a dancer. Will you teach me?”

Heidi appeared a bit flustered at the bombardment of questions.

Her uncle came to her rescue. “Heidi is very tired. How about we let her rest and after dinner she can answer all of your questions.”

“All right, Papa.” They said in unison and settled into the backseat.

Heidi sat forward in the passenger seat to avoid their disappointed faces.

Hans smiled as he drove home.



Out With The Old

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

I’ve taken a few days away from the blog to do some serious furniture shopping. I’m happy to say, after a few trips to various stores, I found a sofa and a recliner to compliment Ken’s lift chair and our pug boy Ernie.

I think the saleswoman thought I was a little nuts when I told her my criteria for a sofa. I specified the sofa had to be comfortable enough for a night of insomnia and wide enough for me and, of course, Ernie.

After going through four books of swatches, I decided upon a gray fabric with a thin black line to add some texture. Best of all, the soft fabric is polyester, so it will wear well for an animal’s feet.

The chair? It isn’t part of a sofa set, instead, it’s an automatic recliner. (That means you plug in the chair and push a button instead of having to pull a crank.) The chair is upholstered in solid polyester fabric that looks like suede, so again, it’s Ernie-proof.

For all of you who are not dog and cat lovers, you might think this kind of shopping is crazy, but for Ken and I, we are just compensating for our “kids.” Our animals are part of the family and both Ernie and Vinnie have run of the house. We haven’t restricted them from jumping on the furniture simply because we love them sitting beside us when we plop down for a night of television. Stroking their soft, silky fur lowers our blood pressure and makes us feel cozy. Neither of them are good conversationalists, but they always listen when we talk to them. Who could ask for better friends?

So, now all we have to do is wait eight to ten weeks to have the manufacturer build our sofa to our specifications. The chair, however, will be arriving tomorrow between one and three o’clock in the afternoon. I just hope when we put my “writing chair” out on the curb, my muse won’t go with it.


The Vinnie Story – A True Account

scan0001I rarely talk about my cat Vinnie because he is a fraidy cat. Nobody knows we even have him, unless of course, I forget to clean his “box.” He scurries under the bed when the door opens. He’s either shy or just plain unsociable–I haven’t decided what his problem is, but then again, I’ve only had him 12 years.

It’s been rather unsettling to have such a shy guy because Parnelli, his predecessor, was a big, fat, ham. He actually LOVED people. He was playful and funny. He’d play fetch with a fake furry mouse, he did “dog” tricks like sit, shake, high five, and wave bye-bye all on command (for a treat, of course) and he loved to sit on anybody’s lap.

But not Vinnie. He’s a cat of another color — well, that’s not exactly true. Vinnie is black and white like Parnelli was, but under the fur he’s a whole different animal.

Vinnie spends his days sleeping in a dog bed in my bedroom. (Ernie has no use for a “dog” bed; he feels he’s entitled to sleep in the big bed with Mom and Dad.) Vinnie only comes out for his tuna in the morning, makes sure his food dish is filled to the brim for snacking during the day, and then he returns to the bedroom. Once in a while he’ll come out to watch the afternoon soap operas, and in the evening, he’ll lay by my feet to watch television. We have discovered, however, he does enjoy Animal Planet, so if we turn on his favorite channel, he’ll grace our presence for over an hour.

Vinnie’s also a talker. Like his Parnelli, Vinnie communicates through different sounding, “Meows,” and he usually initiates the conversation. As a dumb human, I answer, asking him “What do you want?” Only to be told in cat talk that he doesn’t like to repeat himself, but for my benefit he will meow again and again until I get the message.

But even with his shyness, Vinnie is the sweetest cat I’ve ever had. Every night before he settles down, he brings his little Snoopy stuffed animal into the bedroom and rocks him to sleep with a kneading motion he does with all four paws. After several minutes, he gently places Snoopy in his bed, sings a little goodnight song, and then Vinnie goes out into the living room and puts himself to bed in my writing chair. I think this is one of the sweetest behaviors I’ve ever witnessed with one of my pets.

This pet story is just so adorable I had to tell you about him. Just like Parnelli, Vinnie has given us many hours of entertainment and joy–even though it’s been packaged in a totally different way.

Parnelli – The Wonder Cat

Parnelli in his Bowtie

Parnelli in his Bow tie

If you know anything about cats, you know they choose you; you don’t choose them. They decide who strokes them and feeds them. They decide who they will love and who they won’t. You don’t own them; they own you. And the day Parnelli decided he was going to own me, I was very lucky.

We met at “Orphaned Felines” when a warm, friendly woman led me to a room filled with cages. Each held a little  fur ball of energy. Up until now, I was a dog owner and didn’t have a clue how to select a good cat. So, I surmised, the first animal that would let me hold him/her and purred in the process, would be friendly enough to take home.

So, I went about my task — opening the cages, picking up the kittens, stroking them and then returning them to their cages because none of them purred. After handling about twelve animals, I grew worried . . . obviously; my selection process wasn’t working. But I promised my children I would bring home a kitten, so, I kept trying.

As if he read my mind, a six-week old, black and white kitten with Peridot green eyes and a very pink nose beckoned me with a series of tiny meows from one of the bottom tier cages. He stuck his little white paw through the steel bars, begging me to give him a chance.

I opened the cage and picked up this mouthy kitten, and the second I held him close, he nuzzled my neck, and purred as loud as a lion. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Either you love me very much, or you know the way out of here!” Either way, this little rascal was smart enough to be making the trip home with me.

The children were so excited when they saw him. He was playful and loving. He allowed the girls to kiss and hug him. He never scratched them. He never hissed.  He never jumped up on tables and other kitty “no-no’s” – in fact, he was more like a puppy than a stereotyped kitten—with the exception of not having to “house break” him.

We named him, “Parnelli” because he’d race around the house as fast as he could go, stop on a dime, fall over, and fall fast asleep a second later. It was if he was the famous race car driver Parnelli Jones making a pit stop.

In a few weeks, my eight-year old Sarah had Parnelli riding in a doll buggy, wearing a baby bonnet. She tucked him into bed in her doll cradle at night, read him a story and a kissed him goodnight. This little trooper took all the loving two young children could dish out. When he had enough, he would jump up on the bookcase where they couldn’t reach him and take a break.

Parnelli learned to sit, come, and shake paws. He would even perform all of his tricks for company–providing there was a few treats in it for him. He played his own version of “fetch” with a furry gray “mousy” that we bought in the grocery store.  Curiously enough, he enjoyed getting dressed up He especially loved to wear a bow tie–you could just tell the way he proudly pranced around that he knew he looked good.

As Parnelli got bigger, our love for him grew. But then tragedy struck. Ten years after Parnelli came to live with us, our family when through a divorce, and I had to leave. As much as I wanted to take him with me, I thought it would be terribly unfair to the girls to take their pet – so Parnelli stayed with my daughters and their father.

As you might imagine, being sent away from my family was torture, and my angst included Parnelli. It was months before I stopped looking down, so not to step on him because he usually was under my feet.  I missed his snuggling at night and his funny antics that made me giggle throughout the day. I even missed his demanding “meows” early in the morning when he announced it was time for breakfast, and he spurred me into action to fulfill his wishes.

Everyone at work thought it was very curious that I kept Parnelli’s picture on my desk right beside the children. He was more than a cat or a pet, he was just a four-legged child. I had to accept Parnelli and I would never be together again.

Then one night after supper, I received a distress call from my youngest daughter, now age eighteen. “Mom. I need some help. Would you take Parnelli? Dad’s going to put him to sleep!”

Panic rose in my throat, “Is he sick?”

“No,” she answered. “Since I moved out, Dad’s sick of taking care of him. That’s all. I can’t have him where I’m living. Parnelli’s perfectly fine. Please say yes, Mom.”

“YES, Of course! YES!” I hung up the phone knowing my “baby” was coming back to me!

Ten minutes later Parnelli was in my arms. It was a joyous reunion, and even though his living quarters had shrunk to a two-bedroom condo from a four-bedroom house in the country, Parnelli seemed happy. He purred non-stop for a month, snuggling with me whenever I was still. We “talked”  because he knew I understood his meow intonations. He seemed elated he was “home” again.

Parnelli lived his retirement years in the lap of luxury. He lounged on a heated king-size water bed in the boudoir most of the day, sometimes getting up to stretch, have a snack or make a needed trip his private “box.”  He properly trained my new husband, Ken to his satisfaction. He made sure he got his milk in the morning and his treats at night. And every evening after supper, Parnelli sat between us on the sofa as we watch television and stroked his silky black and white coat. One year on Thanksgiving, he jumped on the chair at the head of the table and sat there waiting to be served. You see, Parnelli never realized he was a cat.

As I watched his round, eighteen-pound body sprawl in the sunshine by the patio door, stretching and yawning before he returned to his most comfortable sleeping position on the couch, I was so grateful he was with me again. He’d chatter at the birds by the window, and on good days, he played like a kitten. Parnelli loved to crawl into empty boxes, and I laughed so hard when he tried to get his fat self into a tiny jewelry box, as he looked at me as if it was my fault he didn’t fit.

Parnelli’s life was long and good. We enjoyed each other as much as a human and a cat can. When his tired, old seventeen-year old body couldn’t sustain him any longer and  he had to leave me behind, it was the saddest day in my life.

But a friendship like ours endures the ages, and I know someday we’ll walk together cuddle again, reminiscing about the good old days when we both were young.

Pets and People

Every morning when I sit down to write my daily blog, my loyal, sweet little pug Ernie is cuddled up beside my leg and together we face the blank screen. But not this morning. He’s still in bed, and I’m going at it alone, and I must tell you, this situation is unsettling.

Ernie’s strange behavior started last night. On Monday evenings, I teach a night class, and Ernie and my husband have a bachelor night. I’m gone about three hours, and when I come home, I’m usually greeted by my faithful little pal with a welcome home bark  and a very wiggly butt. (For those of you who don’t know the breed, pugs have curly tails that rest on their backside–they can’t wag their tails).  Ernie is usually full of bubbly energy that just makes me very glad that I’m home.  But not last night. My little buddy didn’t greet me. He was in a funk, and the only thing I can think of for  his uncharacteristic behavior was he was angry with me for leaving him.

Ken said that the dog sat on his lap the entire time I was gone. He didn’t even check the window to look for me like he usual does when I’m gone. He even ignored me as we watched the television until bedtime. Ordinarily, the little tyke wants my full attention when I get home. But not last night. He slept on Ken’s side of the bed, and this morning he didn’t follow me into the kitchen for his usual trip outside and morning treat.

Why am I telling about this? I don’t have a clue except to say, Ernie’s behavior really bothers me. It’s not fun to be shunned by MY dog. But this wasn’t my first experience with pet indifference. A long time ago, I had another pug named Rocky. He was my first baby. It’s safe to say that he didn’t know he was a DOG either. Rocky went every where with me, and when I brought my daughter Amy home from the hospital, Rocky, like any other older sibling, had to take a back seat when the new baby came into the fold.  When I let  Rockie inspect Amy, he looked at me as if to say, “You’ve been gone for five days and this is what you brought me?” Rocky’s protest lasted a week!

When my pets don’t act like themselves, it’s as if some great upheaval has happened in the universe. It bothers and perplexes me because I don’t know how to fix it. (If you haven’t guessed, I’m a great fixer.)

So, what is in it for you as you read this tale? Can I tie this experience into a tip about writing? Sure.

Pets are great in fiction as well as in real life. In most of my books, I include pets because I think these little creatures bring out the best in humans. Our pets allow us to be gentle and vulnerable in a safe space. They keep our secrets. They mourn our losses. Their funny antics make us laugh. They are unselfish and comforting. They have an understanding of our emotions. Pets are gifts. You can use their unconditional love to soften even the most hard-boiled character.

I hope you all have had the joy of having a pet. For those of you who haven’t, I assure you, the love they give is worth all the mess and expense. Oh, and if you’ve got a great pet story, pass it along. I love to say, “Awwwwww. . . .”