All images and text are copyrighted by Andrea Dorn. Please do not "borrow" them without permission

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July - A Hard Month

July is a hard month. After waiting months for summer to take hold we are suddenly bombarded with 90 degree temps and high humidity. Some days it is hard just to breath. But then we are rewarded with weeks like the one forecasted next week: clear skies and highs in the 70s!

Thai, my mom's Siamese, and Gabbie

Life is like that. Just last week I was struck by the irony of July 8th. It is a day for celebrating Gabbie’s entrance into my life in 1977 just one day after the day that was supposed to be the end of the world (7-7-77). She was, at most, 3 weeks old and a spitfire of feline fur. She quickly became my best friend, closer to me than any human could ever be.

But July 8, 2008 brought an end to my physical life with Effie after 16 years. I’d spent nearly 12 years trying to convince her that domestication was way better than her feral life. When she finally agreed to give it a try we had only 4 years left together for a close friendship. I was so lucky that she had already given me her best with her babies, Mewdy Blue and his siblings.

Pixel in 1998
Today is the anniversary of the day in 2000 when Pixel’s pancreatic cancer invaded her brain and I had to let her go. Pixel came into my life as an adult in the feral colony but didn’t stay feral long. I’d trapped her for spaying but afterward, when I opened the carrier to change her bedding and add food and water she purred and rubbed against my hand. She’d taken almost no time at all to choose domestication. I’ve a much longer story about her life but for now just know that she was a special girl.

Only picture of all 6 of Tiggy's babies
In 1980 the clinic I worked for took in the stray animals from local animal control and many of them ended up on my family’s acreage. We all thought that Tiggy was already spayed because we’d felt what seemed to be a spay scar on her abdomen. Only a few weeks after she “appeared” on the acreage I realized how wrong we’d been. On July 12 she delivered 6 unusual kittens. Lando Calrissian and Yoda developed normally to robust longhaired cats. Pirate, Figaro and Zeit Geist, however, suffered from muscular dystrophy. (Princess disappeared at only 2 weeks of age).

Tiggy's babies all grown-up

My sister adopted Pirate and Figaro died early from Panleukopenia (he was vaccinated). Yoda had been the runt of the litter but with my TLC he became the largest of them all. Unfortunately Yoda disappeared only a week before I moved into to my first apartment. Lando and Zeit both experienced mast cell tumors and yet they both lived to old age. Zeit even had a urethrostomy at one point but lived to 16. Lando was my longest-lived cat, to date, finally succumbing to his mast cell tumors at age 19.

Zeit Geist & Yoda

Lando Calrissian
Then there’s July 13th.  What else can I say except that Sunday will be the one-year anniversary of the day Mewdy Blue left me. How does one cope with such a traumatic, dramatic loss? I remember a line from the Lord of the Ring movies spoken by Frodo, “Some hurts go too deep.”

Effie and baby Mewdy Blue
Baby Mewdy Blue

Thursday, April 17, 2014


It’s spring!
I’m so excited
I wet my plants

I saw that on a sign in Des Moines a couple of weeks ago and just had to share it.
Spring in Iowa
Ah, change, ain’t it wonderful? Just because it is inevitable doesn’t mean I have to like it. Things around here have been changing. Typical Iowa weather had us experiencing temps near 80 degrees on Saturday, thunderstorms Saturday night, Four inches of rain on Sunday and at least 2” of snow on Monday. College basketball season is over, ending one of the most exciting seasons my Cyclones have ever served us, and spring football is already in progress.

Personally, I’m still working through the grief that hangs over my household after losing those three precious beings last year. Ironically, while trying my best to help my Cyclones win that last NCAA Sweet 16 game by jumping up and down, cheering and doing all kinds of things in the privacy of my own home I managed to break my foot! So I’m hobbling around in a huge boot while yearning to get out and work in my yard.

And in the family, things have also been changing. That happens when a member of the family dies, or when several family members die, and especially when three of the dominant members die. Leaderships change, dominances get rearranged and loyalties fly out the window. I’ve seen “enemies” sleeping together, sisters and brothers fighting and even attacking their own mother. I’ve even observed some personalities developing, blossoming.

Mulberry Spot and Miss Misty Meadow, enemies?

I’m restarting my blog today as a way of recognizing a couple of very important birthdays and an anniversary of my own. Thirty years ago on April 16th I began my job at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. Nineteen years ago Lady Butterfly was (probably) born. She came to me when she was nearly 9 months old so I guessed at her true birthdate. Then 17 years ago on April 17th Mewdy Blue and his brothers and sister were born in my house. We’ve never really celebrated birthdays in my family because to cats every day is special. But this year I had to do this much.

So, along with this blog, I’m rededicating myself to my writing. I’ve written two children’s books already and need to concentrate on getting them published. I’ve also begun work on two new books. You will probably see little changes to this blog every now and then. Oh, I’ll still write about animals, including companion animals, livestock and wildlife but I’ll also touch on the writing life once in awhile and maybe even life in general.

I hope you’ll join me in my new adventure and see just where it takes us. And please, let me know from time to time what changes you’ve seen in your life. Let’s all try to embrace the changes in our lives. Only through change can we grow.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chaser, one smart dog – or one of many

Ever wonder how much your dog understands? Or maybe how much can he learn? Author John W. Pilley (with Hilary Hinzmann) is about to tell you in his book, “Chaser, Unlocking the Genius of the Dog Who Knows a Thousand Words.”

I’ll say up front that I received a free review copy of this book but in no way did that influence my opinion of it. I’ve reviewed several books over the years and usually I end up donating them either to local libraries or to my cat club’s raffle (whether I like them or not). But this one is already highlighted and labeled with my name. As soon as I’m done going over and over it I will find a special place for it in my own library.

Chaser’s story begins with the early days when the breeder was only thinking of raising another litter of Border Collies up to her present day life. And, not to ruin the ending but I think most readers will be happy to know ahead of time that Chaser is still alive and still learning. No sad endings here!

We get to see Pilley’s earlier adventures training his previous dogs. He illustrates his love for the dogs so eloquently. He even earned the respect of an entire college for his dogs’ good manners. His first Border Collie, Yasha, and then Chaser, were given permanent college I.D.s to allow them free access to the college grounds. As a University employee I can tell you that is rare.

This guy really knows Border Collies. More importantly he knows dogs. But his research shows that it doesn’t take a degree in Psychology to have a happy, well-trained dog. He points out first by example and in the end by the flat out statement that the best reward for a job well-done is play. Isn’t that true for people as well as other animals?

Although Pilley is a retired professor his writing in this book is conversational and easy to read. At the same time it gives the reader just enough real science to satisfy those of us who are familiar with scientific methods and terminology. I like that Pilley gives us a true representation of all the strings and red-tape that scientists must deal with. You’ll see just why takes so long to get any answers out of the lab and into the public eye.

My favorite aspect of this story though is the love that shines out in this book. For example, Pilley and his wife, Sally, turned down requests for some appearances because they didn’t want to transport Chaser in the cargo hold of a plane. They make sure their car is well-cooled before Chaser can get in and they organize their days around Chaser’s needs.

I have to mention that several times while reading this book I found myself drawing comparisons between Chaser and my own beloved Mewdy Blue. Beginning with the day he was born I nurtured Mewdy Blue’s personality. I believe our mutual love for each other revealed his special character and talent. After reading about Chaser, I wonder how much more we could have done together if we’d only had time. Sadly I was a working stiff for much of his life. The “what ifs” in life plague me.

Yes, “Chaser” shows you a dog that has learned well over a thousand words, verbs and many parts of grammar that some humans don’t know. She runs agility and dotes on her owners. But you get so much more out of this book. You’ll learn from this book how you can teach your own dog tricks, obedience, and manners. You’ll also learn how to make sure your dog is happy. Mostly you’ll come to appreciate the wonders of your pets.

Chaser and her owners continue their search for all that she can accomplish. I doubt they’ll have any “what ifs” in their relationships. Whether you are a dog lover or an animal lover like me, you'll love this book.

I should add that if you want to learn more about Chaser check out her website at

Or you can see some of her videos at!chasers-channel/c2j

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Johnny Orr, 1927-2013

Official Iowa State University announcement:

Bit of a departure here today. I’ve mentioned my Cyclones before so you’ll hopefully allow me this moment. I’ve included a picture of a cardinal just to give it an animal feel – besides, our mascot is Cy, the cardinal and our colors are cardinal and gold.

Cyclone Nation is mourning and celebrating tonight. 2013 had to give us one last kick in the teeth before it left. A legend of a coach and the father of “Hilton Magic”, Johnny Orr left us this morning. Although he was ISU’s winningest and losingest coach we Cyclone fans will always remember the magic of all those home wins.

I never liked “boy's" basketball until Johnny Orr came to town. I am from the era of 6-player girl's basketball so all that running back and forth just bored me. Then Johnny Orr brought us his fast-paced game plans and created a more competitive Cyclone team. As a student I bought season tickets with a group of friends and watched every home game in spite of wind, rain, snow, blizzards and even a cast on my foot (climbing up to balcony seats is really fun with a cast).

We were all treated to not just a new game but a new atmosphere. I remember one historic season that had my group of friends sitting in the second row right behind the basket nearest our team during two of the biggest games ever: versus the Iowa Hawkeyes and versus Oklahoma State. The crowd was so loud during the Okie State game that I was nearly deaf for days afterward. The floor even shook with our roar!

Now Hilton Coliseum is a place of fear for other teams. Even during seasons when our team isn’t a powerhouse, Hilton is still a hard place for opponents to play. Johnny brought the fan base back to life and it continues today. The games sell out even for non-conference games. Johnny Orr lives on in the success of his former players and in the hearts of all Cyclone fans. That’s a “dinger” Coach!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Two Adoptable Pets

Fundraising T-shirts available at the shelter

I had a vision the other day. First I saw Mewdy Blue from the backside as he walked away from me into a doorway. Next, the door was closed and all I could see of him were his paws reaching out from under the door. I’m not sure what to think of this but I’ve chosen to believe that he isn’t going to talk to me until I get going with things I’ve been avoiding. So I’ve come back to my blogs today. My return is going to be to help some Story County Animal Shelter pets find homes.

First I’d like you to meet a handsome fella who has a special need. I didn’t find a name on his cage so I decided to call him Maximum because he is a fair-sized cat with a heart full of energy. Though he has longhair his fur is easily maintained. He has already been through two adopted homes because the adopters didn’t do their research before taking him in. In the first home he didn’t get along with the resident cats so he returned to the shelter. In the second home he didn’t like the family dog,

When I approached him through the bars of his cage he acted upset –aggressive but not mean. I could tell that he’d gotten a whiff of the other cats and dogs on my hands. After I wiped my hands with an alcohol solution I found that he was very receptive to my approach.

Maximum has been living in a cage too long! He’s got a lot of pent up energy that needs to be released before his true personality can shine through. Let’s find him a home as an only pet, with no children either. I think someone is going to find a truly wonderful boy behind those golden eyes.

Just to be fair I also took a photo of a very sweet Yellow Lab/Golden Retriever-type dog. He is a barker in the shelter setting but when I stopped to take pictures of him he was quiet and just begged for my attention. Anyone who has ever had a Lab or Retriever knows how special these breeds are. They are smart, loyal and happy-go-lucky puppies throughout life. I’m sorry that I didn’t collect any information on the dogs today but how can you pass on a face like this:

You can meet these two wonderful pets at the Story County Animal Shelter but remember that the holidays will affect their hours. Call ahead before visiting.

The shelter is located at:         975 W Lincoln Highway
Nevada, IA 50201
Ph: (515) 382-3338

Their hours are:                       M-F 11 am to 4 pm
                                                Closed on holidays and weekends

You can see more of the pets awaiting adoption at the shelter website and updates on their Facebook page.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

As Butterflies Go

The calls of cats passed were too strong for my sweet Lady Butterfly to ignore. She joined them this morning floating where butterflies and Bluebirds fly over the Rainbow. I can only pray that Mewdy Blue’s dream message the other night is true: she is happy and healthy tonight. If only I could be so happy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Lady Butterfly

Almost 20 years ago I lost Gabrielle’s Galaxy, my best friend Gabbie. Two years later my precious baby boy Misha Baryshnikat joined her. The reason I bring this up now is because the other day I found myself calling their names as I looked for Lady Butterfly. I’m not sure if it is a case of a “maternal” mixing of names or if, just perhaps, those two are now hanging around Lady as she struggles with the late stages of kidney failure.

Misha Baryshnikat

I sometimes feel as if my life is in a downward spiral. Year after year I lose this cat then that cat and each loss is worse than the previous one. True, I’ve had good things happen too but it’s hard to see those things when loved ones are dying.

Lady in 2009 mid-rollover
Lady has been a tough little girl but she’s really having a hard time of it this week. I started treating her with Sucralfate to battle the high levels of phosphorus in her system, Lactated Ringers solution supplemented with potassium because her potassium is low and Azodyl to eat up all those toxins her kidneys can’t deal with. She’s been eating the Iams kidney diet as long as I mix it with water so she can lap it up but now she’s not so happy with that. This week I am giving her anything she will eat and that usually changes every day. (this morning she seemed to be happy with Purina’s kidney diet, tonight she's eating Iams Recovery Formula, what next?)

I’m just afraid that she may not make it to the end of this year. That would mean three cats this year. Then only Sky Voice is left to represent my first feral colony even though he was born in my house. But I’m trying not to look at it that way. No, for now Lady is fighting and I am helping.

It’s just that feeling I got when I called out Gabbie and Misha’s names. Are they really here? Are they trying to call to Lady? I don’t want her to go with them, not yet.

UPDATE:  It doesn't look like Lady is going to make her 19th birthday. I've been carrying her around the house today and tonight she is restless. Right now she's hiding from me. Not a good sign for cat who's usually so cuddly. This is not going to be a good night.