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Friday, July 25, 2014

Shelter Pets

I visited the Story County Shelter today and though the cat room was closed due to illness I did get some photos of some dogs and a couple of rabbits that I’d like to share with you today.

This tri-colored, wirehaired terrier type dog is a friendly but very active dog. I could imagine him making a good family dog with children who have a lot of time to walk him and play with him. Perhaps he’d be a good fly-ball competitor :)

This beautiful girl is lab-sized and friendly but a little laid back. She seemed to be camera shy too. Every time I pointed the camera at her she turned her face away. While the other dogs barked away she simply wagged her tail and smiled in a doggy way. I think she’d be a nice quiet dog to sleep on the couch with you.


Then there’s this big happy fella. He may look like a Beagle but he’s nearly 6 foot tall when he stands on his back legs. He was just so happy, happy, happy. He must have a little Lab in him.

I tried to get some photos of this unusually colored Cocker Spaniel but he was wary of me and wouldn’t hold still. When I lowered myself to his height he calmed a little and licked my hand. I think he would be best in a home with responsible, understanding adults. He’ll also need some socialization so he isn’t so afraid of people. His color though is so cool. It’s somewhere between buff and liver. Not exactly sure what to call it.

And finally I caught this adorable black and tan Dachsund in the front room just coming in from his walk by the lake. He’s just so darn friendly I couldn’t get a very good picture of him. He just wanted to lick me and be petted rather than have his photo taken!

Then I just couldn’t resist capturing shots of these two bunnies. I don’t know much about bunny breeds so I can’t tell you what they are but the lighter colored one is a neutered male and seems pretty friendly but he didn’t want to face the camera. The darker bunny is a female and just about the most lovable furball I’ve seen. I could just hug her for hours. And those adorable cheek tufts…..what more can I say. I didn’t ask but from the looks of their cages they seemed to be litter-trained


Okay, so if you live in central Iowa stop by the Story County Animal Shelter and adopt one of these loving pets. In a week or so the cat room should be open again and there’ll be plenty of cats and kittens vying for your attention. Fortunately there are about 6 kittens in the front room that are available although I didn’t take any photos of them.

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!