Critter Alley

Critter Alley

Friday, February 5, 2016

Fred Astaire Flair

My son's dog, Brady, spends about three days a week at our house while his dad and mom are out of town for work. 

Brady is a somewhat high maintenance kind of guy. He has terrible skin allergies that literally leave his sides and front feet bare due to him licking and pulling in an effort to make the itching stop. This condition is worse during spring and fall because grass and pollen are two of the biggest triggers.  

Imagine having a dog who is allergic to grass.

I can tell you that Son has probably built a new wing at the vet's office due to all Brady's appointments and medications. Brady has even seen a doggy dermatologist several times for help. When a pet has medical issues, a pocketbook can be quickly depleted. I think Brady is a very lucky dog that his parents are so conscientious. 

But I digress. Brady has another problem which is not very endearing.

He likes to mark his territory. All. Over. My. House.

I used to put down towels in his favorite spots which seemed to deter him. Then I realized my floors had virtually disappeared under terrycloth. Plus I had nothing to use after a shower.

Then I discovered doggy diapers. These are nifty little belly bands that fasten on with velcro. It seemed the perfect solution until I realized Brady doesn't have hips. Therefore, the diapers would slide right off him.

More research and I found another solution...doggy suspenders. Hey, they work. And I think it gives him some Fred Astaire flair, too. 

So how do you like Brady's new look?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Le Pup Misérable

It's hard to imagine a sight more pitiful than a dog getting a bath. I suspect Winston's face was unhappier than a teenager's on the last day of summer vacation. 

That's a lot of misery for one little dog.

But not to worry. After the dreaded bath, he was bundled in a towel and whisked to a warm room for purposes of drying and fluffing. (Note: The fluffing reminded me he needs to be scheduled for his first haircut-sure to be another traumatic experience)

When finished, Winston reverted to being a happy boy.

Happiness lasted until the following day when he went to the vet for his final round of immunizations. Crying, and screaming, and pouting, oh my! Winston is not a patient patient. And sadly, his vet visits aren't over yet. 

In two weeks he goes back to be "tutored". 

I'm afraid the vet will really be on Winston's "poop" list after that adventure.    

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

We All Make a Few Adjustments

Life is very different at our house these days. Winston has become the center of attention. The reason is primarily because he is like Dennis the four-legged Menace. We always seem to have trouble.

Bogey is curious but mostly annoyed by our new family member.

Really, Mom?

Mr. Bogey, won't you please be my friend?

A friend does not put his nose under my tail!

By the way, Mousie is mine. Keep your paws off.

That's right. Go ahead and chew up Mom's shoes but leave my toys alone.

And so it goes. 

So what to do?

Nobody wants to be my friend. 

When I see that sad little face, I feel guilty and get down on the floor to play. And let me tell you, it's time consuming to be a puppy's only playmate. 

Once bedtime arrives, I shake my head. How the heck does an entire day slip by with absolutely nothing accomplished? 

I've decided that until we need to sign up for puppy class. Winston would have so much fun if he could romp with other puppies and burn off some energy. He might actually become tired and sleep. And I might have a few hours to get something done.

Sounds like a win-win to me. Suggestions, anyone? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Girls' Road Trip-Finale

I've become a posting slacker. A writing slacker. A pretty-much-everything slacker. My only excuse is that a puppy now lives at my house. But enough about my sleepless nights (and days). Back, in a necessarily abbreviated form, to the road trip...

With a dire weather forecast for rain, rain, and more rain, we reluctantly canceled plans for visits to Savannah and Charleston, packed our bags, and hit the road for St. Augustine. The drive up the coast toward our nation's oldest city was lovely, but a little scary. Billowing dark clouds and gusting wind, made the waves look gray and ominous. They broke tall and crashed toward the shore filled with white foam. Definitely NOT a beach day.

We finally arrived in St. Augustine and our first stop was the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. St. Augustine is home to the oldest seaport in the United States. I love the stripes on the lighthouse. (Note: This picture is from the lighthouse site. Pretend it's raining and you'll experience what we did)

In our race against the weather, we had no time to explore. We did a quick tour through the museum and then headed for downtown St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States.

The Castillo de San Marcos fort is the oldest masonry fort in the United States with construction beginning in 1672. It was built to guard against privateers. For its advanced years, the fort appears remarkably well preserved. Alas, we didn't have time to go inside.

Next we raced to the quaint downtown area that houses such landmarks as the first schoolhouse in the United States, small shops, and mouth-watering food. Each of these treasures line the narrow quaint streets of this truly historic city.

We wanted more time to look around, but the rain began pelting us hard and steady. We had many miles to go before reaching our overnight stay in Atlanta, so we said good-bye to St. Augustine. I hope to return someday and spend a lot more time exploring the history of this charming area.

After a brutal push to Atlanta, we collapsed in exhaustion and set the alarm for 5am. Then we were up and running with the mission of getting home as soon as possible. Though we couldn't stop to browse the area, we drove through the lovely Smokey Mountains, a mysterious and delightful sight.

Many hours later, we were finally back home again. Four weary travelers made a small pact. We would not disclose every mishap and mix-up we experienced on our road trip. (Disclaimer: I can reveal  what happened as long as identities remain confidential-so there could be a story or two later-Bwahaha!)

And thus ends the girls' road trip. I could wax eloquent about friendships formed, bonds deepened, and lessons learned, but I'm still mulling it all over. Bottom line to readers: I highly recommend a girls' road trip to get real, get personal, and have the kind of fun you simply can't have when men are around.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Welcome Winston!

I'm hijacking the Girls' Road Trip saga to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Throw in my birthday (December 23) and I can safely say that it's been quite an eventful week or so at my house. Let me explain.

After my sweet Indy boy went to the Rainbow Bridge back in June, I had doubts about getting another dog. There were plans to do post-retirement traveling, a practice that doesn't easily include dogs. Besides, I dog sit Brady (Son's dog) and Tinker Bell (Daughter's dog) fairly often, and definitely enough to give me a dog "fix".

Well, I didn't have either dog for the past several weeks and I must say, the house felt pretty empty. Bogey can fulfill a lot of roles, but playing the part of dog, isn't one of them. So I started a dangerous practice...looking on Petfinder. My husband was thrilled since he's not comfortable with selecting gifts and told me, "Great! I'll just go out and get you a dog for your birthday/Christmas present!"

This made me nervous, so I started searching seriously. I saw plenty of sweet-faced dogs that made me smile, but non really tugged my heartstrings until I noticed this precious little face.

He and two litter mates were 10 week old breeder surrenders (Pekinese/poodle mix--Peekapoos!) to the St. Louis Senior Dog Project. They were scheduled to be at a Petco Adoption event in Kirkwood. Interesting. I traveled to Kirkwood where me and about 4 dozen other people came to see this little guy. I held him and fell in love.

I asked one of the volunteers how the puppies came into care. She explained that their group occasionally gets breeder surrenders because some breeders don't want too many male puppies as females are more marketable. In order to avoid the expense of caring for the "extra" males, some breeders kill them (I never heard of that before--what a horrible practice!). Fortunately, an arrangement came into being. Their group and other adoption groups would take the unwanted puppies instead and find homes for them. Thank goodness!

Well, you guessed it. This little guy came home with me. I believe Petco now feels I am one of their best customers.

So here I am, exhausted and wondering if I can keep up with all the puppy energy, training, and care. Did I do the right thing? I hope so. No other pup will replace my Indy boy, but in the words of Eugene O'Neill, it would be a poor tribute to his memory to never have another dog.

My new baby's name is Winston. He and I are busily establishing the home rules. He's smart and feisty and I sure hope he lets me win once in a while.

I guess in world history there have been cuter pups, but I surely don't know when. Okay, maybe I am slightly prejudiced on the matter. Please meet Winston!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Girls Road Trip-Lighthouse, Rehab Center, Fish

So much to see, so little time...

We hauled ourselves up and hit the road running for another day trying to capture the highlights of the Daytona area. We walked on Daytona Beach (oddly, you can pay to drive on the beach if you want, this seems to me a bad idea for everyone concerned, but no one asked for my opinion).

Next we drove to Ponce De Leon Inlet Light Station. I snapped this photo with my trusty cell phone and thought it turned out pretty as a post card.

The lighthouse is 175 feet tall, and was completed in 1887 in an effort to decrease the number of shipwrecks in the area. It's had a few "makeovers" since that time, including getting electricity in 1933. Touring the grounds, I was struck by what a solitary life the lighthouse keepers led in the early days. It was a 24/7 job to keep a kerosene lantern burning for the safety of ships at sea.

There are a mere 203 steps to the very top, where one can go outside and walk around on an observation deck just below the light. This is not recommended for those with a fear of heights. I started up the steps with every intention of making it to the top. However, it was a humid and hot day, the lighthouse is claustrophobic-ally narrow, and half way up I started sweating like a pig, sure I'd die any moment. Alas, I wimped out and turned around. Maybe next time...

After seeing the sights (the grounds have many small buildings filled with memorabilia), we walked a short distance to the Marine Science Center. This nonprofit rehabilitates injured seabirds and turtles. It's also an educational center.

They have a touch pool in which there is a shark and several stingrays. We were allowed to touch first, and then feed them...

The stingrays were smooth and soft as velvet, while the shark had skin tough as leather. Fascinating!

We learned that most turtle injuries come as a result of collisions with boat propellers causing gashes in shells and amputated limbs. Any creature with injuries severe enough to make them unable to survive in the wild are kept on site to help educate the public. Here's one of the turtles curently in care. The floating green things are slices of green pepper, a special treat.

Here are a couple of the birds in care. Most of them have suffered wing or leg injuries.

Your eyes aren't fooling you. That's a bald eagle. I had no idea eagles traveled to Florida. I thought they only hung out where it was cold. Is this the older eagle population? And if they winter in Florida do they call themselves snowbirds? This fellow didn't answer my questions.

Our final stop of the day was a local outdoor restaurant. It was close by and located right next to the water. Boondocks serves up great food, has beautiful scenery, casual ambiance, and is pet friendly. Many people travel there by boat. What more could anyone ask?

Check out the catfish swarm below the restaurant's dock. Do you think they are used to getting a few handouts?

Whew! Another jam packed day. Back at home base we had a cocktail (or two) and collapsed. Then we read the weather report. Heavy rain predicted all up and down the coast. H'mmm. Should we reconsider our carefully laid plans?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Road Trip Plus an Interview

I can't believe it's been more than a week since my last post. Can somebody slow time down just a little bit? It's rushing past faster than a rocket launch.

Before I get back to the road trip, I wanted to share something fun. A week ago, Amy Newmark from Chicken Soup told me she'd passed my name to the folks at HuffPost Live. Apparently they were doing a series on four-footed miracles scheduled to air December 9, and Amy thought my story in CS Hope and Miracles would be a good fit.

Sure enough, Allison, an assistant producer at HuffPost Live, emailed me. I agreed to participate with 3 others to discuss "miracle stories". Of course, I needed a webcam, which I didn't have. So I dragged myself into the 21st century and bought one. Then I had to download Skype. Nope, I didn't have that either. Nor had I ever used it. This was beginning to sound pretty nerve-wracking to technology-challenged me.

Allison is a very busy gal, and we didn't get to chat until the night before the broadcast. We tested my new acquisitions, and yes, I had trouble connecting the video. Allison, bless her, is patient. We (meaning I) finally fixed my mistakes.

The day of the broadcast, the request for me to connect came through. I clicked, but we didn't connect. Now I'm really starting to sweat because we're 5 minutes from show time. After several attempts, the video finally went through. Holy last-minute-do-or-die!

Anyway, if you'd like to see the tape of my nervous yakkity-yak on HuffPost Live, here it is. The entire video is 22 minutes, but I only muddy up about 6 of them. All I can say is I'm pretty sure becoming a screen star is not in my destiny.

Now back to the road trip...

We drove for 13 hours on our way from NOLA to Port Orange, Florida, minus potty and food breaks. I think that's the longest stretch of time I've ever spent in a car. Who'd ever think sitting would be so exhausting?

When we finally arrived, we ordered a pizza delivery, unpacked the bursting-at-the-seams minivan, ate, and collapsed in bed. I don't remember a thing until 8:00 am next morning when this adorable Doppelganger to my daughter's dog showed up to meet us. Isn't she a dead ringer for Tinker Bell?

The agenda for our first full day in Florida was to visit Blue Spring State Park which is winter home to more than 200 manatees. The entire place is beautiful and we enjoyed walking the trails. Funny thing is, you see signs everywhere warning people about alligators, yet there's an area in the park deemed to be okay for swimming. They did graciously post signs warning swimmers to be on the alert for 'gators. Note: I did not enter the water. 

Alas, since we were outside of the manatee's arrival time, the only manatee we saw was this colorful guy. Cute, isn't he?

Blue Spring Park is lovely, and worth a visit. However, I don't recommend bringing your swimsuit. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Girls Road Trip-The Plantations

I spent so much time preparing for, enjoying, and recovering from Thanksgiving, putting up a blog post totally slipped my mind. (By the way, hope yours was as wonderful as mine, minus the ten pounds I gained).

Day two in New Orleans, we visited some historic sugar cane plantations.

This lovely Creole plantation, now known as the Laura Plantation, was built in 1804 by Guillaume DuParc. Sugar was highly valuable and created a fortune for more than one early New Orleans settler. This plantation is an example of Creole design using plenty of color (red, ochre, green, and pearl) on the exterior of the home. There are a number of outbuildings on the property including slave quarters, exotic looking gardens, barn, warehouse, and primitive sugar mill. The property's location at only 600 feet from the Mississippi River meant easy shipping access.

Of course the tour included lots of information about family intrigues, feuds, and alliances. Perhaps not so different from some of today's headlines.

Only a little further down the road, we visited the lovely Oak Alley Plantation.

Oak Alley is a beautifully restored sugar cane plantation originally built in 1839 by the Roman family. It is what I typically envision when thinking about an American southern plantation. The most amazing part of it (to me) was the 28 enormous live oaks lining the walkway to the front of the mansion--the view above is of the back, and it's gorgeous. But take a look at the front...

View toward the house:

View from the house:

It's no wonder that film-makers have used Oak Alley as a movie/tv location spot. My pictures don't do it justice. The oak trees are enormous and jaw-droppingly beautiful. There are many fascinating outbuildings on the property and on a beautiful day it's quite inspiring to stroll the grounds.

Oak Alley is reported to be haunted by past occupants. For those who dare, cottages on the property are available for rental. Apparently, they book up quickly, especially near Halloween, so book early to try your luck with the supernatural.

This brief post doesn't do either property justice. They are well worth a visit if you come to NOLA. The contrasts between the two plantations were quite fascinating, so I'd recommend seeing both.

Later in the day, we capped off our evening with a stroll down Bourbon Street. It's every bit as wild and full of people as I imagined. We had a nightcap in one of the oldest bars in NOLA, built between 1722 and 1732. The property was originally a blacksmith shop. Horseshoes, anyone?

A few blocks away, yet still visible from Bourbon Street is the St. Louis Cathedral. We didn't have time to go inside, but I understand it's phenomenal. This was our view, at night from Bourbon Street.

It's amazing, even though I feel bad about some of the things this statue of Jesus is certain to see after the sun sets. Remember, Bourbon Street is one of those "anything goes" kind of places.

After a long day, we finally headed back to the hotel with a firm goal to wake up extra early and push hard for Florida. Whew!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Girls' Road Trip-Part 2

We scrambled to find a hotel room (thank goodness for cell phones) before we began crossing over swampland (alligators, anyone?) and then the vast expanse of Lake Pontchartrain. I couldn't stop looking at the lake long enough to take pictures, so this is a borrowed shot. When we crossed, the skies were heavy with gray clouds and the lake rough as the ocean on a stormy day...enough to send a little shiver up the spine. The causeway is 23 miles long-I think one of the longest in the country.

I couldn't help but be reminded of a dog our local shelter rescued from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He was a big, sweet, goofy boy. We called him Pontchartrain (Ponch for short).

This hotel became our home base. The Hotel Mazarin is in the French Quarter. It has all the flair offered by French-Creole heritage, and here's my totally uncompensated opinion...The Hotel Mazarin is beautiful, the staff friendly and helpful, and it's located within walking distance of anything you might want to see (including a few things you might not want to see-it is close to the infamous Bourbon Street, after all) in the heart of downtown NOLA. Oh, and get this. Along with hotel keys, we were handed coupons for a free drink in the hotel bar (nice!). As an added bonus, a bountiful hot breakfast buffet including just about anything you could possibly want, is provided free to guests. If I ever go back to visit NOLA, I promise you this is where I plan to stay.

The hotel not only had fabulous drinks, but musicians good enough to prevent any of us from sitting still. We sipped and enjoyed the sounds of New Orleans. Then we ventured out to find dinner.

Peche (French for "fish"), certainly satisfied. It is a trifle pricey, but later when I researched the place I discovered it's won awards from the James Beard Foundation for culinary distinction and has excellent reviews from magazines such as Bon Appetit, the Wall Street Journal, and Southern Living. I guess there are times when girls simply must splurge.

Along an only slightly intimidating walk in the dark back to our hotel, we forced ourselves to stop in a beignet cafe. After all, you can't come to New Orleans without savoring a warm, sweet beignet, can you?

Ahhh. The perfect nightcap. Next time, I'll tell you how we spent our second day in NOLA.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Road Trip-Part 1

6:00 a.m. on the morning of the girls road trip, we clicked together our plastic cups in a toast to the beginning of a ten day journey. Ahhh! Nothing like a spicy Bloody Mary to pop open even the sleepiest eyes. 

We drove off as the sun peeped over the horizon in shades of pink and blue. Determined to make good time, we drove several solid hours until starvation and the need for a potty break called us in to a Bob Evans restaurant in Cape Girardeau. Delicious food and a clean bathroom. What more could a traveler desire?

Eager to get more miles behind us, we didn't linger over our eggs and toast. Back to the car we went, tummies full, bladders empty, and ready to roll.

After pushing through with only quick pit stops and a grab-n-go late lunch, we finally arrived at our first night's hotel stop...the Hollywood Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. This welcome respite couldn't come soon enough. Everyone was stiff-legged from sitting in cramped car position. But we soon forgot our achy muscles. Now we had diversion other than the radio. 

The hotel had numerous displays of film-making paraphernalia such as Batman's car, costumes from The Munsters television show, and a replica of a sinking Titanic. All this, and slot machines, too. Who knew?

I'm not much of a gambler, so I sat at the quarter slot machines while my co-travelers took on a few rounds at the blackjack table. They lost. I came out on top with a whopping $15 gain. Don't worry, I didn't spend it all in one day.

However, my eyes were red and bleary. The hours of driving had caught up with me and my comrades. We stumbled to our room and I can't say I remember much after that.

Except setting the alarm for 6:00 a.m. Whew!