Christabelle and Clover double-teamed me to steal my lunch.

Christabelle and Clover double-teamed me to steal my lunch.

My sweet husband transformed the office from a junk room back into an office for me while I was at BlogPaws. During my lunch break, I decided to bring my plate into the office so I could eat and work on pictures. Moments after, I sat down, I heard a racket in another room and ran to see what Clover was getting into. She was trying to get into my BlogPaws swag (treats and goodies), so I locked her out of the bedroom and returned to the office to find Christabelle eating my lunch.

I think they double-teamed me!


Little dog, big dog – Just let me have a cat


Cats make a house a home …

Growing up, I had cats and dogs for company. I got my first house cat when I was in preschool. He was a little black and white cat that I named Tramp, and we brought him home in a birdcage because we didn’t have a pet carrier. One of Tramp’s favorite past-times was sitting atop his scratching post and waiting for someone (namely me, since I was about the height of his scratching post) to walk by so he could jump on their head and go for a ride. When he got a little older, he did the same trick from the top of doorframes.

Over the years, I had many cats, both indoor ones and outdoor ones. My mom, however, has always been more of a dog person, so we had beagles, strays, random mixes, a Lhasa Apso and eventually, Shih-Tzus. While I love animals of all kinds, I’ve always been more comfortable with cats – they typically use their litter box without any fuss, they don’t wake you for walks in the middle of the night, they sleep as much as they want (which I envy them for), and most cats can stay home by themselves during their human’s short weekend trips out of town.

Dogs are needier. They need to be walked several times a day. They aren’t good about rationing their food to last for several days. They chew, they bark, and the bigger they are, the more they drool. I’ve never had a cat chew up an important phone number or eat a book cover, but I’ve had dogs who relished those things.

My first Shih-Tzu was named Max, and he was almost perfect. He was smart, cuddly, well behaved, and just playful enough. He always let us know when he needed to go outside. When I was in school, he’d wait for me to let him out when I got home. Max even picked up his toys and put them in his bed so they wouldn’t be scattered all over the house. Even my grandmother, who wasn’t a pet person, liked him.

Max and I would stay with Meme during summer break while my mother was at work, and when Meme started cleaning, Max knew that his favorite time of day was coming. He would lie in the floor and wait for her to start sweeping. She would always give him a good sweep, which he seemed to consider an excellent treat. After he was swept, he would get his sock toy and want me to drag him around the house on his belly. He looked like a little dust mop with his white fur flying out behind him.

We got Missy the grumpy Lhasa Apso a few years after we got Max. She was full of personality and loved my mom and me, but other than that, she was antisocial. She didn’t want to go visiting, and when we had friends over, Missy had a horrible day growling every time the “intruder” took a step. Where Max would flop in a stranger’s lap and want a belly rub, Missy sat under the computer desk making snappish growls and discouraging guests from getting off the couch.

While I was in college, I added a cat named Andy to Max and Missy’s pair. He and the dogs mostly ignored one another, but for the first time, I felt like Andy was really my own pet. My mom and I shared Max and Missy, and they would snuggle and play with either of us, but while I was away at school, they seemed to bond more closely with Mom. Andy, on the other hand, was always anxious to see me because I was “his” girl.

When it came time for me to move away to an apartment, I took my cats rather than any dogs. The cats wouldn’t demand a 3 a.m. trip outside and down three flights of stairs. They wouldn’t chew on my books if I left them in the floor, and if I wanted to take a quick trip out of town for the weekend, I could leave them at home in my apartment with no worries about them starving or making a serious mess. When I took a longer trip to attend a weeklong conference, I had a friend stop by and refill their bowls and scoop their litter every few days. They were perfect apartment companions.

My cats have even stayed by themselves while I went out of the country for weeks or months. I just had my mom come by to check on them regularly and keep them in a constant supply of cat food and clean litter. Dogs couldn’t do that; they’d get bored and chew the house to pieces.

A few years ago, my husband decided he needs a hunting dog. We didn’t have a fenced yard, or even a dog pen, but that didn’t matter because he informed me that the dog will hunt better if it stays in the house with us. If I were to get a housedog, I would bring “my” Shih-Tzu Sally home from my mom’s house. She’s small, compact, and about as catlike as a dog needs to be, but according to the laws of men who hunt, Sally isn’t a real dog. Since we already have four cats, a small, furry dog would automatically fall under the cat category, and according to Chris, we don’t need another cat. Dogs – more specifically BIG dogs – are acceptable according to the “rules.”

I ruled out mastiffs, Irish wolfhounds, coon dogs, and labs – too drooly, too huge, too loud, and too hyper. Apparently, magazines say that standard poodles are the newest “in” hunting dog, and my mom just happens to have a pair of standard poodles. Chris called dibs on one of their puppies, and we named her Clover.

I don’t know much about standard poodles, but having a dog trained to hunt and retrieve in the house with my cats is a little disconcerting. Of course, Clover doesn’t hunt now that we got her. Sometimes she doesn’t even remember her own name.

Standards are supposedly very smart and easy to house train, but after years of having only cats, adding a dog into the equation complicates things. No matter how smart Clover may or may not be, she never will be as low maintenance as cats. We can’t just go off and leave the her and the cats home alone for the weekend.

Clover isn’t easily portable like a small dog either. I’m used to putting the cats in their carriers and being ready to go. A big poodle is sort of like transporting a miniature horse. If we go on vacation, we can’t simply have somebody come by to check on the animals every few days. Clover needs to go outside and run, and run, and run – or else she starts systematically tearing things up. If she can reach my stuffed bears, those are her favorites, but she doesn’t mind knocking things off countertops and ripping into her own bag of treats.

I’m not sure why a big dog strikes me as so much more trouble than a small dog or a cat, but in my mind, a dog is going to require a lifestyle change. I’m not used to hunting dogs, and the ones I know are almost exclusively outdoor dogs who live in fenced yards and kennels. We have a fence but it has no gates, and I don’t want my furniture gnawed or peed on by a bored dog.

Sometimes I wonder if we couldn’t have just gotten another cat – or maybe a catlike dog? I know how to handle them!


Clover makes herself at home.

I’m not a crazy cat lady, but my pets are my “fur-kids”

I know a lot of people aren’t “pet people,” but I don’t know what I would do without “fur-kids.” When I was little, we had dogs and barn cats. Somehow, the standoffish cats at the barn appealed more to me than the excitable dogs that barked and growled at strangers.

As soon as I found out there was a new litter of kittens, I slipped under pallets, between hay bales and even under a bush hog to cuddle the newborn balls of fur. They didn’t always appreciate my dragging them out of their nest, but playing with the kittens was one of my favorite things.

One day when my grandfather and I went on a walk, two grey tabbies followed us home. We put out a bowl of food, and they stayed. The two sisters were identical except for their eyes: Mew had brown eyes, while Purr’s were green. They started out as carport cats until some feline spat drove Purr down the road to live in my grandparent’s garage. I lost track of how many litters they each produced, and later, their children produced their own kittens. I’m sure we helped populate half the county with free kittens.

When more than one mother had kittens in close proximity, I took it upon myself to try to keep the kittens divvied up between the correct mothers. Whether it was a case of curious kittens or jealous mothers, it never ceased to disturb me to return home and find the kittens with the wrong mothers. Perhaps I was a bit obsessive as a child, but I had to be sure the kittens were properly sorted before I could sleep at night.

Eventually, we got the kitten population under control through generous donations of mousers to stables, barns and anyone who wanted a kitten, and instead of spending my time dividing the kittens into their original litters, we were free from cats for awhile, except for Mew and Purr and a few of their children, who were particularly nice or pretty. We had some cuddly indoor lap dogs, but cats have always been my favorites.

When I was in college, someone I worked with found a black kitten coated in sap or tar and asked me if I wanted to take him. After getting him cleaned up, which included having his back shaved, I took the motley kitty home with me. He looked so ragged that I named him Andy, after Raggedy Ann’s brother. He nestled in my hair and slept under the covers with me, and when I had to go back to school, he listened while I talked to him on the phone. We also had an understanding that if I told him, I’d “be home Wednesday” he would start looking for me at the windows a day or two before I came home, even if I wasn’t on Wednesday.

By some genetic fluke Mew and Purr, who were both long-tailed mousers, both had Manx kittens. The Manx breed is known for cats with round heads, rabbit-like back legs, and tails that are either short and stumpy or missing altogether. Ever since meeting my first Manx kitten, I’ve had a fondness for them, and when our last Manx cat succumbed to old age, my mother found me a new Manx kitten to keep Andy company. Christabelle has been my constant companion ever since.

When my friend Laurel mentioned that no cat she has ever adopted would sleep in bed with her, it surprised me because almost all of my indoor kitties have been cuddlers – sometimes even bed hogs! When Christabelle gets cold, she sometimes will burrow under the cover with me, and if she can’t get under the cover, she curls up in a tight ball on my pillow, right above my head. Something is wrong if a cat or two doesn’t walk on me during the night or cuddle with me while I sleep.

Now that Andy is gone, Stryker is my only boy cat, and for some reason, he is the most loving when he knows that I’m upset. If I’m crying, he’ll walk across me and will lie on the bed or couch near me, purring, just to let me know that he’s there.

I’ve never understood how people can’t love an animal. Even if it’s not cats or dogs, horses, guinea pigs, rabbits, etc. can all be loving pets. When people don’t make sense, or I’ve had a bad day, my fur-kids are always there. They may demand food and plenty of attention, but they never yell, lie, complain or judge. They never get angry that you didn’t do things their way, and their only deadlines are making sure they have full bowls, clean litter boxes or a walk, and cuddle time.

Whether I’ve been gone for an hour, a day, or a whole vacation, my fur-kids are happy to see me. My favorite time of day is when Christabelle and Spike greet me at the door and Snowbird pokes her furry nose through the stair rail for me to pet her.

So what that I have cat hair on my furniture and a few claw snags on the bedspread? Those things can be vacuumed or replaced, but the unconditional love of a pet is irreplaceable. If we had room for a well-trained dog, I’m sure I’d feel the same way. I know I have the same feelings about my mom’s dogs when I “borrow” them for cuddles and puppy kisses. It may not be true for everyone, but for me, life without pets would simply be too cold.