|Dusty Quinn - firstname.lastname@example.org|
|CAT IN THE NIGHT WOODS|
Aging in Good Spirits in the Company of Critters
"The Average dog is nicer than the average person."
Still in the Covid-19 quarantine and my real groomer hasn’t opened her shop. I’ve sort of adjusted to my human bathing me and cutting my fur, I know her intentions are good. She does her best for someone who doesn’t know what she’s doing, but I’ve drawn the line at her cutting my nails. Oh, she’s tried, but I’ve outfoxed her at every turn. I sat on my paws, took to my bed, went so far as to lower my standards and hide in the cat crate. And when she finally did get hold of me I refused to allow her to touch my feet, even let out a pretend growl just to scare her. Look at those giant clippers. What if she cuts off a whole nail? What if she cuts all of them too short and there’s pain and bleeding involved? What if I freak out a bunch and bite her? There’s just too much at stake, but by now I should realize who I’m dealing with. She’s sweet, loving, kind and doing really well working on patience, but she’s still way too determined to get things done. And so today she’s on a nail clipping mission and my paws are in the line of fire. Before I know what hits me, I find myself scrunched under her arm, hauled out on the deck and plopped on top of the picnic table. Now she’s playing dirty, knows I don’t like to be on tables, knows I’ll acquiesce because of the height. I’m frightened even though she’s laying over me keeping me safe, but while I’m scared and immobile doesn’t my old girl commence cutting. And doesn’t she do a pretty good job – no blood, no pain, no major amputations. Back safely on the deck floor I’m still pretty annoyed, want to howl and whimper and growl all at the same time. She hands me a treat. Okay, this is good. I calm down and eat my cookie. She gives me a gentle pat. I wonder if it occurs to her that I could have transformed into a nasty critter biting her from head to toe. Between you and me, I wouldn’t know how to be unpleasant. I’m a pretty nice guy. Paws still attached and my nails look good. I really like my old girl, so I’ll keep my mean dog persona to myself ending the fantasy proudly knowing I decided to let her live.
June 15, 2020
Dusty's human here. The two little apples have since been eaten. Won't elaborate. I'm no snitch.
|Green Apple in My Bed|
June 8, 2020
Twenty-Five Hail Marys
I grew up Catholic. I was taught by scary nuns who held the crucifix dangling from their habits in one hand and a yardstick in the other. To add to the joys of Catholic school, Monsignor O’Connor was always lurking about reminding five-year-olds that they’d die in their sleep if prayers were skipped. I received First Communion at age seven. From there on, going to confession on Saturday in preparation for communion on Sunday was a given. This ritual caused much angst. I was a child with little in the way of sin to confess, so I’d kneel in the dark, curtained booth, look at the shadowy form of Father so and so and lie.
New Memories on a Tattered Cushion
Rich oak wood with its lovely grain pattern, spindles in back, plush blue seat cushion with flecks of white stars, the rocking chair has occupied a prominent space in three different homes. We had just moved cross-country and were renting a temporary place. I bought the chair for a corner in the family room with good light for reading and knitting. Two years later, we purchased our own home and the chair fit beautifully in the master bedroom. I placed it right by the sliding glass doors with a clear view of slender madrone trees and the booming pink bougainvillea along the fence. Eventually, we relocated to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. We’ve been here twenty-five years. The rocking chair’s current spot is in my writing studio with a window view of tall, green pines, blue sky and cottony clouds. The wood remains in good shape, but the blue seat cushion is a bit ragged. I bought a new cushion a while ago, but have resisted making the change. The frayed, worn seat pillow holds old memories to hang onto and fresh relationships to cultivate.
May 18, 2020
I was on assignment in the San Juan Islands. Waiting for the ferry to head back to the mainland, I sat on the beach wrapping up my notes on island serenity and simplicity. A young man walked by with a small beagle on a leash. His lively, inquisitive companion was a very young pup. Each time a seagull zoomed in for a landing, the little dog tried to scurry and chase the bird. Each time his excitement peaked, his paws were tugged out from under him by a harsh tug to the lead. And with every yank the puppy choked and flipped upside down. I witnessed this appalling behavior a number of years ago. It was long before everyone and his brother carried a gun, so I wasn’t afraid to say something. As it turned out, the young man was very nice and didn’t hit me when I lightly commented on his rough behavior. He explained he’d just gotten the dog and wanted to get him trained as soon as possible. I said I’d owned several dogs over the years and understood. I assured the guy I wasn’t a trainer drumming up business, but did say that control of my pets came easily and without forcefulness once I got to know my dog and they knew me. He smiled and thanked me as he bent to pet his dog’s head. “We’re all receptive to love,” I said as he walked away with a kinder stride, a calmer companion.
May 11, 2020
If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that the arrival of little Dusty Quinn motivated me to change direction, to move beyond impatience and to devote my work to the well-being of animals. While this blog is a focus on life with my sweet little dog, I will veer off the Dusty Road every now and then for stories that are important to the cause.
I am an aging woman. Well, all of us are aging, but I’ve just recently started paying attention to being part of the group. I’ve been a young thinker my whole life and thanks in part to genetics look a bit younger than my years. Not that these things are bad, it’s just that owning up to the aging process is a new concept for me, a former personal trainer.
In truth, aging is a bloody challenge. I’m up for it, but sometimes find it a pain in the rump, literally today because my left sciatic nerve is aching. And here’s where my annoyance kicks in. “You’re in great shape, keep up the exercise,” my doctor advises. And I’m out there walking rain or shine almost every day and lift weights as well, but if I push this aging bod a tad too much it comes back to haunt me in the form of pain. Now I wouldn’t mind the sore muscles if I saw some light at the end of the tunnel, like my exercise routine bringing cholesterol numbers down. “Eat more fiber,” the doc says. So this carbo junkie buys a pricey machine that grinds fruit, veggies and nuts to a pulp and starts having healthy, fibrous shakes for breakfast. It isn’t long before this morning meal is followed by spending the afternoon in the bathroom. With the grinding machine tucked to the back of a cabinet, I get into oatmeal for breakfast. Let me tell you oatmeal, no matter what favorite goodie I put in it, isn’t a New York bagel slathered with cream cheese. Moving on from grumbling, this morning, instead of standing over the sink to eat my yummy bowl of mush, I sat at the dining room table. This way I was able to plop my screaming sciatic rear on the heating pad while I ate. About halfway through my ordeal, nine-year-old William jumped onto the table. He moved to the bowl and started licking the oatmeal that was stuck to the side. Purring loudly, he turned, licked my face, washed his and curled into peaceful sleep - my little William always so appreciative of the smallest tidbit.
May 4, 2020
Wrote a pretty lengthy blog this morning. It was all about whining over the sad state of my country. Read it over, liked it, got ready to publish. And then it happened. Tap, tap, tap on the tree by my studio window. I had to take a look, couldn’t miss a lovely bit of nature gifted to me right under my nose. Yep, there was our olive and brown neighborhood woodpecker upright on the hardwood diligently pecking his little heart out, tufted feathers on his crown fluttering. And while I’m at the window two does amble by, in between them a sweet, spotted fawn, a tiny new life right in my yard. In that moment, the beauty of nature tugged at my heart. Lovely simplicity in the midst of a world in crisis.
I strongly believe we are guided by a higher power, a Universal Energy. Also admit I don't always pay attention to the messages. Back at my desk I intended to publish my latest blog. I hit the key. The blog disappeared. What did I do? Where is my #?#!**## blog? Who hit delete? By this time my sleeping critters were awake. I looked at those faces; three sweet, happy boys all rescued from bad situations. I realized my situation was far from bad. Must have been a reason why my original blog was deleted, perhaps the reason was to give me time - time to appreciate, to regroup and be grateful, to rewrite and share, to stick to the purpose of this blog. Hope my little ones make you smile.
Stay well, dear readers.
"Anybody who doesn't know what soap tastes like never washed a dog."
Franklin P. Jones
The Covid-19 pandemic so awful for the world hasn't been too bad for me. My family is always home to keep me company and when they do go out it's mostly for walks, and I get to go. There's been a lot more play time in the yard, too. I'm a bit worried today, though. There's a big plastic tarp on the floor, scissors and brushes have been placed on the tarp and the bottle of Dawn soap that's usually in the kitchen is by the tub in the bathroom. The hairdryer is always out, but right now I have a bad feeling about that as well.
Except for the car ride, I've been pretty good about going to the groomer. The warm bath is nice and my clean, short coat feels good, especially in hot weather. And I look so handsome all spiffed up. I'm better now about riding in cars, but today being at the mercy of my pseudo groomer has me concerned. There have been many dogs here before me and we've all been kept beautifully bathed and clipped, but by a PROFESSIONAL GROOMER. This girl of mine is so good to me and the cats in every way, but grooming???? OMG as you humans would say. I see her coming. Stay tuned.
This is the quarantined makeshift groomer speaking. The kitties are hiding high up in the rafters, there's "caution" tape draped across the demolished bathroom and I look like something the cats dragged in. Dusty, bathed, clipped, brushed and handsome sits patiently in the kitchen waiting for the promised treat. Not surprising, he was enormously cooperative although a bit shaky during his ordeal. Also not surprising, I have a new respect for our professional groomer. I'll sign off now and attempt to groom myself, or perhaps go directly for my adult beverage treat.
Dusty here - She's a mess, but hallelujah I'm not, look pretty good really. I didn't let her near my nails, too scary, but my fur is clean and short and pretty even, except for my legs, my leg fur is a little jagged here and there, but she did her best and was extra cautious trimming around my eye. She's gutsy and I'm proud of her, but I hope we're out of quarantine before too long. I miss my real groomer assuming you can miss someone who assaults your body with suds and scissors.
From all of us, stay well.
Walk a Mile on My Paws, A Dusty Post
She’s a retired personal trainer. My wonderful, loving, considerate, patient owner who tops off my meals with little pieces of cheese, brushes my coat and who I really like is a retired PERSONAL TRAINER! “Let’s go for a walk,” she says. “We need the exercise,” she says. “Gotta keep our weight down, bods in shape.” I’m eight-years-old and my last owner was a sedentary smoker. I like a casual walk as much as the next guy, but she worked for years as a PERSONAL TRAINER. Walking with this girl is a whole different animal.
Our routes are super nice. Towering pines, thick shrubs, winding trails in one direction, tall beach grass, sand and crashing waves in another. Lots of good peeing and pooping spots, and she exhibits a great deal of patience when I stop. But the rest of the time we’re moving. I am thankful for small favors. She’s no spring chicken anymore. While she once ran six miles a day, arthritis in her back and knees has changed her workout routine to less miles and walking, but walking with a former runner isn’t just schlepping along. The old girl’s pace is fast. I’m good for the first mile, staying in front, eagerly pulling on my leash. By the beginning of mile two I’m beside her and near the end I’m starting to drag. But I came up with a spectacular idea. To save myself I tap into both the sympathetic and competitive sides of my trainer person. As we close in on the end of mile two I shift from dragging to plopping my fluffy rump down on the pavement. She turns around, takes pity on my sad little face to which I’ve added a drooping tongue and finishes her workout carting me in her arms. She takes great delight in hefting fifteen extra pounds. Panting now she tells me she’s burning more calories, building more muscle, bettering her fitness level. I knew she’d come to that conclusion. We finish our walk. She plants a kiss on top of my head, mumbles it was a good three miles, gives me water first. I knew she’d do that, she’s such a mush. “You’re a good walking buddy,” she says. I’m glad when I can help.
You should know my personal trainer has written a popular book on safe exercise. One of the chapters even has a blurb about a dog. She can’t help herself, always includes a critter in her writing.
|Books by Carole page|
April 13, 2020
Bare Floors and Cat Treats
Dusty isn’t a fan of bare floors. He navigates the carpeted rooms of the house with ease while ignoring the guest room and hall bathroom. The big issue for him, and subsequently me who wants her pup happy and her Libra scales balanced, is the uncarpeted kitchen floor. For Dusty, crossing the kitchen to reach the door that leads to his fenced yard is akin to slipping and sliding on a sheet of ice. He sways back and forth on the edge of the carpet for an eternity and finally leaps and skids and scurries to the small throw rug by the doorway. As you’ve probably guessed by now, this glitch in his comfort doesn’t sit well with me. At first I thought I’d just carry him out the door, “He’s small, no big deal, why not?” I asked myself. Then I thought about having to ask my husband, Jim, to do this if I wasn’t home and decided on another plan. Replacing the small door mat with a larger one seemed a good solution and it was for giving Dusty a longer, softer path coming into the house. But he still had the daunting slip and slide of the main kitchen area to cross. I like our kitchen floor. It’s an attractive wood, easy to clean and blends well with the tan carpet in the dining room. I also like a room to have an even, uninterrupted flow, a balance, but my scales were about to be tilted to fix this problem.
I found them on the bottom shelf of the linen closet, one maroon, one pea green, one faded pink. I cringed at the mishmash of color as I made a path through the kitchen with old, worn bath rugs. It wasn’t pretty. The cats gave me their what weird thing are you doing now looks. Dusty approached, sniffed the green and stepped on, sniffed the pink, stepped on, sniffed the maroon and pranced gingerly to the mat by the door. I was elated. And over the next weeks Dusty padded through the kitchen with bouncy confidence. I decided I’d improve the ugly color scheme with new matching mats and adjust to a rug path through the kitchen until little bugger Dusty changed my mind.
Jim and our cats have a morning routine. He rattles his vitamin bottles, Abner and William arrive in the kitchen. They sit patiently while he takes his supplements then opens the kitty treat jar and places munchies down on the floor. Dusty was part of the group now with Jim placing his treat on one of the mats. The morning I was planning to buy new throw rugs, I was in the kitchen for this ritual. The cats left a few of their nibbles on the floor. Dusty finished his goodie, stepped casually off his mat, pranced comfortably along the bare floor and gobbled up the cat treat remains. I was amazed. “Ya know, he’s done that before,” Jim said. “He gets distracted and forgets to be afraid. I’d hold off on buying new rugs.”
It’s annoying when my husband’s calm overrides my OMG, but I decided to relax about the mat thing, give it some time. The wait was worth it. Only two throws remain, the long, brown one at the door and the maroon at the far end of the kitchen as a jumping off place from carpet to bare floor. Dusty has come a long way. He still sits on the door mat for his treat, but maneuvers the floor for everything else including leftover cat tidbits. I like to think I’ve come a long way as well. The jury is still out.
As I shared in last blog post, screeching like a barn owl when riding in the car and our vision problem have been resolved. Many thanks were offered to the loving Universal Energy and the veterinarian. For now I'll put aside the bare floor issue (update to come) because the core of Dusty is calm and casual about everything, and I've got a lot to learn.
My human is an early bird, okay I'll go out in the yard at six, but eight would work fine, too. While I'm out there I can visit with the deer and bunnies. Maybe I'll eat early this morning, or maybe wait till ten or so. The cats can sniff at my food bowl while I think it over. Should I sleep in the dining room sunbeam, or head to her office? I'm thirsty, but Abner cat is at our water bowl. I can wait. In the meantime, let me move my blanket out of the way cause my human on a schedule is on a tear with the vacuum.
Just when I think I've got my act together, I find I don't. All these months I have felt that Dusty was sent to me as a response to my request for forgiveness, like in my old Catholic days of saying twenty-five Hail Marys as a penance. While I still hold that belief (the forgiveness message, not the Catholic dogma) and give thanks daily for the opportunity to take care of my little dog, I'm beginning to suspect there's more to our relationship.
I'm a planner. I schedule my day. All good for my work as a freelance writer meeting deadlines. Also good for managing a household. Coffee pot on dog out at six, cats and dog and me fed at seven, next it's litter box cleaning, dressing, then into my office with coffee and a head full of ideas. So far nothing out of the ordinary, but here's where I start to run amok. The animal bowls are in my office (all their stuff is in my office), and I notice that Dusty hasn't eaten. Well, why not? I've heated his meal, placed it in his favorite spot, coaxed him in that direction. He ate early yesterday morning but today he's curled on his blanket. So I patiently pat his head and set about worrying while he naps till eleven and then wanders to the bowl and chows down. Same deal with his evening meal. Sometimes he eats immediately, sometimes not. Some days he only eats one meal. My husband says the two of us could do well to skip a meal now and then. His joking reminds me of my commitment to patience and humor. But I never agreed to give up worrying. Now if I follow Dusty's lead, maybe some things don't necessarily need a schedule. Well, that's a liberating concept for a "hurry up"worrier with a running to-do list. Seems sweet Dusty, a wise old soul, is on a mission as well. Look at that face. Curious spirit in that dog suit. Think I'll have breakfast at eight tomorrow.
March 30, 2020
OMG! Where to begin? He screeches like a frightened barn owl when he's in the car. He freezes when approaching a bare floor and, with poor depth perception, stairs are quite an issue. And I'm determined to make everything right, make him comfortable in his new home, want to "hurry up" (as Mother would say) and fix it all. Dusty comes with very little history, only that he's had several owners along the way. Sure would like to smack the original human who had him as a pup and likely caused all his problems in the first place. I remind myself that despite his questionable beginnings Dusty is a well-behaved love of a dog. I look at his little face that suggests I calm down, lighten up, have patience with both of us, especially myself. I scoop him into my arms and we head for the rocking chair. Sweet Dusty settles in instantly. Eventually I succumb to the relaxing motion and consider the concept of slowly working on our issues with patience, humor and treats. He likes grain free chicken tidbits. I'll take a bag of chocolate chip cookies.
Hooray! Improvement! Following the vet's advice, after several months there is improvement. With his blanket he settles securely into the soft, open carrier attached to the back seat of the Jeep. It's positioned high enough to let him look out of the window. We take regular short journeys listening to Denver's low-key "Annie's Song," me not talking. On the way out there's a little pretend screeching. We park and go for a walk. On the way home - not a sound from the back seat. Hallelujah! It's working! The consistent reinforcement is working, but my ego likes to think the success is mainly because Dusty is beginning to trust me.
Dusty lost his left eye before he joined my family. As I mentioned earlier, I don't know much of his history. My veterinarian did track down enough information on his eye surgery to learn that the infection involved just one eye, the removal fixed the problem and his right eye, as well as the rest of him was in excellent health. At issue for Dusty was loss of depth perception. For me the issue was helping him adjust to new environs that included deck steps and not letting my mother's "Hurry Up" mantra get in the way.
Depth perception gives you the ability to accurately judge the distance between you and something else. The loss of an eye means the loss of that judgement. Dusty had adapted to having just one eye pretty well on flat terrain, but the five deck steps that let down to his fenced yard and back up to the kitchen door were troubling. He was very hesitant in both directions and needed a lot of coaxing and hands-on help. It upset me to see him uncomfortable and I was bound and determined to fix the situation. Fortunately, it didn't take much and I stayed calm.
To eliminate the precarious open spaces, I had our carpenter nail risers to the back of each deck step. Once this was done I put outdoor carpet pieces on the five stairs and placed small pots of flowers at the ends of each so there was something to feel on each side. Dusty was hesitate at first, but with a little help quickly got the hang of navigating his new safe passage up and down. As for me, I remained pretty unruffled throughout this project, no past voices in my head. Proud of both of us, I sat on the top step with my sweet little dog and thought about my forgiveness request and second chances.
I was ready for another dog. Four years had passed since I'd lost Casey. Before him there was Sunny, the sweetest pup ever. I also had Sunny's brother, Jesse, a rascal of a dog, but wonderful in his own way - all three beautiful, sleek purebred American Cocker Spaniels. West Highland White Terrier Brodie was in the mix as well. We shared many years together and while I never fully recover from the loss of a pet, after four years I felt ready for the companionship of another dog. The reputable breeder research began. Boy had the cost of cockers gone up. But I was a purebred dog snob and continued on with my search.
Carpooling to a club meeting late last year, my driving companion mentioned that her neighbor (a casual acquaintance of mine) was quite ill and had been taken to the hospital. "It doesn't look good," she said. And here's where things got interesting. Normally my response would have been, "Sorry to hear that, he's such a sweet guy, hope things improve." But I didn't say anything like that and the four words I did say, "Where is his dog?" I knew had come from someone else. The rest of the conversation went like this. "The poor dog is being boarded, really needs a permanent home, has some problems, if you're interested I can put you in touch with my neighbor's power of attorney." Once again, from someone other than me, I responded, "Okay." Since I knew something wiser than myself was in charge, I wasn't too surprised to learn that the power of attorney was someone I knew. In fact, she was a local business owner, had groomed all of my dogs over the years and was familiar with the care and love I gave my critters. She arranged for me to meet the dog who was not a purebred, was terrified to ride in cars, had issues with steps and bare floors and he had only one eye. The day we met I sat on the floor, he circled once around me sniffing from head to toe and snuggled into my lap. I placed a hand on his soft head, closed my eyes and took a mental trip back.
I began seeking a solid spiritual path a number of years ago. I had lost someone dear to my heart and was at a very low point. Tried a few different religions, tried no religion at all, considered no God as well until a higher power, something I've come to accept as a loving Universal Energy, showed up and gently, subtly changed the trajectory of my life. Craving my daily dose of solitude, I had gone for a walk in the woods. What happened just a few steps along the secluded trail has always been difficult to explain. This poem is my best interpretation.
A Magnificent Quiet
No robins sang, no distant barks,
I believe we are all one. I believe as well in the Native American concept that when the spirit is free of the body it is everywhere, living on in all of nature. Today I see God not as a single entity, but an energy surging through all living things. If we listen, that Universal Energy speaks. If we speak, the Universal Energy listens. That was what the magnificent quiet in the woods showed me. And I think it's that simple. So each morning I go out onto my deck and listen by taking in the beauty of snow-capped mountains, the glistening blue bay, the towering pines and speak by offering a prayer of gratitude. A while ago I added a request to my higher power gratitude chat. There were two souls in my life, both gone, that I could have treated with a lot more lightheartedness and patience. It bothered me that I didn't see this when they were alive. I raised my head to the billowing white clouds and asked forgiveness for poor judgement. A majestic eagle soared high. And a few days later I was given the opportunity to offer patience, to find humor in the day to day struggles, to grow beyond past foibles, to change direction. If we speak, the Universal Energy Listens. If we listen, the Universal Energy speaks. I welcomed Dusty Quinn. And from our first day I wondered just whose spirit resided in that dog suit - a spirit guiding me to patience, leading me down the Dusty Road not to simply feel forgiven, but to feel an urge to grow. So today I bumble along toward tolerance and write for the well-being of animals.