Category Archives: Animal Stories

Marley Schmarley – Timber was Golden

Our firstborn, Timber.

Saw a bit of Marley and Me over the holidays, and it makes me sad + mad.  Sad for obvious reasons – I always hate it when (spoiler alert) the dog dies.  And mad because I didn’t listen to my dear friend Charlotte back in the early 80’s when she urged me to write a book about my firstborn son who just so happened to be a Golden Retriever. My Timber was equally if not more interesting and a lot less messed up mentally than that Marley critter.  I could be the rich author raking it in instead of John Grogan (plus isn’t he busy enough singing  “You Raise Me Up”?), and Jennifer Aniston could have played me in the movie, since she’s basically my Doppelganger. My book would have been called Me ‘n Timber, because grammar wasn’t my strong suit in the ‘80s. 

We got him as a pup in June of 1981, and we did that obnoxious thing that people who love dogs do, of going to see the puppies at 3 weeks of age at the breeders, and picking one out and then going to visit him until it was time we could take him home.    I remember picking him up and putting him in the back part of our “Scout” truck, but he didn’t like it there so I had to stop and get out and put him on my lap, where he rode the rest of the way standing up on my lap looking out the side window.  That set the stage for how he was going to be brought up.

The beautiful run and house hubby built for Timber. We didn't ever have the heart to lock him up in it. This was a staged photo-op.

The first day that we left him alone while we went to work, he didn’t really like that either.  So every day after that, he came along to work with me.  I worked at a vet clinic and he basically became the clinic greeter.  He would sit by my desk in the back, or hover outside the surgery, depending on where the action was.  He would run out to the reception area whenever anyone came in and wag and look behind him as if to assure them that somebody would be right out.  Sometimes he slept out in the reception area, and would be too lazy to bother greeting anyone but would just lie there thumping his tail instead.

We used him at the clinic shamelessly.  He was in charge of keeping yappy dogs quiet who didn’t like to be left alone.  We would put him in the kennel room and he would lie there like an annoyed babysitter.  He was our in-a-pinch blood donor.  If a dog came in that had been hit by a car and was dangerously close to death, we would borrow some blood from Timber, tapping right into his vein in his neck and he would sit there still as a statue as we let gravity help us gather.  (Apparently matching blood types isn’t a must do if it’s only happening once.) He would let us place orphaned kittens or cotton-tail bunnies on him for warmth, in between the times when we would feed them with tiny bottles.  He would let them snuggle in to his furry belly, and he seemed to quite enjoy it, although if you made a fuss he always looked embarrassed like he wanted to stress that it wasn’t his idea.

Babysitting a lonely kitty

Doing candy striper duty, walking a patient.

Dr. Timbers, ready for surgery

He was a seasoned commuter, and our family of 3 would set out together each morning. I had to drop hubby off at work and then Timber and I had another 20 min. drive to the clinic.  We drove a big old 1967 Ford Galaxie, and he had the whole long bench backseat to himself.  He would sit leaning super-casually against the door, gazing out the window – he never did that dog thing of sticking his head out.  I expect he thought that was way too unsophisticated and dog-ish.  Occasionally he even used the armrest.

The Galaxie, our sweet ride

 Not that he was perfect.  He got into trouble sometimes.   One day hubby was driving us along in the a.m. and I was having my usual breakfast of a banana, when we both smelled something horrific.  We could barely breathe, and then looked in the back seat and a rather sheepish looking Timber had just yacked up an impressively sizeable cat turd, still coated in litter.  It was disgusting.

Another time he helped himself at home in the morning to an entire pound of butter.  Strangely, it didn’t agree with him, and though he held off his nausea until we got to work, he hurled up a pale yellow oil slick about 15 feet wide right beside my desk.  I couldn’t even clean it up, it was far too gross – the paper towels just slid around on it.  My co-workers cleaned it up while I gagged helpfully in the corner.  In spite of mopping, people were slippity-sliding past my desk (which held an abacus and a lot of carbon paper, because it was the 80’s) the whole rest of the day.

PLUS he once consumed an entire cheeseball that I had slaved over.  It was Christmas Eve, and we were entertaining and we went to the door to see our guests out, and he joined us a few minutes later, but couldn’t stop licking his lips.  We discovered that the coffee table now held crackers only, with a big gaping hole where the beautiful crushed-pecan coated cheeseball used to be.  (In his defense, he may have mistaken it for a giant round cat turd coated in litter.)

Timber loved every person he ever met, with the exception of one man, who unfortunately was someone we had to see regularly.  He turned into a whole different canine when the dead stock guy came to clean out the freezer of all the dead animals. As the guy would go up and down the stairs to the basement, carrying out the dearly departed “petcicles”, Timber would growl and back up, as if to say “You’ll never take me!”.  The guy was kind of a creepy ghoulish character – I mean who does that for a job, especially in the 80’s when the economy was booming? He could have been doing something awesome like pumping gas or renting out beta movies.  But I digress …

Timber was a remarkable boy and enjoyed all the privileges that went with being an only child, at least until we got some offspring of the two-legged variety.  Then there was a bit of a power shift and he begrudgingly took on the role of family pet. I always knew he was acting though.

Timber Darling, 1981-1988
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Filed under Animal Stories, Family, Humor

Criminal Minds – Canine Edition

I’ve been getting some requests for an update on that DOG my family brought home without my knowledge, blessing or input.  (Okay,  maybe nobody asked – but tough, I’m going to report it anyway.) His name is no longer “Murphy”.  We discovered that he’s a bit challenged intellectually, and he likes to run and run and run … so then he became “Forrest”, as in Gump.  But that’s where the similarity ends. We’ve had him for three months, and he’s got a rap sheet a mile long.

 Top 10 Crimes over the past three months:

  1. Vandalism – Ate ½ of nice black leash as rebellion against having to stay in the porch because he was wet, and smelled like – you guessed it – a wet dog.
  2. Theft and destruction of property – within the course of ten minutes and (while in full view of hubby who did not notice either deed) he both:
    • Dug up/pruned with his teeth, my only surviving,  non-holey Hosta
    • Stole black bra from clothesline and paraded it about the property like he was at a Victoria Secret fashion show
  3. Destruction of more property – Over the course of a couple of days, systematically, knowingly, and sneakily chewed the little leather piece that goes between your toes from THREE separate pairs of #1 daughter’s flip-flops. To add insult to injury, the shoes looked normal until she went to put them on, and they became anklets.
  4. Vagrant-like behaviour – Rolled in something disgusting, requiring an immediate bath, even though it was nighttime and hubby was home alone with a migraine and had to perform the bathing all by himself.
  5. Repeat vagrancy offense – Morning after emergency bath, rolled in cat poo and presented himself at the door to be let in with full turd still intact behind one ear.
  6. Trespassing – he decided to accompany a group of Mennonite children home from their bus stop as they walked past our house.  By the time hubby noticed he was gone, he had been absent for a while.  Had to jump in the car and drive down our side road to their farm, where the one-canine crime spree was gleefully chasing their horses around the paddock, barking like a lunatic.
  7. Indecent exposure and lewd, inappropriate behavior, unbecoming a dog –  Whilst wrestling on the kitchen floor with the girls, he knowingly or unknowingly released what they call the “red rocket” and one of them full-on grasped it by accident.  There was much screaming and hysteria, and then talk about being a “pet-o-file” and then finally,  “show me on your doll where the bad lady touched you.”  None of us will be recovering from that anytime soon.
  8. Terrorism – Singlehandedly banished our beloved the cats into exile.  He eats their food, and poses menacingly in the doorway.  My three little feline friends are officially feral now.  Sometimes they sit in the window when he’s in another room and stare in at me with tearful yet wild eyes, one paw held up against the window pane, longing for the days when they ran the house.
  9. Grossness – Self induced bulimic behaviour whilst traveling in the vehicle, so not only can we not leave him alone, we can’t take him anywhere unless we want to end up on the side of the road scraping warm, half-digested piles of puppy chow flecked with pieces of wood off the upholstery.
  10. Conspiracy leading to slander – He’s running with the wrong crowd. At precisely bedtime on a Monday night when he was let out for one final bio-break, he purposefully had a secret rendezvous with the stinkingest skunk in the county.  Of course it was 11:00 p.m. , and we had to wait until morning to get him cleaned up. He had to sleep outside, tied up like the common criminal that he is quickly becoming.

The good news is that having worked at veterinary offices for many years, I know that a foolproof remedy to remove skunk scent from a dog is a good soaking in a feminine hygiene douche product.  That’s right – Summer’s Eve.  Massengill – that sort of douche.  The bad news is that this is a small town and it doesn’t go unnoticed when your husband is waiting at the door in the morning for the drug store to open, and hastily purchases as many douche products as he can carry. 

However, he is still technically a puppy and we are trying to keep in mind that we didn’t give up any of the children during their youthful escapades (almost doesn’t count).  Plus,he’s also skilled at one other thing that means we’ll probably keep him around – occasionally he does a convincing impersonation of a good dog.

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Filed under Animal Stories, Family, Humor

Our Old Yeller Cat

I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with living out on the farm.  When job hunting as I am now, I always take the address off my resume because it could be perceived as a disadvantage, and employers will think I won’t be reliable because I live in the snow belt.  They don’t know that I will drive through anything, and that I’ve come to terms with spending at least 5 years of my life in my car.  Which explains things like my “travel chips” tucked under my seat, and my door pockets that resemble a medicine cabinet.
 

But I have had to deal with issues that none of my urban based co-workers have.  There was for example, the great Rabies scare of 2006.   We had a cow that was sick and bawling, and hubby had the vet come.   He checked it out and eliminated a bunch of stuff, and then said that one remaining possibility was Rabies.  By the next day he was fairly sure that was the case, so we had to put the cow down, and when the test results came back the diagnosis was confirmed. 

I am a bit of a hypochondriac at the best of times, and learned a long time ago that ignorance is bliss in the area of ailments, as I immediately begin to observe the symptoms in myself or the kids the minute I read about any disease.  We’ve had everything from Malaria to  West Nile to Lyme disease to Meningitis, and that’s just from news stories that I couldn’t turn off fast enough.

The vet said as long as our cats were up to date on their shots there was nothing to worry about with them.  Except that I had let that slide a tiny bit … and they weren’t exactly up to date.  I’ll never forget the feeling in the pit of my stomach as hubby was reassuring me that it was probably very unlikely that we would need to worry about the cats, and that we should schedule them immediately for their shots.  As we chatted, our cat Furbert appeared, purring and rubbing as per usual.  Furbert innocently looked up at me, and he had one single long strand of spit dangling from his lip.

Well, that did it.  I was full blown hysterical, in Old Yeller mode.  Hubby was reassuring me once again, saying that he saw that the cat had pine pitch (sap from a pine tree) on his fur earlier and that he probably just licked it.  That wasn’t good enough for me though.  I called the emergency number of Rabies Control and shrieked into the phone calmly informed the guy  that our cat was foaming at the mouth and demanded to know when I should expect that we were all going to succumb.  Since they had been vaccinated in prior years, he thought we were okay, but suggested we isolate them for a couple of weeks, just to be sure. 

We gathered up the bewildered felines and unceremoniously locked them in the basement, where they all huddled on the top step, protesting loudly. (I understood their outrage though – our house is over 100 years old, and the basement is pretty creepy.  I refuse to go down there, even under threat of impending tornado — I’d rather take my chances going with the house, Dorothy style.)

I didn’t sleep a wink that night, and I had a work meeting in the big city the next day.  I remember groggily sitting around the  table in the glass office tower with my co-workers and agency partners, thinking about how they would feel if they knew that they were sharing a working lunch with a Rabies sufferer.  I avoided looking at the pitcher of water on the table just in case I was already in full blown hydrophobia. I wondered if and when I would be overcome with the urge to bite my colleagues.  I thought about how bad that was going to look on my Performance Review.

As it turned out, hubby was right this one time and we didn’t have to worry.  The cats endured their basement banishment, and got their updated shots and were fine.  We didn’t have to shoot anyone, and none of my co-workers had to get a bunch of needles in their belly because of their proximity to me.

But it sure confirmed one thing for me.  Cats are demented and have very warped senses of humour.  I’m almost sure this is how it went down: Our three cats were all lounging it up in an adjoining room, trading stories about tormenting rodents and licking butter.  Suddenly, Furbert’s pointed ears perk up as he overhears the conversation where hubby is informing me that the cow Rabies test is positive.  Then Furbert probably stretched and said, “Watch this” … and proceeded to work up that single spit strand, then casually sidles in to where we were and was all  like,  

“Purr, Purr, What’s up guys?”  

Of course, he couldn’t have known that it was going to backfire and he was going to go into lockdown for three weeks, or he would never have done it.  He’s not a genius – just a smart aleck with a wicked sense of humour and occasional mean streak .  If he were a person he would be Ricky Gervais. 

Furbert, always the comic, ready to go play Squash

I’m almost sure that’s exactly what happened. Or, I guess there is always hubby’s far fetched theory for the infamous strand of spit – the  “he licked pine pitch” scenario. (Sometimes I think he has an overactive imagination.)

 As always, life on the farm has provided lots of valuable life lessons. Now the kids haul out the old “Time we had Rabies” story as an example whenever they are trying to make the point that I may be just a tad overprotective and perhaps even mentally unstable. And they may be right – I saw a public service announcement about that recently. I  have many symptoms.

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Filed under Animal Stories, Farm Life, Memories

My Son the Chick Magnet

First week of school, and it made me think about the impact that peer pressure has had on our family life.  We produced these adorable, angelic little cherubs, raised them up all wholesome like out here on the farm, and then at the ripe old age of 4ish had to turn them over to “the system”, where they were immediately led astray by what we liked to call “those town kids”.

 On one occasion though, it was a fellow farm child who led my dear little boy down the wayward path of buying contraband and smuggling. You always live in fear of the day a schoolmate comes to school “selling”, and on this day my innocent 12ish year old young man was lured into “buying”. He paid his classmate $2.00, and came home on the bus with the contraband well hidden, stuffed under his denim jacket.  He sauntered down the driveway, high on the adrenalin rush from the transaction and covert smuggling operation. 

 His sisters raced ahead, anxious to be the one to squeal on him:  “Richard bought some baby chicks at school”.   Of course he did.  An enterprising (some might say shifty)  kid brought in some baby chicks to show the class, and Richard’s change purse was bulging with that $2.00 Pizza Day money, and I’m sure there was a heck of a sales pitch, and suddenly he’s the proud owner of 3 chicks.  Why you ask?  Believe me, I asked too.  “Because they were cute, and I like them.”

 Chicken farming was never in our short or long-term plan.  But you hate to stifle when they have an interest, so we set about building a coop of sorts, and going to the Co-op to buy chicken feed.  However, there was one small issue with our approach.  These chicks were somewhat urbanized (perhaps from their brief stint as celebrities at the school, or their whirlwind school bus ride), and they never really acted like normal chickens.  For example, they were Houdini like, and could not be contained by any “coop”.  They would consistently stage breakouts, then liked to wander the driveway, behaving like 3 clucking little Walmart greeters to anyone who stopped in.

 As they grew, it became apparent that one was indeed a rooster, which posed no problem at first.  He was just a bit more interesting than the others to look at, with his nice red fascinator thing on his head.  But then two bad habits developed in quick succession. 

  1. The group of three decided that the place they wanted to sleep at night was not in the barn, but instead on the step, right underneath our bedroom window.
  2. The rooster discovered his ability to crow.

 The idea of a rooster crowing to some is so appealing, so folksy, having a built-in alarm clock that lets you know when the sun is rising.  But this guy was messed up. He was definitely an overachiever.  He thought we should be alerted to things like “the wind is picking up” or “it looks like rain” or “the moon went behind a cloud” or “the sun is going to come up in about 4 hours”.  And for the record,  all you city dwellers who know your animal noises from a Fisher Price “See-n-Say”, it doesn’t sound like “cock-a-doodle-doo” either.  That sounds cute.  This sounded like a deafening :

ER-ER-ER-ER -EWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW

–  which shakes you out of a sound sleep. Approximately every hour or so.  All night.  On work nights.  Plus, fun fact – chickens don’t care if you yell at them, or throw stuff at them from a second story window. Parents of colicky newborn triplets were getting more sleep than we were. Needless to say, they had to go. 

The booming metropolis where we live has a semi-annual “Fur and Feather” show, so in the fall we packed these three up in a cage and dropped Richard off to see if it was true that there was indeed one born every minute, and he could make a sale and recover his costs … which by now were considerable with all the chicken feed and the spectacular, yet unused chicken coop.

 We arrived to pick him up at the end of the day, and he was smiling a victorious smile, and there were no chickens in sight.  He had made a deal.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that there was another one of his fast talking “peers” at the fur and feather show, who browbeat (I’m speculating) him into trading the chickens rather than selling – and he was now the proud owner of 3 rabbits. 

 The only thing the rabbits had in common with the chickens was that they too could not be contained, so we now had these little creatures hopping about the lawn and gardens.  I won’t go on … but let’s just say that this episode ended rather badly, and eventually over the next year, due to the conscientious efforts of our three cats, we did not have to attend another Fur and Feather show to dispose of this purchase … and at our house the phrase “the rabbit died” took on a whole new, less devastating meaning than it had previously. 

Eventually he got better at resisting peer pressure and sales pitches – although I think he may still be a sucker for cute chicks, especially if he likes them.

Hope I'm not inundated with calls from MTVs "Cribs" show now.

 

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Filed under Animal Stories, Family, Farm Life, Kids

A Golden Plan

Some dramatic developments in the household since my last post. It all started when I came home from golf on Tuesday night, and there was nobody home. Should have been 2 daughters and one spouse, and nobody was in sight. First of all it was upsetting, because who was going to lift those clubs out of the trunk of the car? I don’t want to have to deal with that in the morning. Of course they left a note. It said: “Back soon”. That was helpful. With it now being after 10:00pm on a work night, this was a mystery indeed and needed solving.

My first clue was that there was an open jar of salsa, clearly marked “refrigerate after opening” sitting on the counter. This led me to believe that there must have been some sort of medical emergency, and they all had to race out to the car because time was of the essence. They were probably deliberately vague so as not to worry me until the patient was all stitched up, or in the event of a cardiac event, at least had a preliminary diagnosis. (Mental note – put one of those CSI black light things that can detect blood on my Christmas list next year.) I immediately texted # 2 daughter with the probing question “Where u at?” (Even in a crisis, I try to remain hip at all costs. I did leave out though my usual “Peace out.”) My plan to get my PJs on was put on hold, in case I had to head out for a medical consult.

There was no text response, which then led me to another train of thought that was even more disturbing than the medical emergency scenario. The only time I’ve seen her turn off her phone is at the movies … what if they went to the movies WITHOUT ME? They KNOW how badly I’ve wanted to see the movie “Bridesmaids“. (It’s a very cultural, educational documentary with subtitles from what I understand.) Our schedules just haven’t lined up because I have so many pressing engagements, like golf for instance – what if they just up and went without me? I then had to hold back tears as I started spiralling to a very dark emotional place where I used to reside in high school, on occasions when people who were supposed to be my friends went ahead and had fun without me. So that’s how it’s going to be huh? Well that’s just fine. I prepared my plan to ignore them and their dietary preferences and laundry going forward.

I then got a response to my text. It was, “On a road trip. Be home in 15.”  What? A road trip on a Tuesday? This can’t be good. Sometimes when left unattended, my husband buys stuff. He may have just taken the girls along as hostages, so that when he gets home he doesn’t have to face me alone. Or worse, what if he bought yet another vehicle and he needed driver(s)! That’s even worse. There is no room in our driveway as it is … and our monthly auto insurance bill is starting to resemble the national debt. Maybe I should go to the office and pull out the monthly budget and highlight all the auto related expenses, just to make my point …

I heard them pull into the driveway (thankfully, with just one vehicle). I went upstairs to determine just how this one needed to be handled, plus to play hard to get and aloof, appropriate for almost all of the scenarios. Hubby came upstairs tentatively. I heard the girls come in. I did a quick scan of him – no bandages.

“Where HAVE YOU BEEN? Thanks for leaving the most useless note EVER! I was riding a roller coaster of emotion!!”

He said nothing, as he has learned that sometimes the best response is no response. He seemed to be trying to lead me downstairs . I cooperated, however had by now abandoned the hard-to-get routine for the ever-popular “bitch non-stop” approach.

“How was I supposed to know where you were? If the kids left us a note like that you would be worried too! You need a haircut. I don’t know where you were, but I can’t believe you wore THAT shirt”…and so on. (We only have 12 stairs, so it was impressive I got all that in.)

I stopped dead at the bottom of the stairs though. In the kitchen, the girls were staring at me anxiously – and they were holding a large, very gangly yet handsome male golden retriever (who was EXTREMELY happy to see me). It seems that they were on a secret mission to a far away town to view this dog, and it was urgent because another prospective buyer was coming to see him in the morning. They convinced their dad to take them “just to see” him, but of course having done so , there was no leaving him behind. They bought him on the spot, loaded him into the car and that was it. They were now having a classic case of “unpredictable Mom”- induced buyers remorse”, terrified that I was going to be mad.

Little did they know, this was perfect. We have been dogless since Christmas time when we lost our old retriever, and we have missed having a dog. But we have enjoyed being able to come and go as we please. Now, not only do we have the cutest dog in the world – I had no part in the decision! If it goes badly, I get play the “Well, you’re the one who went and got another dog” card. It’s awesome! It’s even better than the “Told you so” song. If it works out well and he’s a model pet, then we all win. If not, I get to be the one on the sidelines, shaking my head knowingly, and bitching non-stop to my heart’s content. It’s almost too perfect.

We had a little trouble with naming him. He came with a name that we didn’t like, so we had to come up with something. The only name 3 out of 4 of us could agree on is “Murphy”. I thought of “Murphy”, because it’s cute and practical – foreseeing the instances when he’s bad, we can just drop a “Jesus” in front of it. My husband is the only one who doesn’t like the name, but that’s ok, because so far everything points to him consistently addressing this guy by our dearly departed Riley’s name anyway. (I think I know why Don Cherry named all of his dogs “Blue”.)

Anyway my plan is working like a charm. I have somebody (albeit a 4 legged somebody) who’s thrilled when I come home, and is quite willing to accompany me on my early morning walks. Last night we experimented with not crating him at bedtime, and this morning I awoke hubby by standing over him shaking my head, holding his favourite hat, covered in slobber and now in two pieces. ..

“Well, I hope you didn’t care about this hat.” (He did – some would say excessively) .  “Jesus Murphy.

I sauntered off, smiling into my coffee cup.Golden Boy

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The Powers of Austin

Driving to work these days, I keep seeing a lot of newborn baby animals in the field.  It always gets me thinking of a certain little calf that had a pretty rocky start at our place.

My husband always says, “If you’ve got live stock, you’ve got dead stock.”  That particular spring we had a tragic incident of a cow that died while giving birth.  The thing was,  on top of having to deal with the trauma of the scary dead stock truck coming, there was  still a little matter of a newborn calf to contend with.  In a previous life I had worked a vet office for almost a decade, and I knew that there was virtually no chance of us hand raising the little guy.  I tried to break it to the kids, who at that time were about 6, 8 and 10.  The little calf, while cute as heck, had very little chance of survival, unless we found him a surrogate mother, which seemed unlikely within our usual social circles.

My 10 year old son was totally accepting and matter of fact about the calf’s impending demise.  In true male form, if it wasn’t going to affect him in a negative way, he was fine with it.  (This is the same boy who, when he thought his little friend Zach who was over for a playdate had been completely swallowed up and met his end in the “quicksand” near our pond, stated simply “Well, guess I’ve got no more friend to play with.”)  His sisters however, are caring nurturers (just like their mom), and they were staunch in their determination to save the little orphan.   My husband humoured them by going to the Co-op and buying a big bottle with a nipple on it, (which for some reason my son found hilarious)  and something called “calf starter”, which sounded appropriate.

I came home from work the next night and here was this calf (now named “Austin” – as in Powers) casually lounging, tied to the tree in our front yard.  The girls were taking turns mixing up his formula, and feeding it to him in his big giant bottle.  I was very surprised to see that he was looking quite perky, and certainly seemed to be loving all the fussing and petting he was getting.   He really gave that bottle a workout over the next few days – the nipple got longer (and funnier) every day.

The girls continued their TLC, and Austin never looked back.  He grew stronger every day.  The only issue that he developed was an identity crisis.  He had no idea he was a cow.  He hung around the house and the yard, like the dog and the cats.  In fact, if you threw the Frisbee for the dog, he would run alongside the dog to get it.  If he arrived at the Frisbee first, he had no idea what to do with it  — but I think he may have derived satisfaction from humiliating Riley by making him come in second to a cow in a footrace .  It was a classic case of  bullying. (Sorry ... couldn’t resist)

Once it became evident that Austin may in fact survive, we attempted to initiate him into the herd of cows.  He trailed along behind us wherever we went, so we would walk out to the field where the cows and their calves were, and we would stand there quietly and wait until he became interested in grazing alongside them.  Then we would sneakily tiptoe away and then run toward the house.  Without fail, he would race past us on his way back to the house with a terrified look on his face that seemed to say “HOLY CRAP – WAIT UP YOU GUYS –  you almost left me out there with those COWS!!”

Sometimes my husband would be out barbequing steaks, and the dog always hung around the BBQ, but now Austin joined too and  it was super awkward. We always felt the need to apologize, and assure him that these delectable cuts on our plate were no relation to him …or  that they “had it coming”, or that this one “ was quite sick anyway and we just had to put it out of its misery .” He seemed unconvinced.

I knew things were completely out of hand one day though, when I was out on the lawn talking to the kids, with the dog and calf sprawled nearby.  The phone rang, and I ran into the house to get it.  Austin liked to chase anything that ran…. and I made the mistake of leaving the door open behind me.  I grabbed the phone, and then I heard the distinctive sound of the pitter patter of hooves on my kitchen floor. Who knew that cows could run up steps?  I’m sure that the insurance lady on the phone thought I’d lost it.  I screamed, and then muttered something incoherent about having to call her back because I had to get the “stupid cow” out of my house . (Probably thought I was just having a Coronation Street style brawl with a crazy female acquaintance.)

But happily, one day out of the blue, Austin became a petty thief, and our days of having to bottle feed him ended.  For no apparent reason, he simply one day decided to join the rest of the bovines out in the field.  He strolled out, ducked underneath the electric fence, like he’d been doing it his whole life.  He waited in the shadows until one of the calves was nursing beside its mother, and then he casually walked up behind her and without so much as a “how do you do” he proceeded to start nursing on her other teat from behind, sticking his head between her back legs.  She couldn’t really kick him away because if she did she would kick away her own baby too.

It was a most successful venture.  So began his life of crime as a milk stealer.  He wasn’t particular about which cow-mom he stole milk from, whoever was handy.  He became part of the “cool calf” gang in the field, and forgot about his brief stint as a Golden Retriever wannabe.  He was lucky he had little calf friends with MILMs – or “Mom’s I’d like to Milk”, and he grew fat and strong,  and like most adolescents, forgot all the civilized manners we taught him and began acting like he’d been born in a barn.

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Hell Cats

On my weekly to do list for the past 6 months, has been “take cats to the vet for shots and checkups.”  This week I made that dream a reality.

Typical Pet Ride

It sounds easy enough, like you just “pop” them into the car and they cooperatively buckle up in the backseat and purr, whilst appreciating the drive and pointing out things to each other that have changed since their last car trip; and then on arrival, file into the vets office holding onto a rope in an orderly fashion, but surprisingly … it’s nothing like that.   It’s akin to … well…. herding cats.  It’s a covert operation that takes at a minimum of two people about 20 hours of preparation and planning.

11:00 pm. Gather all 3 cats into house for easy access tomorrow.  Everybody is acting antsy.  It’s like they know.  It’s quiet.  Almost too quiet. Their already shifty eyes have a more pronounced “shift”.

9:00 a.m.  Thankfully, all cats present and accounted for.  Nobody is allowed outside.  I announce firmly to hubby and daughter than even though it’s a lovely day, under no circumstances is any of the cat population of our house allowed outside, even though our appointment isn’t until 4:30. I want everyone easily accessible.

9:01. Crazed group meowing ensues.  I ignore, while conscientiously working in my office, (also known as the kitchen table).  Cats alternate between meowing and sulky, stink-eye glaring at me.

9:02  Meowing louder now. Cats commence hurling selves at door. I can’t even hear Regis and Kelly.

9:06  I fling door open to outside world,  but not without a few profanities and a scathing comment about ingrates and the rare privilege of healthcare.  The cats race out past me into the yard, with the sting of my reprimands ringing in their pointed ears.

9:07 I become absorbed in my work, conveniently forgetting about anything else.

3:00. Begin to wonder … where is the pet carrier thing we have that will hold two cats?  I will have to MacGyver something for the other odd man out,  or risk driving down the highway with a feline either wound up in the steering wheel or hiding underneath the brake pedal … but in the meantime, got to find that pet carrier.

3:10 Check the shed.  WOW there’s a lot of stuff in there.  But apparently no cat carrier.

3:15 Check the other shed.   Nope

3:30 Check the other, other shed.  No sign of it.  And I have to leave in half an hour.

3:40  Check the barn.  No, but there are some grocery bins that might work, if we lash them together with string. (Why AM I always buying grocery bags?)

3:45. Plus, where are the cats?

3:50  All cats now retrieved, once again locked in the house. Used the age-old “shake the cat treat bag at the door” trick. (I thought cats were supposed to be smart.)

3:55 Check the first shed again for the cat carrier.  Found it in a corner covered in mud and some strange sticky orange oily liquid.  It’s way smaller than I thought.  Will only carry one cat.

4:00  Wash cat carrier and also grocery bins, just for good measure.

4:05   Grocery bins not workable as pet carrier.  Find 2 large laundry baskets.  Think carefully about what two cats will tolerate riding together, and then place them into laundry basket with other laundry basket firmly attached by way of locking twist tie, very secure and requiring scissors to remove. Place scissors in purse for use at vet clinic.

4:12  Put other single cat into actual cat carrier, which is free from mud but still somewhat sticky.

4:15  Full-blown UFC style cage fight breaks out in laundry basket.  Fur is flying through small slats.  Can’t remember where I put scissors.    Daughter finally finds them, removing the technical knock-out loser of that round.  All possible pairing variations are considered, and we finally decide that they each must have their own ride, so we’re finally ready to go with a total of 3 laundry baskets and one actual (albeit sticky) cat carrier.  Numerous attempts are required to get single cat  inserted into her into pet carrier, as she demonstrates her best starfish impression.

4:20 Finally everyone under secure twist tie lockdown.  Deafening 20 minute car ride follows. (We’re going to a new clinic this time, because the old one was getting too pricey.)

4:40 Arrive at clinic.    I meet the young lady doctor, and by young I mean that when my oldest cat was born, she would have been about 10 years old.  She  graduated approximately yesterday. Checkups get underway.  Cats behave perfectly. Everybody gets vaccinated, toenails clipped.  Our oldest cat gets skin scraped to see why it’s so itchy.  We’re sent to the waiting room to get the bill.  It takes forever. Daughter and I amuse each other by guessing how much it’s going to be.  She guesses  $200.  I guess $250.  Finally the bill is ready – $386.  I feel faint and a little nauseous, and can hardly hear the child-vet telling me that she read the skin scraping thing and to combat the itching our old cat will require numerous visits and treatments. She can barely contain her excitement.  They just don’t see this every day.  She will email me a “schedule” of treatments and “special order” in the medicine.

5:45  Cats are quiet and smug as we place them back in the car.  I can read their cat thoughts. .. “Happy now?”

6:15 Ears may be playing tricks on me, but return trip meowing sounds a bit  like evil “Muwhahaha” laughter.

6:30  Arrive home.  Initiate plans to fake someone’s death to avoid the upcoming treatments.  Can’t decide if it will be mine or the cat’s.

Unpimped pet rides

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Filed under Animal Stories, Humor, Thats Life

Post Traumatic Farm Syndrome

It’s spring, and usually when you were raised on the farm, this time of year would conjure up all kinds of happy memories.  However, some of my kids’ family memories from their “farm life” are probably going to result in some psychotherapists making a fair bit of coin somewhere down the road.

For example, when the kids were about 7, 5 and 3, we had a few cows that we would breed every year. One of our mother cows evidently skipped Lamaze classes and didn’t know the part about you have to stop pushing once the baby comes out, so when I went out to check on her during the day when my husband was at work, she had delivered the calf just fine but she also had her entire uterus spread out behind her like a giant gross parachute.  I was home with just my little 3 year old daughter… and I had to call the vet.  He arrived alone, and announced that it was a classic case of  “prolapsed uterus” and that I was going to have to help him put it back where it belonged.  He also warned, “It’s going to be messy”.  Luckily, when you live on a farm you have cool functional fashion choices like coveralls, so I put those and my rubber boots on and we headed out.   Little Laura had to accompany us to the barn – we had learned the hard way that she liked to dial 911 when left unattended for any length of time.

First the vet washed the giant parachute very carefully using a highly sanitary boot brush and sterile bucket of water with some iodine squirted in it.  Then he announced that I would need to “lift it up and hold it up high” so he could stuff it back in.  There were 3 problems with me “lifting it up and holding it up high”:

1.  It weighed approximately a thousand pounds.

2. The “right height” turned out to be at exactly my head height, and the right position turned out to be about 1/2 inch away from my own face.

3.  Holding “it” up and keeping it there required both of our combined strength and we had it pinned between our bodies so it didn’t touch the ground, meaning that I was plastered right up against this guy, far closer than I had ever been with a stranger before — at least without the benefit of drinks and dinner.

Throughout all of this little Laura sat on a bale with her “green baby” (her favourite doll)  and looked on, with eyes the size of saucers.

We finally had everything put back in its rightful place and the vet stitched things closed  — he had me put my finger on each knot as he tied it, like we were wrapping presents at the mall (I think at this point he was just taking advantage of my good nature).  When we stepped out into the daylight I looked down at myself to see that I was completely soaked in blood, right through to my bra.  I should have opted for the garbage bag poncho instead of my super absorbent coveralls.  The vet handed  me the bill and drove off, and then I remember walking toward the house looking like Carrie after the pig’s blood scene at the high school prom – except for I was walking hand in hand with a toddler.   Little Laura  seemed unphased at the time, and just wanted to get into the house to have cookies and watch Lion King, as was our bargain.

She seemed unphased, but who knows when these memories might make their way back into her consciousness.  I’m on a first name basis with enough esteemed doctors of the human psyche (Both Dr.  Phil AND Dr. Drew) , to  know that the human mind is a mysterious thing, and nothing ever really goes away, but is merely suppressed. I  fear that I will ultimately be featured in some investigative episode of 20/20 or something when my famous daughter (it’s inevitable, eventually – she’s awesome) starts having flashback memories and goes public with them.   The thing with flashback memories from when you were 3 years old is that they are known to leave out critical details.  I’m afraid that Laura’s revisionist recall might just leave out the key elements of the cow  predicament– and only retain the terrifying image of me, and my blood splattered sweaty face,  looking like a homicidal maniac, bribing her with promises of snacks and a Disney movie.

PS – The cow and the calf went on to live long happy lives – at least long as long as can be expected when your lot in life  is “beef cow”.

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Filed under Animal Stories, Family, Farm Life, Humor, Kids, Memories