Posts Tagged ‘pets’

Three’s a Crowd

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
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Here’s a secret about being a parent: sometimes we say the most when we say nothing at all.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve recognized that what I value most wasn’t inspired by words but rather by unstated expectations.

For example, I don’t remember my parents ever telling me I should go to college. I just knew that’s what I should do after I graduated from high school. I also just knew that I shouldn’t get married until I was capable of supporting myself. I never believed I should define myself by a relationship or that money mattered more than kindness.

And I never, ever believed I should have more than two children.

My husband, Giles, thought otherwise.

Perhaps our difference stemmed from the fact that I grew up in a family of two children and he grew up in a family of three.

Whatever the reason, he thought we should have three children. Since I’m the one who got pregnant and gave birth, my opinion ruled.

Maybe that’s why he decided that, since I had put my foot down about the number of human children, he should have the final word about the number of furry children in our home.

He knows how much I love animals and about my desire to adopt any stray that shows up at our door…or in the neighborhood… or in the park… or on the side of the road.

And so, he made a rule that, unless we moved to a farm, we could never have more than two pets at one time.

Having grown up in a family that never had more than one furry child at a time, I thought his decree was more than fair  (even though I did attempt to circumvent it a time or two).

Ironically, Giles is the one who broke his own rule.

Initially, he was irritated when I called him before six in the morning. I was attempting to walk our German Shepherd Rodney when a black and white kitten approached. Unlike most cats, especially our fat, grey tortoiseshell cat Skitty, the little kitten actually seemed to like Rodney. And that was the problem.

It wouldn’t leave us alone, so I called Giles.

“Just walk away from it,” he said.

“I can’t,” I replied. It won’t let us. No matter where we go, it follows us.”

“Where are you now?” he asked.

“In our driveway,” I said.

When he said “O.K.,” I assumed that meant he was coming out to help.

I was wrong.

I called him again.

“Where are you now?” he asked.

“Still in the driveway,” I answered. I heard him sigh, but eventually the garage door opened.

If our lives were movies, romantic music would have swelled in the background when he first saw the kitten. It was love at first sight. He scooped her up in his arms and told me to walk Rodney.

By the time we got back from our walk, Giles was asking me to call the vet to make an appointment.

Several months have passed since Artemis joined our family. She’s still cute, she still loves Rodney and Rodney still loves her. He’s especially delighted that tiny Artemis not only acknowledges his presence (unlike her feline older sister Skitty), she is also willing to  roughhouse with him (completely unlike Skitty).

And therein lies the problem.threes a crowd

Before we adopted Artemis, Rodney and Skitty had come to understanding.

Skitty couldn’t stand Rodney, and Rodney knew it. Because of that, he didn’t bother her.

But now that one cat will play with him, our German Shepherd thinks the other one should too. He has become that annoying younger brother who constantly teases and provokes his older sister.

Giles and I are now breaking up fights between the fat grey cat and the large, overly enthusiastic dog several times a day. He pokes at her, she hisses back and chaos ensues.

At these times, I am reminded of my insistence to only have two human children. Maybe I was reacting to more than just an unstated expectation from my parents. Maybe, just maybe, I realized that life would be much more difficult if Giles and I were out-numbered.

In my family, sometimes three really can be a crowd.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Sneaky One

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
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One of the great advantages of having friends who are a few years older than me is that they usually have children that are older than my children, have more experience than I do and can offer an entirely different perspective on parenting.

One of the disadvantages is that they have every right to scoff at the pronouncements I make.Yellow_Dude__Sneaky_1_preview

Take, for example, my recent comment that I only have to worry that one of my children will take risks behind my back.

One friend warned me that any adolescent can make poor decisions.

Another told a story about cleaning around an object in her teenage son’s room only to learn years later when he was an adult that the object was a ladder he hung out of his two-story window at night to escape.

And one friend told me “You never know really know which child is the sneaky one.”

She was right. The sneaky one really fools us.

And while I will never admit to ever having my own sneaky tendencies, I know that at least one member of my family does.

Her name is Skitty, and she’s fat, furry and feline. She is an indoor cat who pretends to be afraid of going outdoors, but that is simply her sneaky effort to lull our family into a sense of security.

At times, she provides hints into her true nature when she lurks around an open door leading onto the back deck or stares longingly out the front bay window. But normally she pretends to only be interested in eating and sleeping.

We never would have learned about her true nature if she hadn’t repeated the same mistake on multiple times.

The first time she escaped, no one noticed she was gone until my son yelled, “Mom, I can hear Skitty, but I can’t find her. Since Skitty likes to hide, not being able to find her wasn’t unusual. But she normally only meows when she’s hungry and demanding food. Right in front of one of us. In a very obvious and demanding manner.

But after a search of the whole house, we still couldn’t find her. That’s because she wasn’t in the house at all. Instead, she was in the backyard and had apparently gotten quite hungry, hence her meowing.

None of us knew how Skitty had gotten in the backyard, but we weren’t too worried. We figured one of us had left the door open.

We hadn’t.

The next time Skitty escaped then meowed from the backyard, I started getting suspicious.

The third time she got out, I conducted a thorough search of the house and could find no escape route.

My daughter is the one who solved the mystery. She was in her bedroom when Skitty entered, jumped onto the window sill, pushed the screen out and jumped out of the two-story window over an asphalt driveway. She was able to survive because she still had a few of her nine lives left. That, and she jumped at an angle, landed in the bush next to the backyard fence then jumped over the fence into the backyard.

We fixed the window screen, and Skitty was once again confined to the house. But we were all a bit more aware of her whereabouts, the potential risks to her safety that she was sure to ignore and the outside interests she had worked so hard to hide.

In hindsight, I’m glad Skitty created that heightened awareness. It was good practice for me. As the mother of two adolescents, those skills will come in handy.

Fortunately, I have yet to discover any night-time escapes or truly bad behavior. But I am on the look out for it. Unfortunately, after my friends’ warnings and my cat’s escapades, I’m just not very confident I really know which kid, if either,  is “the sneaky one.”

The Day I Ate Dog Food

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
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dogfoodWhen I was four years old, my brother Sean and his friend Gusty convinced me to eat dog food.

The food didn’t look anything like the plain Purina Dog Chow my family fed our mutt, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown’s food was hard and brown and looked completely unappealing.

Moses, the yellow lab who belonged to our neighbors, ate something that looked far more interesting, It, like Charlie Brown’s food, came out of a bag. But in addition to dry pellets, there were softer chunks of some kind of strange, reddish substance. In my four-year old opinion, Moses was getting filet mignon while Charlie Brown was getting hamburger.

I must have expressed such thoughts to my brother, who immediately cooked up a scheme to get me to eat dog food. He shared it with Gusty, the human boy who lived with Moses.

I wish I could say they took forever to wear me down. I wish I could say they bribed me. I even wish I could say they threatened me. Those would all make a better story and would make me appear smarter than I apparently was.

I was at Gusty’s house playing with his sister Anni when he asked if we wanted a snack.

Anni said she wasn’t hungry, but I was always up for food.

“We’ve been eating Moses’ food,” Gusty said.

I must have looked skeptical, because my brother quickly added, “It’s actually really good. You should try some.”

That’s all it took. They brought me the dog bowl and told me to take a handful. I did.

That was by far the worst snack I have ever eaten, but I refused to let on. I don’t know why I pretended, but I did. As the boys and Anni stood watching  me, I ate. And as I crunched, I asked the boys if they were going to eat too. They said they were full.

It was only days later, when word leaked out to other children in the neighborhood, that I realized I’d been the butt of a cruel joke. The embarrassment grew  in me like weeds during the summer months. The only way I could get rid of the weeds was to start distrusting people.

I’ve had 43 years to get over the incident and learn to trust when I should and to distrust when appropriate. But looking back, I wonder about those small moments that change children forever and shift the way they view  the world. I wonder if trying to protect our children too much prevents them from learning tough lessons.

I’ll never know.

What I do know is that memories have a strange way of resurfacing in our lives.

Shortly after we were married, my husband and I adopted our first dog. There was no debate over his name; I simply made a decision.

We named the dog Gusty.

It seemed appropriate, and, for the record, our beloved Gusty lived 16 years. During that time, he ate pounds and pounds of dog food.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013
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Many mothers have at least one child who will constantly test her patience and her limits.freakycat

I’ve always struggled with patience, but my tolerance level is generally fairly high.


But last week, my limits were tested by my six-year-old daughter. She decided that her toilet accommodations were not up to par and decided to stage a protest.

Her protest involved not using the litter box.

That’s why I  spent my lunch buying kitty litter. Generally, that wouldn’t be significant. But, considering that I had started the day cleaning up cat poop, I wasn’t feeling particularly fond of my feline child. I was just feeling obligated.

So of course I got stuck with a grocery store cashier who was excited about my purchase because it provided her an opportunity to talk about her cat. Not only is she a cat lover, but apparently she is a cat trainer.

She has a cat who sits and comes on demand. I tried to change the direction of our conversation by telling her that I have a dog who does the same, but she was uninterested.

I started to feel like I was at an elementary school PTA meeting where another mother was carrying on about her child’s accomplishments and trying to convince me her child was going to be the next president of the United States. The whole time, I’m wondering why anyone would want that for his or her child.

skittyI just want my human children to be happy and capable of supporting themselves. I just want my canine child to stop barking and jumping on people. And I just want my feline child to poop in the litter box.

Maybe my parenting expectations are fairly low, but I only have so many hours in the day. I  don’t have the time or motivation to force my children to become something they’re not.  Besides, I don’t want to break their spirit. I just want to help channel that spirit for beneficial purposes.

And that, in itself, is challenging enough for me.

Living in the Dog House

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
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Although I thoroughly enjoy my life and the privileges that come with age, I sometimes miss the optimism of youth.

Like most young people, I had great plans for my future. I was convinced that as soon I was on my own, I was going to do all those things my parents either never allowed or never considered important.

At the top of my list was elevating the status of the household dog to that of a genuine family member.rodney

Growing up, we always had dogs, but they had limited rights and never had full run of the house.

I wanted more for my dogs.

What I never considered was how the needs of human children might fit into the equation, which is why I had a near panic attack a few months before my son Shepherd was born.

A co-worker, who was also pregnant, announced that she and her husband were giving away their Dalmatian before their baby arrived.

“Dogs and babies just don’t mix,” she said.

I went home that night and told my husband that we couldn’t keep our baby.

He didn’t seem too concerned about my proclamation. Instead he just asked why.

“Because apparently dogs and babies don’t mix,” I said. “And I’m not getting rid of Gabby and Gusty.”

“Why don’t we see if there actually a problem before we start worrying about a solution,” he said rationally.

There was no issue.

We brought our son home, the dogs sniffed him and accepted him into the pack.

And more importantly, my son, and later my daughter, accepted and loved Gabby, Gusty and all of our pets since.

But after torn curtains, worn-out carpet and damaged furniture, I’ve come to appreciate why my parents gave their human children more privileges than their canine ones.

I’ve also come to understand that no matter what the circumstances, children will always think they have a better plan than their parents did.

For example, we now have a large German Shepherd named Rodney who is a giant klutz. The other day he was racing around the basement chasing tennis balls and banging into doors, walls and furniture.

My son, who was sitting at his computer, looked up and said, “Can’t you limit where that dog goes? There’s no safe place in this house. When I get a dog, it’s not going to be allowed to go wherever it wants.”

We shall see.

Pet Peeves

Monday, May 21, 2012
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Penning "Kat Tales 2"

Bad things happen to me when I walk through pet stores.  It’s as if I can’t seem to avoid the small animal tanks or the cat cages.  This is how I came home with two guinea pigs and a Beta fish.  But after my last visit,  I came home empty handed.

I love my dogs beyond reason, but I admit that I miss the peace and quiet of a cat.  Last winter, my creampoint Persian, Bailey, died from renal failure at the age of 15.  I didn’t realize how much company he was until I sat down at my computer and didn’t have that familiar furry face sitting by the lamp, purring along with the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard.  And that’s when I started to get that familiar itch…of needing another friend.

As I strolled by the room where the animals are kept in the pet store, I noticed an orange tabby kitten that looked exactly like my childhood cat named Milo.  I was hooked from the second he reached through the cage to grab my hand.  I asked the sales associate how I would go about adopting the little guy, and he handed me an application.  Well, make that a booklet.  It was four pages long.

The animal rescue organization that fostered “Jack” asked a lot of questions, such as where we lived and how long we lived there, if we owned or rented that home, and how many hours a day we stayed there.  The questions then became more complex if not essay-style.

Who would care for the animal in our absence?

How much  money would I be willing to spend each month on the animal’s needs and/or care?

How many animals have I had in the last 10 years and what happened to them?

What would I do if the cat scratched my furniture or shredded my curtains?

How would I handle the animal’s illness or injuries?

My student loan application was shorter.  I wasn’t sure if I had applied for a cat or a child from a third world country.  But, I loved Jack and I wanted to prove my cat worthiness.  Forty-eight hours later, I received a voice mail message stating very bluntly that someone had already adopted Jack, but thanks for trying.  Click.

There was no offer to let me choose another kitten.  There was no telephone number for a call back. Something smelled fishy.

Three days later, I returned to the pet store to see what else was in the cage.  And that’s when I saw Jack.  He hadn’t been adopted after all.

I marched outside to the tent where an adoption fair was taking place and I asked one of the volunteers for an update on the kitten.  She told me that his new owner must not have picked him up yet.  I asked if the decision makers still had my file, or if I needed to fill out another four page application.  Within the hour, the “cat lady” arrived to review my papers.  She wanted references from people not living in our home and not part of our family.  She wanted the name of our veterinarian.  She wanted to know more about our cat that died, and she wanted to know about our dogs.  Finally, she shook her head no.

“I’m sorry, but we don’t let families adopt kittens if there are children under the age of 9 in the house.”

My jaw fell open.  “My daughter turns 9 on June 10th,” I countered.

“Still, you have a six-year-old.”

My blood began to boil.  “That six-year-old  transplants worms off the sidewalk into safer places in the yard,” I replied.

The cat lady wasn’t impressed.  “We see kittens that have been tortured by children,” she began. “We saw one kitten come in that had its head crushed by a motorized truck.  We saw another come in that had been thrown like a football.”

“Where were the adults?” I asked.

“We make decisions based on what we feel is in the best interest of the animal. I’m really going to have to think about this. I have your cell number and I’ll call you once we’ve had conversations with your references.”  She then checked my application to see if I had agreed to a home inspection and site visit.

I walked off, frustrated.  I appreciate that they care so much for their animals, but denying a home to an orphaned kitten because the house contains children (forget the Golden Retriever or the Beagle) seemed outrageous to me.  She never asked to meet my daughters or assess how they handled the kitten without adult intervention or supervision.

A friend called to tell me that I was being checked out, but the questions were all about the girls and their behaviors and personalities.  My tail bristled.

I walked back into the store and tapped the lady on the shoulder.  “I’m withdrawing my application,” I said.  “You can deny my request to adopt a pet, but you don’t get to insult me as a parent.”

And I cried the whole way home.  When I unlocked the door, the phone was ringing.  It was the director of the shelter.  “Lots of people don’t like our rules,” she began.  “And we have four: the kittens must be kept indoors, the  kittens cannot be declawed, if the kittens can’t be kept then they have to be returned to us, and no kitten will be allowed to go to homes with young children.”

I realize that animal cruelty is a very real problem.  I read the newspapers.  I’m sure if I worked in a shelter or operated a rescue organization, I’d see the horrible things that are done to innocent animals.  I’d understand their fears a little better.  But I don’t understand why as a work-at-home mother of two children who takes expert care of her pets — not to mention a published author of a book about animals —  I would be stamped as a threat to a stray kitten.  Our home was considered unsuitable and that hurt me.

On a brighter note, I did adopt a kitten from the local animal shelter on my birthday.  Ironically, he looks exactly like that cat on the cover of my book, Kat Tales, and he’s one of the sweetest animals we’ve ever had.   The girls absolutely love the silver and black striped kitten with big blue eyes, and he has become very attached to them in only a week’s time.  I don’t know where Jack ended up, but I pray that he got a good home with caring pet parents. He would’ve been very happy here with us…just as Ringo is.





A Different Breed of Kat

Monday, February 6, 2012
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1997 - 2012

My blogs are posted on Monday mornings, but I write them a few days in advance.  As I type this entry, it’s Wednesday night, February 1st, and it has been a very sad, difficult day.  You see, after 15 years, I’ve had to say goodbye to our first “baby” — my Persian cat, Bailey’s Irish Creampoint. That’s right — he was named after my favorite liquor.

Bailey was very sick with kidney and bladder problems, and he had begun to suffer.  After weighing all options — most of which would have been harder on the cat than on me — I made the excruciating decision to let him go.  I was promised that he would pass on peacefully, and I trusted my veterinarian — who is also a good friend — to take care of my Bailey. I sobbed like a child for hours, and then worried about telling my girls after school that their kitty was no longer at home.

I broke the news to Ava and Maryn in the car, and to my surprise, they handled it extremely well. No tears, no screaming fits, no anger. The girls were visibly saddened, but they were in control.  I wish I still possessed their youthful resilience.

It’s not that my kids didn’t care that our cat had died.  They simply weren’t as attached to him as I was.  Bailey remained rather annoyed most of the time, allowing us to rub his head for exactly ten seconds before he swiped the skin off the backs of our hands.  If we made eye contact with Bailey when he was in the wrong mood, he’d growl and spray our faces with hissy spit. No…he wasn’t a cuddly cat, but he kept me company long before our daughters were born.  Bailey and I understood each other pretty darn well: give me something to eat, make sure my litter box is clean, acknowledge me when I enter a room, and then leave me alone.  But leaving him behind this morning was pure agony.

In a few months, I will receive an advance copy of my first book,  Kat Tales — Stories of a House…Broken.  It’s a memoir of sorts, a collection of creative non-fiction essays (that means names and places have been changed to protect the innocent) that describe my life with animals — the ones that I have loved dearly, and the ones that have nearly cost me my life.  Kat Tales is also categorized as humorous, as I seem to find myself in messes worse than anything my husband has had to clean up in the backyard.

If you have ever published a book or written a lengthy article for that matter, you know how challenging the editing process can be.  It’s very hard to know when to stop “fooling” with your own material.  Editing is a lot like decorating a cake — you have to know when to let up, or else you foul up the entire thing.  Right before I submitted the manuscript, I decided to trash the last chapter about a doctor hooked on animal tranquilizers and replace it with a piece about Bailey. The “horse pill” story might have been more entertaining, but rest assured that your jaw will drop when you read about our cat-astrophes with a deranged 10-week old kitten.  After all of my animal encounters, I feel like I’m the one who’s closing in on nine lives.

Yes, it has been a bad day.  I’ll dearly miss my feline friend, but I’m happy that he can live on… in paw print.

Won’t You Come Home, Beagle Baby?

Monday, February 28, 2011
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It's a girl!

It’s a defining moment in a woman’s life when she’s advised by a doctor to stop having children. The experience is similar to being put out of business; the sign on the door flips from “open” to “closed.”  The soundtrack to a woman’s life changes as well, from the sweet maternal hymn, “Baby Mine” sung by a member of the Disney choir, to the Texan twang of dearly departed Don Meredith.  “Turn out the lights…the party’s over!”

All kidding aside (no pun intended), it’s a sad moment to learn that your last baby is indeed your last. There will never be another first smile, first tooth, first word, or first step.  I remember giving my youngest daughter her last bottle, which resembled feeding a baby goat as she devoured its contents and toddled away.

Now, as our little one turns five, I’m experiencing a different type of closure.  In a few weeks, my husband and I will attend kindergarten roundup and enroll her in school. I won’t have any children at home during the day, and that means I won’t have as much to do.

When I stew in these moods for too long, friends grab my shoulders and shake them without mercy.

“Freedom!” They scream.  “Now you can do as you please! Take on more clients! Take Zumba!  Take a nap!  Take your pick!”

But, I can’t take it.  I need someone to take care of.  It’s instinctive.

With the shop closed (as my husband reminded me), then I’d simply have to find another way to keep the cradle rocking, and I discovered that a man in Southside, West Virginia could help.

“I’ll have an outstanding litter of beagle pups ready for homes this March,” Bob the Breeder told me. “Are you looking for a boy or a girl?” he asked.

I didn’t care, as long as it was healthy.

“The due date is January 6th,” Bob the Breeder continued. “I’ll send pictures as time goes on, and keep you informed of the mother’s progress.”

That night, I suffered a panic attack like none other.  My eyes flashed open, and fear filled my entire body.

Howling.  Crate training. Veterinary bills. Shots. Chewing and scratching. Accidents. Spaying and neutering. Food.  Heartworm pills.  Dog sitters. Obedience school.

Does it sound familiar?  Crying.  Circumcision. Teething. Vaccinations. Potty training.  Well child checkups. Sick child visits. Bed wetting.  Biting and hitting.  Formula and diapers. Childcare. Preschool.

What was I thinking? What had gotten into me?  I climbed out of bed and staggered to the bathroom for a cup of water.  I stared at my reflection in the mirror and noticed the small scar on my left cheek, a permanent reminder of my clash with a Pekingese.

It occurred to me at that moment that I wasn’t grieving my inability to have a third child. I was grieving for my own children’s babyhood.  I was frightened by how quickly they were growing up, and how I didn’t realize their firsts were lasts.

We greeted 2011 with a telephone call from Bob the Breeder, who informed us that we could have our choice of several female pups.  Thrilled by the idea of naming another little girl, I ditched my tattered baby name book for the urban dictionary found online.  I wanted to name the pup something that defined her true spirit.

Betty:  One that is attractive, stylish and self-confident. A Betty is typically a looker. Do you see that girl over there? She’s a Betty!

With our new arrival in mind, I drove to the farm supply store to shop for baby Betty.  I chose a pink lead and collar, a polka dot dish and bowl set, a pastel blanket, and a few toys.  When I got home, I ordered a tartan plaid pillow with her name monogrammed on the side.

Of course, I realize that many people will accuse me of having lost my mind, but they stand corrected. I’m having a ball. It’s the nature of the beast.