MARILYN’S FARM – Marilyn Armstrong

I was surprised at how little foliage had “popped.” The Blackstone runs along that road and that usually brings out early foliage. Not this year. I also noticed that the meteorologists have stopped predicting “leafing” areas. Usually they are busy telling us where to find the best foliage, but the last two years were really bad, so they stopped.

In the name of improving something, even if it isn’t much, I changed to the “clean energy” variation from National Grid. I don’t think it’ll make a huge difference in our bills, but I need to feel like I’m doing something, even if it isn’t much.

So these are my farm pictures. Not much foliage but there’s some. Meanwhile, I got some very cute cows!

FATE IS IRREFUTABLE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Irrefutable

Bonnie has been changing. The relentless barking. Her unwillingness to sit with us on the sofa. She seeks out dark corners and no longer hears me when I call her. She also can’t see well and the other night, one of he teeth just fell out. But she sure does sleep well.

It was vet time yesterday. There was too much that seemed wrong and so un-Bonnie. We learned immediately that her teeth were awful — and considering we had them done twice in a row two years ago, they shouldn’t be that bad. But the teeth of small dogs go very quickly as they age. We have seen in it other small terriers and even though our vets are the most reasonably priced in the area for this work, she’s going to lose a lot of teeth. And she also needs senior dog bloodwork because, as the vet rather gently pointed out (he’s not always a very gentle guy), dogs change, much like aging people change with their years … and they don’t change back.

She isn’t the dog she was been for all the years we have had her, which is from baby dog — 9 weeks — to now. I trained her in the deep snow of winter and she was always the most charming of our dogs.

The vet delicately pointed out that since she is going deaf, is partially blind and to top it all, she appears to be getting a bit demented. Which is probably what all the barking about. These days, all she seems to know how to do is shout.

We need to consider her quality of life, the vet’s polite way of saying “That time is coming around again.”

We’ve had Bonnie longer than any other dog and while I know  — knew — always knew — this moment would come, I always dreaded it. Especially because we are getting too old to take on a young pet and too poor to manage old ones.

We’ve got a few months to think about it. To square up our elderly hunching shoulders and get it together.

I don’t think we’ll be getting more dogs. We are now at the point where our dogs are likely to outlive us. We don’t really have anywhere to send them, either. There’s no one to care for them if we are gone.

We have both throughout our lives had a morbid tendency to wait until too late to deal with the end game properly. We don’t want to let go. There’s nothing easy about it and even though we have two other dogs in the house — and I know part of the reason we got Duke was that the other two were getting old. We were not talking about it, but we knew. We didn’t want to know.

I’m quite sure Duke will be our last dog. I swear, he knows. Dogs know a lot.

I’m not going to make this a crying and wailing post. I have been through this too many times. It’s the worst when there’s no lethal ailment to make it inevitable but just a general winding down of a life.

I thought she would live longer. She’s small. I had hoped for a good solid 15 or 16 years from her, but she has been aging faster than seemed reasonable for the past couple of years. I could see it in her coat turning so quickly gray and odd changes in her behavior.

Technically, Gibbs is the same age but seems much younger. I’ve always wondered if he was really the age on his papers. He was kenneled and they lie about their dogs. So I think he’s good for a while … but I wonder how Duke and Gibbs will get on without Bonnie. She has always been the sweet spot between the two boys.

Talk about irrefutable. The passage through life always ends the same way. It doesn’t matter how well we feed them or how sweetly we love them or how they care for us. Time does what time does. Why do the best ones always seem to go first?

HEY DAD! WE FIXED IT! – Marilyn Armstrong

DogsSlayThe Beastie

Oh, how wonderfully familiar this looks. The cast of miscreants so cute you can’t yell at them … so destructive it takes your breath away! They’re worse when they work as a pack.

But they love you, they really, really love you.

AT LEAST SOMEONE IS GETTING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP – Marilyn Armstrong

Usually, Bonnie crashes at about 11 at night and won’t wake up short of being shaken awake until early morning. This has become normal, and for a few nights, I just didn’t bother to wake her for her late-night snack.

Last night, she woke up.

When late-night snack time came around, she was climbing up my leg to get to her snack. When she barked me awake at about four in the morning, I staggered up and gave her her snack. She was wide awake and downright perky. I wish I could say the same.

When she woke me again at about six by not merely barking at the bedroom door, but jumping up on it and trying to unhinge it, I staggered up — again — and passed along some very small goodies because they are getting a bit beefy again.

Left: Bonnie, Right: Gibbs

When at around seven, she apparently felt we’d had more than enough sleep, I poked Garry and said: “Do something. Otherwise, I may strangle Bonnie.”

He got up. I don’t know what he did, but she’s still wide awake and peppy. Well, not at the moment. It’s just after dinner which is crash time for all three of them. They have no interest in us until they think it might be snack-time again.

Resting … however briefly

It’s really nice to know that all that sleep has really perked up little Bonnie. Garry and I are dragging around like unwashed bags of laundry and she is dashing around the house. Maybe I should get up every couple of hours, shake her awake and bark in her ear?

You think she might get the point?

DECISION, DECISIONS – Marilyn Armstrong

I worry about small things even more than big ones. Right now, I’m worrying about ticks and fleas. We got some lethal mosquitoes in the area which is bad enough, but as I was petting Duke the other night, I realized that his flea and tick collar was too tight. The Duke has filled out.

We’ve had so much rain that it has been soaked repeatedly which I think made it expand some — and I just couldn’t get it to open more. Finally, I gave up and cut it off him which left him with no flea and tick protection. All three dogs were wearing the Seresto (Bayer) collars which are highly effective, but also poisonous. All is well as long as there’s no allergic reaction and your dog doesn’t get sick. Some dogs get sick and older ones tend to have a lot of skin, eye, and ear issues anyway.

Two of my dogs are getting kind of old and I figured it was time to replace their collars anyway. But with what?

Buy the very expensive Seresto ($52 to $58 each, if you please) collars or go with the less effective “natural oil” collars that apparently work for some people, but who knows if they will work here?

There aren’t a lot of choices. You can buy the Seresto collars (Bayer) and there’s one other manufacturer that makes poison collars, but I looked at the ingredients and decided no, I don’t think so. So I went with Tuzik Flea and Tick Collar, which is one of the “herbal oil” collars. Most of these contain essentially the same oils:

      • Citronella
      • Lemon Oil
      • Clove Oil
      • Peppermint Oil
      • Eucalyptus Oil

Some also include: cedarwood, cinnamon, lavender, thyme, and geranium oils — and some don’t use cinnamon or clove oil. There is some dispute over clove oil, but I think it’s probably safer than Flumethrin or Permethrin.

The things none of them use are Permethrin, Pyriproxyfen, Flumethrin, Imidacloprid, Fipronil, Pyrethrins, Nitenpyram, Deltamethrin, Diatomaceous Earth, Tetrachlorvinphos. There are a few other poisons used on other collars. The thing is, these poison collar work very well … except when they kill your dog. Sometimes, your dog does okay with no problem and you never see a tick or a flea — which is great. Sometimes, even after using them for a long time, your dog breaks out in a bloody rash that can be hard to cure. Or dies.

I finally went with the “natural oil” version. Do I think it will work as well as Seresto did?

Probably it won’t.

Did I make the right decision? I don’t know. It’s not like there’s a third choice — like “a little poisonous, but not too bad.” It’s either natural oil and non-toxic, or really toxic and let’s just hope everything works out okay.

I hate this kind of choice. Because I never know if I made the right decision.

THE HUMAN-CANINE COVENANT IS MORE THAN COOKIES – Marilyn Armstrong

I read an article a while back which announced with solemnity and more than a few pie charts, that dogs — our dogs, your dogs, pet dogs — don’t like being hugged. Not merely do they not like being hugged and display measurable levels of stress when hugged, but they really totally hate being kissed and nuzzled.

The article suggests a pat on the head … and a treat … would be much more appreciated. But, not by Garry or me.

Garry, Bonnie, and Gibbs – A moment of zen

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I know they don’t like being hugged. It’s obvious. They stiffen and put their ears back when we hug them. They also don’t like it when I grab their tail and refuse to let go.

That’s what all the growling and head butting are about. You can almost hear them sigh, wondering when you’ll be through with this nonsense and get on to the important stuff, namely distributing cookies.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Duke and Gibbs

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I told Garry about the study. He said: “Tough. They’ll just have to cope. Because I like it.” My thoughts exactly.

Our dogs are disrespectful. Messy. Flagrantly disobedient. They are masters and mistresses of selective hearing. Do I believe for a single moment when we tell them to go out and they stand there, in front of the doggy door, ignoring us, it’s because they don’t understand what we want from them, or cannot hear us?

What does Duke dream about?

I’m supposed to think if I stand in the doorway calling them, that they can’t hear me? Or don’t know I want them to come in? Of course, they hear me. They know. They’re just playing us.

From the other side of the yard, they can hear the click when we remove the cover of the biscuit container. Their hearing is fine. It’s a power play.

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Since they persist in disrespecting us, they will have to deal with our periodic compulsion to give them hugs, nuzzling, and the occasional (“Yuck! Stop that stupid human!”) kiss on their big black noses. Personally, I think it’s a small price to pay for unlimited sofa lounging, high-quality treats, and silly humans getting down on the floor to play. Not to mention the toys and the balls and those expensive trips to the vet.

We put up with them? They will have to put up with us, too. That’s our deal.

It’s the Human-Canine Covenant. We’ve got their paw prints on file.

MAO, A CAT – Marilyn Armstrong

Jeff and I got Mao as an 8-week-old kitten in the fall of 1965. We had just gotten married the month before, and of course, we had to have a cat right away. Why a Siamese? I don’t know. Karma maybe?

From the very first day, Mao was Master of All He Surveyed. Although I have had many cats through the years, Mao was the first and by far the most utterly unique.

Mao – our cat – Photo (from print) by Ben Taylor — and THANK YOU!

He was very smart for a cat. For instance, when we were out-of-town, we would have someone “house-sit” for us. No matter who that person was, and no matter how much Mao ordinarily liked them, while we were away, Mao would attack him or her (or them) virtually continuously during our absence. He would hide behind the bushes and attack legs as they tried to open the front door. He would wait around the corner and then pounce. He would launch himself from atop the bookcase, landing on a victim’s head, sometimes causing serious damage.

The moment we returned, Mao ceased his attacks and commenced purring. He figured, I believe, that he needed to drive out the interlopers so that we could return. Since we always DID return, his belief was consistently reinforced!

Mao protected us from bed goblins. If you were on Mao’s “family member” list, he would stop by your bedroom every night. You had to lift the covers so he could walk to the foot of the bed and back up. No goblins tonight? Good, I will go now, and he did.

Mao was the only cat I’ve ever known that perpetrated acts of vengeance hours or days after your perceived offense. If, for example, you shooed him off the table during dinner time, he would wait until you were sitting on the potty with your pants around your ankles and could not chase him. Then he would casually bite your shins. Tail held high, he would stroll away.

Mao patrolled the perimeter of the grounds like any good watch cat should. Every day of his life, he performed it, almost as if it were a ceremony. During his closing weeks with us, he began to patrol in the company of a younger feline, Mr. Manx. As if passing the torch to the next generation, he taught Mr. Manx to walk the perimeter, and inspect the beds, which Mr. Manx then did for the rest of his life.

In October 1978, Mao, who had been diagnosed with cancer some months before, disappeared. We never found his body, though we were sure he had gone off to die. For the last couple of weeks before his departure, we had noticed that he felt different. Where his muscles had been hard, they were now soft. He slept most of the day and moved slowly.

It is many years and lifetimes later. Jeff has passed. I live far from that place where Jeff and I and Mao and all the other fur-people lived. But I remember him. We all remember Mao, the most special cat.

Mao, I am sure you were there for Jeff when he came to the Bridge. I’m sure you will be there for me, too. You and all my other furry friends who I loved will be there together.

But you were and will always be, utterly unique and entirely unforgettable.