Dog Blog

It’s 3:00am and time to start my day. My belly was a little upset just an hour ago from the full bag of treats I ate, but that has passed, and thrillingly I was able to generate some treats of my own. I left some centered between the doors of the boy’s bedrooms to greet them in the morning. I also put some by the front door on the yellow tiles for guests. I tried for the side door too for the older people but there was nothing left. I am only 8 lbs so my belly really can’t hold much. I will try again later.

Now that I feel better I think I should have a drink. Things look good in this area. Usually I have to leave the bed to find my water bowl but in these wee hours of the morning I see she has left her water within reach on her bedside table. Well, within reach if I climb on her face. Which I do. Ahhhhh. Water.

4:00 am. I think I smell food. How did I miss this before? I smell food and it is HERE. Upstairs. Snuffling around the small boy’s room I find them. The meat treats wrapped in dough that get delivered by that man that I bark at so loudly. Delicately, so delicately I hold one in between my tiny teeth dragging it away from the other. “I will be back for you.” I tell them. Back in our bedroom I find the food has left me off balance. I can’t quite make the herculean jump from the floor to the bed without help. I am eager to get up there. The new comforter smells so detergenty. It doesn’t have all of the lovely wafts of food and puke and pee that I have provided them with over the last year. They are back to the beginning and a little late night snack will help with that “too clean problem.” But first I need to get there. I whine softly. If I do this they will reach over and pick me up. A little more loudly. She is UP! But she doesn’t help me. “The dog needs to pee” she tells him. She is SO WRONG. The dog just peed. What the dog needs to do is come up and eat this meat on her bed and then snuggle under the covers. But the fake news has been passed along and he lumbers out of bed almost hitting the wall on his way out. Down the stairs we go and he misses the present I left for him in the hallway. Oh well, he will see it in the morning when it is light out.

He forces me outside into the cold but it is OK. I have my dumpling to keep me company. When he opens the slider to let me in I hold my head high. I have eaten a bit, but there is enough to bring back to bed. I hop on the couch to take high ground and protect my treasure.  He look at me. “Drop it.” He says. “No. No. Shit. My dumpling.”My body betrays me. But somehow against my own will I drop the dumpling.

He heads up the stairs so slowly, the curse of only having 2 legs. So sad for them. I take a quick detour back to the dumplings in the boy’s room. He is surprised now. Again he tells me to drop it. Again my body drops the dumpling against my will. Damn that training. He gathers the dumplings and drops them in the trash. It will be hard work but I will have to deal with that situation later.

Back in bed she asks him what happened. “Go back to sleep.” He tells her. He must be saving the dumpling news for later as a surprise.

I figure his advice is good. I flip the covers with my nose and begin to wriggle under. Something isn’t quite right. Oh no. Oh no. I have climbed into the pillow case again. This is NOT GOOD. Last time I neared death. That would be horrible. Who would protect her from hugs and keep people out of the house. They NEED me. Just like last time she grabbed me by the rear legs and pulled me from the pillow. It is hard to pretend I meant to do that. I tried my best though, shaking it off and burrowing under the actual covers this time. She is clearly too close to the middle of the bed. She usually sleep on the edge so I remind her with my cold wet nose and she moves a few inches. I press my nose against her again, then she moves again. When we are finished I have her right where she likes it, on her side, with only a thin strip of mattress to support here. I know she will mistakenly roll back so instead of my comfortable dog ball I turn my 12 inches sideways and stretch my limbs superdog postion and brace against here. She will be safe now.

At 6:45 they interrupt my rest to tell me it is time to pee. Don’t they know that I peed on the boy’s door to thank him for the dumplings. Despite that I realize my bladder is full from the bedside table drink. I should do that again. So again I climb, shoulder to hair, to head, and stretch to the glass. The water is further down now so I have to adjust a few times but I don’t worry about falling. My long claws have a sturdy grip on her cheek.

7:00 We head downstairs. I am not in the mood for kibble. Steak would be good, or bacon. I could even settle for the dumplings but it is just these dried bits. They expect me to eat them and I don’t like to let them down. So I take a few halfhearted bites and am quickly distracted by my reason for being.


I tell them.

They don’t move. Why do they never seem surprised that this evil beast is in the house?

“Cat cat cat”

“She’s in the house! She’s on the COUNTER! She is going to ruin everything.” I hold onto my trump card. “She is going to break your PHONES!”

Still nothing. My people confound me.

I am on my own now.

I charge at the cat, telling it to get out of our territory but it just hisses back. “You are pathetic. I own you.”

7:05 Even though she is right I have to keep going. I must. “Cat” I tell them surging forward. Her paw slices my face so quickly. “Ow ow ow my nose! My nose” I retreat. But she is still there “Cat!” I tell them. Finally the big boy has heard me. But what is he thinking. “Apollo” he yells my name. He doesn’t sound grateful. He doesn’t know how I have risked life and nose for his family. I am being scooped up. Usually I like this but I need to get back to the beast. This is the time I will win.

7:25 But it is not. I am placed onto the couch in a pillow nest and I have no choice to curl up. It is naptime after all.  I rest there while the rest of them bustle around and the cat stares at me from the window sill. I can feel her staring but I won’t give her the satisfaction of meeting her icy blue eyes. I might be resting but I still know EVERYTHING going on around me.

7:35 Too soon they are all leaving. The big boy first. I ignore him because my most beloved is still home and then she and the little boy leave at the same time. This is super confusing. They leave out of opposite doors. How do I know which one to stop. I run to him then her and him then her and as I watch him sidestepping my poop treat I hear her door close and I run back, too late and then am too late for the front door. I have failed. The day is ruined.

8:05 I walk slowly to the office looking for just the right rawhide along the way. The people don’t seem to know the difference. Yet this is a vital distinction. Found it right where I left it outside the door to the bathroom where I had to wait to protect her. I head to work. The cat is already at work curled in the chair and we both know that work time is truce time so I don’t yell at her and she doesn’t call me pathetic.

I offer a brief hello with my curled tail but she ignores me.


8:07 The big problem with the office isn’t even the cat. It’s that weird other dog who lives through the window. Whatever I do he does. But strangely he has no smell. What kind of dog has no smell? No dog I want to know. So I keep an eye on him just in case.

8:10 The male person is standing working at his computer. This is tricky. I will rest for a while on the bed. I used to be able to drag my bed around with my teeth, flip it in the air. I loved that bed. I loved it so much that I opened it up to taste the inside which were wonderful. I took out bits of its insides and left some for me in all of my spots. Each bed in the house. Each room in the house. Each couch in the house. Then one day it was all gone and this big bed arrived. I heard them say it was actually a cat bed and the cat laughed at me. She was way too fancy to lie on the floor unless there was a perfect slant of sunshine. So it is mine. And it is too big to throw around and it is too big to pull apart. Sigh.

8:12  I am recharged. Clearly he has worked too long and too hard and needs a bit of a break. I gift him with my favorite rawhide at his feet. Nothing. I lift it up and drop it again. Nothing I call out quickly. “Hey.” Nothing. “Hey lets play” I tell him. Nothing. Clearly work has made him catatonic. Wait I never noticed the word cat is in catatonic. I’ll totally have to tease her about that. I turn and she is sleeping. Catatonic if you will. And I certainly will. Back to play though. He needs to get his exercise. So I jump up and nip his butt. “Time to play play play.” And we do. I let him think he can have my rawhide but then I take it back. We go on like this for a bit but clearly he is getting too attached to the rawhide. Does he think it is HIS? “It’s mine.” I tell him. But that isn’t enough. I need to take it back. “MINE” I declare and bring it into my bed. Maybe some crusty rawhide drool will help it feel more like home. I can try.

8:15-2:50. It must be time for them to come home soon. I will stand guard. I will stand on two legs and hold one paw delicately against the door. I will wait. During this time there are 6 squirrels “Squirrel” And 42 cars. “Car? car? Car?”

On the warm days they would walk home and I would be in the yard and could greet them in the best possible way. Hugs? I’m in. But it is cold now and there is not walking. There is only driving and it is very difficult to track all of the vehicles.

Then finally it is the right car and I run to the door. Something goes wrong. I can’t run straight. I can only run in the circle. In this circle in this circle. She is reaching for me. It’s too much. I am jumping and circling and wagging. I feel every muscle in my body and try to calm down. But it is SO SO SO exciting. she wasn’t back until the 43rd card. She was never going to come back. Never. I was going to have to live with that boring man and that bitchy cat. There would be no kids. There would be no beloved.

I need to tell her.

Finally I am in her arms. I am slamming my head against hers. Hello Hello. I thought you were never coming back. So I kiss her. Forehead to chin. I try to kiss her nose and lips but she turns away, denying herself my most fervent love. I need to tell her about my day. I race to the office to retrieve my best rawhide. I drop it at her feet for her to have. I jump so high 42 times. I tell her about catatonic. Somehow she doesn’t understand. I love her but I worry a bit about her intelligence.

2:50 So quickly the little boy is home but he has brought a friend. Luckily it is not the bad friend so I only need to give him a light warning to keep his hands off my people and then I can greet my little boy. I jump 42 times and circle six times and kiss for as long as he lets me.

2:51 Nap time.

5:30 Food. I smell food. They are going to need my help cooking. First I need to find a place to pee. They are all in the room so I guess I could go outside. How about this. If I walk to the door and stand there for 5 seconds and they notice me and open the door in 5.5 seconds I will go outside in pee. But thats such a pain. Maybe I will wait 3 seconds. She sees me though and tells me about peeing. Duh.

6:00 Dinner. They have stopped feeding me my dinner. I mean, I have kibble but everyone knows that is not dinner. I have never ONCE seen them eat kibble. Well, actually I saw the little one eat kibble one time but then he spit it out right away. So insulting. So I stand under the table and move from leg to leg. Maybe tonight is the night? It’s chicken and broccoli. Sometimes the little one gives me broccoli. And sometimes that broccoli has brushed against the table. I stick with him.

6:20 Clean up. This is the best. When it is one of the boy’s loading the dishwasher it takes them so long that I can rinse several plates. What would they do without me?

6:30 Nap time. Rinsing the dishes was delicious but exhausting. Too tiring to be bothered to eat kibble. I guess I could go check the sand box and see if the cat has left me any goodies. But I am just so tired. Soooo. I need to get a toy to snuggle up with. I think I left monkey on the bed. Returning downstairs she pins me in the stairway  “CAT!” Cat! It is right there. “See the cat?” Still they can’t see the cat. I am worried about their hearing, their vision, their intelligence. They are so lucky to have me to look out for them. To do that. To keep them safe I need to get down the stairs. But there she is.

7:00 Doorbell. “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away””Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away” “Go away”

7:04. Whew, He is gone. I have terrified him.

7:06 Time to check the floor for crumbs. The kitchen and dining room need to be fully snuffled.

7:30 We head upstairs. I double back for the best rawhide which I hide under the covers. I will entertain us with a game of hide and seek. All hide and seek must be done at full speed. That is probably why she is so terrible at it.


7:35 She gets in the shower. I stand in the doorway. Please don’t take me. Please don’t take me. Please. Don’t. Take. Me. When the water stops I know I am safe and it is time to bound into the bathroom. I will lick her legs first then drink the nectar of the shower water. Nothing has ever been so good. Wait? We are leaving the bathroom. Fine. I grab my rawhide and take to the bed.

7:40 Something is wrong. Terribly horribly frighteningly wrong. She is sitting on a blue and white pillow on the floor. She is not moving at all. Her eyes are open but she is not looking at anything. SHE IS DEAD. Only I can save her. I will tempt her back to life. I select pelican. I know she likes pelican. I drop it at her legs. “Wanna play?” I ask. She says nothing.  I move to the edge of the bed as close to her ear as I can get. “HELLO” I yell loudly. I think there might have been a flinch a small bit of movement. I try again “HELLO” this is the loudest I can be so I stay at this level. Over and over again I yell. This is it. She is dead. I am so sad. So incredibly sad. I give her a last gift. I pee on her comforter.

It is time to sit vigil with the body so I go to the blue chair. I will dig my own grave and we will go down together. I will dig and dig until it can fit my whole self. Finally I can sit. So I do. Leaving my giant weeping bug eyes on her unmoving face.

Then it happens! I have willed her back to life with my love. She is getting up. She is putting away the pillow. She is seeing my tribute on the bed! She is so excited. Apollo! She says. She is getting her special towel and spray. She likes to cover my scent with her own. It is something we collaborate on.

9:00 Finally it is bedtime. I have less of a job to do because my pee and her spray have mingled into a giant soaked spot on the bed. She will lie right at the edge in order not to disturb our good work. Maybe she is not so dumb after all.

3:00am. I am thirsty.


Why you should (n’t) avoid your neighbors

I wasn’t exactly hiding in the bedroom, but I was pretty much hiding in the bedroom.

Our new video doorbell allows me to screen visitors the way I have screened phone calls since the advent of caller ID 7,000 years ago. It is good.

I was upstairs when I heard the chime calling out melodically from the dining room, my phone and Oliver’s phone at once. I accepted the ring on my phone to spy. Oliver headed right to the door to be neighborly.

I heard him ask. “Are your parents home?”

Oliver called up to me “Mama” (He still calls me Mama at age 12 just like he still holds my hand) “There is someone at the door for you.” I am watching that someone through my “ring” app and I see him shifting from foot to foot. He is the man that I pass on dog walks. He and another woman who I assume to be his wife used to walk two dogs. Now they walk one. It is bittersweet their walks in the golden Western light. We have waved dozens of times but never spoken.

“Please tell him I am unavailable” I call down. It is my bra-lessness that makes me unavailable. That and the buffer I like to keep between my neighbors and me. I will chat through a flight, but only exchange casual pleasantries with those physically closest to me. I get enough of them…their crying babies, the way the feed the squirrels, the battles with dandelions. The neighbors that are a few houses away, out of earshot, I find easier to befriend. We drink beer and watch movies outdoors, our kids show up at each other’s houses but after all of that we can go home to places far enough away that we are separate again.

I hear him telling Oliver something about our cat and I am pleased that I skipped this encounter. I have mixed feelings about our free range feline. She loves it. She belongs out there in the sun. But somewhere she is shitting in another person’s yard (one of those neighbors I am sure) and I worry about the song birds. So this is where my mind goes. That he has caught her pooping in his plants. I wonder how we will deal with this. Will I send the boys over for a daily scoop,…or will I simply apologize and promise to keep her inside?

I am glad to avoid this problem and decide to fire up Zillow and find us a place with land, where our cat will be unable to bother anyone but the birds.

The next day I am weeding the side bed marveling for the thousandth time about how grass in here is a weed. Why is it so lush in my flower bed and so sparse on my lawn. It is like the shiny healthy beard I am growing at the same time that my scalp thins. Just move over a few inches and everything will be better. I am stroking my chin hair as he approaches me. The woman and the dog stay on the other side of the street and I wave to them. They do not wave back so I know things will not go well.

“I have a picture of Skreechee” he tells me. I immediately think “proof of poop” and gear up for apologies. “It is frame worthy” he continues. Frame worthy? I wonder. I am so convinced that I am in trouble that I don’t quite hear him. Finally I realize he is happy. He has something that presents like cerebral palsy so it has been hard for me to read the expression on his face or the tone of his voice. I can tell now though. He is happy and wanting to share something nice.

“What is a convenient time for me to come by?” He asks.

After dinner during a heated game of Settlers of Catan (it is game night after all) the chimes go off. This time it is all four phones alerting us to movement at our door. We are sitting in the dining room with the Ring hardware so the jaunty song is coming from five places at once. Things go a bit crazy. The dog is barking as he and Oliver race to the door.

Standing there with a very large print is our neighbor. Once again the woman and the lone dog are standing across the street and once again I wave and once again she doesn’t. This time I know it is not because I am in trouble. The photographer is asking if we have a Mac and I am confused and now realize that he has included a thumb drive with the original image as well as the oversized print. “How much does it cost?” I ask. His face slants a little more and he protests. “It’s a gift” he tells us. “I want you to have it.” Oliver and I are tripping over each other to thank him and I invite him in but he is demurs.

Perhaps he doesn’t want to get too close to his neighbors either.

It is so nice to be wrong.


She is a Total Pussy- trouble with my live in love

Pussy CatShe is a total pussy: intimacy issues with my live in love.

It has been almost a year since I invited her into my house, began to care for her, paying her doctors bills, buying her dinner, cleaning up after her when she got sick. I had visions for a future of mutual contentment. I thought she would be someone to share my life with, someone to cuddle up with at the end of a hard day. Instead I have learned that she has intimacy issues. She seems incapable of meeting my needs. She thinks I don’t notice her, sitting there, looking at me through slitted eyes. But I see her, spying on me as I type. She can’t stop me. I am finally ready to face the ways that she is not the partner I need.

1. She positions herself just out of my reach, literally and figuratively.

2. She doesn’t share any of my interests. She is completely unresponsive when I tell her about  my fears…things I have never spoken aloud to another sole. She sits in silent judgement.

3. She is prickly instead of soft. I see her vulnerable core, but she protects herself when I reach out to her. She never lets me close. Sometimes she actually swipes me away, leaving a mark on my hand to mirror the slice to my heart.

4. Some nights she never comes home at all. She doesn’t call or text to keep me from worrying about where or whether she will sleep. I lie awake imagining her running in fear from the predators who come out in the darkness of the night.

5. She lets me buy every single meal. Every one. Except that one time she brought home takeout and left it on the front stoop, unrefrigerated. This take out was too gross to eat and she left me to clean it up on my own.

6. Speaking of cleaning, even though she is fastidious with her own appearance she couldn’t care LESS about our shared space. She knocks things onto the floor and holds her head high as if I COULDN”T SEE WHAT SHE JUST DID. She seems to know I won’t really complain.

7. She drinks from my water glass and steals my turkey sandwich without asking. I would share anything with her, but she insists on taking advantage of my generosity.

8. Even though she ignores me during my free time, scoffing at my invites to sit on my lap and cuddle, she never leaves me alone during work time. She wines and cajoles and puts herself in front of my screen. When I finally give her the attention she wants she sits and ignores my offers to help. It’s like all of the lovers I have had in the past. Once I lose interest in them they put on a show to get me back, and once I am theirs again they turn tail and leave. I don’t seem to learn.

9. She asserts her dominance all the time. When I walk down the stairs she pushes in front of me almost tripping me. My anger passes quickly as I see her waiting, searching my face with her beautiful blue eyes. Then I reach her…and she runs away again.

10. I’m starting to believe the studies that say that her kind would actually murder me if she were just a bit bigger. ( I  want to feel safe while sleeping, preferably with her by my side.

I love her and I want her to love me back. I meet all of her needs, and she ignores my meager requests. She clearly can’t love me the way I want her to.

I have come to realize…she is a total pussy.

How not to snuggle a claustrophobe

Elevators, airplanes, playing “hide and go seek” in the refrigerator…they are all terrifying. The combination of small metal container, limited supply of oxygen and  me creates the exact anxious reaction you would expect from a claustrophobe. Increased heart rate, clammy sweating, and the inability to take in air. The only things my lungs are good for when I feel trapped is screaming. 

Despite my extreme reaction this type of claustrophobia is not a big problem in my life. I can avoid those places. I can (mostly) avoid caves, I can even avoid parking garages with their too low ceilings, echoes and darkness that are the closest things we have to catacombs in our modern city.

Snuggling a claustrophobeWhat I can’t avoid is the loving arms, faces and fur of my family.

Some people (most people?) love snuggling. All around I see couples and kids and cats wrestling, playing and snoozing together.  When I look at that kind of closeness I stop being able to take complete breathes. I want to break them apart as if they are hurting each other…because if it were me I would be in a state of panic.

It started after the birth of my first child. I was not the only one at mama yoga lamenting the loss of my body. While other women joked about chapped nipples (HA!) and belly scars (HA HA!) they snuggled their babies close and sniffed their heads. My baby’s head smelled like the vomited breast milk that soaked us both. So I lay him on the yoga mat…over there. Only then was I able to take deep cleansing breathes. Within 17 months there were two small boys, my husband, 4 cats and 2 dogs living in our house. There was not a spare inch without a living thing that wanted to be close to me. I fed and pet and kissed and LOVED them all. I came to the sickening realization that mothering was physically smothering me. It felt like I was being loved to death.

We began each night with some combination of beasties in the bed. As they drifted off I would relocate them and claim a portion of the bed. When I finally fell asleep I woke myself lashing out at the sheets and covers, kicking them off with a racing heart. The instant my skin hit air I would feel relief and then, as if to fill the vacuum left by my unwrapping, my husband would roll across the bed and take me into his arms and hold me tightly. So, So tightly. His legs would intertwine with mine, he would lay his scratchy cheek on my soft one and whisper into my ear. “I love you.” Then go back to snoring, a dead weight.

I thought it was temporary. I thought once the boys grew and began to know where their own bodies stopped and mine began I would have literal and figurative space. I thought it was a phase unique to early motherhood.

My son is about to turn 11 and I still dread bed. I wriggle through family movie time where I am three someones’ pillow. I count the seconds when my sweet little boy “tucks me in” smoothing the  blanket over me like the top of a pie. He pats and I pant. He keeps me “so, so, warm and cozy” and I feel as if I have already been put in the oven to bake. 

bedtime with a claustrophobeEvery night I read to them, an arm around each boy, requiring one of them to turn the pages. They watch the clock willing time to slow. I watch the clock wondering when 9pm will release me from the sweaty, hot, prison of my children’s making. Then they are off and it is time for my husband and to be alone. I love sex…it is the afterglow that I loathe. He collapses onto me, feeling closer than ever, our bodies blending and I begin to wriggle. The squirming I do is nothing compared to the screaming inside. GET. OFF. GET. OFF. One piece of me cracks “he already did” while the rests cracks up…and not in laughter. If he stays close for one minute longer I might burst into flames.

This extreme reaction has led me to a bit of insight. Overheating is a huge part of the problem. The feeling of being trapped makes it even worse. If we snuggle in a cool open space I can cuddle for ever. After 12 years we have a bit of a system.

  • I get the edge of the bed so I can roll off in an emergency
  • He has learned never to gather my two legs in one of mine. That is the quickest path to panic.
  • We ditch all or most of the covers. His body heat is enough to keep us both warm.
  • If it is skin to skin the time needs to be limited. PJs make everything better. For me.

The boys have learned this too. Finally they take turns being next to me when reading. I get the outside edge and all of a sudden the clock seems to move at its regular rate.

A claustrophobe catNow my main problem is the cat who sleeps on my face. She doesn’t seem to be picking up on my tips.

It is almost like a punchline. But it is actually a problem. Hi, My name is Anna, and I am a claustrophobe. Don’t cuddle me. 

Heavy Petting

What kind of a person gives away her dog? The one she raised from a pup, who rode in the car with his arm on her shoulder like a giant canine parrot. The one who covered her face with kisses. The one who she insisted didn’t smell like dog.

Me, I guess.

I also gave away a peeing cat…but that is another story.

Buckley, named for Jeff of the soulful voice and youthful drowning, was my second attempt to get a guy.

The first was building a bar, but it turns out the guys you meet at 1am on a Wednesday aren’t the type you want to have kids with.  So I decided to get a dog and head to the dog park at the exact time that someone with a day job would be there.

Our dogs fell in love first. Then Steve and I did. Finally we began to love one another’s dogs. For a while we were a happy fuzzy family.

Buckley earned the nickname of “fun police.” If Steve and I laughed too loudly, brought home a balloon (don’t tease…balloons are very uplifting), danced, sang, or jumped Buckley barked and barked…and barked. Although he wanted us to sit still and shut up HE wanted to fun and frolic. He would submarine his nose in the snow, hinge with pleasure at a greeting and jump and twirl in the air when he ran towards Steve’s (I mean our) Saint Bernard.

Then came the boys. They were 17 months apart. From the time they were old enough to move they were like puppies themselves, tumbling and tangled, shrieking and swinging, dancing and rolling balls. Buckley wanted none of that. It was his job to keep those kids still and he was a dedicated worker. The real problem was the birthday parties. Do you know what is a main feature of birthday parties? Balloons. Do you know how long and hard a dog needs to bark at the balloons to protect his family? Days. Exhausting.

So after a bit we began to dog share. We had a single friend who spent time outdoors and worked in a dog friendly office. It started with dog sitting and stretched to a week at a time. Then we went to a week on and a week off. Finally he was coming to us just for a visit. He would hinge and wag with pleasure as soon as he turned to our street, but then again he did the same when he went to his other house. I waffled between feeling leaden with guilt and able to rationalize our arrangement.

Eventually our friend was no longer single. Then he called to say he was moving to NYC. I had my heart in my throat wondering which way this would go. Would he want to take Buckley or leave him? With a thud of guilt and grief I realized I wanted him to go. This turned out to be a good thing, because that is what our friend wanted as well.

After a few years Buckley’s family of three returned and my guilt had faded. He was loved. He was loving.

Today I got the text I have been dreading for 13 years. Buckley is in surgery. It doesn’t look good. Steve happens to be back in Vermont. Hopefully he will visit my, his, our dog and not have to say goodbye.

We already did that…and it was for the best that time. My dear Buckley, thank you for being my family and giving me my family, thank you for moving on with grace and brining love to Erik and Kortnee, and here is hoping wherever you wake up there will be lots of fun to police.

Erik and Buckly
Erik and Buckly


What we can learn from dogs…eye contact trumps icontact.

Dog looking at the cameraAll around me people are running with their dogs. It is Denver after all. I am taking very small steps trying not to slip on the ice. When I moved here I was told the city didn’t plow because the sun took car of the snow in a day or two. Last winter that was brilliant. This winter…not so much.

As I take my next tiny step a dog pulls very close to me, straining against his owners leash. I am not a dog person. Yet I find this dog charming. He is so gangly and charming. It is as if he is grinning at me as he tries to get closer. I am the best thing he has seen all morning. In fact I might be the best thing he has seen EVER.

I look at his owner, hoping to give her a smile to show her my appreciation for her side kick but she is looking at her phone. She gives him a sharp tug and he returns to her side. His large neck cranes back at me, his lost love. What a thing we could have been.

It the the most eye contact I have had all morning. After ordering my ginger peach tea and veggie empanada at the coffee shop I sat with my head down in front of my laptop. If I had looked up I would have seem a room full of me. Taller, more like a man, blonder, but all as committed to their computers as I was. Its not the work I wonder about. For many of us this is a virtual office. Its the time between, the walks to and fro. The bathroom breaks and bus tubs. Why are we making more “icontact” than eye contact?

cat staringWhen I got home I decided to ask my cat. She simply stared at me. Then stared. Then stared some more. I tried not to blink but like usual she won. I used my eyes to communicate to her the difference between staring and looking. I was attempting to model the  communication that comes from eye contact rather than the weird icy feeling that her endless stare brings to me. She would only stare back. It was like we were at a cocktail party and she was peering just a tiny bit over my head, showing me my lack of importance in her world.

I wonder why I am not a dog person.

In the not so distant past people fell between cats and dogs in the warmth of their eye contact. It wasn’t exactly love at first site like my canine Romeo, but we didn’t used to look at each other with such doubt and derision.

smart phoneThen the smart phone came along and our casual social interactions got a lot more dumb. When we look up from our devices it takes a minute to exit the virtual world and enter the world of 5 sense. By the time we have landed back on the planet that person walking down the street has passed without a smile.

These days I think people don’t fall between cats and dogs, but are more like fish, swimming around in our world of one, almost unaware of the beings around us.

I’m doing my part to change this…I am putting down the device when I am in public and am opting for eye contact rather than icontact. I am even less of a fish person than a dog person.

crowded fish bowl

What about you? Are you most like the dog, the cat, or the fish? Do you want to join me in trying to increase eye contact?Learning from pets

Down on my knees

Down on my knees. Cleaning Sheepskin and broken ornaments on annarosenblumpalmer.comThere are a few good reasons to be down on one’s knees. Scrubbing buffalo sauce off of a sheep skin rug is not one of them.

Four years ago I got a sheepskin from a family/friends farm. It was a particularly Vermont moment when they unpacked their maple syrup, sheepskin, and side dishes from their woven baskets. This gift exchange was during the heart of our local eating, when the kids still called their beef Marilyn after the first cow we dined on. I felt a literal and figurative warmth for the sheepskin.

I thought about the way the animal had been raised, its humane slaughter, and how they had been used from tip to tail. When I curled my toes into the dense fur I felt connected to the earth, and protected by it…probably the way the sheep had before we killed it. I wasn’t the only one in the house who was drawn to the pelts.[Tweet theme=”basic-white”] At the time we had three cats, two of whom snuggled deep into the warmth of the sheepskin and one of whom pissed all over them.[/Tweet] After washing the soiled skin gently in warm water using the lanolin soap left over from my wool nursing pads I laid it out to dry. When it smelled a little less like the animal it had been, and like the animal that had marked it I draped it over the back of a chair rather than setting it on the floor.

The next day it had been marked again. The culprit sat curled in the corner purring. I went through the washing and drying routine and then stored it away for another time.

Years later the time has come. The last of the cats is gone, and the replacement cat seems to pee only in her litterbox. As I brought up the menorahs and ornaments I unwrapped the sheepskin from its storage and wore it up the stairs. I might or might not have pretended I was a warrior from the olden days…one who had a collection of menorahs. Once I made it upstairs and back to present day I smoothed it out of the back of a chair in our front room and patted it.

Early the next morning I had a friend over for tea, and as she picked her way over pine needles to the front door she plucked the sheepskin from the chair, tossed it to the floor and sunk her toes into it with a look of comfort on her face. Clearly it needed to be on the floor.

So I wandered around the house, wearing it like a cape, and picked the barest spot. The area in front of the sink. I knew it would get splashed…but this isn’t silk, sheep get wet…then they dry. I stood satisfied and looked at the contrast of the long cream colored hair against the grey concrete. Very pleasing.

That evening I watched Oliver throw away everything in his binder. When he finished it was no longer 8 months pregnant. The recycling overflowed as he pushed his papers in without care or strategy. I watched a yogurt tub bounce onto the sheepskin and had my first hint of questioning my placement. He crossed the room with an enamel pitcher in hand to water the Christmas tree. I looked around the room for a slightly less vulnerable spot for the sheepskin but couldn’t consider it for long  because there was a cry of “oh no, OH NO” coming from the living room and then a prolonged crashing crunching sound. Having lived through this in the past I knew I was hearing the sounds of a felled Christmas tree.

Oliver climbed out from under it, needles in his hair. “Something knocked over the tree.” He told Steve and I, eyes round. “I don’t know what happened.” He continued with surprise. “It must have been the water.” He concluded. We all stood for a bit looking at the mess. Branches, needles, water, and lots of glass shards covered the rug. “I’m surprised our living room isn’t on fire.” He mused. This was a good point. Steve explained that the strings of lights were very sturdy and Oliver raised an eyebrow at him. “I heard a lot of things break.”

For twenty minutes I picked up shards of glass alternating between feeling grateful for my numb thumb and worrying that I was headed towards a gash, infection, and likely death. Oliver delivered the vacuum and whispered to me. “I think I was the one to knock over the tree, I’m so sorry.” This distracted me from my imminent hospital stay as we gave each other a quick hug and I told him I thought it was pretty funny.

Finally the visible bits were gone, the ornaments re-hung, and needles composted. As I brushed the last bits of bark into the compost Leo came up from behind with his saucy self and saucy wings. He hip checked me and told me to leave the compost open. With flair he raised the container high, then higher and we both watched in slo mo as the wings fell to the floor. Onto the sheepskin. So I knelt down and began to scrub the sauce and yogurt, knees still aching from the tree clean up. Leo apologized and tried to help, stepping on my good thumb, then decided to work on the counter instead. As he pushed the wings into the compost he opened the sliding door wider to catch the wings. Per usual he did this with a flourish and the door ricocheted off my head. Seeing stars I decided to let the sauce set and made my way onto the couch for a rest.

I probed my numb thumb with my bum thumb and contrasted the sharp pain with the dull nothingness. Was that what it had been like for the sheep at the end painful, or numb, or both.

I left the rug at the sink…an act of optimism.



How (not) to have the best night’s sleep of your life

Too much snuggling  A. PalmerI stand paused in front of a cook book called “Dump.” I see that it was written for the crockpot set, but still wonder at the branding team that unloaded this on the public. I want to reach out to examine it more closely but my good arm is filled with animal shaped slippers and as seen on TV engraving tools. It is early November so I am following the Rite Aid Rule and shopping for the holidays. Really I am waiting for my medication (AGAIN) but as the customer flow wizards know waiting is the same as shopping.

Twenty minutes later my muscle relaxer is ready.

When I sat in my Doctor’s office on day 5 of my paralyzing pain I resisted the muscle relaxant. I am already on more medication than I want. We sat in a stalemate, my MD and me, finally he asked if I had been having trouble sleeping and I looked at him as if those particular words had never been strung together before. “I see.” He said crisply as he clicked and routed the prescription to my favorite christmas shoppe. You should take one tonight. It will help you sleep. Then just rest. 90% of these pinched nerves resolve themselves in a week. We both decide to ignore the fact that my pain has already been present for a week and worsening and I trudge out of his office.

Steve has driven me because adding the inability to turn my head to already poor driving makes me a hazard to the unsuspecting public. We kill an hour of time then head to the pharmacy to pick up my various prescriptions. My body seems to know I am middle aged. Only one of the three is ready, one won’t be filled until the following day. The f-ing Viibryd which is never ready.

As Steve looks for things like batteries and deoderant. I lurch towards the 75% off Halloween decor, staring down the plastic ogre. He too has shoulders that are askew and the miserable pinched face of someone in pain. He can still win the staring contest though so I pile my plush treasures into Steve’s cart and text a friend. “Have you ever taken a muscle relaxant?” I ask. “Best night’s sleep of my life.” She responds. Her reassurance and the sight of the plastic ogre combine in the push I need to take the pill.

As Steve leaves for hockey at 9pm he offers me the muscle relaxant and I refuse. I don’t want to be alone with the kids drugged out like the prom date in 16 candles. So we decide I will take it when he returns. Optimistically I imagine I will be sleeping comfortably when he gets in and I am right on one count. When he carefully slides our bedroom door open at midnight I wake with a slice of pain that is beyond any in my memory so I swallow it.

Some unknown amount of time passes and Leo stands next to the bed. I vomited he tells me. In my strange state I understand his vomit to be a side effect of my muscle relaxant. “I am so sorry” I tell him. He asks if he can sleep in our bedroom and I have no idea about this. This is a very confusing question. Everything is slow and stretchy like taffy being made. I point out Steve using either my limp arm or my stuck tongue and I hear him explain that he vomited to Steve. Steve seems to understand that my medicine didn’t make Leo vomit so the two of them set up a small bed on the floor on Steve’s side and I half sleep wondering why I can feel totally like a puddle and still have sharp distinct pain.

Some other amount of time later I am woken by a scream and a lurch as someone next to me jumps out of bed. That lurch causes me to lurch and I think for a moment that I have paralyzed myself. Until I remember that if I can feel the pain I am not paralyzed so I lie there like the puddle I am and try to figure out why Steve, who is not vomitously ill, seems to be jumping out of bed with the rush of someone about to puke. Obviously the answer is cat pee. The skeleton cat has somehow hung around past Halloween and she crouches in the corner as Steve snatches his best shoes out from the corner where she has been peeing. Juggling several dripping pairs Steve trips over Leo in his little bed and falls to the floor spraying shoes and urine as he tumbles.

Somehow sick Leo sleeps through this but I decide this is a good time to get up so I pour myself out of bed and join Steve in the bathroom as he tries to clean the shoes and the floor. I offer to help while offering my condolences but actually say and do nothing. I am in fact silent and still despite having made my way into the lav.

Somehow Steve and I end up back in bed with cleanish shoes and no cats in sight. I drift off dreaming of cats in workshoes. I think wonder why there haven’t been any youtube videos of cats at work and make a plan to fix this problem as soon as I have two working hands. The pain from my neck has traveled all the way down to my fingertips and I find that so interesting. I can feel the pathway over my shoulder through the space between my tricep and bicep and how it twirls forward and down to my fingers. There are a series of super small cats in workshoes traveling this path which has turned to a paved road. From neck to fingertip they are downright jaunty and I wonder if the electrical energy of my pain is what is giving them such a pick me up. I decide that having only one hand is totally worth it if these miniature well dressed cats can travel to work so chipperly. I am nothing if not giving. Just as I begin to settle into the physical feeling of benevolence Leo runs to the bathroom and retches.

The cats are distracted, Leo is sick, Steve is awake, and I am something like each of them, but not doing any of it well. I think the problem is that I don’t have any nice leather shoes on. I consider getting some.

Five more times Leo wakes in the night to be sick. Once I get up with him and hold back his hair. For this small slice of time I am neither a puddle nor in pain and I imagine that the sharp pain and the smooth drug have perfectly offset one another. I pronounce myself cured and continue to comfort Leo. In this state I start to realize that Leo has quite a bad stomach bug, and I remember his kisses with less than love. I also remember that Leo and Oliver and I all shared a water glass at dinner. I try to push aside those thoughts because they are neither helpful nor kind but all of a sudden they swirl around me and I am in them and they are the water glass and the water in the toilet and we are all sick.

For the last time that night we are all headed back to sleep. I am concentrating on slowing the vortex of water back into a calm puddle. Leo moans a little but stays down. Steve lightly snores.

Then it is morning and Oliver wakes us up. Or tries. Steve gets out of bed to see him off the school and Leo and I lie there. I am still both in pain and drugged. He is still sick. Asking me things like “Am I going to vomit again?” In the sweetest, saddest voice. I coax him back into sleep until around 11 mountain time and now he is up. We have snuggled and I am trying not to think about germs.I admit my guilt to Steve. That while I am comforting my kid I am worried about my own stomach. “I’m not sure you should worry about your stomach babe, if you started puking I have no idea how your neck would handle it.” That helps about as much as it sounds like it would. Last night  the cat pee shoes and puking seemed to be a perfect punchline for parenthood.

I am not sure now, as I offer Leo my raw nerve arm to lean into. This might be the paradox of parenthood, setting aside a bit of my pain to lessen his…while still wondering if I am next to take the throne.


Cat sleeping with One eye open Looks dead

October 19, 2015

Denver, CO

In what has become her signature move the 17 year old cat known as “Lucy” is again asleep with her eye open.

While her family gathers around to wait for the breath to signal that she is not dead they recount other more active times.

“There was that one day where she slept on the bed and BOTH couches” remembers Leo, the younger son, with wistful pleasure.

“I always know she is alive when she is hacking up her dinner on the rug” the less sentimental older brother replies.

The hacking sound, as well as sneezing, coughing, purring and yowling are all sure signs of life confirm Dr. Dan from Belcaro Animal hospital where Lucy has been a patient for the past year.

When asked about her new habit of open-eyed sleeping the cat refused to comment, choosing instead to remain a motionless ball with an open eye that might or might not be making contact with the person overhead.

“It takes a lot more to make her move now that she is 100% deaf” adds Steve, her original owner. “I used to be able to snap my fingers behind her ears and whether she was asleep or awake she would give a sort of jolt, and then I would know she was alive.”

“Those were good times” He added fondly.


Free Range Cats

Stretching cat
This is not my cat. I won’t embarrass her.

I’m sure people are outraged by this, but we let our cats roam free.

In Vermont that meant lots of sappy pine needle encrusted dreadlocks. It also meant catamounts. In the 18 years I lived in Vermont with between 1 and 4 cats we lost 2 full cats and one cat tail to predators. If we consider the tail .20 of a cat we can calculate a rate of .12 cats/year. Which if you have an overweight cat might be a very good thing.

I joke.

There are risks to outdoor cats, cars, critters and here in Denver, evil utility workers.

The other morning I saw a gas line maintenance crew approach my cat who thought she was invisible in our garden. He took two steps into our flower bed and leaned down to pet her. From my vantage place across the street at the beginning of my walk I called out “she bites.” But before he acknowledged me she had bitten him.

So he kicked her.

Her biting has been around since kittenhood, and I have never had another cat that bit, even in play. This one bites as a warning and it is really more than a nip than a bite, she has never left a mark. It is surprising though, because most cats react to a gentle pet on the head with a purr or an escape. Assuming you don’t touch its ears which might merit a full shaking off of your offensive hand. She does none of those, grabbing those friendly fingers with her teeth and nipping.

I have wondered if this habit should make us keep her inside. I wonder about spreading a fear of cats to the neighborhood kids. Now I also wonder about spreading a fear of utility workers to the neighborhood cats. Which might serve them well.

We talked about it at family meeting and no one seemed on board. They enjoy it when she comes to the tennis court, romps around the field and climbs trees with them. I can only assume from the time she spends at our door begging to go out each day that she would agree with the males of our household.

So the only effort I made to controlling her outdoor habits was keeping her in around school pick up and drop up. We live on the same corner as the school and it gets crowded with kids and cars at 8am and 3pm. The rest of the time our neighborhood is empty.

This afternoon didn’t go as planned.

Leo, who stayed home sick today, followed me out to the adirondack chairs in our shaded front lawn. He carried and ice water for us to share as well as some huge rainbow knitted scarf that he uses sometimes as a whip and sometimes as adornment. His hands were full and thus the front door was open. When the school bell rang we went to cross the street and the cat came with us.

I picked her up to bring her back and she did that weird eel like thing were she squirted out of my hands even though I felt that I had secured her in a solid four point grasp. Catdini. After her escape she headed away from school into the neighbors front lawn. This neighbor is a serious cat lover and tells us weekly how much she loves our cat so I figured this was a pretty good place to leave her.

After making it to the school playground I could tell by the wide smiles that I was probably not alone. I looked back and she slunk behind me in my shadow. I went to grab her again, know that I was going to have to get scratched if I wanted to get her out of there and she darted diagonally into the wood chips at the base of the playground slide.

Oh shit.

Sadly literally.

The speed with which she dug her hole and began her squat was miraculous.

I scooped her up, leaving the worrisome end dangling free. But that wasn’t the only thing dangling.

She managed to drop herself out of my arms and drag herself by her front paws across the school sidewalk. This time I needed to get both scratched and shitty if I wanted to get her out of there. And let me tell you I did.

I ran with the howling, shedding, scratching, shitting thing across the street to our house and tossed her through the front door. I worried some about the Turkish rug and a little about my shirt as I sprinted back to the playground. It has been a while since I ran in the 95 degree sun (like, my whole life) so I ended up sweaty as well as those other S words.

First I checked out Oliver with his substitute teacher who gave him a hug. And then I checked the cat’s hole at the base of the slide a moment after a small child came zooming down. All clear. Yet the sidewalk was still streaky.

Heading back with some supplies to clean (you can’t count on rain in Denver) I looked down at my Patriots shirt and remembered that my cleaning was not yet done.

At least I have trained all of my friends that I don’t like hugs.

Now I need to train the cat that the playground is not just a huge litterbox.

Easy, right?