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Love your pets, love yourself, love your home. October 5, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading, pets.
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Our friend Ben, Silence Dogood, and Richard Saunders, your three bloggers here at Poor Richard’s Almanac, are all history buffs. Silence is especially interested in the domestic history of past times. When the three of us get together, it’s a topic we often talk about. As in, how did the royals and nobility in earlier times, who clearly loved their lapdogs, manage to survive living with their fleas and with their unspayed, unneutered pets?

When our friend Ben and Silence first moved here to Hawk’s Haven with our two cats, we didn’t realize that the cat of the previous owners had left fleas everywhere. We’d never experienced fleas at all, nor had our poor cats. The experience left us with bloody, itchy bites all over our lower legs, and nearly killed our cats from blood loss before we realized what was happening. Fortunately, there are now flea sprays that stop larval development in your home, breaking the vicious cycle. We’ve never had a flea problem again.

Every month, we feed our dog Shiloh a chewy treat that also happens to prevent heartworm disease. We used to dose her with a poisonous flea-and-tick preventive on her neck at the same time, but now they’ve developed a chewable. She loves her “treats,” and it’s such a relief to be able to feed her something she loves once a month rather than rubbing something she hates onto her neck.

This is easy, but it’s not cheap. It’s still better than dosing your house, your family, and your pets with God-alone-knows-what, though. And it’s far better than being bitten alive by those fleas (or, shudder, ticks). I still wonder about royals like King Charles I and his queen holding their beloved spaniels in all those portraits. Were their legs bleeding and itching the whole time? Don’t let it happen to you. Give your pets their meds.

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Cats and sliding glass doors. September 12, 2014

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Silence Dogood here. We’ve had a nightmare the past year with our two indoor cats, Linus and Layla. They’re half-siblings (cats can have kittens by multiple fathers at the same birth) who were born outside at our country cottage, Hawk’s Haven, to a feral cat who was hit by a car or, more likely, shot by some monster we later discovered was shooting outdoor cats for target practice, when they were just kittens. So we brought the kittens inside and raised them as indoor cats.

That’s been seven years now, and they’ve both been very happy with us. However, the sliding glass door that opens onto our back deck has always been an issue, since that was where they were born and lived as kittens before their mother died. Every now and then, one or the other would rush out the door before we could shut it, no matter how vigilant we would try to be about monitoring their whereabouts. This usually had to do with getting our black German Shepherd, Shiloh, in or out of the house. Mercifully, the escaping cat would usually recognize that it had made a terrible mistake and let itself be “caught” and brought back inside immediately.

But over the past year, we’ve had both cats run out and stay out for months. First, our beloved Linus escaped last summer and didn’t allow himself to be “caught” until winter was almost upon us. First, he simply vanished without trace. But a month or so later, he returned and lived on the property, showing up and yowling like mad to get our attention, until he finally let me grab him and bring him back inside on Christmas Eve, the best Christmas present I’ve ever received. As soon as he was back indoors, he acted as though he’d never been away, displaying zero interest in a second escape attempt.

But then this spring, Layla, not to be outdone, escaped from the same door in the same manner and remained outdoors until this week. She, too, simply disappeared for a month, then returned and hung out around the house, yowling and following us around, demanding to be petted but refusing to come inside. (Of course, we put out food and water in both cases.) Finally, I got her to come in, and just like Linus, she acted like she’d never been away.

Last night, I had a nightmare where we had a third outside cat, who was grey like Layla but lacked her white markings and peridot-green eyes. As with Linus and Layla, I was simply terrified that she’d be hit by a car or shot by the crazy neighbor. (Mercifully, I think he’s left our area now, since neither Linus nor Layla was murdered.) What a relief that it was just a dream!

Point being that I don’t know how to secure a sliding glass door when I’ve opened it to go outside, and especially not with the dog in tow. I try to watch as vigilantly as I can, but sometimes it just takes a second or two too long. (I say “I” here because this has never happened when our friend Ben was taking the dog out.) Our dog Shiloh recognizes that her job on returning to the house is to chase Linus to make sure he doesn’t try to escape, and she’s usually good at that. But it’s not fair to place responsibility on her for keeping the cats safe.

Do any of you have good ideas for keeping cats from running out sliding glass doors? We’d be so grateful to hear them!

‘Til next time,

Silence

The naming of cats. December 7, 2012

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As T.S. Eliot noted, the naming of cats is a difficult matter. Our friend Ben’s niece and nephew recently adopted two shelter kittens, whom, after much discussion, they chose to call Ruby and Twinkle. (Fortunately, both cats were girls.)

Silence Dogood and I are confronting the cat-naming dilemma ourselves. We recently inherited an outdoor cat, which someone was apparently kind enough to dump off on our country property. (It’s an orange longhair, and longhaired cats aren’t typically barn cats around here, they’re almost always drop-offs.) The poor cat has adopted our property if not us—it’s extremely shy—and has been venturing daily onto our deck for the bowl of food that Silence sets out for it.

The last time we had a shy drop-off whose sex we couldn’t immediately determine, we gave it a unisex name: Sean. Eventually, that cat warmed up to us and became totally devoted and a real love-bunny. We took her, now Shawn, to the vet to be spayed and they discovered that the previous owners had already spayed her; why they’d have dumped her under those circumstances is beyond me. (Typically, pregnant females get dropped off.) Shawn was a beloved member of our family for the rest of her days.

Now we have a new sex-unknown cat, very shy but in need of a name. We first contemplated Minus, since it rhymes with the name of our clueless cat Linus and befits the new cat’s ability to absent itself from all interaction with us. We’ve never encountered such a people-shy cat. Silence and I tossed around quite a few other names, as well. But it was Thanksgiving, and we had an orange cat. Silence said, “What about Pumpkin?”

Pumpkin it is. The name is fitting, and it’s unisex. We hope our new cat will warm up to us, and that we’ll eventually be able to take him/her to the vet. If not, we’re very happy to provide Pumpkin with food and an Igloo shelter with warm towels inside should s/he wish to make a home there.

How have you chosen the names of your cats?

Eek! A mouse (x 2)! July 1, 2012

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Silence Dogood here. I wasn’t particularly pleased to be awakened at 5 a.m. this morning by our beloved black German shepherd, Shiloh, requesting a bathroom break, since I’d been working on a project until midnight the previous night. Aaauuugghh!!! But the groggy aggravation paled before the sight that greeted me when I returned to the living room and saw that one of our cats, Layla, had caught a mouse. AAAUUGHHHHH!!!!

Mind you, normally mice try to find food and warmth in our home in the winter. Why one would have chosen to come in here during a scorching summer beats me, unless it naively assumed the house would be cooler than outside.

At any rate, it was the smallest mouse I’d ever seen. And it was still very much alive and outraged but (so far) unharmed, squeaking its outrage at Layla as she played with it. So I pulled on the heavy fireplace glove and grabbed it. Or, at least, I tried to grab it repeatedly, with a little help from an increasingly bemused Layla. (This technique has worked fine in the past, but because the fireproof glove is so thick and stiff, I was concerned that I’d crush the tiny mouse rather than scooping it up and immobilizing it.)

Finally, I had it in my grasp. I’d already—trained by years of this procedure with our former cat, Jessie—unlocked the front door. So I carted the mouse to the door and threw it back in the yard. Unlike Jessie, who would actually alert me to her catches with a distinctive cry and bring them to the front-door mat, then wait for me to don the glove and open the door so I could scoop up the mouse and toss it out, Layla looked appalled by the entire procedure. I attempted to shower her with praise—who wants mice in the house?!—but it was clear that she thought the whole thing was downright bizarre, if not an outrage.

By now, I was fully awake, and not pleased about it on a Sunday morning when I desperately needed to catch up on missed sleep. But oh, well. I settled in with the morning papers and a cup of tea and tried to make the best of it.

So you can imagine my horror when I walked into the living room an hour later and there was the same mouse in the floor! Creeping closer, I looked to see if it was still alive. And that’s when I saw that it was one of the tiny grey fur toy mice that our friend Ben (naturally, travelling during this crisis) had bought as a special treat for the cats. We hadn’t seen one of them in years. But somehow Layla had found it and set it in plain sight, in case I wanted another mouse. She certainly had the last laugh!

               ‘Til next time,

                            Silence

Reigning cats or dogs? August 1, 2011

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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood love dogs. And we love cats. We also love birds, fish (and other aquarium denizens like shrimp, clams and snails), reptiles and amphibians, chickens, and bunnies. So far, we haven’t succumbed to the allure of insects, spiders, or ferrets. But our friend Rob is a ferret fanatic, and we’re following the career of our friend Susan’s tarantula Quentin with interest.

We both grew up with pets—our friend Ben’s first pet parakeet was purchased before I was even born—and we can’t imagine a life without the rich rewards of sharing our lives with them. Which brings us to wonder about the seemingly age-old debate about the relative merits of cats and dogs, most recently rehashed yet again in yesterday’s Parade magazine article, “Cats vs. Dogs.” Which is smarter? Which lives longer? Which is faster? Which is more popular?

Sheesh. Call us cynics, but we sometimes wonder if this so-called controversy is just made up by journalists desperate for stories. Especially when articles like the one in Parade note that only 62% of Americans have pets, but more than 90% of Americans consider their pet a member of the family. (Maybe the missing 28-plus percent have pretend pets.)

But we digress. We wonder about all this because we can say for a fact that every pet is rewarding in its own way, whether it’s a beautiful neon tetra, a cat that’s happiest purring on your lap, a dog whose tail can’t stop wagging when she sees you, a guinea pig who squeals happily when it hears you opening a lettuce wrapper, or a parrot whose funny comments make you laugh after a long, bad workday. Why must we be asked to choose one or another when we can have them all?!

Anyway, returning to the questions raised by the article, let’s dish up a few answers:

What pet is smartest? Setting aside folks who keep great apes as pets (what are they thinking?!), the smartest pet is unquestionably a parrot. The two brightest parrot species, the yellow-naped Amazon (our own renowned Plutarch the Pirate Parrot is a yellow-nape) and African grey (the world’s most famous parrot, Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s Alex, was an African grey), are now acknowledged by animal behaviorists to have the intelligence of a five-year-old child. In our opinion, many humans don’t have the intelligence of a five-year-old child, so this is saying something. (Groucho Marx: “Why, a two-year-old child could understand this! Get me a two-year-old child, I can’t make heads or tails of it.”)

According to the Parade article, the brightest dogs have the intelligence of two-year-old children; even an average dog can learn 165 human words. Presumably the five smartest breeds, which include our own beloved German shepherds and golden retrievers, know plenty more; don’t think for a minute they don’t know what you mean when you spell w-a-l-k, t-r-e-a-t, or c-a-r. (Or, of course, v-e-t.) Cats, by contrast, only recognize around 35 words, according to the article. But at least it acknowledges that the brightest cat breed is our own favorite, the Maine coon. To put this in perspective, Koko, the famous San Francisco Zoo gorilla, understands 2,000 human words; the average person, 60,000 words; our friend Ben, 600,000 words (just kidding about the last part).

Which lives longest? If it’s a dog-cat contest, the answer would definitely be cats. We’ve had a friend whose cat lived to be 30, and one of our Maine coons, Jessie, lived to 19. Small dogs can also live fairly long lives, making it into their late teens regularly or early 20s if they’re lucky, though the larger the breed, the shorter the life; great Danes, for example, tend to live only 8 years, and the max for our own preferred breeds, German shepherds and golden retrievers, is around 13, exceptionally 14 (sob). Given the much-longer lives of larger species like ourselves, elephants, whales, and horses, this makes no sense to us, but sadly, it’s a fact. However, the award in this category as in the intelligence category goes to parrots: A parrot like our Plutarch can live more than 100 years. (Plu is currently a comparatively youthful 27.)

Which is the best hunter? Solo, it’s a cat. Dogs hunt in packs like wolves, and are superb pack-hunters, but pet dogs don’t have a lot of opportunity to practice this skill. However, if you could see our cats Linus and Layla catch a mouse, assisted by our black German shepherd Shiloh, you might have to conclude that cats really can hunt in packs very effectively, and are willing to allow their dog “siblings” to join them, and all these authoritative answers are nonsense. Our old cat Jessie preferred to hunt in tandem with Silence Dogood as her hunting partner; Jessie would catch a mouse but not harm it, yowl to announce the catch, and then wait patiently by the front door, mouse in mouth, for Silence to don a fireplace glove, grab the mouse, and hurl it—outraged but unharmed—out the door.

Which is most useful? That depends. When humans evolved from hunter-gatherers to farmers and agriculture made civilization possible, supporting great civilizations from Mesopotamia to Ancient Egypt, cats were by far more useful. Cats ate the rats and mice that would otherwise have eaten the stores of grain that supported the cities. That’s why cats were worshiped as deities by the Egyptians.

In mediaeval Europe, cats ate the rats that brought fleas and plague, and should have received an even more heroic welcome. Unfortunately, they became associated with Satan-worship and witches and were systematically exterminated, resulting in the plagues and famines that swept Europe repeatedly during that period. Depriving lonely old women of their pets and martyring both for merely existing merits Divine retribution in our opinion!

Today, of course, dogs are more useful, whether they’re therapy dogs in assisted-living facilities or hosipitals, drug- or bomb-sniffers, trackers, hunting dogs, companions for the blind or wheelchair-bound, police dogs, library dogs, sentries, or a thousand other occupations. Our friend Ben feels confident leaving Silence Dogood in our German shepherd Shiloh’s protection, knowing that Shiloh normally loves everyone, but wouldn’t hesitate to defend Silence with her life if she detected a threat. (And I know Silence would do the same if she felt Shiloh were threatened, as I would defend them both with my own life.)

But that’s not to say cats are useless nowadays. Ours patrol the house for mice and insect invaders, and make sure these vile enemies are dealt with swiftly and decisively. They’re also quick to alert us to perceived dangers, whether it’s an oncoming storm or a stranger at the door. And there’s nothing like a cat on the lap to warm you on a cold day!

Which is most affectionate? Dogs have a reputation for slavish devotion and cats for aloofness. But our observation is that this is a bunch of hooey. All our dogs have loved us, and so have all our cats. They’ve all crowded around us for love and attention, praise and petting. We’ve never had an aloof cat, but then, we’ve never expected to have one.

We’ve engaged with all our pets and expected them to engage with us, and they never disappoint. And this has been as true of the most wary feral cat who found its way to our deck as it is of the cats and dogs we raised from infancy; it certainly takes them longer to trust, but what a great feeling the first time one of them makes the decision, rushes over, and shoves its head under your hand with a loud purr! Even our fish rush over when they see us. (Not that we think they’re being affectionate, we just think they enjoy looking out of their aquariums as much as we enjoy looking in.)

We think animals respond as we expect them to respond. If you treat a dog as a “dumb animal,” chained outside to its house without human contact, or assume cats have no interest in interacting with people so you ignore them, you’ll get what you expect. But the poor cats and dogs, who would love to lead a full life as part of the family, certainly won’t get what they deserve. And if that’s the way you treat animals, how exactly do you relate to people, people such as, say, your kids and spouse?!! Oh, yes, we’re sure that ultimately you’ll get what you deserve. In fact, you’re already getting it every minute, aren’t you? Otherwise, how could you act like that towards anything or anyone?!!!

But again, we’re straying from the point. Which is that, for us, it’s not a question of cats or dogs. It’s the joy of cats and dogs, and parakeets and parrots and every other creature that can increase our joy and expand our world. Every pet we’ve ever had the privilege of knowing has enriched our lives and taught us so much about the nature and value of life and relationship. Every pet has shown us the meaning of, the value of, love and trust. Absolute love, and utter, absolute, ultimate trust.

No wonder people risk their lives to save their pets. They know, without question, that their pets would do the same, and more, for them if they could, and never think twice. Not because they’re stupid and incapable of thought, but because of their boundless love and trust. May we find the strength to love them and merit their love, and in the end, may God find us worthy of them.

Cat lovers, listen up. July 21, 2010

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Silence Dogood here. I just received a comment on an earlier post (“What do you feed your dog?”) that directed me to an excellent website on cat diet- and health-related topics, CatInfo.org, written and maintained by Lisa A. Pierson, DVM. Check it out for yourselves at http://www.catinfo.org/ and let me know what you think of it!

And give your cats a big hello from Linus, Layla and Athena.

                    ‘Til next time,

                                   Silence

What kind of person would kill a cat? December 5, 2009

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Silence Dogood here. Our friend Ben and I were sitting at our tiny kitchen table, reading the Saturday paper and trying to have a relaxing weekend morning. (Well, I was actually clipping coupons prior to reading the paper, and OFB was checking sports stats.) OFB was still in PJs and bathrobe, but I always dress the second I’m up, which proved to be a really good thing, because suddenly, there was our neighbor Bill knocking on the deck door.

“There’s a cat lying on the front stoop of our house,” he said. “It looks like it’s been hit by a car, and I have a feeling it’s one of yours.”

We live on a blind curve, and people and animals have frequently found themselves the victims of accidents as speeding motorists spin around it. (So far, in the case of people, it’s been one-car accidents as they lose control rounding the curve.) With sinking hearts, we followed our neighbor back to his stoop.

There, curled against the front door, was our beloved companion Simon, bleeding and crying. Simon had been born on our place when some wretch dumped off a pregnant cat there, figuring as they all do that hey, it’s the country, what a great place for an inconvenient cat! Thanks too much.

When Simon was old enough, we took him to be neutered and to get his vaccinations. But with three large cats, a huge dog, four birds, and fish (not to mention bazillion plants) in our tiny cottage, we simply couldn’t bring him in. Still, Simon was special. He lived on and under our deck, demanded attention and loads of petting whenever we came outside, enjoyed the company of our dogs Molly and Shiloh, and mentored all other strays who found themselves turning up here. He lived in glossy-coated contentment here for seven years.

I thought it was strange that Simon should be hit by a car when he was always so careful, and that his injury seemed to be confined to a single bleeding spot behind one shoulder. But that he needed help was obvious. I put a warm towel over him, stroked his head and back, and then rushed home to call the vet.

A half-hour later, I pulled into the vet’s parking lot with a restless Simon in the cat carrier. (One great drawback of country living is being so far from services.) I carried him in and the staff took him to the back right away to check out what was wrong.

A while after that, a technician asked me to come into one of the consulting rooms to speak to the vet. I thought she looked pale and subdued, not a good sign. Given that Simon had changed locations a number of times while I was setting up the appointment, at one point climbing down off the front steps of the neighbors’ house and meandering into a shrubbery across the drive, I thought it didn’t look like he’d broken anything and had an above-average chance of pulling through, though internal injuries were always a dreadful possibility. I tried to prepare myself for whatever news there would be.

But nothing could have prepared me for what the vet, also pale and very subdued, said when she appeared. “I’m sorry to tell you that Simon died while we were examining him.” Oh, no. But that had always been a possibility. It was what came next that took my breath completely away. “Did you actually see him get hit by a car?”

“Well no, the neighbor found him on his stoop and came to get us.”

“I’m afraid it wasn’t a car. Simon was shot quite deliberately through the heart.”

As my hands flew up involuntarily to cover my mouth, I felt that I’d been shot in the heart myself. Who could do such a thing to such a loving, lovable creature?!!

Here in rural Pennsylvania, we’re surrounded by farms and woods, and plenty of people hunt. Deer season began this past Monday, and we’ve been hearing a lot of gunshots over the week.

I’m a longtime vegetarian, but I’ve never had a problem with hunters. Or, at least, with hunters who take the time to perfect their woodcraft and marksmanship, who shoot to kill, and who eat their kills. It seems to me to be a more moral way of eating meat, taking responsibility for its death and butchering, than buying burgers or fried chicken and never having to think about what you’re doing. (I feel the same way about farmers who do their own raising and butchering.) Not to mention that supplying their freezers with meat from their hunts helps a lot of people get through the lean, cold months around here.

But there’s a difference between shooting a deer for meat and shooting a cat for meanness. I’ve only known one person in my life who deliberately killed a cat. It was in grade school, and the guy was pretty popular. One day, I heard him bragging to some pals that he’d stuck a firecracker up a cat’s anus, lit it, and watched as the cat blew up. Back then, I didn’t know that sadism to animals in childhood often led to torture and murder of humans as an adult. But I did know that I never, ever wanted to speak to, look at, or have anything else to do with this monster again as long as I lived. 

And now here was another one. Someone who could see a happy, cheerful, loving cat, a cat who loved affection and loved all people, and shoot him through the heart. Target practice. After all, it was just a damned cat.

As I drove disconsolately home, I wished that I had superpowers. Powers to find the monster who killed my cat, and hang the bloody towel that wrapped his injured body from the front of his house with “MURDERER” scrawled across it. There would be no point in shooting this pervert through the heart, since he obviously doesn’t have one. But I wish I could send him a dream every night in which he approaches a being he has every reason to love and trust, and is mortally wounded by said being for no reason at all, and left to crawl off in pain and bewilderment to die. Perhaps in time he might come to some understanding of what he did; perhaps it might keep him from killing someone else’s pet.

We’ll bury our Simon here, where he was born and lived his whole life. We’ll inter him beside his mother, Kittenous, so callously dropped off here all those years ago. She also found a good life here for many years, and however unanticipated, we honor her memory every day.

Simon’s loving, larger-than-life, sunny, laid-back personality was a mainstay in our lives. As he’d loved our Molly, we knew he’d love our Shiloh, and he didn’t disappoint. And God knows, he loved us. And we him. Simon, dear heart, you of all creatures deserved a pleasant old age sunning on the deck, purring and being petted by your many admirers. What sort of monster would have hurt you so?

What kind of person would kill a cat?

          ‘Til next time,

                   Silence

Layla: You’ve got us on our knees. October 28, 2009

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Our friend Ben was quite disturbed to return home last night to find a distraught Silence Dogood screaming and shrieking about the state of her computer. As Luddites, we’re not exactly adept at computer maintenance. We turn it on, we turn it off, the end. So I’d already been perturbed when Silence had accused me of wrecking her computer by checking some sports statistics on ESPN over the weekend rather than turning on my own laptop.

Now, however, it appeared that I’d been exonerated. It wasn’t ESPN but our hefty cat Layla who was apparently responsible for wreaking havoc on Silence’s computer. Silence had twice discovered Layla sleeping peacefully on the computer keyboard, while all hell broke loose as a response on the computer itself. Poor Silence had spent hours trying to regain access to her files, and her nerves were in shreds. According to Silence, Layla was on very thin ice indeed.

But Layla isn’t just any cat. She and her brother Linus were born outside our cottage home, Hawk’s Haven, as a result of yet another pregnant cat being dropped off here because we live in the country. There were two other kittens in this litter as well, and, as we always must when some swine drops off a pregnant cat here, our friend Ben and Silence had to steel ourselves to take the kittens to a shelter when they were old enough to be weaned and eating well on their own but still young enough to be adoptable.

It soon became apparent to Silence, however, that Linus was the most gorgeous cat ever to walk the face of the earth. He wasn’t exactly the smartest cat—in fact, his IQ probably rivals that of an orange—but he was definitely affectionate. Silence managed to persuade me to bring Linus indoors.

But on the day we let Linus inside the house, something unexpected happened: His sister Layla rushed inside along with him. Linus had no clue what was happening, but Layla, the smartest cat we’ve ever seen, was determined that she was coming inside and living with us, and she made no bones about it. We watched this performance, looked at each other, and shrugged. If she really wanted to live inside with us that much, we supposed we could survive three indoor cats (we already had our senior red Maine coon, Athena). And it was very clear that she was coming in to be with us, not to keep her brother company: Even Athena eventually warmed up to Linus, but he might as well be the Invisible Man as far as Layla’s concerned.

We’d named her Layla because it was obvious from the start that she had all the brains and her brother got all the looks. (Not that Layla is homely by any means: With her long, plush grey-and-white coat, big plume of a tail, and striking green-yellow eyes, she’s a big hit with everyone who visits us. It’s just that Linus is the, well, John F. Kennedy Jr. to Layla’s Caroline.) We suspected that Layla would, in the words of Eric Clapton, get us on our knees:

Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.

Layla, I’m begging, darling please.

Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.  

Sure enough, Layla has proved to be a handful. Recognizing that we humans appear to communicate through vocalizations, she talks to us nonstop. While the other cats are happy to get occasional attention, when Layla wants to be petted, she will not take no for an answer. And she torments our puppy Shiloh to the point that we’re ready to pack it in and move to a deserted island, leaving Layla in charge of our house and grounds.

Layla’s involvement with the computer is a new development and quite another matter, however. As mentioned, our computer skills are primitive, as in Cro-Magnon-like. But we use our computers as our connection to the outside world and our source of income. So when a cat arbitrarily screws up our whole setup by lying down on the laptop keyboard, we go on red alert. Severe fussing seemingly had no effect, since Silence found Layla on the keyboard again when she returned from lunch. And worst of all, our home office door doesn’t really close, so even if we kept it shut, Layla could push it open whenever she felt like strolling in. 

Layla, you’ve got us on our knees. Layla, we’re begging, darling, please. Layla, darling won’t you ease our worried minds. And keep off the bleeping computer keyboard?!!! Thanks.

Feel the love. September 9, 2009

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Silence Dogood here. Today is National Feel the Love Day for pets. Our pets love us each and every day, so let’s make an effort to feel that love on this day and spend some time petting them, talking to them, and generally letting them know how much they mean to us.

I was just reading an article by a cardiologist this morning about how stress can literally kill us by destroying our hearts, even if our arteries are clear. Study after study has shown that pets are a great—perhaps the greatest—stress reliever. (Er, unless you look up and see that your puppy Shiloh is chewing the hall rug, or are awakened by the distinctive noise of your cat Layla throwing up. But I digress.) I remember reading about one test that showed how dramatically people’s blood pressure dropped after stroking a dog or cat, and we’ve all heard of the wonders that therapy dogs can do in nursing homes.

So let’s take a few minutes today to show our pets how much we love them. They give us so much, surely we can give them a cuddle or a walk or a treat to make this a special day! And wouldn’t it be great if we made a point of taking a few minutes every day to let our pets know how much we love them? We’d all benefit from feeling the love.

                 ‘Til next time,

                               Silence

The first pet cats and dogs? April 29, 2009

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Silence Dogood here. I realize I’m five years late with this post, but that’s because I was just made aware of this discovery by our friend Sarah this morning (thanks, Sarah!). According to an article on the National Geographic website (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/), a burial on Cyprus predates the whole Ancient Egypt-cat thing by almost 8,000 years. The article, titled “Oldest Known Pet Cat? 9,500-Year-Old Burial Found on Cyprus,” relates how archaeologists unearthed a 9,500-year-old human grave that contained, among other prized possessions including polished stones and shells, a perfectly preserved cat. It’s thought that this is the earliest evidence to date of domesticated cats.

It’s lovely to think that cats have been our constant companions for almost 10,000 years. But dogs still retain the title of “man’s best friend.” According to the article, pet dogs and puppies have been found in human graves in Israel dating back 12,000 years.

Or let’s say 12,005 years; the article is dated April 8, 2004. But in case, like me, you managed to miss it, at least now you can say that you’ve caught up with the last 12,000 years of pet history!

         ‘Til next time,

                     Silence