Asleep in a Heap

Allysen’s back from Puerto Rico, and here’s how she looked soon after her arrival. The little fellow is Crunch, who hung out with us for a few hours before going to her home. The big guy, of course, is Captain Jack. They look like they could be related. But they’re not.

Will You Adopt an Adorable Puppy?

I’ve been in Puerto Rico for the last week, working away at the Herculean task of packing up Allysen’s mother’s house for her move to the Boston area. A couple of evenings ago, her dogs Diego and Sixta ran howling up to the gate to see what insidious deed was afoot. It turns out their instincts were spot on. A family of—I can only call them lowlifes—had just dropped a litter of seven puppies in front of our house and hightailed it down the hill.  (Allysen got there in time to see them and ran after them yelling, but they fled. We are the last house at the top of a hillside road, and for years, people have been abandoning animals at our gate.)

We really needed this, while trying to pack up a lifetime of books, papers, artwork, and other possessions. But like it or not, the puppies were suddenly in our hands. And so now, we have fed them and bathed them (they were crawling with fleas), and have been trying to find a local rescue group who can take them. If we don’t hear from Save a Sato or one of the other groups by tomorrow, we’ll take them to the Ponce Animal Rescue and hope for the best. We could bring a couple of them back to the States, if we knew there were homes waiting for them. So how about it? Would you like to take in a heartstoppingly lovable puppy?

You can see six of the seven in this picture. In back is an adorable one I immediately named the Hindmost, a reference that any reader of Larry Niven’s stories will recognize.

Moonlight: Playlist Killer

Moonlight: Killer App, or App-Killer Cat?

See this whitish Egyptian Desert Sand Cat? Looks innocent, doesn’t she? She spends most of her time sleeping, or making good her latest escape from the irrepressible Captain Jack (“I am border collie! Run when I say run!”). But beneath that seeming innocence lurks the heart of a computer-wrecker.

Sometimes, when I’m writing late at night, Moonlight likes to saunter up to my office  and get in my way by being affectionate. Usually she starts by hopping into my lap and purring, forcing me to reach around her to type. But sometimes she ensconces herself in the space between my keyboard and my monitor. It’s got a slidey stack of papers on it, and she makes them slide even more. Often, her hind paws stick down toward the keyboard. Last night, they were on the keyboard—actually, I think, on the Delete key.

I was just getting ready to quit for the night, when iTunes (always open when I’m working) suddenly began to flicker and blink. Finally it stopped. I inspected it. What’s this? To my disbelief and dismay, my entire set of playlists was gone. All of them. My carefully selected Writing Music, my eMusic downloads, my Kitchen Get Your Mojo Working lists, everything. I glared at Moonlight.

She shot a bored glance my way. (“You lookin’ at me?”) Yes, I was looking at her. And then evicting her.

Instead of going off to bed, I went off to Googleland in search of cures for accidentally deleted playlists. I was not the first to seek help with this problem. (A lot of people must have cats too close to their keyboards.) There is no “undelete” for itunes playlists. In the end, fortunately, I located a backup of my itunes library that was only six months old, and it had most of the lists reasonably intact.

Cat, you got lucky this time. But next time… well, there just better not be a next time, you hear? Stop purring and listen to me.

Our Nutcase Border Collie

Captain Jack is a border collie, at least in part, and he wants to herd. Man, does he want to herd. (Just ask Moonlight, our cat. You thought you couldn’t herd cats? Tell it to Cap’n Jack.) He also seems to regard my dirty socks as part of his flock, because he’s forever fishing them out of the laundry hamper and herding them out to the living room. He doesn’t chew them, just puts them where they’re supposed to be. Only my socks, not anyone else’s.

Maybe it’s a control issue. We have several jumbo dog pillows -one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in my office in the finished attic. The bedroom pillow regularly finds its way to the dining room, sometimes just minutes after I’ve returned it to its proper spot. Or if it isn’t in the dining room, it’s in the doorway of our little central hall, where Jack lies on it as though deliberately metering the flow of traffic. Border collie cop?

The pad up in my office is a tougher case: it’s stiffer and more awkward to move, and generally it stays in the corner where it belongs. Or did until the other day, when it too started migrating to block the nearest doorway. And then, not just to the doorway, but down the cluttered hallway of the library, down the steep attic stairs, through an even more cluttered entryway room, through the fairly cluttered living room, to the far side of the dining room. I was in my office working at the time, but I didn’t see or hear him move it. Later, though, I found it -and him curled up on it -right in front of his crate (which of course has its own pad).

Every time I try to catch him in the act with a camera,  he immediately drops whatever he’s carrying and gazes at me in innocent wonder. You can almost hear him: “Yo, what’s up, dude?”

My last border collie, Sam, was certainly a dog with personality. But I think our Captain Jack is taking idiosyncrasy to a whole new level.

Here’s another dog thinking outside the box:


Animal Friendships

Who doesn’t love a story about inter-species friendships? A dog and an elephant? A cat and a crow? A hippo and a tortoise? A cat and a dolphin? A lion and its humans? Time Magazine compiled a dozen such stories in this video series. Click to the Time page to follow the sequence. (I’m starting you with #2, because I thought #1 was kind of dumb. But you can go back to it.) Be prepared to say, “Awwww…” a lot.

Now click that Time link to watch the others. Or wait! Why don’t I list them here for you?

And then watch this one, about a family of gorillas who strolled in to visit a tourist village.

Captain Jack Carver

Meet the newest member of the Starrigger Ranch! Cap’n Jack is a border-collie/lab mix, probably with some other seasonings, as well, who joined our family just three days ago. Jack came to us from a shelter in Connecticut, courtesy of the rescue group Guesses vary on his age, but average out to about two years.We know that he came from West Virginia, and that he’d been hit by a car and lost or abandoned. But his leg injury is all healed up now.

Jack is a terrifically sweet guy, and has made himself right at home. Our cat Moonlight isn’t so sure yet. She was a bit alarmed, at first, but stood her ground. Now, she seems to regard him as a big oaf who is all too often between her and where she wants to go. They’re not yet to the point where she can just walk past him. But I was cheered yesterday to see Moonlight curled up on the sofa, and Jack crouched on the floor nearby, woofing an imploring “Please play!” Moonlight was unperturbed, and declined the invitation.

The only big problem so far is that Julia’s having some allergic reaction to his dander, so we’re swabbing him down with Allerpet/d to try to minimize it, and the Roombas are working twice as hard. And I keep calling him Hermione, which was the name of our boxer who died back in January. (Even though he really looks way more like our old dog Sam—not the beagle of recent years, but the border-collie/lab mix I had about twenty years ago. I don’t seem to have any of old Sam’s pictures scanned in; I really must dig through the photos piles and find some.)

This weekend, we’re going to meet another rescue dog named Igby—don’t ask!—and see if he might be a good brother to Jack. (I almost said Sam just then. I’ll get it straight eventually.)

Update: Igby was a charming little guy, but didn’t seem like the right fit.  So for now, at least, it’s Captain Jack and his cat-friend(?) Moonlight.

The Heart of Dog

One of my writing friends, Doranna Durgin, has a beagle named ConneryBeagle who’s sick and has expensive vet bills. Doranna put together an anthology of SF and fantasy dog stories, all proceeds to benefit Connery. She’s written a bunch of stories herself, but nine more reprints were contributed by her writing friends, including Julie Czerneda, Tanya Huff, John Mierau, Fiona Patton, Jennifer Roberson, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, John Zakour, and me. Do check it out. It’s only $3.99 at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.

Our Dog Hermione 1999-2011

In a real shocker to the family, we lost our beloved boxer Hermione this morning—pretty much without any warning. Not quite twelve years old, she had seemed like a healthy, if slowing-with-age, dog. Just yesterday, I looked at her and thought, You’re looking fit for your age. I hope we have you for a couple more years.

 Hermione, pretty much the way she always looked

This morning she staggered up out of her bed, stumbled, fell, and couldn’t get up. She was dazed, and her lips and gums were pale. We got her to the vet as fast as we could, but the news was grim. An ultrasound showed a tumor on her spleen, with internal bleeding. Dr. Grosser, a lovely woman who has seen Hermione through several difficult situations, couldn’t offer much hope. It would be possible to spend thousands (which we don’t have) on surgery to try to buy her a few months. But she couldn’t recommend it, even medically. Hermione’s condition was likely to grow worse, not better. The doctor’s recommendation was to put her to sleep before she went from dazed and helpless to being in a lot of pain. And that’s what we did. All four of us were there—I’d gone to get Julia out of high school—and Hermione was aware of us being with her. She went peacefully.

About two minutes after she slipped away, Alexandra, our older daughter, changed abruptly from sobbing tears to a big smile and cried, “She’s running!  I can see her.  She’s happy!” I looked up at Alexandra and saw joy and recognition of something ethereal in her eyes. That vision for those few seconds transformed Alexandra on the spot and greatly comforted the rest of us.

Hermione was one of the sweetest-tempered dogs I’ve ever known. She didn’t always like other dogs, but she never met a human who wasn’t her friend. And she was supremely tolerant of her buddy Moonlight the cat, who would from time to time swat her for no apparent reason except to say hi. As a puppy, Hermione was almost ludicrously eager to please, but as she matured, she came to decide that life was not entirely about following instructions. We were always kind of glad about that.

Hermione and Moonlight, in younger days

The house feels strangely empty now. Moonlight seemed for a moment to sense that something was wrong, when we came home–but who knows what cats can understand? And I guess I’ll have to get used to going on walks by myself now.

The Short, Sweet Life of Pippa

We buried a 5-month-old puppy yesterday. Her name was Pippa, and she weighed less than ten pounds. She came to us from Puerto Rico with Allysen, where she had been rescued and made briefly part of Allysen’s parents’ household. She was adorable and sweet and alert, probably part border collie but tiny.  We decided that she was of the breed Foxbat, or Borinquen terrier, and she captured all of our hearts. She made friends with Hermione, our boxer, who doesn’t always like other dogs. Moonlight the cat was a slow adopter, but I was sure it was just a matter of time before they bonded, too.

Pippa never got that time. She was here for just four days before she started having seizures during the night. The seizures subsided for a short time after we started her on some meds from the vet, but soon they returned—frequent and severe. Monday night, late, we took her to the Mass Vet Referral Animal Hospital, where we got the grim news that the outlook was poor without major medical intervention, way beyond anything we could undertake—and even with the intervention, there would be a lot of uncertainties. And so we made the heartbreaking decision to let her go peacefully, which she did while we held her in our laps. We brought her body home, and the next day laid her to rest in the back yard. With her we put the ashes of Sam the beagle and Mattie our first boxer—ashes we’d kept on a shelf for years because we couldn’t bear to do anything about them at the time. It comforted us, thinking that Pippa was in good company.

Here’s Pippa, as I imagine her right now on the Rainbow Bridge

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