Category Archives: Animals – especially dogs

A Tray Full of Treats, A Basket Full of Cat

Yesterday, on a gray, drizzly February Sunday—Oh, how Mainers hate drizzle in the winter—we had friends over for an afternoon of food and good conversation. The food was simple—snacks and pizza—which meant we could chat with our guests without too much fussing in the kitchen.

Before the Super Bowl, on Facebook , I  had discovered an idea for serving snacks. I was so taken with the way the food looked that I decided to try it for this gathering. Really, the idea couldn’t be more simple—array an assortment of snacks on a tray—and here is what I did.

To a combination of crackers, cheese, and crunchy snacks, I added homemade clam dip (upper right-hand corner) and chocolate-covered peanuts that Clif and I had dipped ourselves. It was a fun way of serving appetizers, and I plan on doing this for future gatherings.

Our friends also brought treats to share, and Dawna used a nifty basket to carry hers. Sherlock always loves anything he can climb into, and it didn’t take him long to investigate the empty basket.

After appetizers, we had Clif’s pizza.

And ice cream and pie for dessert. (Alas, I didn’t get a picture.)

It was one of those happy gatherings where six like-minded people ate and talked past dusk right into the night. When our friends were ready to go, I looked at my watch and could hardly believe what I saw—it was 9:45 p.m.

Time really does fly when you’re having fun.


Liam Update

Yesterday, readers expressed concern about Liam’s swollen nose, which probably happened when he ran into a fallen branch in the backyard. Today, he is looking much, much better. Here’s a shot of his handsome face, and the nose is hardly swollen at all.

However, on his nose, there are a few specks of snow, and they are there because Liam likes to do this:

Liam has always been a dog who has loved the snow, and blindness has not diminished his enthusiasm for crunching on snow when it is crusty or sticking his head in the snow when it is fluffy.

After all, he is Liam, Dog of the North.

(This picture was taken several years ago, and long-time readers will recognize it. An oldie but goodie, just like our dog buddy. )

Liam is Thirteen

Today is Liam’s birthday, and as the title of this post indicates, he is thirteen years old. I still remember what a little Tasmanian devil Liam was when he was a puppy, and Liam remained energetic in his senior years until he went blind.

Poor dog buddy! His blindness has really slowed him down, and the other day, he banged his beautiful long nose on something—we don’t know what—and now his nose is horribly swollen on one side. Fortunately, his appetite is still good, and his bruised nose hasn’t interfered with his eating.

During a recent storm, some large branches had fallen in our backyard next to the bird feeders. They made excellent perches for the birds, and so we left them there. Liam had his paths for doing his business, and none of the branches were in his paths. However, the rains that came on Saturday did two things—it reduced the amount of snow we had, and it made the remaining snow so hard that Liam can now leave the paths and wander at will in the backyard.

Clif and I wondered, did Liam run into one of those branches and hurt his nose? We have no way of knowing, but we decided not to take any chances. Yesterday, we cleared out all those branches—some of them were quite large—and threw them over the fence into the woods. The birds no longer have perches directly by the feeders, but as we have so many trees in our backyard, it really doesn’t matter. There are plenty of other branches for the birds, and they are still coming in great numbers to the bird feeders and suet.

Swollen nose aside, Liam is holding his own. We have adjusted the way we do things. His blindness has affected his whole system, and Liam is now on a special diet that includes vitamins. No more walks off the leash, and his walks are much shorter.  We don’t like to leave him for more than five hours even though he has never messed in the house while we were gone. No overnight guests who are not family as Liam sometimes barks in the middle of the night to go outside.

However, as we recently told our friends Beth and John, we love our dog buddy so much that we never resent the extra care involved as Liam has aged and gone blind. For the  most part, unless he bumps into something, Liam is comfortable, and his appetite is good.

In honor of Liam’s birthday, here is a picture, complete with a Tolkien quotation,  of Liam when he could still see. The photo, used as a card, was taken on the trails behind the town’s high school, one of Liam’s favorite places before he went blind.

So happy birthday to one of the best and sweetest dogs in Winthrop.


Resting with a Cat on My Chest, Hoping for an Angel Sitting on My Shoulder

On Sunday evening, this was the scene at our house.

In fact, I wasn’t resting at all but rather reading and commenting on the many blogs I follow. This is always a delight as I can go around the world yet stay on my couch with my cat—the notorious Sherlock,  who certainly knows how to make himself comfortable—and my mug of tea.

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it was a merry blur of food, family, friends, and movies. We are a family keen on movies, and we saw two over the holidays—Coco, which we liked very much, and Murder on the Orient Express, a remake that got a resounding “Meh!” from all three of us.

Now it’s onward to Christmas, my favorite holiday. There will be Christmas movies to watch, cards to send, goodies to cook, presents to wrap, gatherings to attend, and twinkling lights to set out.

In Maine as well as elsewhere, December is the darkest month of the year, a good time to ponder the Christmas sentiment “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All.” Unfortunately, we are far from this notion, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reflect on it, now and for the rest of the year, too.

And if we can slide in a little “ho-ho-ho,” so much the better.  This Christmas song—“We Need a Little Christmas”—perfectly captures the way many of us in the United States feel right now.

Here is a version by the folks from Glee.

I’m hoping to find that little “angel sitting on my shoulder” sometime soon.

A Punk Named Sherlock

This is our cat Sherlock. See how sweet he looks sleeping on Clif’s lap?

Nothing could be further from the truth, and this pictures give some idea of Sherlock’s true punk nature. You might call this Sherlock’s resting expression.

Nine years ago, when Sherlock was a kitten, and we first brought him home, he climbed my back ten times as I was trying to work at my computer.

Sherlock is a cat who likes to bite the hand that pats him, and we always have to warn guests not to touch him.

Sherlock is a bird snatcher, and he brings both live and dead birds into the house. We have gotten quite expert at chasing birds through the house and wrapping them in a towel so that they can  be safely released.

Sherlock’s sister is Ms. Watson, and he is such a bully—biting her to the point where sometimes there are little scabs of blood—that she hates to be in the same room with him. Here is Ms. Watson, on the lookout. Because of Sherlock, Ms. Watson is always on the lookout.

Like Launce with his dog Crab in The Two Gentleman of Verona, I could make a long list of Sherlock’s transgressions.

However, I will end with his latest exploit but spare you the gory pictures.  A few nights ago, Sherlock was in a fight with something that fought back hard. There is a huge wound on Sherlock’s neck that makes him look like a zombie cat.

Naturally, we had to bring Sherlock to the vets, and this little trip cost us $130. We were instructed to do unsavory things to the wound and on our own decided to treat it several times a day with peroxide. We have draped towels and blankets where Sherlock sleeps so that no stains are left behind from the wound.

All things considered, Sherlock is doing well, but needless to say, he is grounded. No more going outside for him. Maybe not ever.

I post this piece because I don’t want readers to get the feeling that it’s all skittles and beer at the Little House in the Big Woods. Far from it, as is illustrated by the  story of a punk named Sherlock.

My daughter Shannon, upon learning of Sherlock’s wound, commented, “Isn’t he a little old to be getting in such fights?”

Apparently not.

Addendum: My blogging friend Xenia from Whippet Wisdom advised against using hydrogen peroxide on open wounds. She noted that the peroxide interferes with the healing. A quick spin on the Internet supported her conclusion. Both WebMD and the Mayo Clinic advise against using peroxide on open wounds. So we will stop doing so! Many thanks, Xenia!


Last Sunday in August

Gone are the songs of the tree frogs and the peepers. Instead, we have the buzzing of grasshoppers and the sweet chorus of the crickets. In Maine, summer—lovely summer!—is coming to an end, and what a nice summer it has been. There have only been a few blisteringly hot days when the temperature climbed to the mid-90s. For the most part, it’s been perfect and sunny, between 75° and 80° during the day, and then cooler nights, just right for sleeping.

While autumn in Maine is oh so fine, I will miss summer evenings on the patio, where Clif and I enjoy a drink or two and listen to music. Already, the days are significantly shorter, and by 6:30 it is a little too cool and damp to enjoy sitting on the patio.

Still, we have a couple of months of warm-enough weather so that we can go on bike rides. And with any luck, we’ll be able to ride some of November. After that, well, no matter how much I bundle up, I am too cold to enjoy a bike ride of any length.

One of things I enjoy most about autumn is the nutty smell of the plants as they dry and go to seed. For someone like me, who has a keen sense of smell, every season has its own aroma, each to be enjoyed—even the cold tang of winter.

To celebrate August and late summer, Clif and I invited a few friends over for wine and appetizers. The weather gods were with us, and we had a fine summer’s day to enjoy being outside. As I was bringing appetizers and plates to the table, I noticed a colorful guest on the lawn. While the pictures aren’t very crisp, they are good enough to share.

After a bit of pecking on the lawn, it was back to a tree, where these beauties can usually be found.

Then, I continued setting the table.

Our friends Denny and Cheryl and Judy—neighbors all—came. We sipped wine, drank beer, ate appetizers, which included Clif’s legendary grilled bread, and talked about dogs, books, movies, television shows, movies, and politics.

The hummingbirds whirred to their feeders filled with sugar water. The finches, titmice, chickadees, cardinals, and woodpeckers fluttered, flew, and chirped as they came to the feeders with sunflower seeds.

Dusk came, and the green shadows deepened. By then, the food was mostly gone, and our guests said their farewells. We all agreed this should be a yearly tradition, a salute to the end of summer and a greeting to autumn.