Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Time to hit the deck!

You may (or may not) know that I am lucky enough to split my time between two islands...Manhattan and Hilton Head, SC. Right now I'm being a Southern gentleman/beach bum down on Hilton Head. And while I do enjoy my almost daily excursions to the beach, I thought I'd share with you the place where I spend a good portion of my day.

I have a nice screened porch where I can lounge on the rug, sniff any bugs that wander in, and generally keep my cool under the ceiling fan. I especially like to be out here when it's raining (but NOT when it's thundering!)

The screened porch opens onto a nice long deck. You can see the special gate at one end that Lulubelle's Daddy made just for me. It's so I won't wander off to the nearby lagoon and become "Gator Bait." ("Uh, Mom? Would it kill you to put down the camera and pick up a broom? My deck is getting quite leafy...")

At one end of the deck, I've planted an herb garden, to add some savory flavor to my Wellness Light kibble.

I've hired the Yard Bird to keep watch over my garden and scare away any lizards or squirrels.

Ahhh, now I can relax in the glider under the hibiscus blossoms and contemplate an ice-cold glass of sweet tea...
The waitress around here moves at about the same pace as this turtle! (It's from Lulubelle's Mom's store in Beaufort, when she first opened years ago.)

I also have to attend to my begonia plants. Like me, they like a lot of shade and a nice cool drink.

Now that my deck is all in order, I can get back to the business of playing with my vast collection of tennis balls.
Check out this movie to see me in action. Oh, by the way, did I tell you that when I come down here, I change my name to that old Southern classic...Disregard?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Living life to the MAX....

My South African pal and tour guide extraordinaire Max left us today for a bigger and even better adventure. We'll miss him like crazy and know his family is heart-broken, but we're just grateful for all the unexpected days we had with him, long after his "expiration date" had come and gone. He truly showed us all how to live with grace.

He taught us that even when you're feeling poorly, a bit of play and a nice walk in a beautiful place can revive your spirits.

...And you should stop and savor the delicious moments in life, be it pausing to take in a magnificent sunset, sharing time with a good friend, or just tasting all the sweetness that life has to offer (calories be damned!)...

... Yet like pawprints on the beach, we knew you couldn't stay with us forever. The tide was rising to carry you gently away to distant, yet familiar shores.

And until we join you there, we'll see your smiling face in every African sunset, in your Mom's smile (it will return again, don't worry), and in our bruised, but grateful hearts.

For Max, with love.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Time to hit the beach!

Well, very early tomorrow morning, me and Mom will be flying down to South Carolina. Gotta make sure the rocking chairs in Harbourtown are all freshly painted and ready to rock...

...need to check my boat for leaks, maybe give it a new coat of paint as well....

...have to make sure the porch is nice and cool, perfect for hanging out on a rainy summer afternoon.....

....have to make some new friends and teach them how to play ball on the beach (ie: throw it fast or I'll jump for it, don't throw it too far out into the ocean)....

...these were some of my BEST (and most adorable) students!

...gotta get my chariot washed and polished, with my special sling in the back seat so I don't bring back the entire beach on my feet... see, there are some STARS coming for vacation in July and I want everything to be just perfect for them!

In fact, they're such bright stars, I gotta wear SHADES!

My posts may be less frequent (and once more, identical photos of me playing on the beach!) but I'll still be checking in regularly!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Do dogs understand death?

Reading Angus' post today about how Wilf is reacting to the loss of his brother Digby reminded me of how Petey has behaved during times of personal grief and mourning.

When my Mom passed away in her sleep last year, while staying with me, I had an unending stream of policemen, detectives, firemen and EMS workers coming into the apartment. (Apparently, this is not unusual when someone dies in a private home.) Petey has always assumed that anyone coming into the apartment is there to see him, so he greeted each with a waggy tail and a tennis ball offering in his mouth. He'd drop the ball by their feet, insisting that they play with him. So here are these serious men, bending to toss a ball, while asking me questions about my mother's death.

(Tosses ball) "Sorry about your loss, Ma'am." (toss the ball) "Umm, was your mother on any medications?" (toss the ball) "When was the last time she saw her doctor?" (toss the ball) "Wow, he's really good at catching the ball, isn't he?"

While Mica remained glued to my side all day, purring softly, Petey literally was having a ball and enjoying all the attention. I thought he might react when the coroners took Mom's body away—after all, he was very fond of his indulgent Granny—but instead, he just dropped the ball in front of them and wriggled away, waiting for the next game to begin.

Several days later, we arrived on Hilton Head for Mom's memorial. As we entered her house, Petey raced from room to room, looking for her. After exploring every room and closet, he came back to the family room, looked me in the eye and gave out a huge sigh, and quietly lay down.

A few days after we'd buried Mom, a huge Spring thunderstorm rolled in off the ocean late one afternoon. These are pretty much daily occurrences as the ocean warms up—loud house-shaking thunder and curtains of rain. In his younger days, Petey never seemed to mind storms or fireworks, but for the past few years, he needs to be with his Mom, sitting very closely to me for the duration of the storm.

On this particular evening, I was invited to dinner with some friends and, while the storm was definitely abating, it was still thundering when I reluctantly left to go meet them. When I returned a few hours later, I was surprised not to find Petey in the family room, where he'd usually snooze in a chair or on the couch. I called him and no response. I walked through the house looking for him and finally found him — curled up and sound asleep in the deep recesses of my Mom's walk-in closet, the scent of her perfume still wafting off her clothes hanging around him.

Clearly, he had sought her out for whatever comfort she could still provide.

He hasn't gone in there since.

As a puppy, Petey had both Mica and Maui as cat-siblings. Maui was a sweet girl, a shelter rescue, and she and Mica were never particularly close. She developed a cancerous tumor and at 15 years of age, I wasn't going to subject her to surgery so the decision was made to put her to sleep.
Unfortunately, on that last day, I could not get an appointment for her until 11:00 am. All evening and that morning, Petey stayed close by her side. Mica was aloof, but Petey was her companion to the very end.

While Mica seems very healthy right now, I am aware that at 20 years and 3 months, he is living on borrowed time. He and Petey have grown much closer—certainly closer than he ever was with either of my previous cats, Moki or Maui. I often find them curled near or next to each other or giving each other a gentle sniff.

With our new lifestyle, splitting our time between NYC and Hilton Head, Petey and Mica are apart for weeks at a time. My goal is to keep Mica's life as stress-free as possible, so plane trips are out of the question. Instead, I've been fortunate to have cat-loving friends come stay at the apartment in New York with him. (He keeps interrupting me for chin-scratches as I type this.)

I have no idea how Petey will respond to be an "only child" some day in the not-so-distant future. But I have a feeling, there will be some ball-throwing involved...

Monday, May 10, 2010

It may be hard to sleep tonight, for all the joyous barking!

Today, across the sea, God called home two of our bravest canine heroes, Jackson and Digby. We may not be able to sleep much tonight, as the dogstar will be twinkling extra bright and ringing loudly with happy barking.

I imagine my dear friend Hamish will be the first to greet them at the gates. He'll be asking how Gail is doing without his editorial skills and will no doubt be delighted to hear of young Bertie. And though his licorice black nose may be a bit out of joint when he hears how quickly Bertie mastered the dog gate, he'll be thrilled that his excavation plans for the backyard are continuing.

Who is that beautiful wiry gal bounding towards them, wriggling from excitement rather than seizures? Why, it's Miss Snickers! She's never looked so radiant and leaps in the air to welcome Jackson home. He reports that little Katie also has the fashion gene and is looking forward to wearing all of her beautiful Snitchybug couture...

Here comes Charlotte now, wondering how Deetz is faring. Lacy Lulu is leading the gang in a round of zoomies, but come over to welcome the newcomers. Shamus is sitting near Jamie's Mom Anna's chair, lolling in the sunshine as she scratches behind his ears. Java Bean is munching on a chocolate bar - you can eat as much chocolate as you want here!—and asking to see photos of the Scottie pups.

Charlie is delighted to hear all about the DWB reunion in New York this summer and says he'll be watching over all the proceedings. Graham is enjoying a snack from the ever-filled treat bowl with My Beautiful Raja, but races over to ask about Sophie Brador and her new greyhound brother.

Even the cats are thrilled to see Jackson and Digby—albeit from the perches on the greatest climbing tree ever (there are cans of tuna on every branch!) - there's Roscoe, Maui and Moki, Sen-Chan and Ikkyu, among others. They climb down in their elegant fashion and do figure-eights around the legs of Jackson and Digby, purring loudly and asking about their still-earth bound two-leggeds.

The crowd is quite large now, merrily yapping and wriggling, their tails a blur of happy wagging. It parts to let through Wally, the one and only Corgador in Heaven. His eyes are sparkling, his coat gleams, and there's the remains of a tasty dollop of peanut butter on his lip, and FuFu the hamster perched on his broad back.

Dakota stops in her tracks—in the midst of chasing slow-running squirrels through the fluffiest of white snow that never melts or gets dirty—to come join the pack.

Together, they show Jackson and Digby the swimming pool, the jaffa cake fields, the automatic tennis ball lobing machines, the acres of beds to sleep on and the miles of fields, free of any nasty bugs, but with delightful mud puddles scattered throughout. They are delighted to see there are no leashes, silly sweaters or baths in Heaven. Already, their joints are looser, their eyes shiny, that puppy bounce is back in their steps.

Here come my 2-leggeds Grandparents, with Keddy and Robbie and Sam #1 and #2— tossing balls and taking pups for a ride in their convertible - it's fine to stick your head out the window! In fact, there are lots of friendly humans here—gathering up beloved cats and dogs and covering them with kisses—their pockets filled with the most delicious bacon treats.

The party welcoming Jackson and Digby continues for hours, then the dogs and cats and people settle down and head for their own windows, looking down on the world. They draw back the curtains and let the light of Heaven shine through as they watch those that they love on Earth, going about their daily lives. It's hard to understand why those left behind are so sad, when Jackson and Digby and all of their friends are now in such a wonderful place for eternity. As they look around, they see there are still many unopened windows—for Petey and for Mica, for Eric and Asta, for Jake and Just Harry and Martha and Bailey and Fergi and Jake, Wilf, Tammy and Butchy. There's a window waiting for each of their friends, yes, even Lacie. In time, we each will join them as well and they will be the first to greet us at the gates.

So tonight, look towards the Heavens. There are two new stars, shining brighter than all the rest. They are Jackson and Digby's windows, watching down on us. And if they could they'd tell us that while one journey has ended, an even bigger and better one has just begun.

Till we run together, dear friends....

Friday, May 7, 2010

Healing vibes for Lulubelle

I just found out that my pal in Beaufort, SC, Lulubelle, has contracted Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever. We're praying that the vet discovered this early enough and that she will have a full recovery! Yikes, ticks are sure wrecking havoc with my pals these days. Our local expert recommends Advantix, as it kills more types of ticks. However, it is LETHAL to cats, so if you have feline roommates, try Frontline or Advantage. I'm going to wait until I get to Hilton Head for my dose of Advantix so I don't harm Mica.

Once again, let's put the Power of the Paw to work for sweet Lulubelle and Digby.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Our vigil continues....

We don't feel much like blogging these days. Instead, we wake early and check in on our shaggy pals Digby and Wilf in France. Comforted when we hear sweet news — that Digby went for a walk in the garden or growled at the postmistress, heart-broken when we read of his steady decline. We've grown to love those adorable PONs as well as Angus and "The Font" and the cinematic-worthy Mme. Bay. Angus' marvelous writing takes us away to country lanes lined with chestnut trees, the spontaneous ringing of ancient church bells, and the joys and tribulations of living in an old comfortable house. We come along with them for their adventures with heifers and hens, lizards and caterpillars. And now we mourn quietly as their precious boy slips away.

Do keep them in your prayers.

UPDATE: In the past few days, our friend Digby has rallied like a champion, though he is far from recovered. As the vet said today, he shouldn't have made it this past week. Keep up your prayers and positive thoughts—this may be beyond medical explanation. And in the words of Churchill, "Never, never, never give up!"