Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Of Kittens and Men

So Matthew (long story in and of himself) brings a kitten into my office today. A few weeks ago, I had dispatched someone to retrieve what I believed to be a litter of kittens from a (basically abandoned, at the least a defunct) vehicle at the outskirts of my agency parking lot. They were unable to locate said kittens. 

A friend reported having seen Matthew walking around the parking lot, cuddling the kitten and singing to it. In so telling me, she made a loose reference to Of Mice and Men, which was pretty spot on for why the kitten was brought to me and not taken home by Matthew. 

Part of the problem is that this kitten is tiny. Tee tiny. Tiny enough I questioned whether I was absolutely positively certain those were his "real" teeth, i.e., not his milk teeth. Tiny enough I have spent the better part of the day, after he ate some softened food I put down and he voraciously tore through, watching for a BM, checking to make sure his belly wasn't distended, and agonizing over the notion of using a warm rag to replicate maternal poo poo assistance. 

K is of course completely enamoured with the little tyke. She snuggled him up, working her domestication magic promptly upon her return home this evening. Sitting down to dinner, she proclaimed him, "an absolute sweetheart."

I still have reservations about his age, ability to execute necessary bodily functions, and prognosis for survival, whether here at MisFit Farm or in a parking lot. This evening, however, we had a somewhat positive development after our late evening walk with the dogs. 

A: Good news. Bad news. Which do you want first?
K: Good news.
A: The kitten is able to make BMs.
K: Let me guess. The bad news is that he didn't make BMs in the litter box.
A: Bingo.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Title 1


I am very sensitive to the way things smell. I recently listened to a story about the background and research behind a book titled, "A Season to Taste," about a woman who sustained an injury to the back of her head and, as a result, lost her sense of smell. Turns out, our sense of smell, while not necessary to sustain life or safely negotiate our way through the world, does connect up with our other senses as an enhancer. It is tied to our sense of taste, our tongues being rather blunt instruments. It is connected to the emotional centers in our brains, so that the smell of freshly cut grass can conjure up the elation of Summer days, or the smell of the particular combination of Ivory dish soap and bleach can bring back the memory of a grandmother. 

I also recently read a book about the psycho-physiology of dogs, "Inside of a Dog," which explored, among other things, the olfactory experience of dogs. Although it is widely known that dogs have a keen sense of smell, it turns out that their sense of smell is in fact so pronounced, so nuanced, they may in fact be able to "smell fear," or at least detect the hormones and phermones our bodies unwittingly emanate when experiencing emotions of any sort. In an evolutionary sense, the human olfactory experience is an amoeba compared to that of dogs. 

It would stand to reason then, that dogs would not find it necessary to ensconce themselves in the odor of smells they locate in the woods, right? Wrong. Especially wrong if you are our girl, Sophie. 

In a nutshell: Sophie stinks. She stinks within 48 hours of bathtime, and not always because of something she appears to have "rolled in", although that particular behavior contributes greatly to her overall boquet. She just has a peculiar odor. After her most recent bath, when two days later I began to detect the smell, I turned to K and asked, "do you know what she smells like?" K, even with her muted sense of smell, observed that Sophie did indeed have an odor reiminiscent of something. After some contemplation, we agreed wholeheartedly: Sophie smells like the inside of a vacuum cleaner bag. 

Stop. Think about it. You know this smell. 

The inside-of-a-vacuum-cleaner-bag smell lingers until Sophie finds something more odiferous in which to roll. Then for a few days, she smells like dead something, or unspecified livestock poo, or fish heads. After repeated bathings, I have come to the conclusion that the smell is not necessarily externally applied. My conclusion may be heavily influenced by the additional fact that Sophie routinely and robustly breaks wind. She is the stinkinest dog I have ever met. Like "Walter the Farting Dog" on steroids. 

On the upside, thanks to all the bathing, brushing and wiping dow that has taken place in looking for the smell-source, her coat is a gleaming, glistening black where once it was a dull, sun-baked brown, she is unperturbed by the smell she emanates, and she doesn't mind the new barrage of nicknames: Flower, Pig Pen, Stinky McStinksalot, PU. . . and I am given another reason for dramatic exclamations that remain safely on the downside of hyperbole. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Feline Foodie

Not to be outdone, Megatron the cat, henceforth known as The Mayor of MisFit Farm, has started adding his own embellishments to his dinner fare.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I recognize that this is a total "first world problem," one of my own making, for that matter, but I have increasingly recognized that our animals are food snobs. 

The trouble started with Riley. More likely it started with Mercy, who suffered from terrible food allergies, and Trinity, who ocassionally suffers from the same type of unhappy, stress-prone stomach I have had seemingly all my adult life. Most likely it started with my father, an incredible cook who instilled in me, for good or for bad, the paradigm that food = love. Riley, however, has taken it to an entirely new level. 

She has always been a picky eater, who had finally decided that the Eukanuba food would be satisfactory, so long as it was the bag with a picture of a Yorkshire Terrier on the front. She has little to no interest in most treats, no matter the ilk. It is actually a bit embarassing to go through the drive-through at the bank or the pharmacy and have a pleasant, courteous clerk offer her a treat, only to have her summarily turn up her nose at the offering. 

When she was in the hospital earlier this year, the Internal Specialist expressed concern that Riley was not eating. I explained that she was a picky and sporadic eater at best prior to the coma, and this seemed to satisfy the good doctor for about 12 hours. When we came to visit we would bring tasty little morsels to try to get her to eat a little something: boiled chicken, ham, beef tenderloin, KC strip steak. She was having none of any of it. When she was allowed to come home on furlough, we finally prevailed upon her to eat some of the shredded chicken and sip some broth from the homemade chicken and noodles we were having for dinner. 

She has eaten perhaps five nuggets of kibble since then. 

Now, I prepare her meals from scratch, based on a protein:starch:vegetable veterinary-approved formula I found on the Internet. Pound-for-pound, she probably eats more fresh vegetables than most humans I encounter any given day. Most days, the hand-prepared meals work; some days she decides she is tired of ground sirloin or chicken breasts and I have to sort through the offerings available in the refrigerator to find something more suiting to her taste. She also prefers to have her food slightly warmed. And some times, when I don't get it right, she has to eat around the parts she doesn't like.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I was in Junior High School before I met my first set of twins. I knew twins existed prior to ever actually meeting any, and I suppose it is possible I may have met paternal twins and hadn't realized they were twins or some other such business, but I was in double-digits before I knew anyone who was an identical twin. They were a year or two ahead of me in school, had the obligatory alliterative names, something like Laurie and Lauren, and looked remarkably similar. One thing I noticed about the people around these two was that the people around them seemed to fall into one of two categories: people who could tell them apart, and people who couldn't. People who could not tell them apart confessed unabashedly, "Oh those two, I don't know who is who!" People who could tell them apart loudly derided those who couldn't, "c'mon already, they look NOTHING alike!" A relative newcomer to the school, I didn't have the luxury of an audience, so I thought silently to myself with my own derision for all parties concerned, "actually they look remarkably similar with discernible differences."

And so it has been ever since. It has continued to be a source of silent pride that I have the ability to identify the discernible differences in such a way as to readily be able to tell the twins I encounter apart. One time, I was looking at baby pictures with the mother of twin girls, now young adults. She said, "they always looked so much alike. Especially as babies. Let's see - this was Janlynn?" I pointed to the other baby in the photo and said, "isn't this Janlynn? See how her eyes are more almond shaped?" To which the mother had to agree. 

And so it also has been with animals. We have nine goats. One is all white, one is multi-colored, three are mostly brown with distinct white markings, and the remaining four are black and white. Since we have acquired them across the years, one of the easy distinctions has been their size. One of the black and white goats is several years older than all the others; the remaining three were easy to tell apart as one is primarily black (Kelly), and the other two that are more black-and-white are distinguishable because one (Bosley) has a white belt. The fourth goat of this ilk (Boo Boo) is about four years older than the others and a chronic overeater, making him heretofore distinguishable by his size. It never occured to me that the size differential would not always be a distinction I could use to my advantage.

How does the saying go? "Pride goeth before the fall?"

Imagine my dismay this morning when I noted that the size difference between the goats is not as great as it once was. As a matter of fact, and of special concern is that the fourth black-and-white goat (Bruddah Iz) is almost the exact same size as Boo Boo. And has the exact same coloration. And the exact same black face mask. And the exact same white diamond between his horns. And the exact same all black forelocks on his legs. And nearly the exact same peppering of white along his cheeks. And the same aloof attitude, food-seeking behaviors, and rotund belly. And, to top it all off, the obligatory alliteration in name. 

The good news is that, which such practices are discouraged with children, colored collars work great for goats. At least until I can better identify the discernible difference. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I started taking Coffee dog to work out of necessity. As I have recounted previously, spoils go to the victor, so I got him out of a divorce. He was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of dog; he was the perfect combination of neurotic, attentive, and independent. He was smart and personable and determined and did I mention neurotic? He was in almost every way everything I am not and in the rest of the way, he was my doppelgänger. 

It was because of all of this, and because of him that I bought this place out in the country, and because I had recently divorced and was totally and completely escaping by immersing myself in work, that I began taking him to the office with me. With the commute, I was spending easily 12 hours a day away from home. He was not a dog who could be alone for that amount of time. I was occasionally asked if he was my service or emotional support dog; my pithy response was that actually, I was his support human. 

Coffee made lots of friends at the office. Across time, I had staff actually ask as part of their evaluation process that he continue to come to the office even after the long work days were no longer justifiable and bringing him along made less sense. 

One spring, I traveled out of state for work. I left Coffee at a local kennel/Vet clinic. The first night, he completely destroyed his cage and his snout in the process. As I was trying to problem solve the situation from half a continent away, one of my employees, a former vet tech, Cathy, volunteered to take Coffee home and keep him for the rest of my stay. And so it became the arrangement that when we would travel, even after we had a doggy door, and had engaged house-sitters, Coffee would get a bag packed and go stay with Cathy. We came to refer to her as our surrogate dog-mother. I dare say Cathy loved Coffee as much as I did. 

We unexpectedly lost Cathy last week. I cannot even begin to quantify the loss, or describe the vaccum her absence has left in my world. I was talking to a mutual friend about Cathy this past week, and I described her as the perfect combination of competency and compassion. That description just begins to scratch the surface. She was serious with a dry sense of humor; her office was a carefully devised organized chaos; she liked sports but despised cult of personality; she devoured true crime novels, over-indulged the myriad pets we paraded before her, was extremely set in her ways, loved babies, and dutifully read the daily paper. Like Coffee and I, we were the unlikeliest of pairs; she was in almost every way everything I am not, and in the rest of the way, she was my doppelgänger.

She was a committed Catholic. I am not inclined toward dogma or metaphysics, although even I have to admit I hope there is a rainbow bridge. If there is, I know Coffee was there to greet her, and I can try to find comfort that he has his surrogate dog mom to wait with until I can get there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


A friend gifted us a slightly used pedi-paw device. This evening, the pedi-paw took K completely by surprise when it was left on a table in the living room as I went off in search of something more effective against the iron talons of the average Dane foot around here: a sandblaster or hedge shears, perhaps. 

"What in the world is that?!?!" K exclaimed when she saw it laying on the corner of the table.

Then she tried to claim she mistook it for a flashlight or futuristic laser device.

Yeah, right. 

By the way, this product does not get a MisFit Farm endorsement. There is a reason it was gifted to us slightly used.