Posts Tagged With: cats

Vacations, Planned and Otherwise

Generally when I hear the word “vacation,” I think of trips.  The last couple of days, though, have been vacations also — from the blog.  I didn’t plan this vacation, nor did I seek it.  Instead, it just sort of happened.

On Tuesday night I got home from a Leisure Learning class.  When I sat down at the desktop, though, I could not log in to the computer.  It didn’t recognize the log-in password.  Eventually I realized that my keyboard was probably the problem.  Of course, I also saw that this was totally my own fault.

I’d left a diet Coke sitting near it.  I’d also left the door to the office open.  That meant that Homer (or Romeo, but more likely Homer) had been on the desk and knocked the drink over.  Hence the dead keyboard.  

I tried for two hours to revive that keyboard.  Short of running out and buying a new one, I just kept trying to dry it out.  I kept trying to log in.  I’d turn the computer off and back on.  I’d let it sit, turned off, and then try once more.  Finally, I gave up.  By this time I was completely and totally frustrated and the last thing I thought about was finding the laptop and logging on. 

So I simply went to bed.  No blog on Tuesday.

Yesterday, I talked to a friend, and he said that he had an extra keyboard that he would bring with him for today.  That was cool.  

Last night I could have turned on and used the laptop, but frankly I just crashed very early.  My restless leg syndrome acted up and I took my medicine for it — in the middle of the afternoon.  Let’s just say that I got a lot of sleep yesterday.  And last night.  

Once more, no blog.  And I didn’t even realize that until today.

Refreshed (well, I ought to be after all that sleep!) and out the door at 7:45 a.m., I met my friend Todd at McDonald’s across from the university.  He loaned me a keyboard.  I sat and visited with him and other friends who are still teaching.  That’s one reason that McDonald’s on Ryan Street is one of my regular hangouts.  It’s an easy place to meet up with friends who simply have to walk across the street.

We sat and talked.  By 9:30 a.m., everyone else had departed for offices and classes.  I headed home.

Confident about the keyboard, I unplugged the old one, plugged in Todd’s keyboard, and shortly afterwards I had successfully logged in to my desktop computer.  Only then was I able to set up the new wireless keyboard that I had not yet set up.  I mean, you know how frustrated I was on Tuesday night — there was a dead (wired) keyboard and a brand new wireless one, but in order to set up the wireless one, I needed a working wired keyboard first.  Sort of Catch 22.

And so it is that I had a 2-day vacation from the blog.  By this morning, I was eager to be back at work.

I appreciate so much more the comfort of the desktop computer, which I admit I’ve taken for granted.  Sometimes I blog on the iPad mini, rarely from the laptop.  Usually if I’m at home it’s the desktop.  Only when that wasn’t possible did I stop to think just how much I enjoy the larger screen of the desktop computer.  And only then did I realize that I’d been lazy in not setting up the new wireless keyboard earlier.  To cap it all off, I’d carelessly left the drink too near the keyboard and left the door open, giving the cats easy access.  

All my own fault.  All lessons to be taken to heart, too.  

Now I’m just realizing that I haven’t backed up files in a while.  It’s time to pull out the backup standalone hard drive and set it up again for regular backups.  Yikes.  Complacency gets us every time.

Time for work.  Vacation over.

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My Life with Animals

As far back as I remember, I’ve always had a pet, usually a dog. In my 30s I acquired my first cat. Now I’ve some of each, and can’t imagine life without pets.

My first pet was a short-haired pointer, one that a neighbor gave to me when I wasn’t even a year old — one that my dad hunted for years. She was my best friend. Kate was loving and patient; if I tried to ride her, she stood there. If I fell off, she stood there. If I called, she came. If Dad asked her where I was, she found me. She was, my dad proclaimed until he died, the best dog he ever had. The last day of her life, she managed to get out and run when he took her out in the field. One last good afternoon, and then she died. I was, I think, 11, and I thought my heart would break. I had no memories of life without her.

We had other dogs, almost always pointers. Once we had a dachshund that my grandmother gave us. Maxie had the cutest quizzical face — he’d look up at you, his little forehead wrinkled and his head cocked. Someone poisoned him one weekend, and he was so small — he just didn’t survive. Shortly afterwards, someone poisoned our pointer, who was larger and who did survive. Both dogs were confined, so someone had to search them out. I’ve never understood what drives people to deliberately hurt animals.

By the time I was in college, I had to enjoy the pets only on weekends, whenever I was home. I also began to bring home strays. Though friends thought my parents wouldn’t let me keep them, they were wrong. In fact, with one puppy I found, so young his eyes weren’t open, my dad sat in the floor with me, feeding that puppy with an eyedropper.

On my own in grad school, I got a tiny puppy, a cross between a chihuahua and a poodle — Punkin. Bright, curious, and lively, she was my companion for almost 9 years. From LSU (grad school) to Lamar (teaching) to Texas A&M (grad school) to McNeese, Punkin saw me through my studies, my heartbreaks, my first full-time job, and got me settled in what would be my career job. Her heart murmur finally killed her, And I cried as though my heart would break. Dad came over, picked her body up, and took her back to Egan to bury her.

She died just before I defended my dissertation. The day I defended, I bought a Shih Tzu, my first (but not my last). Scarlett stole my heart. A few months later, she was joined by a stray Shih Tzu mix (Rocky) and my first cat (R.B.) We were a happy menagerie for years. After I bought my house, we were joined by another stray, a cat that simply followed me inside one day. Lil Bit stayed a bit longer than her name might indicate.

Scarlett lived nearly 16 years, Rocky almost 13. RB lived almost 18 years and Lil Bit over 11 years.

Along the way I also acquired Scruffy (a terrier mix, rescued from the 12th Street Kroger parking lot). After only Scruffy and RB were left, my cousin in Galveston (his wife, actually) found a little Shih Tzu wandering the streets in their neighborhood. Black and white, terribly matted, she came to live with me. Zoe cemented the place Shih Tzus have made in my heart.

By the time I evacuated for Hurricane Ike, I only had Scruffy and Zoe and RB. Within months, all of them were dead. Lots of pets didn’t survive long after the hurricane; stress took its toll on many of our little companions.

Gypsy was a Shih Tzu my sister found wandering the streets in Natchitoches. Kay found her owners, but soon her owners decided not to keep her. I took her. Then I took a long-haired calico from a friend — Callie.

Only two, I said. Enough. That didn’t last long. Then I saw a little black and white Shih Tzu mix and fell in love again. Zsa Zsa joined the family. Rocky, a black and white male kitten, came from my dad’s yard in Egan; I couldn’t stand to see him disappear as so many of the yard cats did.

Four. More than enough, I said. That was true until I was in Greece, on the island of Spetses a few years ago. While I was sitting at a cafe near the port, a small calico kitten zeroed in on me, rubbed around my ankles, jumped in my lap, climbed on my shoulder, and went to sleep. Apparently, I have “sucker” written on my forehead not only in English but also in Greek. Getting her home was less trouble than I though. With a nod to what I was reading at the time, I named her Homer. I mean, Homer might have been a woman; we don’t know for sure.

So my house is full. Three cats, two dogs. Most of them are rescue animals. All are loving creatures. Homer thinks she’s a dog, it seems. She hangs with the two dogs. Romeo is meek, peeping up at me, hesitantly sneaking up on the bed if the others let her. Callie sticks to the study, her territory. She’ll wander in to the laundry room and kitchen for food and water, occasionally into the bedroom. Mostly, though, she stays to herself.

It’s not easy to travel with pets, not most of the time. For a few days or a week, I manage with leaving enough food and water, having friends check on them. For longer periods, say for three months when I’m in Greece, I’ve managed to get a house-sitter who lives in the house for free, but cares for the animals. This year, though, I had to cobble together pet-sitters, a friend who cleans my house, other friends, and my sister – because I couldn’t find a live-in sitter. I’ve got to start working on that for thenext long trip.

My pets demand attention, certainly. They also require maintenance. Cat litter. Dog walks and papers. Food and water. Lots of attention.

But they’re so rewarding. Constant companions, they seem to sense when I’m upset or stressed or depressed. They’ll curl around me in bed, barricading me in from what would hurt me. They lick me, reassuring me of their love. They look into my eyes with total trust.

When I’m gone for long periods of time, I miss my sister and niece, my cousins and aunts, my friends. And my pets. When I miss having them with me, I know it’s time to go back to Louisiana and join them.

Without my own children, I guess my pets are my children. They are my support system. They need me as nothing else and no one else does. They love unconditionally.

Studies show that pet therapy has many positive effects. Petting a dog or cat can lower blood pressure. Residents in nursing homes respond when therapy pets are brought around — they’re happy, they smile.

The joys are worth the troubles, worth the losses. Their places in my heart are irreplaceable. Yet there’s always room for loving another.

As for me, I know that if possible, I’ll always have a pet. At least one.

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