cat

So I’m a Baby Boomer Woman and I have a Dog. That doesn’t make me a crazy old lady.

Lately, I’ve been doing some thinking about dating at this age, and I’ve come to a conclusion:  I have more fun with my dog and my grandson.

For years, other single friends of mine have basically told me that they have “rich, full lives without men.”  I never believed them.  I thought how could they not miss having someone to eat dinner with?  How could they live without sleeping with a man?  How lonely must they be traveling without someone to share the scenery, someone to grab a suitcase when they’re tired, someone to do half the driving?  But every time I came up with one of those questions, the answer would be:  I don’t miss having to cook what someone else wants.  I don’t miss someone snoring and farting in bed.  I have plenty of friends who are fun to travel with and share half the driving.  And, inevitably, the friends also had companions of the four-legged variety.

My friend Jenna travels all over the country in a small mobile home accompanied by her dog, Sandy, and a cat, Mittens, both of which she adopted sometime during the last ten years.  Sandy isn’t her first dog and probably won’t be her last.  Mittens isn’t the first cat either, but she might be the last since dogs travel better than cats in mini-mobile-homes.  Jenna has been single for all of the years I’ve known her (we met back in the  mid-1980s when we were at a writer’s conference).  Only once during that 30+ year span has she had a relationship.  It lasted less than a year, and she practically threw a party when it was over.  I could hear her relieved sigh all the way in Florida, where I was living.  She was in Maine.

Greta moved from Massachusetts to Florida when her long-term relationship disintegrated because the guy she had been living with for 23 years was arrested for pedophilia.  Good reason to say goodbye and good riddance.  I thought she’d find another, better, man at one point, but she has always insisted she’s been quite happy with her two cats (sometimes one) who are quite independent and reflect her persona.  She travels with friends, works from home, visits her grandchildren in Seattle, London, Boston, and has come to the point of being happier at home in her seacoast town than she has ever been elsewhere.  Her question to me has always been:  why do you need a man?  I always insist that I haven’t “needed” one, I just liked having one around, especially one I loved.

Julie pens children’s books and teaches at a liberal arts college.  She lost her husband, the man with whom she was truly in love, several years ago.  Her dog, a rangy and adorable mutt, has kept her company and staved off an unbearable loneliness.  I think that, in many ways, that dog saved her from dying of a broken heart, much the same way my Izzy did with me.  She dates on occasion, but the last time I saw her, she said that she would be fine if she spent the rest of her life walking her dog, visiting with friends, traveling to see her daughter, and being happy that she had the time she did with her precious husband.

The women in my family who lost their husbands always ended up spending the rest of their lives alone.  Some of them had animals, others did not, and I think that the reason why most did not is because the majority of them lived in apartments (which might not have permitted pets).  Those who had animals were happier, I think.  And that supports the research that’s been done on older single people who live with pets — they have less heart attacks, less stress, and get more exercise than their counterparts who simply live alone.  I suspect they are also warmer during storms like the ones we’ve had during this (not-over-yet) winter.  Nothing better than having a cat or dog cuddle up with you on the couch or in bed when no amount of quilts seems to be enough to keep you warm.

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Perhaps I’ll be like this woman in the picture who probably talks to the dog and cat who have been her companions for most of her life.  It could be worse.  At least she’s smiling!  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to have the contentment I have with my silly little dog (and my grandson and my friends and my writing) than to have knots in my stomach  because I’m wondering what the man who lives with me will find to critique at dinner tonight.  I’m not crazy.  And I’m not alone.  I’m a dog lover who happens to be over 40 :0)

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Single Baby Boomer with Dog Celebrates Thanksgiving with NaNoWriMo

For the past couple of days, every time I walked Izzy, it was cold and raining, and he didn’t want to poop.  Seriously.  That’s been my biggest problem for the last 48 hours.  We’d go out around the block, he’d stop and look, pee on his bushes, stop and look again, shoot me a sad “woe is me” puppy eye, sit down (seriously, Izzy???  It’s raining!), sniff a little, then look at the rushing water in the gutter, look up at me again, and consider that he didn’t want to jump it.  And wet leaves?  Lordie, they’re poison!  Who wants to walk through wet leaves and lower their butt to the ground to do their thing.  Not Mr. Izzy.  No way.  Sigh.

So, instead of our usual five walks a day, it’s been more like seven, and each time, I stand there, shivering, saying, “Good boy, Izzy.  Now, poop!  C’mon, Izzy, you can do it.”  And each time, he didn’t.  Until the second walk this morning, and by that time, I was already late for work, and he knew I was getting itchy — and irritated.  But at least it’s done, and I can relax.

I seem to remember going through the same thing last year at this time.  It was raining and cold.  I wasn’t excited about going out for walks and neither was Izzy.  It was our first year living in Roxboro, our first Thanksgiving together, my first holiday alone.  Ever.  This year makes two.  Second year living here, our second Thanksgiving together, my second Thanksgiving alone.  My savior?  Writing!

I’m convinced whoever conceived of National Novel Writing Month must have been single and hating facing the holidays alone.  The best way to get through them was to keep extraordinarily busy.  “Oh, I have an idea!  Why don’t I write a novel during November?  Commit to at least 50K words on the page, then I can take December to do some rewriting (or finish the novel) and by January, I’ll have a bright and shiny new story to start sending out to agents and editors.”

It works.  

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Last year, I sat at my desk over the long Thanksgiving weekend and almost finished the first draft of a novel (I’m not dumb enough to send something that new out in January; I’m going to do another rewrite of it in February and March, which means the novel will have gone through at least three-four drafts before it hits an agent’s/editor’s desk), and I certainly felt better that I had survived the holiday — and was productive doing so.

This year, I’m rewriting a novel that was originally part of my dissertation.  This one has gone through enormous structural changes, so even though I’m not committing 50K NEW words during this NaNoWriMo, I feel like I’m writing something even more valuable to me:  a polished manuscript.  This one might be ready in January or February.  Depends on what my reader says when she finishes it over the Christmas holidays.

I’m sure I’m not the only Baby Boomer with a dog who’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving alone.  Though most of my single friends are escaping to the warmth of a family member or friend’s house to share the turkey and the gossip and the silly jokes Aunt Milly never understands, there are plenty of us who’ll be huddled over a laptop, our favorite canine (or feline) faithfully keeping us company and making us take breaks from the writing to walk the cold, rainy streets.  

Here’s to those of us who are celebrating Thanksgiving with our animals!  Cheers to all those wagging tails and warm noses.  I give thanks to them for keeping us all sane — and far from lonely.

Hoarders. Are they protecting animals or hurting them?

Over the weekend, a story came out in the local news about a woman who’s a former animal rescuer and how she’s been charged with animal cruelty.  Come to find out, 60 of the 93 animals in her home had to be euthanized because they were ill.  

My first thought was that she probably thought she was rescuing the animals (most were cats; 3 were dogs), but when push came to shove, she simply didn’t have the money or resources to feed all of them.  A good Samaritan whose good deeds came to a horrendous end.

I can empathize with what this woman has gone through and why she felt the need to take in so many animals.  I volunteered for a rescue service for more than a year, answering emails for them, and there were many times that I would have taken an animal that someone was trying to turn over to us.  The irony is that we couldn’t take any animals since we were a small, volunteer-run organization with no “home office.”  Instead, we rescued from the shelters, but only when one of our foster homes had space for another animal.  As a result, the animals we fostered had a solid foundation, usually learned some basic commands, and were in much better condition when their forever homes finally found them.

I do remember one particular email that I received on a cold January afternoon.  A woman had bought a Havanese pup from a breeder.  Nine weeks old, black/white/brown, and full of mischief, the pup would have made anyone who saw it say, “awww.”  In her email, the woman’s anguish came through clearly.  She had paid $900 for the pup, plus all of the food, toys, and accouterments necessary to make a home for the little guy.  But less than two weeks after bringing him home, she lost her job and was being forced to move in with her daughter — into a home which didn’t allow pets.  The woman simply wanted someone to take and love her pup.  No money was necessary.  Just give him a good home.

My heart broke for both the pup and the woman, and I wanted desperately to take him in.  At the time, I didn’t have Izzy, but I had dreams of having a pup like the Havanese, and here was my chance.  Unfortunately, I already had a cat and lived in an apartment complex where one pet was the rule.  My cat, Jojo, was 18 years old, blind and deaf, and I knew she didn’t have much longer to live, but bringing a pup into the house (secretly–which I was ready to do) would not have been fair to her. 

I often wonder what happened to that woman and to the pup, just as I’m going to wonder what’s going to happen to this woman who is probably brokenhearted that her plan for rescue has resulted in her arrest.

If you want to read the full story, cut and paste this link in your browser:  http://www.examiner.com/article/former-animal-rescue-head-charged-after-90-cats-found-her-nc-home

Dog clothing? Really? Do we need to dress up the little buggers? Or is that human vanity?

While I do believe that when it rains out, Izzy needs his ThunderShirt, both to stay dry and so that he won’t get freaked out if it’s thunder and lightening while we’re out, I’m not so sure he needs a specially-designed sweater in the middle of the winter or a nice wooly blanket for football season.  Seriously.  What is it about people who dress up a Golden Retriever in a kerchief like some Middle-Eastern babushka-wearing grandma?  And how long does the dog keep the kerchief on to begin with?

I’ve read a lot of articles about Baby Boomers and how we are treating our animals as though they are the children who have long since left the nest.  While that might be true (not only of Baby Boomers but pretty much everyone who’s crazy about their pets), I’m still not convinced we have to turn animals into pseudo-human-children.  I’ve seen Chihuahuas in pink tutus, poodles in berets, and boxers in Irish Fisherman knit sweaters.  They all look the same:  ridiculous.

I’m writing this and remembering that the dog I had when we were growing up often got scalped rather than having a decent haircut (because my parents were do-it-yourself-ers).  Tammy would skulk around, head down, eyes averted, as if ashamed that she was “nude.”  In that particular case, I can see putting something on her nearly naked body if it was the middle of the winter, because she certainly would have frozen.  But should we dress our animals just to make a statement?  Does a Cocker Spaniel really appreciate being dressed as a dragon for Halloween?  Should we create a mini Pekingnese version of Santa Claus on December 25th?  Or what about a heart-shaped Pit Bull for Valentine’s Day?

Maybe I’m just being an ol’ poop, but I don’t get design clothing for dogs.  http://www.refinery29.com/pet-accessories?utm_source=email&utm_medium=editorial&utm_content=los-angeles&utm_campaign=131029-dog-accessories#slide-1

I’d be interested to hear how you feel about dressing up your lovely pooch.  And I would venture to guess that your most affectionate cat wouldn’t sit still for putting on a hat or a vest or a lovely sequined dress!  

Full Moon and Dogs’ Behavior

Izzy’s been particularly frisky and misbehaving lately (see my post about eating my shoes!).  Last night, I took him for a walk and when we got back into the house, he brought me every ball he owns.  Demanded I play with him and if one got stuck under the couch, he did the puppy-bow-bark until I got it out.  When he was a puppy, his balls lasted an average of twenty minutes.  Now that he’s a little older, he seems to “treasure” them more.  He has one “ball” (and I use that term loosely because it really doesn’t roll anymore) that’s red and blue striped and a plastic shell.  He’s played with it so much that it’s got a hole in the side and usually flops on the floor rather than rolling, but Izzy loves it because he can grab onto it and throw it in the air, essentially playing fetch with himself when I’m not around.

After about an hour of fetch, I wanted to get some work done, so I sat down with my laptop on the couch.  He promptly came over and sat beside me, pawing at my hand or at the keyboard to get my attention.  Nothing would satisfy him unless I gave him a belly rub.  Sometimes you just have to give in when dogs demand that you give them some love.

While we were sitting there, my doorbell rang.  My next door neighbor wanted to borrow some Ibuprofen, so I made up a little bottle for her and brought it to the door.  Izzy loves Deb and went directly to her.  She bent down to give him a pat, and out the door he shot — right past her and into the yard.

He’s a little guy and tends to dash without looking (even though he knows “wait” when we’re crossing the street).  My heart pumped when he headed for the street, but then he turned around and tore back through the yard, nose to the ground.  I’m sure he smelled the groundhog/raccoon/possum/skunk (we have all of the above), but the way he was running in circles like a crazy man made me wonder if there was something else going on.  Finally, we got him corralled (he will not ‘come’ — no matter what), and I got him in the house.

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That night when we went for a walk, he was still acting a little crazy, and when I looked at the sky with the gorgeous full moon and brilliant stars, I wondered for the thousandth time in my life whether the moon affects us as much as the old stories make us believe.  So, I did a little research.  Here’s some interesting facts:

  • There’s a 23% increase for cats and a 28% increase for dogs in visits to the vet’s office or an animal hospital during a full moon because they’re “acting out” more.  There’s a higher rate of seizures and traumas.
  • Doodlebugs dig larger holes during a full moon.
  • Instead of taking advantage of the better light during a full moon, lions kill during the daytime hours.
  • The word “lunatic” came from “lunar” because people noticed the change in both people and animals during a full moon.
  • Dogs might bark at a full moon because it’s brighter outside — and they are “marking” their territory.
  • Owl monkeys in Argentina are more active during a full moon.
  • And coral species mate a LOT more actively during a full moon . . . a true sexual phenomenon.

So, I guess Izzy’s behavior last night wasn’t as weird as I thought!