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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie...Somewhere Else


We can't figure out how he does it. Tucker, our terrier mix, weighs in at a small but sturdy 45 pounds, yet he can take up an entire bed.

Jasper and Tucker on

We understand why 60-something-pound Jasper occupies so much space; he's a big dog with legs so long he looks like an AT-AT.


AT-AT ( ©Lucasfilms)

But when he sleeps, Tucker takes up more space than the other two dogs combined.

He starts out small enough, curling into an adorable Tucker Ball.

Tiny Tucker Ball
Within a few minutes, he starts to expand.

He's getting bigger

Like a liquid, he fills the space he occupies.

And bigger. 
Sometimes he even spills over.

This is the same bed as above.

On occasion, he just pours out.

Still the same bed. Really.

This is why Tucker is not allowed to sleep in our bed at night. By the time the morning sun sifts through our blinds, we humans would be scrunched into four inch strips on the outer edges of the mattress.

And it is the unlucky person who winds up on the leg side of Tucker when he sleeps. As part of the expansion process, he kicks whatever or whoever happens to be near him.

Expanding Tucker

When he wakes up, Tucker will bow, stretch, and somehow manage to fit himself back into his normally compact size.

There must be a law of physics somewhere to explain this.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

High and Mighty

Every once in awhile, one of the cats discovers a New Place.  It's not as if her or she suddenly has access to unexplored territory. More likely, Someone realizes she can go somewhere she hasn't thought of previously, or he attempts to squeeze in, jump on, or go into someplace that just hadn't occurred to him until that moment.

Calvin had been eyeing the top of the medicine cabinet in our main bathroom for a couple of weeks. He would jump up on the counter while I was putting on my makeup in the morning. He'd climb in and out of the sink and be ever so Helpful in that way that cats have of being completely in the way. The he'd get bored, and I'd notice him looking up.

"Really Calvin?" I asked, when I realized what he was pondering. "Don't even think about it. It is Not a Good Idea. I haven't dusted up there in...hmm...well I don't know that I've ever dusted there." Yuck. Then I'd pull out my hair dryer and Stupendous Cat would get distracted by the cord, hop off the counter and suddenly remember he had some other kind of Trouble to get into.

Until last week. He began staring at the top of the cabinet the minute he hopped up on the counter. Then he hunched down and performed his ritual I'm Getting Ready to Jump butt wiggle. And up he went.

Ah, the look of accomplishment. Satisfaction. Superiority. Cats are so impressed with themselves when they reach a new higher-than-people spot. Okay, well, cats are impressed with themselves nearly all the time anyway, but the "I'm Impressive" meter goes to 11 on these occasions. Calvin was no exception. He paraded back and forth across the top, tail held high, reveling in his achievement.

Calvin reaches the summit.
The exultation lasted until Calvin realized I intended to leave the bathroom. That was the moment he figured out there was a down side to this feat. Literally. Our intrepid explorer had only considered how to go up; the reverse trip hadn't been given similar attention. This posed a bit of a conundrum.

He began the I Need to Get Down But Don't Know How To dance. If you've never seen it, it goes something like this: One step forward, one step back, one step forward, one step back. Repeat. Put your front half over the edge with paws on the vertical surface. Then scrunch back to your perch. Repeat three times. Sit down and clean yourself. Then start again, from the beginning.

After several rounds of the dance, the cat decides he or she really does need to get down, and--during one of the paws-on-vertical-surface moments--continues the movement into a hopefully-graceful-but-usually-not leap to the ground.

Once a cat has discovered a new place, of course, he must Return to it. He must Own it. He must show the world--and the other cats--that the most exalted of felines has reached new heights.

To do that, it is necessary to explore every inch of the fresh territory, ensuring no corner is left untouched, no dustball left undisturbed. Then you must lay down and roll around, striking adorable poses and ratcheting up the cute factor. This last bit delays the inevitable Get Down From There moment that humans always seem to reach way before cats do.

There's no more dust up here.

Striking a pose.

One of the bests parts of being First, though, is the amount of prestige one gains when one of the other cats sees you Up There. It didn't take long before Elsa Clair came strolling into the bathroom when Calvin was reigning. She padded nonchalantly onto the tiles and caught a deliberate movement from him, who was looking down at her. Elsa Clair stared at her brother: "How did you--?"

For a few moments, Calvin's cat smugness reading was off the charts.

Elsa Clair's eyes flashed to the counter. The mirror. The cabinet. She had the whole route planned out before she twitched another whisker.

She leapt to the counter.

Calculated the next jump.

Elsa Clair figures it out.
And joined Calvin at the top.

The two cats stared at each other. Ears flicked. Eyes squinted. Volumes were spoken. Calvin poked Elsa Clair.  Slowly, grudgingly, the interloper conceded the victory. Besides, the top of the medicine cabinet was boring.

The staredown

Elsa Clair left.

Calvin wore his greatness like a crown the rest of the day.

Calvin, King of the Bathroom

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bowled Over

You would have thought that the family member with the opposable thumbs would be able to feed three dogs and four cats without dropping the one breakable dog bowl.

You would have thought. Particularly if you were Lilah, whose bowl I had broken.

Poor sweet Lilah. The other dogs wouldn't even have twitched a whisker at the prospect of eating from a new bowl. But for Lilah, whose Border Collie attentiveness means nothing gets past her, it's a challenge.

When Ms. Lilah first came to live with us, she was a bit skittish. And by a bit, I mean very. She didn't like New Things. Like a garden hose. Or a plumber's wrench. Or a box delivered by the UPS man, who had to toss a dog biscuit her way because she was afraid to come closer.  So many things made Lilah anxious or startled her: a school bus on our morning walk, a piece of furniture moved out of place while she was gone.

But that was a few years ago, and with lots of training and practice, and a wonderful game we call Touch it With Your Nose, Lilah today is a calm, sweet, well-adjusted dog who is truly brave and rarely nervous. Just ask Jasper and Tucker, the boys who hide behind me at the vet's office, while Lilah wags her tail and greets the vets with a swishy sweep of her tail and a gentle kiss.

But Lilah is still a bit picky about her food bowl, and doesn't like it when her collar tags clang against the sides. She'll still eat, but you can tell it unnerves her, as she paces around her bowl, trying to find a way to eat each morsel without the accompanying jarring bangy noise.

Which is why I felt so bad about breaking Lilah's special yin / yang dog paw ceramic bowl this weekend. And why I had bought her a new one by the next day, though she did have to endure a couple meals with the Nasty Metal Bowl, even though I took her collar off the make it a little easier for her.

The new bowl was also ceramic, and had an added feature of a rubber bottom so it didn't slide across the floor as Lilah ate. All was right with the world, or at least with dinner that day.

During the after-meal Inspection of the Other Dog's Bowls to See if They Left Anything, Tucker figured out Lilah's bowl had a small curved lip around the top. Which meant he could pick it up. I caught him at it: "Tucker, Drop It." (One of our favorite and oft-used commands is Drop It. It's used almost as frequently as Leave It.)

I was ready for my own breakfast, opening the fridge to get my Greek yogurt, when I heard the crash. I  saw the unmistakable ropy tail of Mr. Tucker disappear around the corner as I found the shards of the new bowl on the floor.

Poor Lilah. Back to the Nasty Metal Bowls.

I will work with her on getting used to eating out of various different containers, but in the mean time, I went online and bought two replicas of her original--and comfortable--bowl.

And now that they've arrived, she's quite content.

(You can read more about Lilah's journey to overcome her fears in a previous post, "Lilah Becoming Brave.")

Lilah enjoying her new old bowl.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Carpet Shark Attacks

With three dogs and four cats in the house, one does not need to channel surf to find something entertaining to watch. Usually, all you have to do is look around until you find a four-legged Someone to provide amusement.  More often than not, there are several at hand. Particularly for me, since I tend to travel the house with a dog and cat entourage.

Calvin is such a funny cat that he nearly always provides a laugh or two or seventeen. I'm not so sure the dogs agree, but they are very tolerant of his antics. The other day, he was in a bit of a mad cat mood and decided that his toy of choice for the moment was Lilah. He became Calvin the Carpet Shark, a dastardly denizen of the family room, who preys on its unknowing inhabitants. The kitten crouched down low, waggled his little butt and pounced in Lilah's general direction. 

Lilah, bemused, nosed him and ever so gently took one of his paws in her mouth. He rolled over on his back and grabbed her with his claws. Not meanly, just playfully. And he showed her his Big Kitty Jaws of shark teeth--to make a more powerful impression.

Of course Lilah was spectacularly unimpressed, but she went along with the game, standing quietly through the Calvin attack. At one point, it look like he was Velcroed to her face, but she didn't mind. The cat continued swatting and rolling, adding a few mews for effect. 

It was definitely worthy of a giggle or two on my part, but I didn't let it go on too long. A toss of a furry mouse magicked Calvin the Carpet Shark into Calvin the Great Mouse Hunter, and off he ran. 

I believe the slow wag and quick glance Lilah gave me as she lay down with a sigh could be loosely translated as a thank you. 

I swear, it's better than Animal Planet. And it's 24/7.

Lilah, you have something on your face. Oh, wait, that's Calvin.