It’s -12°C right now (that’s about 10 °F for you Fahrenheit users). I think the coldest it’s been here this winter has been – 22°C. The drifts of snow are so high in my backyard that the dogs are having trouble finding spots to comfortably do their business. The cats act as if it’s a personal insult every time the kitchen door opens and a blast of winter air rushes in. It’s cold outside and I have ladybugs in my kitchen.
When the crop rotation behind my house is beans, come harvest time, we’re inundated with ladybugs. They cover the back of the house and creep in through cracks. You have to give the back door a good shake before you open it all the way or ladybugs will drop off the screen right onto you like nasty little assassins (despite the “lady” in the name they certainly aren’t ladylike – they bite). Because they range in colour from light brown to red, I accidentally ate one once thinking it was an un-popped kernel of popping corn. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten but it was pretty close.
Two weeks ago a big fat fly flew into my head. It ricocheted off and landed on the floor all winter sleepy and easy to catch. A couple of days later I watched one of the dogs lick a spider off the wall. It wasn’t even a regular house spider but one of those stilt legged monstrosities that lunge along like the alien machines in a H.G. Wells novel. The other night I was lying in bed and I thought I heard a mosquito. Maybe I was dreaming, or it could have been a delayed concussion from that fly whacking me in the head. On reflection it couldn’t have been a mosquito. It could have been the hum of a dying light bulb or a fly induced ringing of the ears. The alternative would be to have to wonder about the why/ how of a mosquito in my house – in FEBRUARY – in ONTARIO – CANADA. And I’m not willing to do that.
Fall is long past. It’s February which is the time of year that all the creepy crawlies and antennaed thing-a-ma-bobs should be hunkered down into whatever crevice they’ve opted for to avoid the deadly grip of the season. Having bugs around in winter is definitely something I could do without (especially the ladybugs). If I had my way the fact that it’s cold enough to freeze our pond outside should mean it is cold enough to keep the bugs down and out. Here’s the thing- Summer and fall it is warm so you put up with the bugs. Winter you put up with the cold so you shouldn’t have to deal with the bugs. It makes perfect sense to me. Now if I could just get the laws of nature to fall in line-that would be great.
Music for this post is Weezer- Go Away ft. Bethany Cosentino (Live Acoustic KROQ Soundspace)
Or if you prefer (in deference to the title of this post) here’s something from Ray Charles Hit the Road Jack
Several weeks ago I wrote about our cat Charlie and his scary health situation. We weren’t sure how it was going to turn out but I can now happily say he appears to have made almost a full recovery. It looks like it was idiopathic vestibular syndrome. He seems to have recovered his mobility and his head no longer tilts. For awhile we thought he was going to have a droopy eye but that’s resolved itself. His voice is a bit rough (he used to have a very sweet meow and now it’s sort of crackly) but if that’s the only residual symptom we’ll consider ourselves lucky!! We’re happy to have our lovely boy out and about again.
Music for this post- I Can See Clearly Now by Jimmy Cliff
Monday morning Charlie, my brown tiger tabby, ran past trying to get to the stairs before me. As he turned to go down his back feet tangled and he almost fell. It struck me as strange but he recovered immediately and raced down to the first floor. When he mewed to be let out there didn’t seem to be a problem so off he went. He was gone all day and it was after 9 pm when he finally reappeared. He was a mess. He could barely walk. His legs didn’t work properly. He looked like a furry four-legged drunk. That might sound cute in theory but in real life it was scary as hell. My first concern was that he’d been hit by a car. The second was that he might have been shot. I live in a rural area and though rare that kind of thing does happen. He didn’t seem to have any marks or tender areas. His symptoms started getting worse. There was something wrong with his eyes. It was after business hours so I decided to take him to the emergency clinic in London (about a 45 minute drive from home). He usually puts up a fuss about the cat carrier but he was quiet on the way in.
The vet technician did Charlie’s intake. We waited for the doctor to come in. It was a long wait. It was a busy night at the clinic. Charlie sat up on the examination table. He wasn’t even trying to move any more. He looked, to be indelicate, as high as fuck. His eyes were wide open but non-reactive. His head was slightly tilted back and to the side. His gaze seemed to be fixed on the ceiling lights but I didn’t get the impression that he saw them. Whenever there was a loud sound in the clinic he would flinch but otherwise he didn’t move. When the vet came in to examine him the first thing she did was put her face right up to his. He didn’t see her. She flicked her fingers in front of each eye almost tapping the surface. There was no flinch, no change in pupil dilation…nothing. She listed off possible causes (some with really long names). Then she asked me if there was a possibility that he had gotten into some marijuana. I guess she thought he looked high as fuck too. I assured her there was nothing like that in my house (there isn’t). She asked again suggesting that perhaps “teenagers might have dropped some on the side-walk”. I informed her that I live in a rural area at the edge of a small hamlet. People don’t walk in front of my house. I have farm fields behind my house but one is lying fallow and the other has soy beans in it (no place for pot plants to hide). My nearest neighbours, on my side of the highway, are ½ an acre away to the west and east but if they were smoking pot outside I would have known (no secrets in a small place). I’d had my roof re-shingled the week before but I’m pretty sure roofers, a roof with an extreme pitch, and pot, don’t mix on the job site. If my cat had gotten into something toxic it wasn’t “weed”. She explained some possibilities for tests and treatment and then went off to put an estimate together for services.
As I waited for the veterinarian to return I could hear what was going on across the hallway in another room. What sounded like a senior couple had brought their dog in. The dog had been vomiting blood as well as bleeding from the back-end. The vet was telling them, in the kindest way possible (there’s no use sugar-coating it) that she didn’t know what was wrong with their dog Mickey, that it was going to take a lot of tests and a lot of money to figure that out, and that they would need to make a decision because it wasn’t going to be a cheap or easy journey. I would see them later in the lobby settling their bill. They were taking the dog home and the wife was crying.
When the vet came back with the estimate it was $1100 to $1500. I signed the paper and put the deposit on my credit card. She mentioned marijuana again and I realized she thought I might be lying. I can’t be mad about that I guess as I’m sure they do have people lie to them. Still the fact that I had just agreed to pay up to $1500 for my cat’s medical treatment should be a pretty good indication that I wouldn’t be holding back any info that would help it. I do have to say none the less that I was very impressed with the staff at the clinic. They obviously care deeply about the animals in their care. While being completely professional they went out of their way to be kind and comforting during what was a very difficult/emotional situation.
After a battery of blood tests (all negative though that didn’t stop the day shift veterinarian from mentioning pot again the following day), and a night on IV, they were still no closer to a diagnosis. They had ruled out toxic exposure as after 24 hours something toxic would have been flushed out of Charlie’s system by the IV (resulting in a cessation of symptoms) or the toxin would have killed him. Charlie didn’t seem to have any injuries and there’d been a great deal of improvement but he still couldn’t walk properly. The vet hypothesized that it could be something called Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome. It usually goes away on its own but occasionally some long-term symptoms remain. He might have Feline Infectious Peritonitis (dry). There’s no definitive test or set treatment for that. You just do your best to make your cat comfortable until they pass (death occurs in a relatively short period of time). It might be a brain tumor (unlikely though for how quickly his symptoms developed) or some other kind of neurological disorder. There was nothing to do but wait it out so I agreed to take him home. To add to the stress of the situation, while I was waiting for them to get Charlie ready, a pet owner who’d brought her dog in had a (possible) heart attack in the waiting room. She kept apologizing to me, the vet, and the receptionist, whilst panting in pain waiting for the ambulance to arrive. After she’d gone I went to finish up the finances and realized I’d lost my credit card sometime between paying the night before and picking up Charlie to take him home.
It’s been a couple of days. I can see improvements though he still has the head tilt. I thought he was a little further along and allowed him access to the main floor of the house. He had a spill down the basement stairs. He’s very tired. He tries to do the things he could do before but his body says no. He doesn’t understand why he can’t go outside. His entire life has changed and I don’t know yet if it will be a permanent change. Despite his illness he is still his unfailingly sweet and affectionate self. He tries to rub up against legs and hands to get his loving though he often falls over as he leans in.
His medical condition has turned the house upside down. The dogs are confused by the attention Charlie is getting and are upset that they are being admonished to be careful around him. My other cat, Lola Mae, seems to think I’ve brought an unfamiliar cat into her territory. I’m not sure if he smells different or if it’s the way he’s acting that’s set her off. She’s never been the friendliest of cats but she and Charlie had an “agreement”. It was along the lines that she would do her best to not give him a moment’s peace and he would try to stay away from her. She’s called “Princess” Lola Mae for good reason. When Charlie first came home I confined him to a small room with all his necessities. Lola Mae spent some time hissing and growling at the door. She also took up hissing and growling at the dogs and everyone else no matter how nicely she was being treated. Since I’ve let him out, she’s attacked Charlie at least once and continues to show aggressive behaviour. If it turns out that Charlie’s condition is a chronic neurological disorder I may have to think about re-homing her.
It’s never been a secret that she’s the kind of cat that would do better in a household with no small children or other pets. She’s a young beautiful looking cat and when she gets her own way she can be nice. She makes lovely little chirruping noises and will come for a treat if she’s awake when you call her name. But if Lola Mae isn’t happy, no one gets to be happy. I may have a place lined up for her already with an older woman who lives with her senior mother but I’m still going to wait and see how everything turns out. Honestly I’ve never been the kind of person who takes in a pet thinking it will be anything but a lifelong commitment so the thought of possibly “giving up” on Lola leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But if Charlie’s mobility is permanently affected and he can’t protect himself from her I might have to. Time will tell.
Music for this post- Danny O’Keefe’s ‘Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues‘
Step 1: Wait until less than a week before Christmas to purchase your Christmas tree.
Step 2: Decide it’s a good idea to purchase your tree in the after dinner hours of a moonless December evening.
Step 3: Head out to the farm you usually buy your tree from to find the farm yard dark. Uncertain as to what to do, wait because you want a tree and this is where you usually get one but it looks like they’re done for the season. After what seems like an uncomfortable amount of time someone will come out of the house.
Step 4: Turn down the farmer’s generous offer to let you head back into the snow covered bush and cut down your own tree.
Step 5: Pick one of the four pre-cut trees that you only just noticed as it is extremely dark in the yard. Pay for the tree. Load it into the van and head for home
Step 6: Once home unload the tree and leave it in the backyard where it will stay for the next day and a half even though you were certain it was absolutely necessary to get it that very evening. Notice the farmer short-changed you a dollar. Well it’s dark, that sort of thing happens, and it is Christmas…so ho ho ho. You will have gotten your tree though and success deserves a glass of wine. Go ahead and indulge.
Intermission- It will rain all the next day and night. Friday morning the winter wonderland will be a sodden muddy mess and it will be very apparent that the “snow drift” in your front yard was just a light cover of snow over top of a huge pile of leaves you never finished raking because someone broke the good rake.
Step 7: Get your first look at the tree in the light and notice the elbow bend in the trunk that you missed when you bought it in the dark. Trim the stump but not too much because you paid for a big tree and dammit you’re going to have a big tree. Make sure you lay lots of plastic sheeting on the floor as it is hardwood and you don’t want that to get wet while the tree drips dry. Drag your sodden tree round the front of the house, in through the front door (pine needles, pine needles everywhere!), and spend a fair amount of time trying to anchor it straight in the tree stand. Realize this tree was just born crooked, you paid for it, and you’re going to have to live with it. It will look okay if you only view it from the front. Anyway it’s the holidays and there’s no need to get in a flap about little things.
Step 8: Shoo the cat away from the tree. Tidy up a bit. Pull the cat out of the tree. Get ready to go out to dinner and the theater with family and friends. You can decorate the tree when you get home. Shoo the cat away from the tree. Close the door to the living room. The cat will not be pleased.
Step 9: Head out for the evening. Make sure the person you’re driving into town with hates city traffic and, despite knowing it is the exact hour of the Friday evening rush hour and that Christmas is less than a week away, will become so incensed they won’t be able to enjoy the restaurant and then later, exhausted, will sleep through the first half of the play. Your other friends will stay awake so you will have people to talk to. Decide that a glass of wine during dinner might be nice. Hell, why not make it two? You should probably super-size those because it is Christmas after all.
Step 10: Return home and check on the tree. Shoo the cat away from the tree. Notice most of the water in the tree stand is gone. Put more water into the bottom. Pull the cat out of the tree. Pour a glass of wine. Check the water level and THEN notice the water leaking from a crack in the bottom of the stand onto your hardwood floor. Grab the shop vac. Turn it on. Don’t panic when it doesn’t work. Grab some towels and sop up the water. Drag the tree outside. Google shop vac trouble shooting. Fix the shop vac despite its horrible design weaknesses. Spend an hour drying your floor with your hairdryer hoping it won’t stain. It will. Drink another two glasses of wine. Go to bed.
Step 11: The next day after your breakfast meeting head to the hardware store where a clerk will convince a dubious you that their puny tree stand will indeed hold your 8 ½ foot tree. Go home.
Step 12: Realize the clerk lied to you. Hate the clerk and wonder if it’s okay to have a glass of wine even though you haven’t had lunch yet.
Step 13: Plop a bucket into the old cracked tree stand, drill holes into the bucket, and run the tree screws through it. Take your tree, which is now 6 feet tall because you so wanted the new stand to work, and put it in the old stand. Voila it’s up. Decorate your tree. Make sure you don’t put a single solitary breakable ornament on it…shoo the cat away from the tree…no tinsel either.
Step 14: Shoo the cat away from the tree. Get a spray bottle to shoo the cat away from the tree. At one point notice the tree has fallen over. Spend a half hour trying to get your already decorated tree to stay upright in the broken stand until you admit it’s just not going to work. Grab some picture wire and string it from the picture rail to your tree. Your tree will be standing upright again. Who knows for how long but yea-a-h! Have a glass of wine.
Step 15: Leave the spray bottle on the ground in front of the tree as a warning to trespassing cats. Have another glass of wine and consider whether or not it’s time to start on the hard liquor.
The music for today’s post is Neil Young’s Comes a Time. When taken in the proper light the lyrics strike me as particularly appropriate for this post.
Every year a sort of whole sale slaughter goes on in my garden. Flowers and shrubs face an onslaught of hungry over sexed Japanese beetles that skeletonize foliage leaving only fragile ghosts of delicate lacy green. I’ve seen entire plants stripped bare, left to die in the heat of the August sun. According to Wikipedia the Japanese beetle isn’t much of a problem in its native Japan as natural predators keep populations in check. Here in North America we’re not so lucky. The plants that seem to attract the beetles to my yard include hostas, hollyhocks, snowball viburnums and corkscrew hazels. The beetles’ M.O. is to set up shop in these plants and fill their days and nights with snacking and shacking up.
I decided this would be the year I fought back. An internet search was narrowed down to two popular methods of attack, each with their merits and draw backs. The manual approach is to place a container of soapy water under the plants and knock the beetles loose. The beetles are quite clumsy and usually drop right into the water and drown. Effective I suppose if you have twenty-four hours a day to sit in the garden like some kind of beetle chaperone keeping an eye out for any sign of beetle hanky-panky. The other suggested method is a Japanese beetle trap that uses scent to lure the beetles to their doom. The traps could be effective if used correctly but if used incorrectly might draw more beetles to the area. Given the mixed reviews I thought I’d try both.
I bought two traps but decided to only set one up. I had read how the traps worked so I already knew that floral or pheromone scent was what attracted the beetles. When I opened the package I found the manufacturers had been much less euphemistic. The outside packaging indicated I had bought a “Biolure Beetle Trap” the inside literature made no bones about it- I had bought a “sex trap”. I’m not big on the old “nudge-nudge wink-wink” type of humor. I do remember watching some of the old ‘Carry On’ movies on Sunday afternoon television when I was very young but I primarily recall being vaguely repulsed by the innuendo while enjoying the slapstick. Still when I read Japanese Beetle Sex Lure (no biolure euphemism there) on the bait package and saw one of the ingredients was something called PEP well my brain did a little 360 and once it started it would not stop. It was wincingly juvenile and yet I just couldn’t (and still can’t) help myself.
“PEP” Really? I thought…PEP? What was that? Some kind of Japanese beetle Viagra? What if I got it on my hands? Ew-w-w-w. Would beetles chase me around the yard? I told myself not to be so silly. I gingerly put the bait package down and picked up the little plastic walls that would form the top of the trap. The instructions said to “slide the vanes together at the slots to form a cross”. I slid the vanes together and in my head a little voice whispered scissor together. This thought was immediately followed by an intense self-irritation manifested through my aware interior voice answering that whisper with an “OMG REALLY???” Did you really just think that? WHERE did that come from? But it didn’t stop there. To my chagrin everything about the process seemed to engage the formerly unknown juvenile that hitherto had resided silent in my head. I tried to be careful when I peeled the cover off the bait package. I tried not to get it on my skin but I couldn’t avoid smelling it because it smelled really strong. A-a-a-a-a-ah I didn’t want to smell it but I couldn’t help it! The voice inside my head said that’s what Japanese beetle sex smells like. Some part of me acknowledged that, as if I would need to know it sometime in the future. Will that be the answer to some long far off crossword puzzle clue? Will I meet an entomologist someday and need a topic to make small talk about? Ugh why would I do that? Talk bug sex talk with an entomologist. They might think I was making some sort of overt pass at them. If you’re curious I can tell you that it smelled like cloves. There, now you can make bug sex small talk with an entomologist. There’s some underlying pheromone thing going on (that’s how it works for people too) but to my very human nose it smelled like my kitchen when I’m making spiced coffee cake.
Setting up the trap wasn’t rocket science and before too long the bag hanging below (see there it is again) was full. There is a bug bordello in my backyard that smells like spice cake and I am the bug bordello Madame. I get that it smells all sexy (Love for sale, appetizing young love for sale) but it doesn’t look anything like a den of iniquity. Maybe the pheromones are hallucinogenic (Love that’s fresh and still unspoiled) and the beetles hear a siren’s call or imagine they see the seduction of will- o’-the-wisp fairy lights leading them on (Love that’s only slightly soiled, love for sale).
The disposable collection bags are just plastic bags with holes in the bottom so the rain won’t fill them up. The beetles don’t die right away. As a matter of fact by the amount of writhing that seems to be going on in the bags I’m pretty sure they are still doing it. Even in the throes of death they are still getting it on…orgy style (OMG will it never stop?). Each new addition to the trap is probably doing it right on top of the dead beetles that were trapped there days before. Maybe the new beetles are even doing it with the dead beetles. Maybe they’re self-aware. Well that took a dark turn. Maybe they think the entire world is ending. It’s the Japanese beetle apocalypse. There’s nothing left to lose so they might as well screw. I imagine I hear the chorus of Ultra Vox’s “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes”. SHUT UP Ultra Vox in my head.
I’ve only managed to get rid of a dozen or so beetles by knocking them off the plants into the bowl of soapy water. That might simply be that there hasn’t been as many on the plants because of the traps. I’ve had to change the bag three times in the past week. I think I’ve trapped over two hundred beetles. Holding a bag heavy with Japanese beetles I can see little legs waving out of the drainage holes on the bottom. I wonder why they don’t climb out of the bag. I think I’m killing them with sex. It’s a sexy, sexy, death, and then, Should I shake the bag? NO! Just put the full bag in the garbage…sigh… It’s like I’m arguing with a 12-year-old psychopath but not out loud because he/she is sitting inside my head.
Do you think a time out will work or is it too late?
Songs for this post.
My U tube search for music for this post was a hilarious excursion. Did you know Tom Jones has a song called ‘Sex Bomb’? I had to look up the lyrics. Though he was singing “infrared to see me move through the night” to me it sounded like “infrared semen move through the night” (what???) . I decided to double check just in case I run across one of those obscure crossword puzzle clues. I’m not linking to the video. I’m embarrassed for him. You can look that one up yourself. I found many, many other things that were funny both to my adult self and the wayward child inside but I digress.
I thought I would include the Cole Porter classic ‘Love for Sale’ as I used the lyrics above but there were so many good versions I couldn’t choose. Some of the runners-up were the Vengaboys ‘Boom Boom Boom’, Nazareth’s ‘Love Hurts’, Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ and Barry White’s ‘Can’t Get Enough of Your Love’ but I finally decided on the ones below.
Redbone’s ‘Come and Get Your Love’ .
Crowded House with ‘Into Temptation’.
Ultra Vox’s ‘Dancing with Tears in My Eyes’.
This painting is SO close to being done I can almost taste it. Today was going to be the day. I have the hook on the wall with a place ready for it to sit until it’s time to varnish it. I’ve screwed the tabs into the stretcher and strung the picture wire across the back. There’s just a bit of this to do and a bit of that but still I’m sitting here at 3 am and it just WON’T. COME. TO. AN. END. I really was going to get it done today but when I took the dogs out this morning (I should clarify my morning is your afternoon as I usually go to bed around 5am) I spotted a wee white bunny in my vegetable garden. It was sitting behind the pegged down wire fence, hunched right up against my peas. It could have fit in the palm of my hand. The white of its fur stood out in bright contrast to the garden greenery. It’s not winter here so those who know better might be surprised by the colour of its fur as the hare (not rabbit) native to this area wears a subtle shade of sable and grey in the summer. Several years ago some well-meaning idiot (the emphasis is on idiot) decided to let their domestic rabbits enjoy an outdoor environment. Since then these very cute but extremely destructive furry bundles have taken over the hamlet. They’ve forced out the native species, attracted apex predators like coyotes, and destroyed lawns and gardens. Despite this some people love them and add to the problem by feeding them. Others are not so enthusiastic. One gent down the road was shooting and eating them. He stopped when he discovered a “wormy” one.
With my sweet peas in jeopardy, unhappily it was time to call on my inner Mr. McGregor. I didn’t scheme to bag up the bunny to trade for tobacco but I may have accidentally trapped him/her in my garden shed. As soon as I saw it, I hustled the dogs into the house as a bunny is just an interesting chew toy to them. Being the grown up full-sized adult that I am, I then went to the wood pile to get a stick so I wouldn’t have to come too close to the wee little bunny. I’ve seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail so I knew I had to be careful. I was going to try to prod it out of the garden from a very respectable distance with the longest stick (remember it was the size of a new-born kitten) that I could find. I stepped over the fence and moved towards the white bundle of fur with my stick a-a-a-and it bolted. That was a bit of a surprise. Normally rabbits freeze instinctively as predators are attracted to motion. This little guy took off like a flash towards the garden shed that makes up the back wall of my garden enclosure. It headed towards the shed and then right up under the wall. Damn it! So off I went back to the house to get the shed key.
I couldn’t find the bunny inside but to be honest my garden shed is very messy as well as very old. It looks like it might have had lathe and plaster in it at one time. The bunny had squeezed in under some rotting boards at the bottom of the wall. I spent several hours removing board so rotten I could pull it out by hand, replacing it with new wood, and tidying up the shed. I did my best to be as noisy as possible by banging things around exclaiming “Why on earth is this still here?” or alternatively “Why isn’t this in the garbage?” and occasionally cursing as I encountered cardboard boxes full of mouse droppings and curtains of dust clotted cobwebs still very much inhabited by their creators. I made enough noise to scare any passersby so the bunny should have been well on its way. I finished up by making sure the fence was firmly pegged down. I had to close the shed door though as an open shed door is an invitation to other even more problematic visitors like raccoons, possums or skunks.
There’s just something about this painting. I could attribute it to an adverse universe but that’s just an excuse. It should have been done over a month ago but it isn’t and I’m not sure why. I really want it done. So why have I started to write the two plays I’ve been roughing out in my mind for the past couple of months? Why have I completed an abstract painting, started another landscape and prepped saw blades? The bunny came out of nowhere but really the plays, the blades, the abstract, and this blog entry (AND the other two I’ve started but haven’t finished yet) that I’m writing, as I enjoy a gin and tonic and sing along with an old blues CD, don’t need to be done right now. I should probably confess that I’m actually singing quite loudly. The dogs are used to it, the cats don’t care about anything I do unless it has to do with gratifying their needs or desires, and I’ve got the windows closed so the neighbours can’t hear me. I’ve a half-acre on either side between the houses but it is the country and voices carry. Goodness…now I’ve taken some pictures of my messy work space.
Another confession, there was some arm waving and a brief bit of “chair dancing” as I uploaded the pictures. So-o-o I think it’s going to be one more day (night) for this painting. I hope the bunny got out of the shed. I’ll check when I get up. I’m not really the true Mr. McGregor type.
There’s a part in this post that’s about pet bottoms. It’s not horribly horrible but I thought I should mention it for those who prefer not to read about those kinds of things. Anyway as I was about to say…
We’re a pet household. Pretty much for my entire life I’ve lived with some kind of pet companionship. Our current menagerie consists of two cats and two dogs. Our pets are all relatively young so we’ve only had the occasional health issue arise. There’s been nothing serious but as most pet owners do I keep an eye out for unusual behaviour that might spell trouble. Several weeks ago I was dismayed to notice our cat, Princess Lola Mae Piewacket, “scooting” across the floor (not exactly normal cat behaviour). I’d witnessed dogs do the butt drag but it was something I’d never seen a cat do. A visit to the vet was in order. As long as I was going I thought I might as well take our two dogs along as they needed to have their heartworm tests done. Not sure what I was thinking there.
It’s really not a good idea to arrive at the vet clinic with an unhappy cat in a carrier and two socially awkward yellow labs. I normally let the dogs have a good run before a vet visit just to get them a little tired out so they’re less likely to misbehave. The heat of the July midday sun ruled a run out. So that wasn’t a great start. The overstimulation of a car ride with a caterwauling cat added the perfect incentive to go wild in the clinic environment where evidently everything smelled fantastic, and the kittens ready for adoption wandering around were enchanting, and other dogs were a possible danger, and there were people whose bottoms may not have been goosed by a dog’s nose before that had to have that particular experience. I’m lucky I didn’t pull a back muscle trying to rodeo the dogs while balancing a carrier that barely contained the heartfelt indignation of one unjustly confined feline. The upshot was apologies to all the staff at the clinic as well as some other clients for the overly friendly attention of my dogs, a summer’s worth of Revolution (protects against fleas, ticks, heartworm, etc.) for everyone, and a surprise backside procedure for Lola Mae (neither the cat nor I had any idea that cats could require this kind of “expressing”- her look of betrayal haunts me still). But wait there’s more.
I was sent home with a small container and instructions to take samples. I did and then duly submitted said samples for testing. I hoped for the best, expected the worse, but was still taken by surprise when the vet tech called several days later. I was informed the test results had come back positive. What I thought I heard the technician ask me was…had I heard of “Bieber Fever”. I was caught completely off guard. Was she telling me that my cat had a case of “Bieber Fever”? For those of you who don’t know this refers to a condition common amongst the fandom of Canadian pop star Justin Bieber. I’m not a fan myself (many moons ago when I was a teenage girl I was more of a DOA, The Smiths and Sex Pistols kind of fan) but to each his own. In the eternity that it seemed to be taking for me to process what I’d just heard, I wondered how Lola Mae could have experienced any of Justin Bieber’s music, never mind having become such a fan that she developed the “Fever”. Was scooting your butt across the floor a symptom of this fever? How was this determined from a fecal sample? Of course I didn’t say that.
What I said was, “Sorry, what was that?” The vet tech then went on to explain that BEAVER FEVER (which I had misheard) was actually an uncommon occurrence in an indoor cat. The medical name for Beaver Fever is Giardia. It is caused by a parasite that’s usually found in streams frequented by wildlife (such as beavers, hence the name) and can be spread through the usual way these things are passed along. People can get Giardia too. I have a friend who is a lab technician and she informed me that it sometimes pops up in rural communities with poor water sanitation facilities. We think the dogs might have picked it up at the kennel whilst we were away in May. The property has a stream that runs through it. The dogs had some digestive issues when we brought them home so it’s sort of the logical conclusion.
We’ve just finished 5 days of treatment for all four of our pets. No pills but liquid and syringes. Our larger dog is 90 lbs and he had to swallow an ounce of medicine. Do you know what happens when you try to shoot an ounce of chalky white liquid down the back of a dog’s throat with a syringe? It comes right back up. This animal will eat its own vomit or any type of exotic animal scat it comes across but refuse to lick that medicine up off the floor. A bottle of medicine, by the way, that cost us $98.00. As for the cats, well there might be some permanent scarring from the “cat incident”. I can tell you it was not a happy time for anyone. We’ll have to wait a couple of weeks and test again to make sure everyone has a clean bill of health. Here by the way is a poorly edited picture of what my cat might look like if she was a “Belieber” (that’s what they call people who have Bieber Fever).
When I looked on-line I discover a whole world of Justin Bieber “swag”. After the costs associated with our last vet visit I’m positive I couldn’t afford to support the habits of a true Belieber. I think overall we have to count ourselves lucky. It’s not known if there’s any cure for Bieber Fever but at least with Beaver Fever we’re confident we have a fighting chance.
Music for this post
If you haven’t heard of him, firstly I would be very surprised but secondly, here are two links to Justin Bieber videos. The first “Baby Baby” is the original Justin. He’s evolved a new style as he’s gotten older which you can experience in the video “Boyfriend”.
My cat really is cute despite the awful picture I made of her. By the way I personally think that cats shouldn’t wear hats in real life unless they’re a Dr. Seuss character. It took me a terribly long time to make the Lola JB Swag image. The computer with my photo editing software on it isn’t working right now. I edited that picture in…wait for it… Microsoft Word. I then converted it to a PDF, printed the screen shot and pasted it into Paint where I cropped it and then saved it as a jpeg. Pretty sad really when there’s free editing software that I could have downloaded and later deleted. Truth be known that picture of Lola isn’t my first horribly edited photo. I occasionally make and send them to my friends and family because I NOT so secretly enjoy making images that look really tacky. It just doesn’t normally take me as long as this did because of the software issue. Here’s one I made for my nephew who is 19 years old. He loved it.
It’s been a relatively cool and damp year so far which has been lovely for the flower beds but not so nice for the vegetable garden (which went in very late this year). I live in an old house and I inherited a very large amount of what grows in my flower beds (though I have made some significant changes). We’re located in a Carolinian region and I’m happy to see native species stake their claim in among the heritage varieties and garden center additions. We have a small pond that we stock with shubunkins to keep down the mosquito population. Unfortunately the damp spring has created other opportunities for mosquito populations to thrive. Our home is located a 5 minute drive from the Lake Erie shoreline which means lake flies often swarm the yard in late spring. This year’s lake flies and mosquitoes have really discouraged weeding so the garden has run a bit amok but it is beautiful in its untamed state. I do have to admit I’m a bit concerned about the weight of some of the untrimmed hedges in regards to the trellises that hold them up. Hopefully they will hang on until the conditions are a little more amendable to yard work. I’ve attached an album of garden photos (a small selections of shots taken over the past couple of months) . We’ve not had a lot of sunny days. I suppose I could shoot RAW format and edit them afterwards but it’s not my preference. It might just be me but I find that RAW images tend to have so much “noise” that it’s distracting. I did edit the levels in 2 of the pictures. One was the Lily of the Valley photo as it was just too dark every time I went out to take a picture of them. The other was the picture of our cat Charlie (same reason). I included him because, though it might not seem that way, he is involved in pretty much any picture I take outside. If he’s not rubbing up against my legs, he’s butting me in the bottom with his head or actually walking into my shots. I usually end up with at least 4 or 5 pictures of his tail or his head whenever I’m shooting out in the yard. I thought he deserved his own photo.
The song for this post is Gillian Welch’s Acony Bell for the spring flowers that brave a new season.
This odd January is full of grey and wet and wind. The unusual weather seems a misstep in the cycle of the year. Birds that should have traveled long before to warmer climes may find themselves in perilous and dire straits when the course of the season corrects itself with an icy rein. For now they fill their bellies with the leavings of a fall harvest that by all rights should be buried under a covering of wintry white. The creatures that live by the length of the days and the angle of the earth have been caught unawares by this suspicious lack of seasonal scenery and oddities abound.
As the year cools through the autumn months we usually play host to a variety of uninvited guests. Members of the indigenous bug population find their way inside drawn by the comparative warmth and the availability of entrance due to the idiosyncrasies of an old house. The most common immigrants are Asian beetles, spiders and oddly enough mud dauber wasps. Unlike the beetles or spiders, the wasps are always found below ground in the basement.
These basement visitors are known as black and yellow mud daubers. They use mud to build small nests that can be found in sheltered places such as eaves or porches. Usually an inch or so in length they are impossibly slender at the waist (hence the term "wasp-waisted”) and black and gold in colour. When in flight the hind legs dangle down, equal in length to the body, seeming to increase the overall size to twice the height. The glossy wings are long and graceful. The head is well shaped, crowned with a tiara of ebony antennae and accented by black orbs full of age old wisdom and power. All-in-all the mud dauber is an impressive creature.
It is somewhat of a mystery how something the size of a mud dauber could make its way inside. We’ve a variety of hypotheses for ingress that include entrance through the exhaust pipe of the gas furnace or through a room located off the very back of the basement. That particular room is not completely dug out and as a result carries the unknown element of an uncertain wall depth and a questionably sealed window. Whatever the way, they can be found hovering in the basement as the frost settles on the ground outside. Though the number is not great it is a startling sight to be greeted by a hovering and somewhat frazzled wasp as it searches for signs of familiarity in an unknown basement environment.
These visits occur late in the season and the mud wasp is not a social or aggressive insect so it’s been my practice to leave them alone. It does take a bit of effort to remember to look where you put your feet and hands but it’s not too much of a bother. Often I will find the alien visitor drowned in the laundry sink before too many days have passed. It seems to hold a special attraction for those late season wanderers.
Well before the ground has a chance to become snow covered the last of the wasps have gone to ground or left this world behind. This year though the unseasonable warm weather of January has created a revival in basement tourism. Unlike the wasps of late autumn these weary travelers don’t lumber through the air. As a matter of fact they can barely drag themselves across the old area carpet that covers the basement floor. A mud wasp in flight is an intimidating sight, to watch one drag itself across the floor is tragic.
Unintentionally awakened from a winter sleep, the humbled pilgrims traveling across the green wool are all potential mothers of a new line. Only the females last the winter to carry on the survival of the species. Mud daubers are not a volume reproducer. A single female will only lay approximately 15 eggs for her nest. A shame really as this type of wasp is especially beneficial in the garden, helping to keep the spider population in check. A wasp provides that control through the grizzly parasitical practice of using living prey as nutrition for her babies. Obviously we find this somewhat gruesome but for the wasp it ensures the survival of her line.
These future mothers traveling across my floor are tired and confused. Instinct tells them that it should be spring and that there are nest to be built but like Rip van Winkle they awaken to a strange and new world. As I pass by, on whatever errand that brings me below ground, the wind from my passage brushes against the gold and black bodies. Wings stir, perhaps in warning, but I like to think they stir in memory or anticipation of the spring breeze. To put them outside would mean certain death. To leave them inside, awake and confused, no real food in sight and too weak to hunt, really means the same. The unsettling warmth of this unexpected thaw has tolled a death knell for these graceful builders. They are a step out of time and as a result they will be lost along the way. Still they force themselves across the floor seeking hope in the dark corners not knowing that it is too early for the new life they carry, too late for the old they lived and only a few more steps to oblivion.
The cold will return and I will sweep up the remains of those stalwart travelers resting in those dark corners. Nothing will be left of the potential lost under the grey rainy skies of unseasonable January weather, a step out of their time and just a husk and a memory in ours.