Goodbye, Junebug

June, 2001 (copyright

June in 2001

Yesterday we said goodbye to Junebug.

Since I picked her in 2001 from among sixty inmates at the Animal Shelter of the Wood River Valley, where she’d been living for twelve months, we never really knew how old she was. According to the lady at the shelter, the scrawny black and white dog was one or two when she’d arrived, which would make her fourteen or fifteen this year.

Friends and I in Idaho’s Wood River Valley joked that she was a genuine Wood River Retriever. The product of ne’er-do-well parents sporting substantial doses of Labrador and Border Collie in their questionable pedigrees, these middle-sized, athletic, poorly trained hounds are ubiquitous in the Valley. The B.C./Lab mix gave Junebug webbed toes, an unquenchable desire to run far, far away, and a dense, fluffy undercoat protected by a long, oily topcoat, with which she performed Olympian feats of shedding.

Junie was as strange a dog as her appearance suggests, by turns cripplingly empathetic and discouragingly aloof. In spite of her flipper-like feet and waterproof coat, she did not like to swim. Instead, she preferred to wade, and after our first month as a team, during which together we watched dozens of tennis balls bob downstream and out of sight, she finally succeeded in training me not to throw tennis balls.

But if I demonstrated undue optimism in the early days, I wasn’t alone. Every morning she woke up knowing that this–this!–would be the day that she would finally catch a squirrel.

She chased cats (although it’s important to note that not once did she chase Tesserwell), and she chased foxes, but her quarry of choice was the squirrel. Idaho, where she spent her first seven years, is ideal for such pursuit, boasting thirteen species of ground squirrel. All of them were faster than June.

This morning, teary-eyed while tying his sneakers, Mbot asked me to tell another Junie story. “Juniebug woke up every morning,” I began, “knowing–just knowing!–that that day would be the day she caught a squirrel.” I zipped the bots into sweatshirts and we shuffled over the new Bermuda grass, glowing green around our shoes, to the car. “But she never did.”

“Never ever?”

“Well, there was one time….We were housesitting at Nanny and Poppy’s. Now, you know how Nanny and Poppy don’t like the smell of onions, right? For some reason I can’t remember now, I had one with me, and put it on top of my car overnight instead of bringing it inside. Then I did some gardening at Nanny and Poppy’s and Junie spent the morning racing around in the grass and woods after squirrels. Now, Junie was fast–fast as a cheetah on the African plains. But not as fast as a squirrel.

“Well, just as I was getting ready to get in the car and go home, Juniebug prances up to me, and by jigger if she wasn’t carrying a squirrel in her mouth. Oh, she was so pleased with herself! She was prancing and dancing. Can you imagine Junie prancing and dancing? I, on the other paw, was horrified. By the look of the squirrel, it had probably been dead for a day. That would explain why it was so stiff, and also why it couldn’t outrun Junie. I took it out of her mouth–she didn’t care, she was still dancing and prancing with glee to finally get a taste of squirrel–it tasted just like candy to her–Squirrel Skittles, and Squirrel Duds–and I put it on top of the car next to the onion.

“Then I went to get a bag to put it in. I didn’t want it stinking up Nanny and Poppy’s garbage. But I got distracted, and forgot about it, and finished up the gardening, and called Juniebugs out of the trees, where she was looking to double her score, and she leaped into the back of the car–can you imagine Juniebugs leaping? Just like a gazelle on the African plains. And we drove home.

“And out on the road, I said to Junie, ‘I must look awfully lovely today! Everyone we pass is looking at us. Aren’t we a couple of beautiful girls?’ And it was true: heads were turning on the highway the whole drive home.

“And then we got home. I climbed out of the car and Junie jumped out and sat looking at the car. ‘What?’ I asked. ‘It’s time to go inside.’ But she just sat looking past me, and so I turned around, and what did I see? There on the top of the car were the onion and the squirrel. I had driven all the way home with an onion and a dead squirrel on top of my car! Everyone we passed must have thought I was going to make squirrel soup. Junebug particularly wanted me to, because after all it was the first squirrel she’d ever caught. Oh, that was a happy day for Junebug!”

By that time, we’d reached school. We bundled out of the car, navigated the parking lot holding hands, hugged and kissed goodbye, Junie temporarily forgotten in pursuit of the day.

I have told the bots that we need to be thankful that Junebug was part of our family. I can’t with a clear conscious tell them that she went to heaven. Unless heaven is our collective consciousness, the narrative through which we navigate past and present and future, as real and powerful and invisible as oxygen or gravity. We’ll tell Junebug stories.

And so Junie’s having a good day, today, chasing squirrels, and catching them.

Nope, no squirrel here any more....

Nope, no squirrel here any more….

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This Cat Will Never Go to San Diego,

I should not have been surprised, as this is what happened when we painted pony statuettes.

I should not have been surprised, as this is what happened when we painted pony statuettes. Fortunately, the antique cat was out of range that day.

and not because he’s dead. The antique cat is alive and not long ago,smelled like a coconut. Along with the smell was the visual effect: he looked like he’d lost a sun lotion squirting fight. Of course he lost. He doesn’t have thumbs. It’s the price he paid for my sleeping in (6:30).

Gbot did not sleep in.

Gbot, although he insists loudly that he’s fourteen, is three.

And I’d left the Hawaiian Tropic SPF 30 sunblock in the swimming bag, and I’d left the swimming bag within fifty inches of the floor.

I did not take a picture, to preserve the dignity of the victimized party. Also to preserve the upholstery, pillows, and antique quilts. Because the antique cat was getting ready to curl up on all three, threatening to transfer the great white globs that were slathered from withers to hips onto anything that moves slower than he does.

A few minutes in the shower with the baby shampoo did the trick and the antique cat emerged clean, albeit nonplussed, and smelling like babies instead of beaches.

The sound of the shower awoke Mbot. “Mom, why’s Tesserpiglet so wet?” he asked.

I explained that Gbot had smeared sun lotion on him, and that we do not do that to animals. “Why?” asked Mbot. “Why did he do it?”

“I think to be funny,” I said. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t really know WHY Gbot had done it. “Gbot, why did you smear Tesserwell with sun lotion?” I asked.

“Because!” he replied guilelessly. “I wanted him to be cool in the sun!”

“Oh,” I said. I explained why kitty cats don’t need sun lotion. I explained that when it gets too hot for them, they go inside or lie in the shade.

“Then I will NEVER take Tesserpiglet to San Diego,” announced Mbot. “Because that’s the HOTTEST place on earth.”

I was grateful that my children are (at least attempting to be) kind to animals. I was grateful to be reminded not to prematurely assign nefarious motivations to others. I was grateful that I’d stored the Rainbow Animal Painting Kits more than fifty inches above the floor.

Mbot actually started it; the animals in his Rainbow Animals Painting Kit became a Skele-Pig and a Skele-Pony before he turned to bigger and better things. I have cropped this photo for privacy purposes, but let's just say that Mbot became Skel-Mbot, from brows to bare booty.

I’m still slightly dumbfounded that Mbot’s Rainbow Animals Painting Kit mini-statues became a Skele-Pig and a Skele-Pony before he turned to bigger and better things. I have cropped this photo for privacy purposes, but let’s just say that Mbot became Skel-Mbot, from brows to bare booty.

The Mouse-Rat-Strawberry-Creamcheese-Cupcake Ship

img046Yesterday, Mbot made a pirate ship (pictured above, upper left). We had been reading library book about pirate treasure. “Only Tesserwell and Mbot allowed,” he pronounced, while assembling his vessel, which he named, in honor of the favorite foods of the captain and first mate, “The Mouse-Rat-Strawberry-Cream-Cheese-Cupcake Ship.” Later, he said to Gbot, who also decided to build a pirate ship on the same patio, “I get Tesserwell. He’s a great pirate cat.”

I am not sure where the antique cat earned his swashbuckling reputation. It could possibly be because Mbot believes Tbug to be capable of Great Things. Earlier that morning, I’d found the ancient fellow sitting in the bath tub, a place he has always enjoyed. He looked up at me and plaintively meowed. His favorite drink besides apricot juice, preferably from someone else’s glass, is running water, preferably from the bathtub tap; preferably trickling very lightly so as not to splash his fur, so he can sip delicately from around the drain without getting his feet wet. Not to deprive him of one of his great joys in life, I turned the tap on just a smidge, brushed my teeth, and got on with my morning.

Twenty minutes later, when Mbot got out of bed and ventured into the bathroom, I heard him exclaim, “This is SO EXCITING!” He repeated it: “This is SO EXCITING! Mom, did YOU turn on the water?”

“No,” I called, lying.

“Did Dad turn on the water?”

“No.”

“Gbot, did you turn on the water?”

“No!”

Like any good detective, Mbot was eliminating all other possiblities before reaching the conclusion he suspected and desired. “It’s AMAZING! Tesserwell turned on the water!” he called, using his best deductive reasoning.

Such an impressive cat would certainly be good company on the high seas.

Gbot, who couldn’t find a ship as good as the emptied patio toy bucket, decided he’d join Mbot and Tbug in theirs. The first thing he brought on board was his toy cash register (complete with its key, which I’d lost track of long ago). He explained it was for his gold doubloons. You will see, in the picture of Captain Fishypants, above, that he made sure I drew him holding a bag of doubloons in addition to a sword. (Mbot drew the picture of himself, upper right.)

This is in keeping with Gbot’s interest in finance. Five weeks ago, he produced his first two representational drawings ever, shown below:

Abraham was notoriously not  handsome man.

Abraham was notoriously not a handsome man.

The second work in Gbot's series, "Abraham Lincoln," which represents a new direction for the artist. (Image courtesy of Gbot)

The second work in Gbot’s series, “Abraham Lincoln,” which represents a new direction for the artist. (Image courtesy of Gbot)

For those of you not schooled in the iconography of preschool stick figure drawings, it is an image of Abraham Lincoln. Behind and above him is the Lincoln Memorial. Gbot was not inspired by the great man’s accomplishments, but rather by what appears on either side of a penny.

Mbot was not pleased about letting Gbot join his crew. But if I put chocolate chip-oatmeal-walnut-coconut cookies in the cash register drawer, I think Cannonball Mbot will reevaluate whether or not his ship has room for Captain Fishypants and his booty, and the Mouse-Rat-Strawberry-Cream-Cheese-Cupcake Ship will sail.

Field Trip: The (Normally) Peaceful Prairie Alpaca Ranch

Mbot and Little Gus

Mbot and Little Gus

Meet Little Gus. He’s the one not wearing a dinosaur raincoat. Instead, he’s wearing a coat warmer than wool and soft as cashmere, in one of twenty-two natural colors.

Little Gus is a cria, or baby alpaca, and in addition to wearing a lovely coat that, when he’s fully grown, could potentially become ten pounds of Ralph Lauren sweaters or the world’s most luxurious socks, he also knows where to poop. The alpaca uses several communal waste piles in a pasture and their natural cleanliness, along with their gentle, aloof nature–two ranchers I’ve spoken with have likened them to cats–make them ideal tenants and soothing company.

The herd gains a chia in froggie boots.

The herd gains a chia with stripes.

We visited Little Gus and about ninety of his huacaya pasture-mates a few weekends ago, on a road trip to Peaceful Prairie Ranch, just over ninety minutes north in Arizona’s altiplano. (Huacaya, pronounced “walk-EYE-uh”, are the most common of two types of alpaca, Huacaya and suri (pronounced “SOO-ree.”) They live with Wendy Dittbrenner, on acreage she’s crafted into an ideal alpaca preserve, with divided pastures for males, females, crias and their mamas, visiting stock, etc. She also keeps a small herd of Merino sheep, a variety of hairy sheepdogs, and a henhouse around which colorful chickens strutted.

Wendy breeds the animals for health, temperament and fiber. Each April on shearing day, professionals wielding razors liberate the animals of their coats, which can yield from five to nearly ten pounds of useable fleece. I’m a fan of alpaca yarn–Nanny knit me a sweater of 100% alpaca several years ago, and it’s the only fiber I’ve found that rivals cashmere for its light weight, warmth, and softness.

The bots stressed them out at first...

The bots stressed them out at first…

herd black corner-001

…but they soon calmed, and stood staring, en masse….

...at the two-legged newcomer.

…at the two-legged newcomer.

Each alpaca is unique in appearance and temperament–they all had names and Wendy knew them by sight. Although the bots were curious about the big, fluffy critters, Mbot kept drifting across the yard toward the chickens. Chickens do not poop in discreet piles, they poop everywhere. And it smells vile. Mbot was not discouraged. It is confounding to me that a child who can smell dog food from across the room and identify two teaspoons of espresso in an entire batch of fudgy cupcake batter does not mind the smell of chicken poop on his boots. Nonetheless, Mbot attempted the whole time we were visiting to pat a chicken. He finally succeeded, and the hen, a silken gold and brown, stood obligingly still as a beaming Mbot stroked her feathers.

Driving home, Mbot asked if we could get another pet. “I’m ready to move on from my starting creature,” he announced. (His starting creature is the antique cat, whom he sometimes feeds and waters.)

“Well,” I replied, “I don’t think we’ll get Little Gus. They’re herd animals, and so we’d really have to get two or three, and we don’t have room for them.”

“No, Mom,” he said. “I want a chicken.”

Gbot is less interested in Little Gus than he is in exactly what his tongue can do.

Gbot is less interested in Little Gus than he is in exactly what his tongue can do.

But pictures and poop on our boots will have to do for now.

What the Cat Left (or, De-Peeing the Shoe)

The ghost of a Teva, doused in baking soda: Is there an afterlife beyond death by urination?

It wasn’t Husbot’s fault. How was he to know, when he left his new shoes on the bathroom floor before he left town for two days, that they would become the definitive piece of the perfect storm? Alone, they were just a pair of Tevas. But their presence converged with several key events to create a panic in the laundry room last Thursday. The other events were, like the shoes, unimpressive individually: a litter box that needed cleaning. A lack of kitty litter on the premises (we’d recently run out). And Tesserwell, the cat, is old and a bit crotchety.

He has been known, when the management slacks off in their janitorial duties, to relieve himself upon whatever happens to be on the bathroom floor: a bath mat. A towel. Husbot’s new Tevas.

I have always been able to clean the towels by washing them immediately (sometimes twice) with regular detergent and baking soda. But shoes?

I discovered them smelling like less-than-new the morning Husbot was due to arrive home. So last Thursday found me pulling out all my cleaning guns in an attempt to de-pee the shoes.

First I just washed them with Dreft. But even before lifting the washing machine lid all the way afterward, I smelled the unmistakable odor of kitty cologne. I dumped baking soda on them and let them sit for several hours before washing. Eau de Kitty still as strong as before. Then I washed them with baking soda and All. No change in the Pee Pee Parfum.

At that point, I consulted Google. “Soak it up with kitty litter,” I was advised. Well if I had kitty litter, I thought, I wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. And besides, if baking soda didn’t work, I couldn’t imagine kitty litter would do any better. And time was running out: Husbot would be home after dinner.

I decided against Clorox because it kills Spandex. I reached for the intensely foul-smelling but sometimes effective Resolve. I turned on the vent, doused both shoes heavily, started the washer again, and fled. If there was a detergent called “Hope,” my bottle would have been empty.

An hour before he was due home, I pulled the poor Tevas out of the machine and they smelled….

Friend to cat lovers and the spouses of cat lovers. (drugstore.com)

…as good as new.

I set them on the bathroom floor, just where Husbot had left them.

I emptied the litterbox.

I bought a new bottle of Resolve.

And everyone lived happily ever after.

I Gleefully Accept the Liebster Award Even As My Pergo Is Being Laid Crosswise

Thank you, SoapfisMom, for nominating me for the Liebster Award two weeks ago. You and your bot provide endless entertainment, and it is gratifying to know that my stories of chaos are also entertaining an audience, too, even if its an audience of under 200 followers. Such are the rules of accepting the award, and I fall squarely into that category. The rules indicate that I link back to my nominator, Soapfi’s Mom at Soapfiandotherstuff.wordpress.com, and must invite five other bloggers to join me in Liebsterland (not to be confused with Lobsterland, of which David Foster Wallace surely would not have approved, unless it was a no-kill shelter for crustaceans). I will name them below although I am unsure of their follower numbers. (The Liebsters, not the lobsters.)

I would have announced the award earlier, but springtime has brought an increased sense of racing on a treadmill set to go just faster than I can run. I’ve managed to keep the bots, myself, the dog, and the cat alive, but I usually feel like I’ve been tossed off the back of the treadmill and landed with a belly flop on the gym floor.

The proof is that the carpet is dead.

The late carpet inhabited in the bot’s room. June, the puppy who I rescued from a no-kill shelter ten years ago, who wasn’t quite potty trained, is now the eleven year-old dog who isn’t quite potty trained. And she decided a while back that the finest spot on the earth to pee was in Mbot’s room. And then, in a rare moment of inter-species cooperation, the antique cat decided she was right.

The carpet passed away in spite of liberal use of Nature’s Miracle and the friendly neighborhood Chem-Dry men.

Pergo looked like the most practical option. The price per square foot’s not bad, but labor more than doubles the cost. Husbot said, “Not this month. Preferably, not this year.”

I mentioned the alternative: ripping up the carpet and emptying fifty boxes of kitty litter onto the floor. The bots would love having their whole bedroom turned into a sandbox.

This kitty bears a spooky resemblance to the Antique Cat. Has he been peeing in the bots' room, too? (tango-beat.blogspot.com)

Twenty-four hours later, in a surprise move from left field, Husbot had ripped up the carpet, pulled out the tacks, scraped the concrete, and actually disposed of everything. I went to Lowe’s to pick out the exact product that I’d envisioned (the cheap stuff that still looked good). It wasn’t in stock, so I got my second choice. I enjoyed envisioning the new look, with the pale Beech finish brightening the small room and the long faux-planks of the laminate flooring stretching from the door to the opposite wall to visually enlarge the room.

The next day was Tuesday. Our fabulous neighbor, Mr. Jeff, who has come to my rescue at least once before when I was Locked Out, Braless, On a Monday Morning, agreed to install it with Husbot as his man Friday. The weebots and I were evicted from the premises at 8 a.m.

We’d have retreated to Grandma’s, but Grandma’d had a tooth pulled that morning. We were on our own.

We ventured to a park that we don’t normally go to, due to the presence of a duck pond Mbot fell into last summer and my desire to avoid a drippy sequel. We rode bikes. We played on unfamiliar and therefore thrilling playground equipment. We swang for a long, long, long time. We sang while we swang:

Who comes back,

Gbot comes back,

Gbot comes back to me.

He swings in the sky so high, oh my!

But he always comes back, you’ll see….

Gbot: “Sing the Gbot comes back song again!”

We did this thirty times.

We fed the ducks. Our feet stayed on the ground. Gbot decided to ride his bike to the other end of the pond, fast, all by himself. In spite of my bellowing with my Mommy Voice. Gbot did not, in fact, come back.

Fastforwarding past the traumatic retrieval and reprimand, we went to the Y, where the bots played for thirty-six minutes while I plodded for twenty-four minutes onto a low endorphin plateau via the treadmill (set to “crawl”.) The endorphins may be the only reason I made it to my martini eight hours later, after dropping Mbot at school, driving Gbot around waiting for a nap that wouldn’t come, working on my computer via the wifi in the Starbucks parking lot when the nap finally did come, picking up Mbot, and going to the aquarium and zoo for the final two hours of our lockout.

Exhausted and hot, we finally arrived home. The house was empty and the floor was in and beautiful and….crosswise.

I hadn’t mentioned the orientation of the planks because it had never occurred to me that someone might lay it crosswise.

The destruction of an assumption is always so shocking because it shows you (yet again) that the place where your imagination and your reality intersect is about the size of a breadcrumb floating on a pond.

But it looks clean. It smells clean. It is clean.

And I am still exhausted from the day.

Here is my one (sorry, pathetic, I know) nomination for inductees into Liebsterland. The remaining four must wait until I scrape myself up off the floor.

Rebecca Lerner’s firstways.com, a blog about urban foraging which probably has well over 200 followers. But still, this is an awesome blog about learning about the earth and sustainable living, which I appreciate as a mom with bots whom I’d like to be able to teach the difference between a good plant and a bad plant. (And also as a mom who just had Pergo installed. Even laid crossways, it’s 100% recycled.)

Collection Day

Collection Box in Antique Cherry finish, $280 (www.religioussupply.com)

As I was climbing out of the car after dropping the Midgets at Grandma’s for one hour while I rushed home to gather pizza ingredients to cook over at Gram’s because the chicken I’d taken out of the fridge to roast had already flown to Stinkyland, the phone rang. Husbot, from the road. All I wanted to do was go inside and not hear any voices for sixty minutes except the ones inside my head. (The good ones.)

I answered. Husbot was driving and he was in a chatty mood. He’d taken the dogs to the vet. My old ornery mixed-breed, June, had her teeth cleaned, he reported. His perfectly behaved middle-aged hunting dog “was collected,” he went on. It took me a moment to realize that he meant Striker had donated his sperm to the doggie donor bank. Striker is a nice dog, and I was happy for him that he’d had a few nice moments there. I tried to picture the procedure. Did they put him in a room with a few issues of FIDO Friendly and a fake leg?

I said it’s a good thing the vet didn’t mix it up, clean Striker’s young teeth and freeze June’s ovaries for future generations. But I admit, what I really wanted to do was say good-bye. I’ll call you later

I love my husband dearly. But I love my silence too. And these days, it’s rarer than a vial full of dog sperm. So here’s another reason why I continue to blog:

It doesn’t involve talking, or listening, or moderating an argument. It is a respite from interaction, sound, and motion. It is everything my life is not.

Did you get enough silence today?

And did you know there was a travel magazine for dogs?