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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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Oh, For Pet’s Sake!

Bella, Frankie and all animals!

Carlito

Sadness can be a palpable thing. It can fill up a whole house like dense fog. Days ago, it drifted around our apartment in thick curls of scentless cloud until it had permeated every inch of air and the only way to breathe was to get out of there. I felt sorry for my mom, who is mainly confined to the apartment since she left rehab, but then I realized, her sadness probably follows her around anyway. And will for awhile. You see, on Monday, we put her sweet cat, Carlito, to sleep.

Well, wait. If I’m going to do a proper remembrance, Carlito wasn’t exactly sweet. Not to anyone other than my mom anyway. He would just as soon hiss and take a swipe at you as look at you. I rarely even pet him. Except during his declining days. He grew mellow with age as even the grumpiest old men will. Or perhaps he just didn’t feel well. Being mean takes more energy.

Maybe he was just used to being alone, a cranky, forever-bachelor, when Bella and Frankie came along to pester him like rambunctious youngsters. Ugh. Maybe he could’ve gotten used to the girl. After all, she was his kind and a little more mature, but the boy? Always bouncing around the place like a happy idiot? Always sniffing butts, stealing food and trying to play? No, thank you.

My friend Matt and I used to joke that Carlito was out of sorts because he was in the minority. He was clearly a foreigner (being brown, with a name like Carlito) and stuck with a matched set. Matt said I needed to lecture Frankie and Bella on the importance of not bullying Carlito just because he was different. He laughingly warned them of the dangers of showing intolerance and feeling superior in their whiteness like white supremacists.

Kidding aside, I think Carlito preferred Frankie. I caught him grooming Frankie on several occasions. I’m not sure what Frankie thought was going on, but he tolerated Carlito’s sandpaper tongue raking over his ears with only the occasional twitch.

Bella and Carlito never groomed each other or slept together. The closest they came was eating out of the same bowl, but really that was probably just stealing each other’s food. It didn’t matter that they were eating the exact same thing, whatever was in the other cat’s bowl was better. Then Frankie would get in the mix because there is little he loves more than cat food (except, sorry to gross you out, umm … cat poo). Mealtimes would quickly dissolve into a game of musical bowls, with me rolling back and forth yelling at and trying to seperate everyone.

There was a problem sharing the water bowl, too. At first, I thought the reason there was water all over the floor instead of in the bowl was that I must have backed into it. Then, after this seemed to occur in several different locations, I decided the often bone dry bowl of water must be evaporating. Again, I tried repositioning the bowl away from all the air conditioning vents. Still empty. I was in the kitchen one day, when I heard all the splashing. Apparently, Carlito preferred to stir his water. He didn’t like to drink from a stagnant bowl. No, his water needed to be in constant swirling motion as he drank it. Of course, then he’d take his wet paws traipsing out on the porch, through kitty litter and what have you, all throughout the house.

The mess he made was only rivaled by the amount of noise he made. He would cry when he was hungry, which was pretty much all of the time. Therefore, being an early riser, I would try to be as quiet as possible getting up on the opposite side of the house. Not closing doors, not flushing the toilet, etc. It didn’t matter. I would inevitably run into something or need to turn the water on, and then there he was, suddenly appearing with a loud, demanding cry. Then it was just minutes before a sleepy-eyed Frankie and Bella would appear, the whole house then awake at five a.m. Only Mom slept through it. Or pretended to.

Sometimes I’d see the dark shape of him looming in the hallway and be able to get to him before he cried. I’d quickly set a bowl of dry kibbles down that I had left on the counter the night before. I called it hush money. Presented hurriedly to him like bankroll to a mafia boss.

In the end, it was determined the old man had diabetes, along with other unknown ailments. These days, I still awake and look down the hallway, expecting to see him there. I flush the toilet freely now, in the early morning hours. There are no litter paw prints tiptoeing throughout the house and the water bowls are always full. Life is a lot easier, cleaner, quieter. But we loved him. And we miss him.

 

Frankie Goes to Riverside

Time Out

unnamed (3)Today I’d like to take a time out from vacation mode. The ocean isn’t beautiful or relaxing today. Today it is lonely. And sad. Because today the little one-eyed pug fell in the pool and drowned.

Her name was Winnie. I got that wrong. See? I didn’t even know her long enough to get her name right and yet I feel so sad. Dogs. It’s amazing how quickly they can get under your skin and into your heart.

But really, I’m sad for Jeff. And Sonya. And another friend of mine back home who I know lost his dear dog since I’ve been here. And I know his heart is breaking.

If there is a lesson to be taken here, it seems to be the one that recurs most often for me – life is fleeting and precious and can change in an instant. My heart goes out to anyone going through a loss of any kind.

So if you have them, hold your furry friends close tonight and give thanks for them. And Mom, I forgot to say it earlier, give Frankie an extra hug for me and tell him I love him.

 

Sweet Jasmine Days

jasmine2I’ve been gone —  but not forgotten I hope. And look at when I choose to reappear. A Sunday. Old habits die hard. But if ever I needed a reminder that I did the right thing by slowing down and taking a break, it’s blooming all around town. These are the lazy days and warm, humid nights when a heady, intoxicating fragrance invites you to sit down with a cool drink in your hand. It’s time to stop and smell the jasmine.

What have I been up to, you ask? Well, I’m not sure. A whole lot of nothing, I guess. I feel like Frankie on his walks now, sprawling out to cool his belly in a nice shady patch of grass. He sniffs the gentle breeze and looks up at me as if to say, “What? It’s hot!” There isn’t a thing he’d rather be doing and he’s got all the time in the world to make it around the block.

Let’s see, I’ve finished reading one novel and started another. That’s something. I wrote a piece for my writing group. And I’ve been able to compose a long letter to my grandma, proving it’s not a completely one-sided correspondence. Other than that, I’ve sat on my front deck under the shade of an awning and a giant oak with my supplies (wine, cheese and crackers) and watched the world go by. Hey — it’s the start of summer. It’s called a summer break, remember? And no, I’m not in school anymore, but still.

I’ve even managed to crawl in the pool now that it’s warming up. I say crawl, but really it’s more like a scoot. I bump down the stairs because our pool lift is broken and in the process of being repaired. But ever since “the incident,” when anyone heads into the pool, Frankie disappears into the air-conditioned house.

“It” happened last year. Frankie was innocently hanging out by the pool, trying to impress us with his tricks and earn a treat. My mom was asking him to ‘dance,’ which in theory involves standing on his hind legs while making little hops in a circle. Frankie hasn’t exactly mastered the command, but continues to try in earnest, performing all his tricks at once, morphing them into one desperate-to-please attempt I prefer to call his ‘breakdancing.’ He jumps high into the air, sits and raises a paw to shake, spins, then throws himself down to roll over — all with lightning quick speed. He tries it all repeatedly to see which magic combination might release the sacred morsel from the outstretched hand.

He was hard at work during one of these breakdancing sessions and by the edge of the pool when it happened. He was springing high into the air, while my mother moved her hand above his head. As she began to move her closed fist in a wide circle, Frankie leapt up, out and over the pool and, his eyes on the treat the entire time, came down into the water with a soft  ker-plunk and a little splash. When he bobbed back to the surface and immediately began doggy paddling, panic ensued. He’d never been in the pool before. And his eyes, wide with fear, conveyed the fact that he didn’t really care for it. I was speechless and motionless. Meanwwhile, my mother let out little “Oh – oh – oh’s” as if trying to remind herself to stay calm while facing the giant reality that she was the only one that could save the day. She cautiously lowered herself to the side of the pool, trying not to fall in herself, and grabbed for Frankie’s harness as he clawed at the side of the pool.

When she hoisted him out, soaked to the bone and looking half his size, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I started laughing hysterically. Frankie began shaking off and rolling on the concrete, looking thrilled. He set about drying off in that happy way dogs have after they’ve just survived that horribly unjust and grueling treatment — the bath. They detest it while it’s happening, but rejoice, misery forgotten, when it’s over. And they feel great.

My laughter just increased Frankie’s excitement and antics. My mother, on the other hand (who had motioned him into the pool in the first place, after all), remained guilt-stricken and traumatized. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry!” she kept repeating to Frankie, who refused to be brought down. He kept trotting around, shaking off. “Stop laughing! That was horrible!” she said to me. I now replayed the scene in my mind and kept laughing. In fact, now I was snorting.

“He’s happy! Look at him,” I said. Frankie was on his back, twisting from side to side.

My mother has never fully recovered. She’s careful to only ask him to ‘dance’ inside the house. Though, Frankie does head in the minute we don bathing suits. Me? I can still dissolve into fresh giggles at just the memory of the event.

This morning, I noticed the jasmine is already fading and not as vibrant as when I took the picture for this post. Just another reminder that things are always changing. So, this summer, let the jasmine remind you to slow down and savor life. It’s short. Let me remind you to keep replaying the scenes that make you laugh. And let Frankie remind you to forget being drenched and remember the drying off part instead.130329_0005

Mistaken Identity

Peke2044817113391_orig-e1329437743193As I watched the National Dog Show this past Thursday (you know, the one after the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?) I had one recurring thought. Frankie is not a Pekingese.

I mean, c’mon! Do you see any resemblence between these two dogs? And before you answer, the correct response is no. Absolutely not.

This ridiculous creature, Rodger, won Best in Group and was competing for Best in Show before he was (thankfully) edged out by a dog that actually looked like a dog, the American Foxhound. Until then, I was having flashbacks to Malachy, the 2012 winner of Best in Show at Westminster. Then I was reluctant to admit Frankie’s breed for weeks. Now I’m denying it all together.

Of course, it would only be fitting to have a comical dog win the whole thing, since the event is so ripe for comedy anyway. I can never watch a dog show without thinking of the hysterical 2000 comedy film Best in Show. And when the commentator is J. Peterman from Seinfeld! Well, I’d tune in for amusement’s sake alone, even if I didn’t love dogs.

But back to Frankie’s identity crisis.

Since he was adopted from Petco (sorry, but I think it’s crazy to be buying and selling dogs in a world where so many are euthanized), it’s certainly possible that Frankie is a mix and his lineage somewhat less than accurate. Mom and I scanned the breeds for sight of more respectable would-be parents.

lg_artwork2The French Bulldog remains a front runner because of Frankie’s size (they get up to 25 lbs. as opposed to the pipsqueak Pekingese, who’s only allowed to max out at 14 lbs.in the ring). And Frankie’s got that bulldog temperament. If you don’t think he’s stubborn, just see how long he’ll stare at you for something he wants before huffing at you in disgust and walking away.

lg_artworkThen I spotted the adorable Tibetan Spaniel and declared him another possibility. We also can’t deny the recognition on some former Pekingese owner’s faces. This leads me to believe that the show variety and the street variety are, quite literally, two different animals.

But the truth remains a mystery that only Frankie’s mother and father know the answer to. Well, them and modern science.

You see, for just $59.99 you can have your doggy’s DNA tested. Call us crazy. We’re going to do it. A simple swab of the cheek at home will tell us everything we want to know. I can just hear my friend Michele’s disdain for the idea and realize some people will find this ludicrous. “They must have money to burn,” Michele is thinking.

Not quite. But it is a luxury, I realize. What can I say? We’ve become like millions of besotted pet owners, though we haven’t sat for a pet portrait and don’t plan to. But, we can’t wait to find out. We’re clearing up the mystery once and for all. Just please don’t let him be pure Pekingese.

New Routines

mornin1I wasn’t sure about my new neighborhood when I first moved in. I missed seeing the ocean every morning. I missed hearing the seagulls overhead. Frankie seemed to miss his dog buddies. We hadn’t met a lot of new dogs or their owners on our walks at Mom’s.

“How’s it going?” a friend asked me.

“I don’t know,” I sighed. “I might as well be in Mandarin.”

Now, don’t take offense if you live in Mandarin (or some other suburb of town). I’m not trying to pull a beach superiority complex on you. I just mean, I felt very far away. I moved half a mile down A1A, but when you don’t drive, it might as well be across town.

There were no more drop-ins at my friend Michele’s for coffee. No cruising down to the corner in my power chair for dinner out or a book signing. And no trips with Frankie to Jarboe Park to watch the ducks. Frankie and I did discover a park here, but all we can watch are the homeless people.

When I thought about my old morning routines, I felt sad. Then I thought about another, more major time of loss in my life. I compared the experiences and wondered. Is it possible I was more depressed about my move to Jax Beach than my move to a wheelchair? It sounds ludicrous yes, until you realize — it’s all about acceptance.

Everyone said I’d accepted my place in the disabled world quite well. I think I’ve figured out how. I mean, what choice did I have? Clinging to what might have been is no way to live. Spending the rest of my days woulda-coulda-shoulda-ing is not for me. And there’s the answer. I needed to let go of my past to be able to enjoy my present.

I had spent my first month here trying to enjoy my old routines. I could get to the ocean, but I hated crossing Third Street. I tried to make it to Michele’s, but it took so long now I had to leave by sunrise. And I knew better than to attempt to hit the corner spots for dinner unless I had a death wish.

When I stayed in my own neighborhood and developed a couple of new routes, we met some folks. We met Steve walking Sage, Larry with Luna, and Betty and Ed who don’t appear to have a dog, but drink coffee on their porch when we pass by around 7:45. The dogs, walkers and cyclists are fewer and farther between now, but they’re out here. It’s just taking longer to meet them. I’m trying to be patient. Frankie is beside himself when anyone stops to chat, especially with a dog. He’s dog-starved.

Of course, it helps me appreciate what I have when glimpsed through someone else’s eyes.

“It reminds me of the Keys back here,” said my friend Jamie, looking at the pool. “If I lived here, I’d be out here all the time.”

Waiting
Waiting

So I’ve started eating my breakfast out there. Bella and Frankie line up by the door every morning, part of our new routine. It’s ridiculous that they both wait for me to open the door when there’s a perfectly good dog door right there. But Bella, in true cat form, only uses it when no one’s looking. I know she’s figured it out, because she appears and disappears mysteriously. She probably doesn’t want to appear graceless or un-ladylike getting her rather portly body through the opening. I have no idea what goes through Frankie’s head or why he waits for me to let him out this one time when he flies in and out the dog door regularly.

So, I’m enjoying my mornings again. Only here, it’s chlorinated instead of salt water, cardinals instead of seagulls and retirees instead of twenty-something surfers. It all reminds me of a plaque that hangs in Michele’s garden, “Bloom where you are planted.” So, you know what? I’m blooming.

My breakfast buddy
My breakfast buddy

Fear of the Fourth

Funny-4th-of-July-Cartoon-DogsI’m re-running my post from last July 4th in hopes that some doggies and their owners will find comfort this year.

Original Post:

Thank goodness it’s over.

Last night was the first night I dared leave Frankie’s crate in the living room where it belongs instead of in my bedroom. He only slept in it once all last week, preferring instead to wedge himself under the bed between unused framed art and boxes of old yearbooks. If he were playing hide-and-go-seek, he’d have lost. His hind legs and tail poked out from under the bed frame. I’m sure he thought he’d made himself as small and invisible as possible. I let him take whatever comfort he could. He’d been traumatized.

Frankie’s a little unorthodox in his other flight-taking routines, though. Instead of getting under something, he prefers to go up. Much like a cat. My mother left him alone inside on the Fourth while she lit sparklers in the driveway. When she went inside to check on him he was on top of the fish tank, scanning the walls to go higher.

Dog owners know this is their companion’s least favorite holiday, New Year’s Eve taking a distant second. My neighbors and I nodded to each other as we walked our dogs in the mornings after and exchanged comments like, “I see you two survived,” along with advice about doggy valium and something called the “thundershirt” which guarantees to reduce anxiety by creating gentle pressure. I abandoned evening walks altogether as the booming began in my neighborhood right after lunch. My mother insists this is ridiculous since you can’t even see fireworks when it’s bright out, but I guess that’s not the point. The noise is.

So, although it’s too late to help out this year, I’ve learned some important pointers for next year (and New Year’s.)

  • Resist the urge to take your pet to any fireworks displays.
  • Keep your pet indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals can become destructive when frightened, so remove any items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if chewed. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep him company while you’re out celebrating.
  • Don’t coddle or reassure your pet. The dog sees your reassurance as confirmation that there’s something to be afraid of. Talk to your dog calmly during these times and try to engage the pet in distracting activities such as playing with a ball or performing obedience commands.
  • Try accupressure points. The points that can be gently massaged to promote relaxation are the neck from behind the ears and down, the tips of the ears and the front of the paws just below the wrist joint.
  • Explore natural remedies. A bit of peppermint oil on a dog’s paw pads has a calming effect. A few drops of Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a flower essence, in the dog’s water bowl will also help calm your pet during times of stress. (We tried rubbing Rescue Remedy on the tips of Frankie’s ears and he fell asleep!)

Turf Wars

130525_0001Carlito’s a pussy. Cat. Of course, I mean pussycat. But my mom’s cat, for being such a big, strapping, good-looking tom, is a bit girly. As I settle in, I thought Mom and I would be the ones bickering over territory. Turns out, it’s the animals having trouble with whose space is whose. Actually, there’s no squabbles going on there either. From the moment we moved in, it was clear – Bella’s the boss.

I was all set to feel bad for her, having to live with two males. No need. She’s a tough lady. She keeps both boys firmly in their place. Frankie’s always known where he stands with her. In the houeshold hierarchy, there’s Bella, then him, then me, then Carlito. Mom’s dead last. I fight a losing battle with Frankie for dominance, but Mom doesn’t even enter the ring. Or bother getting suited up. Actually, in Frankie’s eyes, I’m probably after Carlito. Which is pretty bad, cause as I said, he puts the pussy in pussycat.

He’s proof you can’t judge a book by its cover. I mean, he’s really quite strong and handsome. But then he follows my mom to the kitchen and lets out this pathetic little mew. I wouldn’t even call it a meow. It’s kittenish. And downright effeminate.

My mom says he has all sorts of childhood issues. She found him, homeless in Miami, the last of his littermates to be taken in. She says he was a big kitten, too large in fact, to still be at his mother’s nipple. But there he was. And there you have it. I think his problems began there.

130518_0003Fast forward to present and Bella heads outside for her first stroll around the pool. The area outside the house has been Carlito’s territory. After all, she’s clearly an indoor girl, while he’s always been inside-outside. He meets her eyes briefly, then disappears, relinquishing any and all claims, while Bella schmoozes her way around the patio furniture. He loses inside too, but there I’m to blame — I’ve let Bella in Carlito’s space, but not the other way around.

So while Mom and I keep politely knocking or calling first, and the cats have worked out that what’s hers is hers and what’s his is hers, only Frankie has no boundaries. He barges in unexpectedly anytime he feels like it, through the doggy door I had put in. Bella sits and looks out, watching him mysteriously appear and disappear, but so far not figuring it out. Hey, I said she was bossy, not bright. 130516_0014

All You Need is Love

130421_0001
At Home on Air

We are all creatures of habit. People. Cats. Even dogs.

“Will you be sad? Lonely?” my friend Jill asked me as she blew up the air mattress in my empty bedroom. Everything in the apartment was gone. Packed up in boxes and moved to my mother’s. I’d even sold the bed. Truth is, I hadn’t expected to sell it so quickly. I still had a few more nights in the apartment — hence the air mattress.

“I don’t think so,” I said. But as I looked around at the bare walls, I wasn’t so sure. I watched her make the little mattress with my queen-sized sheets. At least the thing was high enough off the floor. I could make an easy transfer to and from the wheelchair instead of wondering how I’d get off the floor.

Later that night, I came from the bathroom, feeling exactly as Jill had anticipated. Sad and lonely. I tucked my toothbrush back in an overnight bag, a guest in my own apartment. Then I looked at the air mattress and smiled.

Frankie was sprawled out by the foot. Bella had taken over the top half, including my pillow. They both looked sound asleep and quite comfortable. I wondered how on earth there’d be room for all three of us. Frankie barely moved over when I launched myself onto the bed. Bella looked a good deal more concerned as the bed wiggled and wobbled about like a waterbed. She crept over the unstable surface, crouching low, eyes wide, ready to flee at the first sign of danger. She slowly repositioned herself, looking doubtful of the whole affair, yet not relinquishing her customary spot. I tried to make as little movement as possible, an impossible feat for me on a regular, much bigger bed. I marveled that we all stayed put. It felt like we’d roll over and topple off at any moment.

As I laid in the dark and listened to Bella’s purr and Frankie’s snore, I felt anything but lonely.

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