Chewbacca and the Love of Dogs

Chewbacca was a Wookie.  I think of this every time I think of my dogs.  They remind me of Chewie – brave, loving, loyal and smarter than others give them credit for.

Me circa 1980 with my sister, Perky.

During my entire childhood, we always had dogs.  When I was born, there was a child before me.  Her name was Perky and she was a Shetland Sheepdog.  She was beautiful, and I had the pleasure of having a wise, kind, older dog sibling.

After my brother was born, my parents got another Sheltie.  Her name was Little Bit.  She had a little bit of an under bite, which Crazy Pat (my mom) said disqualified her from being shown around Houston, but she was the sprightliest dog around.  I would dress her up and call her Bitsy, Itsy Bitsy or Nugget.  She was hilarious.

Bitsy (closest to camera) and Perky.

She would follow my brother and I all over the neighborhood as we rode our impressive Big Wheels.  Bitsy would chase us when we moved to bikes and sit longingly on the porch watching us when we left with friends.  We were never without Little Bit.

Growing up with dogs was a must.  Unfortunately, humans usually end up outliving these amazing animals.  Perky passed away when I was 14, and Little Bit soon followed – less than a month later.

We were without dogs for two years.  It was miserable.

CJ, or Cajun. The best dog ever.

Luckily, my grandfather, who was a dog guy himself, sent us the perfect gift.  He put a little Sheltie puppy on a plane from New Orleans to Cleveland.  This was the sweetest little dog – who we fondly named Cajun, or CJ for short.  CJ was, like most Shelties, full of personality, spunk and herding skills.  He was the best dog, and continuously herded me away from some crappy boyfriends. By the time I graduated from high school, CJ was not only a sibling to me, he was my protector.  He was just as smart as most of my guy friends and much more empathetic.  He was a peach.

Romy, post Christmas lights.

At the end of my time in college, my best friend Callie gave me a golden retriever puppy.  We named him Romeo because he was such a love.  He showed us how much he cared by eating an entire strand of Christmas lights, and pooping on certain people’s shoes (including one dude I had a huge crush on – had being the operative word here).  After graduation, it was me and Romy (I shorted his name a touch) against the world.  Once, when a boyfriend broke up with me, Romy lifted his leg on the guy’s spanking-new car’s tire.  Ahhh, the good old days.

As Roman (this is what The Captain called him) aged, The Captain gave me an anniversary present – another golden.  We named her Lucy, although secretly I called her (and still do) Lucifer.  She was a maniac.  Of course, by this time, Romy was up in age – almost 9 – and all of his insane youth was well forgotten.

Lucy, aka Lucifer. She is a sweetie. Most days.

Lucy and I would go rounds.  She didn’t want to go to the bathroom outside, she didn’t want to sleep in the crate, she didn’t want to be alone for one minute.  It was quite a nightmare training her.  And she was strong, so taking her to dog training class was a complete and utter horror.  I gained a lot of upper body strength training Lucy.  Finally, Lucy settled down, and Roman, sadly, did not make it past age 11.  Lucy was alone for three years.

My daughter, Maisy.

And then came Maisy.  Here is a link to how I persuaded The Captain to go for another dog.  Maisy is a Havanese.  She is a fluffy, prissy little thing and oh, so charming.  She is my alter-ego.  If I was a dog, I would be Maisy – fuzzy, vocal and right next to whoever would give me a special snack or attention.  She is a doll, as am I.  😉

My dad still has dogs.  Two rescue dogs that are vivacious little critters.  We Facetime and get to speak to the dogs.  It is quite a treat.

The Captain’s family was also a dog family.  They always had a pooch, but usually not by design.  They didn’t visit the breeder or check the newspaper for certain dogs.  They were given dogs that were older or couldn’t be placed in a normal home.  One interesting story is of a toy poodle they were given named Jacques.  Apparently, The Captain and his brother, Coach, were fond of making Jacques crazy.  They would taunt this poor dog, who would growl at them and snap at them.  But the dog closest to the in-laws’ hearts was named Mabel.  The in-laws, let’s call them The Legend and Salt, lost this special dog last year.  Mabel, who we fondly referred to as The Captain’s sister, lived a long life.  The Legend took it hard.  He became the Soup Nazi (Seinfeld) about dogs.  I would ask him, “Hey, how about looking at a new dog?”  His reply, “Grrr, no dogs for you!”

My father believes in getting back on the horse, and this is not just because he lives in Texas.  He has loved and lost animals that were close to his heart, but he always finds room in his heart to accept a new dog – not as a replacement, but as a new companion.  I, too, feel this is important.   So I pushed the issue with my in-laws.

Chewie, the newest dog addition.

The Captain warned me not to do this, but I had to.  They had to have a new dog.  They both could use a special buddy.  They needed a pal to wag their tale and welcome them every morning.  So, I went on a quest to find them a great friend.  And I succeeded.  A male Havanese who looks like Chewbacca.  He could be a miniature Wookie. It was time to get back on the horse, so to speak.  And the best part?  They named him Chewie.  Oh yes.  Han Solo would be proud.

Chewbacca was a Wookie, and the in-laws are happy.  Love those dogs, and may the force be with you.  With dogs, that is.

Feline Retirement Villa

Yesterday I received an email from our veterinarian sending Happy Birthday wishes to our cat, CC.  The email showed her age – 16 – and had a handy link for what to expect for cats who are 16.

Not thinking, I clicked on the link.  It said that CC was close to an 80-year-old in mind, body and spirit.  It also said to write down any strange behaviors she may be having.  It also said it was time to talk to the veterinarian to prepare “and make her comfortable” for her last years.  Geez.

Sixteen years ago I brought an adorable little calico cat home to my mom, Crazy Pat.  I was in that “I just got out of college and have no clue what to do with my life” phase and was living at home.  I knew it was only a matter of time before I would leave again, and thought the sweet kitten would be perfect for her.  My mom named her CC – or calico cat – and dearly loved her.  I moved out, and CC and Crazy Pat were very happy.  I got married and had a baby, and CC and Crazy Pat were still going strong.  But, when Crazy Pat got remarried, her husband was allergic.  CC came to live with me.

Looking at her birthday email, I realize that CC has been exhibiting strange behavior.  Last year, CC decided she no longer enjoyed being on the main floor of our home.  She sequestered herself upstairs, away from our dogs and the everyday happenings in the house.  She would and still will not venture downstairs come Hell or high water.  Apparently, the rooms upstairs are more “comfortable” for her, and she lives up there like it is her own personal studio apartment.  After yesterday’s email, my husband said that our upstairs has now turned into our very own feline retirement home.

There are some issues with the calico cat being upstairs and only upstairs.  She has a litter box and cat food up there, and we have to have a baby gate at the base of the steps so the dogs don’t enjoy the litter box and cat food.  I thought with my boys being seven and ten, I could do away with baby gates, but that has not come to pass.

Since CC is alone for most of the day, she gets pretty hyped up when we come upstairs.  Unfortunately, we are usually spending time upstairs sleeping.  Upstairs is not a hang-out spot in our home, but CC would like it to be.  Instead, she walks all over us as we are sleeping.  Literally walks on us.  It makes nighttime such a pleasure.

Is it normal for a cat to drink out of the toilet?  This is something I am going to put on my strange cat occurences list.  CC drinks out of the toilet, the sink and jumps in the shower after we get out to, you guessed it, drink water.  She does have a water bowl upstairs in her apartment, but that must not be filtered correctly.

CC is very busy.  When she is not being a night walker, she amuses herself by scratching on the bathroom door at 4:30 in the morning.  I keep a Webkinz (stuffed animal) cardinal on my nightstand, not because I am still 11-years-old, but to swiftly throw at the bathroom door so she will stop scratching on it to be let inside and visit her toilet water bowl.  Don’t call PETA on me yet…I don’t aim for her, just the door.  Strange?  Yes.

Thinking more about CC, I think she is nowhere near 80 in mind, body and spirit.  I actually think she is more like a new retiree, having fun, staying up late and just wanting to downsize.  I think I may wait a while to talk to the vet about her, and just hope for some more strange stories to share about her in the future.

CC enjoying her throne. This was taken by my fav pet sitter, who was surprised by the "strange" cat behavior.

Puppy love

Originally posted on my photography blog, but I liked it so much and it rings true that I wanted to share it on my real blog!

I started a crusade in 2009.  It was to get a small dog.  I know this sounds silly, but I had to start early, do a lot of research on breeds, drool at the cute puppies every night on the computer and drive my husband crazy.  By April of 2010, I had succeeded in my mission (driving him crazy, of course!)  Seriously, it took a Dogs 101 episode on Animal Planet to do the trick.  Hey, whatever works, right?

Let me start from the beginning.  When I was a little girl, my grandmother Charlotte was dog-sitting an adorable white, fluffy Maltese dog named Sunny.  I thought there was nothing better than Sunny.  He was cute, smart and didn’t make my allergies flair up.  He was perfect.

Zoom through time almost (gulp) 25 years later.  All I could think about was that furry sweetheart, Sunny. I already had a golden retriever, Lucy (aka Lucifer), but she, too, made my allergies skyrocket (not in a good way!)  So, I started my quest to find the perfect dog for our family.  One that would settle in (hold her own) with my da, da, dah 80 pound golden, one that wouldn’t make my allergies sail into orbit and one I could hug like a teddy bear (very important!)  And then, low and behold, I found the perfect breed of dog.  The AKC Havanese.

Here’s the rub: no one knows this breed in Ohio.  NO ONE.  My dad and step-mom in Texas were very familiar with this breed (Texans love their dogs and are up on all the cool breeds – from big to really small).  They reinforced my decision.  Now, to get my husband on board.

I started dropping hints, leaving the internet up to Havanese breeder pages, taping Dogs 101 every week, and just talking about puppies.  Then – the lightbulb moment if you will – came to me.  I would start saying I wanted to have another child.

It worked.  In May of 2010, we picked out a beautiful little Havanese puppy from a great family in North Canton.  In July, we got to take her home.  She was white with caramel spots – they nicknamed her Mickey because her spots looked like Mickey Mouse’s head.  We, in turn, named her Maisy Rosalind because of Dr. Seuss and Shakespeare.  We are funny like that.  As she has gotten older, her spots have faded and she is almost all white, like that sweetheart Sunny from long ago.


My daughter