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(Good Penny, Bad Penny)

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I live in a semi-rural setting, it used to be very rural until a few years ago when all of a sudden new housing developments started popping up like jack-in-the-boxes left and right, and there have always been a few feral cats running around.


There is one female in particular that always seems to somehow find a place to use as a nursery somewhere in my yard and not a year goes by that I am not trying to catch kittens, tame them, vaccinate them and find good homes for. Last year she chose a spot behind the shed for her broods, but my husband had stored some ladders there so this year she found a new spot, under my porch.


This is all well and good; the kittens will be a bit easier to catch and I might even be able to catch the mother if I play my cards right and get her vaccinated and maybe even spayed this time since the local shelters are having a free spay/neuter drive. (I have managed to catch her a few times in the past and sweet talked a vet into giving her rabies vaccines and so forth and this June she is due for her next rabies booster.)


No one asked Loki what he thought of this development, but I think that his opinion would be a veracious paw down after his recent interaction with Mama Cat.


It has been pretty hot the past few days and as a treat for Loki I went ahead and opened his pool early this year. I had gotten him one of those plastic kiddy wading pools with a slide last year and he loved it, dashing up the quick steps made out of paving blocks then skittering down the slide and pouncing around in the shallow water before scrambling back up the slide to lay down in the sun and dry off. He was full of quivering excitement as he watched me pull out his pool and give it a quick wipe down before filling it with the hose, dancing in circles then peering over the edge and barking at the swirling water as it filled.


He was so excited that he did not even notice that Mama Cat, his arch nemesis, was beside the porch watching him with feline disdain.


I turned off the hose and called Loki over to me then told him to go get his towel from the porch and with a happy yip he spun and dashed to the porch steps sliding to a startled stop at the sight that greeted him at the bottom of the steps.


There stood Mama Cat, her back at full arch, twisting slightly to the side as her tail puffed into a bristle, spitting at him and side hopping towards him. With a yelp, my brave little dog who has barked his fool head off at black bears and is not one bit afraid of dogs ten times his size, tucked tail and raced towards me eyes as big as saucers and screaming the entire way. Before I knew what was happening he had flung his little trembling body into my arms and was trying to bury himself under my shirt and me, being the supportive and loving doggy mom that I am, laughed like there was no tomorrow.


When hubby got home he was put to work placing lattice around the porch, leaving a small opening at the back, far away from the stairs, for Mama and brood to come and go but that does not give Loki any comfort at this time.


It is cooler today and the pool will not be used, which is just fine with Loki since he does not want to use the steps without an armed guard present. Mama Cat has not moved her brood, they are still under there and in a few weeks time there will be kittens staggering around and a few weeks after that I will hopefully have them inside in some old ferret cages teaching them that people can be very nice and preparing them for safe and comfortable homes. Loki knows the drills for baby kittens in the home and though he is not thrilled he does well with them and will even allow them to crawl over him and sleep next to him after they have tamed and have been vaccinated since interaction with dogs helps them adjust to a new home.


Right now, though Loki would give you a wary eye and whisper to you "Be careful of the porch - a monster lives there."


Ode to Hospital Cuisine

Down the hallway comes the squeaking of wheels,

As the kitchen staff deftly delivers some meals,

And some of you might find it quite surprising,

That the scents that came with them were quite appetizing.

And I actually lifted the cover to see,

What the Hospital Chef had prepared for me.

Although I had made the nurses aware,

Of the foods I am allergic, it taunted me there.

Eggs scrambled sat perched next to crispy fried bacon,

Even smelling it was asking for trouble making.

The aroma of coffee came with the meal,

In a brew so strong that it could tarnish steel

A single shard of toast sat limp by the side

And a sliver of melon about a finger wide.

I had told them my allergy to eggs and need for bland food,

And this gift from the kitchen did little for my mood.

Salt free I can deal with, I do all the time,

But to take away sugar and replace with artificial was a crime.

So there I sat with a meal I could not touch,

Not that I ever do eat much

But to be tempted with food I love but can’t eat

Left me feeling betrayed and quite beat

Seeing that I was not in a good mood,

My nurse asked why I had not touched my food,

I told her my trouble and she said not to worry,

That another plate would arrive in a hurry,

And sure enough it came and I looked at my stash,

And anger gave to laughter in a withering flash,

No scrambled eggs there, wilted toast or melon,

Nor bacon or coffee, just a tale worth the tellin’

On the plate sat, pretty as you please,

French toast and a sausage for dieting ease

And a tall glass of tomato juice to sip with the meal,

The nurse looked confused as my laughter did peal,

I just waved her away, it was not worth the trouble,

If that last plate was bad this one was double.

I am allergic to eggs, can’t stomach grease,

And I will not tell you what tomato juice does, if you please.

So I covered it up and decided to laugh not cry

At least this is one meal that will not find my thigh.


Poor Loki…


Sometimes I think that my faithful little service dog has gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to his Mistress—me.


When he picked me out at only eight weeks of age he had no clue that I would prove to be so severely untrainable and such a major frustration at times. Had he known he would have probably played dead or done nothing but scream his little head off the moment he met me instead of curling against me and saying with those expressive eyes of his, “Okay, you will do.â€


Our training started that very same day with the introduction of the puppy litter pan, his place to go inside the house for days when I cannot manage getting down to the yard in a timely manner for a tiny pup with a bladder the size of a thimble. We had and have a regular dog litter pan, but he was so very tiny that he could not climb into it and we had to start him out using an old cookie sheet with a low lip and the ever present puppy pads. It only took him about an hour to figure this out and by the end of that first night I was delighted to see him race over to the pan to do his business which was accompanied with much praise and festivities.


I am lucky that Loki has always been a dream to train, taking to new tasks with gusto and watching the light in his eyes when all of a sudden it clicks.


“Oh… that sound and that hand motion means I am to bring you the phone! Well, I can do that!â€


Quickly he picked up “mark it†meaning to press his nose to the item I pointed at, which then made learning how to turn on and off touch lamps a breeze. Every simple task was built on to more and more complex tasks and he always showed joy when things clicked in his growing mind. He has not only given me a helping paw when I drop things or need something, but he is a huge emotional support; helping me to keep calm and giving me comfort when feeling bad. I cry and he howls right along with me, I have a bad day and he does every cute thing he can think of to try to get me to laugh. In his training he also learned ‘tricks’ such as—stick them up followed by a bang where he hams it up in a death scene, staggering then falling over (though sometimes he ducks, tail wagging as if to say, “You missed.â€), playing a small toy piano and his personal favorite “Go snort Daddy†where he will run to my husband and jump against him, snorting loudly.


He also suffers from some pretty major health concerns and has pancreatitis, meaning that he follows a strict fat free diet and at times has attacks that mean trips to the vet and days of vomiting and diarrhea which always scare me silly. How many people can say that they share their antacids with their dogs? When he is feeling a little belly ache he will bring me the bottle for a quarter of one of my tabs, but will not touch it until he sees me eat the other part!


His biggest problem in the world is that while he is well trained, I seem to be very slow in his estimation.


He will patiently bring me the same item over and over as I drop it on days when my hands just are not working, racing for the item the moment I point at it and say, “Bring it†(he will not do it until asked, necessary because I do not want him to try to bring any medications that I might drop) and bring it straight to me, dropping it on my lap or in my hand. The first two or three times he will get the item with his usual wagging tail and smiling eyes, but after the third retrieval of the same item in a short amount of time his expression will change. The tail will stop wagging and he will start delivering the item with a little more force behind it. If I do not stop dropping it he will soon start tossing it into my lap with a very disgusted look on his face as if to say, “This is not a game, stop playing around.†If I refuse to listen to him he will eventually turn his back on me and ignore me for a few minutes to teach me a lesson since I obviously refuse to listen. He will eventually get me the item, but he will throw it at me and then take off to parts unknown in utter doggie disdain, giving me a time out.


I do believe that he would be most grateful if he could find me a good trainer to break me of this bad habit because obviously he cannot do it on his own.


I see my new primary care physician this Tuesday and get to go to see a dermatologist on Thursday. (Just another “ist†in a long line of special “istsâ€)


I am actually excited about seeing the new primary care doctor since I sent my husband in as a guinea pig first a few weeks ago to see how involved the doctor is, and watched in amazement as my reluctant hubby went through blood testing, x-rays, a stress test and being referred to a gastroenterologist for his very first colonoscopy. Not only that, but the doctor himself called back with all of the test results he has so far and wanting to jump right in for treating!


Such a huge change from our last doctor, who was a wonderful man and a pleasure to talk to but never actually got around to doctoring. He thought anything you brought up to him was very interesting but that was the extent of it.


My trepidation stems from going to see the dermatologist because I already know that there are skin biopsies in my future and I detest needles and cutting and all of that, especially since local anesthesia has a limited effect on me.


I have thickened skin on the sides of my feet that I just attributed to age, but no amount of pumice stone or moisturizer makes a difference and the middle knuckle of every finger on my right hand has a strange little pad over it, and though my skin elsewhere is elastic I discovered that I cannot ‘tent’ the skin on my fingers… something I actually used to do when nervous. Well, the best way to find out what is going on will be for the dermatologist to take a little sample.


I was well on my way to an enjoyable little panic attack that I could break myself out of with a pity party day of bad movies and a naughty sugary treat. Yes, I start planning my ‘me’ day the moment I start stressing, waiting for that perfect time to bring out the DVD collection and eat a 'bad for me' treat guilt free because my nerves would burn off any calories. Tomorrow would be the day and I had my treat picked out and waiting, wrapped in wax paper as only the messiest treats will do, when my husband asked me what was wrong.


Well, I explained that I was nervous about the biopsies, that the ones on my feet would not bother me too much because I would not be using them all that much anyway, but my hands would bother me. He listened intently and then he went and ruined it all…


“Penny, you can’t feel your hands, so it won’t bother you at all.â€


I stared at him for a moment, forming words that never came out because he was right. With my nerve damage to my hands I don’t feel things like that-- the dermatologist could take the samples and if I wasn’t watching I would never know.


“Well thank you very much, you just don’t understand,†I stated in a huff, because now I was all worked up to watch a couple of movies and eat my treat and the reason had vanished, meaning that the cream cheese and pineapple Danish would once again have caloric value.


Time for a different perspective and a new day, so tomorrow I shall throw my very first “I am glad my hands are numb†day and celebrate with bad movies and a 'bad for me' treat -- the celebrating will surely burn off all those calories -- maybe even enough to add a coffee smoothie to the party.


It is good to start new traditions, but I am still mad at the hubby for ruining a perfectly good panic attack and, for that reason, I think I shall choose chick flicks for the movies and invite him to join me and watch each and every one of them.


I have come to the conclusion that I just might be in a tiny bit of denial when it comes to my mobility issues.


I have yet to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get a permanent handicapped placard to hang from my rear view mirror because I keep telling myself that those things are for people that really need them and I can get around just fine. Oh, I have had a temporary one a couple of times after surgeries on my foot and ankle, but I never asked for or pushed for a permanent one, as if denying my need for one would make one unnecessary.


When I go anywhere I always have my wheelchair or power scooter and as long as we can find a space with enough room around it to get in and out of my van I just don’t see the need for a little blue hang-tag to give me better parking. If I am feeling really full of myself and am “just running in for one thing†I will often just use my forearm crutches to do that errand then spend the rest of the day in bed recuperating.


My vanity got the best of me today, though, when I went to one of those one price dollar shops to get just a few quick items and used my crutches and wouldn’t you know it-- the cash register ran out of paper and they had trouble putting the new roll in.


There I stood, slowly turning a lovely shade of magenta as my heart started skipping and fluttering, weaving as I tried to keep upright using my little sticks and wondering if a spatula and a foil pan was really worth it as they wrestled the paper roll into the machine and started to ring me up.


I finally had bag in hand and made my way out of the store only to discover that my husband, who had dropped me off at the door, was parked in the back of the filled parking lot and not looking in my direction; so off I totted and staggered through the maze of cars until I reached my van and knocked on the window with my forehead for him to open the door. To the untrained eye it might have looked more like a face plant to the safety glass, but it was fully intentional and meant as knocking with my hands full, that is my story and I am sticking to it.


As I sat in the van on our way home he had to quip “Honey, this is the very reason why you need to get handicapped tags or a hang-tag.â€


“Butâ€, I gasped still struggling for breath with Loki diving into my purse head first, his little hind legs straight up in the air then popping out with my inhaler in his mouth, “those things are for people who really need it.â€


He looked at me, and what a sight I must have been… face a beet root red, eyes bloodshot, lips blue and gasping like a guppy, a sight to inflame the heart I am sure.


“Guess what, you really need one.â€


I glared at him as I sucked on the inhaler a few times, then looked down at Loki as he sat in my lap, ready to spring forth and do something service dog-wise, and told him, “Bite Daddy.â€


Well, my faithful little dog looked over at my husband and laid his ears back, eyes squinting and brows lowered in his best hyena impression, then looked back at me, eyes wide and ears fully erect as if to say, “Are you crazy, woman? Look at the size of him!â€


By the time I got home I needed a nap and the planned dinner of lasagna was out of the question. As I started to drift off to sleep with Loki curled up next to me keeping watch I wondered if maybe it was time to swallow my pride and go get that permanent tag after all.


Nah, those things are for people who really need them.


As I sit glaring in mute frustration at my foe, the safety wrapper on a new tube of skin cream, I have to wonder just who is being kept safe here.


Everything you buy these days is glued, sealed, shrink wrapped and welded shut to prevent product tampering and while I can fully understand that this is a necessary evil in today’s world, I also know that it makes life so much more difficult for me, the end consumer.


I have considered tossing such things to Loki, my faithful service dog, and see if he could just gnaw a little on the “perforated lines for easy opening†and get it started for me, but he refuses that task since he learned as a puppy that chewing was a definite no-no. Sigh…


So, off I go, scraping that clear plastic fortress on the counter-top then biting at it myself (Loki is appalled and decides he wants nothing to do with this and heads elsewhere so he does not get the blame) until finally I get a small opening in the hand cream citadel’s defenses. Success!


Full of self indulgent pride over defeating the mighty foe I toss the plastic in the trash and flip open the cap to squeeze some cream onto my palm—and nothing happens.


A quick visual inspection shows that there is a tiny silver foil covering welded to the opening and my thoughts fly to tossing the thing on the ground and rolling over it repeatedly with the wheelchair until it is destroyed. This means war -- survival of the fittest and to the victor goes the spoils. This would also mean that I would be sitting on the floor for hours trying to get hand cream out of the carpet.


So, instead I will sit here with dry hands and simply place it on the counter and admit defeat until my reserve unit comes home from work, that opener of pickle jars and slayer of spiders. Meanwhile, I have a Chihuahua to coax out from under the couch and apologize to.


Driving Me Crazy

“Hon, aren’t you a little close to that car in front of us?â€


So begins our average trip, I will admit that I am not the best of passengers and might have raised passenger seat driving to an art form, but if I can read the speedometer in the car in front of me I get a little edgy. My husband, on the other hand, loves to drive and check out the passing scenery... unfortunately it is not always in that order.


Our trips to Pennsylvania take about six to eight hours, depending on traffic and potty stops for the hubby and Loki, my faithful little dog. About half of that time is spent on interstates where any safe braking distance is just too big of a temptation for most drivers to pass up and the rest is spent on smaller highways and back country roads where small critters lie in wait and the scenery can mesmerize the driver.


“Sweetie, you are doing 45 in the fast lane and the people behind you are starting to form a mob.â€


“Darling, you said I was too close, so I backed off -- make up your mind.â€


Have you ever noticed that the more frustrated you get the more you pull out those little pet phrases, coating them with so much honey that you actually could gain weight from them?


Finally we get past the first hurdle of the interstate system, with frequent comments on the speed limit; if I comment he is going too fast, say 85 in a 60 mph zone he will slow down to 50 because he knows that I will comment on that as well.


Country roads beckon us, wide open and with no other cars in sight and I pry my hands from the arm rests and take a breather before round two of our journey begins. We both need a break by this time and Loki is usually ready to wiggle his toes a bit and sniff around to see who has left a calling card, so we pull off the road at a trading post with a huge brown bear on the roof to stretch for a few minutes.


At this point the dialogue changes slightly from other cars to assorted animals along the road and the slowly changing scenery.


“Look at that huge cow over there, it must weigh a ton.â€


“It is a nice cow… Hon… but the road is turning and you aren’t.â€


“Watch out, there are some deer up ahead!â€


“Look at that barn, they repainted it… woah… where did those deer come from?â€


“I told you to watch out, Sweetie..."


“No you didn’t, Dear, we were talking about that barn!â€


Just think... in two short days we get to come back the exact same way in reverse. <_<


The warm weather combined with the fact that my yard is the shame of the neighborhood (they have green grass year round and flowers that change color upon request) made me decide that it was time to visit the Garden Mega Store and tackle the jungle I call home.


We drove to the wonderland of blooming flowers and greenery that seemed to give every shopper a ‘come hither’ stare where people in coveralls and mud boots discussed soil PH and fertilizer variables leaving me feeling like I was visiting a foreign land and looking for a translator.


All I knew was that I wanted mulch, two flowering plants and some herbs… little did I know that this simple list would get me in so much trouble.


I should have known better than to ask for assistance from one of the clerks, or “botany placement specialists†as their name tags read.


“Excuse me, which way to the mulch?†I ask, thinking that this was a simple request.


That one question was met with a barrage of questions flung back to me in ‘Botanese’:


“What kind of plants will you be bedding? What is the PH of your soil? Do you want conifer, deciduous, reclaimed or recycled and repurposed?"


I stood there blinking slowly. “Ummm, the last stuff I got came in a clear bag with purple stripes, does that help?â€


I thought that my botany placement specialist would have a stroke right then and there and I was given a crash course on mulching through the ages and what types work best for what soil conditions and bedding plants. I paid close attention and finally convinced her that I should be allowed to purchase some cypress mulch after agreeing not to plant any fleshy low PH loving annuals in the bed without treating the soil first to balance the PH. I am pretty sure that I am going to break that promise because I cannot tell the difference between a fleshy low PH annual and a woody high PH perennial but I really want that mulch to toss under the bushes in the flower bed.


I had learned my lesson and made sure not to ask for assistance in finding the flowering plants and the herbs so off I went to the bedding plant area. I just needed two flowering plants for pots on my porch and some mint, oregano and chives to place in a strawberry pot. I am sure the flowers will go into a coma the moment I place them in my car and will be dry husks by morning, but hope springs eternal. I choose some Gerber daisies then rolled into the vegetable and herb pavilion.


Herbs grow great for me and are the one thing that I seem not to kill, maybe because herbs are the closest thing to weeds that we grow and I seem to be the pied piper of weeds. My husband was getting grumpy by this time and had to make a quip as we passed the trays of tomato seedlings, “Look, honey… death row."


Back home the mulch was tossed in place and smoothed, the herbs were planted and the quickly fading flowers were buried alive. (Is it wrong that my husband said a small eulogy when handing them to me?)


I sure hope that no botany placement specialists happen to drive by or I might find my face on a wanted poster under the header “Herbicidal Maniac on the Looseâ€.