Tag Archives: Cats

The BamaSteelMangolia(TM) Diaries – Chapter 4: Paw Print…or “To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before…”, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries – Chapter 4: Paw Print…or “To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before…”

By Beverly Hicks Burch

I had to include the Paw Print in my diary quilt. It’s a simple little appliqué block, but that isn’t why I had to include it. Animals and dogs in particular have played a very special and important part in my life. And, because they have been so loving and in my life for so many years, this may be a long chapter of The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries…

Paw Prints

Paw Print – easy applique block 

I am unabashedly and without a doubt an unapologetic dog person… A little disclaimer here: I don’t wish to hurt my feline loving friends. Some of my favorite people, including my own Tall & Handsome and my Aunt LaRue have been cat people. Of course, T & H has just about converted to the canine way of thinking thanks mostly to a wonderful proselytizing tool called a Miniature Schnauzer (this is a really cool link to Animal Planets Dogs 101). A Schnauzer in the right situation could literally charm the skin off a skanky old snake, so put a Mini Schnauzer in the same room with a mushy hearted animal person like my T & H and well…poor fellow is toast.

A lot of my distancing from felines has to do with my allergies and the fur. Oh my gosh…it’s like the dust that use to creep into homes during the Dust Bowl Days…YOU JUST CAN NOT GET RID OF THE STUFF!! My frustration with cat hair reached critical mass one particular day because of one particular cat.

When T & H and I got married he had two cats. One was a big, orange furry tabby cat. Think Garfield on steroids. I called this cat the Big Orange Abomination or Big O for short…

Pretty Boy 11-5-2005

The Big Orange Abomination

One sunny fall Tennessee afternoon T & H and I had some errands to run. I had on a pair of black denim slacks. When we arrived at our destination, I got out of the Jeep…unsuspecting, much like a lamb lead to slaughter…and happened to look down.

From the other side of the Jeep, T & H heard me screech, “Oh My Gosh!” It was now his turn to be the proverbial lamb lead to slaughter because I said, “Just come over here and look!”

There glowing in the bright, glorious afternoon sun was the biggest, honking wad of glowing ORANGE cat hair…I mean almost neon…in the most indiscrete place! We’re talking that nether region we gals like to have some modesty about, that area coined by Anais Nin as the Delta of Venus…oh, heck, what I’m saying is right smacked dab on the crotch of my lovely black jeans hovered that glowing wad of orange cat hair! The irony of where the cat hair was did not escape me… T & H thought it was hilarious and guffawed while I grumbled, said some really bad things about the cat and plucked the offending cat hair from…well, that area…

That would never have happen with a Schnauzer…no, never…

I just love the adoration and total love, devotion and commitment a dog gives you…you are their pack and they love you for it. It doesn’t matter if you have a bad hair day or how much weight you gain, your dog will adore you regardless.

If you are sick, they will snuggle up beside you and watch over you…in protective mode and with empathy. And, if in your feverish sleep you should have a bad dream, they will gently nudge you awake to check on you and to let you know everything is ok. Yes, honestly, hand to God, a dog can and will do this. I know this from personal experience.

Sadly, though when I’ve been extremely ill those two aforementioned cats skulked around on the bed, perched on their haunches…and waited. In my fitful sleep it was like being watched by gargoyles that were waiting to pounce so they could siphon the air from my lungs and scavenge my body. Ok, well, maybe it was the meds “talking”, but it wasn’t a warm and fuzzy experience…

No matter what you do for them…clean, scrap, freshen their indoor outhouse called a litter box, feed or pamper them…a cat will at best tolerate you and maybe purr for you if you’re allowed to stroke their egos…errr, I mean fur.

I’ve written…at length about my shaky feline relationships. You can read about these rocky antics (mostly thanks to the big fat 21 pound Amazon felines T & H dragged with him from New Mexico) here, here (especially if you want to know what happens when a cat and a wax warmer tangle also involving the Big Orange Abomination), here and here. I’ll not go into detail about how my treasured furniture and heirlooms became kitty scratching post…and how I considered turning the cats into giant house slippers…or at least wall pelts. Just kidding…

Big O finally had to go…for more than one reason. My eyes were staying red and swollen and breathing was difficult. So, off he went to a better place. No! I don’t mean that…he went to live with a new family. Really!

The highly neurotic tuxedo cat with the sensitive stomach was left. Life just isn’t complete unless you get to hear a cat wretch and hurl at least once a day… Then, in July `09 we had to put the last resident feline down and even I had to admit it was a somber and teary event. I wish I could say I miss him, but…I think there’s a country song in that sentiment somewhere…


Winfield – the highly neurotic cat

I grew up around dogs…and to a much lesser degree horses, so that may account for why those are my favorite animals…in that order. And I think it must be generational. My Daddy had a dog when he was a boy named Ole Boss. That dog is rumored to have followed him everywhere…including to my Mom’s when Daddy was courting Momma.

My granddaddy Hicks, Pawpaw, as I called him, had his dogs, too. Pawpaw was a tall, quite East Tennessee mountain man and they do love their dogs in that “neck of the woods”. That might account for Daddy being a bit of a dog person himself, since he was Pawpaw’s son.

Pawpaw had a hunting dog, a blue tick hound, named Thunder. He was Pawpaw’s loyal and best buddy. Pawpaw taught that ol’ dog tricks, including how to roll over by using the down home delicacy of cornbread. (If you’d had my grandmother’s cornbread, you’d probably guess why Pawpaw used it for training treats for poor ole Thunder! Versie was many things, but a cook she was not.) Stashed away in Momma and Daddy’s “archives” are 8mm home movies of Pawpaw and his dog doing tricks. T & H had the privilege of viewing those golden grainy oldies over the holidays. He can vouch for the entertaining and performing Hicks duo of “Jonas Hicks and the Wonder Thunder”.

My grandmother was a one in a kind…and sometimes that kind could remind you of fingernails on a chalkboard. Whenever Pawpaw wanted a little peace and quiet from Versie, he’d grab his old Fedora and shotgun and off Pawpaw and Thunder would head for a good long walk.

So, in keeping with the canine heritage that came before us, when we were little girls, it should have been no surprise Daddy saw to it we had dogs. We didn’t just have dogs…we had dogs. I’m talking Collies, Boxers, German Shepherds…you know the perceived cuddly, toy dogs most little girls have…and we absolutely loved every one of them. They were all loveable gentle beasts that were part of the family. Lassie, of course was the Collie.

Butchie was our female Boxer. Her penchant was a taste for bumble bees and she went around with swollen doggie lips many, many times after one of her chosen treats. Nothing and I mean nothing would stop that dog from eating bumble bees…

Butchie also had a protective instinct and would follow me around the block when I rode my bike. If another dog approached in a threatening way, Butchie lowered her head and gave the offending dog a good head-butt…and sent them rolling… To paraphrase Barbara Mandrel, Butchie was head-butting before head-butting was cool…

When I was in the third grade we moved to a little East Tennessee town called Greeneville. Daddy was working for an engineering firm there. When we moved, Butchie moved with us. Down the street from us was this really sweet and very large Catholic family from Massachusetts. They were the most decent, salt of the earth kind of people…even if they were Yankees…just kidding!!

They were fascinated with our accents, especially Momma’s. I should interject here that Mom should give dialect and accent coaching in Hollywood. If she did there would be no more fake Southern accents in Hollywood…a bone of contention with many of us Southerners I might add… Our Yankee neighbors would call the house just to hear Momma say “hello”…or to paraphrase Kenny Chesney…she had them at hello…

I don’t remember how many kids this family had, but there was a passel…and these kids had a pet chicken. Well, folks, I can tell you right now…pet chickens and bumble-bee-eating Boxer dogs do not mix well. We made that unfortunate discovery one day when we went out into the front yard and there was this big ol’ pile of fluffy chicken feathers…and Butchie nearby. It was a dark day and a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth when the neighbor kids found out that was all that was left of their pet chicken. Poor Butchie had to go live on a farm after that. Later I often wondered if she thought she had received some kind of reward because you just know she had to have run into more chickens along the way on a farm…

After we moved to Alabama we added a German Shepherd to the family and a little fury bundle that was part Maltese and Lhasa Apso name Gidget. Gidget was a “tomboy”. She just didn’t want any part of being a house dog…she wanted to roam the big back yard with Major our German Shepherd. We had gotten Major from Daddy’s uncle (Versie’s brother) in Tennessee. Uncle Lum raised Shepherds from stock he had brought over from Germany after the war.

Gidget had two litters of the cutest puppies you could imagine. I even got to be mid-wife at one delivery…an eye-popping experience let me tell you for a young lass yet to give birth herself. Momma kept the runt of the last litter and named her Tori. Tori almost didn’t make it and had to be bottle fed. She was so tiny she looked like a little wind up toy and was one of the sweetest little dogs…gentle and sweet like her mother. But, also like her Momma she loved the great outdoors and being around that big ol’ German Shepherd. She wanted to run with the big dog…and be a yard dog…

When I got married I added dogs to my new family. We had Snoopy, a dog that I swear to this day was mentally challenged or at least severely directionally challenged, but a good natured fellow none the less. He was part Beagle, Basset Hound and Collie. He was the oddest looking dog. Short and long like a Basset, colored like a beagle and the coat, nose and tail of the Collie. I called him our Bagle, a new kind of Heinz 57…and the dog LOVED popsicles!

Bev with Snoopy puppy

Bev with puppy Snoopy

Snoopy got lost once about 2 blocks from the house. He was gone for months…and he just could never find his way home. We thought he was gone for good. Like dutiful doggie parents we searched high and low for ol’ Snoop but couldn’t find him. Just by happenstance, one day on the way to the store we saw him running wild-eyed in a yard 2 blocks from the house. Poor fellow just never seemed right after that…but, we loved him and took care of him anyway.

We had an Irish Setter named Rusty who was stunningly beautiful, but crazy as a loon. He was our “blond” dog…no offense intended to our fair haired friends…but he just was… Mostly high strung, but also clueless. That dog loved to dig…I mean really LOVED to dig and our back yard looked like a bombed out war zone while we had him. He also bullied poor old Snoopy around and somehow managed to break one of Snoop’s legs. We knew Rusty needed a bigger roaming space than our suburban yard and found a nice country home for him to live happily ever after in. I often thought he would have been happy digging foxholes for the military…

We adopted an English Setter from the Human Society. She was my first “Lady”. She was 3 days away from being put down. Lady was sweet spirited, loving, beautiful…and adventurous. She could scale our fence like Spiderman and then out she’d go. Once again we knew we had a dog that needed “land, lots of land…don’t fence me in…” And, she found a lovely new home with acres to roam on.

1st Lady

My first Lady an English Setter…she did have a head!

So, for a while it looked like I was adopting and fostering dogs until the right place came along…and that was ok as long as they were ok…

Then, when my son reach grade school…about first or second grade, my Daddy decided it was time for Jared to have a real dog…and when daddy does something…he does it big. For a while he had his heart set on getting Jared a Great Dane! I went around with my heart in my throat because I could just imagine the food bill for a Great Dane…combined with the food bill of a growing boy…and well, it would have been the grocery budget to feed the people of China… I also told Daddy that just a regular DOG and not a small pony would be fine with us.

Eventually Jared ended up with his own German Shepherd…kind of a Hicks tradition I guess. We named him Bruno and he was a hulking big dog and one of the most beautiful Shepherds I’ve ever seen which should have been no surprise since he came from championship bloodline. I was delusional when I took a box with us to bring him home in…he was that big. He took one look at that box and it was like, “Woman, are you crazy? There’s no way this puppy is fitting in there!” His paws were huge, about the size of a man’s fist, and we were told he would grow into them…and he did, eventually reaching 100 pounds.


Bruno & Bev

Bev with Bruno – he was just a few months old…and huge!


Bruno was a big ole playful puppy and he would wrestle with Jared…they were buds. Sometimes I would hear Jared yell, “Mom!” from the backyard just to look out the window and see Jared prone on the ground and Bruno standing over him wagging his big ol’ puppy dog tail.

I think Bruno thought we were his toys. Many times when I was in the back yard he turned me into his own personal push toy by pushing me around the yard by inserting his big ol’ nose in the center of my bum. You haven’t seen the world until you’ve been steered around by your German Shepherd…no wonder they’re in the “working group” at dog shows…

But, Bruno’s playfulness belied his protective nature and we saw it kick in more than once. When we sold our first house the buyers requested a home inspection. When the inspector arrived on the scene, Bruno was not happy to see him. I had to go out there (at the time I was a strapping 115 lbs.) and try and keep the almost 100 pounds dog off the inspector’s throat. Bruno made sure he kept his body between mine and the offending interloper. The hair was standing straight up on the back of his neck. I knew then he thought I was more than just a toy to him. I was his mistress to protect.

In the early and mid 1990s I was stalked…an experience I will never forget. The specter of the ordeal haunts me to this day and is in part why I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic and Anxiety Disorder. I still take precautions that are throwbacks to that episode. My home was vandalized on occasions and the stalker would lurk outside my home in the shadows late at night. Once he shot the back window out of Gomez’ pickup truck. A heartbreaking and devastating outcome from the ordeal was the cold hard fact that our noble and protective Bruno was murdered by this beast…this man has a judgment day coming. He finally left me alone when I got word to him I was toting a .38 and had no compunction of pulling the trigger if need be…

One of my favorite saying is “all dogs go to heaven”…please no theological debate here…it’s just my way of saying they are special, special critters, but I do believe in my heart they have a special place in God’s kingdom.

Shortly after Bruno went on to his Great Bone Reward in the Beyond, a special little angel was sent in exchange. Her name was Lady and she was a roan English Cocker Spaniel…

Lady came to us quite by accident. We had been out of state for one of Gomez’ work related job field assignments. One of his co-workers had asked Jared to walk the little dog he had with him while he was at work. They lived across the breezeway from where we were staying and he was offering to pay ten bucks a week. Kind of a no brainer for a growing boy…forty easy bucks a month.

During that time Jared would bring Lady over and that’s how I was introduced to this little eager, “I’m-ready-to-love-you” bundle of joy. She was a doppelganger for Lady from Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp”. We heard her story from her current owner. He had gotten Lady from someone else…who had found her…so she had been orphaned many times over in her young life it appeared.

When he found her she had been chained outside. That could account for her lifelong fear of thunderstorms. Whenever a good thunderstorm would blow up Lady would tremble like a leaf in a mighty wind. She woke me up many a night standing over me in the bed, terrified and trembling. Only when she became older and began to lose her hearing did that “fear” subside…and I suspect it was just because she couldn’t hear the thunder any more. I guess there are small blessings in aging…

When Lady was rescued by the kind hearted person we got her from he discovered a sad and life-threatening problem for her. Little Lady had heartworms! Please, people, treat you loyal, loving canines for this terrible problem! Mr. B made sure Lady received the treatment to remove heartworms. This treatment usually proceeds with a medication that contains arsenic and involves a certain amount of risk to the pet.

Well, the little Trooper sailed through with flying colors. I’m sure her youth worked to her advantage and it wasn’t long before Mr. B discovered why the former people who had found Lady had chained her (in frustration I’m sure) outside. Lady had wanderlust and as the Dixie Chicks used to say was “ready to run”!

You see in England English Cocker Spaniels are still actually used for what they were bred for…as working dogs…for the hunt. So, anytime Lady saw something that triggered that “hunt” instinct, off she’d go…almost without thought. Mr. B told us he’d let Lady out on his deck and if she saw something she thought she should chase down, she was out of the gate in a flash. That presented a problem for a single guy…that and the fact that she was also just a face in the crowd at his place. He had a veritable menagerie at his place…many, many, many furry friends.

He had brought her with him on this field assignment because he knew she need someone with her most of the time…companion dogs are just like that…that’s part of their job. He knew she needed to be somewhere where she could get that. But, he also had a big ol’ mushy heart when it came to animals and sometimes that doesn’t equal common sense. Her diet consisted of fried chicken livers from Mrs. Winner’s Fried Chicken and other such people food.

End result? Well, one day Jared came back from walking Lady and said, “Mom, something’s wrong with Lady. She acts like she doesn’t feel well and if I just touch her she whimpers.” Of course we told Mr. B who in turn took her to the vet. Little Lady had an old fashion case of pancreatitis. Luckily for her, she once again responded to the prescribed treatment.

By the time we were ready to return home after this field assignment I think Mr. B was beginning to see the handwriting on the wall. He asked if we would mind taking Lady home with us. That would give him time to see if he wanted to adopt her out and give us time to see if we were ready to adopt her in. I wasn’t quite sure at the time I was ready for an indoor pet…most of my pets had been predominately outdoor pets. But, I just couldn’t turn away that sweet little face.

As it was, Lady came home with us just a couple of weeks before the Blizzard of `93. Yes, folks I’m talking about an honest to goodness white-out, howling blizzard. I had 24 inch snow drifts in my back yard. We were some of the lucky ones. We only lost power about 12 hours. We were able to keep salvaged food from the fridge by setting it out on the deck in the snow and cold in coolers. Most of the rest of central Alabama and the South lost their power for a very long time. In some cases it took weeks to restore it.

Mr. B had gotten cold feet about giving up Lady and had decided to come and pick her up. I, on the other hand wasn’t ready to give her up so easily. I was really beginning to get attach to little “Red Dog” as I called her sometimes. As fate would have it, Mr. B scheduled the weekend the blizzard happened to hit and therefore was unable to get her. There weren’t any sled dog teams working in Alabama at the time and Lady was snow bound with us. After that it was a moot point…Mr. B decided Lady was better off where she was at…and the rest was history as they say. I must say though, she wasn’t too fond of that white stuff the blizzard left behind. We finally figured out that before she would potty she had to have a spot shoveled all the way down to the ground…through all 18-24 inches…it made for a very interesting few days…

I’ve often described Lady…or Ladybug as I sometime called her…as “love on four legs”. She was the gentlest, sweetest little bundle I had ever seen. Love just oozed out of her. She was playful and smart. She loved playing hide and seek and I could spend hours hiding in the house while she went from place to place looking for me. She was so proud of herself when she did find me. I was always the one who received the reward…usually uncontrollable, convulsive tail wagging and overall joy.

coy girl

Lady’s favorite place to try and not be noticed…

Lady in battle dress

Lady in full battle dress – her and Jared’s idea of “cute”


I’ve often heard about dogs that can sense when their owner is about to have a seizure or even able to “sniff” the presence of cancer cells on their loved one. I don’t know if Lady possessed these uncanny abilities but I do know this, when I had my last bout with lung cancer she became my constant little shadow. For months before I even knew cancer was growing in my left lung I was sick and felt lousy. Lady was by my side, even if I was in bed. I would drift off to a fitful sleep just to wake up to the reassuring feeling of this little warm presence curled up against my back. She was my little guardian angel…

After the cancer was found I had to undergo surgery to remove the cancer and a large portion of my left lung. I was in the hospital a week. I will never forget returning home and slowly walking up the sidewalk to my front door. There looking out the glass storm door was my teenage son and a very excited English Cocker Spaniel. It literally took two grown adult men and my teenage son to keep Lady from knocking me down from sheer delight and joy at my return home. After that, she never left my side. She seemed to sense I was still not doing well and was in recovery mode.

It was harder for me to bounce back after my second bout of (NON-smoking) lung cancer than it was the first time around. I was 13 years older for one thing, but in the ensuing years I had also developed autoimmune disorders. I would interject here that when you have this type of surgery you are almost literally cut in half. Well, let me put it this way…an incision is made starting on your back not too far from your spine and brought all the way around your body to under your breast. Your ribs are either cracked open or a section is sawed out of some of your ribs. Then they are pried open so the surgeon can access your lung. So, in addition to getting over thoracic surgery you have to deal with broken ribs. As a result I was more comfortable sleeping semi-sitting up for a while and would sleep in a recliner.

Now, Ladybug was never what I would call a lap dog, but one particular night she must have sensed I was having a particularly had time because she did something highly unusual…she jumped up into my lap, curl up and laid there in my lap until she felt I was ok. If she had been a cat she would have purred…

Lady was with me for many years. She even outlasted my previous marriage and husband proving that dogs can be woman’s best friend, too in the long run. But she also saw the beginning of my new life with Tall & Handsome. I have to say they took to each other rather well. He knew she was my baby and he also could see that age was beginning to take its toll on my little Red Dog. T & H made a lot of special concessions for Lady and I will always be appreciative of that. The day I lost Lady broke my heart. All these years later it still hurts and I still miss her. There are times I still cry when I think about her…

I was “dogless” for about 18 months and lived in the Fellini-like world of felines. After Lady I just didn’t know if I could ever have another dog I could love like I had Lady, but if I ever did have another dog it would be another English Cocker Spaniel…

Well, do you know what it’s like to eat crow?

My crow was served up in the form of a 15 pound Miniature Schnauzer…

I was still in semi-mourning from Lady and dealing with the two Amazon cats. The last thing I thought I needed was another pet. But T & H felt differently and he seized opportunity when it came knocking.

We were living in Tennessee when one day T & H came home from work with a report that a co-worker had a puppy he needed to find a good home for. This puppy was 11 months old and I had actually seen the little fellow with the owner one day in PetSmart when I was there with T & H about eight months earlier.

That depressing trip was to load up on my “favorite” pet supplies…cat food (in bulk for the hulking 42 pounds worth cat flesh sulking and prowling around back at the house) and for a large bucket of clumping cat litter. If PetSmart had a people pharmacy, I would have ordered a Prozac the size of a handball after that shopping order. My days was filled with listening to these cats fight. (They were like cartoon cats that fight and end up in a rolling, tumbling, screeching ball of flying fur and claws.) Their other choice sounds were hurling, scratching cat litter, tearing down window blinds, and then more cat fights.

I was wandering around PetSmart in a zombie like stage, looking at doggie “stuff” like mothers-in-waiting look at baby paraphernalia. It was sad… As I filtered the “white noise” out of the background noise, I became aware that T & H was chatting with someone an aisle or two away. I ambled over to see who he was chatting up…

As I approached I began to see a tiny little furry head…and my heart skipped a beat. It was a puppy…a tiny puppy at that…and I swear the puppy almost had a little halo glow over his head…it had to be a sign!

T & H introduced me to the young fellow (who later became like an adopted son) and I raved about the puppy. I was told he was a Miniature Schnauzer and his name was Watson. He asked if I wanted to hold him. Do I want to hold him?! Does a wino want cheap wine?!

I gathered up the warm little bundle of fur and began to walk around the store. It was the cutest four legged living thing I had seen in a long time! He was so cute I could have gobbled him up with a spoon. When he licked me on the nose, well, after I put back together my melted heart, I began to see if there was a way I could logically “doggie-nap” this puppy. In my heart I knew I couldn’t because he had an owner who loved him, but it was soooo tempting to tuck him in my coat and head to the car. I was smitten…

I returned the little fellow back to his owner. We chatted a bit and he could tell I was an unabashedly avowed dog person. He remembered that…

About eight months later, T & H came home from work one day and said that Watson needed a new home. His owner had a lot going on at the time and wasn’t able to be home much. Watson is such a “people” dog…he needed someone with him as much as possible. His owner wanted me to have him because he knew how I felt about dogs.

Well, by then I had decided I wouldn’t have another doge for a very long time…at least not until the cats where in “better places”. In my book, dogs and cats just don’t mix… At first I said no. But T & H and Dustin (the former owner) persisted and I finally relented with one condition: he could come on a two week probation period…just to see how he and the cats would work out.

Well, the day he arrived I was deathly sick…and was for about a week. So, I extended that probation period another week. The cats and dogs…well to just put it shortly…they didn’t…they didn’t anything…get along…stop beating up on the puppy, stop eating his food…you name it. I was constantly extending that two week probation. It actually became a joke.

Finally it became obvious that little dog had buried into our family and hearts like a tick on a hound and he wasn’t going anywhere. From that day on, he was my baby…

Babyface 2

Watson at about one year – such a Babyface

After the haircut 3 5-13-2007

Such a cutie…


I love my life...

I love my life…

That doesn’t mean every day was an easy day. There was of course the infamous “Willy Wonka Wanna Be” episode. One rainy Saturday Watson decided to gift us with what looked like Toostie Rolls in a most inconvenient place!

Watson has been a 15 pound bundle of joy in our life. Every day is a good day with him. He loves us, adores us, travels with us, makes us laugh, cuddles, plays and clowns with us and of course, belying his diminutive size, he is our watchdog. In his mind that is one of his jobs. He knows us as “Momma” and “Poppa” and my parents are “Granddad” and “Grandmomma”.

He is unconditional love. If one of us is gone and comes back to the house, his little back legs look like they are hooked up to springs of joy, it is hard for him to contain himself.

Some days when I look at him I think two things: “I’m so glad I found you.” And “My heart is going to break when something happens to you.”…just like it did with Lady and other dogs before her…

So, why do we keep doing this? Trust me my friend…the rewards of having a best friend like this far outweigh the tears that follow when they are gone…

© 2010 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Cats, dogs, Humor, Pets, Quilt Block, quilting, The BamaSteelmagnolia(TM) Diaries

Strange Bedfellows, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Strange Bedfellows

By Beverly Hicks Burch

There is one thing to say about being confined to a two story house with a bazillion packed moving boxes while you feel like your body is slowly but surely destructing one cell at a time…you have plenty of time to observe a thing or two.

Take for instance the two critters who share this abode with Tall & Handsome and me. They are your stereotypical feline and canine…dog and cat…and they act like it, too. They are why the stereotype was created. And at times, it make me want to take chopsticks and poke holes in my brain…or at least staple my eyes and ears shut.

They can and have on occasion provided some much needed comic relief. Today, for instance I was talking on the phone upstairs and had Watson with me. He is quite the little noisemaker sometimes and fancies himself a watchdog…or at least a noisy little bugger. Now, I must explain that like a child would have digression problems with potty training, since the move Watson has had one of his Willy Wonka moments…so we’ve had to keep a watchful eye on him and make sure potty time is in the proper place…outside! To make sure he doesn’t wander while I’m busy, I’ll keep him on the leash and tether it to the bed post where I’m using my laptop.

Well, today, I was using the laptop, talking on the phone and all of a sudden the doorbell rings. For a Miniature Schnauzer that’s like cutting open their adrenal gland and pouring every ounce of adrenal hormone into their little bodies…they turn into extreme sports machines! When the doorbell rang, Watson went from lying silent, prone and tethered on the bed next to me to letting loose with that little “I’m being run over by an 18 wheeler” scream. He the shot up, off and did a full Gaynor off the bed…all while still tethered on the leash. It would have been pretty impressive…except he didn’t go anywhere except to sit nicely on the floor by the bed (yes, the leash is that long…safety first).

Then, take yesterday for instance. I don’t recall what I was doing, but I had busied myself at something…reading or doing something on the computer. Now, I tend to like quietness…even when I play my music or have the TV on. I have discovered that the animals actually are quite fond of that themselves. I had just read something in the last day or two about dogs that said in research conducted, dogs reacted to classical music better than other types of music.

(I think I learned to appreciate quietness as some of the autoimmune disorders encroached upon my systems…noise just seems to “assault” my system. But, I will make sacrifices…case in point? When Tall & Handsome and I went to the Tim McGraw concert at the BJCC in Birmingham. Anyway, I digress…)

Picture yesterday. I’m quietly sitting on the bed with my laptop. The TV is very quietly running in the background…mainly to provide some “white noise”. Once, I happened to look up and notice that the cat, Winfield had graced us with his presence. Watson, the Wonderkin was cuddled up pretty close to me…asleep.

Winfield was asleep also, but on his back is a rather gawky, almost lewd pose…legs were splayed everywhere. He was dead to the world. It was rare that he was on the bed with us…lately he had been making himself sparse…exploring the almost doubled space of his new domain.

All of a sudden, Watson sneezed/coughed…from a dead sleep. Oh, boy! You would have thought Watson’s head had suddenly started spinning and he was spitting green pea soup. I had to scrap Winfield of the ceiling and figure out how in the world I was going to stuff him back into his skin…it was not a pretty sight…and you know things just never go back in the way they come out…

And then, there were the days and evenings it got cold…yes, you heard me…COLD! Even in Georgia, the middle to low 20’s can be considered cold!

Kramer, the Big OrangeFor background, let me give you a little history here. BW…Before Watson, there was Kramer, yes, the one I call the Big Orange Abomination. We had two cats…well, T & H pretended to have two cats. He got to slave at cleaning the caca from the liter box…and boy there was enough to fertilize a small third world country…feed the said sizeable cats…and start all over again. What did he get in return? Not much.

To top it off, the cats hated each other…most of the time…when I was home alone with them, I would hear catfights and crashes and caterwauling most of the day. Imagine a LooneyToon cartoon of two cats in one big ball of hissing, spitting, fighting, twirling action spinning through the house. THAT was Kramer and Winfield.

Or imagine this…when we lived in Northwest Alabama, we had a recliner/rocking chair in our bedroom. Some nights I would be awaken by the sight of the chair bouncing up and down, back and forth because the cats were in it fighting! It defied Disney animated graphics. T & H would sleep through this little ballet in moonlight and I wished many nights that it would be their “Swan Lake”.

What T & H got to see was what I can only call their “symbiotic” moments. Some nights, especially the colds ones, Kramer and Winfield would get up on the bed or in a chair and entwine in one big furry 45 pound ball of cat fur. He thought it was because they “cared” for each other…I on the other-hand knew they were purely having a “scratch my back and I’ll scratch your back moment”…and even then, sometimes they would end up fighting. But, when they would be lying there sleeping, T & H would look at me and say, “Aren’t they cute?” I usually took a Dramamine…

Well, as many of you know, Kramer went to live somewhere else. NO! I did not do THAT to him…shame on you for even thinking that…his fur just became too much for my allergies and he went to a wonderful family that worked with T & H in Tennessee.

Am I Cute or What?Enter Watson the Wonderkin…much to the chagrin of Winfield…he has not been happy with that addition to the family…and he’s let us and Watson know it many, many, many, many times. Usually by ambushing and thrashing the living daylights and poop out of Watson. How fair is this? 21 pound cat vs. 14 pound dog? You do the math…Well, Scoot (aka Watson) is a quick learn…and he developed a few moves himself, but long story short…there is no love lost between those two. Put it this way, if one was on fire, the other wouldn’t spit on him to save him…

So…the other day I saw a fleeting sense of doubt cross Winfield’s mind…as in maybe I shouldn’t have been so rash and done this…

You see, it had turned cold…yes, I said C-O-L-D. Watson was up on the bed beside me, asleep and peaceful. Mr. Winfield hops up on the bed and I can tell right away he’s feeling cold and needing some one to nudge up to. He looked up at me and then down at the sleeping dog. Decision crosses his mind…what to do…what to do. Gingerly, and carefully he decided to YES, hunker down and try to share the space with Watson…he was that desperate for a warm up buddy!

Watson sprang up like someone had yelled, “DON’T TAZ ME BRO!” No way, no how was he going to have any part of that or fall for that trap! He circled, moved to a different position…a little closer to me and flopped down…and I swore I could hear a “Are you crazy?! Thanks but, no thanks” when he did.

Winfield - I know Kramer’s around here somewhereSorry, Winfield, decisions do make strange bedfellows…or lack of…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, dogs, Fun, Humor, Miniature Schnauzer, Moving, Pets, Tall & Handsome

Overload, by Beverly Hicks Burch


By Beverly Hicks Burch

Recipe for physical, mental and emotional overload:

Mix, stir, agitate blend and beat the following ingredients…like a dead horse…

3 months husband living and working out of state

3 months going back and forth between two states personally

1 fall in a dark back yard resulting in busted knee

1 handful of weeks of house hunting

Sell 1 house in an entirely different (3rd) state

1 slumlord…er…landlady

1 especially toxic house

1 extremely fowled up plumbing system

1 toilet continually over-flowing which aforementioned slumlord/landlady refuses to fix

1 garage sale with over-flowing toilet

Arrange 1 move

Add 3 van line packers, allow them to view your belongings then disappear without packing a box; get 1 phone call from the national rep 1 hour later saying the packers say there is black mold and water damage on ALL over your belongings and they refuse to pack for health reasons

Add 1 major meltdown at this point and agitate very well…

Next, have rep come to house to take picture to verify that, no indeed, all the belongings are NOT covered in black mold and water damage and that black mold was localized to house itself and certain boxes we had and were taking care of…

Have national rep determine 3 packers were overwhelmed by enormity of Bev’s stuff and bailed out…

Determine 3 packers WILL NOT return…

Loose 1 full day packing…

Add new larger packing crew that packs like Tasmanian devils

Discover 1 ground hog has chewed the wiring harness from your already tired and weary lead sled/granny car that Gomez left you with…

Realize in middle of move you will now have to trade cars…

Buy vehicle at Jim Cogdill Dodge with and “extend bumper to bumper warranty”…

1 week after arriving engine light on “new” vehicle pops on

Less than 1 month after purchase pay $230 for new thermostat and discover warranty is not “bumper to bumper” as you were told…

Have dog groomed…

Clean 1 toxic house as best you can…

Leave for a 5 ½ hour drive on a Sunday night at 8 PM

Pull over 3 times to sleep because you do not want to kill the dog or run into T & H vehicle…

Arrive in your new hometown at 6 AM

Moving van arrives at 8 AM

Former owners of house turn off utilities instead of setting up transfers…add 1 week of hotel stay and extra expense until utilities can be turned back on…

Count 25 trillion boxes to unpack…

Hurt in every joint, muscle, eyelash, hair follicle and pore in your body…

Catch 2 bugs…1 stomach, 1 head and chest

Develop 2 huge dark circles under your eyes and now go by the name Rocky Raccoon…

For fun and sweetness, throw in 1 cranky 21 pound cat to listen to his melodious music and watch beat up on the 14 pound dog…IT’S LIKE ICING ON THE CAKE!

Decide…Ain’t life grand?!

© Beverly Hicks Burch 2007 All Rights Reserved.


Filed under Cats, Fun, Gomez, Humor, Jim Cogdill Dodge, Moving, Pets, Tall & Handsome

Encounters, by Beverly Hicks Burch


By Beverly Hicks Burch

I am a suburbanite. I am a child of the burbs. So, what the heck is it with me and critters lately?! Mind you, I’m not talking about your run of the mill, mediocre, pedestrian house pets. Oh, no…

Don’t get me wrong. I dig animals…most of them at least. I wouldn’t give you a plug nickel for a snake. Nope, no way, no how. Never met one I liked. Nor a mouse or a rat either. Over the years as a child of the burbs, I’ve managed to avoid some ugly encounters with some undesirable critters.

This doesn’t make Bev a neophyte or a total animal innocent…no sir-ee… My paternal grandparents had a farm and as a result, I was familiar with the standard farm animals…cows, pigs, horses, chickens, etc. As a matter of fact, one year Papaw let my sister Pam and I help him tend one of his prized pigs. We helped feed him and would visit said porker with glee. We even named that pig, although his name escapes me now…probably from trauma.

Cowgirl Bev circa 1970You see, our favorite little piglet ended up on the Christmas dinner table that year. Pam and I boo hoo-ed our way all through dinner and refused to partake in the cannibalizing of our former buddy. Papaw vowed never to raise a pig again or name the livestock that would feed his family. He was a man of his word…my Papaw was a good man…and he loved us girls. I did develop a special fondness for horses from those years. I guess after dogs…or along with dogs, horses are my next favorite animal…they are noble animals.

I’ve done the zoo thing…many times over. When my son was young, I would take him every year on his birthday to the Birmingham Zoo…just Mom (me) and him…and then lunch and ice cream. Then one year we had the opportunity to go to the National Zoo in Washington D. C. and saw the famous pandas. It was literally a zoo around the panda exhibit…there was barely elbow room for a grasshopper. I hate crowds, especially when they ruin the view…

When my son was about three, I took him to the Bronx Zoo in New York. Boy, there was an experience. After the admission, you kept paying…and paying…and paying…and well, you get the idea.

Then, there were the moose, and the lobster in Maine. I’m probably one of the ten people on Planet Earth that dislikes lobster. The fact that I was unable to crack the shell and Gomez said he would do it and in the process that sucker went flying out of his hands, landed on the floor, rolled over to the next table and landed at the feet of the next dinners probably doesn’t help.

Bev in North Dakota circa 1987South Dakota brought the bison…also known as the American Buffalo. Let me tell you something…those ma-moos are gi-normous, and there are no chicken wings on those puppies. Back in 1987 on the way home from a field assignment in Duluth, MN I took a sight seeing diversion west through North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming before turning south to Alabama. We were winding our way through a state or national park in South Dakota where buffalo are allowed to roam free…on a really big range.

Well, wouldn’t you know it…it was just my luck…we came upon one big ol’ bull and I mean it was obvious it was a bull. This big ol’ galoot was as big as my minivan. Faster than Bat Masterson on the draw, Gomez pulled up right next to that big ol’ bull…on my side, mind you…and told me to “take a picture”. What?!

I turned and looked and him and then turned and looked at the bison grazing and chewing his cud. Chewing Bull was about 18 inches away. I was wedged between a beast and an idiot. My seven year old son was sitting in the back seat of the van. What’s a mom to do?

I turned to (real name redacted to protect the stupid) Gomez and said, “Did you not read the sign back there that said ‘Do not approach bison or attempt to feed because they are dangerous and may CHARGE’? Don’t you think we’re a little close? I could literally reach out and touch this thing…we’re so close I can smell him! It’s revolting!” (Gagging sounds accompanied.)

He said, “Yeah, I saw it, but that doesn’t mean us…we’re in a van. That’s probably for people walking. Just take the pictures. Hurry up. We’ll be ok.”

“Gomez, this is disgusting. I can smell this thing. There are thousands of flies all over it. I can hear it chewing its cud. It has mats all over it…full of heaven knows what…and he keeps eyeballing me…”

Gomez had this unique ability…he could laugh like that cartoon dog on Deputy Dawg…you know the one with the sneaky laugh….our son pointed that out when he was very young. Anyway, the whole time I was sitting there, trying to take pictures, trying to keep from barfing and praying we didn’t get charged and rammed…Gomez is sitting in the driver’s seat laughing like the Deputy Dawg cartoon dog. Nice…

Then there were the iguanas. Back in 1998, Gomez was on another field assignment. This time in the US Virgin Islands. My Aunt LaRue and I went down for an extended stay. We were based out of St. Croix, but, we wanted to go one weekend over to St. Thomas.

Down in the Virgin Islands iguanas run free and are as common as our innocuous, sweet bunny rabbits. I’m sorry iguana lovers, but the two are not in the same league in my ball park. And the iguanas down there are not a few inches long…they are a few feet long.

Well, the year we went down it was extremely hot. You know that kind of hot…the kind of hot that makes you want to rip your clothes off and stand in front of the freezer…push the kids and dog out of the kiddie pool…inject crushed ice into your veins…anything to cool off. The pain of it is that down there central A/C isn’t that common and there isn’t a lot of abundant natural fresh water. They were also in the middle of a drought because tropical systems had not been coming through as they had in past seasons.

After a very busy, hot day sightseeing on St. Thomas and of course shopping, at one of the scenic pull-overs Aunt LaRue and I decided to sit in the car while Gomez got out and took some pictures. The area surrounding the pull-over was really grown up with tropical growth…things that just made me want to start itching all over. As we were sitting there enjoying the view from our air conditioned comfort I suddenly saw the tropical growth eerily start to move. I knew that just wasn’t right…there wasn’t a breeze to beg anywhere.

I kept an eye on the moving greenery when suddenly there emerged a Godzilla-sized iguana. That thing must have been feasting on a Lilliputian sized village in the undergrowth because he had not missed a meal! He was eyeballing Gomez’ naked shorts clad legs and headed right for him. I started pounding on the windshield and calling his name, but he couldn’t hear me. As a last resort, I sat down on the horn.

Gomez spun around kind of irritated. He saw me and my Aunt frantically gesturing at Godzilla. He glanced over and their eyes met. I’ve never seen anyone get chicken flesh so fast. The man was already pasty skinned, but he became an additional 15 shades of white. I thought he was going to plunge over the cliff and into the Atlantic at first, but he made a fast retreat into the car. That ended his picture taking venture that afternoon…poetic justice for the little bison incident don’t ya think?

Given all of that, I would have never guessed I would have experienced what I have the last couple of years since I moved back to the place I was born…East Tennessee.

Now mind you, I’m not living up on top of Mount LeConte or Clingmans Dome. Nope, I’m “citified”…not too far from downtown Knoxville itself. Closer in town than even I have lived anywhere. So, what I’m about to tell you absolutely blows my mind…

I was pleasantly surprised to discover shortly after arriving that I had a couple of bunnies living in my back yard. It reminded me of my house on the mountain in Alabama and the bunnies there. I usually could catch sight of one in the flash of my headlights hopping away from the upper driveway when I came home from work in the evenings.

Mama Dove Nesting in Alabama - Circa 2001An avid birdfeeder, Tall & Handsome and I have thoroughly enjoyed the variety of feathered friends at our feeders. I’ve even had dove take up residence in a potted plant on a porch or my deck, nest and then raise babies. They would usually come back every year to the same spot. But, what I wasn’t prepared for was living next door to a dang crowing chicken in the middle of the city!

Little Miss Undead ChickenYes, Mr. Chicken Hung Phooey invaded my space one time too many…one crow too many…one dead chicken hanging on the fence impersonation too many. But, was that enough? NO!

I guess the neighbors gave up on the twine on the foot thing for the chickens. I discovered that early one morning when I got up to let Watson out. It was just at daybreak and I looked outside to make sure there wasn’t any birds or squirrels or bunnies for him to go chasing after before I opened the door. I promise…I really did. The coast was clear. I unlocked the door, uttered the magic Watson words “Go do you business” and he was off in a blur.

Of course, I was still half asleep…I am not a morning person…but, what happened next was surreal. Watson had taken off in a blur for a purpose. All of a sudden I saw this snowy white object, with wings rise about three or four feet off the ground…with Watson in hot pursuit.

Now, given the dawn’s early light, the stupor of my stunned sleepy mind, my first thought was less than coherent. It was something like, “Watson, you are so in trouble if you don’t leave that angel alone!!” Then, I heard “cluck, cluck, cluck”. I realized it was that dang chicken from next door. So, for the next five minutes I watched Watson and Mr. Chicken Hung Phooey go back and forth…and back and forth…and back and forth in the back yard. It was like watching a shooting gallery. That’s how I found out the neighbors weren’t using twine to keep the chicken at home anymore…that and the fact he kept inviting himself to my garage sale

Of course I’ll never forget the squirrel encounter and it’s a given Tall and Handsome won’t either. As a matter of fact, he probably revisits that squirrel in his nightmares…

It all started late last spring (2006). I noticed a distinctive odor wafting up from downstairs. I mentioned it to Tall & Handsome and he thought maybe the cat box was in need of a quick change. That done T & H felt sure the problem would be resolved. I wasn’t so sure. The scent had not seemed like “odor de cat” as much as I would have like to have pointed a finger at the resident feline. Nope, to me the scent ominously carried the scent of death.

I shared my hunch with T & H, but I could tell he thought I’d been farming funny mushrooms. It didn’t take too many days before he had to strongly agree with me. You just can’t mistake that smell. Well, he went off on a mission…to discover the origin of the offending order.

What he found would rival any CSI crime scene…it was a rotting corpse…with its own infestation of maggots! Once again thanks to our slum lord…um, landlady who is too cheap to put a cover over the dryer vent we had a bonafide mess on our hands.

A squirrel had crawled into the dryer vent…all the way from the outside wall of the house and had just about made into the basement and to the dryer via the vent and duct. Unfortunately he got stuck and couldn’t turn around and get back outside. As a result, he was entombed in the dryer vent. No telling how many loads of clothes helped the process along before we knew what we had in the vent!

Poor T & H, it was a disgusting mess to clean up…a real hazmat zone. It left us both mumbling and grumbling, “How can so much go wrong and be wrong with this place? And where in the name of heaven are these critters coming from?” We were beginning to wonder if we had the animal version of the Amityville horror house.

The best was yet to come…

The most baffling encounter has also turn into a costly encounter…one I’m a little familiar with from working claims in insurance.

Shortly after Tall and Handsome started working at his new job, I happened to look out the French doors one day. What I saw stopped me in my tracks. There was some critter making itself at home around MY stuff. He acted right at home on my deck…the only thing he needed was one of those drinks with the little umbrellas in them to look more at home. I expected him to get a broom and sweep up.

Am I Cute or What?What stumped me though, I didn’t know what “he” was and that made me feel just downright…creepy. I was alone and my big He-man was out of state. All I had for protection was a cranky cat and a 15 pound wonderkin I sometimes call Sugar-cube…AKA Watson. I can see it now, “Sic him, Sugar-cube.” How scared would you be?

At first I thought my squatter was a cat that fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, but, the fur and the ears didn’t match to be a cat…unless he needed a serious conditioning job. Then I speculated on the possibility it might be a beaver with a bad case of tail envy. Why? Well, it had a nub of a tail instead of one of those nice big, wide flat, flappy tails. I decided he wasn’t big enough to be a beaver, but he was as big as the cat, Winfield, and would probably snap Watson’s neck. What the heck was he?

Well, I told T & H and we postulated and when he got to come in for a weekend he got to meet our squatter. Our postulating had been right. Guess what? It was Punxsutawney Phil or a relative thereof…yep, a groundhog. Come to find out, evidently that’s pretty common around these parts…now they tell me…what’s next a mongoose?

The proverbial icing on this cake was finding out that ye olde groundhog encounter had a price tag. Seems the industrious critter had been hanging out underneath my car…and stayed very busy. He had totally chewed and gnawed away the wiring harness of the electrical system of my car.

Cost of a wiring harness: $400

Cost of a disappearing ground hog: priceless

Cost of a dead squirrel in your dryer vent: stench and maggots

Cost of cleaning up a CSI squirrel scene: priceless

Cost of a sleepless early morning because of crowing chicken: agony

Cost of a fried chicken: priceless

Folks, I am way tired of these encounters…I think I’ll get a pet rock…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Burch.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Chickens, dogs, Hicks, Humor, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee

Wax On, Wax Off, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Wax On, Wax Off

By Beverly Hicks Burch

It’s THAT time. I will super heat an extremely viscous substance, apply it to places on my face and then rip the flesh from my countenance and proudly sport red patches on my skin for some time like red badges of courage. Am I an adherent of a cult or kinky S/M devotee? Nope, I’m talking about waxing my eyebrows. When I wax my eyebrows, I totally understand Frida Kahlo’s look…the unibrow.

Body waxing is a very personal thing. There are many parts of the body you can wax. Eyebrows, upper lips, chins, legs, arms, chests…and yes, even private parts are optional areas and fair game…although, I must say that even though I’ve never had a Brazilian bikini wax, I can only imagine it would feel like having my lower lip pulled over the top of my head.

In these days of metrosexualism, waxing is not just for gals either…nope, the true and the brave stand up and take it, too, like a man. In other words, guys are waxing like crazy. Girls, do you REALLY believe all those guys in those magazines were born hairless…never to clog up your drains or sprout hairy backs? How many naturally hairless guys…over the age of 12…have you seen with: slick chests, slick backs, slick legs, slick arms and slick…yeah…whatever…in your dreams… With only hair on the top of their head?! If you think that really exists in nature in large proportions, then you’ve been eating a whole lot of funny mushrooms.

i-own-everything.jpgWaxing brings back another nightmarish association to mind (other than that lip over the head thing) I fondly call it The Big Orange Abomination…also known as Kramer, the cat. Kramer was a beautiful orange tabby cat…and he was a big sucker. He weighed about 21 pounds. For those of you that aren’t cat people (and I’m not naturally one…I’m more inclined toward man’s best friend) saying you have a 21 pound cat is like saying “I have a 21 pound Yorkshire Terrier.” Kramer was also cunning, cagey, clumsy and at times, I called him our “blond” cat…no offense intended to my blond friends…I can not wax without thinking about Kramer and That Dark Day with the Wax Warmer.

About six weeks after we were transferred (back in my case) to the East Tennessee area it was time to wax. It had been a stressful time to begin with. The house was less than optimal. We had less than a week…about two days really to find a place to live and the place we found turned out to be a living wreck. (For house hunters that are going to rent…even short term…don’t judge a book by its cover.)

What you are about to read I will preface with: KIDS, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! (For those of you that may have heard or read a version of this, please bear with me…)

Anyway, the “master bath” in this house is a small add on with a pedestal sink. (We found out that the “bath” didn’t have heat and air AFTER we moved in, along with the fact the house was full of re-occurring black mold and a terrible water problem and other horrendous problems. All for a highway robbery price considering the size.)

A pedestal sink equals no vanity, so I had set the wax warmer on the closed toilet seat. I was busy looking in the mirror and pulling back my bangs when I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and there he was…the Big Orange Abomination sniffing around the wax warmer. I shooshed him away and assured him he didn’t want to tangle with the wax and wax warmer.

I returned to my business and task at hand…my eyebrows…and had just gotten one brow waxed and the required flesh from my face ripped off with the process when I heard the most ominous, chilling sound…a giant thud and thunk. I spun around just in time to see Kramer in the middle of the dumped wax warmer and…wax spreading everywhere. Kramer was covered in gooey, sticky, viscous wax…his paws, his tails, his body…EVERYWHERE! There would be no “wax on, wax off” for that kitty…no sir…

He immediately knew he was in deep dodo and took off…with me right behind him, calling him sweetly and calmly, “Kramer, baby, come back here you piece of crap so I can kill you.” It didn’t work…my words must have belied my tone and he was gone…spreading wax everywhere. I knew he would come back…all criminals return to the scene of the crime. I went back to the bathroom to survey the damage. It was a good thing he was out of my reach! It looked like someone had some kind of sick candle/wax orgy in the bathroom…it was shameful.

I happened to look in the mirror and realized…I had only one eyebrow waxed and all of my wax was on the floor. There was now about to be human melt down in the bathroom floor. I was right about one thing…the little villain did return to the scene. Mr. I’m Too Sexy For My Fur sauntered into the bathroom…if he only knew…

I pounced, picked him up and surveyed the damaged. Not only was he covered, but, he had waxed his tail to his body…smack dab glued that sucker flat…and there was no way he was going to be able to poop. I knew then we were all in deep dodo. I kept trying to pull it loose, but there was no way, no how his tail was going to budge. I managed to confine Kramer in a pet taxi. Keep in mind, too, this all happened about 4:45 PM. Since this was July…and hot, I had waited till late in the afternoon for that “bathroom” to cool down some

Bright gal that I am, the next thing I did was call Sally’s Beauty Supply and explain my situation. (I had gotten my warmer and waxing supplies at the Sally’s in Alabama.) Surely they had some kind of “takey off” stuff. I can tell you this…you learn to find small blessings in times like this…mine? I’m so thankful I don’t have a video phone…I just hate wearing paper sacks over my head.

The clerk sounded like she thought I was one of those phone calls yanking her chain…but, I reassured her I was sincere. I think she detected the rising hysteria in my voice. After she finished laughing and telling the other clerks in the store what was going on, she essentially told me there wasn’t anything there that could help me. (I also became known as the Lady with the Cat that Waxes at Sally’s.) Ok, Plan B…

I found a vet…one just for cats…and called them. I got kinda the same reaction with a couple of additions. They were about to close and could look at him the next morning, but they added, it sounded like he needed help that evening (ya think?!) She also recommended I place paper napkins or paper towels on Kramer where the wax was so he wouldn’t “accumulate things”. Oh, snap! That would have been my first reaction…wouldn’t it have been your’s?

I had visions of Kramer lugging the dining room table and chairs around as he accumulated them in the wax. So, I get him and “place” paper towels over the wax. Are you familiar with that bridal shower game called Toilet Paper Wedding gown? (Attendees break up into groups and are given toilet paper and their mission is to design and gown one person of their group.) Kramer wouldn’t have won…and he wasn’t very happy. Those paper towels and napkins just weren’t the right length for him. The vet’s office also recommended we take Kramer to an emergency clinic…sigh.

It was time to engage Plan C and call Tall & Handsome at work. I had to retell the tales of Kramer (no pun intended) once again…he knew it was time to come home. I wish I had a picture of Tall and Handsome’s face when Kramer sauntered out of the pet taxi, dragging his paper towels behind…and bedside…and on him… T & H was speechless.

He loaded Kramer back up in the pet taxi and off they went to the pet ER. I was talking to T & H on the cell phone all the way and I could hear Kramer putting in his two cents worth. Once at the clinic and in a room, T & H takes Kramer out of the pet taxi and I hear him say, “Oh, this is ugly.” (That’s Tall and Handsome speak for ‘OH MY GOSH!!’) I wished then I had sent him off with his own personal paper head sack. I took a deep breath and ask, “What’s wrong?” Long story short, on the way to the clinic, Kramer had tinkled…and now his paper towels had accumulated cat tinkle. Gone were his “white wedding gowns”. They were dingy yellow now…

When Kramer was seen by the folks at the clinic, they knew what had to be done. He had to be sedated and shaved…from his neck to the very tip of his tail. A cat tail is an ugly thing under all of that deceptively soft cuddly fur and not meant to be seen by human eyes. Cats are ugly under all that soft fur. I bet that’s why they have soft fur…to lure us into their deceptive trap…to make up like them…care about them…and them…BAM! They reveal their true sneaky selves…and their predilection for wax warmers.

Kramer was so denuded of fur, we were warned by the vet that if he went outside he would sunburn. When T & H and what now looked like a big field rat or 21 pound possum with a cat’s head attached arrived home, the other cat freaked out and started spitting, hissing and batting at him…my feelings exactly.

Several months ago Kramer went to live with a new family. He never adjusted to the new member in the family and Kramer’s massive amounts of fur were absolutely killing me and my allergies. Now, when I wax on, wax off…besides missing the flesh off my face…I think of Kramer in his new home. My wax days are better and I know his are, too.

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Fun, Humor, Pets, Photography, Tall & Handsome, Waxing

There Was Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth, by Beverly Hicks Burch

There Was Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth

By Beverly Hicks Burch

Ok, I have a confession to make. It’s been a lousy week. I have not been well and we have had a cacophony of disasters to knock on our door one right after another. Some I can talk about, some I can’t.

It started like this…well, sort of, kinda. I struggle with feeling well on a daily basis. That is a given with autoimmune disorders and chronic health issues. Last week something new happened, well, re-happened, with a vengeance.

As I mentioned before, I have an autoimmune disordered called Sjogren’s syndrome. It is similar to lupus in that is affects the organs of your body. With an autoimmune disorder, your body produces substances that attack your organs, skin, cells, blood, etc.…your body as a whole…hence the term autoimmune. Your body is literally attacking and killing itself.

Sjogren’s affect’s many areas of the body. When most people think of Sjogren’s, they think “dry eyes, dry mouth”. Yes, those are symptoms…but, not the only ones. The dry eyes can become very severe, even requiring surgery. Some patients eyes become so dry their upper eyelid will stick to their eyeball and/or their eyeball will become ulcerated. The dry mouth results in all kind of dental problems, no matter how hard you try to fight it.

Why do I tell you this? Well. At my last eye visit, my doc told me my tear film, that precious protective coating we all take for granted on our eyes, was gone. I’m in a constant battle to maintain moisture in my eyes. Some days are better than others. He explained to me that if I couldn’t maintain a good level of moisture, then I would start to have the problems I mention above. He said we could do surgery that might help. The surgery involves inserting silicone plugs into your tear ducts to stop any moisture from escaping from your eyes. That is not the type of silicone implants I dreamed of having.

Toward the end of last week, my eyes really started bothering me. No really. This was about the second episode in as many months, but this last one…wowzer!

It looked like I had stood still and allowed someone to beat me in the eyes with boxing gloves repeatedly many times. As a result, I looked like a wraith seeking young children to devour…granted a very attractive wraith, but, a wraith nonetheless. My eyes itched, were swollen, were runny and my nose was runny. I wanted to take a knife…or my fingers and pluck, claw or whatever the offending orbs out of my head. Misery would be a mild term to describe what I experiencing. The pain was so bad I had to take my hydrocodone for the pain.

Now, I don’t know if it was my Sjogren’s that was causing the discomfort or if I was a victim of the phantom “East Tennessee” allergies. Since moving back here, I think I have developed allergies to every pollen indigenous to the area. Probably revenge for moving at age 12 to Alabama, home of the Crimson TideGo Vols and Roll Tide do not go together. Somewhere down the line, you will pay for switching…or thinking about it. In the land of Southeastern Conference football loyalty runs deeps. Was it football voodoo?

Well, I kept doctoring my eyes with my standard meds. It didn’t help. Tall & Handsome went to store and pick-up a few groceries and some Benadryl at the pharmacy. The Benadryl seemed to start helping, but it took days for the swelling and pain to start going down…

Then there was the cat incident…at the same time of the eye incident… Ok, for those of you who don’t know, Winfield is the house cat in residence thanks to Tall & Handsome who brought him here from New Mexico. I call him “Dub” for “W”. If I had named that cat, it would not have been Winfield…it’s just too big of a name for the cat to bear…I think he looks like a “Hank”, but that’s an entirely different story.

Well, Sunday, after T & H gets back from the store, some way, some how Dub gets outside. No, I don’t mean, “Hi, I’m standing on the deck, aren’t I cute?” Do you remember that little term of “Tall & Handsome-speak” I taught you? “This is ugly.” That’s his way of saying “Oh, my freaking gosh!” Well, when Dub got out, it was ugly. I first got tipped off, when I noticed sweat beads popping off of T & H’s forehead and the fact that he was poking his head repeatedly under the bed. The view is not especially spectacular under there, so I asked him what he was doing. Ashen faced, he looked at me and said, “Winfield is gone.”

I knew then I had either taken too many drugs (prescription and over-the-counter of course) or the malady I had had now moved to my ears and brain because Winfield had not evolved to the point of opening doors. He wasn’t that motivated either. He sleeps 23 hours, and 45 minutes a day. The rest of the time is spent eating and pooping…or being a scaredy cat. How the heck did he get outside?

So, T & H is trying to grill a beer can chicken for us, moping around and trying to use the last light of day to find Dub, I’m clawing my eyes out, and Watson is enjoying being the only child. At one point the meds totally knock me out and Salvadore Dali visits me in my dreams. Watson has learned how to give “sugar” like a human child and is going around kissing everyone with lips…

I wake up and the first thing I ask is, “Did Winfield come back?” I should have known by his face. You see T & H started to grey prematurely in high school. Yes, he was about 16 when he got his first silver hair. I call him my platinum bombshell. Well, his face was the same color as his hair…a dead giveaway that the cat was still…far and away…

He looked at me and said, “I just hoped he got hit by a car and wouldn’t suffer long. He’s such a house cat.”

I look at him and think, I’m still dreaming…he didn’t really say that…I’m being punked…right? My eyes started itching, so I knew I was awake and I said, “I can’t hear that, I hope someone found him and is taking care of him.”

He looked at me like, “oh, yeah, good idea” and went back to the beer-can chicken…I think he was a little peeved though.

Well, next morning, Monday T & H headed out to work and we decided I would make a “Lost” poster. In the meantime, Watson is having the best day in his little Miniature Schnauzer life…he was perfect. Every time I took him out, I looked for Dub. No luck.

Down in the afternoon more salt gets poured into our gaping wounds. I have Gomez…Tall & Handsome has the “Banshee”. She has many talents, among them stalking, harassing and hurling piano benches across the room when angry. Well, this past week was also Banshee week. I believe she must have been a really big fan of the movie Cabaret because her theme is “Money makes the World Go Round”. When the well runs dry in one place, she likes to return to places she’s tapped before. (They had no children together, by the way.) Can we say Cha-ching?

My friends, these are not the only perils…some…well, if I told them all to you right now it would just be too macabre…I am not Wes Craven and even though at times I feel like I’ve been living on Elm Street…well, it can wait…

So…way down in the afternoon on Monday, I was just getting ready to take Watson outside. I was really scared. With the kind of last few days we had been having surely some piece of space junk would fall on Watson and me and we’d be in the backyard, smashed when T & H got home. I was dragging; I didn’t want to go outside.

We were at the French doors. All of a sudden Watson was alert and frisky…he saw something. I looked up and my wraith-like eyes beheld a sheepish Winfield on the deck! I couldn’t believe it. I flung the door open, Watson went crazy and Winfield was reluctant to come in…but, he wanted to so badly. I pulled Watson into the kitchen and slowly but surely Winfield crept back into the house. Watson went berserk…how could he just “return” like that after crushing our hearts? He doesn’t under the pathos of cats I’m afraid.

We are in a different weekend now. My eyes are trying to mend. They are better. Unfortunately, with autoimmune disorders when something resolves something else is just as likely to act up…yeah. Winfield had exhibited no desire to go toward any door that leads in a direction towards outdoors…he seems to be cured of that for a while. He and Watson are back to vying for the spot closest to me…T & H made note of the fact this morning I live in a household with three males. And we’re moving to take care of the Banshee issue…

Life is returning to normal on Elm Street…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Right Reserved.

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Filed under Alabama, Cats, Cooking, dogs, football, Health, Humor, Life, Pets, Sjogren's Syndrome, Tall & Handsome, Tennessee

My Rocky Road to Feline Companionship…No, it Wasn’t Sweet…,by Beverly Hicks Burch

My Rocky Road to Feline Companionship…No, it Wasn’t


By Beverly Hicks Burch

Lately, I feel like maybe I have been slighting my feline friends, and since I want to be “fair and balanced”, open minded and just down right American about it, I decided it was time to dedicate a few words to feline friends. First, let me be up front in saying the road to this point has not been sweet…it has been a little rocky.

I did have a cat as a child. Her name was Mrs. Whiskers. I have a sneaking suspicion my Aunt LaRue might have had something to do with me getting a cat in the first place. She lived across the street at the time and she’s always been a cat freak.

Aunt LaRue had a cat name Heathcliff one time that grew to be the size of a Volkswagen and lived as long as Methuselah. She called him “Heafy” and loved, loved, loved that cat. She could walk around with him draped around her neck. If I walked around with the weight of a Volkswagen draped around my neck, I would be a hunchback by now, but she did it for years and is straight as a stick. My aunt is a strong woman…in more ways than one. When Heathcliff died, Aunt LaRue and my baby cousin Montee (yes, girl, you’re still my baby cousin even though we’re all grown up now) were grieved. It hurt them…I can understand that…I hurt for them.

Back to Mrs. Whiskers…I was in first or second grade when we had her and something happened. She had a litter of kittens. Well, I know what happened to cause that…it’s what happened after that was strange. She ate one of her kittens. Momma and Daddy didn’t think it was appropriate for little girls to have an offspring eating feline mother as a pet, so Mrs. Whiskers went to live somewhere else.

I don’t recall owning anymore cats until I was married to “Gomez the Unremarkable”. To be perfectly honest, I was always kind of scared of cats. They have pointed little teeth and pointed claws…and those instruments of destruction hurt! I hated those feelings as a child…I still do. Cat scratches do not rule. *shiver* And, it kind of freaked me out that cats don’t have eyelashes like people…and dogs, but other than that, I have no problem with cats at all…really! They do have soft fur and can purr and are great mobile mousetraps.

After Gomez and I married and were living in our first house, we were working out in the yard one evening. We were the shame of our friends…we were a petless and childless couple. As we toiled away in the yard this one particular evening, an animal control truck slowed down in front of our house and then came to a stop.

The driver got out of the truck and approached us. He told us that he had just picked up a cute little kitten and hated to take it in to the pound…he had a bazillion reasons why. Long story short, he wanted to know if we would be interested in taking the kitten and giving it a home. Now, remember, Gomez is the one that hates cats. If you recall, he shot and killed the neighbor’s cat (About Dogs and Cats).

Gomez agreed to take the kitten in. The driver went to the truck and brought back a sweet tiny, ball of fur that fit in the palm of my hand. This was truly a baby. I was in love. The driver admonished us to take care of the kitten…we assured him we would…and he drove off into the sunset…literally.

Within a very short time we realized something was seriously wrong. I was playing with the kitten in the den and suddenly the little fellow started spazzing out. At first, it wasn’t too bad, I thought he was just playing, but very fast it escalated until the kitten was ricocheting around the room, bouncing off of everything…walls, furniture…you name it. We had to take the kitten to a pet ER. We were told there he had a rare neurological disorder that was terminal. The kitten died…and so did our checkbook…we were young marrieds…we barely had money for our own healthcare…sad, but true. I was heartbroken…it was one of the saddest things I had ever seen.

Actually, this little kitten was our second attempt at cat ownership. Some how I had found this beautiful cat name Benji…yep, like the dog (this was the `70’s after all), and we adopted him. Benji was beautiful…all black…big ol’ green eyes and fluffy coat. He was declawed, so he wasn’t destructive and he was well mannered. We had Benji about a year or so and when I had a male cousin come to visit. That cat was just never the same after that visit…and I just never figured exactly what happened, because I never saw anything happen…poor old Benji. I think my cousin must have bedeviled him a lot when I wasn’t looking. Benji wasn’t use to that.

After the cousin left, I started a new job and unfortunately, didn’t have the spare time to give to Benji to baby and pamper him. Gomez wasn’t going to, so I found a cat-adoring-person who had boat loads of time to give him and nurture him back to his Benji-ness. He deserved that. I heard from her later and she said Benji was thriving again…that made me and I’m sure Benji very happy.

Then, we got Daisy a little gray tabby with big green eyes. My son named her after Daisy Duck. Miss Daisy was featured some in the blog About Dogs and Cats. She was the cat with litter box issues….she refused to poop in one. No matter what we did, no matter what the vet suggested, or the pet psychologist…no way, no how was that cat going to poop in a litter box…tinkle, yes…poop, no.

I think it was because we adopted her from a shelter and the cages there were lined with newspapers. That was her potty preference…newspaper…either that or she was awfully tricky and she wanted to see what was going on in the world and the comics.

Daisy mellowed with age. When we first got her, she wanted to climb the curtains. Ok, confession time. Confession is good for the soul. I am OCD…I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder…a slight case…in some things. I don’t go around washing my hands 58 times before I go out or anything…it’s 127. Got ya…I’m just kidding! I really don’t do that…I’m not like Monk or anything…but, in my younger days, I was a kind of a neat freak. Autoimmune disorders, lung cancer, Fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, chronic fatigue syndrome and a few bazillion other health problems kinda cured OCD…although it’s still there, running in the background like a computer program. Daisy climbing the curtains kinda freaked out the neat freak in me…and the worry wart in me. I think I was afraid she was getting sick like the little kitten from the animal control guy. Thank goodness, she didn’t…she was just being a kitten.

Well, she grew up, we had her spayed and she really calmed down after that little procedure. She actually got quite fat and happy. Her abode most of the time was the unfinished basement…mostly because of the litter box issue and the fact that my son is allergic to cats. The longer he was around his beloved Daisy…the worse his reaction. One morning after she had spent several straight days in his room he woke up with whelps on his legs. She had been up on his bed. Yes, I walked a tightrope with those two…

Then, the “Great Tail Episode” happened…it was nothing like American Tail. I went down to do a load of clothes and was greeted by Daisy’s usual purrs and leg rubs. I looked down and nearly fainted. About two inches down her tail it looked like it had been gnawed and was raw. It was exposed almost to the bone! I couldn’t imagine how on earth that could have happened…my cats are always indoor cats. I rushed to call the vet.

The vet had no idea what happened either. He advised to let nature take its course and keep that purple medicine on her tail and try to keep it bandaged. Well, good luck there! (I remembered the bandage ordeal when she was spayed. Ugh!) Eventually, she went around with that portion just dangling from the rest of her tail. (I don’t handle blood and dangling parts well.) It bothered us more than it did her. After a while, it fell off, Daisy had a makeover and a new shorter tail.

Kramer - Yeah, what ceiling…Well, that brings us up to Tall and Handsome and the Dynamic Duo, Kramer and Winfield. We all know about Kramer and the wax warmer…but, let me give you a little more background.

Shortly after coming to Alabama, T & H was working in a small town in northwest Alabama and I was living and working in Birmingham about 90 miles or so away. He was staying in a hotel room and looking for us a place for our upcoming marriage. I had agreed to keep his cats for him.

Let me explain the layout of my house there (I still have it and we’re renting it out). It covers two stories and I have two kitchens…one up and one down. The kitchen down has acoustical tile ceiling and fluorescent lightening…as does the whole floor. (There is a purpose in Bev telling you this.) The bottom story has a kitchen, den, guest room, bath, office pantry and storage. So, I decided that would be the cats’ domain, especially while I was at work. What could go wrong there, right?

NOT!! To begin with…Kramer thought everything was his own personal jungle gym, including the china cabinet down there…so, score one for cat scratches on the china (almost antique) cabinet and broken dishes…and one for Bev, who kept smiling.

Then in April of that year, Alabama had an earthquake…yes sirree…an honest to goodness rock n’ roll earthquake…I slept through it. It caused a few of my dishes in the china downstairs to fall forward and some of the pictures on the wall to become cockeyed…other than that, I didn’t notice anything else…everything else was ok.

Uh, huh…it was kitty cat subterfuge. Evidently, the tremor had popped up one of the tiles in the ceiling some where and Kramer found it and he decided to go exploring. He also lured his brother Winfield into his life of waywardness.

One night, I was sound asleep and I heard a noise that would have awakened the Dead from the Afterlife…I know because that’s generally how soundly I sleep. I thought a 747 had dropped through the house. When I realized there was no gaping hole in the roof, and I gathered my wits, I realized the noise had come from downstairs. Then I jumped out of bed, ran to the door, went down the stairs…and could not believe my eyes… When I had that hot cup of tea before bed, had I inadvertently snorted the leaves?!!!

The noise I had heard was the ceiling and fluorescent light downstairs in the kitchen falling down…as into the floor! I felt like Hinny Penny…”the sky is falling, the sky is falling…” What I saw next was even more unbelievable. As I walked around, the ceiling had come down in the kitchen, bathroom, part of the walk-in closet in the bedroom and hall. As I survey the damage I looked up and saw four green, slanted, feline eyes. I might have said a very Un-Disney version of “Those Darn Cats!!!! They didn’t want to come down either. (Note: words like “I want to snap your necks!” are not good cat calling words. They don’t work like “Soouie” when you call swine.)

Yes, unbeknown to me, while I was laying innocently in my bed, sleeping contently like a baby, about 45 pounds worth of cat flesh was walking around on my suspended acoustical tile ceiling downstairs. My ceiling didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hades.

Kramer was really nonchalant about it. He was like, “Yeah, big deal so what. Screw you”. That’s his whole attitude toward life. Winfield on the other hand knew he was in deep caca. It was all over his face. It screamed, “Kramer made me do it”. I think he vowed from that moment on to correct the error of his ways and win me over.

It is a testament to Tall & Handsome that he is the kind of man he is. I married him any way…cats and all. Aunt LaRue told me cat men are more passionate. *wink wink* I can attest to that after being married to Gomez…and that is another blog.

So, with that in mind, T & H and I got married. Kramer went on his search and destroy missions and Winfield went on his win Bev over missions. T & H said Winfield always picked me to be his person. He was always bringing me things, fireplace gloves, my quilting fabric, my Boyd’s bears, my Romanian lace, dish towels…and every time he would be very verbal and announce he was bringing something.

Winfield - I know Kramer’s around here somewhereThere have been some changes. Kramer’s fur was becoming more of a health issue for me and he was just becoming too much of a bully…to Winfield and Watson. Winfield and Kramer always fought. Kramer beat the poop out of Winfield almost every day and together they bother beat the snot out of Watson. They both should have been only cats…and now they are. Kramer has a fantastic new home. And I now have an adorable, ecstatically happy, neurotic Tuxedo cat who is the master of the litter box, food bowl, water bowl, tuna cans, cat perks, cranberry treats and snuggles he wants…he is a happy camper…and life is sweet on the rocky road…

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.


Filed under AKA Gomez the Unremarkable, Cats, Gomez, Humor, Pets, Tall & Handsome

About Dogs and Cats, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Are you a dog person or a cat person? Well, convention would tell me most guys are saying dogs and most gals are saying cats. But, that’s not always the case. I found that out when I married my Tall and Handsome.

I’ve always been a dog person. I’m under the firm conviction all dogs go to heaven (well, at least most). On the other hand, I have a time or two borrowed a sentiment from my son on his feelings about cats…they are the spawn of Satan. Ok…Ok…that’s a really strong sarcasm on my part…his feelings, well, you’ll have to take that up with him, but he did have a big ol’ gray tabby cat named Daisy when he was a little boy…she was named after the duck. I think he really did like that cat, but in fairness, I would have to say he was slightly allergic to cats. Every time I suggested finding a new home for Daisy, he became very upset, so I was caught in a catch (or cat) 22 because his Dad “pure dee” hated that cat and I had to listen to his constant bitching about the cat. Poor Daisy had one major disability…she refused to poop in the litter box…no matter what we did…it just wasn’t her thing, and even though she was suppose to be his cat, my son had an aversion to cleaning the litter box. So, the basement was her domain most of the time. I never figured out why my son developed such a dislike for cats unless it was from his dad, my ex.

My ex, from this point onward known as Gomez, absolutely hated cats. It was almost pathological and it was there from the day we married, but I never thought too much about it. A few years before we divorced I knew something was seriously wrong when an incident happened that was highly alarming to me. I have been a birdwatcher and bird feeder for many years. This year, it was in the 1990’s, and where we lived, we had some very beautiful decks that were conducive to bird watching and feeding. The neighbors two doors up had several cats and they didn’t do a very good job of keeping them home. Their cats like to visit my bird feeders and feast upon my little visitors and friends. (Unfortunately, Gomez had latent racial prejudices and the neighbors were black; Gomez’s father had been on the Bull Connors police force in Birmingham during the 1960’s so his feelings came naturally. The poor neighbors didn’t stand a chance.)

Anyway, one day, one of the neighbor’s cats had come up to the house and was on the banister of the deck. The cat was young, maybe about 10 or 11 months old and pure, snowy white. When Gomez saw it preying on the bird feeders he became infuriated and went and got his pellet rifle. He said, “I’m going to take care of this problem once and for all. “I immediately began begging him not to do what he was about to do. I even reminded him it was illegal to discharge a firearm within the city limits and this was some one’s pet. He loaded the gun, pumped the rifle up has much as he could, took aim and…and then I heard a “Whoosh” and a crack. I saw the little white cat jerk, then, wretch and twist up in the air twitching as brilliant, scarlet, crimson blood started mingling and trickled down the pure white fur. The little cat fell off the deck, roll down the hill to the bottom of our backyard and died. Gomez turned to me with a gleam in his eye, proud and said, “I went for the kill shot. Right in the heart.” He was stunned when I asked him with tears in my eyes, “How could you do that? You could have just shooshed him away!” He just turned away, walked down the hill, picked the cat up and put it in the garbage can. When we moved a few years later, the first thing he did was to put Daisy outside. We had moved into a new home on a mountain, in a rural setting that was being developed. The area was still surrounded by wildlife like deer and mountain lions. Again, I begged for him to at least allow Daisy to stay on the screened deck since she had never been outdoors, but it was to no avail, she disappeared into the dark that night and we never saw her again.

So, based on those past experiences, I didn’t know quite what to expect when Tall and Handsome told me he had two cats. My first thought was, “oh, Lordy!” And then I thought ok, let’s be fair. In all fairness, he is an animal person. He just has a good kind heart. I guess the old saying is true…don’t trust anyone that isn’t kind to animals and children. My husband and his sister are major animal lovers. One of the reasons I love her so much, besides the reason she loves my husband so much, is the fact she has three lovable golden retrievers and a fantastic husband…oh yeah, and a cat. Those three dogs are the children, rulers, clowns and entertainers in the family and they’re a hoot.

Like I said I grew up with dogs…mostly large dogs…Collies, Boxers, German Shepherds…yep, those kind of dogs for little girls, and we loved it. Butchie was our boxer and our protector. She would follow me around the block when I rode my bike and if another dog charged at me as if to chase me, Butchie would lower her head and butt the dog out of the way. My sister liked to play doctor/vet…she even had her own doctor’s bag. Well, Sis even took Butchie’s temperature with a twig…and I don’t mean orally! Butchie, patiently allowed all of that “doctoring” and usually she was dressed up in baby cloths! She had a favored delicacy…bumble bees. Every summer, without fail, we could find Butchie around shrubbery with flowers, catching bumble bees, and without fail, every summer, Butchie went around with bee stung lip. She invented the pout before some starlet in Hollywood…so Angelina eat your heart out!

I had a collie name Lassie, a part Maltese-part Shih Tzu name Gidget, and a German Shepherd named Major. We got Major from a great-granduncle who had fought in Germany and had brought Major’s ancestors over from there. Major was a beautiful dog, black and silver and we WERE his family. He watched over us and protected us. If daddy had to be out of town on business overnight, mom let him sleep in the house. Once or twice in the middle of the night he would get up and patrol the house, making sure everything was in order and his girls were ok. One night, my folks had gone to mid-week church service and my sisters and I were home alone. We were working on homework. My parents had left the garage door open…in those days, it was a “safe” thing to do. During the evening, my sister and I were in the kitchen, working away at the kitchen table when all of a sudden, we heard the basement door start rattling and crashing like it was going to be ripped off the hinges. It was Major! He was barking and snarling and growling and tearing at the door with all of his might…and believe me at 100 pounds, it was great. His commotion was followed by the shouting of two intruders. My sister and I heard them say something about a dog…get out of here…and that was it. We called the church…our parents came home…and Major saved the day. Major had a hobby, too. Carrying rocks in his mouth…sometimes, the biggest boulder he could find in the back yard. We never could quite figure out that one…why on earth he took up that little hobby.

After I was married I had a part Collie, Beagle, Basset named Snoopy. I believe he was mildly mentally challenged because he got lost two blocks from home and couldn’t find his way back. He was gone for months. He was the strangest looking dog. He had the face, tail and coat of a Collie; color of the Beagle and the body of the Basset hound…I called him a bagel. He loved popsicles. He would chase cars…in our fenced back yard…there was a little track from one gate to the next. It was curved and even had a bank like a race track.

I had a schizoid Irish Setter named Rusty. He was absolutely and amazingly beautiful, but he was the most hyper dog I’d ever had…and boy, did the dog love to dig. When I had him, my back yard looked like a bombed out war zone. Not a good thing for someone taking horticulture at the time. I had to find Rusty a new home when he just wouldn’t get along with poor ol’ Snoopy. One day he bit him so hard it broke Snoopy’s leg and we had to have surgery performed on Snoopy to set and correct the damage. Nobody messes with my poor ol’ bagel and gets away with it!

And, then one day an angel came into my life. Her name was Lady…and she wore a halo. Lady was a little roan (red) English Cocker Spaniel. When Lady came to live with us, she was on her second or third owner. Evidently she had been lost a time or two. The owner who had her before we took her was a true animal lover, but Lady was a face in the crowd at his place…one of many. He had done right by her though…when he took her in she had developed heartworms. He made sure she received proper treatment to cure heartworms…and she survived. The treatment can be kinda rough on some dogs, but my lil’ Lady was a survivor…like her Mom. But, after giving her the heartworm treatment, he wasn’t too careful with her diet and fed her “people” food like fried chicken livers, ham, etc. Well, guess what happened? She developed pancreatitis. He really need someone to take her in and asked if we would. At the time, he was paying our son ten dollars a week to walk Lady. I’ll admit at first I was against it because I’d never had a totally indoor pet. But, Lady was smart…she knew who to butter up…the pseudo-harda**-no-way-is-this-going-to-happen…moi. It also helped that she had the good Lord above working with her and for me (He knew I would need her in the future).

On the weekend she was suppose the go home to her former owner after her littler trial visit with us, the Great Blizzard of 1993 hit Alabama. Yes, you heard me…a blizzard. No, I’m not talking about an inch or two of snow…I’m talking about 18 inches and more of snow. I had drifts of snow in my backyard that measured 24 inches. Now, if you say the “S” word in most places in the south, you will invoke certain reaction…from mild elations and joy on seeing the white stuff, to major panic that cupboards are not stocked accordingly. People make the required rush to the supermarket, stand in line for HOURS…usually to buy bread and milk, and then sit in major (like hours of) gridlock to get home. An inch of snow can close school, an ice storm can wreck major havoc…but a blizzard, but an all out honest to gosh wind blowing white-out blizzard…OH MY GOSH! Let me interject a small disclaimer here: In all fairness, normally, most places in the south, especially the Deep South are just not prepared to deal with that type of weather…they don’t have the need to or are equipped to deal with it…most of the time. While most of the US deals with the deep freeze and snow and ice, I have been known to run my air conditioner on Christmas Day.

So, back to THE blizzard of 1993…Lil’ Lady was a true lady. How can I put this delicately? Ummm… I know! She had no desire to make yellow snow! No matter how many times the Gomez trotted her outside, the little thing would not tinkle or poop on the snow, so, he had to go out and shovel through several inches of snow to make a doggie potty just for Lady…and it work! Tell me my dog didn’t have manners … when she came in from the snow, she looked like a little Clydesdale pony…there was so much snow in the fur around her paws and it was all fluffed out. We were the fortunate ones that year…we were only without power about 12 hours. Many in the Birmingham area were without power at least 10 days. My net gain was that Lady got to stay…and she did…up until she went to doggie heaven…actually she outlasted Gomez, proving that dog is woman’s best friend, too.

Lady saw me through my last cancer surgery. When I was sick, she wouldn’t leave my side…she was my little red shadow. I believe she knew how sick I really was before I did. Some research has shown recently that some dogs can “sense” or even sniff out cancer cells.

After I came home from the hospital after having 60% of my left lung removed, I’ll never forget seeing it take my dad, son and Gomez to hold back that little 24 pound cocker spaniel because she was overjoyed and beside herself to see me coming home. She became very gentle with me; she knew something was wrong. Because they either break you ribs, or saw out a section of your ribs, during the type of thoracic surgery I had, you end up with broken ribs…and it makes it difficult to breathe…on top of everything else. So, I had to sleep sitting up, or in a semi-sitting up position, and the Lazy-boy, made that possible. Lady would usually settle in right by my side on the floor, but late one night I woke up with a surprise…in my lap was a little red, furry bundle…my little red Lady…I guess she knew I had been having a particularly hard time and she had hopped up to make sure I wasn’t by myself.

I called my little Lady “love on four legs”. When she went to doggie heaven, it nearly killed me. She had seen me through an illness, the end of a marriage and the starting of a new life. Her big ol’ brown eyes had been the only thing to greet me when I came home from work, tired and sick…after being out of the workforce for over 20 years and having to go back into it disabled. She was smart as a whip, playful and charming…to me she was the picture of perfect…my angel.

So, when Tall and Handsome told me he had two cats, I thought, oh my, oh my…will the twain meet on this one?

Let me tell you about the cats. Cats are perceived as being aloof, cold and calculating. They are independent…to a point, and I had never seen many warm, fuzzy, cuddly cats. Well, read on…

Tall and Handsome had two. My reaction…insert the picture “The Scream” and you will know my private hell…hehe…just kidding…kinda sorta. One cat was a humongous, orange, furry tabby named Kramer. My pet name for him was that Big Orange Abomination. He was the pretty boy…a gorgeous cat, and he knew it. Picture bitchy valley girl…bitchy head cheerleader…wall street mogul…anybody that is your idea of someone that needs to be cut down a size or two because their head is way to big for the doorway. Well, that fits Kramer. Kramer loved to beat up on his brother, cause havoc and go places he wasn’t suppose to…and eat everyone’s food…he weighed 21 pounds. He was a feline bully…yes, he was Garfield living and breathing, oh, but he looked sooooooo innocent. His purr was loud and lusty…I called it a weedwacker purr. I have so many Kramer stories, but, there is one…yes, one that sealed his fate.

Not too long after hubby and I had moved to our current location, I decided it was time to wax my eyebrows. (Remember, I told you I’m a do-it-yourself-er.) This particular bathroom has a pedestal sink…no vanity, so I had set the wax warmer on the toilet. I was busy looking in the mirror and pulling back my hair when I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and there he was…the Big Orange Abomination sniffing around the wax warmer. I shooshed him away and assured him he didn’t want to tangle with the wax and wax warmer.

I returned to my task at hand…my eyebrows…and had just gotten one brow waxed and the required flesh from my face ripped off with it when I heard the most ominous, chilling sound…a giant thud and thunk. I spun around just in time to see Kramer amidst the dumped wax warmer and…wax spreading everywhere. Kramer was covered in gooey, sticky, viscous wax…his paws, his tail, his body…EVERYWHERE! There would be no “wax on, wax off” for that kitty…no sir…

He immediately knew he was in deep dodo and took off…with me right behind him, calling in a calm, sweet tone and voice, “Kramer, baby, come back here you piece of crap so I can kill you.” It didn’t work…my words must have belied my tone and he was gone…spreading wax everywhere. I knew he would come back…all criminals return to the scene of the crime, so I returned to the bathroom to survey the damage. It was a good thing the little mobster was out of my reach!

And, then I looked in the mirror and realized…I had only one eyebrow waxed and all of my wax was on the floor. How do you spell grrrrrrrrrrrrr ? But, I was right about one thing…the little villain did return to the scene. I pounced, picked him up and surveyed the damaged. Not only was he covered, but, he had waxed his tail to his body…smack dab glued that sucker flat…and there was no way he was going to be able to poop. I knew then we were all in deep dodo. I tried pulling it loose, but there was no way, no how his tail was going to budge. I managed to confine Kramer in the pet taxi. Keep in mind, too, this all happened about 4:45 PM.

Well, the next thing I did was call Sally’s Beauty Supply and explain my situation. (I had gotten my warmer and waxing supplies at the Sally’s in Alabama.) Surely they had some “takey off” stuff. I can tell you this…you learn to find small blessings in times like this…mine? I’m so thankful I don’t have a video phone…I just hate wearing paper sacks over my head. I’m sure, at first, the clerk thought I was one of those phone calls yanking her chain…but, I reassured her I was sincere. Maybe she detected the hysteria in my voice. After she finished laughing and telling the other clerks in the store what was going on, she essentially told me there wasn’t anything there that could help me. Ok, Plan B…

I found a vet…one just for cats…and called them. I got kinda the same reaction with a couple of additions. They were about to close and could look at him in the morning, but it sounded like he needed help this evening (ya think?!) She also recommended I place paper napkins or paper towels on Kramer where the wax was so he wouldn’t “accumulate things”. Wwwhhhaaattt?! I had visions of Kramer lugging the dining room table and chairs around as he accumulated them in the wax. So, I get Kramer and “place” paper towels over the wax. You know that bridal shower game Toilet Paper Wedding gown? (Attendees break up into groups and are given toilet paper and their mission is to design and gown one of their group.) Kramer wouldn’t have won…and he wasn’t very happy. The vet’s office also recommended we take Kramer to an emergency clinic…sigh.

So, Plan C and time to call hubby at work. I had to retell the tales of Kramer (no pun intended) once again…and he knew it was time to come home. I wish I had a picture of Tall and Handsome’s face when Kramer sauntered out of the pet taxi, dragging his paper towels behind…and bedside…and on… He was speechless. He loaded Kramer back up in the pet taxi and off they went to the pet ER. (Where’s George Clooney when you need him?) I was talking to hubby on the cell phone all the way and I could hear Kramer putting in his two cents worth. Once at the clinic and in a room, T & H takes Kramer out of the pet taxi and I hear him say, “Oh, this is ugly.” (That’s Tall and Handsome speak for ‘OH MY GOSH!!’) I wished then I had sent him off with his own personal paper head sack. I took a deep breath and ask, “What’s wrong?” Long story short, on the way to the clinic, Kramer had tinkled…and now his paper towels had accumulated cat tinkle…sigh.

So, once again, long story short…Kramer had to be sedated and shaved…from his neck to the very tip of his tail. A cat tail is an ugly thing and not meant to be seen by human eyes. He was so denuded of fur, we were warned by the vet that if he went outside he would sunburn. When hubby and what now looked like a big field rat with a cat’s head attached arrived home, the other cat freaked out and started spitting and hissing and batting at him…my feelings exactly.

And then there is Kramer’s brother, the other cat…Winfield. They are as different as night and day. Hubby had Winfield a few months before he acquired the Orange Abomination. Winfield is a Tuxedo cat…charcoal gray with white makings…and he’s a big cat, too. Somehow, hubby manages to grow big cats. Winfield has a little upside down white heart on his face, a pink nose and white paws. Tall and Handsome rescued Winfield when he was a kitten and he found him abandoned and nearly frozen to death. He had a rough start and as a result was a little neurotic. He’s the only cat I know that would suckle himself…when I first saw him do that, I told hubby, “I just didn’t feel quite right watching him do that. I feel like I should leave the room.” And the poor little thing was purrless…it was months, if not a year of more before I heard Winfield purr.

Winfield was smart…he pulled a Lady…he knew what side of the bread to butter as the old saying goes. Hubby says Winfield was always smitten with me…I don’t know about that, but he set about winning me over. He would bring me things…fabric, a fireplace glove (that was as big as he was, and he carried it up a flight of stairs), and my Boyd’s Bears…sigh. He knows his place…like we don’t get up on top of the refrigerator, do we…unlike Kramer and he learns quickly. Now, Winfield purrs…a deep happy, earthy, content purr. And yes, he is cuddly and affectionate. Hubby says I’ve taught Winfield to do something he’s never seen a cat do, and that is eat out of my hand…I just thought that was normal…dogs do it.

One thing really sealed Winfield’s fate and place in the family. A few months ago we inherited a little Miniature Schnauzer puppy…can we say boundless energy, smart, affectionate, stubborn, playful, little clowns? Not creatures welcomed into a cat’s world with open paws. I think I might have determined Watson…our little tyke…was the alpha of his litter. Well, even more angst for two ol’ territorial, set-in-their-way cats. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth…and paws…and claws.

But, I began to notice a little pattern developing. Kramer was going to have nothing to do with this new creature, no way, no how. He vanished into the walls. Winfield was different. If the paths of the three happened to cross and Winfield felt Watson was bullying Kramer (hard to do since both the cats are twice the size of Watson), Winfield would charge Watson and beat the snot out of him. Kramer would scoot away and watch the fray from afar. If Winfield was the one getting the perceived pummeling once again, Kramer watched from afar, never lifting a finger, hum paw, to help out his life long buddy. Well, I’m really BIG on and admire loyalty…score a big one for Winfield. Then after about two or three weeks, Winfield began to show back up in the room at the same time as Watson…all be it perched warily in the edge of something . But, he made his little point…this was HIS family and he was going to be part of it. Hubby has always said Winfield picked me to be his person, and I guess that proved it. Score another for Winfield. I admire tenacity in the appropriate situations also. Winfield was set.

So, in all seriousness we knew some changes had to be made. Kramer didn’t fit in, plus he beat up and bullied Winfield. His fur was killing my allergies and harming my health and the circle just didn’t fit Kramer any more…never really did. He needed to be in a family that could adore him and him only, he needed to be an only cat…and so did Winfield…and Watson needed more stability. We found a fantastic home for Big Orange and get periodic updates and he is as happy as a Cheshire cat.

As I write and look around me, I have my laptop in my lap and Watson and Winfield are curled up on the bed…and they have come to an unsteady peace, one only cats and dogs could broker. So, we have our little two member menagerie…Watson and Winfield…and they are content, happy, healthy and thriving. They add cuddles and smiles and nudges and purrs and warm hearts to our lives, and that, my friend, is all about dogs and cats.

© 2007 Beverly Hicks Burch All rights reserved. WatsonKramerWinfieldLady

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