The Cats of Italy and Greece

My family returned late yesterday afternoon after a glorious 11 days in Italy and Greece. I’m jet lagged, watching a Stanley Cup Final game, and not feeling 100%, but I have a plethora of photos from our travel and thought I would go ahead and share some. So, in this light-and-fluffy post (quite literally light and fluffy), I submit for your viewing pleasure the cats of Italy and Greece. And in the upcoming days, I’ll write about the our travels and the memories we made on this family trip celebrating our youngest’s high school graduation and our oldest’s 21st birthday.

Find the cat

We started taking photos of cats (and some dogs) on this trip when we came across the Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary in central Rome. I had no idea such a thing existed or we would have made a point of finding our way to it rather than just stumbling across it. The sanctuary, which has been in existence since cats moved into the excavated area of Torre Argentina in 1929, relies on donations to stay afloat. Approximately 125 cats a year are adopted into loving families through the efforts of the sanctuary every year. If you want to support their mission, you can do so here. I took this photo of a lone cat resting on a wall in the ruins. I was pretty proud of my effort. A couple days later, Joe showed me this.

Hope he has at least one of those nine lives left

I mean, seriously? Santorini is pure magic. Joe’s composition here was on point. Of course, his brother would tell you he gets at least partial credit for spotting the cat in the first place. We found so many cats to photograph in Greece, both of feral and the family varieties. Without our dogs to provide our daily dose of furry love, we substituted the cats we met along our journey.

Shade seeker in Rhodes on a hot, sunny day

When we arrived in Rhodes, the cat competition took off. It seemed we couldn’t turn a corner without finding another feral cat that needed to be captured by our iPhones.

Although Rhodes was fertile ground for our cat photos, we hit the jackpot when we arrived in Mykonos Town. So, so many cute cats in one of the most photogenic locations of our vacation. Joe and I disputed who took the better photo of this cat. I will grant that Joe’s composition is better, but I like my photo’s focus on the cat rather than its place in the environment because ginger kitty pops on that whitewashed step when he is the focus.

But we weren’t finished battling it out yet. The photo opportunities kept coming.

This next cat, though, he took the cake. Well, actually, he nearly took my phone. While I was trying to photograph him through the slats on a porch railing, he reached out and stuck his claws into my phone case. I went ahead and pressed the shutter button for him since he lacks opposable thumbs, and we ended up with this green-eyed kitty selfie (and some damage to my phone case). That is the price of art.

The eyes have it

So many cats, so little time in Greece. Anyone who knows me well, though, knows I am a dog person first and foremost. I can’t publish this post without giving a little love and attention to a canine furball. So I shall leave you with this fluffy pooch hitching a ride on a scooter. Man’s best friend indeed.

And Just Like That My Calendar Feels Like 2019

The pandemic. Am I right? I lived the vast majority of my life never using that word. I vaguely remember reading that word in history books once or twice before I hit 20, but that was as much as my brain ever considered a pandemic an actual thing. In the past two years, however, I don’t think I’ve gone an entire day without mentioning it. Honestly, I am sick of the word. Sick. O. It. I am almost as sick of the word as I am of not having a day alone in our house, watching my hands bleed from relentless hand washing and sanitizing, running out to buy more hand lotion, wearing masks, hearing people complain about wearing masks, getting vaccines, hearing people complain about getting vaccines, taking Covid tests, hearing people complain about taking Covid tests, and trying to explain how science works to others and remind myself about it, as well.

I know. I know. We are not out of the pandemic. (There’s that word again). No one has any idea when we might be out of it. So we are in limbo. We’re going on a cruise next month. At least, we think we’re going on a cruise next month. It all depends on whether we can manage to stay Covid-free between now and then, even as cases are on the upswing again. Now, if this was 2021, I’d say that would be no problem. We’d just hole up at home and skate our way onto the cruise with a clean bill of health. But this isn’t 2021. It’s 2022, and 2022 is apparently 2019 again. No masks. No crowd size limits. No restrictions whatsoever. It’s a free-for-all. Everything is back up and running. Sold out playoff hockey games. Sold out concerts. Parties. Dining out. It’s all back, baby. And we are here for it. We are SO here for it, so ready to be here for it, that our May calendar is packed. No lie. Here is is.

Oh, wait. I have one free day on 5/23. Woot!

As you can see from the tiny dot underneath every date (save 5/23) between now and May 31st, we have something going on every day between now and the end of the month. I plan to keep the 23rd open for the nervous breakdown I will be having. Why is our calendar so full? Well, let’s see. There’s senior prom and all our usual appointments for therapy and haircuts and doctor’s appointments and the like. Then hubby and I are flying to Pasadena to see a concert, booked a million years ago before we had anything on our calendar. We get back late on Sunday night and then Monday I load a different, pre-packed suitcase in the car and drive to Washington to pick up oldest son from his sophomore year at college and then drive the 1,085 miles back home across five states. Then it’s our youngest’s 19th birthday. Then there are graduation parties for friends’ children and more events for our own son’s graduation. We are going to another sold out concert (in our city this time) on the 24th. The 27th is my damn birthday, but that should be low-key because hubby and I are in class that entire weekend trying for get scuba certified. Then it’s basically June, and we have graduation practice and will have family in town. Then it is graduation and woohoo! We’re almost done! But we aren’t because we are hosting a graduation party for Luke and his friends. Then on the 6th we have to clean the house for the house/dog sitter, buy dog food for our security beasts, shop for what we need for the trip, find our passports, pack, get Covid tests to prove we can take the trip, upload results of said Covid tests to the Celebrity Cruises web site so they will let us board, and get on a plane to Rome on June 8th. Did I mention we still have a puppy who is, well, a puppy and a senior dog who is, well, not exactly a puppy? What the hell was I thinking? Finish strong and you can collapse on a boat? They have limoncello and ouzo where you are going? Hold on, sister. You can make it. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

I realize this is a lot of sniveling from a white woman with an embarrassment of riches in the areas of wealth and good fortune, but it’s my full calendar and my introverted, whiny butt will complain about the lack of quiet, sit-in-bed-all-day time if it wants to.

Just please don’t remind me that in 2020 and 2021 I begged for my life to be, and I quote, “back to normal,” because of course I did. Who wasn’t wishing for that same thing after being stuck at home with spouses and children and pets for months on end? We all wanted out. Now we’re getting what we asked for. Don’t remind me I did this to myself. Of course I did. Be kind and please say a silent prayer to Jesus or Allah or Vishnu (or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster God of Pastafarianism) that my heart holds out, at least until we get to Santorini. Then I can die, exhausted, happy, and at peace at long last in an ouzo haze.

Puppy exhibiting how I can attempt to hide from those dirty obligations and celebrations

Be The Messy Golden Retriever

Photo by Olga Andreyanova on Unsplash

“I have decided I no longer want to improve myself; I am a beautiful disaster and I accept myself as such. So, bless this mess because I’m done being stressed.”

Now, ignore for a minute that I might have heard this saying today on a TikTok video showing a golden retriever in all its derpy glory and simply focus on the words. It’s basically a self-acceptance mantra. And I like it. It might be a good thing to keep in my back pocket for those days when I find myself trying too hard to twist myself into a pretzel for the sake of “improving” myself for someone else or their agenda.

Long live silly, come-as-you-are, funny golden retrievers that prove you can be happy just the way you are.

Is That All There Is?

Some call this puppy jail. Ruby calls it peace of mind.

When we brought our corgi puppy home late in September, we knew our older dog, Ruby, would be against the whole sordid scenario. To ease her (and him) into the transition, I purchased a large, plastic corral to serve as a temporary border. It was, indeed, meant to be temporary. Turns out it has taken our senior dog much longer than anticipated to adjust to her new, four-legged housemate. For months, she avoided walking near the pen after its inhabitant lunged at the corral, causing it to shift a couple inches closer to her. Because Ruby is in kidney failure and has bad days, we decided that she deserved control of the majority of the main floor. Loki remained in his pen except for the few times a day we would allow a 20-30 minute, spirited “play session” (read: practice the “drop it” command while attempting to retrieve from the puppy all the items he has sloppily pilfered with his mouth). During the Loki free-for-all, Ruby enjoyed the spa-like comfort of our closed bedroom with the knowledge that she was safe from the chompers of the small, furry landshark we had brought home and inflicted upon her without consent.

In March, once Ruby had finally acknowledged that Loki was here to stay (the horror), we began letting them co-mingle for periods of time with supervision. Ruby spent most of those moments snarling and snapping as Loki attempted to play with her. Loki, completely unfazed by her snarls because he innately understood she would not harm him, continued to annoy the hell out of her. The humans in the house have grown accustomed to the sounds of Ruby telling Loki, not so politely, to f**k off, and Loki continuing to press the issue because how dare anyone not acknowledge the power of his cuteness.

A month and a half into the co-mingling experiment, things are beginning to calm down. Loki is starting to understand that Ruby will tolerate him if he stays out of her face. And Ruby is starting to acknowledge that having another four-legged around is not entirely horrific. She will even approach him when he is sleeping and flop down within a two-foot radius of his resting figure. Two feet appears to be the minimum distance for safety in Ruby’s mind. Loki now is able to remain out with Ruby for hours. The pen has become the place we put him when he needs to chill for a moment. We are trying to acclimate him to life on the outside and hoping he will learn to settle.

Today, though, I noticed something different in Loki’s demeanor when he was out and about. He was mostly avoiding Ruby, walking from closed door to closed door (he doesn’t have full house access yet), and looking curiously at everything. It felt like he was settling into the pace of life here on a Saturday morning. Then he seemed to get a little lost, as if he isn’t sure what he’s supposed to be doing to amuse himself now that he has a lot bigger enclosure than he is used to. He sniffed at his basket of toys, but seemed uninterested. He would approach the sofa where I was sitting, collapse into a sploot in on the floor, and then a minute later get up and go back to wandering around. He was antsy and seemed dissatisfied somehow. I couldn’t figure it out. He couldn’t wait to get out of his pen and then at one point I looked over at him and saw something that felt distinctly human about his behavior. As he sat there in front of the coffee table, his head swiveled and surveyed the room. He looked forlornly at me, and I swear I could almost hear him thinking, “Is that all there is?”

After all the time he has spent in the pen, wanting to be free on the outside, now he is on the outside and he doesn’t get what the excitement was about it. It’s like he just now realized the entire house is actually a large pen. So he has his freedom, but it isn’t what he expected it would be. And this, of course, led me to The Shawshank Redemption because, maybe after all that time with restricted access, he now isn’t sure he can survive on the outside. I wondered if he was thinking of ways to wreak havoc so we would pick him up and deposit him back into the safe space he has had for six months.

“There’s a harsh truth to face. No way I’m gonna make it on the outside. All I do anymore is think of ways to break my parole, so maybe they’d send me back. All I want is to be back where things make sense.” ~Ellis (Red) Redding, The Shawshank Redemption

So, we put him back in his pen, he settled onto one of his comfy blankets, and fell right asleep. Everything made sense again.

The T Rex Of Greater Sterling Ranch

I feel compelled to alert my neighbors that we may have a T Rex problem in Sterling Ranch. I have had the opportunity to witness this small T Rex, a juvenile, I believe, rampaging through the southeast corner of the Providence Village neighborhood. With short arms, sharpy teeth, and a vice-like mouth grip, it’s best you be on the look out. Don’t mistake his smaller stature as a sign of potential weakness in the creature. Make no mistake about it. He has a bloodlust that can’t be satiated. Just today I saw him rip open the cranium of a smaller juvenile T Rex. He then proceeded to carry his prey around with a glib nonchalance, as brain matter spilled from its head. A spine-chilling sight I won’t forget soon.

Attempts to capture the creature and pacify him with other tasty morsels have proven fruitless. Even when he has been presented with superior caliber game, the kind that would prove a challenge to most other carnivorous dinosaurs, he manages to best them in a matter of minutes. The toughest reptiles have felt his chompers penetrate their scaly exteriors and found themselves mortally wounded. At this point, I’m afraid all you can do it keep your eyes peeled for him, secure any quarry in which he might take interest, and keep your extremities in close to your bodies so as not to become his next victims.

He will, indeed, snatch with his pearly whites anything he can reach; and with his smaller stature, ankles, denim, footwear, socks, calves, feet, and toes are all highly vulnerable. Be forewarned that if you reach down to try to save any of the aforementioned body parts or items of clothing, you only subject your upper extremities, sleeves, sweatshirts, sweaters, and t-shirts to certain destruction. He is well-acquainted with weak spots. He will find yours. So far this week, he has ripped the arm off a bendy amphibian, gutted a large stingy ray, and dismantled a turtle with spikes.

Bring your pets and children indoors. If you spot him, remain inside and alert the authorities immediately. Any attempt by untrained individuals to subdue the beast will quickly become a regrettable decision. Please pray for the professional wranglers still endeavoring to capture and restrain this lethal predator. We need all the help we can get.

Bless His Little Heart

A little over a decade ago, we had young children and a young dog. So it was a happy accident when we discovered that our border collie loved chasing the bubbles we blew with our kids. It makes sense. Bubbles float carelessly on the breeze, disorganized and wayward. They are a herding dog’s dream chase. I was pleased to learn that little herding dogs like to herd bubbles as much as their larger counterparts.

Herding bubbles is pure joy for Loki. He loves the chase and will stand on hind legs trying to reach one that goes too high. I found it so charming when our border collie, Ruby, ran after bubbles. She was so determined, focused, and dignified in her pursuit. But there’s a different energy when Loki does it. He’s fast, but his height is a hindrance. He’s accurate, but not always the most graceful. Still, his spirit is in it. You can see it in his eyes.

Loki…King of the Derp

He tries so hard. Bless his little heart.

Loki, Puppy Of Mischief, Strikes Again

In Puppy Prison doing time

Tonight calls for a haiku about our relentless (and adorable) little corgi who has been living up to his namesake today by pulling double duty in our bathrooms.

.

One corgi puppy

on an epic quest to maim

all the t.p. rolls

I may have to pull a 2020 move and start stockpiling toilet paper because it appears we may be in for a shortage.

Loki’s Big Adventure

Loki enjoying some free time on the deck

Our seven month old corgi puppy has been getting more and more free time out and about in our house. We started with thirty minutes to an hour of supervised run around time. As time has gone on, we’ve worked to stop watching him so closely. Often, after an initial trek around the house to check out his usual haunts, he settles down with some toys and plays nicely by himself. So we have slowly allowed him more freedom.

Tonight we let him out after dinner and a visit to the yard. He did his usual rounds and then ran off towards Luke’s room behind Luke. With Luke watching Loki, I was free and so I went back to practicing my Italian on DuoLingo. Awhile later, I looked up and saw Luke at the kitchen counter. He and I began having a conversation. About five minutes into said conversation, it occurred to me. If Luke was in the kitchen, where the hell was Loki? Crap! We had a left our puppy unattended for at least five minutes. Do you have any idea how much damage a freaking corgi puppy named after the Norse trickster god can cause in five minutes? You should see what he can do in thirty seconds. Let me enlighten you. His usual run once he gets free is first to pull down all the dishtowels that hang in the kitchen. Then he runs straight for the hall bathroom where he unrolls some toilet paper and drags it through the house. Then he will tear over to the entry bench where he will grab any glove or hat someone has left behind and run away with it. After that it’s off to his toy bin from which he will pull every single toy out onto the floor. In. Thirty. Seconds.

We tore down the hall to Luke’s room and from the doorway we began to see the carnage. Some cardboard had been gnawed near the door. The roll of toilet paper that had been on the wall was shredded all over the bathroom floor. He then broke into Luke’s Closet of Shame (which is filled with Legos), and that was where we found him. We’re not sure if he ingested any Legos, but we’re impressed that he realized that plastic Legos were a higher value prize than the cardboard and toilet paper. As soon as Loki understood he’d been caught up to no good, he got a case of the zoomies and sped out of Luke’s room. When we finally managed to recapture him, he was panting heartily. And, if I’m being honest, looking a bit smug.

Puppies are something else. Loki is somewhere between a cranky toddler and a rebellious teenager right now. Sometimes he’s one, sometimes he’s the other. Either way, he earned his trip back to his pen after his free-for-all in Luke’s room. Loki tells other dogs he gets put into puppy jail after he tries new things. But, he’s just being dramatic.