Decorator Dog

Most people have heard of Feng Shui, the oriental art of spiritually-informed design. A our house we enjoy Feng-Shih, or perhaps it should be called Feng Schnitzel

HGTV designers and decorators eat your heart out; Animal Planet please take notice.

Schnitzel, our beloved Schnauzer-Shih Tsu mix canine companion daily reveals to us his Asian Shih-Tsu genetic roots in his commitment to arranging and rearranging his and our immediate environment.

I am not talking about his collection of toys and other play objects although, depending on how he chooses to amuse himself on any given day, he routinely distributes and redistributes them around our home.

Specifically, I refer to Schnitzel’s pet furniture, his dog beds which come in a number of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes. He has at least three or four of them and we never know from one day to the next where they will wind up.

For reasons known only to him and canine Feng Shui masters, he finds it essential to move his dog beds from room to room and or to a variety of locations within each room.

Sometimes we witness Schnitzel practicing the Oriental Art of Feng Shih-Tsu.  While watching one of our television programs we may spot him gripping one of his dog beds with his mouth and with clear intention drag it from one side of the living room to the other.

From time to time he will bring his dog bed of choice over to one of us, shoving it up and onto our laps, looking at us with canine expectation.

We think he may be asking for our take on his aesthetic opinion, but we cannot be sure. I fear that his is often disappointed with us.

What we do know, beyond the show of a doubt is that we have a dedicated and devoted decorator dog in our home.

HGTV or Animal Planet, we eagerly await your call….

A story of our pets as teachers

A recent post by fellow-blogger Steve Kenagy brought back poignant, important, consoling, and peaceful memories.

One beloved cat (Ginger) simply stopped showing up. We never knew what her life was like after the day she did not show up for dinner. This cat (an independent-thinking, fun, challenging, and loving manx) had “shown up” in our lives, at the start uninvited, but Continue reading “A story of our pets as teachers” »

Dogs a digging, writers a writing

It occurred to me this morning that I can no more stop expressing myself in writing than Schnitzel, my canine companion, can stop digging in the sand.

When we go to the shore I watch him dig, dig, digging away (see illustration) and wonder, “Why is he dogging there, Does he sense something beneath the sand I cannot? Is there a hidden treasure? Why is he so devotedly digging, apparently for no apparent reason?”

After digging at these questions for some time I uncover that Schnitzel’s reason is well, unreasonable. Schnitzel has no “reason” whatsoever, nor is there is any meaning to be made. There is little to no reasoning to Schnitzel’s capacity for living. Schnitzel chooses to dig because it is simply in his nature to dig.

He does not dig to entertain or inspire me (although he does). He will dig for as long and until he wishes to do something else: fetch a Frisbee, or bound down the beach cheerfully chasing after seagulls in the sand.

I note (perhaps you have as well) I literally and literately like to ponder and play with wisdom and words that alliterate in my writing. For me it is fun, appeals to my sense of whimsy, and it gives me pleasure.

And now I stop and reflect: How very different am I than my faithful playful canine companion? He digs, runs, chases seagulls because it is fun, gives him pleasure, and sheer joie de vivre. A snout full of sand is as much fun for Schnitzel as a peck of puns and plays on words is for me.

We are not so very different after all.

Do you dig it?

Caring for Kittens

Today I sterilized the baby bottles and nipples, ran four loads of laundry with extra Clorox, and folded and sorted by size.  It’s a bit of work to do all that.  Why?  Well, it’s kitten season, or almost kitten season.  I foster for the Seattle Animal Shelter.  I am in a specialized category; I am a “bottle baby” foster.  This means that I get the very smallest of the orphaned kittens.  There are a handful of us that do this work.

How small?  Well the smallest I’ve had came in around 4 ounces.  Usually, they are more like 8-10 ounces.  Often their eyes are still closed or just barely open when I get them.  We are talking VERY small.  I like to take pictures of them next to my TV remote control, or next to a shoe, just to give my friends some perspective on their size.

As I am folding the laundry, which consists mostly of polar fleece and towels, I try to remember just how tiny these kittens are.  It’s hard to keep that in perspective when it is FOUR full loads of laundry, pieces range from a square foot up to blanket sized.  How can something that is less than one pound use that much stuff?  And yet, they do.

Being a bottle baby foster is a huge undertaking.  When they are less than a week old, they eat every two hours around the clock.  Each week, as long as they are growing, you can add an hour between feedings.   After the second week of waking every two-to-four hours to feed them, I start doing things like hanging up the phone and putting it in the refrigerator.     By week four or five they are sleeping through the night and getting ready to be fully weaned, and I’m pretty much back to my regular sleep patterns.

Why do I do it?  If you knew how many times I’ve asked myself that question…

It is the most amazing experience.  Imagine holding a living being that fits in one hand, is almost asleep, purring and with a belly that is so full it is bigger than its head.   When the purring stops, they are asleep.   When a kitten is safe, warm and well fed, it has got to be the most satisfied being on the planet.   And holding it awhile, letting it feel safe as it sleeps is a magical experience, no matter how many times you do it.

As a personal growth counselor and trainer, watching the kitten learn and grow is just natural and fun.   There are developmental markers to watch for; like the day they stand, when their eyes open, when they figure out there is a larger world than just the sofa and try to figure out how to get to the floor, the first time their backs arch and hair stands up, and the next few days as they try to scare themselves to do it again, and the day they realize that they have a name.   There are also the developmental markers that a foster mother dreads; the day they figure out how to escape from their pen, the day they learn that the wall hanging is actually a swing, and the day they figure out how to take Kleenex out of the box or unroll the toilet paper.   It all happens in a few short weeks.  Each developmental marker is a triumph for then, a triumph for life.

Every kitten is different; each has their own little quirks and preferences.  How nature makes so many varieties never ceases to impress me.   And yet, there are so many ways that they are alike.  Each life is unique, precious and somehow connected.  The kittens remind me of that constantly.

By the second day with them, they know my voice, my touch and that my presence means food and comfort.   I often forget how well they know me, until they remind me.   When they are a little older, and running around the house, they seek me out to take a nap on.  I am part of their litter, I am momma.  What species they think they are is a good question.

They come to me because they have arrived at the shelter without a mother.  Sometimes, they were born to feral mothers and picked up when their mothers were trapped and spayed (the Seattle feral cat program does an amazing job.)  Sometimes they come because their mother died and the owners brought them to the shelter, some come because a citizen found the nest and didn’t see a mother cat, many times, I don’t know their story, just where they were found (the corner of 52nd and 5th.)  In any event, they need help.

The hardest part for me is that some don’t make it.  I’ve held small kittens in my hands as they died, not being able to do anything but to stay with them in their last minutes, and I’ve sat at pet emergency rooms in the middle of the night and made the decision to put the kitten down.    When I first started to foster, I swore I would never let any of my fosters die.  I would be the perfect foster parent.   I have learned some humility since then.  It is not within my power to keep them all alive.  I am only the temporary care giver.  I am only human.

Each death has taught me more about life than I can describe.  Each death has been a different lesson.   The first lesson was the hardest.  The kitten had been sick for a couple of days, and I had been working around the clock to support him.  He was a very determined little guy which made tube feeding him an adventure every time.  When a kitten is congested, they can’t use a bottle, so you have to feed this long, very thin tube down to their stomach, the tube is attached to a large syringe filled with kitten formula.   When you fill their bellies, they start purring and fall asleep.

I thought he was getting stronger, I was still absolutely sure I could keep him alive.  Kittens can die fast…very fast.  I still remember the moment, I was holding him, and I suddenly knew that there was nothing I could do.  This little life I was “in charge of” had just slipped out of my control.   Something in me let go in that moment.  I was suddenly just a small part of this bigger experience, no longer in charge of his life.  I held him, and watched the life leave this little body, knowing I was witnessing something I really couldn’t comprehend.

What I let go of was a control of life that I had been unsuccessfully grasping for most of my life.  There are things in this world that we don’t have control of.   By letting go of what I don’t have control of, I gained control of a bit more of my life.  That little guy taught me so much, he broke my heart and he made me so much stronger.  And, he has made every kitten that does survive just a little more precious.   I only foster them, something else keeps them alive.


Carla Camou, NLP Trainer and Personal Change work:

Gifts of Peace

There is nothing quite

As endearing as listening

To your pet

Sweetly snoring

From the foot of your bed

At five in the morning.


In that final hour

Before the day commences

He is a gift

Of Presence.


All is well.

The world is at peace

Enfolded by the murmurs

Of his slumber.



Guilty by dog


Bellevue has a secret criminal society and I join it nearly every time I take my pet out for a walk without a leash.

Whenever I go out with him I never know whether some pet-Nazi will approach to reproach and reprimand, reminding me that, by city ordinance, all pets must be leashed, with the exception of city-designated off leash areas.

But as many of the thirty-nine percent of all US households who own at least one dog will agree, persistent tethering of pets compels us to be cruel even as we attempt to love our pets.

It is remarkable and a tribute to dogs that they tolerate leashing and love us back.Perhaps we can learn a lesson or two from our canine companions.

I am not speaking about poop-scooper ordinances. Pet waste can and does transmit disease; an abundance of pets relieving themselves in our public areas is unsightly and worse. I have no argument with that ordinance whatsoever.

But my good-natured, would-never-hurt-a-flea, little dog loves to run, explore, and investigate. (very much like you and I do, actually)  The world for him is a never-ending source of fascination and joy; having to haul back on his leash as he strives to live his life is cruel and unusual punishment for both of us.

Well,  “What about the off-leash areas?” you might ask.  

In the City of Bellevue there are only two off-leash pet areas; both of them found in Robinswood Park. Of the two sanctioned pet areas, one is nearly always a swamp from rain and the other, designed to be a horse corral with somewhat better drainage, is very, very small. Both off leash areas have extremely limited parking options.

There are a few areas known mostly to local pet owners, that tolerate pets off-leash to some degree, so long as they make no disturbance or threat to other citizens. Part of our Bellevue down town city park is reputed to be one of them.

But the fact is that, tolerated or not, it is still against city ordinance to let a pet run free-  and that makes criminals out of hundreds of pet loving owners each and every day.

So let’s open a new dialog, reexamine the issues and see if we can uncover a golden mean that decriminalizes pet owners while protecting the rights of the rest of us.

It might mean designating, designing, and maintaining more public off leash areas; it might mean banning dogs of a given nature, breed, or size from within our city limits; we might have to require dog licenses that are similar to vehicular licenses, with designated training and behavioral requirements.

I am certain that a society that can design the internet and iPods and send a man to the moon can find a solution for loving its pets.

We need a public solution that does not criminalize thousands of pet lovers for loving their pets.

Jimmy In the Ring

Dad? Jimmy here, Could you take me to the ring? I so enjoy the ring. When dad announces we are going to the ring, I get all excited and start to jump up on him. There, I get to show off how well I conform to the breed standards; that is why it is call conformation.

You ought to see me strut in the ring. I move like a finely tuned German automobile. And why shouldn’t I? I have German Heritage!

You may be asking, what is conformation? I have never heard of that term before. Imagine the Westminster Dog Show. That’s when all the dogs strut around the ring showing there stuff. There is a judge in the ring, too. That judge has the unenviable task of deciding what dog most closely matches the breed standard.

Did you catch the Westminster Dog Show?  The Wired-Hair Dachshund won the Hound group. That means of all the hounds at the show, she most closely matched its breed.

I thing she got misjudged in the finals. I thought she was the best looking dog there. Then again, I might be  a little biased.

I hope to one day strut my stuff in the big ring at the Westminster Dog Show. I’ll show them how it is done!

The Boyz Christmas

This years Christmas would have been like any other Christmas. Thankfully, we had the  boyz to lighten and brighten our day.

Jimmy and Sherlock are our boyz. I purposefully end it with a z so people don’t think we have ordinary kids. Our kids are so much more than ordinary! For starters they have four legs. Our family doesn’t have some weird genetic anomaly that makes that happen, unless you would consider a love for dogs as a weird gene. Yes, our boyz, Jimmy Dean and Sherlock Holmes,  are dogs. Really, they are so much more than dogs, they are Wired Haired Dachshunds.

Their actions, on a normal day, brings a smile to my face for some of the things they do. It could be Sherlock falling to sleep on his back as he so often does or Jimmy for not yet learning that it helps to get his butt off the blanket if he wants to get under them. It could be the way they are  sentinels and do not let anything happen in front of our house without us knowing. Jimmy has his sentinel position and Sherlock often finds his own tower. They are but a whiskers hair away from letting out a shower of barks to anyone that happens to walk in front of our humble abode. I pity the person who happens to have a dog at the end of a loose leash as they are showered with an incessant stream of rapid, forceful barks. This lets the unexpecting canine know that their presence has been duly noted.

This Christmas started as many Christmas, waking with presents under he ornamented tree, knowing what hid behind the cheery paper of some, but not others. Mary shared with me early that morning about a new found bag of unexpected gifts on the front porch, an unanticipated arrival from a dear friend.

Shotzie, our last dog taught us about keeping or not keeping doggie presents under the tree. One year, we left a present of hers under the tree. Needless to say, returning from a short trip to somewhere, we returned home to shredded paper and one less present.

The next year, we got wise. When her present from her auntie arrived, we kept it top of the entertainment center.  Much to our surprise, after another short trip to somewhere, Little Shotzie had ripped into a couple of presents, the ones that had traveled with her gift in the package from Southern California. That day, we learned about guilt through association; no gift that traveled with a pooches gift could be safely stored under the tree.

Those draconian rules, a least in the dog’s eyes, have been in place ever since. Because of this year’s events, radical rule changes may have to go into effect. Let me tell you why.

The season started with the boys wondering what all the nicely wrapped gifts were under the Christmas tree. They had never bothered the presents before, but for reasons unknown this year their behavior had changed. Sherlock, fitting his name and being more inquisitive, got caught under the tree a time or two sniffing presents. It got a little bit more strange when jimmy, the more reserved one, got caught under the tree, also. We just kept a close eye on them to make sure no additional funny business occurred.

Then came Christmas morning. I opened a couple of gifts while the boyz, patiently, or not so patiently waited. Jimmy does a little bit better at waiting. Sherlock kept lunging a the still unopened gift, wanting it before it could be unwrapped. Eventually, I finished unwrapping the gifts and gave them a taste of their treats, and they were happy. They showed almost more join in the anticipation of the unwrapping of the gift as they did in finally getting the treat hidden behind the wrapping paper.

I knew they were unlikely to tear through the inner package of the next gift, so I  opened a couple of flaps and just let them go at it. They did a pretty good job of getting it open. By the end of that opening, it became obvious that Sherlock had quickly developed a great interest in the paper, far greater than the contents, even though the present enclosed had edible treats.

He quickly became picky about his paper. Glossy paper did not turn his crank. He would grab it, and then let it quickly fall to the floor, kind of like the underwear the six year old gets at christmas time. But, he developed a lust for tissue paper or some of our rough paper having a three of four newspaper sheet thick feel to it.

As Mary and I open subsequent gifts, Sherlock would sit at our feet, panting, and waiting for the gift to be open. At that time, he would grab the now discarded paper and happily take off with it to all four corners of the house, tearing it to tiny shreds. One time he could not wait; as I explored my newly open gift, he jumped up and grabbed the paper from my hand. I am sure, a Jack Bower thought ran through his head, “Give me that paper! Now! Or i will Kill you!”, as he sprang for the paper.

Soon, all of the once, perfectly wrapped gifts had lost their thin shell to be appreciated for their content, at least for Mary and Jimmy and I.  Sherlock had found joy in he remnants of paper now found here and there.

At times, the frugal side of me comes out and I try to save some of larger sheets of Christmas paper. Not this year. As we cleaned up the living room, Sherlock still lusting over his new found friend, we would be lucky to find a piece of paper big enough to wrap a ring box or maybe a singular mini Christmas Bulb. But in short order, the room had been returned to its previous state. As Mary wandered away, she kept finding paper here and there, first in the dining room and then the far end of the hallway. It appears Sherlock had a grand time taking his “gifts” were ever he wanted to.

So, next year we are left with a dilemma. We know that doggie gifts can not be kept under the tree, for curiosity would over take the dogs and would need to find out what dog treat lurked behind the pretty paper. I fear for next year year surround Sherlock’s new found love for most wrapping paper. I can imagine come home from a short trip to somewhere with many of our gifts open and paper found in all four corners of our house. We have created a MONSTER!

As you can hopefully see, the boyz helped to make this Christmas anything but plain and ordinary. Their zeal for life and gifts, in what ever form they came in, have made for a unforgettable day. It will be a memory I will cherish for ears to come.


Meowy Catsmas

The damn cats have been here for exactly a year. Oh, joy! And tomorrow is also the 1st anniversary of the release of my first kidney stones. Thank God that’s over.

My little Grinch didn’t want to put up a tree this year. She was concerned for her cats. I was concerned for the glass ornaments.

We managed to get our 5 foot, fake, pre-lit tree out of the box today. I usually set it on top of a small skirted table. An accident waiting to happen, right? My brilliant idea was to screw the base of the tree to the cheap table. That was a small project. (Never the right tool when you need it.)

Later, as we worked in the other room, the meowing turned to crying. “Go check on the cats, please,” I said. Moments later, she screams from the living room, “Dad. You have to see this!” The tree looked like a blind man trimmed it with a chainsaw. One cat was on the skirted table, at the base of the tree looking up at his brother. Oh, brother. The other one was tangled in the wires, hanging upside down from his haunches.

It took the two of us, one at each end, to push him backwards past the wire to freedom. He wasn’t grateful. He was still trying to hang on.

The tree stands sturdy, all lit, gathering gifts in its entire naked splendor. (Ornaments would be too risky this year.) A full, plastic, quart-size squirt bottle stands nearby to defend the tree from would be feline climbers.

Damn Cats and Meowy Catsmas.

ciao, Pete

Efficiency Expert







What do dogs dream?

It appears that, just as we humans are prone to sleep walk and talk; our canine companions are equally liable to sleep bark, growl, and dream.

Early this morning our sleep sentinel was overheard growling quietly as if he were issuing a warning, beware! I listened closely for any signs or sounds of a raccoon or other neighborhood denizen passing outside our door but was unable to identify anything alarming, at least to my human ears.

I checked to see if Schnitzel was alert and awake, dashing to our door as he has done on occasion in the middle of the night. I was ready to hush him and go back to sleep, but I could see he was still fast asleep at the foot of our bed.

Then he proceeded to make a repetitive, a kind of a whooping, sound unlike any other I had heard him make. Concerned, I listened and became aware that our faithful companion was growing and barking in his sleep! I also could see Schnitzel’s body twitching, and his legs waving as if he were running.

Our sleep sentinel was in the midst of a full blown vivid dream of what I can only begin to imagine; a squirrel perhaps?

As he became quiet I rolled over, returning to sleep with a new conundrum, riddle, and mystery; what do dogs dream?