I just might make it

February has been tough, yo.

In part because I realize I am too old to end a sentence with “,yo”.  Yet I feel without it the sentence, “February has been tough,” exudes a stoic adult-ness I do not feel about the situation.

But today I managed to buy prescription cat food online (Spike is a delicate flower, requiring not one, but TWO special diets mixed together to assure all of his output actually does, indeed, output) with just emailing pdfs and jpegs and not requiring me to speak to an actual person in person.

There’s hope, is what I am saying.  Or perhaps, I am saying,

There is hope.

Because I’m an adult.

November the First

Yesterday I drove the new kittens to the shelter, so now they are also the old kittens.  Just the newer old kittens.

Baby, the last holdout from our older old litter of kittens, had been adopted.  Tom figured this out by the fact that when he came home Baby was not running around our house.  She had been at the shelter a week or so ago when I dropped in for some vitamin supplement for the newer kittens.  All by her lonesome.  It took a lot for me to not snatch her up then.  If the newer (now also old) kittens were not so ill, I might have done so.

But the plan is to have Spike, Celeste, and Pixie be our last permanent felines for quite a while.

This last kitten litter (the newer old ones) were cute and fun and needy, but none of them tugged at my heart quite the way Baby did.  So it was easy to load them up and send them on their way.

I then came home and did a lot of random puttering about the house.  At one point I was on the computer.  Spike jumped in my lap and drooled on me for a good 10 minutes.  I believe that was my reward for chasing the annoying little shits out of the house.  Then in the evening, both Celeste and Pixie insisted on sleeping in the bed.

Right after Celeste puked on the sofa.

(We are too rural for trick-or-treaters, and it rained all day so the downtown Halloween event  was a bust.  There is a ton of candy left at the shop and I’m seriously considering just throwing it out in the most wasteful spectacle of the year.  So.  Much.  Sugar.  Luckily I also brought chips and guacamole for lunch so I’ve got a balanced meal today.)


It seems if I don’t write something soon, I will have gone a whole month with a depressing and unsatisfying un-ended story staring front and center here.

News!  I’ve moved!  Did you notice that 5-minute period where this site came up “Database Connection Error” on Sunday when I bit the bullet and canceled my previous hosting?  I needed to edit the wp-config file to point to local_host.

It’s ridiculous how scary it was to see that, even though I knew I’d copied over the database.  And I still had a copy on my hard drive.  And for three whole seconds I also thought it might be freeing.  Start completely from scratch!

When the issue was resolved I even did a madcap “Update all” in the themes.  I’d been putting that off because I could not remember how much “design” I’d properly captured in my child theme.  But hey, I almost completely deleted the blog!  What’s a little wonky background rendering of an already meh background?

I moved because I could piggy-back hosting onto another site for almost free.  And because that host provider (GoDaddy) has excellent technical support.

Now it has been 3 days without email at the shop because of a cPanel problem.  Way to instill confidence, GoDaddy.

Other news!  There are new kittens!  No photos because while they are cute, they are also shitheads.  Literally.  They have pooped with a frequency that is mind boggling.  Originally we were all like, “Oh hey, we are experts at this, let’s give them de-wormer!”  And everyone agreed and rejoiced.  But the pooping.  Did.  Not.  Stop.  They pooped in the litter box.  Outside the litter box.  On a bed.  On the other bed.  On the kitchen floor because they couldn’t make it to a litter box or bed in time.

Through out all of this, they remained by every other quality of life indicator “healthy”.  Eating.  Playing.  Bright eyed.  Bushy, if poopy, tailed.  So it was thought perhaps the de-wormer just needed more time.

They went to the vet an hour ago.  Turns out, they have a parasite that our particular de-wormer of choice doesn’t kill.  And a bacteria infection.

A side effect of the new medicine is that they probably will stop pooping altogether for 24 hours before resuming a normal bathroom schedule.  I have never been so excited for 24 hours of not pooping in my life.  “Don’t be alarmed!” warned the vet tech.  Little did she realize how close I was to drinking 6 bottles of wine for the corks.

The Dog Gone Story

Markey is alive.

IMG_5333Let’s take a walk back in time roughly one year ago. Our foster dog, Markey the Sheltie who had just had a pin removed from his hip, ran away from his new home.

It was horrible. We were very active in the search and trap efforts, but he alluded everyone. I was so sure he would smell us and as it got colder, as it started to snow, he would want the safety he remembered from our home.

That didn’t happen.

Even after over a foot of snow was on the ground, I went out to the forest where he was last seen. I post-holed through miles of crisscross trail mostly used by hunters. I got excited at random tracks. And went home let down every time, with no sighting.

I have never felt such a depressing, drag you down, hope since I was in high school. That horribly wrong and desperate hope I’d get after a semi-descent conversation with my crush at some party but then he’d ignore me for weeks in school afterwards. I just knew we were meant to be and had a shared something special and it just HAD to mean something to him as well.

(Side note: As somewhat of a tee-totaler until my mid-20’s, I can now answer my teenage self that my crushes were likely stoned or drunk and didn’t remember our amazingly, special conversation the next day. Also, thank god I didn’t blog then.)

I finally could not take the weight of the search. It became too cold. It snowed more. The outcome was pretty evident.

I’m the one that requested we foster Brandi. I needed to move on and have another animal to help and focus on.

Spring came. Brandi Left. And word got to the Humane Society of a limping, skittish, Sheltie being fed by an old lady roughly 12 miles north of where Markey made his escape.

We went. We talked to the lady. We sat in our car. We watched.

It was him. It IS him.

I started this story several times back then. Again, I was so sure we would catch him. He would sense our presence and good intentions.

After a few weeks, I gave up on that. Then I was so sure we would catch him because he is very food motivated.

Tom has gone through three trap designs.

It has been over a month since we last watched Markey come down the old lady’s drive. That day, the old lady came and told us she does not want him caught. She thinks he is very happy (true) and that if he dies in the woods it was meant to be (not true). Her son-in-law called the next day to express his sympathy and opinion that we were trying to do the right thing, but that we were not welcome on any of their property. Including the drive we had been previously baiting to lure Markey over the road to the trapping location (where we have permission from the owner).

The kittens have kept me busy and not too sad by not thinking about it. And being banned from her property does not mean we will give up or that we’ve run out of options. We need to re-group, re-assess. We want a solid plan when we do go back as we know we’re not wanted in the area.

This story still does not have an end. Writing it has made me feel a little sick. I’ve sank into a depression twice over Markey and I’m not sure my health or my work can absorb another low point of constant drinking, sleeping, eating, and TV binging.

I snapped out of the last one just weeks before we were banned from the property. I became proactive with the longer summer nights. I had re-committed to going out to the property and started leaving my shoes outside the car. I am sure, just as teenage me was sure of the turning-point-conversations, that Markey smelled me and had started coming closer and closer.

I also took the opportunity to take photos of him. Even a little video. It may be all I ever get. I am trying to decide if that will be enough.

For now, Markey is alive. We don’t get everything we want in our lives. Hopefully we get everything we need. Markey feels like a need right now.

Markey  (click for the video I took the last day I saw him)

Kitten Palooza. I’m sure that title’s not overdone in the least.

We haven’t had a foster dog since Brandi, the cart German Shepard, left in early spring. The reasons are various including trips, our crazy schedule, and spending a lot of time and resources on another secret dog project.

I do not mean to be secretive about the project any longer, but the point of this post is foster kittens. Even my best attempt at briefly describing the dog project was multiple paragraphs. So for now, I shall leave you wanting more.

A few weeks ago we decided to resume contact with the shelter and ask about fostering. For once, there wasn’t an overload. And being in a such a rural area, they prefer to have as many adoptable dogs at the shelter itself for potential new families.

But after a week went by, we got a call. The shelter was still OK, but a shelter in an adjacent county was full up with kitten season. Could we foster cats?

Mamma Jane and her six kittens came to us that same day.


The kittens were four weeks old then, and two of them very sick. Mamma Jane herself went through some illness with us too where we were syringe feeding her, cleaning up vomit, and checking the litter box with growing concern. Luckily, we have experience in the cat-won’t-poop department. A little medication, a little time and trust, and she pulled through.

image image

The two sick kittens are doing much better as well. The smallest, Baby, had an abscess on her leg that had been drained and she wasn’t walking when she arrived. She is still the smallest and slowest. I weigh her every night and if she hasn’t gained I will syringe feed her some formula. But her appetite, energy, and playfulness have all increased dramatically. She is the one we were worried wouldn’t make it. We’re less worried now.


The other sick kitten, Stumpy (I am trying to get in the habit of calling him Cole Jr because no one wants to adopt a cat named Stumpy), had a hind foot removed. Both Stumpy’s and Baby’s injuries were a result of all the kittens (seven at birth) being on the same umbilical cord. I’m not familiar with cat births (or human births for that matter – thank goodness!) but I guess this is rare and complicates the birth. Stumpy not only had to have his stump heal but he had contracted pneumonia. That has completely cleared up now. While all the kittens needed formula-feedings via syringe when they arrived, now only Baby and Stumpy receive them to make sure they stay on track.

Grey is the last of the “runts”. Nothing is wrong with him, he’s just smaller. Well, smaller and maybe dumber. He always has a dumb look on his face at least. He’s definitely beefing up though. Grey is a big fan of the Louis C.K. “Bang-Bang”. Grey will come out to one restaurant (a plate of formula), eat, then walk around the corner (to the bedroom) to another restaurant (wet food plate), and eat an entire second meal.

image image image

We’ve named the last three kittens WRK (for World’s Roughest Kitten), Boots (very imaginative), and Gandalf (for a grey beard on her chin that Boots is missing). All of them are fat, fast, rough and girls. Our biggest challenge with them is socializing them with humans – allowing for pets and lap sitting.

As you might imagine, our permanent feline crew is not happy about this. That is acerbated by the fact that Mamma Jane wants to kill them. The fosters are in a spare bedroom where we’ve installed a hook catch on the outside to make sure the door can’t be opened if not shut well (this is an old door on the original cabin).

But we can’t chance just trying to open the door quickly and slip in. If Jane gets a shot, there will be fur and claws and blood flying before we can blink. So in order to handle the fosters, we have to lock our crew up in the 3rd bedroom/study area (the “new” 1979 addition to the cabin with thankfully a better door handle). While they prefer this to getting the shit beat out of them, they resent giving up their house and toys. Celeste, Pixie, and Spike have all taken to slinking away from us if we make motions towards the study.

But overall they haven’t acted out. No bathroom activities outside the litter box (that we’ve found yet). No hunger strikes. No silent treatment. They still treat us like the food-doling-chin-scratching humans they always have, with a tolerant annoyance to the fact we feel other animals besides them deserve to be rescued too.

In a few days, we will start bringing a few kittens to the shop. I was initially wary of this; worried their immune systems weren’t up to such a public and social setting. But the shelter is full and think it would be wonderful if we can pimp them for adoption.

And no. We’re not keeping them. Any of them.

Celeste thinks it would be awesome if Pixie and Spike were adopted too.

Apologies for the photo-placement weirdness.  Between new computer, new browser, new App, and not-Interneting in forever, this is the best I could do.image

Creature Comforts

I kept Brandi our foster dog home today.

She had her first heart worm shot this week and is now on Prednisone. I figured the extra potty breaks needed with the steroid might be nicer for her at home instead of the shop where there is a lot more inside to negotiate before making it outside.

It’s neg something here, with a fierce wind. But sunny. Last time I let Brandi out she stayed for five minutes, but then wanted to go for a walk when I came out (braless, in a T-shirt and jammies). We ran to the mailbox like that and then she hesitated to climb the steps. So I left her out for another few minutes while I did some dishes.

Next time I came out with my down jacket and gloves. Good thing too. She repeated the entire walk and I think would have gone for a three-peat if I let her.

Thank goodness I kept her home from work on this cold, cold day.

Sno, willz u b my valentin? Luv, Brandi

The Sea and Other Not Gentle Updates

This is Brandi.


She’s a fine girl.  She’d be a good wife.  And if you think I will get sick of this joke while fostering her, you have obviously never owned a braided chain made of finest silver from the north of Spain.

Brandi has been with us for two weeks now.  (Which I had to edit because I started this a week ago.)

Two years ago?  (sure, why not.  We’ll never know her real story) she was struck by a snowmobile and lost use of her hind legs. Somehow she survived with her owners (or relatives of?) until she was recently surrendered to the Humane Society.

You might think the whole “can’t use half her body” thing was kicker, but that was just the start.


Heartworm positive.

Tape worms.  (Who the eff has TAPEWORMS after over a month of SNOW??)

Bacteria and yeast infections in her ears.

While completely in control of her bathroom facilities, there has been definite distress.  (Probiotics!  Not just for crazy white people!)

She pulls herself along gamely with her front legs which has led to: 1) abrasions (rug burn) on her hind legs and 2) cuts on her front pads due to the ferocity in which she believes she can scoot long.

We get told a lot by well-meaning people that, “I just couldn’t give them up!” as to why they don’t foster animals.

As if we are not bereft when we hear an animal in our care is going somewhere else.  As if we are immune.  As if we don’t love as strongly as we should when animals are torn from their lives.

For every Brandi enjoying a meal inside with well-meaning people today, hundreds (YES HUNDREDS) of animals were killed.  Today.  Because no one came.  Because their kennel was passed by one too many times.  Because life is a commodity that must be cute and young and (shall I make a Ferguson metaphor?) white to be traded up in this society.

We rage against that machine.  Against that dying of the light.  And it is sad and fierce and makes for poor blog flodder because there is no tidy cliche to fall back on in the end paragraph.  But we do it anyway.  Because we can’t not.  No matter how much we couldn’t give them up.  We do.  Again and again.

Brandi is getting a wheel cart and a “drag bag” (kind of like a sleeping bag with a harness) so she gets around safely.  We dose her ears and wrap her cut paws and don’t take it personally when she cowers at us standing near.

She gets fed.  A lot.  I am scared of the day when we get a foster that needs to go on a diet.  I will have to lock up the food and not give Tom a key.

Like previous fosters, we see the most progress at our home.  It is a calm, animal-centric environment.  Her ears-down (scared/don’t-beat-me) to ears-up (happy/interested) ratio in the cabin is almost 50/50 these days.  I think she would benefit to another dog in the house, but the cats do a reasonable facsimile so that she knows animals are welcome and loved and can have as many turkey treats as their stomach can stand.

In other news, there has been no sign of Markey.

We took a break from looking from him because it was deer gun season here.  (Actually, I went out on the 2nd day of gun season – complete with orange vest – but found no signs.)  Not that there weren’t hunters with guns in the woods before deer season – or that there are suddenly no hunters in the woods after deer season.  It’s just that the other seasons and other hunting methods aren’t half as revered as gun deer season here in the north woods of Wisconsin.

I wonder what Dylan Thomas would have to say about deer season?  How gently should that go?  Who should rage?  If it is the deer, well, that’s futile.  Because, you know, guns.  Which may be the entire point of that poem.  (Futility.  Not guns.)

We have gotten into a routine with Brandi.  To the point that Tom felt he had some free time and went looking for Markey yesterday.

No sign.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I hit a deer with my car.

To be more accurate, I hit very-fresh-almost-roadkill with my car.  The body went under my front passenger side and threw me for a loop landing on the opposite side of the highway.  I still didn’t know what happened until a gentleman in a truck with hazard lights on (which I had noticed a mere half-second before the impact.  “Hey, he has his flashers on…” bam!) crossed the highway and fired two bullets.

He had hit the deer with his car minutes before I showed up, then pulled over to put the deer out of its misery and move it completely to the shoulder, per Wisconsin roadkill law.   He was rather disgruntled with the fact I hadn’t noticed him sooner or paid more attention to the road.

I, in turn, was not disgruntled with the couple that stopped to make sure I was OK.  Even though they had been driving erratically behind me and were part of the reasons for my inattention to flashers and deer carcass.

The only things to suffer in the incident (besides the deer) were some body parts to my car and one particular body part to me.  My left shoulder, the weak one that has been through physical therapy after an abrupt fall years ago, has been killing me.  Literally.  (Slowly, if literally.  Since I do not wish to do anything more active than lay around the house and moan with a particular neck loll that doesn’t aggravate the left side of my upper body.)

And…I think you are all caught up to the current episode of It’s an InProgress Life.  Dogs come and go.  Injuries come and go.  Car parts come and go.  Just like the tide.

“She could feel the ocean fall and rise
She saw its ragin’ glory
But he had always told the truth, lord, he was an honest man
And Brandy does her best to understand”

Superstitions. Why? Also: Missing Dog

Part of what I have not been telling you is that over two weeks ago Markey our foster dog went to his new family.  Two days later he ran away from the family.

We have been part of the search effort and the struggle within me (as I believe is in lots of “animal people”) is the objectivity of what hungry, scared, animals do and the bond I know I have with said animal.  That bond can overcome a lot and we need to trust our gut on that sometimes.

Sometimes trusting our gut gets “animal people” killed.  So it’s a fine line.

And in this case, objectivity of what a dog who originally came to us from a car accident after over a month on the loose and unsuccessful capture from his previous owners has won out so far.  So gut, schmut.

I felt if I wrote about this until now I would be jinxing our possibility of finding him.  But now he has been out for almost a week since we had 18 inches of snow pile up, and the last few days have had lows in the single digits.  Unless he was somehow taken in by a stranger who did not feel the need to take him to a vet because of his dragging rear left leg, I believe Markey is likely dead.

This does not mean we will stop searching.  And I am putting my fear in writing so that I can be jinxed and Markey will have somehow holed up warm and now gets hungry enough to enter the live-catch trap by his owner’s home.  Except maybe I am jinxing myself that I wrote down my hope for my writing down the bad thing?

This has led me to think about how a lot of my superstitions revolved around negative consequences.

For example, I am a big sap for the holidays and helping people.  So several years ago I decided I would never pass a Salvation Army bell ringer without putting a dollar (or my loose change) in their bucket.

Somehow this morphed into my mind that it is bad luck for me to pass a bell ringer and NOT put a dollar in.

I do not really fear this bad luck.  I still feel happy and full of holiday joy when I deposit my dollar.  But somehow instead of deciding that this MADE UP SUPERSTITION could be that I get GOOD luck for every dollar I give, instead I, pretty unconsciously, decided I must be PUNISHED for buckets I pass by.

Even when the outcome of a superstition is good, I base it on a the most negative quality about the situation.  Today has been a slow day at the shop and we still have an hour to go but I have gone ahead and done Day Close.

I have not, as you might imagine, decided that if I do Day Close early that I am jinxing myself to have no more customers.

No, I believe doing Day Close early might encourage another customer or two BECAUSE IT MAKES MORE WORK FOR ME AND MIGHT CONFUSE ME AT REPORTING TIME.

I know I am not the only one who does this.  I heard on NPR driving to work today that some cancer “survivors” do not like that label because it might jinx them to have a recurrence of cancer.  But that, to me, seems like a legitimate Big, Real World concern.  Whereas my superstitions just seem to lead me to think that I am 1) crazy two) so pessimistic if I think about it too long I won’t want to hang out with me.

I would like to be wrong about one of those suppositions.  And it’s not number one.  I would also like to find Markey.

Back To My Normal

Everything I want to write about deserves so much more time and attention than I have to give at the moment.  Fingers crossed I make it back soon to give topics justice…

We had a house guest…two weeks?…ago?…and I forgot to ask him how I might refer to him here (if he felt comfortable with being named at all).  A friend from years and years ago.  I couldn’t (and therefore didn’t) take time off for his visit, but he relaxed and entertained himself and we did manage an afternoon trip to see some of the nature sites the upper peninsula of Michigan has to offer.  There was also good beer and a camp fire.

I couldn’t take time off because I had already scheduled a week off, starting the day he left, to join some of my dearest friends at The Wildcat Sanctuary in Minnesota.  This is the first trip our non-profit, Animal Warriors, has managed to coordinate remotely.  Three people flew in from Tampa, one New Mexico person arranged work travel in such a way she was already in MN, and I drove over.

We worked our asses off together over the weekend, and then each day we lost a worker to the real world until Wednesday (yesterday) when I drove the last person to the airport and headed home myself.

Actually, we were the second and third to the last people.  Kath, my beloved AT companion in 2012, will be there for a month to help with a gap in the intern scheduling.  She is the one who coordinated this trip having done month-long stints at the sanctuary last year.  I am already scheming how I might manage another weekend away while she’s there.

In four days, we finished the top and bottom of a brand new enclosure, as well as helped with the last touches on another habitat.  I am sore, sore, sore.  And happy, happy, happy.  These project-specific trips can be so useful for rescues and animal organizations once they realize the skills and experience we can offer.

Tom was jealous of my trip, but so extremely supportive.  He held down the fort here including taking Markey the Sheltie to his first post-op checkup to remove staples and examine the pin site.  All is going as expected on that front and Markey’s personality inside the house is really blossoming.  Outside is he still frightened and skittish.

Things are still in limbo with the tree situation.  I’m not sure where the neighbors stand in submitting a claim to Wisconsin Public Service for their garage repair and I’m pretty sure Tom has not heard back on our claim for the increase in the tree service needed after the fall.  But the huge log of white pine has been removed by someone who needed it and paid for it (pine would not be good for an indoor fire and we already have plenty of wood piles for outdoor-only).  The other tree that fell, the oak, is slowly being carved and split by Tom to keep us warm this winter.

As an added bonus, the right someone finally read our craigslist ad about free hay for mulch.  Even after creating a hay bale garden, adding some to our mulch pile, and using hay to fill in an old stump depression, we had about 20-30 bales leftover from winter insulation.  It was wet and decaying and not good for much of anything.  The strings had mostly rotted off so moving them was difficult and a huge pile ended up right in front of the living room windows which was not at all ugly to look at every single morning.  Such a relief it is gone.  Tom is putting up some sort of insulating board over the foam insulation in the crawlspace gaps so we will not have a repeat of hay-gate next spring.

I just got up to look out at those living room windows and there is a bright red leaf stuck in a baby pine.  When I drove through town on my way home yesterday, I noticed the streets were distinctly less crowded.  Our humming bird feeder, which sat almost untouched since spring, has been emptied twice in three weeks.  Fall is just around the corner.  It has been a satisfying, exciting, busy summer.  I know I should not look forward to a slow season and slow sales at The Hiker Box.  But right now a little catch-up time sounds wonderful.

I Have A Sheltie At My Feet

The tree from the last post did not last.  Our karma ran out.  Somewhere between 12 to 24 hours before our set tree service appointment, it fell on the neighbor’s garage.

Since we had to park out by the road, I ran back to the house for something and got stung in the head by a hornet from the nest we’d decided we could ignore because it wasn’t in our usage path.

(Tom actually decided that.  I thought it was too close to the road and they could bother joggers/walkers/bikers.  After I was stung (IN THE HEAD!), he moved to action and when I returned home, the nest was no more.)

That Sunday our foster dog Maggey went to her “furever home”.  (Sometimes I love the animal rescue puns.  Sometimes I don’t.  The quotations tell all.)

In all seriousness, if she could not stay with us she found the best place to be.  I was maybe 2 years older than her new “owner” when I got my first dog.  Whom I would position to sleep on my pillows while I slept curled at the foot of the bed.

Maggey is set for a good life and I have perhaps created a mini me with no gestation necessary.  Win.  Win.

The Vilas County Humane Society’s director, Jen, had been waiting for a skin test on a mange dog to fill our vacant spot.  While Centrifuges whirled, a year-old male Sheltie on the run got hit by a car.  He has a removable pin in his left femur (ACK SCARY RIGHT??) to set the twisted break.

Since I was sent on a Friday to decide (mange or DO NOT LET THIS PIN GET STUCK ON ANYTHING.  TAKE HIM TO ANY VET YOU WANT, DON’T CALL ME FIRST), guess what I decided?

Here is where I would show you a picture of Markey.  The Sheltie with the pin.  But it is not uploaded (like the pictures of the tree on the garage which we have shared with Wisconsin Public Service) and many times that would stop me from even starting this post.

“You talk of dogs and trees, but where’s the iPhone quality PROOF?”

On Wednesday, a moving company supposedly will turn our check and fancies into real live map cases that we will have to find room for.  Ever since we bought the map inventory and started learning about the business, we opened an account with an online resource for customized maps and have sent three out this week as far as Vermont.

(I just put a comma instead of a period behind Vermont.  Vermont, Vermont.  The REAL Vermont.  Where the map will get splashed with maple syrup.)

People like customized maps.

Meanwhile, me, whom gets lost on a hike that doesn’t circumvent a lake and SOMETIMES EVEN THEN, has learned by heart at least three of the USGS Quadrants involved in Eagle River and the 28-chain of lakes.

I am frustrated.  I am sad.  I am happy. I AM BUSY.

It is my “day off” and I have cooked for three hours so that I AM SMALLER.

I have a Sheltie at my feet.  And I don’t need a picture on the Internet to prove it.