Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Twisty, aka Truffles

Alot of times, the stories behind our animals are as interesting as the animals themselves. If you look carefully at the top picture of Truffles, you will see that her left hind leg seems to stick out a bit. Her original name was Twisty, but we hated the name (you'll find out later), so we renamed her Truffles. Twisty was in a cage at Animal Care and Control with a big laminated sign on her cage that said, " Twisty"- and then it told her story. It seems that the kitten got caught on the twisted part of a barbed wire fence by her back left leg. She was seen hanging there for three days before someone decided to see if she was still alive. She was. So they took her off the fence, and treated her for her very severe wounds and her near death dehydration. Julianna wanted a tiny kitten, but I talked her into getting this cat instead. I knew that she would be a very special soul. And she is. She craves attention, loves to sit on your lap, and gets along with all the pets here, especially the birds. Since she is an indoor kitty, that is important. She walks a bit oddly and when she eats, that back left leg always splays out in back of her. I am so glad we have her.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Big Tiny and the lessons he teaches

One of the lessons that I try very hard to teach my two little girls is that man looks at the outside of a person, but God looks at the heart. I cannot tell you how many times a week that phrase comes out of my mouth, regarding other people's behaviour or the behaviour of Em and Jules, good and bad. I want my girls to see others FIRST for how they behave, and secondly for the way they look on the outside. And they have learned this lesson very well. Sometimes that is difficult to do. Our cat, Tiny, is a constant reminder of this lesson. People ask his name and when I say Tiny, they always laugh and say, " Why Tiny?" And I tell them his story. One cold morning a few Thanksgivings ago, I went out to feed our outside kitties. I heard a strange kitty voice, " Meewwwwwww." I said, " Who is that?" We continued this conversation until I located where the voice was coming from. A tiny cat was under Jon's truck. I coaxed him out and it was the saddest sight I have ever seen. There was a brown tabby who was so thin that his bones almost poked through his skin. He was a tiny, bony, striped cat with a huge head and huge yellow eyes. I could get my fingers around his tummy he was so thin. I took him to the vet and said, " How old is this kitten?" (After they weighed him and told me he was five pounds I assumed he must be a few months old.) The vet said, " This is a full grown neutered male cat, Anne. This was obviously someone's pet." I almost cried. I said, " Give him his shots, I am taking him back home." ( I had intended to take him to the no kill shelter.) So we named him Tiny and began giving him huge amounts of food and love. I don't know which he needed more. He would eat and then sit for 30 minutes on your lap, purring and kneading his paws on your legs. He never left the garage and always came when he was called. As time went by, Tiny became HUGE. His body seemed to catch up with his head, but his eyes always seemed too big for him. So when other people see our cats, he is never the first one to catch their eyes. He looks kind of odd, quite frankly. But I have NEVER EVER known such a sweet cat. His heart is nothing but goodness and love. Once when he had gotten attacked by a neigbor's cat, I had to shave his neck to see the wounds and put hot compresses on them 3 times a day. This cat sat on the bathroom floor and PURRED over the sound of the electric razor. He never fought the compresses or ran from me when I came out to give him his pills, as much as he hated both. How much that impressed me!
When I see Tiny, I see one of the most beautiful cats in the world, but other people don't see that. People stop short at his unusual looks and when I see that, I gush, " Oh, that's Tiny- see what he does when you pet him!" They bend down and pet him and soon Tiny is drooling and laying in their lap, the picture of contentment. And then they see what I see and love him too. I use Tiny as a lesson to my kids when they are tempted to judge others based on their looks or how they dress. I remind them that God saves some of the best souls to be embodied in different looking frames and tell them to always remember Tiny and the beauty that he is, inside and out. I remember when I am tempted to complain about my daily physical pain that Tiny was still, quiet, and obedient during his treatments for his wounds. I realize through this cat that many times our children need our love and affection more than they need our meals. And many times, we just want to hurry and "pour the food" and scoot off to do other things. All the animals here all need me to stop and love them in addition to their meals and fresh water. And it reminds me that I need to stop and physically love my children, to hug them and kiss them and tell them how precious they are to me. Unlike Tiny, they won't wind around my legs until I show them some attention. Once again, God, thank you for teaching me these simple but hard to remember lessons through a big Tiny cat.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Totally in love with the head zookeeper

I am so totally in love with the head zookeeper here. I thought I would share a few of the reasons why I am so enamoured with this man. This is a photo of him with Sadie and Gunnar, two Italian Greyhounds that boarded here for four months. They are now in Japan with their real mommie and daddy. While they were here Jon often said, " Those dogs are so awesome- let's tell Julie and Noa we'll just keep them." We both were so happy for them to be with their real parents, but the day I dropped them off at the airport was a sad day for everyone, especially Jon. Everyone believes that Jon is just TOLERANT of the animals here, but let me tell you the truth. He absolutely adores our critters. He is a totally mushy, goofy acting, nonsense talking love muffin with all of residents (especially the human ones). :) Ranger and Pica are his favorites. Ranger is his blue headed pionus in the last post. He and Jon eat all their meals together- that is to say that Ranger eats off of Jon's plate. He loves Jon and only Jon and each morning they share breakfast and Jon talks to him. "C'mon Rangie, let's get up and eat breakfast!" " Hey you pretty bird, you love your daddy, don't you, yes you DO!" I could go on, but I don't want to totally embarrass Jon. Ranger eats pasta, chicken, shrimp, steak, toast- all the things that people don't think birds eat. Ranger LOVES macaroni and cheese. My brother is appalled at what we let him eat (he owns a miniature macaw), but we figure it this way. So Ranger dies in 35 years of liver disease instead of living 60 years- that's LONG ENOUGH. But I digress. Pica, our tiny IG is Jon's other favorite- he is silly headed over that dog. He snuggles with her almost every night and it is the sweetest sight EVER. But Jon loves everyone. When he comes home, he goes into the backyard and proceeds to get the most enthusiastic greeting from our 12 dogs and they take turns getting love from Daddy. (He has already loved on our daughters, mind you- don't want everyone thinking we've got OUR priorities messed up, no sir.) Anyway, one by one they come and get their ears rubbed and sweet nothings said to them. Jon's part sounds something like this. "Hey Tiki Princess, how are you today, beautiful girl? Oh, Houston,you rocket boy- did you catch any squirrels today? Hey ole Pancho skinny man, you're looking good today, Oh Ra Ra, how are those old ears today? Sassy, I love you but DON"T LICK ME SO MUCH! Hey little Pica girl, you little thing, hey ole Buddy Boy, you wild thing. On and on until each dog is satisfied that they have been seen and properly adored.
Jon works as hard as I do to keep our animals happy and healthy. He has cleaned hamster cages with the kids, refilled bird water dishes, scrubbed out dog bowls, cleaned out crates, given cats and dogs their pills- there is nothing he won't do for our pets. He is honestly the dearest man I have ever known. When it came time to euthanize our first Cat, Spaz, he drove me to the vet, but had to stay in the car because he was crying so hard. He has buried every parakeet, hermit crab, and cat that has died and has encouraged our children to make beautiful graves for them all. He has spent hours with me at the emergency vet and watched while our dear cat Moses died before our eyes. We held each other and cried on each other's shoulders. He has planted each hibiscus that adorns our cats' graves. I thank God every day for this sensitive, loving, and committed man. This zoo bonds our family in ways that noone will ever understand. If a man can love our four legged friends this much, there is no amount I can write to express his love for our children and me. Thank you God for hand picking Jon for me and thank you for letting us share our love with all of our "children". He is truly the best zookeeper I know.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Share more than meals at the family table

There's a commercial on TV right now about the importance of families communicating and spending time at the dinner table. The narrator says, "Share more than meals at the family table." Well, we already have that down to a fine art. We share our meals and more than our meals with about 4 extra family members. Last night I just had to laugh out loud. Kito and Ranger, our two parrots were eating something off of someone's plate, Pharaoh was standing beside the table hoping for some morsel to fall off the table, and our inside kitty, Truffles was very much wanting someone to pet her. Dogs and cats and birds all near each other??? Yep- and the cat has never once tried to harm the birds, and the dog would never dream of hurting ANYTHING. But we are very careful in spite of their lovely behaviour amidst one another. So amid a scattering of pasta, shrimp, and toast crumbs, we asked our girls about their day and listened intently to their adventures. Meanwhile, we are refereeing the birds, telling Pharaoh that there is no food falling off the table, and telling Truffles, "Wait until supper is over and someone will pet you." Occasionally we would catch someone doing something funny and we would all look at each other and laugh. Yes, we are always sharing more than meals at the family table here at the zoo!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

We have no control- and we're not SUPPOSED to!

My title probably took you off guard and it was supposed to. Over the years, I have had some real up close and personal experience with control. And the longer I live the more I realize that control is just a mirage- you look and are sure you have it, and when you get closer to it, you realize that it isn't there. Now, I am not talking about control over our tongue or our actions- the Bible clearly states that we are to exhibit control over how we speak and our reactions to various things. I am talking about how we use our sense of control to believe that in some small way, we can contol the big things in our life. I heard a friend say the other day to me, " It's been an insane week, but I finally have everything under control." I couldn't help laughing out loud and saying, "That's a joke!" She gave me the oddest look and I had to explain. "M, I said, control of our life is absolutely never attainable. Yes, we may think that we have our little universe "in order", but then God allows, FOR OUR GOOD something to come along and knock our feet right out from under us, to show us that we have NO CONTROL." She still looked at me like I had four heads. Let me explain. I have, over the years, and through no or little fault of my own, been faced with very difficult physical and emotional situations. All of us can say that to some degree- as humans we all endure emotional and physical burdens that we did not CAUSE. I have had chronic fatigue, depression, a work situation that was almost unbearable, and homeschooled until doctors told me I needed back surgery and put me on medicine that made staying awake difficult. In all those situations, I would have told you at the beginning that I had things "under control"- and I did to a tiny degree. I worked hard at my job, loved my students, loved homeschooling, and was enthusiastic about it. But "having things under control" is a pride issue. And God wants us to know that we have no right to be prideful about things that HE is in control of. So, one day, I couldn't get out of bed and was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I was in the bed for 1 and 1/2 years. What could I be proud of then? My ability to put my husband through pharmacy school? No, because it was God's provision in our investments that allowed him to finish school, not my job. When I homeschooled, I was proud of our efforts and made no secret that I thought we were doing well. Back and hip pain soon led to a diagnosis that could have meant back surgery. Instead I had to go to physical therapy three times a week to avoid surgery and put on muscle relaxants that made me unable to teach. So, we prayed and put our kids in public school, and once again God taught me that I had NO CONTROL. Yes, I could control what I taught my kids, and could be in control of praying for them while they were at school, but ultimately, it was up to Him. I could go on and list my individual situtations for you, but I think you get the idea. We are called to be responsible and prayerful, to teach our kids everything we know about Him, and to make sure that we have done those things we know we should. But cancer and death and an adult child who chooses the wrong path are not things we have CONTROL over, and the sooner we learn that, the sooner we can recognize who DOES have control over those things. I think that when we really learn that lesson, we become much more apt to pray and hang on to God's word, because we realize that we need HIS control, not ours. And I thank God that He is the one in control, because I have learned such valuable lessons through all the "out of control" situations in my life- lessons I would have never learned if my carefully mapped out life had gone along as I thought it should. Romans 8:28 says, " And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." And while I wait for this foot to heal much more slowly than I wanted it to, I keep reminding myself of that. And I know that I am learning another lesson while I wait.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Growing old gracefully

I realize that almost everything I write is some kind of comparison between humans and animals or some allegorical connection between God and animals and how that relates to us, but you know what? I have found that God uses my animals to make me much more aware of how to live. REALLY. My oldest dogs, Pharaoh and Ra are prime examples of this. Pharaoh is 11 and Ra is 10. That's pretty old for Italian Greyhounds. Both of these dogs have the most amazing temperaments. Pharaoh is the ultimate Southern gentleman. He is strong, yet soft spoken and his presence is apparent to all without being overbearing. He is forgiving, affectionate, and polite to everyone- all the time. Ra is a different dog and has a completely different personality but has so much dignity as well. Ra is a "pleaser"- he wants everyone to love him and shows his deference to others by licking the other dogs all the time- he grooms the other dogs constantly- and they love this. He is very insecure when Pharaoh is not present and whines and looks for him when they are seperated. He tends to get picked on by the younger dogs, who want to play all the time, and he often comes to me for protection.

Both of these dogs are beginning to experience the symptoms of old age. Pharaoh is going blind and he is overweight (which is MY fault, make no mistake). Ra is having bouts of incontinence and drinking lots of water. Both of these dogs are so AMAZING about these inconveniences and have not lost their amazing dignity. Ra, when he has had an accident overnight in his crate, lets you know by politely stopping before going in his crate and looking at you, as if to say, " I'll go in there, but I would appreciate it if you could change my bedding first." No refusal, no barking, no whining, just a quiet, " Could you help me, please?" Pharaoh spends most of his days sleeping on the couch and when he cannot see where to jump up on the bed (when it's dark, he can't see), gives a quiet bark at our bedside in order to tell us, " I need some help up." We reach over and pick him up and he settles right down. When he doesn't recognize one of the other dogs, he gently moves his nose close to the other dog and sniffs the air until he knows who it is and then ALWAYS wags his tail. When the younger dogs are wanting to play and are being very annoying, he gives them one short growl and that is all that is needed. The younger one goes and finds someone else to bother. WOW, how humbling. I hope that when I am old, blind, incontinent and tired that I can be the model of grace that these two gentlemen are. I hope that I can muster a gentle growl instead of baring my teeth and that I am able to make my requests known without being rude. I pray that I might endure the annoying behavior of younger and more engergetic people without snapping at them. I hope that I will serve as an example to my children for how to endure aging gracefully and gratefully, just like these two beautiful animals.

How we must pester God.........

My daughter's Senegal parrot, Kito is an early riser. Like 5:30 am early. Which isn't normally a problem, because Julianna and I get up early too. The problem is this- he is a BRAT in the morning. He doesn't want to eat, drink, or walk around and destroy things (his favorite pastime). He screams and screams for someone to hold him. But when you hold him, if you don't do exactly what HE wants, he bites. He bites gently and he would NEVER bite Emily- he saves that particular endearing trait for ME- the one who is trying to console him. This morning as he was pestering me to insanity, I thought, " Well, Anne, that's what we do to God, isn't it?"

We can be brats with our constant screaming and demands, just like that little bird. We scream and God comes over and tries to comfort us with His word. But that isn't enough- we want MORE, so we busy ourselves with the word for a while and then start screaming again, and God once again comes down and gives us comfort- perhaps in the form of another believer who encourages us. That satiates us for a while and then we become restless again. If God were not who God is, how impatient He would grow of our griping. As I tried the 7th thing to calm Kito down this morning, I thought, "Ok, buddy, one more peep and you are going in your outside cage on the porch in the DARK!" Thank God noone throws US in the outside cage in the dark- how scary and lonely that would be.

Friday, March 9, 2007

What is a neuroma and how did it get in my foot?

When you have as many animals as we do, there is always someone to feed, a water bowl that needs scrubbing, or someone asking for a game of fetch. I NEVER sit down. I mean, NEVER. I even stand up to fold laundry. So my feet hurt, alot. Well, I assumed it was my shoes that were making my toes numb. I quit wearing the church shoes. Then I quit wearing the "go to Chili's " shoes, then I quit wearing the flat sandals, and then,,,,,,,, I was down to the New Balance tennishoes. So, I did what any busy woman would do. I wore those tennishoes 24/7. Then the numbness turned into pain. So I took Motrin. Then the pain was unbearable, so I diagnosed myself with Mortons' Neuroma and went to the podiatrist. 3 cortisone injections later, it was time for surgery. Morton's Neuroma is basically a non cancerous tumor that grows between your third and fourth toes, making walking, running and standing painful, if not impossible. I told my doctor, "I wanna see that thing after you get it out." "You won't remember, but I'll show you." So we did and he did, and that thing was as big as a man's pinkie finger-WHERE did it fit in my skinny foot? So my wonderful hubby took care of our kids and animals for THIRTEEN days. And no, he did not do a "decent" job- he did an AMAZING job. He cooked, he cleaned, he changed the bedding in the dogs' crates, ( a feat not to be believed) and kept the children quiet while I kept my foot up in the air. It's been three weeks and according to the WEB, I should be running a marathon by now, but alas, my doctor said, " Anne, it was a monster of a tumor, be patient." Look buddy, you don't understand. I've got a zoo to run.

Who's new at the zoo?

At the risk of being reported to AA (that's Animals Anonymous), I am going to tell you who lives at our zoo. No, we do not actually have a zoo- but it does come close to resembling one. Some of my family members don't even know some of this ( I am very good at hiding my addiction.), so please don't report me. We have (all in good health and very loved, by the way),

11 Italian Greyounds and 1 pomeranian corgi mix (they have their own room, don't ask, it's a whole other post)

5 cats
2 parrots
2 parakeets
2 hamsters
some hermit crabs (ok, cut me some slack, I don't know how many, there have been deaths and I didn't keep track)

Oh heck, I just counted and realized we have more than I previously thought and my blog description is off. Oh well, the numbers will change anyway.

Now, I know what you are thinking- 12 dogs??????????? I can't reassure you enough- no, my house is not dirty, no the dogs are not neglected, yes, they all have heartworm medicine once a month and are flea free and very well adjusted. Most of my dogs are better behaved than the average 2 year old, so I can brag. God has gifted me with one of least known gifts in the Bible (ok, so it's not one of the gifts in the Bible, give me some time, I'll find something to justify it), being able to care for animals well. I love caring for these critters and the love and peace they give me is indescribable. The birds are not peace giving at all- they are strictly the kids' and Jon's, make no mistake. I will introduce the members of the family at a later time- I have to close the zoo for the night and the zookeeper needs to get some sleep.

Earthworms are compassionate

My youngest child, Julianna is an animal lover in the most literal sense. She has been known to kiss toads on the lips, rescue lizards from cats, and tell me when one of the dogs looks sad. So it was no surprise when she came in the house recently and said, " Mom, I have a pet worm!" I gave her my normal and supportive animal lover reply. " Jules, that's great, but make sure his soil is damp enough and you give him something to eat." She then went outside and busied herself with her new pet. I went outside 30 minutes later and found her holding her worm. "Mom, you know, most people would say this isn't true, but earthworms are compassionate." I really really had to keep myself from busting out laughing, because I am the biggest animal lover I know, but c'mon, COMPASSIONATE?????????? I smiled (instead of laughing) and said, " Really, Jules? Why?" "Well, they feel what you feel, like if you're hyper, they get all freaked out in your hand, but if you are calm, they are calm." And as she sat there, utterly satisfied with her earthworm, I thought, "Wow, God, you can teach us all something every day, even if it's through a compassionate earthworm." And I was grateful for the lesson.