Tag Archives: animals

Cat of the Month

“Good man, Bodhi,” I say, petting him on the head. “You, sir, are changing the world one sock at a time.”

Give a big Flannel Files welcome to Bodhi, Cat of the Month.

For the better part of today, he carried this dirty gym sock up and down the stairs. Now, that’s dedication, folks.


Actually, it was a slow day. Here’s the haul he delivered to our bed a few weeks ago like some weird scene from the movie Carol. If Therese were, perhaps, a cat.


In the meantime, this cat posed for kitty porn.


And this cat napped in typical cat fashion.


Congratulations, Bodhi. You are a superhero! Whether you know it or not.

Remember that time when you got caught in a plastic bag and ran real fast all over the house like a maniac every time you moved and the bag rustled wore this cool handmade plastic cape?


You rocked then, and you rock now!


Bodhi: Cat of the Month

* * *

Who’s your pet of the month and why?



What I learned from some blue jays

imagesYVV4JR9TA few weeks before Christmas, I saw three blue jays in our backyard. Three blue jays lined up on a white picket fence, their painted crowns poking into the morning sky.

I knew there was some meaning in my sighting. I went to my computer and looked up the blue jay as an animal totem.

“If you have a Blue Jay totem, you must learn to use your personal power properly. Be careful not to become a bully. The word ‘jay’ comes from the Latin word ‘Gaea’ which is Mother Earth. A Blue Jay totem links you directly with the power of the Earth itself. It can link the heavens and the Earth and give you access to universal energies and power.”

I try to remember to be a partner and a parent and not a bully. Sometimes the line is blurred, especially because I am a person who admires strength as both a physical and mental quality.

I watched the oldest child do his second load of laundry. Ever. I wanted to yell at him to go through his pockets first.

This is the kid who carries around lighters and pocket knives, paperclips and disassembled pen parts, and other shiny detritus he finds on the ground.

But then I see him sifting through his blue jean pockets without my nagging.

The middle child always tells me what I want to hear. He has figured out that this is one way to get me off his back.

“Did you bring your dishes downstairs?” I ask.

“Yes,” he tells me.

I find his dirty dishes in his dresser drawer.

“You know that drawer doesn’t actually wash the dishes,” I say.

“Oh, I didn’t know,” he replies.

We laugh.

Laughter is a better sound than yelling.

After all, they are just dishes. Discs made out of clay.

We are made out of clay, too.

We can cut each other with our words.

Or build each other up so that we are so tall our heads poke into the clouds.

* * *

I saw another blue jay on Christmas Eve.

imagesBKLFD6HVOn the day after Christmas, I saw a red fox.

“Since the fox lives ‘between times’ — on the edge of land, visible as dusk and dawn, and can guide the way to the Faerie Realm. A fox can teach you to control your aura so that you can be more in harmony with others and the world.

If you have a fox totem, learning to be invisible is very important in your life. Imagine yourself blending in with your surroundings, becoming part of the background. Be very still and quiet. Through practice you can be unnoticed even at a party or in a crowd.

A fox totem also teaches good eating habits; the fox eats small amounts frequently which medicine is now telling us is better for our health.”

* * *

What about you? What are your animal totems?

The information on each animal totem comes from Lin’s Domain.


RaccoonWhen I was a kid, my favorite animal was the raccoon.

I loved these little guys.

I collected ceramic raccoon figures.

I drew raccoons.

I painted raccoons.

They were mischievous rascals.  Cute and cuddly critters.  (I didn’t know about rabies back then.)

They wore furry black masks like they had something to hide.  Or were ready to knock over a liquor store.

I never made the connection until recently.  That I was the raccoon hiding behind my mask.

Raccoons don’t hold the same appeal for me these days.

Raccoon plaqueI found this little guy in a box of stuff that my mom had given to me.  He had been affixed to my bedroom door in my parents’ house for many years, guarding against ghosts and kidnappers and a little brother.

I think about getting rid of him but can’t seem to do so.

I look up raccoon totem and this is what I find:

Masks are one of the tools of transformation.
It helps us to change what we are into what we want to be.

Raccoons also teach you how to put asleep the part of you that is not needed
and awaken the aspect of yourself that is.

I will place my raccoon friend on my closet door as a reminder.  A reminder of change and growth, of new beginnings and being who I was always meant to be.


Cat sandwich


My son says our cat Magic is purebred.

W says she’s inbred.

The lesbians and the land beaver

I thought I’d back up and explain that whole groundhog thing yesterday.

It all started last Friday.  I was walking down the steps to the basement when I saw him.  He was about as big as a football and walking in a nonchalant manner across the middle of the basement floor.

“Oh, hello,” I imagined him saying in a voice quite like Winnie the Pooh.  “Pleasant day, isn’t it?”

Holy shit.

I rounded up the kids to act as my human shield share in the adventure and learn something about animals and nature.  Further inspection revealed that the groundhog — also known as a woodchuck, whistle-pig or land beaver — was living in a mass of insulation wedged under our oil heater.  We heard rustling in this “nest” but were unable to see the critter, even though the kids shined the  flashlights at the nest and then into each other’s eyes.

Translation: There’s a land beaver inside our house!

I called W at work.  When she didn’t answer, I texted three letters: OMG.  Because texting “there’s a land beaver in our basement” seemed too weird and where was the surprise in that?  I like to keep that woman on her toes.

I finally got in touch with W and told her about the groundhog.

She e-mailed contact information for a wild animal removal company.  After a quick phone call, I learned that it would cost $295 to have someone come out to the house and set a trap.  Each additional trip back to check the trap would cost $95.

When W got home, she made some additional calls.  Our options were:

1. Live with the groundhog (Yes, someone actually suggested this.  As if having a groundhog roommate was a sensible idea.  Really, he’s very polite and quiet, even though he might have rabies, eats a lot of salad and poops in a very random manner.)

2. Hire an exterminator.

3. Buy a humane trap.

We eventually decided on #3, although I was leaning toward #1.  I mean, it would make a great book and all — The Lesbians and the Land Beaver — and we already sleep with a bunch of cats in our bed.  Let me tell you, this little guy would have looked adorable in a striped nightcap.

W went out to buy a trap.

I should probably add here that I apparently told W to handle this.  I didn’t mean it in a I-take-care-of-everything-around-here kind of way so small, rabies-carrying mammals trapped inside the house are your purview.  I just had a full plate that day and was delegating household responsibilities.

W wondered out loud why her big, strong butch couldn’t handle one wayward land beaver.

Anyway, W bought a trap for $34.99.  It even came with a free trap for chipmunks and other small creatures.  Bonus.  I mean, who doesn’t love a good BOGO sale?

We baited the trap with apple slices and waited.  And waited.

The weekend came and went, and there was no sign of the groundhog.  Nothing on Monday or Tuesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, I was working at my desk when I heard scratching on the inside of the French doors that we use to close off our front room.  I had assumed that one of the cats was trapped inside.  As I walked toward the doors, I saw that it wasn’t a cat trapped in the room but the groundhog.

I called the youngest kid to go into the room with a broom, a bucket and a bed sheet help me trap the critter.  By this time, the groundhog had scurried under furniture in the room.

The child wanted to know why I was the only person to see the groundhog.

I started to wonder that myself.  Was there really a groundhog trapped inside our house?  Was I going crazy?  Or maybe I was the only person who could see this land beaver (sort of like the Sixth Sense only with groundhogs instead of dead people).  Maybe I was the land beaver whisperer.  It was all so strange and confusing.

I called W at work.  “I can’t come home now to take care of it,” she said, as if I had designated her  house groundhog wrangler for life.

“I know, I’ll take care of it,” I said.

I sent our youngest inside the room to place the trap.

“Don’t worry, I’ll close the door behind you and hold it closed so that the groundhog can’t get out,” I assured him.

After the trap was set, we barricaded the door.  Just in case the groundhog decided to go all Ninja on us.

And then we waited.  I went back to typing at my computer to maintain an air of normalcy.

In a bit, I heard some noise, and there was the groundhog trying to get the bait from the wrong end of the trap.  This little guy needed GPS.

I sent the youngest back in the room to leave a trail of lettuce and snow peas leading to the entrance of the trap.  I was hoping the the critter wasn’t familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel

“Don’t worry, I’ll close the door behind you and hold it closed so that the groundhog can’t get out,” I assured the child once again.

Again, he wanted to know why I was the only person to see the groundhog.

About 20 minutes later, I heard a loud snap.  There sat the groundhog inside the cage.  I had captured the elusive land beaver.  I was a hero.  A land beaver tamer.  I felt very brave and very butch.

The elusive land beaver

* * *

Lesson learned:

A land beaver in hand is worth two in the bush.

Marriage equality and groundhogs

It was a crazy busy day.  The kind of day that makes me ask “is this really my life?”  But in a good kind of way.  Like the question is spelled out in rainbow-colored bubble letters, covered in buttercream icing, stuffed with firecrackers and placed in a Tilt-a-Whirl.  It is crazy but fun and delicious and dangerous all at the same time.

Today’s schedule of events
9:00 a.m. — Take kid #3 to camp in my pajamas
10:00 a.m. — Start searching Internet for news on Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling
10:10 a.m — Learn that court has struck down DOMA as unconstitutional
10:11 a.m. — Look for verification
10:12 a.m. — Cry (shhh …. don’t tell anyone)
10:13 a.m. — Start writing blog post about Supreme Court’s decision
11:45 a.m. — Publish post
12:00 p.m. — Pick up kid #3 from camp in my pajamas
12:15 p.m. — Start work
12:56 p.m. — Spy groundhog in front room of our house
12:57 p.m. — Yes, there’s a groundhog inside our house
12:58 p.m. — That was a groundhog, right?
12:59 p.m. — Holy shit, a groundhog!
1:00 p.m. — Set up humane trap in room
1:01 p.m. — Barricade door to room (because there’s a groundhog in there)
1:32 p.m. — Watch groundhog try to get bait from wrong end of trap
1:33 p.m. — Re-bait trap, leaving a trail of produce leading to trap entrance
1:51 p.m. — Hear loud snap
1:52 p.m. — Captured
1:53 p.m. — Take pictures of captured groundhog like Animal Planet paparazzi
2:00 p.m. — Place trap with groundhog inside on back porch in shade
2:10 p.m. — Return to work
2:15 p.m. — Wonder why I’m not getting any work done today
3:12 p.m. — Give interview to  Philadelphia Inquirer on Supreme Court ruling
3:17 p.m. — Text W that I need a nap and sex
3:18 p.m. — Not in that order
4:15 p.m. — Read my Freewill Astrology at W’s suggestion (I am advised of the following poem and its significance in my life right now: In his erotic poem “Your Sex,” Joe Bolton exults: “My heart simplified, I touch the bud of happiness — it’s in season.  And whatever grief I might have felt before simply dies inside me.”)
4:16 p.m. — Mind blown
4:45 p.m. — Shower
6:30 p.m. — Drop kid #3 off at movie party at friend’s house
7:00 p.m. — W’s brother arrives to transport groundhog to new home

Here he is

Here he is

Cat burglar

We were robbed over the weekend.

Before you worry your pretty little heads, know that no one was hurt.  We’re all safe — me, W, the kids and the cats.

It was the strangest thing.  Perhaps that’s they very nature of a senseless crime.  Strange.  After all, it’s an not an everyday occurrence.  Unless you’re a cop.  Or a criminal, for that matter.

So, what did they take?  I use the word “they,” because I have a sense that there was more than one of them.  A pair, or criminal duo.  Or more likely three or four, which would translate into a full-blown crime team.  I’m fairly certain they had a ringleader, several lackeys, maybe even a couple of thugs.  We can’t be sure.  I mean, who can really say.

They took our Purina Tender Moments Whisker Lickin’s (chicken flavor).  I use the word “took” in an attempt to mitigate the violent nature of this heinous crime.  The scofflaws viciously tore through the vacuum-sealed Whisker Lickin’s package and helped themselves to the tender morsels nestled inside.  The brutal manner in which they violated the package indicates that they were sorely in need of a poultry fix.



Whisker Licken's

After closer examination of the evidence, it seems that the perpetrators might have used their teeth to actually tear through the foil-lined package just like some sort of wild animal.  In fact, pieces of the package were missing from the crime scene.  I wonder if the scoundrels took the fragments with them to cover their tracks or actually ingested pieces of the wrapper in their chicken-crazed haste.

Whisker Lickin's

The crime occurred while we were out of the house for the day.  Thank God.

The cats were home, though.

We asked them about it.  Did you see anything?  Did you hear anything?  Did you notice anything unusual?

Moon just turned his head and stared blankly out the window.

Magic jumped inside a laundry basket.

It was a terrible case of PTCD (post-traumatic cat disorder).  Perhaps the worst I’ve ever seen.

“Curse you villains!” I shouted, shaking my closed fist wildly at the unidentified assailants.  “What cruel folly is this!”

Moon turned his head the other way.

Magic sat in the laundry basket.

I opened a new pack of Whisker Lickin’s and fed them each three soft, tender pieces to calm their nerves.

Why I don’t need a pet pig to write a book

W and I took the kids to a Pet Expo today.

We go every year.  We’re all big animal lovers.

The expo features all kinds of neat stuff like rescues trying to adopt out animals, a small petting zoo, vendors and various animal shows.  Plus, most attendees come with their pets, so it’s a lot of fun to people and pet watch.

I knew alpacas can knit!

I knew I was right!

I bought W a pair of alpaca gloves.  They are so soft.  W said they are made from alpaca wool.  I insisted that they were knit by alpacas.

The expo was heavy on dog stuff.  As cat lovers, we found that racist.

We saw the cutest baby turtles for sale.  They must have been about the size of a half dollar.  Other highlights: A pair of Jack Russell puppies that we oohed and ahhed over, beautiful Egyptian Mau kittens and a tiny Chihuahua sporting a sparkly tutu who looked like she had come straight from Dance Moms.

But it was two baby potbelly pigs who caught my attention.

They were in adjoining runs.  A black one and a white one with brown spots.  Both about the size of toaster ovens, I’d say.  “They’re available for adoption,” the woman in charge told us.

I turned to W.

“This is my book,” I said excitedly.  “We adopt a pig.  I write about our adventures.  With the pig.  It’s brilliant.”

I’m thinking that this will be huge.  Bigger than Marley and Me.  Or Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World.  Bigger and better because it’s a pig for crying out loud.  Not a stupid dog.  How boring.  Or a cat.  So cliche.

I have the writing talent.  All I need is a pig.  It was all so clear.

And here’s the best part.

“If you really want a pig, you can get one, baby,” W says.

And she means it.

I love that she indulges me and my crazy ideas.  I love that I have someone by my side who says sure, get a pig or another kitten or whatever it is that you think you need to be happy.

Oh, Lily Tomlin.

Oh, Lily Tomlin.

It would be cool to be able to say that we came home from the Pet Expo with a baby potbelly big.  We named her Lily Tomlin.  She got into a bag of flour that was on the bottom shelf of the pantry.  You should see the mess!  Right now, she’s curled up on the floor with one of the cats.  I’m not sure which one is snoring.  Maybe both of them!  It just goes to show you that animals don’t see color, or race or species — only another worthy soul.  We are learning so much from Lily Tomlin, and it’s only been three hours.  Imagine how much richer our lives will be in three days!

The truth is that potbelly pigs are big.  And some of them might not like cats.  Well, maybe for breakfast.  You can train them to use a litter box.  But it would have to be a large litter box.  (The experts recommend a metal liner used for hot water heaters.)

While the pig lady was trying to sell us on adopting a pig, I was doing the math: Our cats are small, about 8 pounds or so on average.  A potbelly pig will get to be 90 to 150 pounds.  So, one small potbelly equals about 12 cats, give or take.

We have room for another cat right now.  But probably not 12, unless we want to get serious about an appearance on Hoarders next season.

Right now, I complain if one of the cats goes outside the litter box or throws up on the furniture.  Imagine cleaning up after a pig?

So, the Pet Expo was fun, even though we didn’t come home with a pig or any other pet for that matter.  Right now, we have enough animals to take care of and to love.

And certainly plenty to write about.

Why our cats are more like hobos than house pets

I have come to the realization that our three cats are not really sweet, docile domesticated housecats.  Sure, at first glance, they give the appearance of normal cats.

Moon likes to lie on the bed with the wife and I and have his belly rubbed.

And, Magic is a kitten at heart.  A “perma-kitten,” the vet calls her.  She loves to play with string, paper balls and just about anything else that happens to dart in front of her eyes.

Sigyn is a bit more offbeat.  But if she hears the rustle of a treat bag, she’ll come running.

Normal, right?  Just like your cats, you say?

Or are they?

Yesterday, Moon jumped up on my lap.  Oh, how sweet turned into revulsion and horror as I felt something wet and smelled something bad.  Really bad.  He had just used the litter box and had apparently stepped in cat poop somewhere along the way.  I now had tiny poop pawprints on the front of my shirt.

He was like some kind of unkempt drifter with really bad toileting habits.

Disgusted, I tossed him off of me and went upstairs to grab a clean shirt.

When I came downstairs, I spotted Magic holed up in the cardboard box that I had used to haul home groceries from BJs.  Now, Magic has never been one to pass up a perfectly good cardboard box, but she was hunkered down and ready to spend the night.

She was all ghetto, squatting at the corner of desk and bookshelf.  It was a mini tent city for one.

Magic in tent city

At some point Moon came around to check out Magic’s new cardboard digs and to stir up trouble.  Because Magic had a cardboard box and he didn’t.  Bitch.

Magic laid claim to her new impromptu residence by stretching out the length of the box in an effort to ward off Moon and other potential squatters.  Go find your own corner, old man.

Moon looks for a place to squat

Moon backed off and disappeared.  No doubt to scout for his own box or maybe an abandoned duct or a vacant hallway that he could call home for the night.

Sigyn had already taken up residence under a broken chair.  She was curled up on a single sheet of newspaper.

Sigyn sleeps on a newspaper bed

The whole thing was like a scene from Cats, without the music, of course.

And, that’s when it hit me.  Our cats are more like squatters than house pets.

Curling up in boxes and under chairs.  Laying in windowsills and laundry baskets.  Tucking themselves away under beds and in dresser drawers.

Hobo cats.  Homeless cats.  Vagrant cats.  Seeking refuge, shelter, safety.  Sister, can you spare a dime?

Too good to beg.  Beg?  Oh, please.  But stealing whenever they can.  Knocking over trashcans in search of chicken bones and tuna fish cans.  Swiping a piece of meat from one plate and a bit of cheese from another.  Take a little bit here and a little bit there, so no one notices, they strategize.

Peeing in corners and on furniture.  Wherever they fucking please.  Because they’re cats and they can.  To hell with convention and litter boxes, they say.

Cat beds?  Those are for pussies, they say.

Breaking blinds and shredding furniture.  Carving their initials into the wooden banister with their talons.  Magic wuz here.  We didn’t pay for the shit, go to hell, they say.

Fighting amongst themselves.  Shrieking and hissing and clawing and clubbing each other with their raised fists.  I will cut you, they whisper back and forth.  Tiny, furry gangsters.

They have no respect for authority.  “No, no,” I tell them in a firm voice.

They turn their backs and walk away.  Looking for a free meal or a fight or a dry bed.  Whichever.  It doesn’t matter.

I hope there’s no trouble tonight in Kitty Tent City.

Moors and tethers and cat pee

I come back from running errands this morning and apologize to W.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

That’s the apology.  Standard issue.

But then I feel the need to expound.

The kids often ask me if I’m whistling.  “No, I’m just trying to release some steam so my head doesn’t explode,” I say.

I must have been a tea kettle in one of my former lives.

I give W my “I believe in” speech just like in Bull Durham, even though my rant has nothing to do with baseball or believing in anything, let alone whether Susan Sontag’s works are overrated or Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

This is what I say:

“Let me tell you how my brain works.  I think in a very linear way.  My brain goes from A to Z with no stops in between.  A, B, C, D and that’s it.  No, A point two or C and a half.  A, B, C, D.  I have a lot of stuff that I need to take care of.  And, I have everything mapped out in my head as far as what needs to get done and in what order and what I need to do to make sure that everything gets done.  So, when something happens that’s unplanned — and I know with kids and pets and jobs and life there are a lot of things that come up unexpectedly — I get thrown off.  I know that I shouldn’t get so freaked out, but I do.  I realize that it’s only cat pee, and I tell myself that, but I still get frustrated.”

Flash back to first thing this morning: Our boy cat Moon mistook an armchair for a litter box.

Our cat Moon

I have plans to fix up the downstairs of our house with some new paint and some new furniture, so the cat peeing on old furniture is a wrench in my mental gears.  Clunk.

Plus, cat pee stinks a lot and it’s gross and nearly impossible to clean.

I use these words to describe how I’m feeling:



I work from home so I’m always around when the animals have accidents in the house.

I continue with my speech, as I have a full head of steam:

“When we decided to move in together, I did not agree to take care of all animal feces, urine and vomit.  I would have agreed to 50/50.  60/40, maybe.  But I know for a fact that I never said that whenever an animal poops, pees or vomits in the house, I’ll take care of it.  I am not the designated poop picker-upper or pee cleaner.  I never once said that when there is poop or pee I’m your go-to guy.”

W laughed.  Hard.

I laughed, too.

She wants to get a cat whisperer for Moon.  Maybe we will.  She’s confident that we’ll be able to work through his urination problems.

I walked away feeling better about things.  A little more moored and tethered.

“Shit,” I hear W say.

“What’s the matter?”

“I just spilled my soda.”