Saturday, January 30, 2010

Draw the Dog cartoon site...

If you have not experienced this website, you absolutely must.  Even if you are not a dog owner, the cartoons here are amazing in soooo many ways.  The site is set up so that you can watch the cartoon draw itself, all of which takes only about 30 seconds from start to finish.

Take a minute to check out Draw the Dog:   You won't want to miss one of these fun cartoons, so take the extra minute to subscribe to the daily cartoon.  Then, tell your friends!


The cartoon below is one that Bruce Kasanoff, the artist, provides for rescue groups as a way to promote dog rescue.  It's a sample of his wonderful, sensitive, perceptive work, but also reminds all of us that there are soooo many animals--dogs and cats--in shelters who need loving homes.  I'm posting it here for a couple of reasons:  it's a great example of his work, it has a definite message, and hopefully, someone will get that message and make a trip to a rescue or shelter to find a furry friend to love.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The "Robert Cat"

Early last Sunday morning, my Mom and I were up and out early, on our way to a district VFW meeting.  The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the temperature was reasonable for central Texas in January, so off we went, blissfully unaware of the carnage in the middle of our street just a few feet from our driveway entrance.

There is a small herd of deer that roams our semi-rural neighborhood, and while we don't feed them or interact with them a lot, they are as much a part of the neighborhood as the permanent human residents and everyone is aware of them.  The deer romp and play in our yards, drink from our sprinklers, and nibble at some of the tastier plants and grass in our landscaping.  They do what deer do.  They make their homes in the thickets of trees and bushes, sometimes beneath a sheltered deck or porch, and they go on about their "Deer Business" just as we humans go on about ours.  We watch out for the pregnant mamas and check their progress, we cheer on the proud little bucks as they strut their growing racks of antlers, and we carefully count the tiny spotted fawns as they venture into their new world.  (We were lucky this year, we had a bumper crop of babies despite the terrible Texas drought.)  The deer are our neighbors, and we all respect them and try to protect them as much as possible. 

We hadn't been out of our driveway more than about 30 feet when we came to a screeching halt.  In the middle of the road lay one of our "Deer Ladies", obviously deceased and pretty much worse for wear.  Fortunately, the resident turkey buzzards had not gotten to her yet, but it was still a rather horrific sight for early Sunday morning. We live near the circle-end of our cul-de-sac street,  so while it seems impossible for a car to have hit a deer in that space, it can and has happened.  (We lost a dog right in front of our house to a careless driver several years ago.)  It looked as though the deer had been hit by a car and left to die in the middle of the street.   Blood, dear fur, and other fluids surrounding the deer's body left a large mark in the street.  Neighbors were already out inspecting the carcass and a phone call to our local Animal Control had been placed, so there wasn't much else to do.  One gentleman provided a heavy tarp to place over the deer's body to help keep the buzzards and other "critters" away from it until the Animal Control techs could come out and take her away.  We acknowledged our neigbors and commented on the sadness of the occasion, but there just wasn't anything to be done for the deer,  so Mom and I went off to our meeting.  It was a sad and disturbing start to the day. 

Late that afternoon, as we drove back into our street, we met our Homeowners Association president and her husband as they were walking their dogs.  We stopped and asked about the deer incident, and were told about Animal Control's "diagnosis" of the situation.  It seems the deer had been the victim of a hungry bobcat.  A bobcat.  Hmmm.  The local university in our town claims the Bobcat as its mascot, I guess for its fierceness or something.  Bobcats are relatively small wild cats, about twice the size of a large domestic house cat.  They're kind of cute in a way with their little spots and cute furry-tufted ears, but I don't think I want to meet one on our very dark street when I'm hauling the trash barrel up the hill.  And I'd rather it not meet up with my dogs,  although I think the barking and "barroooo-ing" of four Bassets would scare the poor thing half to death.  Something had scared the cat away before it had had a chance to enjoy its kill, so not only do we have a bobcat in the neighborhood, but now he's mad and hungry to boot.  Not a happy camper, this cat.  

Lock up your kids and small pets, folks!  These little kitties like to prowl in the dusk-to-dawn hours when it's quiet.  And small animals--especially small pet dogs and house cats--are particularly interesting as food sources.  It's probably not a good idea to let your kids out to play unsupervised, either, although I think the noise of playing children alone would keep the cats at bay.  But a hungry cat is an unpredictable one.

Poor Mr. Robert Cat.  (We don't know him well enough to call him Bob...we've not been formally introduced.)  He's got a problem.  Our neighborhood is on the edge of a green belt and catchment dam area that serves as a rookery for the turkey buzzards, hawks, and other large birds of prey native to our area not to mention some very aggressive wild turkeys, as well as the home for the deer, possums, raccoons, rabbits, porcupines, and other small furry woodland creatures.  Additionally, his territory is being encroached upon by a road-building project that won't see completion for another 5 or 6 years, and the city population is moving in the direction of the new road. 

So what's a cat to do?  He's got to eat, he's got to do his "wild cat thing", but where's he supposed to go?  He didn't choose to have his habitat encroached upon.  That just happened, and he hasn't got another place to go.  While I mourn the loss of one of our "Deer Ladies", I also feel sorry for poor Mr. Robert Cat who is just being his wild cat self. 

With luck, the intrepid folks at Animal Control will be able to capture him and relocate him to a more suitable environment for his evening prowls, but what of his brethren?  I am actually more worried that some gun-toting nut will go out and shoot the innocent cats because one of their number had the audacity to take an evening stroll down a residential street.  I'm worried that someday, the only place to encounter a "Robert Cat" will be in a zoo.  How sad...for the cats and for us.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Old Watering Hole....

"Thwack...clatter...snort....grrrrrrrrrrrrrr."  Strange sounds emit from our kitchen....

Mom, working away at her computer, asks, "What was that?  Is Addie into something again?  Addie, off!!"

[Poor's tough being the "kid" in the family,  Even when she's being good, she gets into trouble.  But this time, she is as innocent as a lamb.]

"No, Addie is out here helping me read my magazine. It sounds like Jazzy got the dish drainer caught on  her head again.  I guess she's telling us the waterer in the kitchen is empty.  I'll go check."

Sure enough, little Miss Jasmine is standing in the middle of the kitchen glaring at the offending plastic dish drainer she's dislodged from it's storage spot atop the dog waterer that resides in the open space under our kitchen sink.  The glare shifts its focus towards me, and my small, brown, torpedo-shaped houndette stomps over to register her great displeasure.  Jasmine has distinct opinions about everything, and she's not a happy camper about the evil dish drainer that has "attacked" her yet again.  She stares up at me and then gives me her version of "The Paw", which consists of a stomp on my instep, and a good healthy scrape with her toenails down the length of my foot.  Her little legs are so short and stubby, she can barely catch the top of my foot, but she manages to let me know about her unhappiness in no uncertain terms.

"Mama, it's empty.  You're falling down on the job!  And that thing attacked me again.  I'm not at all happy about that."

"Sorry, Jaz.  How about some nice Bathroom Water while I fill this one?"

"Nope, I'll wait."

I try to "herd" her towards the back bathroom where there is an identical 2 1/2 gallon dog waterer, but no soap, she'll have none of that Bathroom Water "stuff".  It happens to be full--it's been that way for at least two days, and the water is absolutely pristine.  Bathroom Water just doesn't have the same appeal as Kitchen Water.  Why, I do not know, but Bathroom Water is always a second choice, and only if there is no way to alert the Basset Mama that the Kitchen Water is empty.

There is no dearth of water for the dogs in our household.  Even in the worst of a Texas drought there is always a large rubber horse tub that has a float-valve stock waterer on it and a constant flow of fresh water just half a Basset-body length outside the doggie door.  Do they drink from it?  Only when they are locked outside or can't get into the kitchen or bathroom, which happens about .001% of the time.  All of the other critters in the neighborhood love that water bucket, but the Basset Brigade wants Kitchen Water.
With four dogs, the Kitchen Waterer is in need of refilling every other day.  The Bathroom Waterer is refilled about twice a week. I scrub each before refilling them, and run the bowl parts through the dishwasher every other week.  I use a scrub brush on the outside waterer once a week or so to keep the algae out of it.  It's not a perfect system, but it works, and there is never a lack of available water for the houndage.

Much to the consternation of the supervisory committee (Jasmine and now Pelly, too), I did the washing routine for the Kitchen Waterer and gave it a thorough scrubbing before refilling it.   I  refilled the base of the waterer, then proceeded to fill the large water-supply bottle.  In order for me to successfully flip the large bottle into the base, I need both space and no interference from an inspecting hound, so I gave the "Out" command, and the committee reluctatnly exited the kitchen.  Mission accomplished,  I let them back in and the drinking began.  Jasmine first, followed by Pelly, then Penelope, and finally Addie.  Now, we are not talking dainty little sips here, we're talking large gulping mouthsfull of least half a gallon of water between the four of them.  It was as if they'd not had water in days.  The bottle gurgled and belched as it readjusted its water level.  I'll be refilling that bottle tomorrow before lunchtime, I guarantee it.  Meanwhile, the Bathroom Waterer remains perfectly full.  I'll dump it in a day or so and start over, but they won't touch unless they absolutely have to.

What is the difference between Kitchen Water and Bathroom Water?  I cannot tell you, it is a mystery understood only by the Basset Brigade.  The two rooms are less than 12 feet apart, the water comes from the same system, and the waterers are identical in size, shape, and volume.  (They do differ in color, but that does not seem to be the deciding factor, because I often switch the two after they've been through the dishwasher. )

Kitchen Water, it seems, is the premium water and better than any of that "exotic" bottled water that we humans consume.  Take that, Evian!  You, too, Aquafina!  So much for Sierra Springs!  Bathroom Water can't hold a candle to Kitchen Water.  They can't wait to get at it, they take long, luxurious drinks of it, and they seem to revel in the fact that it is, indeed, the finest Kitchen Water ever to be had.  The Bassets have spoken, and Kitchen Water prevails.

The Kitchen Watering Hole--and the infamous Dish Drainer...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Red Velvet Cake Christmas Cake

I love Red Velvet Cake, and it's always one that is nice for the holidays because it's so festive and pretty, especially if it's baked in a fancy cake pan.  This year, I found a nice Nordic Ware cake pan in the shape of a poinsettia, and thought it would be a nice addition to my Mom's collection of cake pans, but would also be quite pretty to make a Red Velvet Cake in.

As per the directions on the cardboard insert of the pan, I washed the pan carefully with hot, soapy water and dried it thoroughly.  Since the pan has lots of "details" in it that create the petals and other parts of the poinsettia, I allowed the pan to air dry over night so that it would be completely dry when I made the cake the next morning.  Santa, old buddy, you'll just have to come back tomorrow for cake...

Christmas Morning dawned cool and clear, and I was in the kitchen fairly early to start on breakfast, Christmas dinner preparations, and, of course, the cake.  I gathered all of my ingredients, mixed and measured and did everything just so.  It was a rich reddish-brown batter, and it smelled wonderful.  I knew that it would be perfect in the form of the poinsettia flower, and would need only a sprinkling of some confectioner's sugar and some colored sugar crystals to "dress" it for the table.   (Martha Stuart or The Ace of Cakes I am not, but this cake doesn't need much decorating, and I can handle a bit of confectioner's sugar.)  I gave the batter a final stir, and poured it into the waiting pan.  The pan was placed on a cookie sheet, and then placed on the center rack of the oven.  No muss, no fuss.

I washed my mixing bowl and other utensils and put them away so that I could start on the next project, breakfast for Mom and myself.  The dogs' breakfast would come after I'd set the table, so my "helpers' would be out of the way while we ate breakfast.  More mixing, more stirring, more "kitchen activity".  I paused in the middle of this to check on my cake, which was baking away in the oven.  It had lost that gooey look of freshly poured batter, and had become a "cake" by this point, although not ready to be taken out of the oven.  Another 30 minutes or so would do it.

Something struck me, though, as I watched the cake baking away, all rich and chocolatey and wonderful in its nice warm oven:  I realized that I'd forgotten to grease and flour the pan....  Now this isn't exactly something that one wants to do when baking in such a pan, because although the pan is treated with a non-stick finish, the detail in the pan prevents it from being truly non-stick.  That cake was NOT coming out of that pan in its nice, pretty poinsettia shape, now way-no how.  Not gonna happen in this lifetime or the next.  AUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am kicking myself all over that kitchen.  Not only did the pan directions clearly state that the pan should be greased and floured, the cake recipe said the same thing at least three different times.  What's worse is the flour and cooking spray are still out on the counter where I'd so carefully placed them at the beginning of this debacle.  So much for a pretty poinsettia cake.  And, because it's got chocolate in it, I can't even feed it to the dogs!  Merry Christmas, Everybody...cake will be served with a spoon!  Ngh!

The cake comes out of the oven.  I am praying that whatever Kitchen God there is will take pity on me just this once and just let me have that cake out of that pan without turning it into a pile of Red Velvet Crumbs.  I dutifully cool the cake on a rack, then try to turn it out of the pan onto the rack.  No soap.  Hmmm.  Well, let it sit a few minutes longer, maybe it's not cool enough yet....  Uh-huh, sure, that's the ticket, just let it cool a bit longer.  

About 20 minutes later my Mom appears in the kitchen.  Doggies have been fed, breakfast pancakes are ready to hit the griddle, and I am pulling my hair out over moving a particular rack in the oven so that I can get the lamb shanks I've been slaving over in there to start their long low-and-slow baking process.  The rack doesn't fit where I want it to go, so I'm stuck using a different one.  GRRR.

Mom notices the cake...that &^$#*&@ cake sitting there so smugly in it's poinsettia pan just waiting to cause me more problems.  Mom mentions that the cake should probably be out of the pan by now, to which I respond rather snarlingly about the grease and flour problem.   Happy Christmas to you, too.  She says, "Let me work on it."  Now, I have qualify this just a bit.  Mom had shoulder and carpel tunnel surgery the Thursday before Christmas.  She is left-handed, and her left arm is in a sling.  But, she wants to help, and I'm game at this point because my pancakes are turning to charcoal, the lamb is still on top of the stove because I haven't yet successfully wrestled the rack into the oven, and that blessed cake is still in the pan.  "Okay.  I'll get you a plate and a spatula.  Do what you can.  If nothing else, maybe the deer will like it."

Mom sets to work in her one-handed way, and by the time I've gotten the rack back in the oven, the lamb started, and the charcoal pancake problem solved, she has half of the cake on the plate.  The rest of it is being "encouraged" out of the pan by Mom's very persistent poking with the spatula.  About 10 minutes later, there is a mound of Red Velvet Something on the plate, and Mom has put the cake pan in the sink to soak.  With some careful smooshing here and there, we have what looks like a reasonable facsimile of a Red Velvet Cake, although it does not even remotely resemble that pretty poinsettia I had envisioned.  But, it is out of the pan.  Now, what to do with the blessed thing.

Icing, she says, will help hold it together, and a little of the colored sugar sprinkled over it will "decorate it", so she thins down some of the cream cheese frosting I'd found in the pantry.  We are discussing this while I'm flipping pancakes and Mom's back is to the cake while she puts the bowl of icing in the microwave.  Out of the corner of my eye, however, I see Addie, our Basset puppy (well, she's almost 2), standing at the edge of the counter top casually munching away at the cake.  "NOOOOO, ADDIE!!!! OFF!!!!! OFF!!!  OFF!!!!  ADDIEEEEEEE!!!!"  Addie jumps down and looks at both of us as if to say, "But I was only tasting it!"  and wanders out of the kitchen as if insulted.  Not to worry, she didn't eat enough to do any harm to herself, but my poor abused cake has taken yet another insult.

Both of us are in hysterics, laughing about that poor cake, but also remembering a similar dog-eating- the-cake-incident--another Red Velvet Cake.  Amidst the disasters of the morning and all of the tears, here we are laughing over a memory from some 35 years ago....

The first Red Velvet Cake and Dog encounter occurred when we lived in Parker, Colorado in the early 1970's.  Mom had made a Red Velvet Cake to take to a faculty Christmas part at her school.  Earlier in the morning she had set it on the tailgate of our station wagon while she collected her lunch and other things to take with her to school for the day.  The garage door was open, and Ace, our big Doberman was wandering around in and out of the house and garage as everybody made their final preparations for work and school.  He often supervised this activity, so it wasn't out of the ordinary.  Somewhere in the middle of all of this hubbub, Ace decided he wanted to investigate that cake, so he pushed his big nose into it and came back with a face full of white fluffy icing.  (I don't know that he actually bit the cake, although there was a small "scrape" out of it where the icing had been removed.)  Mom saw the dog, then the cake, and shrieked for my Dad.  Dad was in the kitchen finishing his coffee.  He chased the dog out of the kitchen where he cleaning his face of the frosting and came out to see what tragedy had occurred.  While Mom was still having her conniption fit about her beautiful cake (and it was beautiful),  Dad grabbed the plate, took it into the kitchen and proceeded to cut a healthy-sized hunk out of the cake where the dog's nose had been.  He handed the cake back to her and said, "If anyone asks, just tell them your husband got hungry," and sent her off to work.  The dog maintained his skin (although he and my Mom were on the outs for a while...), and no one ever knew what really happened to the cake.  The plate was empty when Mom brought it home.  We have laughed over that story for many years, and each time Mom has made another Red Velvet Cake we remember old Ace and his little snack.

(This photo is not mine...I borrowed it for the "visual effect.  No dog nose has touched this cake--that I know of.  LOL!)

I'm sure Dad was laughing with us, too, on this past Christmas morning, and he'd have loved the "Addie addition" to the story.   This one's for you, Dad!

Someday, I will make the pretty poinsettia Red Velvet Cake the right way--but I can't promise that it won't have hunk taken out of it because of a dog.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Kibble Emergency!!!!

Dog are wonderful, loving creatures, and I cannot imagine my life without at least one in it at any time.  I don't have children, I have short, four-legged furkids, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.     Presently, I have four rescued Basset Hounds:  Penelope (who is actually half-Basset/half-Brittany), Jasmine (my "small brown hound with the great big WOOF"), Pelly (short for Pellinore, the wandering king in the King Arthur stories, and my sole long-suffering male), and Addie-Lou Roo (who is almost two and is really a baby kangaroo in a Basset suit).   Each of them has their own weird little personality quirks, and things can get interesting at times, especially when something isn't quite "right" in their opinion.  And believe me, they do have their opinions--about EVERYTHING.

Yesterday morning, I fed the dogs their kibble as usual from the large clear plastic bin in the pantry.  But yesterday morning was a little different because it was New Year's Eve day, and we were planning to go out for a while to go to lunch and do some errands and last-minute pre-holiday shopping.  Pelly, my velcro-dog supreme, who is somewhat of a worrywart to begin with, was in place to supervise tie preparation of breakfast.  He was extremely agitated because he had discovered that the level of kibble in the container was at a critical level. (He actually watches the level of the dogfood in the bin!)  He kept whining and stomping his feet and poking me with his nose as I scooped out four measuring cups of dog food into their dishes.


"Yes, P, I see it.  I know.  Mama has to go to the feed store and get more kibble.  It's okay--I promise you'll have enough for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow.  You aren't going to starve to death.  I wouldn't let that happen.  You know that.  Relax, P."


"No, Pelly, there's easily enough in there for supper tonight.  I agree with you, though, I don't think there's enough for tomorrow's breakfast, either.  Don't worry, it's on my list...the feed store is open today, so I can still get doggy food before New Year's eve.  It's okay, Buddy."

"WELL... (snort, stomp, "huff"...)  BUT IT'S A KIBBLE EMERGENCY, MOM!  DON'T FORGET!!!  PLEEEEASE DON'T FORGET!   WE GOTTA HAVE KIBBLE!"  (stomp, stomp, stomp...whine...)

"Eat your breafast, P.  I'll take care of it.  Don't worry."

Dialogue with a dog...what a concept, but also a reality.  We do this at least once a month, Pelly and I.  It's become sort of a ritual.  He watches these things--kibble and dog cookie amounts in their respective containers--very carefully, almost to an obsession, and reports with equal intensity each and every time.  I'm thinking of making a sign with a green, yellow, and red mark on it to show the levels of Kibble Security in our household.  Of course, Pelly would want it to be on the red alert all the time.

I wish he's watch my bank account with that much intensity.   I could use a "kibble emergency" alert myself now and then.

Ah, well.  How would a dog count his "millions", anyway?