When Pets Use English, or, Sometimes it’s a Mistake Not to Focus on the Cat

October 9, 2008



Our Cardigans are learning to walk nicely. Cai, the two-year-old, is pretty good most of the time now; Fergus, almost seven months, still pulls; and the two of them together on their way to the park have the strength that could turn a limestone quarry into prime arable land. Where’s a plough when you need one?

So they’ve been hearing the word “Sit!” a lot. Apparently, “sit” in Cardigan means to lower one’s tail to the ground for the length of time it takes a human to say the word “sit”.

So they’ve been hearing the word “wait” a lot too. “Wait” means to gaze intently at a door until it opens two snout-widths, and then swarm it.

So they’ve been hearing the phrase “Ex-cuse me, guys!” a lot as well. This phrase is the cue to snap at one’s sibling in the attempt to make Mummy believe that it was said sibling’s fault.

Something else I tried today was inspired by one of Dennis the Vizsla’s videos. Cai has gotten to know that “Bring it!” means he needs to set the toy at my feet before I’ll reach for it to throw it again. Today, I asked him to sit, stood in front of him, and turned my back to him before throwing the toy. Pretty comical. Every time I got turned around, I would find Cai shifted to my left, keeping his eyes on the prize.


Cai was much less fidgety once I started standing with my feet apart and holding the toy down at his nose level. Then I announced, “Get the toy!” and threw it sideways. Cai liked this game. And look! He’s learning more English!

Now compare this with what happened earlier this morning. When Cuca, our four-year-old cat, woke me up, I stumbled downstairs, opened the laptop and turned it on, set Cuca’s little saucer of wet food on the table (the only way to keep Fergus from stealing it), started the coffee, and took Fergus for his potty break. On arriving at the table myself with my cuppa, I saw that Cuca had entered something on my Google home page:

ngf gg

I smiled indulgently. Aww, how cute! And just for fun, I googled it.

The page is copyrighted, so I’m not supposed to reproduce it without permission, but it’s probably okay to describe it: a scholarly paper by six anatomists describing the development of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) in facial nerves and geniculate ganglia (GG) of developing quail embryos.

Ah, here it is, thinks Cuca. This section makes it clear that the more a bird twitches its 14th ganglion, the more nervous it’s becoming. If I can keep an eye on the 14th and the 6th — the one signalling imminent flight — I’ll know at what moment I need to strike…

Street kitties. They know how to survive.

Insert Title Here

September 2, 2008

Hi, everybody! I’ve been up since 05 30, and it’s going on for 10 pm now; time to hit the hay. (Lot of talk about hay lately) .

I went for a walk, I fed the horses, I let the dogs out, I let the dogs in, I let the dogs out, I let the dogs in, I tidied a little, I… sknknkzzzz…

“Who wants to go out?”  Corey is all ears.

And Brogan gives the green light.

The Icelandic sheep next door, however, give me the cold shoulder. Wait… the sheep are in the meadow!

Nero and Manitou bid me good morning.

There were other dogs too, three grownup boys and four grownup girls, but they sleep in the basement like me. The day began in the living room, and ended there too, where the puppies sleep. But first, a little fun before bed…

Ember shows Sam who the real Santa Claus is. Woo-hoo!

Brogan runs off with a saucy little redhead.

And Shelley gives Corey his first lessons in being a therapy dog.

Maybe a few pictures of the grownup dogs tomorrow.

Hay is for Horses

September 1, 2008

shelter from the snow
Keep your nickers on. Or your whinnies.

Well, boys and girls, what will Auntie Turtle be doing this week? Guess! It has something to do with horses… and getting used to their bigness… and helping to maintain their bigness, even!

Yesterday, my son and I had the bestest-ever visit together. He has to go back to work tomorrow, and planned to take the noon-hour bus today. He had just gotten up, and was enjoying a nice cup of coffee while I made a hasty tour of my blog buddies, skipping a few of them as my fingers trickled through the list (so if you didn’t get any comments, it’s ’cause I never got there) . One blog — and, after reading it, I decided it would be the final one this morning — was Shelley’s.

Shelley’s husband Chris hasn’t been feeling all that great lately. Shelley wrote yesterday that he was in the nearest hospital, and she was worried because the pain in her knees makes it very difficult to walk all the dogs or climb up in the loft to throw down hay bales for their two horses.

Now, guess who isn’t working for anybody this week? Jack’s Mom is staying home for his first two weeks of grade seven, Robert and Jane don’t need a catsitter, and I’m no longer with the pet store. So, just on the off-chance that Shelley hadn’t found anyone to help out, I phoned her up.

And that was that. Sonny Boy made a delicious breakfast of huevos rancheros while I fed the dogs and took them on potty break; we all had breakfast; Sonny Boy and I packed; I washed the dishes while E.g. gave the house a quick sweep; and we all piled into the car. We dropped Sonny Boy at the bus station just before 11 00, and arrived at Shelley’s just before 13 00.

The good news is that the hospital figures Chris can come home today after all, even though he’s still feeling fairly lousy. But I’m staying for a few days anyway, out in the middle of the country, to help with the chores and maybe sneak away to a nearby marsh with my binoculars once. I’m enjoying it already: I can hear crickets instead of condo construction, can you believe it?

Wow. I’m not home again. Maybe I should look into making a living as a travel writer.


PS Don’t forget to enter Turtle’s latest contest — everyone’s a winner! And, to use a farming term, I need fresh fodder for my limerick mill. Ta-ta for now.

Puppy Love

August 26, 2008

Ever since I saw those two scuzzy-looking guys hop the fence into our building’s courtyard at 06 00 one morning, I no longer feel safe outside first thing. Cai is fine with that, but since Fergus is only five months old, he still gets “balcony privileges” when he gets up. Occasionally we sleep too soundly, and his crate blanket is soggy by the time we come downstairs, but it’s pretty easy to tell when we’ve arrived in time. This morning I noticed something.

There’s something strange about this morning’s puddle, over there by the self-seeded petunias and Indian Paintbrush.

Let me have a closer look…

Awww! It reads, “Thanks, mommy, for letting me out of my crate early enough. I love you! – Fergus.”

St Jacobs Market Appendix: Walkies in a Waterloo Park

August 25, 2008

It may be possible that by now you’re grumbling, “Market schmarket, where are the dogs?”

Here they are, below the sign. No, the other sign. No, that one — never mind.

Bechtel Park in Waterloo, Ontario, is home to the City’s first off-leash park. Although the eventual growth of a few trees is promised, the leash-free area amounts so far to a Frost-fence-enclosed, weedy field. A path is worn all the way around, about ten feet inside the fence.

The City has obviously thought long and hard about this dog-park thing. And it seems they have come to four important conclusions:

  1. Dogs communicate in very clear ways.
  2. Dog owners haven’t a clue what their dogs are talking about.
  3. Dog owners would like to understand their dogs better.
  4. Dog owners tend to be literate.

And so, the off-leash area in Bechtel Park has informative signs. A number of them. I’ve saved one for Wordless Wednesday, but here are the rest for your edification, as they were for mine.

Leash-free area’s equivalent of public swimming pool regulations.

The bad news.

The good news.

The friendly reminder.

Lesson Number 1.

Lesson Number 2.

Lesson Number 3.

And in the Spring, the City even held a free seminar on dog etiquette!

Unfortunately, we were there at the hottest part of a hot day. No other dogs were available to test the theories, and we only made one circle. On the way back to the car, the pupsters sought relief in foot-high shade.

Fortunately, Bechtel Park also has four kilometres of cross-country ski paths, which make a deliciously shady walking trail in high summer. Cai and Fergus would rather be strolling leashed and cool than stumbling free and overheated. They’re my kinda dog.


August 19, 2008

Elderberry bush. Photo taken September 9, 2006, by eyegillian.

The dogs and I went for a walk today. I would have been working, but yesterday I quit my job. Without going into it, let’s just say that I noticed some goings-on that appear to be on the illegal, immoral, and unsafe side, and I couldn’t continue working there with my new understanding of things.

So the dogs and I went for a walk today. We left home at 11 00, and were out for a full three hours. First we played in Riverdale Park for a while, and then we went down the scary see-through stairs (I carried Fergus) onto the Don Valley Trail. Everything was growing rampant, shady and green. The sun shone, and a breeze blew lightly. Goldfinches twittered across the path; a Cardinal flashed in a tree; Tree Swallows circled overhead; a Great Blue Heron preened on a branch just above the river.

Cai and Fergus were intrepid little walkers. When we arrived back home, Fergus ate lunch and Cai chomped down three bickies. I crouched down against the fridge and told my boys what good doggies they were, and how happy I was with them. They approached; Cai licked my hand, Fergus licked my face.

Sometimes a dog or two is exactly what one needs.

“Snug.” Photo taken August 19, 2008, by Lavenderbay.

The Secret of South Village Forest

August 10, 2008

The week I spent in South Village, 500 miles from home, caring for my ailing cousin, was the most terrible week of my life. Not because of my cousin’s needs, but because of a local character, Maxine Fang. The folk in and around South Village called her Mad Maxine. The less they were willing to talk about her, the more my curiosity burned.

So one evening, as she took her dogs for a walk, I followed her. Fey creatures they were, one like a fox, the other like a masked wolf, but with dwarfed legs as though they were steeds for pixies.

Suddenly Maxine stopped, and addressed the wolf-like one. “What is it, boy? What’s wrong?”

Indeed, both dogs appeared acutely distressed.

It was then that I noted the rising moon, and realized…

These were Were-Corgis!  Had they sensed my presence?

They had.

As the Were-corgis lunged towards me, I started to call to their owner for help, but the cry strangled itself in my throat…

…for Mad Maxine was one of them! She howled to the sky — and all went black.

The next thing I knew, there were two ordinary dogs in front of me. Standing just behind them was Maxine Fang. “You’re Tabitha’s cousin, aren’t you?” she was asking. “Why don’t you finish your walk with us? We’ll make sure you get home safely. The woods can be a bit spooky sometimes, but you’re all right.”

Mad Maxine pointed the way. I was all right, she said… but did I or did I not hear her add, under her breath: “For now” ?


Written and directed by: Lavenderbay.

Starring: E.g. as Mad Maxine; Cai and Fergus as the Were-corgis.

Shot on location in High Park, Toronto, on the off-leash walking path.