musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser


June 25, 2009

Which is smarter?

A cat or a dog?

I have never thought dogs are smarter than cats, but according to a study described in The Guardian, Cats outsmarted in psychologist’s test, they are, at least in some ways. I’m not quite convinced, since I don’t fully understand the test myself. Either I need a better description or the dogs in the study are smarter than I am as well. What I found most entertaining about the article was the comments. We will defend our pets to the bitter end! I love both dogs and cats, and I’m not sure why humans feel a need to take sides as dog people or cat people. Frankly, I don’t care which are smarter, cats or dogs. Members of both species seem to know quite a bit about friendship, and have something to teach us humans….

So maybe the question should be: Which are smarter, cats, dogs, or people?

— Barbara @ rudimentary 7:51 pm PST, 06/25/09

July 29, 2008

His name was Independence

because we brought him home on the 4th of July. But we always called him Indi. I started out spelling his nickname Indy, while his “dad” started out spelling it Indi. But it always sounded the same to him.

We never called him Independence, and come to think of it he wasn’t independent. He made friends everywhere he went, and in his first obedience class he was voted No. 1 Puppy. He never chewed up anything he wasn’t supposed to, but he knew what to do with a rawhide bone, and in his prime he could demolish a large one in short order. As a puppy he surgically removed squeakers from toys, and wore out several plastic balls until they no longer squeaked.

Jan2003

Green was his favorite color. I know dogs are supposed to be color blind, but Indi always preferred the green balls to the blue ones or red ones. We tested this, several times.

He liked to be wherever we were, and most recently he was my gardening buddy. He wanted to follow me outside whenever I worked in the back yard, even when he was too old and sick for it to be much fun for him.

Jul2003

Indi died last night, after 10 years of faithful, loving companionship. He was the best dog we’ve ever known, and we feel honored to have had the chance to live with him.

We miss you, dear friend, and we won’t be at all surprised if you’re voted Number 1 Puppy in Heaven.

Mar2003

— Barbara @ rudimentary 6:46 pm PST, 07/29/08

July 8, 2008

Catching up

Our summer weather has set in, likely until mid to late October, so I have to wake up early to get all my outdoor work done. I’m amazed how fast things can grow in the warm weather and get away from me — mostly things I don’t want to grow, like weeds.

My usual care to wear gloves when working in the yard had lapsed recently, but working outside earlier than usual this morning meant that I happened across two black widow spiders. One, on the lower rock wall, was attempting to kill a big iridescent green June Beetle, or what we call a June Beetle here, aka Fig Eater Beetle. The beetle was 10 to 15 times the spider’s size. Their struggle mesmerized me for a moment as I wondered who would win, the beetle snapping spider silk as quickly as it wrapped around it. It was the noise he made that drew my attention in the first place. I would’ve intervened, if I’d had something handy to kill the spider with, but the next time I walked past, the spider — hiding from me, no doubt — was nowhere to be seen and the beetle was bumbling away. I’ll be more careful to wear gloves and not work in flip-flops anymore, unless I’m only watering. Black widows usually hide from people, but I don’t want to surprise one.

My little friend Tara is growing fast. A kitten in the house means lots of interruptions to play, or to stop misbehavior in its tracks, or just to cuddle. I’ll try to post an updated photo later, but it might be a blur unless I catch her when she slows down to nap, bask in a sunny window, or watch TV. She’s now more than three times the size she was when I took these pictures, and darker since her kitten fluff has been replaced by a true dark tabby coat. She’s a Siamese mix, but you wouldn’t know that to look at her.

Tara watched Mikhail Baryshnikov dance, in an older video on the arts channel last night, and I think she decided he’s the most cat-like human she’s seen. I hope she doesn’t expect us to move like that! But maybe it’s good that she knows some humans are capable of it, just to help us keep the upper hand. Sometimes we call her Rocket Cat, and one day recently, as the dog and I watched in glazed over amazement while she raced around and up and down a room, I commented to him, “You know, cats can almost fly.” Indi seemed to agree.

I’m not really sure what all else keeps me busy, but there’s a lot of it, whatever it is. I don’t work in the garden enough to excuse not blogging, but I do spend some time finding things to do with the excess produce.

We’ve had loads of squash from just four plants, so far, some of it now in the freezer and some given away. We may need a bigger freezer if I keep gardening. One way that we like zucchini is simply sautéed in a little olive oil with basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. We’ve had some cucumbers, which I personally think would make a good breakfast food, because just one bite seems to wake me up with its fresh, clean crispness. The tomatoes got a late start (from seed), so we haven’t had any to eat yet, but they’re blooming and setting fruit, growing like mad in the heat. There’s a San Marzano Roma about the size of the end of my thumb that I predict will be the first to the table, unless that little cluster of marble sized cherry tomatoes beats it to perfect redness. With the salmonella scare still pretty much a mystery I’m looking forward, even more than I expected when I planted them, to fresh homegrown tomatoes.

Yesterday we discovered how well extra garden produce can pay off, when we gave a large zucchini to a neighbor boy to take home, and later his mom sent over four of the most perfect little quesadillas I’ve ever tasted. Oh. My. God. These were not the quesadillas you find in Mexican restaurants, or the floppy things we usually concoct with flour tortillas and cheddar cheese, in a skillet. Every part of hers was homemade, including flaky six-inch corn flour shells folded in half and crisped. They were filled with chicken, some kind of white cheese, possibly one of the Mexican cheeses described here, and fresh cabbage, and they came with a magical homemade chili sauce to pour over them. I am positive we got the better end of that exchange. You can’t get food like that in any restaurant, and I’m in heaven just remembering them. It’s odd how a really good hot sauce can actually cool you. As my mouth heated up, my body seemed to cool right off. Must’ve been all my pores and sinuses opening. It was positively delicious. Mmmmh!

— Barbara @ rudimentary 12:49 pm PST, 07/08/08

May 17, 2008

We’re cat people — even the dog

I’ve always been a cat person, and my spouse converted soon after we got together. Our dog is a cat person too, since he grew up with cats. Ever since Emily died in August, Indi has been lonely and bored. He started acting like a very old dog. We’re apparently boring, depressing people for a dog to own unless he has a cat around to spice things up, and he’d known and loved Emily all his life. Well, things got spiced up again yesterday, but good.

Meet Tara, named for the Goddess Tara, revered in Tibetan Buddhism as well as in Celtic lore. Cats are supposed to be worshiped, right? Tara thinks so.

Tara

MakingFriends

In the second photo she’s making friends. Any time she ventures near her new doggy friend she receives a great big juicy kiss on the face, which of course any cat should be delighted to receive. Especially if she just finished washing the last kiss off her face. Indi also loves to get swatted in the face. I think Emily taught him to see that as fun, as a former owner had Emily de-clawed. Indi realized earlier today that Tara comes fully loaded, though she only swats when she’s playing.

We were a little concerned about the introduction, since lately Indi’s become enthusiastic about chasing strange cats out of his back yard. But when his new kitten was introduced as a member of the pack, he happily reverted to baby sitter. Tara took to him with no hissing, having been born into a home with dogs. She knows the drill. Avoid doggy kisses by cruising behind furniture and darting under beds. Especially after the doggy has just taken a long drink of water. (Very drippy business.) Indi is getting old, which you can tell by all that white fur on his face where it used to be mahogany. But having a kitten around has put a smile on all our faces and zest in our steps. (Handy when there’s a kitten darting about underfoot.)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 4:42 pm PST, 05/17/08

December 28, 2006

What draws us to the animals we love?

Violetismycolor commented on my post, Interconnections, parallels, and epiphany, and said:

“I had a horse, growing up . . . well my sisters and I did, anyway. I liked riding well enough, but a couple of my sisters were absolutely horse-crazy. And still are. I think that you are either born a horse-person or you are not. Clearly, you are one of them…the horse people. I always wonder what it is that causes this and have been unable to ascertain what it is. Do you wonder this, too?”

You know, I think if I’d grown up with horses I might very well be as much a horse person as anyone. I confess I’m intimidated by them, unfamiliar as I am, but I’m definitely in awe of their power, beauty, and grace, and I’ll never forget one really sweet horse named Joe, a dappled gray that belonged to a coworker-friend who let me ride him once.

I wonder the same thing though. What causes that attraction for a particular type of animal companion? What makes one person a horse person, the next a dog person, cat person, or bird person?

Although I love all kinds of animals and I’ve been blessed with some special friendships with dogs, cats, and a few parakeets, I have a slightly stronger affinity toward cats, and I don’t know why. Maybe because they’re quieter, more solitary creatures, as I tend to be.

Maybe it has more to do with positive experiences and special individual relationships though. I’ve often thought an unspoken language exists between other creatures and us. (Maybe on the whole I speak cat better than dog?)

The dog I live with now made a silent connection with me the day we met. I didn’t want a puppy, when I stopped with my husband to look at a litter for sale. We’d planned to get a dog again, after we moved into this house, but that day I was about to leave for three weeks out of town on business, starting a new job. I didn’t want the committment of a puppy yet. Still, as soon as this one puppy and I made eye contact, I felt a connection with him. He walked over to me. I picked him up, and then told my husband we were taking him home. I don’t remember our exact words, but Ken said something like, “Oh, you changed your mind. You do think we should get a puppy.” I said something like, “No, but we’re getting this puppy.”

The same thing happened years earlier with a cat, only that time it was both of us who felt the bond take hold immediately. We visited a little mountain town for the day with friends. We split up at some point, and Ken and I wandered into a gem shop. There was this skinny little orange cat that the owner had found starving, abandoned at the town’s dump, and she wanted a home for him. We didn’t think we needed a cat. We petted him anyway. When I picked him up, it was as if someone whispered in my ear, telling me I was going to take this cat home. I just knew, but I didn’t see how I could know, so I didn’t say anything. Ken was the first to say it out loud, and he looked as surprised as I felt. Our friends must’ve thought we were nuts when we left that gem shop with a cat. We named him after the little town, Julian.

Sadly Julian was only with us two years or so before he died of FIP (one reason our cats are now always indoor cats). But both those pets I mention above turned out to be amazing friends and cherished family members.

I suspect the relationship between any two creatures is much the same as that between two people. Maybe human-to-human relationships are bad comparisons, since I think animals are less judgmental and easier to get along with. They know how to love less conditionally than we do. Each creature has a personality, a spirit, and I think friendships between members of different species are just as individual as between people. I speak the same language as most people I know, but I get along with each one a little differently. I try to be adaptable, but sometimes I meet a person that I don’t click with very well. We don’t understand each other. Sometimes I meet someone and we understand each other on a level where words are barely needed. It’s the same with other animals. Although I love cats, there have been a few I’ve met that I didn’t hit it off with.

Maybe someone who becomes a horse person has met a particular horse, or more than one, that they get along with especially well, and are able to communicate with the way they would a best friend or a soul mate. Maybe each, as an individual, has something important to share or teach the other. Maybe if horse and rider are a good match, the horse teaches the rider something about all horses. Perhaps that’s what I’ve picked up on in books and movies about the horse-human relationship. But again I don’t know, and I still wonder.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:30 pm PST, 12/28/06

July 11, 2006

Order and chaos

The cat’s litter box is clean. That mundane detail isn’t your favorite sentence I’ve ever written, I’m sure. Mine either. But my day often seems to revolve around whether that task has been accomplished, and what comes after it. I go through a list of chores, on the days I think to make one, eventually reaching the line that has to do with writing, after checking off a lot of other stuff. Today writing comes after important things like the cat’s box, which is of utmost importance to her, though slightly less to us except through our affection for her, since we don’t use it and it’s out in the garage, easy for us to forget. Vacuuming comes next, mostly pet hair this time of year. That task must be accomplished while the day is still cool enough to have windows open, or not at all. A late-in-the-day shower will be in order, after all the creepy stuff on the list is done. (Bear with me, I do have a point here, this isn’t merely a run-through of my chores.) (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:57 am PST, 07/11/06

March 6, 2006

No one saw it coming

Last night my dad’s house burned down. It was there at seven-thirty in the evening. By eight-thirty it was gone. Destroyed in 39 minutes. No one saw this coming. No one’s sure what caused the fire, at this point. It appears to have started in a bathroom.

All five people who were in the house got out okay, with only their clothes—or in my dad’s case his pajamas—on their backs.

Life is strange, how it plods along, and then—poof!—a puff of smoke and a pile of charcoal is all that’s left of everything you own, as if it was a cruel illusion—which I suppose it is. Physical things create an illusion of permanence in an impermanent life. Love is all that lasts.

I’m still in shock, and I wasn’t even there. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 1:55 pm PST, 03/06/06

February 11, 2006

Fond memories, anxiety, and back to the book

Yesterday brought news of a death in the family, of a beloved aunt—actually my mom’s cousin. She lived in Oregon, and I hadn’t seen her much since I was a kid. But all my memories of her are fond ones, and I miss her, and I know her two daughters and son and grandchildren miss her an awful lot. I hope she, her husband, my mom, and all the other relatives who’ve gone on before are having a happy reunion on the other side. I can almost hear them, and I like that thought. It brings back memories of family get togethers when I was a kid and would sometimes sit and listen to all the grownups talk and tell stories.

***

After a quiet day yesterday, I woke early this morning (early for me, anyway), to sirens, thinking I’ve never lived in a place with so many sirens, even when we rented within a couple miles of Montgomery Field and one of the busiest intersections in San Diego. But here we’re right off the main road that runs through town. This morning the sirens were especially disconcerting, and I decided maybe I’d had too much coffee.
(more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:02 pm PST, 02/11/06

September 20, 2005

Thunder, lightning and blazing palm trees

Late yesterday afternoon, I read a severe weather alert about possible thunderstorms. I looked out the window, and wondered what the weather people were seeing that I wasn’t. The sky was nearly clear. Maybe half an hour to an hour later, a bright flash outside the window over my writing desk signaled the beginning of the day’s first thunderstorm. I reached up to open the blinds, and the crash came—close and deafening. That storm lasted several minutes. Then it was over. That was exciting, I thought. I relaxed back into writing.

Later in the evening the lightning and thunder started up again, rumbling in the distance for a few hours, and every now and then moving closer. First it was west of us, then east of us. Now it was on the other side again. There was very little rain, and I knew that wasn’t good. It was the same weather pattern that had ignited palm trees down the hill from us about five years ago.

After midnight, we were still awake, not because of the storm but because those are the hours we keep. We’d just turned off the television and were starting to wind down when the lightning moved in close again. Then came a blinding, deafening flash and crash, so close I let out an involuntary yelp and the dog jumped to his feet.
(more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:18 pm PST, 09/20/05


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