Among the wildflowers

On the morning of Jan. 6, I said goodbye to my dog, the lovely and talented Mia Frances Goff. She was approximately 14 years old and had battled various infections for the last few months of her life.

miaI knew I made the right decision, but it was still hard to let her go. For nearly 13 years, she patiently listened to my rants about the outside world, brought dead rats to the back door, and allowed the cat army to use her as a pillow. She rarely barked and only acted aggressively when dogs charged at us during walks. She wanted in return only food, treats, occasional car rides, and attention. And to send me judgmental looks whenever I did something stupid like straddle the window ledge and a wobbly stack of cinder blocks.

When the time came, I realized I hadn’t considered what to do with Mia’s ashes. Fortunately, one of the employees at the vet’s office mentioned he knew a lady who had planted a tree with her dog’s ashes.

I liked that idea. A couple days earlier, I had dropped Mia off at the vet’s for observation and IVs. When I returned to my car that day, the first song that played was Tom Petty’s “Wildflowers.” What’s more, I still had that free packet of wildflower seeds I had ordered from General Mills. I decided at the vet’s that I would carve out the area in front of my porch and grow a garden of wildflowers in honor of Mia.

With help from my family, that’s what I did. The packet didn’t contain many seeds, though, so I bought another one during a trip to Lowe’s.

Then, I waited for the flowers to burst forth from the earth, watering the garden on the rare occasion we went a few days without rain.

I waited weeks before I spied green emerging from the ground. But I couldn’t be sure if the green things were flowers or grass or weeds. One day, my sister said to me, “You’re growing something. I’m just not sure what it is.”

We weren’t sure because the green things had no buds. Still, they continued to grow and grow and even attracted the attention of a hungry bunny. Then, an actual weed – there was no mistaking it – showed up in the garden.

I was so upset by the appearance of that weed that I pulled it up and then moved on to those life-sized flowers or whatever the heck they were. As I did so, I ranted, “Why did you think you could grow flowers? You’ve killed two cacti and an African violet. You should invite the bunny and his friends over to feast on this greenery. At least they could get some good from this so-called garden.”

flowersAnd that’s when I saw them – tiny white flowers in the midst of all that greenery.

I stopped vandalizing the green things and enjoyed the splendor of those tiny white flowers. As I crouched in the middle of the garden, I imagined Mia’s reaction to my overreaction. I could see her pretending to mind her own business whilst stealing glances at me. And I could hear Tom Petty singing, “You belong somewhere close to me.”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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April fools

Near the end of February, a live stream of a pregnant giraffe caught the Internet’s collective attention. Since then, dern-near everyone on the planet has been watching April, the pregnant giraffe, hang out in her stall at the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, N.Y. Apparently, they’ve been waiting for April, who’s been pregnant forever, to finally birth a baby giraffe.

Through a combination of determination and lack of interest, I managed to ignore the dozens of references to April that popped up in my news feed. At least I did until a certain meme caught my eye.

This particular meme accused April of faking her pregnancy.

Oh, now she had my attention.

I was raised on soap operas. I still can’t resist soapy goodness, so my mind immediately recalled the lessons I learned from the pregnancy-faking characters who populated my favorite soaps.

I imagined April fooling everyone by wearing a well-placed pillow under her clothes. All the other lady giraffes would say to her, “You’re so lucky to only be gaining weight in your stomach. When I was pregnant, I gained weight all over. My face was so swollen it looked like I had just lost a UFC fight and my butt was so big I was mistaken for an elephant.”

Even April’s man, Oliver, would be none the wiser. One can only assume that he, like all the clueless male soap characters who came before him, would never ask to feel the baby kick, to accompany the mother of his child to the gender-reveal ultrasound, or to request some loving.

Of course, April, like all the pillow-wearing female soap characters who came before her, would eventually need to produce a calf. Obviously, she would have to find a young giraffe who had fallen in love with the bad boy of the savannah only to end up with a broken heart and a baby in her belly. With nowhere to forge for food, she would accept April’s generous offer to adopt her baby. Sure, she would wonder why she had to spend her 13-to-15-month pregnancy hidden in April’s attic, but April would reassure her that the peace, quiet, and low ceilings were good for the baby.

It all made sense to me. But just to be sure, I did minimal research on April, the pregnant giraffe. It turns out that the zookeepers are now saying she might be past due. Uh-huh. Any fan of afternoon soaps has heard that one before.

What’s more, Oliver is allowed only minimal contact with April, allegedly, to prevent him from fighting her or stealing her food. But I think we all know the real reason April is avoiding Oliver.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Driving me crazy

The cat haters are at it again. Last week, they released a report linking cat ownership to mental illness.photo(1)

I’ve heard it all before. Indeed, this breaking “news” sounds suspiciously like a 2010 report that made similar accusations against cats. As far as I’m concerned, it’s more of the same anti-feline propaganda that began when the first old wife started the tale that cats steal babies’ breath.

For a society that loves watching videos of cute little kitties frolicking in boxes or playing the piano, there also seems to be a lot of pent-up animosity toward felines. A few years ago, another set of researchers blamed cats for the decline in the avian population. The bird apologists must have never heard the phrase “survival of the fittest.”

But it’s not just scientists. By using such expressions as “crazy cat lady,” regular citizens also try to advance an anti-feline agenda. Think about it. If a woman adopts eight or nine dogs, she’s got a big heart. If she takes in the same number of cats, she’s lost her mind.

I love my dog as much as I love my cats, so I don’t understand this need to separate the world into dog people and cat people. It’s not like Pepsi and Coke or Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. We don’t have to choose.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who, upon learning I have three cats, feel the need to share their antipathy toward felines. For some reason I do not understand, they list reasons for this repulsion including, but not limited to, allergies, a preference for dogs (of course) and a matter of trust.

Yes, trust. Recently, someone went on a minutes-long tirade in which she repeatedly expressed her hatred of cats who, in her words, cannot be trusted.

I’ll have her know cats can be trusted to literally walk all over you as you try to sleep, to act like they’re starving to death as soon as they can see the bottom of their bowl and to wake you every morning – even on weekends – at precisely 6:40 a.m.

Another complaint frequently leveled against cats is that they skulk around the house during the night. I can’t speak for every cat in the world, but mine do not demonstrate such behavior. I know this because I get up to go to the bathroom at least six times a night and they’re always snoozing away at my feet, above my head or on the DVR.

Hey, I realize cats, and pets in general, are not for everyone. But I guess I just want everyone to know that it’s not my cats’ fault that I’m crazy.