Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Time for Something Cute

Tabby cat
If you're anything like me, you're running around getting ready for the holiday season. I'm having 27 people for dinner on the 25th, but always have time for a dose of cute. Click here if you have a moment.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

It's That Time of Year Again: Christmas Gifts for Your Pet

What do our pets want for Christmas? Just our love and attention. And maybe a toy or two (click on photo to get the big picture):

Other than their cuteness value, what else do these three dog toys have in common? They each represent objects that you'd never want your dog to actually chew on. Why not stick to ... hmm, what would you want your dog to chew on?

This moving bag with twitching cat tail is sure to freak your cat out.

I like the idea giving a cat more space to climb, but I have visions of someone slamming the door open, and ... well, you can see where I'm going with this.

Now, how cool is this? And when it's time to take your cat to the vet, you entice it inside the goldfish with a treat, pinch the fish's mouth closed, sling it over your shoulder, and you're off.

For more great gift ideas, visit ThisNext.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In the Old Days

Things sure have changed since I was growing up (in the 60s and 70s). I'm not talking about the leaps in technology (hey, back then, we got giddy over colour television and Atari's Pong). No, I'm talking about everyday stuff like:

Garbage Bags and Bins

We used paper grocery bags for kitchen waste. Paper! There was no backyard composting, no green bins. Can you imagine the oily, mushy mess that must've leaked through? On garbage day, we put the seeping bags into the dented metal garbage can with the lid that never seemed to fit properly. We didn't have to worry about raccoons getting into our scraps -- they didn't live near us because we hadn't yet used up all their natural habitat. But the dogs ...

Dogs That Roamed Free

There were no poop and scoop laws. No leash laws. Our own dog was either in a fenced yard or on a leash, but most dogs in the neighbourhood were let out through the front door, free to do their business wherever they pleased. And if they fancied a little snack, they could always tuck into one of the easily accessed garbage buffets.

One Bathroom

We were a family of four, and had only one bathroom in the house. Now, I've a family of three and have four bathrooms. It does make life easier at times, but those toilets and sinks still have to be cleaned.

What changes have taken place since you were a kid?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Japanese maple in fall
October 29, 2009

Japanese maple in winter
Two weeks later

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bugs and Stuff

A confession: Many years ago, my husband and I visited a friend's cottage up north. The mosquitoes were out in full force, and a rather noisy one broke into our bedroom, keeping me awake (although my husband slept on). I turned on the light, but was unable to find the source of that irritating "zzzz". Then I remembered: mosquitoes only bite once (a myth, I've since discovered). I was desperate -- a sacrifice would have to be made. I placed my husband's arm gently on top of the covers, and I ducked underneath. Note: this was before West Nile Virus. Soon, the buzzing stopped, and I slept. Years later, when I told my husband and friends this story, he was kind of surprised that I could be so ... so selfish and cruel. Our friends thought it was hilarious.

And on a unrelated topic: I've always wondered where moths hung out before electricity.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Something to Crow About

I recently watched The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, a Canadian documentary series on CBC. The episode was called A Murder of Crows which details the inner life of one of the "most intelligent, playful and mischievous species on the planet".

I have a new respect for these birds--they are able to recognize faces, use tools and problem solve. When they're making all that sleep-rousing noise, I think they might actually be trying to tell us something. Here are some crow facts that I lifted from the CBC website:

Crows are found on every continent except Antarctica.
Crows have an exceptional ability to remember and pick a single human face out of a crowd.
Crows are far more likely to be found living close to cities and suburbs than out in the country.
Each generation of crows is capable of building on an earlier generation's knowledge.
New Caledonian crows are one of only three species, besides human, in the world capable of making tools.
Crows live with a mated pair, their kids, and offspring from previous years in an extended family.
Crows have different warning calls - one for cats, and one for hawks, and another for humans - 250 in all.
Crows are omnivores and eat fruits, vegetables and meat.

Check out a short video clip here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

What a Ride!

A tiny, three week-old kitten was brought into the shelter several months ago. It's grey and white fur was dirty and matted, and the poor little thing had a Botfly larva embedded in its cheek (this was immediately and successfully removed). But that wasn't the most harrowing thing this kitten had experienced.

He had survived a 30 kilometer (27 mile) drive along a busy 100 km/hour highway, clinging to life under the hood of a car! The driver must have exited his vehicle, heard the meows, then investigated. Luckily, he brought the kitten in, and it's since been adopted.

I just loved the happy ending to this story. That is, I loved it until someone asked, "I wonder how many kittens there were under the hood at the beginning of the journey?"

Now I have this horrible video playing in my head, and I can't get it out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Meet Your Match

Short haired tabby catAs you may already know, for the past year, I've volunteered at my local Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) shelter. It's been a wonderful experience, and I was very fortunate to be chosen to attend a two-day Meet Your Match Feline-ality training seminar.

This ASPCA program matches adopters' preferences to the cat(s) who best fits the bill by assessing how cats will behave in a new environment. Shelters that have implemented the program experience almost 50% less returns and just as high an increase in adoptions. Go here to meet the nine different "Feline-alities" (or categories).

Although the initial implementation of the program may be huge, I'm looking forward to assessing the cats, in hopes that they will be adopted into loving homes more quickly.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Litter Box Woes

Black cat big eyesA few months ago, my cat, Meeko, decided the carpeted rec room made a far better litter box than her own. At first, I was in denial: "We must have a leak in our basement," I told my husband. Then, "It's the humidity. We need a dehumidifier." But the unused litter box and the overwhelming smell soon disproved my theories.

I used an enzymatic cleaner to get rid of the odor, and had the carpet professionally cleaned. Luckily, there's a door to the room, and after posting a 2 X 2 foot sign advising everyone to keep the door closed, we usually remember to do so. After checking the Internet for inspiration, here are some of the other steps I've taken:

Removed the lid from her litter box -- it seemed to be freaking her out.
Moved the box
Stopped using the scented litter I sometimes purchased by mistake
Used "Kitty Litter Attractant" to lure her back
Closed every other freaking door in the house (just in case)

And I took her to the vet. There's nothing physically wrong with the cat, but the vet thought she might anxious, so has put her on anti-anxiety medication (although, after all this, I'm the one who really needs the drugs). My heart dropped at the thought of having to administer pills to Meeko, so I was delighted to discover the meds came in the form of a transdermal gel that I apply to the inside of her ear. I'm not sure if it's working as she just had her first dose last night.

This problem has consumed me. What if I can't change this new, unacceptable behaviour? And why the heck did she suddenly stop using her kitty litter box? I've always kept it clean -- to the point where the used litter makes my green bin too heavy for the the garbage men to lift. My husband thought Meeko might be lonely because I spent 4 or 5 days a week at the animal shelter. Perhaps Meeko smelled the other cats, despite the fact that I shower and change as soon as I get home. Who knows? Cats can be so sensitive to any change.

Now, I must go and make sure the last person to use the rec room remembered to close the door. And I may as well check the litter box while I'm down there, keeping my fingers crossed that she's using it and not some other, unprotected spot.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Ants in my ...

Canada Post Mailbox... mailbox.

One day, earlier this summer, I picked up my mail from the super mailbox down the street. When I plucked the mail from the slot, here were a couple of black ants racing across the envelopes and flyers. Odd. I shook them off then peered inside. The slot was crawling with ants! And what were those little, rice-like parcels they were carrying? Eggs. Piles and piles of eggs. What was the attraction of the metal structure? Weren't ants supposed to live in the ground? After a serious case of the heebie-jeebies, I set out to fight the invaders.

First stop, the post office where I discovered someone else had already complained about the ants. That one slot had been sprayed, but the rest of us were left without any defenses. The thought of having to retrieve any more ant and egg-covered mail was, for me, the stuff of nightmares. What if those eggs hatched during the night? So I bought a can of Raid, and sprayed the suckers. I realized I was being terribly hypocritical. Wasn't I supposed to love all creatures? But you have to understand -- I was completely grossed out. I also posted a sign advising my neighbours of the problem just in case the ants decided to move to a new 'condo'.

That was far too much excitement for one day. I just couldn't bring myself to clean the lifeless bodies and eggs from the mail slot, so I sent my husband down later that evening. I think that's why we get married, isn't it? To share the load. I do the laundry, and he cleans up the dead bodies. A match made in heaven.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Japan - Part Three

Kiyomizu Temple Kyoto

Kyoto offers a glimpse into what I imagine all of Japan once looked like -- ancient streets, timber-framed buildings with sloping roofs, and beautiful Geisha dressed in vibrant silk kimonos. It's all that, but it does have its whimsical side as well. On my first visit, four years ago, I took this photo of three cats peeking into a store window (click on photos to enlarge):

Kyoto Japan storefront cats
This summer, I spotted them again. Looks like one of the cats has been adopted:

Kyoto Japan storefront cats

The food in Japan is always exquisitely presented -- almost too beautiful to eat:

Japanese Cakes
Japanese meal presentation

In addition to traditional menus, most restaurants offer a visual array of plastic food samples to make choosing one's meal far easier:

Fake food sample Japan

And then there are the crepes which are stacked full of ... well, everything you can imagine:

Kyoto Japan Crepes

We all passed on the hotdog crepe, but my daughter and husband loved the strawberry-banana, while I opted for the vanilla and green tea ice cream cone.

Over 127,000,000 million people live in Japan, but there is never any jostling in line, and the citizens are always polite and friendly (they even have Canadians beat in that regard!). And despite the differences in food, language, and customs, I never once felt homesick. Had it not been for the fact that I missed my cat, Meeko, I might have stayed and discovered all the many more wonderful things Japan has to offer.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Japan - Part Two

As I said in my earlier post, I only visited cities while vacationing in Japan, and didn't see many animals. Then, one morning outside of my hotel, I spotted a green snake! Normally, I would have been hesitant to stick around, but I was so happy to finally have a chance at snapping a photo of some wildlife, I couldn't get my camera out fast enough. This Japanese Rat Snake was almost gone by the time I did. You'll have to click on the photo to enlarge because the snake was, sadly, pretty small. He's in the centre of the picture:

Japanese Rat Snake

Inside our hotel, there was a large stand for people to store their umbrellas for the day. Yes, they're just umbrellas, but don't they look like snakes in a crowded subway car?

Japanese umbrella stand

Of course, there's lots of Koi. I took this photo at Kiyomizu-Dera, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. And look! There's a turtle on the rock. Two for the price of one -- it was a good day.

Turtle Koi Japan

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Japan - Part One

Ebisu Garden Place Tokyo Japan
I've just returned from vacationing in Japan. Although only visiting three cities (Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima), I'd hoped to catch a glimpse of some interesting animals to bring back and share with you. Not an easy task. In Tokyo, we stayed across from Ebisu Garden Place, a massive office, retail and restaurant complex. As you can see from the top photo, taken from our hotel room, there's not much green space, yet it was a popular spot for dog-walking. Click on photos to enlarge.

Doberman Tokyo
There wasn't a speck of poop anywhere. This could have been because every inch of the public space was scrubbed each morning. Or maybe their dogs just don't poop. I'm not even sure the pigeons poop. I swear that Japan has the cleanest and most considerate animals around. And some of the cutest. Check out this little guy I spotted in Yoyogi Park in Harajuku:

Japanese Child Dog
The dog was cute but terribly overdressed -- it was 35 degrees Celsius (95 fahrenheit)! Why do people do that to their pets?

And since we were in Harajuku, I had to snap a few pictures of some of the more interesting Sunday visitors:

Harajuku teenagers

Harajuku teenagers

Harajuku teenagers

Go here to read more about Harajuku's teenagers.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bottom Floor Dwellers

I helped out at the animal shelter's yard sale on Friday and Saturday. Lovely weather for the sale yesterday, but there was one grey cloud:

A boxed designer men's watch had been donated -- quite nice. We put it with a few other items that appeared to be worth something more than a buck or two. Do you know what happened? Someone attending the sale stole the darn thing. They did leave the box (I suppose strapping the watch and box on one's arm might be conspicuous).

Being a thief is bad enough, but you'd have to take the elevator a long way down to reach the level of someone who steals from a charity.

Thanks, I feel better now that I've gotten that off my chest.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Spring -- a good time to talk about those little feather dusters that you might see hopping around your yard. For the first few days after leaving the nest, fledglings are just learning to fly and may take their chances on the ground. If you're concerned the young bird might be in harm's way, place it in a shrub then leave it alone -- the parents are probably freaking out nearby. Check out this link for more information.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Meeko's a Couch Potato

Black cat tv remoteMy cat, Meeko, never really bothered with our old t.v. Every once in awhile, some movement on the screen might catch her eye, but she pretty much ignored it. That's all changed -- ever since we bought a plasma, Meeko's become addicted. I mean, we're wrestling her for the remote. She can become so wrapped up in a program, I'm almost afraid to change the channel. I feel guilty. Shouldn't I be encouraging her to go out and play ball hockey or something?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Spider Sense

Funnel Web SpiderLast summer, I noticed a very large spider lurking outside our house. Its tunnel-like web intrigued me, though not enough to make me get too close. I always checked for him whenever I went out to dump the compost because ... well, I always felt better if I knew where he was. You'll have to click on the photo in order to get a better view.

I looked online to see if I could find out what kind of spider he was, and found this:

The Funnel Web spider is a robust, hairy spider with long legs and a body length of 12 mm. It nests in the corner of garages, basements and other ground level areas. Its web is a flat funnel that leads to a short tunnel. It can deliver a painful bite but is not poisonous except to those who may be sensitive and are allergic to spider venom.

Spiders kind of freak me out. I don't mind them, as long as they stay away from me. One night in bed, I awoke when something tickled my lip. I thought it was my hair, so I brushed it away. Then I felt the tickle on my neck, and knew immediately that it wasn't just a stray strand of locks. I clutched the tickler in my fist, and threw it on the sheets. I fumbled for the switch on my bedside lamp, then frantically searched the bedding beside me. The spider's legs were all curled up, and it was now most definitely dead. I looked at the ceiling and walls for more of them, but realized that spiders don't hang out in herds, so I was probably safe.

Did you know that you'll eat about six spiders in your lifetime? For months after that night, I fell asleep with the corner of the pillow case over my mouth. I still get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Learning to Climb

Squirrel at window

If you need a reason to smile and have a few minutes to spare, then check out this video. Two squirrels, a wall, and a little help from some friends -- it's my all-time favourite. Thanks to Nuclear Toast for pointing this one out.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Abandoned Nest

Robin's nest in eaves

A robin built its nest in the crook of the downspout right outside our window, and my cat, Meeko, and I were excited -- we couldn't wait for the little guys to hatch. Unfortunately, even though the mother robin was attentive, there wasn't much she could do when a major rain storm took out parts of the nest. I searched the ground for the eggs, but they must have remained in their tattered home (I'm definitely not looking forward to taking down the nest).

Robin's nest destroyed by rain

The mother hung around for the next few days, peering over the edge of the roof, but, eventually, she abandoned the nest altogether. Meeko still looks out the window, expecting to see the robin. So do I.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Cats hugging

I took this photo at the shelter and posted it on my other blog. It's just too cute not to share with you. Click on the cats to enlarge.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Heros and Villains

Grey tabby catTwo weeks ago, in Toronto, Jonathan Breedon heard cries coming from a woodpile near his home. Upon investigation, he discovered ten kittens in a plastic shopping bag, their umbilical cords still attached. Horrified, he took the kittens home, cleaned them, then fed them milk. Once the kittens' immediate needs were met, Jonathan wrapped them in a towel, and took them to the Humane Society where they have been added to an existing litter.

This is one of those stories that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, yet at the same time, my blood runs cold. The world needs more Jonathans, but it can do with a lot less of those bastards who so easily toss away ten tiny lives.

Thanks to my dad for pointing this story out to me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Construction on Yonge Street Whenever I see construction under way, I think about the animals that may have been killed or left homeless by it -- the groundhogs or chipmunks living in the ground. Last year, they began some construction along Yonge Street (new sewer or water line -- I don't know which, but as long as the workers do, that's all that's important), and so dug a huge ditch alongside the road.

When the digging began, I pictured the poor creatures being scooped up by the machinery, their homes and, most likely, their lives lost. Once I got that picture in my head, I couldn't get it out. So I thought I'd share my personal little nightmare with you. There's nothing we can do about this as we have to maintain the infrastructure, and build new homes. One thing we can do is make our own backyards and gardens more inviting to some creatures. Something to think about.

And here's a piece of trivia for you: pictured above is Yonge Street which used to be known as the "longest street in the world", but lost that distinction due to a technicality. The street is about 1,900 km (1,200 miles) long, and runs from Toronto to the Ontario-Minnesota border. Just thought I'd pass that on, in case you're asked that question while playing an old game of Trivia Pursuit.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fortune Telling Fish

Fortune Telling Fish

Fortune Telling Fish

I picked up these Fortune Telling Fish at Pier One Imports a few weeks ago (I know I'm stretching my animal-themed blog by including them). What's so cool about them is that we had these things when I was growing up in the early 60's -- this is what we did for fun back then. Anyway, seeing them was like a mini-trip down memory lane. To get a closer look, just click on the photo.

Fortune Telling Fish

Fortune Telling Fish

According to the back of the package, this means I'm passionate. But since it had turned over, it might mean I'm false. I suppose I'll have to try it again. You see, hours of fun! Who needs video games?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And so it begins ...

Canada's seal hunt has begun. I can't even bring myself to look for a photo to accompany this announcement.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Gone Fishing

We used to have fish -- in a five gallon tank, I believe. The fish were lovely to watch, though I always felt a bit sorry for them as they swam around and around, imprisoned by four glass walls. That is, I felt sorry for them until it came time to clean the tank. Then I felt sorry for me.

I was rather fanatical about keeping the tank clean, so I bought a sucker fish. He was a great little housekeeper, mouthing his way silently along the glass surface. As he grew and grew, never complaining about his lot in life, I became quite fond of him. Over the four or five years that we had the tank, fish would die, only to be replaced by others. But that sucker fish -- he just kept doing his job.

When the last fish died, I decided my tank cleaning days were over. The sucker fish still thrived, so when a local fish store offered him a new home, I gladly dropped him off. Okay, not so gladly. Do you know, I actually cried when they slipped him into his new tank? Man, sometimes I just get too emotional.

I'll never venture back into the world of fish and aquariums, but I could surely be tempted by some of these:

Fish 'n Flush

I'm not too sure how this works, but wouldn't it freak out your friends when they came to visit? And think of the convenience when it comes time to dispose of the dead fish (Note: we always buried our fish. Flushing seemed so ... so disrespectful).

Spacearium - the ceiling suspended aquarium

This aquarium is suspended from the ceiling. I have no idea how you'd clean it, but I don't recommend it to anyone living in an earthquake zone.

Luxury Aquariums

This is the coolest aquarium. Impossible to clean, but so much fun for the fish. Hmm ... can fish even have fun?

Aqua Table 675 Square Coffee Table Aquarium~Aqua Table Aquariums

You know how fish don't like it when the side of their tank is tapped? With this, what happens when you have a party, and everyone is setting down their glass? Your fish would most likely become nervous wrecks, cowering from the creatures hovering over the table.

All pets are high maintenance in one way or another, or at least, they should be. As much as we love 'em, there will always be aspects of their care that drive us nuts. With my cat, Meeko, it's the 5:00 a.m. wake up call she gives me. She'll begin kneading my head if knocking things off my bedside table doesn't work. That's still better than sticking my hands into a fish tank, and cleaning poop out of the gravel.

Friday, February 20, 2009

I'm Home! I'm Home!

Sorry for lapse in posting. I had some minor bleeding in my brain -- gave me one whaling headache. A few cat scans, MRI and a ten-day stay in the hospital, and I'm almost back to normal. It's so good to be home. My family was wonderful, but I did miss my cat and my boring, everyday routine. I also missed my kitties at the shelter. Unfortunately, I won't be able to continue cleaning the cages because I'm not supposed to exert myself, but there's always some kind of work to be done.

I hope to catch up with you and your blogs soon.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

My Favourite Stray

Male Tabby
Last September, I wrote about a stray cat that I took to the OSPCA. While volunteering at the centre for the past few months, Wesley (as he now named) and I have become pretty close. Although I'll miss him terribly, I'm happy to report that he is now available for adoption. You can read the update on Wesley here, on my other blog, Take Me Home.

Update: On Monday (the 2nd), my Wesley, along with 15 other cats, was moved to a shelter that's low on cats ... in another city ... I'm sad ... and, obviously, getting far too attached to the animals at the OSPCA.