A Silliness Compendium

It’s been a busy few weeks here at the Abbey. Just when you thought the silliness levels couldn’t get any higher around here, they did!

First, we celebrated Easter:

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“Who on earth laid THOSE?”

Then, we indulged our Walter Mitty-esque daydreams:

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“Here’s the Smilodon waiting to ambush the giant sloth . . .”

We brought camouflage to a level of performance art:

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Which is the ball of yarn, and which is Linus?

We vowed revenge on the stupid human who made us wear this ridiculous piece of protective clothing:

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“I know you’re saying it’s to protect my neck from being pecked, but I know humiliation when I see it.”

*(Yes, that is a hand-knitted neck protector. I have officially made my first piece of chicken clothing. She kept it on for all of 5 minutes.)

We learned how to play tether ball with a head of lettuce:

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“Heads up, Sally!”

We discovered the best seat in the house:

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“Sorry, Shatner. The Starship Enterprise has nothing on this.”

Even the wildlife got in on the act:

 

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Yes, those are deer playing on piles of dirt.

There’s quite a lot to catch you up on: Octopus and other aquarium encounters! Chicken politics! BOBCAT PHOTOS!!!!!! Stay tuned!

 

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Phew! And . . . a very humbled wow.

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All had been calm and comfy just hours before the great escape.

It was bound to happen at some point. Since Linus came to live with us 16 months ago, he has assiduously ignored any open doors to the outside — even scooted away from them fearfully. (Cookies, on the other hand, will seize any chance to head outside, check the haps, and eat grass.) Today, however, Linus was presented with an opportunity he couldn’t refuse, and aided and abetted by Cookies, actually left the house.

The problem was that it was a very windy day, and sometimes on windy days our side door doesn’t quite pull shut all the way. That’s exactly what happened today. I returned from bringing something to DS to find Cookies in the front yard, and Linus on the steps. Cookies I wasn’t worried about; I grabbed him and tossed him back in with a “You shouldn’t have led him outside!” Linus, however, was a different story. While inside I can walk over to him and pick him up (and kiss his head), I could see that outside there was no way that would happen. He had immediately reverted to being a wide-eyed, scared little feral cat. He stared at me in disbelief and disappeared under the porch into what had been his usual hiding place for a year. I tried very hard not to convey the fact that I was having several heart attacks while he peeped out. I called to him, I held out my two fingers; he tentatively came out and touched my fingers with his nose and zipped right back under the porch. After a few minutes of watching him like this, I went back in to get

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The moment of his first choice, in 2014.

some treats. (Cookies greeted me with a “I’m sorry! Where is he?” meow.) As I had done on that November day when he first came inside, I put some treats on the porch near the door, then inside the mud room with the door open. As he had done that day, he cautiously came and ate the treats on the porch, then looked at me.  He looked around over his shoulder, and then I watched him decide, once again, to trust me and to come inside. I shut the door and he ran past Cookies and went somewhere to hide. It took him some time to come out of feral mode. I let him be, and just told him I loved him. When he had sorted himself out, he came over for rubs and snuggles, saying “I’m sorry. I really do want to be here.” He has remained extra affectionate throughout the evening.

What if he had stayed outside? I think eventually he would have returned (I would have camped out on the porch until he did). He is wearing a collar, so even if someone else couldn’t get near him to read the tag at least they could tell he has a family. But given that he is out of practice of dodging coyotes (and now a bobcat), I would have been so afraid for him. Thankfully now I don’t need to worry, and I can look forward to feeling him snuggle against me in the wee hours of the morning, purring and sticking his head under my hand for rubs.

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“But who would rub my tummy if I were outside?”

Thank you, Linus, for choosing once again to be with us. You didn’t have to; you could have disappeared in a flash the way you used to and decided to be an outdoor car once more. But you didn’t. For that I am extremely humbled, and grateful.

Happy Cookies Day!

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Nose to nose for the first time.

Three years ago today, the best cat in the universe showed up in our garage and refused to leave. Eventually we caught on and let him in, and he has been taking excellent care of us ever since. It’s hard to believe he has been here for over half of DS’s life now. We also have no idea what we did with ourselves before he joined us and took on the role of caretaker, watch cat, babysitter, doctor, snuggler, and spiritual adviser. We love you, Cookies. We couldn’t possibly repay you for all you do.

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We are wrapped around these two white paws.

 

Indoor Recess

 

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“My good woman, I hope you brought us something especially delectable.”

Here at the Abbey it is really bloody cold today, with the wind chill making things a distinctly uncozy 13 degrees. For the ladies, spending the day in the chicken tractor was definitely out, even with it buttoned down in wind protection mode; once the wind is hitting over 20 mph there’s no point, since the tarp tends to take on a life of its own and threatens to sail the whole thing off to Oz. So they have the run of the barn, which isn’t the most fascinating way to spend the day but it’s better than being cooped up. There are different options for perching — the rafters and the table saw are favorite spots — and spots for dust baths. And, of course, fresh snacks and water are provided every few hours by the helpful human staff.

 

 

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Pumpkin presides over the smorgasbord.

Said staff was invited to relax for a while with them after making the early afternoon snack delivery. Between the weather, illness, and schedules, there haven’t been many chances to just be with them while not doing chores, and I’ve really missed it. After bundling up, and bundling up, and bundling up some more, I parked myself on the tractor seat to enjoy listening to their Zen-inducing chicken sounds: scratching in the shavings, the occasional soft cluck, stretching and flapping wings, feet perching on roosts. It was incredibly peaceful. Chicken Zen is different from cat Zen, although each is soul-centering. Cat Zen is the Zen of being poled up the Nile on the pharaoh’s barge in the late-afternoon sunlight while lounging on a velvet cushion. Chicken Zen is the Zen of quietly but steadily getting things done around the house, with pauses to sit on the porch and drink lemonade. It’s a treat to be able to move between these states in the course of a day.

 

 

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“You mean, this scarf is for you?”

And speaking of coziness, cats, and chickens, the Coop Mistress’s latest knitting project was inspired by the Abbey crew: a pet scarf! I found variegated yarns to approximate the chicken’s feathers, plus black for the cats and deep red to give it a little color. So far it depicts the Faverolles, the Barred Rocks, and the cats. If this weather keeps up I have a feeling there will be requests for scarves coming in from the barn . . .

 

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No one out-Zens Linus Kitty.

I Choo-choo-choose You

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“Yes, your desk will do nicely for my next nap and dictation session for my screenplay. Have you heard back from Shatner yet?”

When spending a lot of time with animals, it gets easy to take for granted a fundamental aspect of the relationship: that they want to be with you as much as you want to be with them. As I write this, Cookies is on the desk next to my laptop (leaving little room for anything else) and Linus is right at the base of my chair (leaving little room for movement to the right). They have a whole house with many comfy spots and sunbeams to relax in. Yet here are they are, each within a few inches of me. Earlier this morning, five busy, chatting hens cheerily followed me out of the barn, around a corner, and across a field to their tractor as soon as I said, “OK, girls!” Yes, there were treats involved, but they also had a wide world of other activity options, including eating snippets of green grass and dustbathing. Yet, they chose to follow me. A neighbor’s cat (Sinbad), who lives about a quarter of a mile away and whom I don’t feed, knows my chicken-keeping schedule and shows up for petting and chatting at exactly the right time, several days a week. I give him lots of rubs, he hangs out while I do my chores, he and the chickens give each other the side eye, and we all have a very chill time. He has a whole territory in which to hunt and explore and other humans to charm, yet he chooses to come up for a visit.

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“A little more to the left — ah, thank you. What are you guys up to today?”

I try not to forget that these daily occurrences at the Abbey are wondrous displays of free will. By living with us humble humans, these animals do receive shelter, safety, comfort, and food (on voluble demand!). These are no small things — just ask Linus and Cookies, who certainly knew life without them. But just because we provide for them doesn’t mean they owe us their companionship.  True company — being together mentally as well as physically — cannot be imposed. It is the most fundamental gift of the self.

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“I choose to be extra fluffy and adorable.”

A review of a book about animal consciousness — specifically, that of octopuses — is forthcoming from our resident staff of critical readers. The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery, is an excellent book, but like many other books on animal intelligence/sentience, it falls prey to the gee-whizzery of the idea that — gasp! — beings other than ourselves have the capacity to make decisions too. I think many of the authors of these books understand that everything, from the “lowliest” invertebrate to the best cats on the planet, must make decisions every minute of every day in order to survive, but feel the need to press home the gee-whizzery because of the limitations of their human audience. Unfortunately, this is a real need; most humans are fairly oblivious. Unlike many other books, however, The Soul of an Octopus dwells on the decision to seek out and to give companionship, and how special that is.

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“I choo-choo-choose to be in this house of snuggliness rather than under the porch.”

So stay tuned for the review. And if you happen to be lucky enough to be sharing your space with an animal at the moment, let him or her know how much you appreciate being together.

This Time, We’re Really Back!

Happy 2016, everyone! After way too long of being sick, plus holiday shenanigans, it is back to work here at the Abbey. Here’s a recap of the recent goings-on:

We decorated for the holidays:

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“Ooh! Our humans put up this blinky tree full of cat toys just for us!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

We entertained the neighbors:

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Nutmeg, meet Sinbad. Sinbad, meet Nutmeg.

We gave speeches:

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“If elected, I promise to exclude all humans from public office!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We snuggled:

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Does it get much cuter than a pink tongue and white whiskers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We molted, and tried hard to hang on to our dignity:

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“I may have just one tail feather left,  but I still have my pride!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we undecorated after Christmas:

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“You’re not taking away the cat toy tree, are you????”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you have it, the update as of early January. Coming soon, book reviews! Lessons learned from taming feral cats! Chicken ridiculousness! And maybe some new species to hear from once Coop Mistress’ lungs cooperate and she can get back in the saddle!

So Grateful

It’s been a pretty excellent Thanksgiving here at the Abbey: a gorgeous day, delicious dinner with family, and starting to feel better after way too long being sick. It’s also the first anniversary of Linus joining our household, going from shy and skittish shadow hiding in the garage to boldly demanding breakfast and cuddles at 4 am with a cheery “Merrow.” We’re grateful for the furry and feathered faces who greet us each day, and for the simple pleasures they help us appreciate: warm, cozy beds;image dustbaths;image

sunbeams; nest boxes with eggs;image

and being loved.image

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from all of us!

Animal Hospital

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There has been resounding silence from the Abbey these past few weeks because Coop Mistress has pneumonia which, in a word, sucks. In addition to all the wonderful care my human family has been providing, I’ve been fortunate to receive round-the-clock medical care from the world-renowned Dr. Cookies and his resident, Dr. Linus. Dr. Cookies

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has barely left my side since all this started. Except when he needs to recharge himself in a sunbeam, he has been next to or on me, purring and being warm. Dr. Linus does rounds with him, coming over to give head bumps and snuggles, and then busies himself bringing me crickets, patrolling for mice

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in the basement,  and folding laundry. These good doctors recognize that caregivers need care as well and have been making sure DH and DS get their share of kitty love too.

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And, while the saying “No one in the barn cares if you’re sick” may be true generally, the ladies have been doing their part to keep up my morale. The weather has generally been mild here so when I’ve been able to sit outside to rest in the fresh air, I usually have a chicken near me too, checking in and telling me all sorts of important things. Taking care of them can be hard when I feel lousy but seeing their cheery little chicken faces when I open the coop is a serious spirit booster. Their eggs have been some of the few things I’ve had an appetite for. Not only do my pets make me breakfast, but they also make me medicine.

So the Abbey will be back online soon. Meanwhile, here at Veterinarians’ HospitalAnimal Hospital,  I’m in great hands, paws, and wings.

Happy National Cat Day!

"Every day is National Cat Day!"

“Every day is National Cat Day!”

Whether they’re sleeping, subduing yarn, helping with computer work or snuggling with stuffed animals the same size they are, cats are seriously the best. Happy National Cat Day to my sweet friends, my spiritual advisers, my world-class purrers and bedtime story assistants. I don’t know what I’d do without you guys.

"You could be mi-ine, but you're waaay out of li-ine!"

“You could be mi-ine, but you’re waaay out of li-ine!”

"Wait! You didn't use an Oxford comma!"

“Wait! You didn’t use an Oxford comma!”

"Not only is this owl snuggly, but I can camouflage next to it!"

“Not only is this owl fellow snuggly, but I can camouflage next to it!”

Happy Back to the Future Day!

"There are those deer again, mocking my housecatness . . ."

“There are those deer again, mocking my housecatness . . .”

Small Human had once again left his guidebook to prehistoric animals open to the Feliforms page. Intrigued as usual about his forebears, Linus went over to read, when suddenly he noticed that Small Human’s toy DeLorean was blinking. “I didn’t know that toy blinked,” said Linus as he touched it with his paw.

WHAP! Linus found himself streaking through the air! WHUMPF!  The toy car unceremoniously dumped him onto a warm grassland. Linus thought he recognized a rock outcropping as the one he could see through the living room windows, but the house was nowhere to be seen. He looked down and saw that his little white paws were now brown and huge, and he felt two strange objects on either side of his chin. He wiped his face with a paw and felt: fangs! “I’m a saber-toothed cat!” Linus realized with a thrill. “Not sure what the car had to do with it, but now I can finally get those deer! Hooooooowaaaaaarrrrrrh!”

Prey is in sight!

Prey is in sight!


With a bone-rattling roar, Linus bounded towards the small herd of deer that was leisurely browsing on bushes near what would have been the end of the backyard. “I know I’m supposed to be an ambush predator,  but this is too much fun! Roooooarrrh!” The deer scattered,  but Linus noticed one that ran just the slightest bit more slowly than the others. His ears and eyes locked on to the target.

As Linus ran, the seamless rhythm of his bounding legs and the flow of Pleistocene air through his nostrils made him feel like time was standing still. All he knew was the hunt, and the surety that this deer would be his, that his pride would eat well tonight. The deer

"We feast tonight!"

“We feast tonight!”

zigzagged in a futile attempt to throw him off its path; Linus effortlessly changed direction along with the deer, each leap bringing him closer. With a mighty push of his hind legs, he soared and brought his powerful front legs down on the deer’s shoulders, knocking them both to the ground. He sank his jaws around its throat, his long saber teeth giving him an unshakable hold on the deer’s flesh as it thrashed its life away.

Linus turned, panting, surveying the now quiet veldt around him. He turned to haul the deer back to his waiting family.  He noticed a small blinking object near his paw. Annoyed, he batted it away. WHAP! “Nooooo! My delicious deer!!!!!” roared Linus as he felt himself streaking through time again.

“Are you fantasizing about catching those deer again,  Linus?” chuckled Cookies from the red couch. Linus looked and between his small white paws was a roll of sea-green yarn.

“But, I was there!” Linus gasped. “I had it in my saber teeth!”

“I know you did,” said Cookies gently. “Believe me, I know.” In the living room corner blinked the toy silver DeLorean.

What's the last thing a Pleistocene deer sees when it is in the paws of a mighty saber-toothed cat?

What’s the last thing a Pleistocene deer sees when it is in the paws of a mighty saber-toothed cat?