Tag Archives: pets

A lifetime of pets

Her name was Boo.

Boo was the first pet I remember in my life. She was a big, beautiful Maine Coon Cat, her fur a combination of Gold and Brown and Black and Yellow. She was not weird like a lot of cats can be. She didn’t scurry away from people when they tried to interact with her. She wasn’t arrogant and independent like so many cats are. She just lived. When inside, she was a lap cat, curled up with whoever would welcome her. When outside, she was a vicious hunter who would leave mice and chipmunks and birds and rabbits on our doorsteps… or at least the parts that hadn’t been consumed.

I don’t remember where the name Boo came from. I think the story goes that my brothers chose the name.  Our family adopted Boo from my grandmother’s home, either shortly before I was born or shortly after, I don’t really know. I imagine the naming was one of those stories that ends with the conclusion “don’t let your toddler children choose your pet’s name… you’ll have to live with it a long time!”

Boo was a family cat, but mostly she was my father’s cat. That he was so attached to her is notable because it is a side of him that growing up I really never knew existed, that sensitive, animal loving side.  He fed her and made sure she was let in and out of the house, and begrudgingly went into the basement and cleaned the litter boxes.  He cared for her in that way that fathers often show love for something… more as a responsibility than a joy.  But still he did it, day after day after day.

Boo died when I was in college when she was likely approaching about twenty years of age. She didn’t have to be euthanized, she just went down into the basement and quietly passed away.  Okay, it wasn’t really quietly, according to my older brother and my father, who were home at the time, she spent awhile making this horrible sound they described as “leedle, leedle, leedle”… and then she died.  I could never imagine a cat making that sound and suspect in cat speak she was saying “why in the hell don’t you people put me down!” But it’s hard to make that decision to put an animal down and I suspect, as is so often the case, denial was involved.  Immediately after she died, being the type of family who would rather celebrate life than mourn death, my brother and father cracked open a very old bottle of Johnnie Walker scotch that had been aging in the basement and proceeded to drink most of it. The wooden box that held the bottle became Boo’s casket and she was buried in the back yard.

I’ve had pets around my entire life, dogs, cats, fish… and now goats and a horse. I’ll admit I’m not an animal person like my wife is and like my mother was before she passed away.  It’s not that I don’t get attached to the animals that end up in our home, how can you not? If I didn’t have pet people in my life, though, I’m not sure I would ever take the initiative on my own to go out and get a pet. That’s not an anti-animal stance, just perhaps an innate laziness that pervades my life. But in a democratic family situation, the lazy traditionally get outvoted.

I tried writing down the names of all the animals that have been pets in my life and came up with the following list… not necessarily in the proper order.

Boo (cat); Smokey (dog); Tiger (dog); Little (cat); Sam (cat); Cadie, real name Acadia (Cat); Camden (cat); Hanna (dog); Gypsy (cat); Clio (dog); Mama Kitty (cat); Ashley (cat); Sarge (dog); Shadow (cat); Naughty and Heath (goats); and Jack (horse).

There are stories behind each and every one of these animals that will stay with me through the rest of my life. Tiger, the dog I grew up with, a grayish black cockapoo, in the throes of old age went outside and fell in our swimming pool. My grandmother who was visiting and the only one home at the time called 911 who responded, pulled the dog from the water and asked “do you want us to try to revive him?”

“No, I’m pretty sure he’s gone” my grandmother replied.

Gypsy was an outdoor black cat who showed up on our property shortly after we bought our house here on Brown Road. Upon initial veterinary inspection she was diagnosed with Feline Leukemia, a mostly lethal condition in cats. Then, upon a second veterinary inspection she had miraculously been cured! Although this didn’t change my beliefs in “miracles” we did get a few years out of her until she was hit by a car during one of our vacations. A few days after returning home and not finding her around, we called our neighbor down the street and asked if perhaps he had seen our black cat. In true country-bumpkin fashion he told us “yep, she’s dead, just down the road from your house.”  Thanks… ummm… were you planning on sharing that with us?

Of course, my regular readers have read a story or two about our goats, Naughty and Heath, two animals that I could never have imagined growing attached to, but who have now earned just as much respect in my family’s lineage of pets as all of their predecessors. The stories could go on and on.

About a month ago we had to put down our dog Sarge, the 2nd St. Bernard my wife and I have owned. Both of these dogs died early, as large dogs have a tendency to do. Although he was messy and often in the way, Sarge was a gentle beast, a 200 lb. animal with slobbery, dripping jowls, a head the size of an oversize football helmet and soulful eyes that allowed you to look inside his very being and see an animal that wanted only to be a part of our family. One day, he stopped eating, and eventually reached the point where he could no longer get up. Sarge was my wife’s baby and she, being the amazing, caring person she is, with the help of our veterinarian, managed to get him to the office where they discovered his heart was failing and he was euthanized.

In our younger days, perhaps we would have cracked open a bottle of Johnnie Walker scotch and drained the bottle and maybe we should have. We are still a family that would much rather celebrate life than mourn death, but these days our lives are so hectic that sometimes we even forget to spend a moment to memorialize a lost pet.  We now have the ashes of both St. Bernards in decorative boxes in our house along with a small canister of ashes from my mother who died in 2002. One of these days we’ll get around to spreading all of these ashes somewhere on our property. I’m reasonably confident my mother wouldn’t mind being buried with a couple of slobbery St. Bernards.  Not that Sarge, or any of our previous pets will be forgotten. They all, in their own way, have become memories in this script that we call our lives. A script that takes us through highs and lows and happiness and sadness and that unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we don’t get the option of reading ahead to find out what will happen next.

Our pet count these days is down to only six, three cats, two goats, and a horse which is boarded at a farm a few miles away from us. I’ll be honest in admitting that right now I’m okay with temporarily not having a dog, not having to clean up the yard and having a slightly lower volume of pet hair in the house.

I use the word temporarily though because as I said before, in a democratic family situation, the lazy traditionally get outvoted.

I imagine that in the near future, there will be an election coming up.


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MEMO: Changes to Shitting Policies


November 25th, 2011


RE:  Changes to Shitting Policies


As stated in the Brown Road Resident Handbook and Policy Manual; Section 5, Page 24; Shitting Policies:

Any resident (person or animal) that uses the out-of-doors as the primary location for shitting shall have no restrictions on where the particular shitting must occur. As the Brown Road Residence has a reasonably large area of property, Brown Road Management feels it would put undue burden on our residents to specify that out-of-doors shitting only take place in certain areas.

It is these types of flexible and considerate policies that Brown Road Management believes contributes to the well-being and consistent happiness and satisfaction of all of our residents.  However, it has come to our attention that there has been a proliferation of shitting on or in the vicinity of the entryway porch.  Yesterday, to prepare the residence for guests to arrive to share in the annual Thanksgiving Feast, Brown Road Management was required to clean up roughly twenty piles of dog shit from the area immediately surrounding the main residence entryway, as well as sweep up a large volume of goat shit that had been directly deposited on the porch.  Brown Road Management understands that the actual process of shitting can be complicated and can, perhaps catch some of our residents off-guard. However, as the Brown Road Resident Handbook and Policy Manual makes quite clear, Brown Road Management believes we have afforded all of you out-of-doors shitters, plenty of space to do your shitting, approximately three full acres and that it is unnecessary for you to do the vast majority of your shitting in the roughly twenty square feet that our residents and guests must walk through upon entering the residence.

Shitting on or in the vicinity of the entryway porch is problematic for a variety of reasons, those being most notably;

  • It is unkempt and unsanitary.
  • Guests entering the home resemble soldiers traversing a minefield.
  • Independent research has proven that stepping in shit and tracking it into the home has negative ramifications on the well-being of those residents who spend most of their time inside.

Therefore, with sincere and deep regret, Brown Road Management has determined that we must immediately revise the out-of-doors shitting policy as follows:

Any resident (person or animal) that uses the out-of-doors as the primary location for shitting shall be restricted to shitting no closer than 100 feet from any and all high traffic areas. This includes all entryways to the home and barns, picnic tables, seating areas and driveway. We understand that this may put an undue burden on those residents that do the majority of their shitting out-of-doors but in turn we believe that these shitting restrictions are in the best interest of all Brown Road residents.

Violations of this policy will be handled on a case-by-case basis, but in general will follow the steps outlined in the Brown Road Resident Handbook and Policy Manual, Section Seven: Disciplinary Procedures and Corporal Punishment. Please review that section of your manual at your earliest convenience.  We also suggest you print a copy of this memo and add it to your individual handbooks for future reference.

Thank you for your patience and understanding of Brown Road Management’s decisions regarding this regrettable situation.




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From ONE to TEN

I once thought that ONE was enough.
Me by myself with only my stuff.
But I met a nice girl and love it was true.
We had a big wedding and then we were TWO.

We once thought that TWO was okay.
She and I hanging out every day.
But we drove by a sign that said, “kittens for free!”
We took home a kitten, and then we were THREE.

We once thought that THREE was not bad.
There wasn’t anybody we wanted to add.
But then we decided to get just one more.
A friend for our cat and then we were FOUR.

We once thought that FOUR was just fine.
One cat was her’s and one cat was mine.
One day a beautiful baby arrived.
A sweet little girl, and then we were FIVE.

We once thought that FIVE was alright.
Though space was getting a little bit tight.
But we wanted to add one more kid to the mix.
Along came a boy and then we were SIX.

We once thought that SIX would suffice.
Not a bird or a hamster or a snake would entice.
Then we decided two dogs would be great.
We skipped over SEVEN and went straight to EIGHT.

We once thought that EIGHT would be plenty.
At least it was only eight and not twenty.
Then one of our dogs, she went up to heaven.
Suddenly we were back down to SEVEN.

We once thought that SEVEN would be ample.
Add any more and we’d surely be trampled.
“Would you like two goats” asked a friend of mine?
We took home the goats and then we were NINE.

We once thought that NINE was tidy and neat.
Though we were looking for something to make us complete.
Our daughter liked riding a horse now and then.
So we bought her a horse and then we were TEN.

For now we think TEN is all we can handle.
If we grow any bigger it would sure be a scandal.
But someday we may add some more, I suppose
Then we’ll have to start counting on our fingers AND toes!


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Looking for the Idyllic Life

This is one of my very first posts and the one that deserves credit for giving me the impetus to start Brown Road Chronicles.  It is one of my favorites and if you have not read it yet I hope you enjoy it.  I have updated it slightly from its original state and added some images. I will let you all know that although I can’t claim to have “found the idyllic life,” I believe the writing of this blog and the soul-searching that has entailed, has brought me several steps closer to whatever I will ultimately discover that it is. Thank you all for reading.

I‘m looking for the idyllic life.  You know, like the people in “Country Living” magazine? There are always folks in that magazine who live in these great old houses out in the country. Houses that they’ve beautifully restored to their former glory. Seems often they are people who spent some years in the rat race of life and decided to get out, and now they are self-employed working from their home, or they’re writers, or furniture makers, or beekeepers or they’re doing something else that none of us other less fortunate, dim-witted people would be able to make a living doing. Occasionally they’re older folks, but sometimes not. Just as often they’re people like me, middle-aged, with kids that they’ll eventually have to put through college, and sometimes (probably in higher proportion than the general populace) they’re same-sex couples. But regardless, it all looks so glorious in the glossy pages of the magazines; the rustic antique furniture; the beautiful, manicured gardens of fresh veggies and flowers; the dining room table all decorated in fancy holiday display; the pet dog sleeping peacefully on the wraparound porch. Can you envision it? That’s what I want… not this working my ass off lifestyle, toiling away every day, only to someday eventually be able to retire once I’m too old for it really to matter anymore. That’s what I want… the idyllic life… straight from the pages of “Country Living” magazine!

Many of you know I have an old farm-house out in the country, 120 years old roughly. I’ve even renovated a bunch of it, so much so that I actually got sick of it for a while and have taken several years off. But there’s still a million things to do. My 10-year-old son’s bedroom has nursery wallpaper in it, leftover from the previous owners. The three season porch (uh… storage room) is loaded with lead paint and windows that let plenty of cold air in… and the list goes on and on. We’ve even got some nice antiques, they’re hard to see sometime because they have all of our stuff stacked on top of them, or they’re covered in clothes like some kind of pseudo clothing rack. We planted a garden several years in a row. It went from about 100 ft. to 50 ft. to 25 ft to zero feet as we realized how much effort it took to keep it maintained. We have the pets too, a dog, cats, a couple of goats and even a horse that we are currently boarding at another farm while we work on getting our horse stalls and pasture fences repaired. There’s enough pet hair in the house to knit sweaters with.  Ahhhh, maybe that’s the idyllic career… cat and dog hair sweaters… but alas, too many people are allergic. Then there’s the overflowing laundry, the broken dishwasher, the……

The glossy, magazine-delivered illusion is that somehow these people have simplified. They have time… free time, and apparently loads of it.  Yet they still have all the monetary and commercial needs that the rest of us indulge in. There’s an imbalance there that I can’t quite grasp my hands around. Is it just some rogue scheme to get us to read the magazine? I suspect that I can’t really make a decent living as a beekeeper, yet still be able to throw lavish champagne brunches in my backyard with fancy tablecloths and fresh picked greens from the garden. Damn you, “Country Living” for teasing me into believing this can be a reality.

There is a great book that I like to read called “A Country Year” by Sue Hubbell. I don’t think I’ve ever read it straight through, but have easily read the whole thing several times over in bits and pieces. Ms. Hubbell (who it turns out was born and raised near me) was at one time a librarian at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She was married to a professor and was living what any of us would likely consider a wonderful, upscale lifestyle. When the grind eventually got to them, they left their jobs, bought a farm in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and started a beekeeping and honey producing operation. Soon after, her husband left her, but she continued to run the business, living what can only be described as an “idyllic” and simplified life in this stunningly beautiful area of the country. The book is broken down into small essays describing her days in this rural community throughout the four seasons of the year; her interactions with nature; her challenges surviving through brutal winters; her relationships with her Ozark neighbors; her developing self-sufficiency. Over time she nurtures the business into one of the largest honey producers in that area of the country, yet it still never drives enough revenue to eliminate her money worries and she describes her income as “below the poverty level.” Now in reality that’s what I would call “Country Living”, it’s just not the glossy magazine kind!

So, I’m now searching for the “idyllic life.” As I look closely the infrastructure is all there for me; a beautiful, loving family, the great old house in the country, the antiques, the pet dog. So, why isn’t it idyllic, like the magazine says it could, or should be? What is missing? I don’t know! What really is the idyllic life? Is it living as a beekeeper with an income below the poverty level, but “stopping to smell the flowers” and living a mostly stress free lifestyle? Or is it sitting hunched in an office cubicle 40-80 hours a week, working towards the weekends and those elusive days off when you can throw those champagne brunches. Or is it having a house filled with stuff… flat screens, WII’s, iPODs… stuff that in the long-term really doesn’t provide anything other than a temporary feeling of satisfaction and success. It’s one of those questions that if you asked one hundred people, I am sure you’d get one hundred different answers. I for one – as the clock of my life rapidly tick-tocks along, as my wife and I watch our children growing up faster than we could have ever imagined, as we see the older generations of our family passing on, as I grapple with the short time we have on this earth – am starting to lean toward the bees.

Problem is… I’m afraid of bees.

… and maybe we better cancel the “Country Living” subscription.


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