cat fight

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This morning was a normal 5:00 a.m. wake-up.  Amore lumbered by at her usual time of 4:55 a.m. to press wet wake up doggy kisses on my cheek.  Not to be outdone, Dolce barreled in between Amore and the side of the bed to ensure her share of early morning love.  Like clock-work, the girls followed me through my morning ritual of getting ready for work, eagerly anticipating breakfast once I was finished.  About 10 minutes in, Gordita arrived from her night-time-hidey-hole to loudly scratch at the bottom of the bathroom door, determined to be let in to join the party.  The three quietly lazed about, each curled up in their own special spot on the floor, still waking up to their full potential for the day to come.  One by one, they took turns in giving me good morning hugs.  Amore likes to put her front paws on the counter next to me so she can rub her muzzle up against me, receiving a rub in return.  Gordita jumps from the rim of the tub to the sink counter and weaves her quiet way softly over hair brushes and toothpaste to leap onto my shoulder, liking to nuzzle my neck for a few minutes before I set her back down, and Dolce loves to push her way through from behind your legs to get her ears scratched.  About the time I’m ready for some hot coffee, Amore and Dolce have fully woken up and are ready for their own breakfast.

We all headed out to the kitchen, Dolce in the lead as Gordita sprinted between dog paws  and dog tails to reach a safe haven under the kitchen table, ready to watch the breakfast festivities.  I performed the routine procedure of  filling their dishes with their kibbles and bit of water before making the two sit.  Both Amore and Dolce have learned to sit quickly down on their honches, knowing I won’t place the feed bowl down until they have earned it.  Side by side, they immediately dove into their respective dog bowls, slurps and crunches and the rattle of the tin bowl,  the only noises heard.  Once I gave them their chow, I grabbed a flashlight and walked up the drive to retrieve the newspaper.  About the time I get back to the house, the girls are usually just finishing up.  Sometimes one will polish off their meal ahead of the other, sometimes they clean their bowls at the same time, but always, once finished, they wander over to where I’m sitting with the paper for a little love.  Until this morning…..

This morning the little bitches got into a cat fight!  For 4 1/2 years, Amore and Dolce have happily enjoyed their meals together, shoulder to shoulder.  They have their own dog bowls, nestled in a raised double-panned stand – Dolce’s on the right, Amore’s right next door on the left.  For over four years, they  have received the same portions, the same food, at the same time.  Dolce is always the first to sit.  Amore is always first to dig in.  And, this morning the two big babies started a fight over the last nibble!  It’s typical for Amore to finish her meal first and Dolce to lap up her’s in a close second.  Today, Amore unwisely decided to see what was left in Dolce’s bowl and gobbled up what was there before Dolce could.  War broke out in the middle of the kitchen with snarls, growls, raised paws and big fangs barred.  I’ve always been told to never get in the middle of a dog fight – with a long-handled broom, I swatted the behind of the closest dog to me, allowing a distracted mutt to cease-fire.

Talk about a little early morning excitement, their loud and contested dispute brought Malcolm running into the kitchen from a sound slumber to see me taking my last wallop with the broom and Amore slinking off to her corner to lick her pride.  Suffice to say, this evening their feed bowls were separated and the broom was kept handy.

Fat & Sassy French Toast

So good, you’ll fight over the last piece!

  • 8-10 slices day-old bread, crusts removed
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 3 cups of sliced fruit i.e., bananas, strawberries, raspberries
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar

Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.  Lay 4-5 slices of bread on bottom of pan, then top with cream cheese cubes and sliced fruit. Top with the rest of the bread slices and set aside.  Beat together eggs, milk and brown sugar and pour over bread.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Remove plastic wrap from pan and bake for 40 minutes or until top layer of bread of lightly golden brown.

Serve with additional warmed maple syrup if desired.

Goldilocks

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Growing up, our father had a big ol’ over-stuffed leather chair and ottoman positioned just so — enabling him to watch our black & white at just the right angle.  That was HIS chair.  All the dirty rubber bands from the evening newspapers, his toothpicks, his torn-out magazine articles, his dog-eared paperbacks, collected on, in or by his chair.  If one of us girls happened to be sitting in HIS chair when he came in the living room to watch TV or read the paper, we had to vamoose out that chair lickety-split, forfeiting all rights to the seat.  Saturdays we would dig through the chair sides under the seat pillow, searching for loose change and coins that had slipped out of his pockets throughout the week as he sunk further into the chair.  On a good week, we could net a hefty profit, easily tripling our paltry allowance.  Most times, it was a bust.  The years brought longer afternoon naps and more cracks to the aging dried out leather,  the worn seat sagged way below the equator, the arm rests wiggled but stayed put with extra nails to the frame, and it was still HIS chair.  Worn down, broken-in, and mighty comfortable, that chair was dad’s and always would be.

Tiamo had a special seat as well.  Our kilim covered ottoman-slash-coffee table on steroids.  As a puppy, the ottoman was the only piece of furniture low enough for her to climb up on.  All of 10 weeks old, Tiamo would put her front paws on the top edge of the large oversized ottoman, her short little hind legs furiously working to gain purchase as she would pull herself up to the top where victory lay.  And there she lay, eyes sparkling from her achievement.  From the day she reached the summit, that ottoman has been hers and hers alone.  That was her spot, her place, her chair. If someone happened to be encroaching on her ottoman, a bark and a paw nudge was usually enough to get them to move along to another spot.  We have experienced her literally pushing us off her spot, leaning with all her body weight until we gave in and let her have her ottoman back.

When the puppies were born, her ottoman became more sacred and Tiamo became more territorial with her special place. Momma had staked her claim to the ottoman years prior and no little whippersnapper was going to poach on it. Amore and Dolce eventually learned to leave the ottoman to Tiamo.  The only trespasser allowed on the ottoman, was Thugs, our cat at the time, whom Tiamo grew up with and had always been protective of.

When Tiamo passed, Malcolm and I wondered who would be the first to take over the ottoman. Dolce or Amore?  Both had tried repeatedly, but to no avail when Tiamo was alive.  My bet was on Dolce, as Amore has always preferred the cold brick floor under her belly.  So far, neither has shown any desire to acquire the ottoman as “theirs”.  Amore has jumped over it, Dolce has used the ottoman as a launching pad to chase after Amore, but the girls have yet to enjoy their afternoon nap, stretched out with the sun warming their belly, on the ottoman. In their minds, it will always be Tiamo’s ottoman.

And, perhaps Gordita’s, one of the few intruders Tiamo allowed on her “spot”.

Gordita

Gordita

Sunday tradition

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Monday through Friday, I am the one to feed the girls their morning meal. Early.  5:00 a.m. early.  Our dogs are conditioned to enjoy their breakfast at the crack of dawn, when it’s still dark and cold out.  Once their bellies’ are full, they settle back down on their huge dog pillows for a little morning shut-eye as I sip my coffee and read the paper before I leave for work.

Come the weekend, my wonderful, sweet hubby gets up early to feed Amore and Dolce, allowing me to sleep a couple more hours before I start the day.  For some perverse reason, on the weekends, the girls start scrambling for their breakfast  around 4:00 a.m.  They’ll come around to the side of the bed, checking to see if one of us is up yet, being sure to whack their tail several times for good measure.  On a good day, they might wait until 4:30 a.m. before starting their wake-up antics.  If need be, Amore will jump up on the bed and sit on one of us in her attempt to get fed.  It’s about this time, I’m kicking Malc in the back, “it’s your turn to feed’em!” I mumble.

Blurry eyed, and three-quarters still asleep, he stumbles out to the dark kitchen, tripping over 200 excited pounds of two hungry dogs in their mad bid for their kibbles.  From the other room, I hear several choice words spewing loudly from his lips as his bare feet and legs are clawed by dog paws in their eagerness to be fed. I hear the clank and clatter from their metal dog bowls being pushed around the hard floor as they devour their food.  Then quiet. Blissful quiet.  Wonderful-fall-back-to-sleep quiet.  While the girls are still chowing down their food, Malc will crawl back into the still warm bed, staking out his territory on the mattress.  He has about 2 minutes to fluff his pillows and get comfortable before the girls search us out, climbing up on the bed to snuggle in for a few more hours.  A half hour later, Gordita joins the family snugglefest, stepping over fur and bodies to curl up on a down pillow.

By the time, I’m ready to rise, I have two dogs stretched out on each side of me and a cat up on my pillow loudly purring in my ear, a black cat tail draped across my face. I can’t move.  I look over at Malcolm and see a slight smile peaking through the covers.  “Psst! You awake?”, I persist in waking him.  One visible eye opens, we share a contented, loving look as we view our menagerie nestled on the bed.  Our family.  It brings a warm hug to our hearts.

Sunday morning is our special day of the week to laze around, read the paper, drink our coffee, share breakfast.  It’s turned into tradition, having our girls curled up around us as we read the comics, the OpEd page, the local news, sipping hot coffee, being careful not to spill any on the covers.  Breakfast turns into brunch, but who cares, it’s our lazy day to enjoy our family.

RASPBERRY PANCAKES

Perfect for those lazy Sunday mornings, these cakes are light and fluffy – the secret is taking the time to beat the egg whites separately.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup non-fat milk (may use buttermilk)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest, finely grated
  • 2 large egg whites (save extra egg yolk for your canine friends)
  • 3/4 cup sliced bananas
  • 3/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam (heated in microwave)
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside.  In a small bowl, whisk together milk, egg yolk and zest.  Set aside.

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks forms.  Stir milk mixture little by little into the flour mixture.  Carefully fold in egg whites and then add the sliced bananas.

Spray non-stick cooking spray on a large non-stick skillet or griddle and warm over medium heat.  Ladle batter onto hot griddle using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour batter, making a hotcake.  Repeat until griddle is full.  Cook until bottom is set and golden brown, about two minutes.  Flip and cook until firm, another 2 to 3 minutes.  Set aside and cover to keep warm until you’ve cooked all the hotcakes.

Serve hotcakes topped with warm raspberry jam and vanilla yogurt and raspberries.

Houdini

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Berners are the type of dog that want to be with you – – – always.  Where you goeth, they goeth.  If you step outside, they want to be outside with you.  If you need to run to the store, they need to go along with you, riding shotgun in the passenger seat.  They will be out the door and in the car before you’ve begun to search for your car keys.  If you need to use the restroom, they want to follow you.  Walk into the kitchen and paws pitter-patter beside you.  Two perpetual furry shadows, dogging your step.  Shutting the door on their noses only produces sniffing and scratching, amplified by two.

On occasion we elect to keep the girls home.   In the summer, the temperatures are too hot for them to be left in the car without air conditioning and other times, our errands run longer than we want to keep them cooped up in the SUV.    They’ve learned when they may join us for a car ride and when they are staying put, depending on the time of day, the clothes and shoes worn, and if they hear a certain jingle of the car keys.

Early mornings they recognize its “me leaving for work” time.  They follow me into the bathroom and hang while I am getting ready for work.  They walk with me to get the morning paper and follow me around as I pour my “must-have” coffee.  By the time I grab my car keys to drive into town for work, they are already sprawled out napping from their busy morning.  I scratch their ears good-bye as they lift their heads, watching me walk out the door, back asleep before I’ve pulled out of the garage.   They have become skilled at learning the difference between a “slide your foot into a heel” shoe and a “bend over to tie the laces of your hiking boot” shoe.  With the heel, they are accepting of their fate.  Knowing they will be staying home with Gordita, our cat, they have already gone back to what they were doing.  The boot means “WALK”, “RIDE”, or “BOTH”.  Any of which creates pandemonium.   A jingle of the car keys will bring a concerto of joyous high-pitched barking that continues through the process of loading them into the vehicle.

To our dismay, we have discovered there are times when Dolce and Amore have attempted to follow us, ignoring our command to stay.   On one such time, I drove home from work to find Dolce and Amore in the front portal, the front door wide open.   I just assumed Malcolm had opened the door for fresh air.  In reality, Malcolm had walked next door to deliver some misplaced mail.  The girls did not like the idea of being left alone at home, listening to the crunch of gravel as Malcolm walked up the driveway.  Dolce had pawed the dead bolt, unlocking it,  and on the down-swing, her paws hit the handicapped handle, swinging the door wide open.  Freedom.  Thankfully, the half-walls of the portal are too high for them to escape.

Dolce has turned her clever door-opening talent to other doors throughout the house. Back doors, garage doors, closet doors, even shower doors, she opens and shuts doors like a cat-burglar pro.  She stands on her hind legs and uses her front paws to turn the lock.  She then uses her weight to push in the door, gaining entry into the next room.  Should the door shut on her, she repeats the process, and with a descending slide, she hooks her paws on the handle lever and pulls open the door to come back through.  We caution our over-night guests to lock their bedroom door or they might have a four-legged visitor during the night.  Her special ability has forced us take stronger measures against future door openings.  We’ve installed additional hardware, slide locks and hooks, key locks and more dead-bolts, all designed to keep our Houdini dog where she belongs.

Scratch marks and all

Scratch mark evidence

Added hardware

Added hardware

I am thankful this proficiency isn’t genetic and Amore isn’t that smart!  But then, maybe she is – Dolce is the one opening the door for her.

Drooling for DIN-DIN

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drooling for dinner

drooling for din din!

Like clockwork, come 5:00 p.m. the pooches are in pursuit of prying Malcolm away from watching the news to feed them their chow.  They arrive first for a gentle rub, a few scratches around the ear, a pat on the belly.  A sweet, loving reminder to be fed.  If they timed it right, it will be a commercial break, a good time to fill their dog bowls.  If that doesn’t work, they try nudging Malcolm’s elbow, hoping to displace some prized Coke-a-cola poured over shaved ice onto his pants, forcing him to arise to clean up the spilled sticky mess.  Once up, it’s usually a given they’ll be served dinner….

Hopefully.

If the spill-the-coke-on-pants trick doesn’t get a surge out of Malcolm, they move into their next plan-of-attack:  sumo wrestling.  Body slams, shoulder pins, ear grabs, all played within close range of the china cabinet.  You can hear the crystal rattle as the dogs roll under the dining room table, often hitting the cabinet leg.  Uncaring that family heirlooms might break, they tackle each other in their quest to win dominance over the other.  At this point, Malcolm is speeding through the house to halt any further damage and put some food in their bellies to calm the battle…

Usually.

As last resort, and Malcolm still needs prompting, Amore does her race through the house routine, landing on all fours, she slides on the hall rug, getting a free ride into the living room.  Weeeeee, look at meeeee!  Crash!  She resembles a surfer dude riding a big wave.  Dolce has now entered into the melee, barking at Amore, she scares Gordita, our fat cat, into using Malcolm’s leg as a spring-board, claws digging into his thigh to gain purchase as she continues to leap over his shoulder towards a safe haven.  Yep, this will get them their kibbles….

Finally!

Malcolm has 5 minutes to hide the destruction before I arrive home from work.  Dinner just might be late….

Naturally.

PORK & PORT

Try this sauce with beef tenderloin as well!

  • 2 boneless pork  tenderloin, approximately 1 lb. each
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 cups port wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6-8 oz. Stilton cheese

Heat oil in a large skillet.  Add pork, browning on all sides.  Transfer pork to a covered roasting pan.

Deglaze skillet with port and reduce by half.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Pour over pork and bake at 450 degrees until done, approximately 15 minutes.  Remove pork and keep warm.  Reduce liquid by half and slowly stir in cream.  Cook over medium heat until sauce thickens.  Add Stilton cheese and stir until blended.

Spoon sauce over sliced tenderloin.

Curfew

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Prior to Tiamo, we had Thugs.  A cat.  A big cat.  A big cat with black tuffs on his ears and beautiful green eyes.  He had gray, white and black swirls on his sides and strips on his tail.  He was a cat that was king of his domain and by gawd,  he knew it.  He was unusual and unique.  Born into a barn cat litter, Thugs was the “bully” of the bunch.  He was a little Thug in the true sense of the word.  As a kitten, he would pounce on his litter mates, playing rough and acting tough.  As an adult cat, he would sit on his perch and give us a look of pure disdain.  Thugs was a great mouser and lizard chaser.  We would find remnants of his hunt on our front door step.  He tolerated being picked up but loved being petted, He mellowed as he aged, he loved to sit on Malcolm’s firm six-pack abs (hee hee) as Malcolm read the New York Times on the couch.  Cold mornings would find him curled up on our down pillows next to us, basking the comfort of the blanket’s warmth, evenings he would follow us from room to room waiting for us to go to bed.

He was 14 years old when we moved to New Mexico, land of bobcats, coyotes, snakes,  and cactus.  Most felines in New Mexico don’t live much longer than a few years, especially if they sneak outdoors when the back-door gets opened.  Thugs had already outlived his life expectancy for New Mexico by many, many years and now he was now on the bottom tier of the food chain.  But he was savvy and smart and stayed safe and he had a curfew.  We incorporated the 10 and 4 rule.  Thugs could only be outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Luckily, he usually stayed close to the house or napped on the portal.

Thugs wasn’t too happy with us when we brought Tiamo into the family.  He let Tiamo know real quick who was the boss with sharp claws to Tiamo’s curious nose within 5 minutes of being introduced.  Tiamo learned to keep her distance and in the beginning wouldn’t come into the room if Thugs was already there.  Tiamo would sit in the doorway, waiting for Thugs to move far enough away for her to enter.  If Thugs was on the couch, Tiamo would give him a wide berth around, eyeing the distance between cat claws and her nose.  Once Thugs trapped Tiamo in the utility room.  Laying down in the middle of the entryway, Thugs calmly cleaned himself, while Tiamo was nervously trying to figure out how to get around him and out of the room.  Within three months, they were inseparable.  Where Thugs went, Tiamo followed.  At five months, Thugs was strolling underneath Tiamo’s belly and at 9 months we would find them curled up together, Thugs gently purring, Tiamo emitting soft snores as she lay sleeping.  When they both were on the bed, Thugs would knead Tiamo until one of them would tired of the motion and jump off the bed.

At 17, Thugs was still going strong, abet slower, he had some hearing loss, and his vision was less clear.  Tiamo became his protector.  If Thugs was outside, Tiamo was his shadow, following Thugs through the junipers and chamiso, keeping tabs on his whereabouts.  When Thug’s 4 o’clock curfew hit, we would call Tiamo to “go get Thugs”.  Tiamo would round-up Thugs and herd him into the house.  “Find Thugs” was one of Tiamo’s favorite games.  Come close to curfew time and Tiamo would be sitting by the door, tail wagging, eagerly waiting to go “Find Thugs”.

When Thugs was 19 years old, he was too old to be let out.  He slept most of the time but could still jump up on the bed and knead Tiamo.  At 21 years, our little bully was aged and tired.  Eating less, losing weight, Thug’s curfew was up.  He lived to the ripe ol’ age of 21, almost 22 years of age. Twenty-one years!  Amazing!

Thugs was an amazing cat.  Tiamo and Thugs had an amazing friendship.  We should be so fortunate to have a companion to knead.