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The New Pup

Our new dog Ella moved in with us on Friday night. After not quite two days living here we are all (except maybe Vivian the cat) thoroughly enjoying her presence. Vivien has been checking her out, but after Ella got a little too frisky Vivien’s been hiding out more today. Though she seems nicer to our other dog Max, who she’s never been too friendly with. Apparently compared to the puppy, Max is looking much more tolerable!

Ella is incredibly well-behaved for a puppy of barely 4 months of age. She’s been sleeping in her crate in our bedroom at night, and doing fabulously. She very quietly awakens us about 4 or 5 in the morning to go outside, and the rest of the time she sleeps like a log. Of course, during the day she’s been pretty busy playing outside with the kids and exploring her new territory. We’ve all been enjoying the great weather this weekend to get some yard cleaning work done. It’s fifty degrees and sunny with high, thin clouds right now. I was amazed to hear yesterday that New York City and New England has been getting dumped with snow!

That’s all I have to say for the moment. But I have a few entertainment links to share:

Full-Length Trailer for the New Season of Doctor Who

More info on Jon Favreau’s Movie Cowboys and Aliens

Antonio Banderas’ Big Bang trailer exposes us to subatomic particle sex magic

The Amazing Green Lantern Wondercon Footage

Official Hobbit Movie Website

Next time, information on backing up your data in Linux-based operating systems… and probably more puppy pics!

Categories: Animals, Entertainment

I’m in love… with a dog

March 29, 2011 2 comments

Last Saturday we met the three-month-old puppy we saw on the internet and applied to adopt. Her name is Ella. The lady from Going to the Dogs animal rescue brought her to our house to meet us and our other dog Max and Vivien the cat. And I have to say, I am totally in love with this dog.

She has a wonderful personality and a fairly mellow temperament for a pup. She was generous with the licks, but did not bite or nibble once. She is sweet and adorable and reminds me a little of my dog Tuffy when I was a kid. Max really liked her. Once we got them accustomed to each other and got past the but-sniffing formalities, we brought Ella into the house. And the amazing thing is, even the cat (who normally would be hiding when strangers come to visit) came around to check out Ella. And she seemed much more interested than annoyed by her presence!

When we went out in the back yard, Max was bouncing around like a pup himself (he’s over five years old). I haven’t seen him that happy and playful in a while, except when going for a walk or playing tug-of-war with me or Arthur. I love seeing a dog smile!  And of course the kids were in a state of bliss. Fiona named the day ‘Ella Saturday’ from this day forth.

To make a long story short – Ella comes to live with us this Friday. And we can hardly wait!

The people at the animal rescue do a wonderful job. If anyone from this area (they’re in Perry, NY) is looking for a pet I would highly recommend checking out Going to the Dogs.

Coming next… Backing up in Linux.

Categories: Animals

The loss of a pet

First of all, I’m astonished that over two weeks have gone by since I made my last post. It feels like it was last week! But I suppose the good thing about time seeming to fly by is that at this rate, spring will be here before I know it! And am I ever looking forward to SPRING!


Last week was very sad and traumatic around the Burke household. Last Saturday night our cat Merlin went a bit crazy and started to attack our dog Max, who is very gentle and whom Merlin has had a perfectly fine relationship with for several years. A similar incident occurred about three weeks ago. Everyone was in the living room, and all of a sudden Merlin just went nuts and started attacking everyone, not just the dog. Stephanie tried grabbing him because it seemed he was going to hurt the kids and she got a couple of nasty bites. The cat just seemed to be terrified of everyone, even our other cat Vivian. But Stephanie got him into the bathroom and he calmed down after maybe half an hour. We had no idea what set him off. It was incredibly strange. I took him to the vet and they kept him for a few days, but could find nothing wrong with him. No rabies, not even a temperature.

So last Saturday when the same thing began to happen again in the living room, the kids and Stephanie immediately ran into another room and I grabbed a blanket and threw it over Merlin. Of course this didn’t help Merlin much, but when everyone had retreated upstairs with Max I released him. He shot away and went under the kitchen table, screeching like a wild beast. And for the next hour and a half  I tried in vain to get him into the laundry/cat room. I tried luring him with food and a soothing voice, but nothing worked. He ended up under the computer desk. I put the cat carrier near him, but he’d have nothing of it (unlike last time). And whenever I would enter the room or approach him at all, he made the most horrific sounds I’ve ever heard. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that afraid of an animal in all my life! The gentle, chubby kitty that would lay next to me on the couch at night had become some kind of insane demon.

He finally left the computer room and ended up back in the living room, sitting on the window ledge, hissing and growling whenever I approached. I decided to leave him in the window and we all went to bed. In the middle of the night he went through the cat door to use the litter box. We had it set so it wouldn’t open from the inside, and there he stayed until morning. He was more like his usual self, but Stephanie went in to feed him and said he still seemed a little odd. And he growled a bit whenever he heard Max walk by outside the door.

So Steph got him in the cat carrier and I took him over to our vets office once again for observation. But there was no doubt in my mind, or Stephanie’s, that Merlin could not be allowed back in our home.

The next day they checked him out again and could find no outward signs of illness. Back in October Merlin had somehow slipped out the back door while someone let Max out, and we didn’t know he was gone until morning. After much searching and talking with neighbors, he finally returned about eleven o’clock that night after I’d put his bed out on the front porch. He had seemed to be in pretty good shape considering he’d never been outside before. Although he hadn’t been hungry when he came back home, which seemed odd at the time.

So we’ll never know what was really going on with Merlin (or ‘Mermer’, as Arthur called him when they were both very young). Out vet and I had a theory that he may have developed a brain tumor that caused his bizarre behavior. Or maybe he somehow ate something during his ‘great adventure’ last Fall that did something weird to him. Or something else happened, maybe some traumatic encounter with a dog? …Who knows?

But after going over all the options we could think of, we had no choice but to have Mermer put to sleep last Monday. I brought him home and we buried him next to our dog Tessa, who died in November. They were best buddies.

So in three months we’ve gone from four pets to two! Arthur was especially upset over losing his friend. And even now, when I lay on the couch to watch ‘Fringe’ on Friday night, I still expect Mermer to jump up and snuggle down on the blanket next to me. Or to see him sprawled on the kitchen floor in the morning, licking himself, yapping for his breakfast.

Good-bye Mermer.

Categories: Animals

She was a Good Dog

This morning at about 6:15 a.m. our old dog Tessa passed away.

She was no longer able to walk very much when we carried her outside, and by late afternoon she couldn’t stand by herself any more. Early in the evening she was breathing heavy and things just gradually went downhill from there. It was a very rough night for her. Stephanie and I had to stay downstairs with her through the night. If we went up to bed for any length of time she would start yelping, so Steph finally brought a big chair into the kitchen beside her bed, and that’s where we spent the night. Merlin (the Cat Who Came Back) was also there beside her most of the night.  He was always very fond of Tessa. I think Merlin might miss her even more than our other dog Max.

It’s weird, because I’d called the vet yesterday afternoon and arranged for him to come over this afternoon to put Tessie to sleep. She’d been going downhill the past few days, and though it was a difficult decision, I knew she was going to get a lot worse soon. I only wish I’d had him come yesterday! Man! she was a stubborn dog; always had been, and also one of the sweetest dogs you’d ever want to meet. She put up one hell of a fight, but a little before six in the morning, after Stephanie had gone up to try to get some sleep, Tessa’s labored breathing slowed down a bit. She seemed more quiet, almost peaceful. I left the room for a few minutes, and when I came back into the kitchen to check her again there was silence. She was gone.

Tessie was the first dog that little Arthur ever knew. And no matter how much he pulled her tail or chased her around when he learned to walk or how much racket he made, she always put up with it. She was the gentlest dog you could imagine. And when Fiona came along and there was more noise and commotion, we never had to worry about Tessa. As long as she got lots of petting (and treats over the fence from our neighbor, Mary Jane) and a walk now and then, she was content. And when we brought that big doofus Max home to contribute his own special craziness, Tessa never put up a fuss. She was cool as a cucumber. Although she did take on some of Max’s manic obsessions, (food!) I think she also mellowed him out a bit over the last few years.

If there’s one thing I learned last night, it’s that if you think a pet is in bad enough shape to make you wonder if they should be euthanized, then you probably should! There’s nothing worse than watching a pet (or anybody) suffering when there’s really not a damn thing you can do to help them! I just wish we’d done it a little bit sooner. And I wish we could show humans the same kind of humane treatment that we give out pets. But… second guessing can be a pretty tricky thing.

So now I’ve got to try to get a little sleep. Shortly we’ll be digging another hole in our back yard and putting our good dog to rest in that good earth, next to the grave of Dempsey, who is the one who actually picked out Tessa at the animal shelter about ten years ago. Wow, that seems like a long time ago now!

Good Bye Tessa Bear. You really were a good dog! We will all miss you.

Here is a link to Wil Wheaton’s blog. I saw this post a few weeks back and liked it a lot: To celebrate the legacy of our awesome dog

Categories: Animals Tags:

A Little of This, A Little of That

This week has been a bit of a roller coaster again. Our dog Tessa’s health is fading once more, and this time things aren’t looking too good. She has slowly been eating less and less, and now only turkey deli meat or maybe some hamburger, if we’re lucky. She has lost much weight, and is getting weaker by the day. It’s hard for her to walk much, her breathing is more difficult and she’s had some nasty accidents on the floor. It looks like she’s bleeding internally. So I guess that’s enough of the details. I took her to see the vet on Thursday. He gave her another shot of steroids to make her more comfortable and an IV of fluids, but we soon have to make a decision about putting her to sleep (I almost did it on Thursday, but I just couldn’t yet). It’s going to be tough on the kids, especially Arthur. Having pets has so many benefits, but is also so difficult at times! More reminders of mortality, I guess. ‘Tis the season.

On a brighter note, I’ve been finding some wonderful shows to watch on the telly to while away these cold, rainy nights of November, as well as good reading material from the library. Also, this past Monday Stephanie spent the day, with our friend Tracy, at the TED Rochester conference and got to hear a lot of local people talk about lots of cool stuff. If you haven’t heard of TED (Technology, Education, Design) check it out: TED.

This got me thinking of one of my favorite (among many) TED presenters, Ken Robinson, who has given some wonderful talks about education and illustrates another reason why we home school our kids. Here’s the link: Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! And here’s another very inspiring video on Youtube along similar lines: Changing Education Paradigms.

Moving on to what appears to be my favorite topic on this blog, Entertainment, I have some TV shows to recommend that you might like too! I just saw the first episode of a new series from AMC about a zombie apocalypse called ‘The Walking Dead‘. Wow! This was intense, very realistic, gruesome, disturbing and really, really cool! Now, I’m not a big fan of the whole zombie genre. I liked George Romero’s original ‘Night of the Living Dead’ in all it’s black-and-white cheesy low-budget glory, but I was never that interested in seeing his later zombie flicks. However I did really enjoy ’28 Days Later’; that was different and incredibly intense. And I got a kick out of ‘Zombieland’ with Woody Harrelson. Who would have thought zombies could be horrifying and hilarious? But I thought ‘The Walking Dead’ premiere episode (broadcast Halloween night) was very well done. Having an ongoing television series with interesting characters trying to survive a world overrun by zombies and deal with their own human shortcomings has all kinds of potential! It’s not for the squeamish, though. But it’s cool.

Any fans of ‘Doctor Who’ who loved David Tennant in his stint as The Doctor will like his new show from Across the Pond. It’s called ‘Single Father’ and I believe it’s only a four-part drama, according to the BBC. We saw the first part and loved it. Here’s a link to David’s website: David Tennant.com.

And speaking of television on This Side of The Pond, (well, actually it takes place in a whole other Pond), I’m really digging the new version of ‘Hawaii Five-O‘ from CBS. Man, this show is cool, action-packed, surprisingly humorous and has great characters! Including the guy who played Mick the vampire on ‘Moonlight’ as Steve McGarret, Grace Park from ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and Daniel Dae Kim from ‘Lost’. This remake is awesome! Book ‘em, Danno! (yes, McGarret says that in amusing ways at the end of every show!)

And speaking of ‘Battlestar Galactica’, the creators of that monumental remake are whipping up a new prequel series about young Bill Adama and the first Cylon War. Check this out: SyFy To Make New ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Series Pilot Called ‘Blood & Chrome’. And I just heard that the series ‘Caprica’ is not going to get a second season to finish their ponderous but quite creative and fascinating series about the creation of the Cylons. And I, for one, am very disappointed! I enjoyed this show. It was unlike anything else on television; combining great acting, soap opera drama, cyberspace shenanigans, religious beliefs and everyone’s favorite robots! It was really thought-provoking. But…what the frak! We can’t have too much of that! Maybe ‘Blood and Chrome’ will be more the SyFy channel’s cup of tea. At least it should have lots of action!

This week I’ve been reading ‘Oryx and Crake’ by Margaret Atwood (author of ‘A Handmaid’s Tale’ and other classics of speculative fiction). I’ve heard of this book for a long time, and found it at our library last week. I’m only halfway through, but it’s very good. An excellent and disturbing tale of where our civilization may be heading.

Another great anime series we have been watching through Netflix is the original ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender‘. I think this is my all time favorite animated TV series. I’m also digging ‘Cowboy Bebop‘ right now. It’s great! And I can see it was a big influence on Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’. I highly recommend both shows, but Avatar is just a great series for viewers of all ages. The kids love it and Stephanie and I love it. This show has better character development than 80% of all the live action shows out there, and a wonderful, enlightening, funny, complex story. In fact I need to go watch it right now with the family.

That’s all.

And The Cat Came Back

October 13, 2010 1 comment

Wow, it’s been quite a week, and then some, of pet problems.

First, our old dog Tessa started going downhill really fast last week. She stopped drinking and eating and became so weak she could barely walk. She’s been exhibiting signs of doggy dementia for many months now; aimlessly wandering around the house, having a tough time getting up the back steps when she was outside, and a general state of confusion most of the time, so we initially thought it was a natural progression of old age. But we think that a topical application of flea medication we gave her may have been a little too much for her. It wasn’t until about five days after applying the medication that she suddenly stopped eating, so at first I didn’t even connect that as the catalyst. But by last Friday she seemed to be at death’s door. She hadn’t eaten in four days and was just laying on her bed breathing roughly and staring off into space. Our vet came over and gave her an injection of steroids, and by the next morning she started drinking again, and soon after was eating and able to walk around more and more.

She’s still confused and a bit wobbly, but looking a lot better. Though now we have incontinence to deal with, and getting up in the middle of the night to take her outside. It seems like we’ll never get a good night’s sleep!

Then after that crisis had somewhat abated, yesterday morning we came downstairs and realised our cat Merlin was not around. When he didn’t come running when I fed our other cat Vivian, I got worried! After a thorough search, it seemed Merlin was not in the house. Which meant he must have sneaked out the back down when we were carrying Tessa outside, either the night before or early that morning. That darn Merlin is famous for hanging out near the door when we come and go, but he usually just stares longingly outside. Of all the times to pick for a great escape, he had to pick a cold, rainy day!

Merlin is definitely an indoor kind of cat. He’s a little chubby, and mostly enjoys lounging around on top of the clothes dryer or rolling on the living room floor, innocently enticing you to rub his belly so he can try to take a bite of your hand. Though he’s also strangely endearing as well. He loves our dogs Tessa and Max, hanging out with them and affectionately rubbing his head against them. Sometimes I think he thinks of himself as more dog than feline. And he loves our kids (right now he’s sitting on the floor a few inches from Arthur, watching him drawing a picture). Merlin also has a stuffed animal friend who once belonged to Arthur when he was little, a special friend named Stanley who is also a black and white cat very similar to Merlin, whom he carries everywhere around the house and can often be found humping when no one is looking (usually). But I digress.

So the kids and I searched the back yard and up and down the street on either side of the house with no luck. I called the Village office in case anyone found him, and I later made up a Missing Cat flyer and we put some up at the Post Office, the Library and the deli. It was a sad morning for everyone, and I became very depressed thinking about our flabby, de-clawed home-boy out in the cold, cruel world for the first time in his life. His prospects did not seem good.

Later in the day I talked to several of our neighbors, who are incredibly wonderful, and though no one had seen him I got a lead about a woman who lives around the corner and up the street who I knew a little, but did not realise was known around the neighborhood as “the cat lady.” Apparently she is known for taking in stray cats and helping them find their owners. So I talked to her and got some words of encouragement, and great advice about putting out a box on the front porch with a blanket or something else he likes plus some cat food. She said if a cat is lost outside they would naturally hide during the day, but would more likely come out at night and may find his way back home. Maybe he was close by and we’d never know it. Something I didn’t think about before but sure made sense!

So last night we put a wooden crate Merlin likes with his dryer bed in it on the porch, with food, and on the back patio I put another bed with food and stuffed Stanley. And as the night progressed and the temperature dipped we kept checking. And hoping. And Stephanie cried a little.

A while later there was a knock at the door, and Lynn The Cat Lady was there. She had been driving by and said she saw a dark cat hop off our porch! I thought it could be our neighbor’s black and white cat, Happy, but I grabbed a flashlight and searched around. No Merlin!

At 10:45 I was getting sleepy and checked the back patio and the box on the front porch once more. And saw nothing. I was starting to wonder how long I could stay awake to keep checking, and I was getting sad again. A few minutes later Stephanie came downstairs and went to the front door. And suddenly I heard her talking, in a quiet talking-to-an-animal kind of voice which rose with excitement. I went to the door. And there, looking rather fit and unflustered, was our Merlin! We gave him food and water, which he didn’t seem terribly interested in, but was quite happy for the petting, and he sauntered into the living room like nothing had ever happened. I can’t imagine him actually catching a mouse, but someone must have fed him something! He seems rather content with himself.

So I guess we’ve been lucky, despite all the angst, that we still have four pets this week instead of just two. And I’ve learned not to underestimate a lazy cat! Part of me is glad Merlin finally got to have his Great Adventure after all these years of staring out the back door. But for now on we’re keeping a very close eye on that door!

Categories: Animals Tags:
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