The New York Stork Brings My Kind of Babies…and More

That Thing I Both Dread and Look Forward To Has Come to Pass—I Met Cats

Yes, this early

I know that you know that I love critters. I try to be an equal opportunity critter admirer, but a loosely-guarded secret of mine is that cats are my fav. I can’t help it! As early as I can remember I was dragging cats around with me, apparently even preferring them to my Easter basket and, gasp, chocolate.

I love how soft their pelts can be, and I most adore snuggling up with them and burying my face in their oh-so-delicious fur. It’s my favorite form of therapy.

As such I’ve been both looking forward to meeting cats on the road and dreading it, because if they are in dire straits I know I will be forced to take action on their behalf. Which sounds like a lot of emotional pain.

Plus, if the cats are the “property” of another, the situation can and often does end badly, since these folks are seldom interested in help or opinions. Rescue peeps encounter situations like this daily. God love ya.

Nuggets. You’re welcome.

For some inexplicable reason, we found ourselves spending a month in New York state, including three weeks at a campground outside of Malone near the Canadian border.

Here, as fortune would have it, lived three striped brother cats.

These boys “belonged” to the owners of the campground.

They were not neutered.

And often hungry.

However—being cats—they made ends meet by wisely working the campground crowd for their fill of snacks and snuggles.

It didn’t take them long to identify their softest touch, me, who scrambled to serve them a heaping bowl of yum anytime they made their way to my doorstep.

The most gregarious of the three is this boy; I nicknamed him “Finally,” because I was FINALLY in some kitty-lovin’ heaven. Once he marked me as his primary food source I saw him every day, and was rewarded many times over with purrs and snuggles when his tank was topped off and he was feeling a bit nappy.

It wasn’t long before his shyer brother joined us (all stripes, no white), but I didn’t meet the third and final brother until we were readying for departure. By this point I was totally in love with Finally and Furrily, and worried about them getting enough to eat when I was gone. Did the owners expect them to hunt for their food? Would they provide more nourishment when the camping season was over? Would they get them the vet care they needed, neuter them? I didn’t know.

I prepped two big bowls of food that morning and fretted when the boys were no-shows. I tucked the offerings behind a tree so the cats could find them but they wouldn’t be so visible (and tossed!) by campground staff. Then I spotted the now-familiar stripes and white paws sitting down for a bite, and raced over to greet my baby. Finally! But wait…there was no white stripe on his nose! Here indeed was the elusive third brother, in coloring the middle ground between the other two boys. He ravenously gobbled down both bowls, then I quickly refilled them before I left in hopes that all three could enjoy one more meal on me.

Now I think of them often and wonder if they’re ok. As much as I enjoyed seeing their little faces and providing them sustenance, I’m probably better off NOT meeting any more campground cats. I’ll be plum overwhelmed with all the fretting.

I Love Me Some Rivers

We camped beside a lovely river in Malone, the sound of which provided a soothing background noise for sleepytime. I even bought a tube and bobbed on down the rapids, with Joe taking slow-mo video of me making a run over the tiny waterfall.

I had a blast! Until, that is…I discovered my new wedding band that Joe bought before the trip was missing from my left hand. Oh, god…I lost my wedding ring. In the river. From which odds of recovery were virtually nil.

Quick. Hide me from Joe! Oh, don’t bother: I have a blabbermouth, so I immediately fessed up. Needless to say, Joe was an unhappy camper and I’ve been in the naughty chair ever since. Way to spoil my own fun. Note to self, and you if you’re listening: Remove all rings and other jewelry before tubing rivers.

What’s Even WORSE than The Fridge Opening During Travel? Damn DampRid, That’s What.

DampRid starts working as soon as it’s exposed to air. The little round whatever-they-ares are full of vim and vigor, and before you know it they’ve sucked up all the moisture from the environment and the little plastic container is now full of liquid instead of pellets. Genius, you say to yourself. I need 100 more of these things. NO!

No you don’t.

Trust me, this is one of those lessons we learned the hard way. The real hard way, and so maybe my tale will inspire you to CHOOSE ANOTHER PATH. Duck those DampRid “geniuses.

You see, the top of the DampRid container is just latticework because the air needs to get IN, but if you somehow spill the ensuing liquid? Just throw the entire camper away and start fresh. It’s your best option. (Don’t believe me? Check out these poor frantic bastards trying to get the stuff OUT of their carpets, closets, and floors.)

The day started off so lovely. We patted ourselves on the back for ensuring the fridge door was locked, and I told Joe, “Wow, we didn’t even fight this morning getting on the road! We’re really getting the hang of this camping thing.”

Universe: “Not so fast, ya losers.”

When we reached Malone it was my job to get Tootie into the camper and set up with her food and water, open the pull-outs, and start putting the insides back together. Joe deals with the outside stuff like the septic, water, and electric. I immediately spotted the new DampRid container on its side beside the stove, but assumed it was no biggie. “You got this, Tami,” I sez to myself. “Just a teensy spill, you’ll have this wiped up in a jiff.”

But a half hour later when Joe finished his chores and had the temerity to step inside, he found me in a puddle of goo, tossing potatoes out the camper door, and crying that it’s everywhere and IT. WILL. NOT. GO. AWAY.

And it burns!

The stuff is just wrong. When you get a paper towel and try to wipe it up it just IGNORES YOU. Gives you the natty natty boo boo raspberry. And stays right where it is. I’ve never seen anything like it. We’re still finding it on the floor after EVERY move, and we DON’T KNOW WHERE IT’S COMING FROM.

Time to buy another camper.

Other Coolness from New York

We caught up and went to dinner with a couple we met when we were stationed in Germany more than 30 years ago; neither of us had seen them since. Unfortunately, we forgot to take a group photo as a memento of the auspicious occasion, so you’ll just have to take my word on this one. Shout out to Bob and Carmen for a wonderful reunion.

This pic is from Joe’s going away party in 1987, and yes, we’re well-aware we don’t look like this anymore, but thanks for pointing it out! The years have not been very very kind…

We visited Fort Ticonderoga, at a whopping price of $25 each for admission to the property. We thought that was steep, but it did include a tour of the fort, the museums, and a trip up Mt. Defiance as well. The tour guide—umm, how to put this kindly—babbled and rambled for at least 350 hours (or 20 minutes, but it was HOT outside), detailing each and every battle that took place there until my eyes glazed over, my brain short-circuited, and I fell from a parapet. Not really, but that might have been preferable.

Joe won BIG at the casino, a whopping $14, while I lost my whole $10—which sounds about right. We took a cruise of Lake George on the Mohican (lovely), went to a demolition derby (trumpery and covidy), and broke down and started paying Elon Musk $135 a month for Starlink. We don’t regret the decision, though, because internet out here has been anywhere from nonexistent to horrible. We were at our wits end, I tell ya! Now we can stream and do most anything we want online, and phew. Relief.

A Chitty Sitcheeashun and a One Trip Overkill to Canadia, Eh?

Showing off my considerable panorama skills. No, I wasn’t drunk, but Joe looked skinny so he was a fan.

Maine, Part Deux, and Canadia, Parts Un & Deux

We wanted to skip on over to Canada (or Canadia, as the hubs calls it) without taking our camper, so for Part Deux of our Maine stay we picked a KOA campground in Houlton, Maine, just a couple miles from the Canadian border.

We scored a nice end spot, and overall the campground was neat and well-cared for, better than most. Moving day sucks in general (picture making your house mobile once a week to get what I mean) but there’s always a twinge of excitement too: What will the next campground be like? Will there be bears and moose and no trumpers and we’ll meet our new best friends who are as cool as us (yes, I understand the bar is low)? OOOh, the possibilities are limited only by the camping imagination!

Inevitably when we arrive we see that there are no bears or moose, and we don’t know who in their right mind gave this place a five, but hope does spring eternal, eh? Without hope for better, I presume humanity would just melt down into a puddle of depressed goo and call it a day.

Joe planned an overnight trip and hotel stay at the Chateau Saint John in Saint John, New Brunswick, so we could explore the Bay of Fundy and whatever else might catch our eye.

Although the room was pretty normal in terms of a mid-range hotel, I hadn’t realized just how affected I’d been by our new RV lifestyle. I was agog at the size of the place, plopping my booty down on the FULL-LENGTH couch and calculating that our room was twice the size of our camper. Not only that, but I mentally installed a small kitchenette next to the wardrobe and declared that I could totally live here.

[On the bright side, when we do decide to buy a house again it should be affordable…anything the size of a hotel room and I’ll feel like a queen.]

Saint John is home to the Reversing Falls, which we eventually came to understand as a function of the ocean meeting the Saint John River—when the tide’s low the “falls”—more like rapids or eddying pools of water—go in the direction of the bay, and when it’s high tide they reverse and go upriver. According to this link, “five thousand years ago, sea level was 30 meters or 100 feet lower in this area. Native people living here at that time enjoyed an impressive waterfall!” Now? Think whirlpools.

I wouldn’t bother going onto the Skywalk, a paid attraction, because the views are better from the bridge and the park on the other side anyway, and they’re both free.

As we walked across the bridge I was touched to see a series of messages aimed at stopping people from leaping into the churning waters below. My humble gratitude…

The next day we drove the Fundy Trail Parkway before heading back to the campground and the Good Ol’ US of A. I confess I hadn’t missed the country I call home due to all the political turmoil and general slide into the horrors of Gilead. We paid $11 each to explore the Bay of Fundy coastline, a true beauty which put me in mind of the drive along the California coastline.

Unbeknownst to Us, a Chitty Sitcheeashun Unfolds Back at Camp

I was nervous about leaving Tootie alone in the camper overnight, a reminder of why I’d initially planned the trip without the comfort or concerns of traveling with companion critters.

Joe assured me that the camper was the same as a little house, meaning that while we were gone Tootie would have electric (i.e. air conditioning) as well as her meals and a clean litterbox all available to her. She’d be fine.

I fretted “what if” the power went out, or “what if” someone broke in, or “what if” a bad storm blew across while we were away. Would Mommy’s Little Girl be ok?

I let my daughter know where we were staying—just in case the worst should happen—so she could rush up to re-rescue my little Tootiekins.

It would turn out that there WAS a bad storm while we were in Saint John, and the cozy, sleep-inducing pitter patter of rain on the roof is far from the reality of enduring a storm in the equivalent of a rather large tin can. Tootie was probably scared—well, more afraid than usual—but at least she still had AC, my main priority.

As I jumped out of the car and raced to the camper door, my subconscious noted a whiff of doody in the air; I didn’t spare it a second thought, though, because my priority was first and foremost Tootie’s well-being. Besides, it didn’t take me long to learn that “whiffs of doody” are a part of everyday life in the RV world. Dogs are frequently dropping off packages here-there-and-everywhere, and each camper is sporting its own personal sewage system.

Chit Happens.

After making sure my baby was ok—she was—I sagged into my chair and snapped my recliner back into the “AHHH” position. “Finally, all is well and I’m home, relaxin’,” I sez to meself.

“Honey, we have to move spots,” Joe bellowed [at least in my mind], bursting through the door. “We’re right next to the septic tank, and someone flushed wipes and clogged the line. It’s overflowing all over the place out here.”

Oh, that’s what I smelled?

[I didn’t think to take photos of our noxious dilemma, no. And I was not the picture of wifely acquiescence; let’s just say “words were said” and fur was flown.]

Eventually, we did move to a spot further up, we got one night free, and the septic broke two more times while we were there. Luckily by then we were well clear of that particular war zone.

A path along the river in Houlton

We Shouldna’ Done it Twice

Joe and I made the mistake one time of going for a jaunt into Canada. And by jaunt I mean just a little in and out (like an hour or two), unplanned, on-the-same-day kinda’ trip. We thought nothin’ of it. Joe had flown with me to an animal conference in Montana and we rented a car for the final leg to the event location. When we realized our hotel was close to Canada we thought we’d just tuck in to have a look-see and then come along right out again.

They thought we were drug smugglers.

I mean, they didn’t say that to our faces, but apparently anyone who crosses the border for just a matter of hours is highly suspect of being some kind of smuggler, and drugs seem like the obvious choice.

[This is one of those things you don’t get if you’re not a bad guy. We were super confused when we got searched going into both countries.]

After we barely escaped with our lives, we made a pact never again to go into Canadia for the day.

Then we did it again.

There just wasn’t much to do in Houlton. Joe made the durn-fool decision to look for more of nature’s wonders in Canada, and found a covered bridge and some falls not too far from us.

“Hey, we should go see this stuff in Canada on Thursday,” he told me.

“We said we’re not going into Canada for the day ever again: remember Montana, remember the pact?”

“No, I don’t remember that,” he eyed me quizzically. “I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Right,” I grumbled, knowing I would live to regret my mealy-mouthed ways.

They thought we were drug smugglers.

I mean, they didn’t say that to our faces, but apparently anyone who crosses the border for just a matter of hours is highly suspect of being some kind of smuggler, and drugs seem like the obvious choice. [I know, dejavue.]

We were questioned extremely thoroughly by a grumpy Canadian border guard [apparently they exist] then the truck was searched by two more on our way into Canada, and when we came back even the U.S. guy eyed us up mighty suspicious-like.

This time I mean it. I’m NEVER-ever-AGAIN going into Canada just for the day. Trust me, you shouldn’t either.

My Bookclub of One

Campgrounds have this cool free library kinda deal—often in the laundry room or rec area—where you can leave or take a book that strikes your fancy. Sometimes these libraries are massive, spanning bookshelves, and sometimes a half dozen titles sit pitifully on a stand.

Even though I brought both kindle and paperback books with me, I decided to choose one random title per stop as a way to expand my book vocabulary.

At this stop I chose The Summer I Dared, by Barbara Delinsky, and wouldn’t you know it was about an island of lobster fishermen? Sigh. But at least one of them was concerned about conservation and ecology etc. so I guess that’s something…and, she writes well. The protagonist of the story is a woman who always neglected her own wants and needs to please her family and her husband, and she finally says “No more.” I wonder how many women can relate to that? Oh, I’d probably be a bad book blogger, eh?

A Couple More Funnies

I bought this magnet
And this one…
Found at Maine Walmart. Are you kidding me? Yes, please.
Me: “Aw, I love cows.” Joe: “No, you’re not adopting one.” Me: “Of course not. You gotta adopt TWO so they have a friend.”

Just when you think you and your hubby couldn’t be any more different.

Joe and I sometimes use the same first Wordle word so we can compete more fairly. I agitated for this concession because he was beating me by an average of 3-1, but I contended that he had more luck at picking the first words and so the results could be swayed. (I learned this logic from drumpf.) Now I think I’m slightly ahead by 4-3, but on whatever day this was (above) we both used ALL the same words…isn’t that romantic! Maybe I do love him after all…

P.S. We toured a potato chip factory in Canada…maybe some things are best left unseen. Just sayin’.

Maine, Maine, Where Have You Baine All My Life?

The view from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

Oh, my goodness. I’d never baine to Maine before (yes, it’s a word, they’ll be adding it to dictionary.com any second) but I’m in LOOO-VVVV-EEEEE! Where to start?

One of the goals of our current nomadic lifestyle is to find a state we’d be happy retiring to, and for me Maine is leading the pack thanks to its beauty, coastline, lakes and rivers, and lack of drumpf signs—proven to cause eye spasms and other sundry stress-related illnesses in those with dumpty-allergies. However, we have many miles to travel before such a lofty decision can be made, so I’m tucking my oh-so-humble opinion away for later perusal as we traverse the rest of this fine nation.

The Fridge Fracas

I told you we were total camping newbs, right? Turns out this is good news for you, because I’ll have an extra large barrel of “mistakes were made” stories to dole out as we go along. Yippee!

It seems that the refrigerator locking mechanism, seen above, becomes an important tool to prevent meltdowns and loss of food resources as said camper gets yanked along from Point A to Point B. In this case we undertook a 248-mile trek from Littleton, Massachusetts to Ellsworth, Maine, where we plopped ourselves at the Patten Pond campground for an 11-day stay.

We’d been on the road for only twenty minutes when Joe said to me, “Hey, did you remember to lock the fridge door?”

I gave him the side-eye. Was I supposed to? “No, why, did you?”

“No,” he frowned, watching the camper sway in the rearview. “It’ll probably be fine, though, right?”

“Yeah,” I said in my most reassuring voice. “I’m sure it’s all good.”

NO! No it isn’t, ya dorks! By the time we bounced ourselves into our next campground, most of the fridge and half of the freezer were rolling around on the camper floor. We were able to salvage much of it, and we considered ourselves lucky when we saw what DIDN’T fall out of the fridge—the oversize jar of dill pickles with its requisite buttload of pickle juice. Whew, that was a close one…

Who’s gonna tell ‘im?

Animals in Name Only

The Patten Pond Camping Resort had their streets named with a local animal and then a word starting with the same letter. (Except for Owl’s Way, which just messes with my OCD.) “OOh, how exciting,” methinks to myself. “I would totally name my streets that way too. (Except for Owl’s Way, which—as I’ve mentioned—just messes with my OCD.) “I can’t WAIT for all the animals I’m about to meet! In 3-2-1…”

A Wise Bear brings Wine

Have I told you I like animals? Maybe. Well, I do, and the highlight of each stop for me is always the wildlife. But alas, in Maine I was stymied at every turn. We took the Nature Tour boat ride and only saw seals from afar (nah, we won’t take our binoculars, why would we need those?), hiked and encountered no bears or rattlesnakes (which was probably good, though, now that I think on it) and didn’t even share our campsite with a chipmunk.

But I know they’re out there somewhere; they’re just waiting to get to know me better before revealing themselves. The supply of wooded acreage in Maine is ample and the animals have tons of space to avoid humans, which I grant them is the most smartest move.

The Campground

The Schoodic Peninsula, SHHHH, Don’t Tell Anyone

We found out about The Schoodic Peninsula from the volunteers who run the Downeast Scenic Railroad (above), which we tested out on Sunday. They only do excursions on Saturdays and Sundays, and are a nonprofit with some dedicated volunteers at the helm. As long as you’re expecting a slow, pleasant ride through some woodlands and the town of Ellsworth, you’ll get your money’s worth.

The bottom of Schoodic Peninsula is part of the Acadia National Park, but most people don’t go over there because it’s an hour drive from Bar Harbor and the more well-known Park attractions like Cadillac Mountain and Thunder Hole. For me Schoodic was the hands-down winner, both because of the gorgeous views AND because of the lack of crowds.

So I’ll tell you about it but let’s just keep it between us…if you can only pick one, pick Schoodic. If you can only go on a weekend, choose Schoodic. The Mount Desert (pronounced dessert, I know, don’t get me started) park area is ALWAYS more crowded. Always. No matter the day.

The first day we drove to Schoodic, we set up our chairs along a gorgeous swath of coastline and I commenced reading and snacking with abandon; “ah, this is the life,” methinks to myself. “Finally, I’m livin’ the dream—beautiful weather, beautiful view, quiet, treats, and a book.”

Unfortunately for me, Joe was as antsy as a kid on a sugar high. “Shouldn’t we go hike the trail now before it gets too late?” he blurted out on more than one occasion, ruining my peaceful enjoyment of my surroundings.

“Argh,” says I. “I just wanna read and take in the scenery, why can’t I do that? Fine, then,” I grumble, mumbling to myself about how I’m comin’ back here and reading All. Damn. Day.

Which I did. Only the next time I played it smarter: I made him walk BEFORE we sat by the seashore, and told him he had to stay until I was ready to leave this time. He took a nap, which was fine and dandy by me. The longer he slept, the longer I got to relax.

At Cadillac Mountain we met an artist who was painting the scenery on tiny little copper canvases; seeing talent in action is so inspiring. [Should I take up art again? Nah…I’ll just watch others create, SOOO much easier.] We also explored my fear of heights further (yes, it’s alive and well) and Joe’s unfortunate need to make jokes about plummeting over the edge as my anxiety skyrockets. I’ve heard this is a man thing, but let me be the first to assure men this IS NOT HELPFUL. IN ANY WAY. Thank you.

Should we Talk about the Lobster in the Room?

One of my animal rescue friends texted me: “Tami, make sure you go out on a working lobster boat while you’re in Maine.” We’re still buds because of my kindness and easygoing nature (eh-hem), but I do have to admit he got an earful in return.

I mean, I was already engaged in a fruitless attempt to ignore the very existence of the Maine lobster fishing fetish. I hadn’t realized at first that the buoys I was seeing throughout the water belonged to lobster traps. I thought they were guidance buoys, and when it dawned on me what they actually were, Joe used his patented technique to distract me from the coming animal rant. “Do you see seals out there?”

My head whipped around, “Seals, where?”

“I didn’t see any, I just wondered if you did. Any chipmunks?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “I know what you’re doing, ya sneaky bastage.” Truth be told, it usually works, because then we bicker about his distraction techniques instead of him listening to me rant, which he must find an acceptable tradeoff.

Luckily for me he doesn’t like seafood.

Bar Harbor itself is quite lovely, with a plethora of restaurants, harbor and Acadia tours, and souvenir shops. I decided that when I was annoyed by an animal industry, I would buy myself a passive-aggressive t-shirt to make myself feel better.

Animals eating people is always a good choice. Until I get scarfed down by a bear of course…then it won’t be so funny, eh? But I’ll be dead, so maybe I’ll still get a good chuckle out of the irony of it all.

I Can’t Believe it Happened!

Last week when I suggested campgrounds prohibit political signage (you realize before drumpf NO ONE was dragging political signs camping with them, right? Who in their right mind?) I figured it was a pipe dream. But when we hit Maine the campground rules had the following:

Halle-effin-lujah! It finally happened. Now I can’t leave Maine.

Tootius Maximus Gets a Fix

Everyone’s got their way to escape, eh? But Tootie, as a feral cat, doesn’t have much of a life outside this camper. She’s certainly not a cat I can outfit with a harness and leash and walk around the campground, or even let her sit outside with me. She would be terrified and find a way to wiggle out of the harness and that would be it for her. She’d be gone. And I’d be wrasslin’ with a whole tankful of guilt and remorse.

But when I see her sitting in front of the screen door and wistfully looking outside I get sad for her too. Like her mommy and daddy, she used to eat her feelings, but now she can’t because of her throat issue, so she’s forced to eat to live rather than live to eat.

I wanted to enrich her life, but she’s not much for toys at her age. “She does love herself some catnip,” I muse. “Except she usually makes a huge mess by rolling in it and eating it before finally passing out covered in the stuff.”

Still, it was one thing I could offer her to give her a moment of escape, no matter how brief her “high” lasts. Joe picked some up for me at the store and the second it arrived she was out of her “office” and searching for it. This was rare for her in the middle of the day, so I knew she had caught the scent but just couldn’t find it. After letting the anticipation build for just a few more moments I put a small amount on a towel and let her go for it. She did not disappoint! I tried giving her more the next night, but she showed little interest, so I guess catnip will be a once a week special treat so she has something to look forward to!

My friends are starting to send me memes with a little something in common. Should I be worried?

Untethered Tour Shares Massachusetts Campsite with Chippy, Pays in Sunflower Seeds. Oh, and We Visit Some Places, Too.

Do These Seeds Make my Face Look Fat?

I love chipmunks. Bunnies, too. I’d love them anyway, but one of the primary reasons I’m so enthralled is that our home in Virginia had next to none of either, and what you don’t see every day you start to miss and become even more fascinated by. I could only surmise that there was so little food for animals higher in the chain that the chipmunks and bunnies were overhunted and all but disappeared; the situation made me sad.

I had one little guy for awhile but I told myself not to get too attached—I watched him for weeks but then he was gone…[sniff.]

Anyhoo, the chippy you see above was one of the two reasons our campsite in Littleton, Massachusetts (https://campatminuteman.com/) was my favorite yet. The second? A completely wooded locale surrounded by tall trees left me feeling all nestled in, like our small rodenty flatmate.

As we began to back our camper into the site I spotted two of the little guys chasing one another up trees and over rocks and was immediately happier. A chipmunk (or two) I could love for days, yippee!

I discovered “my” chippy had a hole right near a rock by the septic line. Fine, maybe he wasn’t the wisest of chippies—or maybe he won that “crappy” locale in a booby prize contest—but he was still mine, all mine! I immediately set about plotting how to introduce myself, what kind of food I should offer, and if he would agree to be my valentine or not. That last desire made me particularly nervous, because putting myself on the line like that also left me wide open for the worst possible outcome: chippy rejection!

To be honest, I don’t know if “he” was really a dude or not [I had a vibe], but I’m an equal opportunity chippy snuggler, so I was all in regardless.

I immediately procured [yes, these are for ME, honey], some shelled sunflower seeds and put a little pile in sight of my window. Within moments Linus (that’s his name, he told me, I swear!) was onsite fillin’ up. Impressive! How do they know so fast? Smell, sight? Maybe I should investigate, or you can educate me, which sounds easier now that I think about it.

I dug out my camera with the long lens to get a closer shot, then I piled seeds around the campsite so I could watch him discover the next and the next and then carry his booty off to his lair. As I watched him my heart splooted and the baby talk splurted outta my mouth, “Oooh, come here sweet little guy! Those cheeks…can I please kiss ’em?”

He, of course, because he’s small and probably doesn’t swear, even to himself, replies, “Good seeds, Nutto, but you’re not getting those freaky lips anywhere near THESE cheekies. Now remove your nasty poo-mobile from my proppity.”

But since I don’t speak Chippish (which I will rectify as soon as Duolingo gets onboard), I continued to give him seeds and attempted to woo him daily with varying degrees of success.

Joe Channels His Redneck Ingenuity

I guffawed when he said he’d use the leafblower to get the fire going. He had the last laugh. I poo-pooed his desire to roast marshmallows inside instead of out on a rainy night, but he got me on that one too. He’s obviously been studyin’ up! Now I gotta’ get me a “Redneck Camping 101 for Idiots” manual too so I can find all the workarounds.

We Did Sightsee Too…Salem was First

I was excited to visit Salem because of the notoriety of the place, and found myself a bit disappointed. I mean, not sure what I was expecting, really? Bonafide witches galore, unknown and super creepy creatures at every corner and perched in every tree? Perhaps my expectations were too high…

The city was bigger than we thought, so after we finally located a parking garage (nope, not a city girl) we jumped on the next bus tour ($22, recommended) and then visited two of the many museum choices.

The Salem Witch Museum ($16.50 each) seemed to be the most popular, but I was like, “Um, why?” after we spent our time and money to get in on the action. Consider yourself warned. Not only that, but [uh-oh, is she warming up the soapbox for a RANT?] you could ONLY buy tickets online…even if you were standing at their door.

Which seems not only rude, but also ROO-OODE. What about the elderly, or people who just don’t have a smartphone or internet for whatever reason? They just can’t come? Discrimination, I tell ya!

Joe and I can muddle our way through these kinds of things even though we speak internet as our third or fourth language. But if my mother were still able to travel she simply couldn’t get into the museum, for all the reasons mentioned above. I’m all for online tickets…they’ve made our lives no doubt easier. But we can’t discriminate against those for whom today’s world can be very overwhelming, can we? [End rant.]

I “enjoyed” the Salem Witch Dungeon ($13 per person) more, although by then the bar wasn’t very high. Pretty much wherever you went you heard the same tale of how it all went down—some teenage girls were looking for attention by creating drama, and then some so-called Godly people got in on the action by lying about folks they didn’t like so they would be killed. Nice. So what we’re saying is people then were just as nasty as they are today? Noted.

Boston’s Duck Boat Tour, and Then a Boat Tour

Yes, this may seem redundant, but not in the mind of my hubby, whose inner workings I’m not always privy to. We attempt to make what we see and do fair by either choosing something we both enjoy or taking turns. Since I really wanted to do the Duck Tour, when he still wanted to take a harbor tour after I simply shrugged and said “Ok.” Whatever floats his boat, right? Apparently that’s boats and more boats…

We had a real character for a tour guide on the duck boat tour, and I can only remember two of his jokes to go with the above pics: 1. Here’s a statue of a woman looking at her phone in church, and then they hanged her. 2. There’s a bar across the street from this cemetery, and it’s the only place in the world you can drink a cold Sam Adams while overlooking a cold Sam Adams. (I didn’t say he was politically correct.)

Joe said he’d never been to Boston, but I knew I had…except I’d only seen the Capitol building because I was chained out in front of it all day. Chained dogs don’t get city tours of course; they’re ostracized and ignored, which I can assure you happened to me in every state I visited. “Who’s that crazy lady on the chain? She’s soooo awkward! Avoid her at all costs.”

Whatever, people! I was making a point…

I met this rabbit at the Capitol building. He almost came right up to me! I’m used to woodland creatures who run at the first sight of a human, these city guys blow my mind. If I wasn’t already engaged to Linus the Chippy, I would have offered Bun Bun my hand as well. No two-timing allowed…at least in the same state. That’s my rule and I’m sticking to it.

I told you that Joe and I are antisocial introverts who hide in our camper and never talk to anyone. Yeah, that’s kinda true, although I’ll have you know I’ve been making a little effort to meet new people. Why, just today I talked to our neighbors in the campground, as a matter of fact, and they were nice and didn’t cut me up and cook my eyeballs or anything.

They’re both pretty adorable

We had some mail sent to Joe’s son’s friend’s apartment in Boston, because mail on the road is a bit of a nightmare. Rachel kindly walked downtown to rondevue with us after her work and we had dinner together; then we got to meet her puppy Atlas, who you can imagine I was quite taken by. (We wrastled.)

I also went on a lunch date-but-not-a-date with author Christy Burbidge, who has two books with FreedomChaser and is co-editing Don’t Look a Gift Couch in the Mouth with me [Yes, I know we’re decades behind, but I promise it will be out in time for the holidays. My bad….] We forgot to get a pic together though, so my question is “if there’s no pic did it even happen?”

Enjoy some more photo evidence of our Massachusetts stay. Or not. Really, the choice is yours:

We’re currently in Maine, so sign up for updates or check in next week for more Untethered Tour news!

Tootie funny: she tried to go into her hiding spot from the other side—got stuck—so she just hung out like that for a bit before she backed out and huffed to her normal “office.”

Untethered Tour Stop One: Home in PA, an Engagement or Marriage?, and One Angry Feral Kitty

The Untethered Tour has officially begun! I’m not gonna claim that our first stop was particularly auspicious by any means…but every beginning is still a beginning, no?

New to the blog? If so, all you need to know to catch up is that the hubs, yours truly, and my feral cat Tootie are spending the next year traveling the U.S. in search of freedom (not the idiotic “patriot” kind), adventure (no rock climbing for this girl), and any interesting animals and people we meet along the way.

Since the three of us are freakishly shy, you can expect us to meet more animals than people. And by “meet animals,” I probably mean just awkwardly spying on them in the wild. Through the window. As one does.

Before we could commence on this daring adventure, however, we had to be out of our house by the end of April and Joe still had over a month of work to go. So he dropped me (and dear Tootance) at my mother and stepfather’s house in Bellwood, PA, so I could make myself useful for a couple weeks. My mom suffers from advanced dementia, is no longer verbal, and unable to care for herself; her husband Chuck is determined that she won’t die alone in a nursing home, which is so “god love the man” of him.

Mom with Chuck and her caregiver Celia. We went for walks on nice days.

I hadn’t seen them much since the pandemic started, both because I lived four hours away and because I was terrified of taking them out with covid. I knew he had his hands full, but without spending the three weeks with them I wouldn’t have understood the extent of his sacrifice.

Sisterly love. My Aunt Bee comes down a few times a week to help get mom to bed.

A huge Shout Out and much respect to all caregivers of dementia patients. To lose your husband, wife, or parent to this disease is horrific and cruel…the person you love is gone long before their physical body follows.

Watching Chuck behave so lovingly with my mother, however, gave me chills. He’d tease her by talking in a falsetto, and then he’d laugh and kiss her while she just looked at him like “who the eff is this dude taking liberties with my personage, I’ve never seen him before in my life.” He was inspiring.

Once in awhile, though, once in awhile, a slight smile would lift her lips and I’d be left to wonder how much of the world around her might still be getting through. As a test, I sang and danced for her daily, but she, alas, remained unimpressed. I mean, I’ve been told I’m a “very determined” dancer, so I can’t imagine she wasn’t secretly enthralled by my performance. She just has a good poker face.

Tootie mostly hid under the bed. What can one expect from a feral cat, anyway? She does love her mommy, though, so she would come up and cuddle me at night, yet never became comfortable enough to venture out during the day, what with all the “stranger-danger.”

After Mom and Chuck went to bed, however, party Tootie came out to play…or lay, as the case may be. Whatevs. At least she was out!

Joe picked me up Wednesday the 8th, and we drove the 12 miles to our campsite in Duncansville, PA for the next five nights. Why so close you ask? [Damn, it’s gonna take these moe-rons three years to cross the country at this rate…]

We had a reason, I promise. My handsome, almost 29-year-old son Rayne and his girlfriend Kristin got engaged, and we could hardly miss my first child’s engagement bash! That just makes for bad family drama, which we’re obviously way too mature for. (Duh.)

We decided to pick up Tootie the next evening, because we still had a lot of work to get the camper in order, and—to be honest—we were terrified of wrastling her out from under the bed. The little turd bit me recently when I was trying to give her medicine, so I’ve been left with a pretty healthy respect for her general chomper area and tend to avoid pissing that part of her off.

As a disclaimer, I fully hope that she will eventually “get” what we’re up to and docilely toddle into the crate to be moved from the camper to the truck and back on moving days. We remain far from this goal to date.

The wrastling went as poorly as one could expect, and included ferocious growling and gnashing of teeth. Tootie wasn’t happy either. I was a little too fluffy to fit under the bed (eh-hem), so I had to scour the garage for a primitive cat-sweeping tool, finding a set of old crutches which would fit the bill. I quickly learned that Tootie must have had a bad crutch experience in her past, because she immediately set to attacking the offending “cat sweepers” in a most unladylike manner. The ensuing battle spilled from the bedroom into the laundry room, where after some more “persuasion” she was finally cornered and morosely slipped into her crate, pouting in the corner.

I would have taunted her for being such a sore loser about it all, but I’d prefer not to have my face ripped off in the middle of the night; I wisely kept my commentary to myself.

Plus, I love her. She a little Tootie Monster, after all.

Engagement or Marriage? It’s All Very Confusing

I love my kids. I love that they are so different from me and from each other, and I love that they have minds of their own. And that they are pretty unapologetic about it, too! As they should be.

Rayne asked Kristin to be his wife on a ski trip in March, and—as women are wont to do—she immediately went into planning mode while Rayne looked about for a hiding spot. They worked it out amongst themselves eventually, and settled on an engagement party this year and a wedding at the Outer Banks next year.

Then they threw a wrench in the works by getting “technically married” at the courthouse so she will be listed as his next of kin when he goes off to school for the Air Force Reserves. But they still had the engagement party and the official wedding is still on for next year, so seize the day, you do you, and all that good stuff.

I love Kristin to pieces, and warned her that she picked a bit of a clunker family to marry into, but WELCOME! Guess she’s stuck with us now.

One of us has one pair of shoes out. The other has four.

Happy Camper Tips

  1. Drugs. I recently started taking anti-depression meds for the first time in my life, and I wonder why I didn’t do it much sooner! Now me and the other ladies I meet bond over our meds. Ha. And I’m much less concerned about the little things. Which is important when taking the plunge on a change like this! Campground is creepy? Stay inside and read, you say? Sweet, I’m in.
  2. Have a partner who likes to plan. In truth, Joe doesn’t like to plan either, but he’s been on the hook for most of it so far. Turns out his ex-wife did most of their itinerary stuff when they were together, so I figure why can’t we just ask her to plan our route? Seems like a wise compromise to me.
  3. Learn to live with your partner’s messiness. I want to be neat. I think I have the gene for it, somewhere buried under all those years of dog fostering. I don’t often succeed, but when it comes to a space as small as our camper, my mind automatically rejoices, “Yes, NOW our house can be unsullied, flawless even! Surely Joe will see how important it is that we keep everything in its place and then we’ll be the happiest of campers forever after, amen.” Wrong. I’ve mostly given up on my dream of the perfect little camper home already, and we’ve just hit our second campground. If you want to know how I’ve gotten over it so quickly, a reminder to see Tip #1.
  4. Don’t travel with a feral cat. The reasoning on this should be obvious to everyone who isn’t me, but just in case: the reality is that if said cat escapes the confines of the truck, camper, or carrier, you may never lay eyes on the angry little kitty again. No pressure, though.

Scorecard

I wouldn’t rely on me for great camping advise. I’m a total newb. That being said, I’ve been to three campgrounds so far, and Wright’s Campground in Duncansville made the top two. I think if you get a decent spot, you’ve got a full hookup, and they keep the place looking cared for and the grass cut, how bad can it really be? After all, we already bring our “hotel room” along with us. The people there were nice and the place was cared for. It was small and basic, but it worked for us!

Sightseeing at the Horseshoe Curve

I’m from the area but Joe isn’t, so we made an effort to visit one tourist attraction while we were in town. We chose the “World Famous Horseshoe Curve,” because anything world famous must be Ah-Maz-Ing, right? Most locals have been there, kids even take field trips with school like I did as a youngster, so it’s worth a looksee if you happen along. It cost us $8 for the two of us to get in with military discount, and we waited an hour for a train to decide to show up. With 50-60 trains per day, we obviously hit the lunch break or something, but there’s also a museum where I learned that during WW2 Nazis were arrested for planning to blow up the Horseshoe Curve. See? I told you it was THAT important.

For Pokemon Go players such as myself (no shame!), the Horseshoe Curve sports a gym and a coupla stops too, so go throw me out when you get there so I can get my 50 coinage.

Trumpers gotta trump

Speaking of Not-sees, the Cult of Trump still has to trumpet their loyalty even as their golden boy goes down for attempting to steal an election in what’s supposed to be a democracy. I’m out here tryna’ forget about all things drumpf, but these constant reminders could drive a girl to edibles. What states are they legal in nowadays, anyways?

Today we landed in East Stroudsburg, PA, so if you have any tips or animals for us to meet, give me a shout! See you on here next week with another tres-exciting update.

Road cat—as opposed to road kill—but just a little less grumpy.

Preparing for the “Untethered Tour,” aka Life on the Road with Tami and Joe

I started this “Untethered” blog many moons ago when I was daily advocating for dogs on chains. While I’m no longer on the front lines of the dog-chaining issue, I appreciate all those who still work on their behalf and am forever grateful to those who care for these “forgotten” dogs.

It turns out, however, that “Untethered” as a principle continues to fit many aspects of my life, so I’m just gonna keep on goin’ with it wherever the blog takes me today.

In 2015 I left the organization I’d founded to free dogs from chains, Dogs Deserve Better, and I felt “Untethered” from my life’s mission—an uncomfortable feeling given that I believed I’d work with and for chained dogs forever, and even had the tats to prove it.

Now what was I supposed to do?

My sweet hubby had bought us my dream home along the Thornton River in Culpeper County, VA, and I thought we’d live there forever, so I busied myself writing more books and publishing animal books by other authors, too.

But alas, at the grand old age of 58, I’m learning there may be many “Untetherings” in a person’s life; last August Joe and I began to discuss the greatest “Untethering” of all: selling our house and going on the road for a year to explore the country.

We’d just lost my precious cat Una, who tethered me to the here and now for each of his 18 years. You know when you meet that soul animal who becomes your reason to get up in the morning, the first kiss of every homecoming, and the one who might just sleep on your head (and you like it)? Una was that guy for me.

Joe had suffered a trauma in the form of a motorcycle accident 1.5 years ago which left him with ongoing health issues. He worried if he waited until he was 62 to retire that his health might be too bad to explore the U.S., so we decided to leap a bit early and JUST GO FOR IT NOW.

And So We’ve Become Untethered…

We sold our beloved home (yes, I cried) and had every intention of traveling without animal companions, too. I was concerned that my constant worry for the safety and well-being of the animals would dampen our joy at being on the road, so friends stepped forward to care for our dog and “the boys.” (Yes, I cried.)

We finished the fence at Joe’s friend Samantha’s house, and His Puppyness is making himself right at home with her and her children. It turns out he LOVES kids, something we didn’t know because we haven’t yet had grandchildren and had no young ones running around.

Then my high school friend Julie and I drove from North Carolina to San Diego with the bobtail brothers Jersey and Mike, where they will be hanging out with her, her boyfriend Joe, and their kitty Katy. We took four days to cross the U.S. and “lived it up” in cat-friendly hotels each night, which we found with the help of the Bring Fido app (recommended!)

In fact, no sooner had we reached the glorious shores of the Motel 6 in the glamorous town of Lordsburg NM, than we plotted to visit the Mexican restaurant across the street for some Cinco de Mayo beverages. The boys would be safely “hotelified” and we reasoned that we could have ourselves a little fun and then waddle on back to our room for a good night’s sleep before we tackled our last day of driving.

Julie went to ask for some shampoo while I put my feet up on the bed to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. Twas a brief moment, to be sure, because next thing I heard was an ungodly shrieking that my rescue brain told me could only be the demands of a kitten. A very tiny and hungry kitten. Yikes!

(FYI, the second thing my brain always says in these instances is “NO! No, no, no, no, no…this isn’t happening! But alas it is…)

A thorough search and questioning at the office and of other Motel 6ers turned up no other kittens and no Momma. We were on our own. I don’t consider myself a kitten expert, but I knew we needed formula and we needed it yesterday, AND I consulted one of my cat-expert friends just to be sure. Unfortunately the closest Walmart—which I knew carried it—was almost 50 miles away! The only grocery store in town was a no-go, and there were no pet shops.

At first I was like, “No way am I driving another 100 miles round trip after we’ve been driving all day,” which makes sense; however, one shriek later had me in the car and putting the Walmart address in the gps.

We all knew who the boss was, and it wasn’t me!

Julie and I took turns playing Momma all through the night, and the kitten mews—a kind word for it—continued pretty much unabated if he wasn’t eating or napping. We stopped at the Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter in Tucson, AZ the next morning on our way through, where they graciously took our little boy in and will nurse him until he’s ready for adoption. Julie was already a little attached and feeling conflicted because she’d been the one to rescue him, but in the end we agreed that putting him in the hands of experts would give him the best chance at the life he deserved.

We may have missed our party, but we got to do a good deed for an animal instead, so in the end we were the better people for it. Right? Right.

I visited with Julie and Joe for a couple days while we got the boys acclimated, then I sold my car and took a flight back to VA.

Talk about “Untethered!”

Now I had no home, no car, and three of our companions were with friends…

There was still one more, though…

Enter Da Tootie Monster, aka Tootance

Tootie Monster has been with me since she came to the DDB Center in 2011. She was a feral kitty who was born near the Treasurer’s house in PA, and when we thought she was pregnant we took her in to foster with me at the center. When she turned out be “sans kittens” we got her fixed and she stayed on as one of my gang.

Tootie is still mostly feral but does love her Momma and her sister Bryn. She has suffered ill health for about two years due to ongoing throat issues; I thought I would lose her in November, but we opted to get her through Christmas with stronger meds. I was prepared to let her go in January, but then she was like “Nah, whatchu lookin’ at, Momma. I’m all good here. Move along. Nothing to see.”

So, the great irony is that we will indeed be traveling with a companion anyway—the one who is most guaranteed to hate every second of it.

Ah, life.

Test Weekend

We bought a camper and a truck to haul her with, waiting up to seven months for delivery due to new pandemic “norms.” We bought small, as there are only the two of us (plus one additional happy cat camper, eh-hem.)

Last weekend we trundled ourselves out for a test weekend to Gettysburg, ala the Drummer Boy campground. We weren’t there for sightseeing purposes, though, although there is much to see if you haven’t been there yourself…no, it was something much more nefarious: Exactly HOW MUCH of our lives COULD we squeeze into this 26-foot camper?

As it turns out…not nearly as much as we hoped. We’d divided our goods between a storage unit and boxes that went into the camper, and Friday night was another in a long line of packing and unpacking nightmares of which I’ll spare you the details. The pics speak for themselves after all, no?

By Saturday a.m. we finally had the place looking as promised in the brochure, but it was not without a meltdown or two. (It was Joe…ok, fine, it was me...picture me wailing and throwing myself on the bed proclaiming I was done and couldn’t do it another second and you could have been right there with us.)

I’d been invited by one of my long-time facebook friends, Stephanie Baum, to come visit her cat rescue Saturday morning while we were in Gettysburg, Forever Love Rescue. I went in expecting a home-based rescue the way DDB was until we got the center, but I was blown away by the beautiful building and all the precious cats waiting and hoping for their new forever homes!

One of the things we talked about was how people like me in the early 2000s had inspired Stephanie to get involved in animal rescue, and it was both thrilling and gratifying for me to see that the cycle continues—it’s now women like Stephanie inspiring others to take action on behalf of animals.

Forever Love was exactly what I’d hope every cat facility would be: cats who did well with other cats and had “graduated” roamed free throughout the facility, plus they have foster homes, and wonderful and dedicated leaders and volunteers. What a joy for me to experience!

I promptly plopped my butt down on the floor and tried to make friends with every feline who came within petting distance. Only one wasn’t amenable to my considerable charms, so I’d call it a win right there.

We’ll be heading to the northeast soon . . . if any of my other rescue friends would like a visit and a shout-out please let me know! I’d love to see your work for the animals.

We rounded out the test weekend with a lunch date with Joe’s sister Ibi and her family, and she gifted us an adorable Happy Camper sign and a book on the national parks. She’s sweet like that. [I understand that Happy Camper signs are a prerequisite to going on the road. I’m not sure what you do if you’re an Unhappy Camper, but we’ll figure that out when the time comes.]

Saturday evening was the first time in forever that we were “done” with our long list of chores and able to relax in our new camper. We sat beside each other and read and chatted for a bit, but then it seemed like we were getting on each other’s nerves. So I slunk on over to the bed to read to get a little distance, yet I remained at most only ten feet away from my beloved husband of 11 years.

Um…this might take a little getting used to for two very independent introverts.

My kids are betting how long it takes us to kill each other (I don’t think they mean that in the literal sense, right? I mean, a divorce would be a lot more socially acceptable.) If you wanna get in on that bet contact one of them. I’m not your bookie…unless you wanna give me a cut…

In another two weeks we will officially begin the “Untethered Tour,” and I hope to blog more about our trip and the animal and human friends we meet and make along the way. Follow me to get the scoop on all our adventures!

Can we say Bon Voyage if we’re staying in ‘Murika? Who knows…

The 7 Things a Cat Named Tuna Tried to Teach Me that I Failed to Learn

My limbs felt heavy as the dog and I plodded up the hill, like gravity had doubled its pressure and forgotten to notify me in advance. I fought the unseen forces that held me tightly to the earth, my legs barely clearing the ground as I slogged my way toward home.

The drizzle of rain was appropriate, even soothing. At least it matched my mood.

I noted without much interest that I seemed incapable of walking at a normal speed, that the grief manifested itself in physical ways, too.

It wasn’t just all in my head.

Una was unbothered by most things…even new arrivals didn’t phase him.

Tuna had been gone a week now, and I was no nearer to moving past the intense mourning than I was the day he left me. In fact, I felt worse. I got out of bed, but only because I had other animals who needed me. I moved forward with my day, but only because that’s what I did—and I was afraid if I stayed in bed too long I’d never leave it.

The low-grade depression I ran with most days intensified in times of deep distress.

I sat down to eat my breakfast and felt utterly alone, even though His Puppyness still lay at my feet and our other cats meandered about the kitchen. Except Tuna always sat in the chair next to me, insistent on checking to see if I had anything good. He’d take a sniff first to determine if he was missing anything, and then sometimes he’d accept a little bite of butter toast. And then maybe one more. Once he was satisfied, he’d jump down and wander off.

I pulled the chair closer to me so the dog couldn’t steal Una’s treat, like I always did.

Pretended the chair wasn’t empty . . .

I dreamed the first night he left me that my mother with dementia was dressing herself on a picnic table, unaware that she was giving an entire slew of strangers an unwelcome peep show. Awkward.

I awoke in horror (no Freudian analysis, thank you), but then reality hit me that my baby was gone . . . and I realized I’d repeat that dream ten times over rather than face this particular reality.

Because my baby, my emotional support cat, was gone.

No, we had no official documentation in regards to his emotional support cat status, it was just an unspoken agreement between us. His loss devastated me.

The day I’d dreaded for years had come.

We all have that one, or two if we’re lucky, animals who becomes our soulmates. There’s no rhyme or reason to how it happens, it just does. We usually love all our rescue companions, but some slip past the guardrails and take over our hearts.

Tuna was a rescue kitten who came to me in the early 2000’s. One of our Dogs Deserve Better volunteers discovered him dumped in a ditch near her house; he was still very young, and very, very sick. She asked if I’d take him and I couldn’t say no—because he was just a little guy, and because he immediately tugged at my heartstrings.

I had every intention of rehabbing him and finding him a new home.

But instead he stayed, for the next umpteen years.

We named him Charlie, but his name quickly devolved, becoming first Charlie Tuna, then Tuna, The Biggest Fish, and—because my daughter was just learning to talk and dropped a lot of her initial consonants—The Biggest Ish and then finally, he became just Una.

Una was my world from the very beginning. He was curious and friendly with everyone he met, but he loved his momma. [There’s no accounting for taste.] He was incredibly tolerant of my daughter dragging him around, cradling him on his back like a baby, even sticking goofy hats on his head. Through it all his eyes would seek out mine, as if to say, “Are you gonna’ just leave me hanging here, or what, Ma?”

Una was smart. He knew what he wanted and he went after it, communicating in no uncertain terms his goals. He slept on my head whenever he could, and I loved nothing more than snuggling my face into his precious neck.

Una loved his Liquid Biocell, and opened his mouth for it without hesitation

He jumped onto the kitchen stool each morning and yowled loudly for his biocell (num nums we called it) and his licks of coconut oil until his needs were met.

Una was that perfect mixture of cat vs. dog in temperament. I always found dogs to be a bit too needy, but cats have a reputation for being standoffish. Una landed right in the middle of the two, and his uniqueness made him beloved by most everyone he met.

The mere thought of losing him sent me into spasms of internal panic, and once he turned ten I reminded myself often to treasure each moment with him. I burned the memories into my ever-so-forgetful brain in hopes I wouldn’t lose them.

When I realized he was leaving me—liver failure came for him—the panic set in for real. I stayed up all night, cuddled him even when he grew weary of being cuddled, and explained that I needed him. I couldn’t let go.

But I knew I had to, because I loved him too much to watch him suffer for me to selfishly eek out an extra day or two together.

I’m not ok, and I really don’t know how to go on without him.

Una tried, and failed, to teach me many things over the years. I wish I had his personality as a human, but he was pretty much my opposite in every way.

Here’s a list of the Top Seven Things I would have learned from the best cat ever, if I were the teachable sort:

1. Sleep on heads, or in a pile, because there’s no sense in waking up alone.
2. Never meet a stranger, but if said stranger isn’t kind, leave ‘em in the dust and go home to your mommy.
3. You can both drink and eat with your hands, don’t listen to anyone who tells ya’ different.
4. Take a walk with the big dogs, no sense sitting around on the porch.
5. Find your person and become their world.
6. Let others groom you whenever possible. No sense doing it yourself!
7. Keep your dignity until the end, and go out with your person by your side.

This morning the phone rang, and caller ID told me it was the vet’s office. I knew why they were calling. I picked up, keeping my voice even, smooth…indifferent.

“Hello?”

“Is Ms. Thayne there?”

“Speaking.”

“Hi, we just wanted you to know that Tuna’s ashes are back. You can come pick them up anytime.”

“OK, thank you. Have a great day,” I replied, not a whisper of pain in my voice.

I dropped the act as I replaced the receiver, holding back a sob. Every new reminder becomes a fresh stab to my already flayed heart. 

I’m watching TV after dark—our time together, the time when he always sought and found my lap. Every evening I held him, caressed the day’s worries away, and we both looked forward to those few hours. I become engrossed in the show and momentarily forget. Then a commercial hits, and the heaviness descends anew.

It seems that at the end of every happy ending there is just THE END.

RIP, Una. That day has come for us. And I miss you as much as I feared I would.

See you at the bridge, my love. Catch me some Swedish fish, please…Mommy likes those.

My baby.

P.S. There’s another story about the time I THOUGHT I lost Una in our Rescue Smiles book, if you’re interested.

What do COVID-19 and The Tiger King Have in Common?

What do COVID-19 and the new Netflix series “The Tiger King” have in common?

They both highlight the despicable treatment of animals by humans…and how we pay the price for our cruelty in the end.

I’ve been horrified about the Chinese animal markets for years—you hear things, read things, try your best to ignore those things you can’t fix. Pretend they’re not happening. You know they’re eating dogs and cats over there and see the unforgettable pictures of our family companions crammed into crates, off to the market to be slain for dinner.

“What kind of sick monsters do this,” Americans think, going back to their steak and potatoes dinner.

Except it was only a matter of time before the dregs of Chinese society dragged enough helpless beings into their cruel markets to inflict on humans another disease that the world doesn’t have the immunity to fight.

And so we’re all going down. Yay.

It would be simple to be pissed off at all the Chinese people of the world, but—just as all Americans aren’t responsible for school shootings—it’s only the despicable Chinese people who capture and sell animals who are responsible for bringing us COVID-19.

Those fucks, I am mad at.

And while we stew in our anger that people the world over are dying and will continue to die because some assholes think it’s a good idea to eat bats and pangolins, it’s tempting to make it a problem of THEM vs. US.

THEY are horrible people. THEY harmed animals, and now we’re all dying.

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But it’s not just THEM. Americans are once again offering up proof that we are just as despicable in our own right.

Enter The Tiger King.

If you’re living under a rock (like I usually do) The Tiger King is all the rage; it’s a Netflix documentary series that pits more than one batshit crazy tiger breeder against a tiger activist and her followers.

I’d heard snippets of this story for years—if you’re in the animal welfare movements you probably did too. But I had no idea just how TRULY INSANE the story was.

INSANE. And that’s why people can’t stop watching it.

I watched the whole seven episodes last night, and I felt like my soul needed a good sudsing off afterwards.

I realized Americans can’t possibly believe we’re better than any other country when we’ve got these creepy, egomaniacal white scumbags breeding tigers to make a quick buck and then slaughtering them or selling them to shitty roadside zoos when they get too big to be of use.

“Animal Activists”: the words were spit out throughout the series by Joe Exotic, the premiere douchebag, as an expletive of the highest order.

WE, the animal activists, he claimed, are the horrible people daring to get up in his business…daring to tell him what he can do with his tigers…daring to try to shut him down.

And yet…and yet…and yet. This same man used the allure of tigers to reel in young guys (who it turns out weren’t even gay) to become his what, chattel? Drug use and abuse was rampant, with one of the husbands losing most of his teeth from meth, while the other accidentally offed himself playing with a loaded weapon.

It appeared that all the men involved in this abuse of tigers were USING THEM TO GET WOMEN (OR MEN) TO SLEEP WITH THEM.

It was a den of vipers, and each new character introduced into the story seemed even more despicable than the one who came before.

One of my biggest takeaways from The Tiger King was that America has no high ground when it comes to animal abuse. NONE.

These men believe it’s their God-given right to use the tigers for any purpose they see fit. There is NEVER a thought spared for what the TIGER actually wants. And ALL these tiger breeders kill the babies when they get too big—but they know it’s wrong and illegal, so they hide the fact that they’re doing it.

Will more charges be coming for some of the other losers who are exploiting these animals? Lordy, I sure hope so.

Even the tiger activist, Carole Baskin, doesn’t come across as being above the fray. I’m not even going to touch the missing second husband thing, hoping that’s just a smear campaign. And while I understand that when you mix it up with people of this ilk, lowlife criminals, you can’t help but get dirty yourself…I do have a few criticisms that I think are perfectly valid and need to be brought up.

1. Carole brags that she has no paid staff. It seems that she/the organization has money. She was showing on camera how much her nonprofit was getting weekly in donations just through Facebook—yet she uses only volunteer help? No. That’s unacceptable.

The creepy men were paying their people $100-$125 A WEEK—and making them work every single day—just for the glory of being around the tigers and these egomaniacs.

Yet she comes off even WORSE than them in this area. If you value the lives of the animals, and you value the people who care for them, then you need to pay them, and it needs to be well above minimum wage. Volunteers can fill the gaps, and can make life a little easier for the employees, but expecting people to give 40 hours a week or more for no pay is cruel in and of itself.

2. Her volunteers pose with bloody (dead?) white rabbits that they are going to feed to the tigers. WHAT. THE. HOLY. FUCK. I didn’t even understand what was happening when I saw that photo…who in their right mind would do such a thing? And call themselves an animal activist? When she was asked about the picture, she rolled her eyes and blew it off like people were making a big deal about nothing.

Really? So the rabbits didn’t have a right to life, just the tigers? If you’re going to call yourself an animal activist, then it really can’t be just ONE animal that has the right to live and thrive, can it? While I’m well aware that tigers are carnivores, (all the dead animals they were throwing to them was horrific, I couldn’t watch) other animals that are seen merely as food actually WANT to live and have their own agendas too. Yes, even white rabbits.

How could she be so insensitive as to allow such a photo and then wonder why others have a problem with it?

3. Her sanctuary didn’t look better than the tiger breeders’ zoos…in fact, it looked worse. If you’re going to serve as an example of what a tiger sanctuary SHOULD look like, it needs to be AH-MAZING; it needs to have lots of room for the tigers to roam, to swim, to live as good a life as possible in captivity. Having never been to her facility, I have only the show to go by, but I saw no evidence of her place being better. AND IT NEEDS TO BE. MUCH BETTER.

After watching this show last night, I felt even more disappointed in America, if that were even possible. Until humans learn and understand that animals have the same right to life that we do, we will continue to exploit them in whatever way suits our fancy.

And we will continue to pay the price for it…often with our own lives and the lives of the innocent who truly deserve better.

GOD HELP US ALL.

The Trucker Whose Words Saved a Kitten and Inspired a Book

The evening could have ended badly—very badly.

But because a trucker took the time to stop just long enough to get through to me, this story has a happy ending.

I know nothing more of the hero of this story other than that he was a black man with short hair, and it seems to me that his rig was white. I could be wrong, though, because it was his words that captivated my attention and stole the breath from my lungs: “I just saw something run under your car; it might have been a kitten.”

I was tired, it was late evening, and I was returning from taking my mother and stepfather to the beach for a few days. Our trip had ended on a sour note; my mother suffers from dementia, and the drive back to their house in Pennsylvania had been grueling for all of us. I wanted nothing more than to get back to the safety of my own home in northern Virginia so that I could decompress and regroup.

I stopped at a rest area along I-70, just outside of Breezewood, to use the facilities and grab some caffeine in the form of a soda. I parked in the closest available spot, and was checking messages on my phone when I heard the unmistakable bellow of a truck’s horn behind me. Startled, I looked up to see a trucker hanging out his window motioning for me to roll my window down.

I felt a little alarmed. What could this man possibly have to say to me? Thinking maybe there was something wrong with my vehicle, I rolled down my window and waited.

He had to yell to be heard over the rumble of his idling truck, but his words were unforgettable: “I just saw something run under your car; it might have been a kitten.”

He popped his head back into the truck and moved on, the flow of traffic ejecting him from the rest area and back onto the open road.

Did I even say thank you? I really can’t remember.

I jumped out of my car and looked underneath. Nothing. I started to get up, but then worried…What if I missed something and ran over a kitten? That would be devastating.

I looked again, and sure enough, under the front passenger’s side of the vehicle, huddled a tiny, tiny body against the tire. Oh. My. God!

trucker1loI panicked that if I reached for him he’d run into traffic, but there was no choice in the matter. I grabbed for him as quickly as I could, and luckily he was just too little or too exhausted or too sick to try to run any more. I had him!

I was ecstatic. He was safe!

But when I lifted him to get a look at him, I promptly burst into tears.

Not only was he tiny, but he was a mess. His eyes were full of puss and practically sealed shut. He had grease spots all over him, and baked-on oil on his face by his nose and eyes.

trucker2loBy now other people had started to come around to see what all the fuss was about, and another woman volunteered to take him to a barn. I know she was trying to be helpful, but my inner momma tiger quickly came to the fore, and there was no way I was letting that precious being out of my clutches. He was mine to care for, mine to nurture, mine to heal and help on to his happily-ever-after. [aka back off!]

I finished the drive home with one hand as I held him close to me with the other.

Over the next few weeks, I didn’t do anything special—I simply gave the kitten what he needed and deserved: a visit to the vet, formula, quality food, flea treatment, and loving care. He quickly blossomed into the gorgeous kitten I knew was under that sad face somewhere.

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spark-sophia1loI found Trucker a home with some friends of mine in Culpeper, Virginia, where he has settled in to grow to adulthood with “his” little girl, Sophia, and two doggie siblings. He is now named Spark.

How did such a tiny and obviously unwell kitten come to be at the rest area that day? We will never know the true backstory, but he’d somehow survived a trip in the engine of a car, of that the vet and I were sure.

dogscatAnd if that trucker hadn’t taken the time out of his trip to tell me what he saw? The kitten’s life probably would have ended there that day, because I never would’ve looked under my vehicle before driving away. Odds are very good I would have run him over.

I shudder to think of such a horrible trauma, for both of us.

I will probably never know the name of the trucker who warned me that day, but I am forever grateful to him and for him. He could have easily ignored what he saw. He could have made the split second decision that it wasn’t his problem. He could have been jaded enough by all the things he’s seen in his travels that one more thing wouldn’t matter.

But he did stop. And he did warn me. And in so doing a kitten was saved a horrible fate, I was saved the depths of anguish, and a new children’s book was inspired.

I am grateful.

I dedicated my new book based on Spark’s story to “To Those Who Don’t Turn Away When They See An Animal in Need” in honor of the anonymous trucker who inspired a story and saved a life.

spittencover19-lodropSpittin’ Kitten’s
Speed-Away

Tamira Thayne
Illustrated by Rhonda Van

The little orange kitten stopped and scratched his neck. “Fleas,” he mumbled to himself; he could feel the bugs wandering around in his fur, stopping for a bite every now and again. Yuk! He was hungry, too, but he knew his mother was struggling to feed him and his four siblings.

Spittin’ plopped himself down in their nest beside the barn. Had the humans simply forgotten to put food out? he wondered. Maybe he could be the one to remind them.

Spittin’ had never been around people before, but—pushing his fear aside—he bravely left the den in search of help. When he reached the other side of the barn, he jumped back in shock. In front of him splayed out a whole big world he’d never known existed!

Soon Spittin’ finds himself on an unexpected adventure—he flies through the air, scrambles for a hiding place, and even takes an unexpected ride in the engine of a car. Where will the little kitten end up, and will he get help for his family?

Find out in Spittin’ Kitten’s Speed-Away, perfect for ages 7 and up. The book also features vocab builders throughout the story, and excels as part of a humane education curriculum.

Buy in Paperback | Buy on Kindle

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About the Author

Tamira Thayne is an author, animal activist, and the founder and former CEO of Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit organization seeking an end to dog chaining.

She is also the founder of Who Chains You Books, publishing titles for those who believe people—and animals—deserve to be free. She is the author of Spittin’ Kitten’s Speed-Away, Smidgey Pidgey’s Predicament, Happy Dog Coloring Book, Capitol in Chains, Foster Doggie Insanity, The Wrath of Dog, The King’s Tether, The Knight’s Chain, The Curse of Cur, editor of More Rescue Smiles, and the co-editor of Unchain My Heart and Rescue Smiles.

Tamira lives by a river in the woods of northern Virginia, with her husband, daughter, one dog, six cats, and hundreds of outside birds and critters she adores from afar. You can reach her through her website at tamirathayne.com.

About the Illustrator

Rhonda Van is an artist, wildlife rehabber, and lifelong animal lover. She particularly adores jackrabbits, squirrels, her animal companions, Shark Week, vegan dinners in Santa Cruz, and her husband Tony. Rhonda has been drawing forever, but only got deeper into illustration after she started drawing the wildlife friends she cares for.

Captain America Rescues Three Cats, Giving Me an ‘I Do Declare’ Swoon Factor

(Like all movie reviews, this blog contains spoiler alerts. Mostly about cat-rescuing. Which you got from the title…so, there’s that.)

OK, so Chris Evans wasn’t really playing Captain America in the new movie Gifted, out in theaters now (see trailer below).

But hey, once Captain America, always Captain America to my mind. And, it sounds a lot cooler to say Captain America rescues three cats than Uncle Frank rescues three cats, doesn’t it?

Yes. Yes it does.

I go to a lot of movies—it’s my hubby’s and my date thang—because we’re over 50 and I think there’s some rule about it. But yesterday, after the cat-rescuing scene, I told the hubby he had to pack his bags, because I have a new love in my life—Captain America. (Shhh. Don’t rain on my parade with such things as FACTS. And truths.)

I think it got him so scared he was gonna lose this great romance we have goin’ that he actually gave my cat Tuna a pet on the head when we got home in an effort to compete.

Your effort is duly-noted, honey! Now, where was I…

So I’d never seen this trailer before (which is odd given that, as I said, we go to a lot of movies), and to be honest we only saw Gifted because there was nothing else out we wanted to see. But I’m so glad I did, because it far exceeded my expectations!

At one point I was break-down sobbing, which, let’s face it, isn’t a good look on anyone at a movie theater.

There is a happy ending, and if you want to see Captain America burst through the shelter and single-handedly swoop up and rescue three cats, then go see it. It’s worth your time.

In addition, there’s a couple happy animal scenes in the movie Ghost in the Shell, because Batou feeds and talks about his love for the stray dogs…and hey, what’s not to love about that? I enjoyed the movie more than I expected, too, and I think the animal scenes had a little bit to do with that. But, also, it wasn’t as hard to follow as the trailer made it out to be, and for me—an uncritical moviegoer—the story and non-stop action were enough to keep my attention throughout.

While I’m talking animal movies, there’s supposed to be a real gem of a documentary building up steam called Kedi, about street cats in Istanbul, that I haven’t seen yet. I’ve tracked down a couple of places it’s playing coming up in my nearby vicinity. If you want to find a place near you, visit their official site for links.

Enjoy! And yes, you don’t even have to ask. I’ll share Captain America with you. Because I’m giving like that.