Tonks vs. Christmas

Tonks vs. Christmas

Tonks and the Christmas Tree - 2020 version

Have you ever dealt with the frustration of trying to keep a pet out of your holiday decorations? Even if it’s not a particular battle of yours, odds are you’ve seen the memes circulating at this time of year. People get creative with their solutions, and it makes for entertaining viewing. Of course, if you’re the person coping with the destructive pet, it gets less comical.

Because it’s shocking the amount of damage a 6-pound cat can do!

That’s right, despite the fact I wrote an article this year on keeping cats out of Christmas trees, Tonks defies every attempt we make. She is a mini machine of absolute destruction, hell-bent on taking out the tree. And it’s not even the ornaments she’s after. Oh, no, this tiny demon of feline grace and prowess infiltrates the tree and bends branches out of shape before a single ornament comes out of its box. One moment, she’s on her cat perch. The next, you hear the telltale sound of a body slithering between plastic. Look over, and there’s a face peeping out at you from half-way up the tree. (Admittedly, she’s never made it to top, but that’s probably because we hear her before she gets that far)

2018 Christmas tree post-Tonks

In 2018, when she was only eight-months-old (and not fully grown), she destroyed our first Christmas tree. This is the result of her climbing. Branches mangled beyond repair. Holes gaping from her wedging her body through spaces we never imagined she’d fit. We’d set the tree up early, as a test to see how she’d react. No ornaments (we weren’t completely foolish), no ribbons – just the tree itself. The poor thing never stood a chance. We DID eventually decorate the tree, but it didn’t look as pretty as usual. Turns out the branches weren’t designed to hold a six-pound kitten’s explorations. And, of course, she continued her wanton destruction despite the additional obstacles of ribbon and ornaments. We found ourselves picking up and replacing at least three or four ornaments every morning. Not to mention repositioning the tree skirt that the little bugger insisted on burrowing under. (That stopped once there were gifts under the tree, though) And don’t get me started on her interest in the snowflakes on the wood stove, the garland on the shelves, or the stockings on the stone work around the stove.

When it came time to replace the poor abused Christmas tree, we got strange looks from salespeople. Apparently, “Do you think these branches can support an eight-pound cat?” wasn’t a question they routinely heard. Nor were they used to people pushing down on the demo trees, debating sturdiness. (We entertained other shoppers, though) It took us weeks to track down our current tree, which passed our testing in the store. Of course, our best guesses were nothing compared to the actual demon herself.

Would this new tree survive? Or would it suffer the same fate as the original?

(And, seriously, why has the artificial tree industry not come up with a cat rating?)

Amazingly enough, the new acquisition came through with flying colors. I wish I could say Tonks lost her interest with climbing the Christmas tree, but I’d be lying. She just hasn’t destroyed this new one (yet). And the morning ornament round-up continued last year unabated. Of course, we’re always smart enough to put the unbreakable ornaments at the bottom so they’ll survive the fall.

Tonks cuddled in the fluffy tree skirt

This year, we adopted a new tactic. Maybe, if we found a suitably soft tree skirt, we could divert Tonks’s obsession with the tree. As you can see, our plan worked – a little too well. We almost couldn’t get the skirt UNDER the tree. After letting it sit on the chair unattended, she claimed it as her own. It took a lot of coaxing to get the fluffy skirt away from her and out to the den. And she HAS been a little less interested in the tree this year (though she has a current obsession with one of the ornaments that has a jingle bell attached – an “alarm” to tell us she’s climbing into the branches). Unfortunately, as soon as we started adding the gifts under the tree, she lost most of her snuggle room on the tree skirt – and she’s let us know her displeasure by scratching at the presents and trying to move them out of the way. (Sometimes you can get a little TOO smart for your own good)

Tonks is the first cat I’ve owned who’s developed an obsession with climbing the branches. No one else cares (though Firefly “chews” on the branches – something he’s done both before and after he had all of his teeth pulled). Then again, our tiny demon does a lot of things no other cat does, so it’s not entirely a surprise. However, she’s given me a new appreciation for those annual battles. So the next time you see one of those cat Christmas tree memes, understand that the struggle is REAL.

The Great Couch Battle

The Great Couch Battle

Juniper on the Couch - FINALLY

We’ve always known Juniper was a strange Greyhound. While still a lazy, cat-like dog, she avoided the couch and bed. We chalked it up to her refusal to use her back legs. Planting her front legs on things presented no problem, but getting those back two up? Nope. It’s made for comical scenes every time we have to haul her into the car.

Especially when you consider she’s a retired racer.

Greyhounds have to jump in and out of trucks and vans as part of their routine. It’s a natural part of their training. No one wants to lift THAT many heavy dogs all day. (We’re not huge fans of the times we have to) But from day one, she’s just looked backwards over her shoulder at us as if she has a sudden paralysis. And while getting into the car isn’t optional, the couch certainly was. So she was left to her beds scattered in just about every room of the house. (A situation that worked for the cats)

And then came the fly.

For whatever reason, flies are where our weird dog draws the line. She’ll trample bees in the yard, attempt to snap up cicadas, and ignore mosquitoes. Flies, though – every fly is out to steal her soul. If a fly enters the house, she goes into full-blown panic mode and hightails it for her crate. We then have to go through an insane process of getting her to come back out. (After Tonks disposes of the offending insect)

It was comical and tragic at the same time. Especially the night THREE flies made it through the door. Tonks wore herself out trying to catch them (poor thing was sprawled on the floor in exhaustion), and Juniper refused to enter the kitchen to eat dinner. She was THAT petrified. We decided it was time to draw the line.

So we implemented the no-crate policy.

The next time a fly came in, we put the baby gate up. Deprived of her hidey-hole, Juniper miraculously figured out how to jump onto the couch. We were stunned. (We shouldn’t have been – flies were the only thing that got her to JUMP the baby gate in the first place) For whatever reason, the couch made her feel comfortable while our resident exterminator went to work. Since we’d long-since agreed the couch wasn’t off-limits, we left her there.

Didn’t take long for Juniper to realize the couch is a comfortable sleeping spot. She could curl up or sprawl out, with room to spare. There was just one problem: Squeak had made his migration to the couch, and he wasn’t impressed with the jostling motion. He also didn’t appreciate sharing the space with a gassy dog.

Thus began the great couch battle of 2020.

Squeak’s brain may work differently than other cats, but he’s still a cat. It didn’t take him long to figure out that if he shuffled further down the couch, Juniper wouldn’t jump into her “new spot.” We’d hear her whining and find her standing beisde it, staring at him. It got worse when Firefly decided to take up a spot, too. (Never mind that there’s a second couch in the den – she wanted the first one) We had to sigh and direct her back to her beds.

Squeak and Juniper sharing the couch

Morning’s became an epic battle over who could reach the couch first. Who got to the “prime” spot before the other. And who was willing to slide over and share. It’s amusing – almost as funny as watching Juniper slide into my fiance’s spot when he gets up!

Juniper finally discovered the other couch, but she gets grumbly when she has to shuffle out there. She whines when Firefly chooses to sit out there, even if he chooses to sit on the back instead of the couch, itself. The battle promises to continue into the future (and I’ve put my foot down on buying any more couches).

And she still refuses to get into the car without assistance. We point out the car is the same height as the couch, but she continues that pathetic paralysis stare. Logic doesn’t apply to Greyhounds, apparently.

Photographic Demon

Photographic Demon

Our little squishy faced demon

Check either my or my fiance’s phone, and you’ll find hundreds of pictures of the Minions. No surprise there; parents take pictures of their kids. Especially when their kids are irresistibly adorable. Of course, trying to catch some of those moments requires sneaking up on the buggers since not everyone enjoys the paparazzi. (Firefly, in particular, doesn’t enjoy having his photo snapped) But there are exceptions to every rule.

In our house, it’s Tonks.

Not only is she adorable (you know it’s true), but she POSES for the camera. She knows precisely where the lens is on every camera (including the computers), and she plants herself in the best light and location to ensure someone gets the shot. Of course, this also translates to her adding herself to video conferences, Zoom meetings, and Skype conversations. (A camera’s a camera, after all)

Tonks - the most interesting kitten in the world

I’m sure people think we set up some of the pictures we take. They look THAT posed (case in point to the left). But it’s really a matter of glancing up and snatching up a camera. She’s simply photogenic. And where the other three usually only give us a brief nanosecond to capture an image, she’ll pause until we get the photo right before moving or resettling and destroying the perfect picture. (Vanity, thy name is Tonks)

Tonks is the most ridiculous kitten

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of other cats, and my phone and pocket drive are full of pictures. Rarely have any of them have produced such consistently, ridiculously perfect pictures. I mean look at this! (And, yes, she likes this particular pose – as I’m sure you’ve noted…or you will) It’s absurd! You can even see her eyes dart back and forth, asking, “Did you get the shot, Mommy? Did it come out?”

For Christmas last year, I put together a children’s book detailing her story for my nephew. I was spoiled for choice when it came time to add the pictures to the book. There were so many, some I’d even forgotten about. It made writing the story more fun, because I was able to add funny little touches here and there. I mean, when you find a photo of her with her paw on a wallet, how can you NOT slide that in there? It came out a hundred times better than I ever imagined, and my nephew (and niece) thought it was great.

While I don’t use my own images in my freelance work, I absolutely slide mentions of my kiddos in (where appropriate). They make my writing more approachable, allowing me to connect with the readers on a personal level. And I often remember these images when I’m writing. They’re tiny stories in and of themselves.

Cutest demon on the planet

So, yes, you see a lot more of Tonks in the Photo Bomb tags than the other kids. It’s not intentional, and she’s not the favorite of the household, by any means. She just happens to be the most photogenic and demanding in front of the camera. I mean, how do you resist taking a picture of that face? It’s impossible! That little demon just begs to be immortalized on digital film. Which is why we’ll continue to do so.

Meet Juniper: The Laziest Race Dog Ever

Meet Juniper: The Laziest Race Dog Ever

Juniper - our silly dog

Here it is – the official last Minion introduction! My poor fiance’ was forced to endure the Cat Test before I decided we could officially start dating. (After all, if they didn’t like him, he’d have to go) Those three and I came as a complete package. Juniper is unique because she entered the family after he and I were already dating and in the process of moving in together.

He’d had Greyhounds in the past, and I’d been a Greyhound fan for years. Why not? They’re basically cats in dog form. After years of cooing over them at Renaissance Faires (yes, I’m one of those people. Oh, don’t act surprised), and spending hours sitting with them in my Faire costumes, I knew I’d own one some day. Now that I had a house of my own with a yard (oh, yeah, and someone who already loved the breed), the time was right.

The adoption hunt was on!

Synchronicity was on our side. Florida’s now-infamous law had just passed, and the various rescues were seeing a higher than usual influx of dogs needing homes. My fiance’ wanted to use the same rescue he had before (he visited it on a regular basis), so we stopped by after Thanksgiving.

Fun Fact: The Greyhound chooses the family.

After several misses (on a short list since we needed a dog that was cat-friendly), they brought out a new arrival from Florida. She was on the small side, missing more than the usual amount of hair (Greyhounds have bald butts from rubbing in their crates), and shy as all get out. Her name was June, and the moment we called her name, she came right over. In fact, every time we called her name, she came. We took her for a short walk, and she stayed with us. You would have thought she’d been with us for years. It was fate.

That was when the rescue tipped us off that they were concerned she was hypothyroid. (The direct opposite of Firefly – her thyroid wasn’t producing enough) That explained her lower energy level and hair loss. That solution was easy enough: life-long supplementation. They were more than happy to place her with a family holding a veterinary background.

Oh, yeah – one more tiny detail.

Literally tiny: Florida dogs came with a resistant strain of hookworms. Treatment existed, but it usually took up to SIX MONTHS to clear them! I still wasn’t too daunted – I knew how to handle hookworms (er, NOT to handle them being the first step).

We set the date to pick her up (she still needed to be spayed and vaccinated). Then came the heavy conversation on the drive home: what to rename her. “June” was a terrible name. Neither of us liked the idea of standing outside and shouting for a 80-year-old grandmother. (No offense if your grandmother is named June)

There was a problem, though.

She was two-years-old. So we couldn’t completely change a name she was used to. That meant the new name needed to SOUND like her current name. After discarding the most obvious (Junebug, Juno), Juniper popped out. We’d be bringing her home just before Christmas, Juniper is an herb of protection (and while we didn’t expect that from her, we wanted it FOR her) – it was meant to be.

Juniper came home, and two out of three of her new siblings were NOT impressed. Firefly didn’t mind too much – until she barked at him, then he was having NONE of it. In fact, it took him MONTHS to forgive her. Tonks engaged in “scouting” missions, sneaking up under blankets and around furniture to spy on this new intruder. Squeak, oddly enough, accepted her right off the bat. He meeped a “hello,” butted her head, and decided she was family and belonged.

Of course, Tonks appropriated Juniper’s beds from the start. There is nothing funnier than watching a 70-pound dog avoid her bed because a tiny 7-pound kitten is parked in the middle of it. To this day, Juniper will surrender one of her beds if Tonks decides to sleep in it. The original animosity has dissipated, though, and all four of them get along. Tonks and Juniper will even play together, and they curl up in the same sunbeams.

Typical Juniper sleeping pattern.

It took Juniper’s personality months to surface. While she had toys available from the beginning, she didn’t start to play until about three months with us passed. Now she plays with her toys on her own. She still hasn’t figured out fetch, but she does get chase. She partakes in about four laps of “zoomies” around the yard once a day, and the rest of her time is devoted to napping – usually with most of her body OFF the bed.

With the exception of her trademark backend bald patches, the remainder of her hair has regrown BEAUTIFULLY. We have no idea where she learned it (it’s not a Greyhound trait), but she barks at the doorbell (and the Netflix tone). Of course, she then runs to the other end of the house, so she’s not the most efficient guard dog. She’s still shy around strangers, but once she learns she gets pets, she warms up. She’s come a long way from the terrified girl we saw at the rescue.

And she makes our little family complete. The cats think of her as that “really big cat who goes outside.” She sees the cats as “the little cats with the little toys.” It works perfectly.