Friday, April 25, 2014

A Cat's Perspective on the Training of a Service Dog

Meet my mom’s friend Julie April and her new puppy, Dahlia. Julie has become one of Canine Companions For Independence‘s newest puppy raisers. The non-profit organization is one of the largest providers of service dogs. Dahlia, is an eight week old golden retriever puppy whom Julie has made the monumental commitment to raise and train. For the next eighteen months I hope you join us as we cheer for Julie’s puppy on its journey to become a service dog, just like Masada, the main dog character in our newest book, MASADA’S MARINE.


The journey began weeks ago when Julie and Judy attended an open house at the Canine Companions For Independence Open house in Oceanside, California. Mom had visited for research purposes for our book, MASADA’S MARINE, unaware Julie had taken an application to become a puppy raiser. After weeks of interviews and waiting,Julie was approved and the day came to pick up Dahlia. I’ll have to admit I was as excited as everyone. I am a sucker for puppies.

Judy and Julie sat through two hours of orientation as the folks at CCI reviewed the intricate care and training rules for this special puppy, bred from a line of ancestors who were already serving veterans with disabilities.
After Dahlia's bath, she was ready to go home with Julie and begin her new adventure. But first!! A stop over to meet me. I couldn't wait!
I explained to Dahlia the "Cat Rules of Play" I required she memorize if our relationship was going to successful and, as you can see, I was delighted. She listened to every word.

I inspected her  for any unusual critters and smells. I especially like her puppy breath.  We played only a few minutes, as everyone was tired from the excitement of "The First Training Day Of A Service Dog."
I can't wait until my first playdate with Dahlia. I'll let you know how it goes. Next weekend we are going camping at the beach.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sportster's Short Story -Part Two

 Sportster Howard

He threw himself at the screen patio door. The rattle in the night traveled down the hall, only my ears turned toward the bedroom. Judy did not stir. She would be safe from my uncontrolled rage. Once I released it no one would be safe.
 Top Cat hung on the screen unlike a lizard on the wall, he glared like El Toro in the bull ring.  I longed to be partnered up with my friend Kona. As much as that standard poodle drove me to distraction with her irritating doggie habits, she had proved to be a quick and cunning hunter. She hunted rabbits and her kills were many. Not smart enough to know the damage Top Cat was capable of inflicting on her pretty black nose,she would attack fearlessly. But she was not here tonight.
Top Cat’s razor nails pierced the only barrier between us as they flashed like knives gleaming in the moonlight. I had been crouched beneath the kitchen table waiting for hours, for weeks. My opponent was nothing to hiss at, but I knew things he did not. Growing up with no claws, I had to learn to fight with my wits and my teeth. And that was what I did.

I sprang against the door while he still hung on the screen. With his weight and now mine, the door lifted from its tracks and crashed onto the tiled patio pinning Top Cat beneath it. No time to check on Judy, I sprang to the edge, and waited for top Cat to escape the crushing weight of the door. Confused, he  no longer focused on taking me down. The door became a large element he had never encountered and he was running scared. I attacked my foe in his race to escape. My teeth sank into his neck and his screech echoed in the night like the cry of a warrior when he realizes he’s going to die.
He twisted then onto his back, nails extended ready to fight to his death. I, too, twisted in anticipation of his defensive move. The scent of Top Cat’s fear triggered my brain to send adrenaline pulsing through my body. My ears lay flat and my tail pointed to the stars. The thrill of impending victory emerged from my throat in my own warrior’s call. Top Cat was going down. No survivors!!
My teeth still buried in his neck, I flung him, knowing the force could break his neck. He flew up the air and slammed to the tile floor. I panted as his still body lay limp, not moving. Every muscle primed I poised ready to pounce. His head lifted, he was dazed. He stood and turned his head in my direction. He did not make eye contact as I stared my eyes still fired with rage but now with victory as well.
He turned away and slinked toward the fence. Every muscle twitched wanting to go again, finish him off, but I kept my position. He would not be back. I had won the battle but I did not want to lose the war. He would carry the message to his wild cat comrades, “Sportster is a true warrior. Let him be.”
I went inside, back down the hall, and finished the night curled up with my mom.


Saturday, April 5, 2014



Sportster Howard


Me being a cat, you would assume I rejoiced when Judy hit those last keystrokes on the computer, THE END, as she finished the last chapter of our newest book, MASADA’S MARINE. Except the cover and design (which is going to be awesome) and writing the acknowledgements (which is long), my job as co-author is complete.

Most folks figure I will return to what cats love to do most, nap, sleep, and purr. Not true. I have not reached the top of the tree of life by sitting on the fence post, like Top Cat, the mangy orange who roams our neighborhood.  This lean, dirty feline reminds me of a persistent predator always hunting as he prowls through heat, rain, and high winds. On too many occasions he had shadowed my door in the dark of the night.

Our showdown was ugly. It played out just like a scene from Gunsmoke, or my favorite old TV western with Steve McQueen, Wanted Dead or Alive.

I love you Steve McQene
Like my buddy Steve, Top Cat had driven me, with his threatening visits, to my limits of tolerance. I had to mow him down, dead or alive.

That night when he came to taunt me was like every other of his nightly visits. He talked smack to me through the screen, “I’m gonna to take everything you have, soft kitty - that rhinestone necklace around your fat neck, your store bought food and I’ll even sleep with your mama.” He sneered.  I’m gonna grab that scrawny tail of your’n and whip you around til you  see  stars swimming in your head, then dump you with the fishies in the Pacific.” I

The comment about sleeping with my Mom is what pushed me over the edge. I may have been the underdog, with no claws and living the good life but there was only going to be one Top Cat in this town. Like Gunsmoke’s, James Arness, I monitored the trouble maker’s movements from my various lookouts -the kitchen patio door, the front door, and the bedroom window sill. I learned his routine and his ways. Sure I was drawn to envy him and his life as a drifter. Top Cat’s a bounty hunter who makes it his business to investigate any and every bush, rock and tree –all the places of refuge for rabbits, lizards and birds. Imagining his lifestyle sent a titillating thrill through me that twitched my tail, even from my perch inside on the window sill.

I call him Top Cat because he slinks through town filled with the notion he rules the neighborhood. He has put the fear in many of my friends, like Danny Cat, who lives a few doors down and whose only aspiration is to become a Hollywood star. I decided his reign of terror and taunting had to end, Top Cat had to go down.

 That fateful night of the showdown the buzzard cat had pushed me into a rage.  I became the screaming mountain lion ready to pounce on its prey and risked everything to take him down. That night changed my life. Top Cat stormed the front door and I screeched with an anger that took possession of me.  My eyes reflected a red fire of fight.  I only saw my enemy. I slammed my body against the iron security screen door in an attempt to reach him. The metal banged and I saw movement coming up behind me from the living room. I turned and attacked with no hesitation and no regret. I was not going down. Like a veteran home from Iraq in a flashback. “Take no prisoners!”

I have no memory of that night, but the next day Judy showed me several deep punctures lined up and down her legs.  “You did this,” she told me.

 How could it have been me? I would know if I had harmed her, and why would I? For over a week, I felt the gap in our relationship. Judy convinced I had attacked her and me in denial of what I had done. I was confused, but I did understand, for the first time, my position in our relationship was on shaky grounds. She accused me of something I never thought I was capable of doing, and I had no way of proving my innocence.

It was exactly one week later, another Saturday night, when cats are feeling their catnip and are prodded by the crickets chirping   their invisible chorus. Top Cat arrived later than usual. Judy was in bed. If she had been my victim  during the last squirmish, I was relieved tonight she was out of the way and only hoped Top Cat would be on the receiving  end of my wrath..

 He came to the patio screen door. I saw his white flea collar glow in a moonbeam.  He was stealthy, but I had been waiting all week. I hadn’t slept. This was the night it would end. Top Cat was going down, dead or alive. If I survived.

Gotta take a nap!! Stay tuned!