Archive for the ‘Cats’ Category

Our in-town neighbors. These two fine-looking llamas live in a pasture along a country-like lane a few blocks from our new home. We have a new address is in a small, but still-rural, town. Our  house may be suburban in style, but all around looks and feels like country. So we feel right at home.

For awhile, our cats went into hiding, because we moved their cheese. Well, actually, their food bowls — and their address. Ours, too.

We’ve spent the last month moving from the country into town. I worried a lot about how the stress of moving our household would impact our two felines, especially old, black Shadow, who’s 19.

As expected, the cats crept out of their crates into the new garage with great anxiety, then hid in plain sight in the maze of boxes. I expected them to be covert for days.

After only a day of coaxing with tuna, Shadow sullied forth. I made a trail of treats to help him find his food and water bowls.

When I peeked into the garage later that day, the younger, gray-striped cat, Mama, was there at the food bowl alongside the old gent. His presence had reassured her.

Now, a few weeks later, the cats are allowed into the backyard where they look and sniff around with timid curiosity.

Mama scrambles the fence, peeks over, then crawl-jumps back down and heads for the new back door. She’s sporting a pink collar with a bell and a name tag, so if she does wander, we have a good chance of tracking her down.

Mama cat has turned playful since we’ve begun to settle in – something we didn’t see a lot of when we lived in the sticks. Perhaps she feels safer here without all that forest — and coyotes — around.

Shadow simply curls up on the soft rug in the new living room and sleeps, or finds a windowsill and worships the rays when he can find them. (This June the sun is so rare that when it does poke through the clouds, it seems rather guilty, like a finger drawn though frosting on a just-made cake.)

Our two Labradors are enjoying the new backyard, too. The sturdy fence means we no longer have to supervise their outdoor time. Out in the country there was always the worry they’d take off chasing a deer or a duck. The hens are laying again, so all is well in their world, too.

The pets have been the leaders and teachers in our new living situation. At first, we pined for the countryside with its far-reaching views and woodland hush.

But we’re loving our new digs in this small rural town of 1,750. It’s four minutes from things instead of 40.

It turns out the country is actually only two blocks away. We hear nearby geese, a rooster and cows. And deer wander into the grassy lot next door.

Each time I walk, I try a new path in order to get to know the neighborhood. This morning Kobe and I discovered a path where pavement gives way to dirt and gravel. Around a turn in the lane is a lush and lovely spot called Half-Ass Ranch. There, we stopped to watch two llamas as they watched us back with curiosity and caution. It felt like coming home.

For my family, the recent weeks have been filled with a recurring animal lesson: Adapt and thrive. And we are.

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Couartesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/My critters  are at the top of my Christmas list. (Sorry friends and family, but they are both to me.)

And they’re so easy to gift – at little or no cost. Here are a few ideas for homemade cat, hound, horse, herd and  hen offerings.

Please use your own good judgment about the safety of offering these items to your particular pet(s).

  • EASY, COST-FREE, CATCH-IT-IF-YOU-CAN CAT TOY:  Cut a wire clothes hangar, and bend it straight into one longish piece.

Push one end of the wire into the middle of a cork – made of actual cork — from a wine bottle. Be sure the wire pushes tightly into the cork.

Tie some yarn or found feathers on the wire and around the cork. Voila: A lightweight, bouncy cat toy rises from recycled or repurposed items. Oh yes, you, the gifter, are part of the toy. You must make it swing and bob. This nifty little toy should entice even an “I’m too proud to play” feline to paw and pounce.

  • EASY, COST-FREE, TUG- OR CHASE-IT DOG TOY:  Find an old piece of fabric or a worn T-shirt. Be sure to choose fabric that won’t fray: If you don’t, the dislodged fibers may get lodged in your dog’s throat or belly.

Cut three strips about three feet long.

The width of the strips is somewhat dependent on the size and pull-power of your pooch. I make them about 4 inches wide for my Labs’ toys.

Bunch one end of the strips together, and tie a knot. Braid the three strips, making the weave super tight at every twist and turn. This makes the braid tighter and stronger and more apt to withstand dog-dog or dog-owner tugs of war. Tie off the other end with a square knot.

This is my Labs’ inside toy of choice. They tease each other into games of push-me-pull-me and keep-away that sometimes last for 20 minutes or more. We get to enjoy their sly gamesmanship.

  • LOW-COST, SWEET HORSE TREAT: What’s as sweet as a sugar cube and red and white all over? A friend of mine boards her horse at a stable where candy canes with horses’ names appear in tack rooms and on stall doors this time of year.

Break a cane into small, crumbly pieces and spread in the palm of your hand. Offer your flat, sweetened palm to your horse. Wait for the delicious slurping sounds made as the  candy is licked away. You’re apt to be rewarded with soft knickers and  nuzzles  as you’re searched for more.  Our steeds enjoy the sweet, mint flavor of candy canes as much as Santa does cookies and milk along about midnight Christmas Eve. Be sure you limit how much sugar you offer your pony.

  • LIGHT READING FOR PIGS:  If you happen to be a keeper of pigs, consider giving them a pick-me-up: Toss them a newspaper, minus Christmas and other ads on slick paper. A coverless phone book works, t00.

The papers aren’t for eating but for playing. A friend who raises pigs says they enjoy rooting through the news and tossing headlines every which way. It appears to be perfect pig play.

After the pigs have had their way with the pages, the newsprint is prey for hog hooves to return it to the soil. The pigs’ weight and walking-about start the newspapers on a journey to become part of the pasture.

  • FLOCK FULL OF FUN:  Safely hang a head of lettuce or cabbage from a chicken coop, fence post, or low-hanging tree. Place it at a height barely reachable by your feathered friends.

Be sure to secure it with something your chickens won’t want to  consume. Then sit back and watch them chicken-dance,  jump up and peck at it. You’ll find a resemblance to children (and adults) swinging comically at a birthday pinata.

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December is the perfect time to share some animal-related posts I’ve landed on here and there on the Web.

  • Dog lovers, get your Kleenex or hankies: These photos, about a dog’s guide dog, will touch you to tears

“Within the heart of every stray lies the singular desire to be loved. Lily is a great Dane who has been blind since a bizarre medical condition required that she have both eyes removed. For the last five years, Maddison, another great Dane, has been her sight. The two are, of course, inseparable. ‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.’ ” Substitute the word “people” with the word “dog,” and that works, too. http://rossparry.co.uk/. Photos by Ross Parry , United Kingdom

  • Cat lovers: An alluring cat named Usyaka,caught in the act  in photos taken by her devoted human, Alexandra. I enjoy how creatively Alexandra uses light to make ordinary shots into fashion statements and art. See more of Usyaka at usyaka.wordpress.com. Photos by Alexandra.

  • Tis the Season to Bee-lieve. Click the link below and read a poignant tale that connects Pearl Harbor Day and the life of a b http://honeybeesandme.com/.

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E-cards are abundant and easy to deliver. A snail-mail greeting is a pleasant surprise these days. The snuggling-in time of year that is fast-approaching seems ideal for sending warm thoughts via a greeting card — the old-fashioned kind that you can hold in your hands. The cards below, with my original verses, have animal-related themes, of course.

SEND A FRIEND a seasonal message with sentiments and scenes of animals. It’s free.

Right click on the links below: Choose “Save As” to create a document you can download to your computer and print. You can also view and download these and other cards in the “Free Offers” category at right.

White card stock or matte finish photo paper provide the best results. Finished size of the side-fold cards is 4.25″ x 5,” which fits a standard 4.5″ x 5.50″ envelope.

You’ll find dogs, pigs, kittens and colts represented. From PAUSE FOR PAWS PRODUCTIONS.

Black Cat in Halloween Sky

Black cats haunt silent barns.

Giant moons spotlight cows on farms.

Pumpkins scream out, “pick me,”

from U-pick patches up-valley.

Apples drip with caramel.

“Trick or treat,” the children yell.

Their costumes: Lions, tigers, bears,

Cowboys, cowgirls and ghosts with hair.

Witches’ hats take their place,

Sharing front porch space

with corn stalks and straw bales.

Chocolates and gummies fill the pails.

Youngsters fall asleep with grins.

Coyotes howl as the fog creeps in.


Fall-colored Horse in Autumn

Reds and brown all around.

Gold leaves dress up the ground.

Woodpiles, axed and stacked,

Await frost’s first attack.

Coats appear, gloves go on.

Mornings have later dawns.

Hens molt while geese depart.

Barn twine hangs like orange art.

Hay and straw all tucked in:

Let the rain and cold begin.

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Growing-up Will at play. Size-wise, the twice-orphaned kitten has some catching up to do, but he’s 100 percent healthy, at peace when purring and a most enthusiastic play pouncer.

You may recall the orphaned black kitten that barn cat Lilly mothered for a short while along with her own three babies. (Included in May 15 post on this blog.) The nurturing that Lilly gave that kitten, found mewling in a nearby ditch, probably saved its life. His name came to be Will, because of his strong will to live.

After a few days as nursemaid, Lilly moved Will to a spot in the tack room far away from the rest of the litter. One of my riding pals, Ella Mae, found Will cold to the touch and barely breathing. She worked hard that afternoon and barn owner, Teresa, through the night, keeping  the little guy warm and trying to convince him to nurse from tiny bottles of special mother-cat-like milk.

Cat caregiver, Betty, holds tiny Will, the four-ounce kitten she nursed to health after he was abandoned by his mother, then his proxy mom.

Shortly after that long, worrisome night, Will fell into the good graces of a very competent and generous cat caregiver, Betty. She was experienced with rescue and near-hopeless situations like Will’s seemed at the time: He only weighed four ounces and had to be fed by tube at first. Betty soon had Will on the mend. After several weeks under her watch, tiny Will became stronger, and his larger-than-life personality began to surface.

Will is now at home with Ella Mae’s son, Alan.  Will is still small for his age, but all health

Will at eight weeks with his new favorite person, Alan, the son of one of his rescuers.

and behavior reports are good: Will follows Alan around like a puppy might, hides under the covers and is a perfect apartment-mate, said Ella Mae.

Ya gotta love a happy ending! Especially when a kitten twice left to die well, defies the odds and, lives. Thank you Betty, Ella Mae, Teresa and Alan for serving much as godparents would to little Will.

Lilly’s own kittens are prospering in their new homes, too.  I have a little egg on my face, however. I jumped to the conclusion that the three were sisters; at least two have turned out to be brothers. Oops!

Photos by Ella Mae Hays

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We’ve launched a series of seasonal greeting cards for animal lovers.

The inaugural set of four represents “summer,” because it is such an extra-special time in the country. It’s a blessing to see so many quickly growing newborn farm and wild animals — as well as crops — at every turn in the road. We thought you might enjoy sharing some of our memorable warm-weather moments with the animals.

Click on the “Free Offers for Animal Lovers”  link to the right, https://animalsoureverything.wordpress.com/greeting-cards/. Download and print a card(s), then send it to a friend.

We tend to think that in the swirl of email news and greetings we’ve grown accustomed to, finding a greeting card in the actual mailbox might just be a welcome surprise.

Thanks! And remember, all four cards are yours at no cost and without obligation.

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Still regal at nearly 20 years old, Shadow enjoys his windowsill vantage point. Photo by Adam Sherman.


I wonder: Does a white-tailed, floppy-eared doe consider a mid-size black house cat to be prey, predator, or a curiosity?

On a morning trip to the chicken coop, I noticed a deer near our woodpile. She was looking intently at the ground. When I left the coop a little later, the hens were complaining as always at being robbed of their nest’s goods. Sometimes, they get so dramatic, they make sounds that are much like a growl.

I thought that‘s what I was hearing as I noticed the doe remaining in exactly the same position as before. I shuffled my feet in the gravel, but even that didn’t startle her.

Now I was curious. Slowly, I approached to see if the deer was perhaps focused on a fawn at her feet. No fawn; instead a shadowy silhouette, shaped like a cat’s head. My near-20-year-old black cat, Shadow, sat frozen just inches from the doe, staring up at her. It was him doing the growling, nearly as deep and loud as a dog’s. The young doe and the sweet, but a tad demented, old-man cat, were staring each other down. Shadow would never be able to avoid a direct hit if she decided to give him a hoof.

I yelled at both of them and made big cartwheel moves with my arms. That diverted the doe. She turned and calmly walked toward the forest. Shadow scurried as best he could into the shop and hid under a big, red toolbox the rest of the day. He wasn’t injured but was suffering a little post-drama trauma.

I’ll always wonder who saw who first that day.

Next day, Lilly the barn cat ran zig-zagging into the arena where my horse, Callie, was loose and cavorting. After a few minutes of zipping around in the sandy footing, Lilly froze and stayed that way. Eventually, Callie caught sight of the gray-and-white cat and sauntered toward her. Callie stretched her neck down to sniff Lilly, then shook her head as if inviting Lilly to play.  I hoped Callie’s next move would not be “playfully” striking out with her front feet.

Lilly stayed stock still. She had a baby vole or gopher under her paw that she was not going to part with come Hell or hooves. Callie gave Lilly another sniff then turned to egg on Sam, the blue heeler sitting outside the arena waiting for a sign the chase-each-other-down-the-fence game was on.

Cats seem to be feeling quite empowered this week.

Folk-art style stick pony, or hobby horse, typical of those recently used as real horse proxies during a rodeo-queen-style contest in Utah.


More than 50 horse, burro and mule events in the United States and Canada were canceled in May and June when a highly contagious, often-fatal illness, equine herpes virus (EHV-1), struck in 10 western states. Ninety cases of EHV-1 were confirmed. Of these, 13 became fatalities, according to the USDA.

EHV-1 spreads easily from horse to horse through nose contact, contaminated tack, equipment and clothing. To help prevent the spread of EHV-1, state veterinarians invoked quarantines and instructed owners and trainers not to move their horses away from home stables for any reason.

Still, one show went on minus the horseflesh:  a Utah mounted posse junior queen competition. The contestants rode, well, stick horses, to demonstrate their horsemanship and knowledge of the required routines.

This gambit received national media attention: Some viewers and readers commented that the stick pony substitution set these young women up for ridicule. Others believed it a lesson in creative problem-solving.  I like to think it made people smile — and not at the expense of the queen hopefuls.

The contest judges certainly were able to get  a clear picture of how each contestant adapts to uncomfortable situations. How could you not feel

Pink polka dots add a fancy touch to this stick pony. These toys also became known as hobby horses in 1500s England when keeping horses for recreation, as opposed to draft work, took hold with the royal and wealthy.

self-conscious without your trusty live mount to carry you to victory? Let’s hope the young competitors felt gracious, not graceless, as they moved around the arena demonstrating gait changes, figure-eights and other maneuvers.

Prime time stick ponies got me to thinking about my childhood stick horses, also known as hobby horses since the 1500s. My favorite was the color of a palomino with a creamy mane and tail. Do you remember yours?

Or perhaps this old English nursery rhyme rings a bell:

I had a little hobby horse,
and it was dapple grey;
its head was made of pea-straw,
its tail was made of hay.

THE ANIMAL LESSON THIS WEEK: What the stick ponies bring to mind is the 12-step phrase, “Take the world as it is, not as it ought to be,” (or “as you would have it”). This valuable insight points to the importance of being able to adapt and take things in stride. There’s a group of young horse women in Utah who know how.

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Kitten caught stealing at bank

Lilly's kittens last week. Maddie, on the left, stole the show at a bank. Her sisters, Kessa, on the right, and Raffie, hiding in the middle, are new hockey fans.

The tack room was silent and still yesterday. Barn cat Lilly, recovering from spay surgery, was sound asleep atop my saddle blanket. Her three kittens, whose antics kept us amused all spring, have gone to their new homes.

Maddie, the first to depart, went to a co-worker of the barn’s owner, Teresa. She kindly took the little darling to work with her on the big day. The plan was for Maddie to retire to the bank’s restroom and nap. Quite precocious, and a bit of a prima donna, Maddie quickly undid that plan.

As I hear it, Maddie instead spent most of her time atop the counter in the bank where the women work. Confident in her black-and-white cuddly cuteness, Maddie happily greeted the clientele. I’m betting every customer — even those wishing for larger account balances — left smiling: Maddie made them with her show-stealing manners.

Maddie’s two siblings are acclimating to their new digs on my friend Stacy’s farm. Stacy and her husband, Russell, have a Mastiff named Stella and a miniature pinscher (looks like a tiny version of a Doberman pinscher), named Max. At this juncture, little Max acts as though the kittens don’t warrant much of his attention. Large, but ever-shy, Stella is treading, well, cautiously.

These sister kittens are sure to hold their own: When playing at wrestling, the kittens throw each other to the mat in unrestrained smack downs. And now they have strong and symbolic hockey-related names. Russell is a loyal fan of the Vancouver hockey team, the Canucks. Since the kittens arrived on the day of a National Hockey League play-off game, Canuck roster  names seemed only appropriate. Kessa is named for center Ryan Kesler, and Raffie for left wing Raffi Torres. Go Girls and Go Canucks!

THE ANIMAL LESSON THIS WEEK relates to a 12-step slogan that Maddie and her sibs illustrate: “Have a good day — unless, of course, you’ve made other plans.”

Table and trough talk in brief.

Clever horse opening latch commonly used on stall doors. Photo source 123people.com

Horse unlatches stall and takes midnight walk down dark road. While breakfasting on roadside grass, horse is caught by good Samaritans. Owners, searching for AWOL mare, are located. They lead her the few uphill miles to home. (Bet they scolded her under their breath with each step.) Thankfully, no noisy logging trucks lumbered past on the narrow road. All ended well — with the stall door now latched and chained to prevent additional equine mischief-making.

The tale reminded me of my own horse’s great escape on a mid-winter night. As Teresa made her way to the barns for morning chores, the fog was so dense, she could barely see the toes of boots. Nearing the back barn, Teresa thought something moved. She strained to see through the fog: There in the barn doorway stood my horse, Callie, dozing.  I imagine it was similar to those movie  scenes where someone walks out of the mist after waking from a dream or arriving from another world. Callie’s stall door has a safety chain now as well. If these mares get any smarter, we may have to convert to deadbolt locks!

YouTube has plenty of videos of horses caught in the act of unlatching. Here’s one posted by sjristhedude: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIQdFzN-XgQ&feature=related.

Red Angus bull. Photo source ansi-okstate.edu

The Boys in the Hood, our nickname for the red Angus bulls that spent a lonely bachelor winter in a down valley pasture, are blissful: The gate to the lush pasture full of red cows and calves stands open again.

All around, the rural landscape resembles a Christmastime map: stretches of green punctuated by red dots: The bulls’ this-year offspring calf-napping in the tall grass.

The Angus breed originated in Scotland. When four black Angus bulls were imported to America in 1873, the shorthorn and longhorn breeds were the norm. U.S. cattlemen referred to the bulls as freaks, because they were polled, or hornless. In time the black-colored Angus gained favor; however the red version, derived from a recessive gene, was frowned on. The red Angus did not attain breed status in the states until 1954.

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Our circle of friends and their animals has been filled with ups and downs this week.

The first sign of trouble appeared in “kitten-land” run by barn cat, Lilly. After a week of nursing a kitten foundling along with her three much-older kittens, she made it clear she was done with the tiny baby.

While feeding the horses one morning , our barn (and Lilly’s) owner, Teresa, noticed the baby was not with the others. Lilly had deposited the little guy in a dark, hard-to-reach corner. He was cold to the touch but alive. Teresa put the baby and Lilly on a warm blanket in a small dog crate, hoping all would be well. Later that morning, when Ella Mae, who boards her horse there, arrived, this was how she found things:

“All three older kittens were in the cage [crate], and the orphan was stretched out sleeping (I thought) near the front of the cage.  Lilly was up on your saddle blanket where I noticed her yesterday for the first time since her babies were born.

“We assume she has decided to wean away from so much nursing and has given up on the weaker orphan. When I checked, he was cold to touch and barely moving.  I tried to warm him and put a drop of water in his mouth.  He was so weak and about dead.  Teresa got special formula, came home and got him and took him back to the bank where she works. She had to go to a meeting, so her coworkers fed the kitten, which took a bit of doing at first.

“Tonight I talked to Teresa and the baby was on her chest. I could hear him mewing.  His body temp is back up: He’s warm and taking nourishment. Teresa named him today:  He will be known as “Will” due to his strong will to live.”

I know Lilly’s behavior is related to Mother Nature and survival of the fittest: It’s still hard not to be mad at her. I feel like revoking her privilege of sleeping on my saddle blankets; but of course I won’t. Thank you Teresa, your colleagues, and Ella Mae for letting this little black baby cat get under your skin and into your hearts!


At the ranch next door, (home of friends and horse trainers Carmen and Norm Bryant, see April 28, 2011 post], a 32-year-old champion Quarter Horse mare had to be put down. That’s a ripe old age in horse years. The cause was colic, a painful intestinal ailment that often claims older horses.

Norm Bryant cutting on Superstar Sierra. This champion mare was nicknamed Little Bunny. Photo courtesy of Norm and Carmen Bryant.

She was known around the place as Little Bunny: Her registered name was fancier, Superstar Sierra. Carmen and Norm cared for and showed both her sire, Docs Superstar Bar, and her dam, Sierra Bunny. Little Bunny was one of the first – and last remaining—offspring of this winning pair.  In fact, her father was quite the sensation four decades back.

In 1977, as agents for R.B. Pamlin Jr., Carmen and Norm orchestrated the purchase of the three-year-old Docs Superstar Bar for $30,000. The young stallion lived up to his name and sired dozens of champions. In 1981, the handsome stud sold for $800,000 – a very large price tag back then.

Bay-colored Little Bunny spent her entire life with Carmen and Norm, as a filly, show horse, brood mare and, most recently, a retired reminder of the good horses, horsemanship, faith and hard work that built their life as successful, well-respected and sought-after cutting horse trainers and breeders. Acknowledging how blessed they were to have had Little Bunny and her dam, Carmen said, “We often admired the class and beauty of those mares.”

I will miss seeing Little Bunny in the band of mares and geldings nibbling away in the green pastures alongside one of my riding paths. May she rest in peace.


Mom Kiwi and her six born-today bearded collie pups. Congratulations Kiwi. Photo by Tish Pollock.

We have six brand new bearded collies bringing cuteness and cheer to our spot on the map. My friend Tish raises these special herding dogs (see Feb. 23, 2011 post): Her bitch Kiwi gave birth this morning.

Here’s what Tish said in a Facebook post, “Puppies are doing really well; two black boys, one brown boy, one brown girl and two fawn girls. All hit the ground strong and active, have had a great lunch, nice sleep, and enjoyed their first exposure to the warm blow dryer when Kiwi was dried after her bath. Kristen (a beardie fan/owner on hand to assist Tish if Kiwi needed widwifery help) has gone home, and we’re going to have another nap around here.”

THIS WEEK’S LESSON FROM THE ANIMALS: This, too, will pass. That’s a hard one to keep in mind; but a welcome ease rides its coattails.

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The three-year-old red colt, Animal Kingdom, a 20-1 long shot, won the 2011 Kentucky Derby today by 2.75 lengths. Photo by Pat Lang Photography.


And the winner is: Animal Kingdom, by 2.75 lengths. Beth Harris of the Huffington Post, one of the first to report the win, described it as “a win by a broken nose.”  Animal Kingdom’s regular jockey, Robby Albarado, was sidelined with a broken nose, the result of a horse’s kick. Rider John Velazquez was left without a horse when his mount, Uncle Mo, was scratched from the race because of illness. So the riderless  Animal Kingdom and the horseless Velasquez were united – and won. The odds were long, 20-1.

I was thinking about running red horses just this morning at the barn. When I turned out my mare, Callie, she ran like the wind, snorting and flagging her tail. She was going at a speed faster than usual for her, and she made a perfect moving picture. As her red dunn body flashed by, I thought of the late Secretariat, the famous race horse whose nickname was Red.  A timely thought, I mused, since today was the 137th running of the Kentucky Derby, which Secretariat won in 1973. When he was a foal, “experts” said he was too pretty to be a race horse.

In America, the first Saturday in May is always Derby Day at Churchill Downs racetrack in the state of Kentucky. Thoroughbred horses thundering around the 1.25-mile course are said to be making a Run for the Roses, because a garland of roses is placed around the neck of the winning horse. It is considered the most exciting two minutes in sports.

The Kentucky Derby is the first in a series of three pivotal races together known as the Triple Crown. It’s a rare year when one horse wins all three. Since 1948, only three horses have done so:  Secretariat in 1973; Seattle Slew in 1977; and Affirmed in 1978. Before that, the Triple Crown was generally won every few years or so. We’re currently in the second longest stretch, 27 years, without a Triple Crown winner.

Perhaps Animal Kingdom will change that. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that a horse with a name like that can and does! He’s red, too: The winning color in my book.


As an adoptive mom, I  believe women who create families this way are kindred spirits no matter where they live, what they do, or who they are; or in this case, what they are. Lilly, the barn cat with the three cute-as-a-button kittens is now mother to another!

Pat, a neighbor to the barn where I keep my horse, found an abandoned kitten in a ditch and rescued it this week. Black, and not much bigger than a person’s thumb, the little guy was screaming for nourishment and warmth.

Three little kittens lost their mittens. No, wait: That‘s a nursery rhyme! These three little kittens have a new little brother and seem quite smitten. These are barn cat Lilly’s kittens at three weeks: They’re a few weeks older now. This week, a kitten so new it’s eyes were still shut, was found in a nearby ditch. Lilly took it right in and is nurturing the baby as if it were her own. The three original kittens act as if it’s been there all along. No family drama here, just business as usual. Photo by Ella Mae Hays.

Having heard about Lilly’s babies, Pat mentioned the orphan to Teresa, owner of the barn (and Lilly).  They decided to see if Lilly would accept a substantially smaller – and male – kitten into her lair. I wish I’d been witness to the introduction. Apparently Lilly didn’t even blink, just started licking and nursing the little guy right away.

Another woman who stables her horse at the barn hadn’t yet heard about the foundling kitten. Imagine her surprise when she peeked in at Lilly and family and saw a fourth: I hear she said something to Lilly about “a half-baked bun in the oven.”

After just a few days with his new family, the baby, tummy full of mother-Lilly milk, is calm, quiet and struggling to stay near, yet stay clear, of the big sisters tumbling about. The original kitten threesome is approaching five weeks in age. They are experimenting with play-attacking  and somersaulting each other all over the place.They’ll be swinging from stirrups and hiding in riding boots soon.

The big sisters deserve credit, too. I guess their girl genes/instincts kick in automatically. They were instantly protective of their wee sibling. The one I call Blackie (on the left in the above photo) actually assumed the arched-back, hair-raised, mean-cat stance and hissed at me in her tiny voice when I unintentionally startled the baby. I was shocked and awed that something so tiny could appear so big and be so brave.

Lilly yawns, then stretches, seeming to say, “Yes, they are ALL mine, and aren’t they all just too cute for words.” Good girl

I was thinking about how easy and routine this all seemed to Lilly, and discovered  THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON: FIRST THINGS FIRST. What’s more first on the list of first things than ensuring the safety and welfare of offspring, no matter the species?

It being Mother’s Day tomorrow, I’d like to share this very special poem with cat-mom Lilly, plus animal lovers and adoptive moms everywhere. It’s given me much solace over the years. I wish I knew who penned it.

“Not flesh of my flesh,

Not bone of my bone

But still, miraculously, my own.

Never forget

For a single minute,

You didn’t grow under my heart but in it.”

And thanks to my son, Adam, for making me Mom. I love you.

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