Rocky – a loving, loyal family member

We welcomed Rocky into our lives December of 2001. He was just six weeks old at the time and small enough to fit into a shoebox (we know this from experience). Since then, Rocky has become a beloved family member. One of the activities Rocky likes best is going for walks through Hines or Maybury. He knows a walk is coming when my mom puts her tennis shoes on, my dad gets his windbreaker jacket out, or when someone asks him where his leash is. While my sister, Olivia, and I were visiting our other sister, Hannah, in France over Christmas, we even tried talking to our puppy via Skype by asking him if he wanted to go for a walk. To our amusement, his ears perked up and his head turned into that confused look. It’s a riot when he gets excited because his whole body moves as his huge tail wags back and forth.

When Rocky sleeps, he tends to snore. At first, we thought it was a passing phase. Now, I think it’s almost like one of those sound machines. We don’t know how we lived without one! I’m not sure everyone would agree — sorry Grandma! Rocky also has various spots where he rests. One of my favorite spots he chose is in the kitchen in the little nook where the stool is supposed to go. When he sits there, it usually means he’s hungry. I figured this out by watching him cram his huge body into the small cave then breathe out a sigh of annoyance. Finally, he starts whining until someone notices. Maybe it’s his dog scale; checking to see if he still fits, then rewards himself with more food if he does. Speaking of food, he has been on a diet of green beans the past couple months because he is a bit overweight. He seems to be enjoying the bland taste. I have even seen more of a jump in his step since he took the challenge. The other day my mom went all out and got him organic green beans!

While I was taking a spring course at CMU, my mom, Rocky and I met up in Lansing for a picnic one Saturday. After we ate, we decided to let Rocky go without a leash. It’s impossible to get rid of him because he’s constantly looking back to make sure we are following him. If we’re not, he charges back toward us. So as we walked along the river, Rocky decided that he was thirsty. The water looked quite dirty and we knew what he was about to do, so we shouted to him in protest but he ignored our plea. Unbeknownst to Rocky, the river was deep. As he stepped into what he thought was shallow water, his body kept going forward and he fell in head first. It was pretty funny to watch him in disbelief trying to get out.

We named him Rocky but he has acquired numerous names over the years. David, Puppum, Rockum and Daidy are some of the more popular ones. He answers to them all. I even have a specific whistle to get his attention when he’s distracted.

It has been loads of fun taking care of Rocky. His loving personality and loyal tendencies put a special spot in the heart of those who meet him. He is often waiting on the porch with his red bandana around his neck and a baseball by his side when we come home, always so excited to see us. We feel blessed to have been given such a great dog.

– Gracie Booth

Welcoming Celia, a rescue kitty

Celia is a people-loving, long-haired kitty who had a rough first few months and a heavenly last few days. Molly seemed so lonely without her sister, MacKenzie, the hope is that they’ll soon be best buds. At this point we’d settle for a little less hostility.

Celia is less than a year old and was rescued from the county animal shelter by Molly’s vet. She was one of six taken in that day, all on the list to be euthanized because of upper respiratory infections. Celia had another surprise and delivered five kitties a few days later, much too early, and none survived.

Though she was still sick when I met her, she wanted nothing more than to snuggle into my neck and purr – a really loud purr!

A few days later, she was cleared to head home.

Molly ran to the carrier when we came in, peered inside and backed up. It wasn’t her beloved sister MacKenzie. When Celia ventured out of the carrier it seemed as if her body would ever stop due to the size of her tail – bigger than a huge bottle brush.

After a few hours in a bathroom, as suggested by the vet, with food, litter, toys and a cat bed, we took a walk around the house showing her all the rooms.

Two days later, she was sicker still and returned to the vets for a week. Molly finally relaxed and inspected everything in Celia’s room.

And now Celia’s back – obviously better, though still sneezing – eating Molly’s food rather than her kitty food, playing with Molly’s favorite toys, sleeping in Molly’s favorite spot and competing with the same people for attention. Actually Celia pretty much demands it and if she doesn’t get it, will climb up your back. (Yes, we still have a few things to work on!) Humans are her favorite “toys” and she loves nothing more than cuddling.

At this point Molly is still cautious, still curious. She’s hissed a few times at Celia who ignores the hiss and runs toward her. And twice, when Molly was sitting next to me, Celia jumped on top of Molly to join the pile – even though there were other open laps in the same room.

Poor Molly now spends most of the day upstairs while Celia is downstairs. They’ve worked that one out themselves.

Celia spent pretty much her entire life in a cage before coming here. Now, she spends her days with the run of the house but seems most comfortable at night still sleeping in the first-floor bathroom with her food, water, litter box, toys and cat bed. She goes in with no fuss, most likely exhausted from all the attention. Molly seems grateful when that time rolls around each day. Hopefully someday soon she’ll be just as grateful when Celia walks out of that door each morning.

In the meantime, late evenings are for spoiling Molly – and soliciting advice for a smooth transition.

Welcome home Celia!

– Marylynn G. Hewitt

Molly – the sister MacKenzie left behind

My Mom calls Molly “a dickens.” (Lovingly, of course.) She can squeeze her way through narrow openings, never met a box or bag she didn’t explore, and never met a closed door she didn’t want opened. If her voice were human,  it would be filled with laughter.

Molly is quick as lightning and runs at the speed of blur. It took her 11 years to trust me holding her for anything more than 10 seconds. Since then, she can’t get enough of me. She’s persistent, knows what she wants, loves to get brushed and turns everyday activities – changing sheets, scrubbing the floor and bringing in the groceries – into a game. Molly loves to “read” by pawing at magazine pages front to back, back to front over and over again.

She has also managed to climb the brick wall in the family room to the ceiling, jump from the kitchen floor to the top of the refrigerator and hide on top of the basement ductwork hours before her vet appointment. Somehow, she and MacKenzie, her littermate sister and friend for 14 years, wordlessly communicated that it was a day to hide.

There were two cat beds, two cat dishes and two of their favorite catnip toy of a dog’s face, but neither ever claimed one as their own. Thankfully, with no human training, neither of them ever tried to get outside, walk on the counters or climb onto the table.

When someone went into the bathroom they anchored each side of the door like stone lions at a mansion. These days Molly sits lengthwise in front of it. It seems as if her sprit has withered since MacKenzie died

At first Molly would start each day in what seemed to be a search for her sister. She sleeps in some of MacKenzie’s favorite spots and pushes through the stairway spindles like her sister did reaching for a kiss on the top of her forehead. One day I was deleting audio files and came across one of MacKenzie, who loved to chat. Molly dashed in and looked up with hopeful eyes.

I think it’s almost time to search for a sister.

– Marylynn G. Hewitt

Remembering MacKenzie

MacKenzie was purring, her eyes were expectant and her little tail straight up when I peered into the pet carrier to meet her and her littermate, Molly. They were 12 weeks old, born June 12, 1996, and were so tiny a Tupperware sandwich container served as their litter box on their flight from Florida. (Neither one of them has ever weighed more than 9 pounds.)

My friend saw their mother being tossed into a canal by teen boys. She plucked out the cat, brought her to a vet and was told the six-month old cat was pregnant. MacKenzie and Molly were among the seven kittens in the litter.

MacKenzie was a sweetheart. At night she loved burrowing under the covers nestling into my right armpit, purring as I fell asleep. For 14 years, she was my appreciative shadow.

I heard her hiss only once. She and Molly were still little fluff balls when I accidentally stepped on one of their tails. I took off my shoes and a few moments later they were both standing at the back of the high heels hissing.

MacKenzie was a sensitive sort. She veered clear of anything with a strong fragrance – from oranges to hair spray. She spent 28 days at the vets after being spayed, allergic first to the stitches and then staples before finally healing.

And then there was the fiddle. I couldn’t expect anyone else to enjoy it when I didn’t much enjoy the sound myself. While Molly would run and hide, MacKenzie sat and cried every time I played. Then she’d throw up and go downstairs. (A real confidence booster!) At a checkup, the vet diagnosed stress-induced vomiting and asked when she threw up. “Every time I play the fiddle,” I said, cringing. MacKenzie stayed there for two days on IVs. I returned home and put my violin and brand-new pernambuco bow away.

She was beautiful on the inside as well as out with her warm brown patches offset by dabbles of orange and white stripes.

Her favorite hiding place was under the living room couch but she’d dash out when she heard it was time for a “blessing,” which always ended with a kiss on the forehead. She also delighted in a massage from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail and in having her belly kissed.

Among the other things MacKenzie loved were her bed at the wall window where she could watch birds, sitting in the kitchen window, naps in the sun, drinking from a cup, being brushed — and me! She’d sit on the back of the couch and head butt me every once in a while or pat me on the shoulder. No matter where or when I worked in the garden, I could look up and see her sweet face watching from one of the windows.

MacKenzie loved to play in water and would sit and wait until someone turned on the bathroom sink so she could drink it flowing from the tap. She’d wait for the shower door to slide open so she could jump in and lap up any dripping water. When she’d hear the furnace humidifier click on, she’d run down the basement to play in the water as it drained into the laundry tub.

She’d sit in watch every evening and greet me at the door, walking in a figure-8 pattern, tail held high, waiting to be petted. Then she’d run off ready for her favorite game – hide-and-seek.

I’d been out of town for nearly two weeks this fall and on the first night home, she crawled under the covers, snuggled up and let out a most-grateful and long-awaited sigh.

Four days later, on Sept. 30, a mass caused labored breathing. An X-ray showed it was either an enlarged heart or a cancerous mass. The vet said either one would have a complicated surgery, painful recovery and a grave prognosis. MacKenzie purred as she snuggled into the crook of my arm. Peacefully she left. I knew she was gone as the purring waned.

– Marylynn G. Hewitt