It all came down to a flurry of fur and claws

Okay, so maybe he’s not exactly intimidating.

Well, last night, it went down. Barley and the cats, actually one cat. The big fluffy one.

The three of us, Barley, Dougal, and I, were coming back from a bathroom break (theirs, not mine) at about 5 p.m. We were walking on the sidewalk between the houses (the houses are in rows, back to back, with a walkway between and about 5 feet of yard on each side) when I saw the neighbor’s cats about 20 yards away.

Looking back, I probably should have just turned around and went back to the front of the house to let the boys in. However, after weeks of torturing my poor Barley, I figured those cats might benefit from seeing what kind of macho they’re up against. Maybe if they saw Barley without the barrier of the screen or glass door, they might think twice before tormenting him for hours, teasing him and getting his blood pressure up.

Initially, my plan worked. There were two black cats and they clearly saw us coming. One darted immediately back into the neighbor’s house. The other waited a few seconds, but followed. I smiled in triumph.

Unfortunately, my celebration was a bit premature.

Out from under a nearby porch, leaped a third cat, the big fluffy one, in a blur of fur. He was running. Fast. I assumed he was sprinting to get back into his house, but he never turned. He was charging right for us! Before I could retreat, the fight was on.

That crazy-ass cat attacked my two dogs! There was all kinds of ruckus. Every time I’d pull the boys back, the cat kept coming, fluff and claws and screaming noise. I was calling for help when the cat jumped to a fence to get a better attack spot.

The neighbor’s daughter, hearing the commotion, came out to get the cat, but it was too scary for her. She refused to touch it and called her mom instead. The cat looked crazy. Its long hair was sticking straight up and its eyes were full of rage.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. The cat may be emotionally damaged, but physically it was fine. Same with my boys, who seemed to look at the whole thing like a big adventure. Barley finally got a piece of that cat. It was the claws and teeth, but I don’t think he’s at all particular. The real test will be if that cat comes back to my sliding door. The sun is shining and I suspect I’ll know before too long.

Some nights, the dog bed looks pretty good

Occasionally, I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m unable to get out of bed. It’s not temporary paralysis or anything equally sinister. Rather, it’s that I’m pinned into position by two sleeping dogs. Dougal is on my left side under my arm, while Barley is on the right at about knee-hip level. I have to wiggle and shimmy my body out from between them, a process that is ridiculous when I’m half-asleep and desperate for the bathroom.

Getting back into the bed is impossible. I don’t even try to regain my former place. I end up claiming the far side until Dougal wakes up, realizes I’ve left his side, and seeks to burrow in again under my left arm or directly on my face. Barley, however, likes to sleep horizontally in the middle of the bed, thereby taking up as much space as possible with his 24 pounds. Now that he’s deaf, there’s almost no waking him. Better to contort around him and hope for the best.

By the time I got Dougal a few years ago, Barley was already a lost cause. He had been sleeping on the bed for nearly all of his nine years (he’s now 12), so training him not to get on the bed wasn’t going to happen. I vowed to start fresh with Doogie. He was not going to sleep on the bed. I was going to have the bed to myself at some point, even if I knew it would be years down the road.

I think that lasted maybe two weeks. Dougal is a smart puppy and he knew he only had to stay on the floor until I fell asleep. Then, he could jump on the bed and stay. Most nights, I didn’t even notice until the morning. Back then, he didn’t try to burrow in next to me; he kept a safe distance to ensure I kept sleeping. Eventually, I gave up trying to get him to sleep in one of the many dog beds on the floor. He is now a full-time bed dog.

As much as I love cuddling them, I have the occasional “there are too many damn dogs on this bed” tantrums. Like my attempts at training, the tantrums are defiantly ignored. At some point, it may be me curled up on the floor in a dog bed, luxuriating in the solitude.

The hidden meaning of dental disasters

It happens several times a year. I’ll be doing something completely mundane, say working or watching tv at home, when suddenly a tooth will fall out. I’ll spit it into my hand, then put it back in place holding it with my tongue, when another falls out and another and another until I’m holding my hand over my mouth, feeling all the loose teeth in a jumble with my tongue, panicking and not knowing what to do. The sensory experience of it, the detail, is horrifying.

Then, I wake up.

It’s the most terrifying dream and I’ve had it a handful of times every year for as many years as I can remember. Every time, it feels like the dream is actually happening and I wake up in a panic searching for my teeth. It’s very unsettling.

When I plug it into my Google machine, it turns out to be a common dream. Interpretations usually include fear of getting older or of losing one’s looks, lack of power in a relationship, or failure to address a serious long-term problem. I don’t know if any of that is true (or which one since they all could fit absolutely everyone, I’m sure), but it feels like it should mean something. After all, if dreams are just random chemicals sparking random images in my unconscious brain, why would I keep getting the same dream over and over again? Unless my brain is stuck pumping out the same combination of juices, there has to be a reason this dream keeps tormenting me.

I was wondering if any of you have any recurring dreams and, if so, what they are. Do you think they have any meaning?

Tranquility (with a side of earplugs) at Snow Lake

Snow Lake

Yesterday, I went on one of the most beautiful hikes of my entire life. There were sweeping mountain vistas, old growth forests, wildflowers and interesting moss, and a sparkling blue lake at the end. Unfortunately, this was also one of the most beautiful hikes in a lot of people’s lives.

The trail was so crowded with loudmouths! There was the leather woman with the too-short shorts who declared over and over that Zumba changed her life 10 years ago. There was the milquetoasts who went on and on about the SUV they just traded in for a slightly smaller SUV. There was the church group that loudly discussed congregationalism (I have no idea what that means, but it was necessary for them to speak loudly enough for god to hear). There was the woman who was so invested in her story about her father’s wedding to her stepmother and the emotional pain it caused, that she didn’t realize her friend had stopped on the trail and was calling her name.

As beautiful as the hike was, I had a few rage moments. After all, who comes to the wilderness to talk the entire way? That’s why coffee jesus invented Starbucks. I won’t even get started on the guy who insisted on making his own birdcalls at the lake. So annoying, especially for the actual birds, I’m sure.

My irritation aside, the hike was totally worth it. We hiked to Snow Lake, which is off Snoqualmie Pass. It was a perfect day with temps inching towards 80 and light breezes. The sky was a bit hazy from the wildfires nearby, but it was still beautiful. I will definitely go back, hopefully on a day that’s a bit less crowded with jabbermouths. I’ll try to get some pictures up on Facebook this week.

If nothing else, I can rejoice in the fact that, after four hours in the sun yesterday, my farmer tan moved up a solid inch and a half. The new territory is admittedly a bit sunburned, but I’m sure it will turn into a slightly less red version, which I refer to as a tan. Woohoo!

Eleven years is too long and not long enough

Every year, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, I spend the evening pasted to the tv, seeing and hearing things that make it difficult to sleep. So much of it is guilt. I wonder why those people died and why something so terrifying happened to 3,000 normal people.

Countless hours of video survives from that day, video that captures the sensory experience of what it was like to be there. You can see and feel so much of it, and it’s absolutely terrifying. Documentaries now are cobbling together video footage taken by regular people, eliminating the standard voiceovers, and just letting the experiences play out in a very honest and powerful way. It effectively brings an event to life, but sometimes it feels too real.

This year, I watched two programs on the History Channel, one about the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks, including the recovery and cleanup efforts, and the cluster that developed when people all over the country tried to help, the other about the never-mentioned third building, the 22-story hotel that was sandwiched between the twin towers. Did you know there was a hotel there? I had no idea!

Needless to say, it was a tough night. I get so emotional about the attacks, even 11 years later. I wonder if anyone else does. Do you watch the tv specials about the attacks? Do you watch the coverage of the memorials? Last year, for the 10th anniversary, did anyone see the replay CNN did of the live news coverage from that day? I couldn’t step away from it, to be honest. Seeing it live was horrifying enough. But, knowing what I know now, with a decade of perspective, two horrible wars, and nearly 7,000 more Americans dead, it was even more difficult to watch the second time.

Now, hearing the news out of Libya and Egypt, I’m starting to wonder if there will come a time when we won’t be at war. It feels like it will never end.

A cloudy, wet day at Spray Park

Spray Park at Mt. Rainier National Park on a very cloudy day

Seattle finally broke its dry weather streak. Two days shy of the all-time dry spell record (52 days), we had rain Sunday, the same day we’d planned to hike to Spray Park, which is rumored to be one of the most beautiful spots in Mt. Rainier National Park. The hike was fun, but the views were grey and soupy. We saw no sweeping mountain vistas, but I’m sure we’ll go back again another day. From what little we did see, it was really amazing.

One of the many creeks and small waterfalls along the trail

There was a very large waterfall, Spray Falls, at about the halfway mark, though my attempts at a photo were foiled by some very cute scouts eating their sandwiches on the only accessible viewing spot. I’m not bitter, though. Those kids were adorable. Spray Park itself was a series of alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers. If you go, be prepared for a slog. It was listed as a moderate hike, but it was pretty tough with the last ¾ of a mile climbing a steep grade. Plus, to even get to the trailhead, you have to drive 17 miles on a dirt road that feels like an alligator’s back. Bumpy stuff.

I’m trying to pack in as many high elevation hikes I can while the weather holds out. Already it’s feeling very much like fall here. I still have a few spots I need to get to before they’re socked in with snow. Where did the summer go? Sheesh. Suddenly, it feels like there’s no time left to do anything.

What are you scrambling to do before summer ends?

More of and less of, a pair of threes

To my list of things I want to see more of, I’m adding three women who I’d love to call my girl crushes, except that doing so would minimize the point of why I love them so much. If I could somehow get them to replace Katy Perry and the real housewives of wherever, the world would be a much better place.

• Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. She’s a powerful, elegant woman fighting the good fight for women’s choice and health. It shocks me how much of the political discussion right now is about issues I could have sworn were resolved before I was even born. Are we really debating women’s access to birth control? Really? It’s almost too ridiculous to believe.

• Michelle Obama. I think every woman in American wants to be Michelle Obama, especially after her incredible speech at the DNC earlier this week. She is such an amazing woman. If I had daughters, I’d want them to have Michelle Obama posters in their rooms. She’s an incredible role model. I love her.

• Rachel Maddow from MSNBC. She is so damn smart and adorable. She asks really tough questions in the most inoffensive way. It’s impossible not to love her. I think even a few Republicans might love her. That is, if they ever like anyone who isn’t a rich white man.

As for things I’d like to see less of, I only have a few today.

• Begging from my alma mater. Between the phone calls and the email solicitations, I’ve really had enough of my alma mater asking me for money. It’s been 13 years since I graduated from college and I’ve never donated a dime. It’s time for them to move on. They got enough of my money for four straight years. I’m starting to get angry!

• Snooki’s baby. I’ve seen the parents, so I already know the baby looks like a Monchichi. I don’t need to see the pictures. No more Snooki. No more Snooki baby.

• Quinoa salad. I may have hit the wall. I’ve been obsessed with quinoa salads for several weeks and I never thought the day would come when I wouldn’t want to have one for lunch. Well, that day came. I’m tired of quinoa salad.

Cats are not intimidated by my scrappy senior

Barley takes a breather during a hike.

The Seattle area is working towards a new record for the number of consecutive days without rain. We’re upwards of 40 right now; the record is 52. The blond woman with fake eyelashes on the news is fairly certain we’ll beat the record, but I have little faith in blond women who wear fake eyelashes to work.

For Barley, these sunny days have prompted a new obsession, the neighbor’s cats. My neighbor has two cats, a skinny black one and a fluffy multicolored one. When the days are sunny, the neighbor lets the cats roam around the back of their house. I don’t know enough about cats to know why they don’t take off, but they stay fairly close. Unfortunately, close is a bit too close to my house.

They wander over into my back area (not a yard by any means) and lay on the ground right outside my sliding glass door. They roll on their backs, lounge in the sun, and lick assorted body parts, all within a few feet or inches of my glass door. Barley is going insane. He barks like crazy, but the cats know he can’t get them and they seem to enjoy the attention. It’s so darn rude. (I know the cats know when he can get them because, if the glass door is closed, they’ll sit outside forever. If the glass door is open and only the screen is closed, the cats take off as soon as they see Barley. They’re very smart little devils.)

I really want to spray the cats with water, but I don’t want to make trouble with my neighbor. I’d be mad if she sprayed my dogs with water, and technically the cats aren’t doing anything wrong. They’re just being cats, though in this case that means tormenting my senior citizen dog and giving him high blood pressure. Not even treats will lure Barley away from the back door now. He sits for hours watching and waiting, just in case the cats come out. He’s obsessed. I just worry that the stress might not be good for him. Does anyone have any ideas? Is this a big deal? Or, could this be a good thing for him, like a hobby? Is there any way to get the cats to stop torturing him? I know nothing about cats.