Dobie

dobieIf we were having coffee today I’d admit I’m worried about Dobie’s health.  One of our many cats, Dobie has had the hardest time of it.  MasterCat First-Class Bailey had a serious knee injury and surgery about 10 years ago but he recovered nicely.  A few others have been to the vet for minor problems over the years.  Ah, but Dobie has had chronic issues since a very young age.  He is prone to urinary tract issues.  This happens with neutered male cats sometimes.  I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting the symptoms.

The real problem is the fact that we have many cats and a dog. It is almost impossible to keep him on the straight and narrow, food-wise.  His biggest problem is also his greatest love … dry food.  He just can’t eat it without eventually going over the edge. To the other cats’ dismay, their dry food intake is limited as well.  I don’t know why, but cats really seem to like dry food.  I think it is the crunch.

Anyway, I look for the symptoms. If I see him licking “himself” a lot, notice him straining in the cat box, or even worse, straining just about anywhere, I know he’s heading down the road to bad things. It doesn’t take too long before you can see he is just not feeling well at all and sometimes he will begin to vocalize his pain.  Usually, it is a combination.

The worst case is a total blockage. It is a serious medical situation and can result in renal failure and death.  It’s not an immediate problem, but once blocked the clock is ticking and it doesn’t take more than a couple of days.  Of course even if it isn’t an emergency, if he is so uncomfortable he’s making painful noises, it is high time to get him some relief.

The day to day routine is wet food only, plus a regular dose with a type of cat-treat with various compounds including cranberry to acidify his urine to prevent the formation of the crystals that tend to form in his bladder.  I’ve tried to keep him on premium cat food but it gets expensive and he doesn’t like most premium cat foods.  The few brands he craves are available at only a few stores around here and they are not particularly convenient.  Cost should be no object since sometimes the vet bills can be enormous.

Still, with so many animals, poor Dobie gets tired of his own routine and that is a hard thing to police.  I’ve even seen him crunching down on dry dog food if I let my guard down. Often, he just balks at his special “treats” and the other cats go on alert when they see him getting individualized treatment.  Of course, they all love those treats and will gobble then down whole.  I usually have to break them down into smaller chunks to get him to eat them.

I had a hunch he was developing a problem last Thursday and was watching him closely. Yesterday the  “licking” began and last night I noticed him take “the position” and yep, that was on the bed and I wasn’t fast enough.  Luckily his mood was still good and he still had a good appetite.  He also got quite a bit out. Not great for the linens, but great that he wasn’t totally blocked.  I got his treats down him at the full dose level and gave him some anxiety medication that helps ease the stress that makes it worse (if he can’t go he gets frantic and tries harder and harder).  So he’s at the vet today, and will hopefully provide a urine sample before they close.  There are prescription foods that actually break down the crystals (which he hates but he will at least eat the dry food). The urine sample would also indicate not only crystals but also infection. About half the time there’s been an infection, so we’ll see if he needs antibiotics.

So, slurp down your coffee, I need to be ready for when the vet calls.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … http://thefensk.com

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Summer Reading Sale!!!

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Time to load your electronic media for your summer reading pleasure.
Escape from the stress and hassle of your vacation
by reading about someone else’s stress and hassle:  Catch The Fever!
Both Kindle Books $1.99 each, June 17 through June 23
http://www.thefensk.com/spec.html

Did you know … you don’t need a Kindle device to read these books?
You can get a free Kindle reading app for your iPad, tablet, phone, or computer.
Read standing in line, waiting for a table, wondering where your wife/husband is … you can even pretend to be working while you are reading!

 

Try and Try Again

img_7994-1If we were having coffee today I’d tell you something of my experience with the toughest challenge about being an author.  Writing a novel or any book is really hard and revision is even harder … but marketing kicks me in the proverbial rear end every time.

My philosophy … try anything.

For Father’s Day, I bought myself a promotion on a very popular twitter site hosted by someone named Lacey London.  She tweets awesome and funny things every day and has over a hundred thousand followers.  This is a one-time event.  I’m just curious.

I’m not much on scientific controls, so I’ve piggy-backed a separate price promotion as well.  I call it my Summer Reading eBook Sale.  It runs all week on Amazon, starting Sunday, June 17.  The thought is to entice responders to the tweet with a sale price, but I’ll also do a Twitter campaign of my own, pushing the special price on both my books for people who like to read on vacation.  I guess this post qualifies as part of that promotion as well.  But hey, it’s what I’m doing this week.

Yes, this is all on ebooks.  While doing promotions, people often tell me they don’t like ebooks, they like physical books.  I’ll tell you this, I have zillions of physical books but I also have zillions of ebooks. In one instance they are crushing the foundation of my house, in the other instance, I just have to manage electronic storage.

Another thing people tell me is they don’t want to have to buy a special device. Here’s the deal.  I have a tablet.  A lot of people have iPads.  Almost everybody has a phone and most have larger screens these days.  Just load the free Kindle app from Amazon or the free Nook app from Barnes & Noble (Kobo has one too and iBooks is built into iPads and iPhones) and you are ready to go.  The “I like the feel of a book in my hands” comments are solved on tablets with a good cover.  Amazon and B&N charge way too much for theirs, but I’ve found great aftermarket covers, you just have to look for them.  Ever get stuck somewhere where you have to kill some time and you wish you’d brought a book?  EBooks solve that problem.  Anyway, my novels are available in paperback too, they just aren’t on sale.  Available from the sale link.

On my sale page, I also mention my cookbook.  It’s only 99 cents so it is always on sale.  The best thing about pushing the cookbook is the fact that it has quite a number of dishes that would enhance anybody’s Fourth of July menu.  Especially the “potato salad secret.”  They are mostly my own recipes, centered around the theme of the Mossback Cafe; it is a central setting in both novels.  Remember what I said earlier, about wishing I had brought a book?  I love having it on the Kindle app on my phone when I am grocery shopping and get a hankering for one of those recipes; I just pull up the cookbook and I can review the recipes.

Oh, that secret thing?  It’s something I stumbled upon about forty years ago.  I don’t think people believe me.  At first glance it seems counter-intuitive yet, ironically, it is also logically appropriate because it involves a simple ingredient.  It was one of those happy accidents.  I made a huge potato salad for an informal wedding with a potluck. I was at best a fledgling cook and didn’t much know what I was doing and I did this simple thing on a whim.  At the wedding,  I was almost embarrassed because I had little old ladies following me around asking for the recipe. Really, I just threw it together. People were practically cratering the bowl scraping every last remnant.  It took me a while to realize that although the potato salad was pretty conventional, it was just that one ingredient that pushed it over the edge.

Nope, no hints here, but I will tell you that although the cookbook is 99 cents on Amazon, it is free at smashwords.com.  There is also a recipe for a coffee cake in the cookbook that is so addictive two different readers have mentioned that fact in reviews on Amazon and Smashwords.  Hey, coffee cake; I guess that brings us back to our coffee share here so I better wrap things up … have a wonderful Father’s Day!  Please don’t make him buy dinner.

I’d love it if you would share my links and, of course, check out all three books.  The sale price starts tomorrow (sale on UK Amazon too!)  I’m @thefensk on twitter.

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in NC.  His summer special can be found at http://thefensk.com/spec.html

Pining for the Fjords

fiordIf we were having coffee today I’d tell you a little something about pining for the fjords.  You’ve probably heard that expression before.  It’s from one of my favorite Monty Python routines … The Parrot.  I think of that every time I catch sight of a pet gazing off into space, I say they are pining for the fjords.

I happened to catch this photo the other day.  It’s our dog, Daisy, pining for the fjords.  It was a hard picture to capture because every time she did this and I grabbed my phone and tried to get up and get into position her attention was diverted and I lost the moment.  Danged beagle in her, I guess.

Ah, but not long after I got this shot  (at high magnification)  I had to go out to the car and … well, I saw the rest of the story.  She wasn’t pining for the fjords at all.

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She was thinking “let’s have chicken tonight!”

This was what was going on directly outside that window.  The neighbors have a lot of chickens and they can’t seem to contain them.  Not just chickens. Guinea Fowl too.  Every trip outside is a new adventure for both of us. I’m sure she aspires to embrace these birds but let me tell you, that is ONE BIG ROOSTER.  You don’t want to go there, Daisy.  Believe me.

Sigh, at least our tick populations are way down.


Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.
http://thefensk.com

Squirrel Armageddon

evilIf we were having coffee today I guess it would be high time I told you about my experience with Squirrel Armageddon.  That’s right.  I’m talking about evil, vindictive squirrels.

I was reminded of this the other day when I saw some television commercial that featured a number of squirrels all gathered in a tree and they were ganging up on a guy and pelting him and his car with pine cones.  It is amazing the horrors that can be dredged up from something so mundane.

Years ago in Austin, Texas I lived next to a park that stretched along a creek in a narrow band for about a mile or so.  Most weekends I’d take a walk down the length of this park and back.  My garage apartment was right at the edge of a wider area of the park that was nicely wooded and included tennis courts and a playground and at the end of my walk I’d usually saunter across this area back to my place.

One quiet Sunday I was finishing my rounds and as I entered the far edge of the playground I heard a loud noise over near my house.  My next-door neighbor’s dog was chasing a squirrel in the yard.  The squirrel managed to get away but not before it let off a loud frantic alarm screech.  In seconds, in every tree in the park, every squirrel in the area descended and started chirping and flicking their tails, not at the miscreant dog mind you, but at me.  The dog was long gone, show’s over for him.  These guys were all focused on yours truly, the only other living thing in the park.

I don’t know if you’ve ever really heard a squirrel alarm, so I found one on YouTube that sounds pretty close to what I remember.  https://youtu.be/i6IR0JmfkvQ … fast forward to about 43 seconds in.  Close your eyes and let it sink in, then multiply it by hundreds and add in spooky echoing effects from all the trees on an otherwise still Sunday morning. Yeah, I think that would be pretty close.

Don’t forget, they were focusing all their attention on me, every last one of them, their tails flicking, their evil, dark squirrel eyes sizing me up, re-positioning themselves to continue focusing on me as I warily crept across the park, at this point uncertain if the intimidation might possibly turn into action.  I have to admit I thought of that fearsome bunny in Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

This cacophony continued until well after I fumbled with my keys and entered the safety of my apartment.  I’m sure great-great grandchildren squirrels in that park still recount tales of their ancestors fighting and winning the battle of Sunday morning.  Brrrrrr.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina.  http://thefensk.com for more information.

Ahhh! Spiders!

spider2If we were having coffee today I’d hope I didn’t gross you out but I want to talk about spiders.  Well, to be honest, I just want to tell you about finding spiders.  It’s really no big deal.  One of the coolest things I learned in the Girl Scouts was finding spiders.  (Yeah, that’s right, Girl Scouts, I was a Girl Scout, but that’s another story).

I was reminded of this recently when I found one of those clip-on-the-brim-of-your-hat flashlights.  It’s great for taking out the dog at night.  As she was sniffing around trying to find that one, special, ideal little spot for, well, you know … I was looking around.  I saw these little lights shining back at me.  Tiny little lights.  One here, two there, another one over yonder.  And I thought back to learning this trick in the Girl Scouts.  [Okay, when my daughter was a Brownie I was a troop leader for camping trips and we had to attend troop leader camp training.  If you are a troop leader, you are a Girl Scout, okay?]

Anyway, if you hold a bright flashlight right between your eyes and shine it out six to fifteen feet away, slowly sweeping the beam, you will soon be aware of these tiny little bright lights peering back at you.  Sometimes you might hit a dewdrop reflection but the brighter more distinctive lights are spiders.  Or to be more accurate spider eyes. These spiders are actually saying, “here’s looking at you, kid.”

Their retinas reflect light like a cat’s eye, but they’re a little different in that they direct it directly back at the source.  During the Apollo missions, they deployed laser reflectors on the surface of the moon that do the same thing. If a laser is pointed at the right coordinates, the light will bounce back right to the source (moon landing hoaxers forget about this simple proof we were there).

Anyway, the hat brim light is in the perfect place to do this same trick.  Actually, it’s ideal because it is stable and very bright.  The little lights can quickly disappear if the spider turns away but the coolest thing is when they are on the move and you see that little light dancing over the uneven ground of the backyard as they make their way through the grass.  It’s a fun trick to show kids (which is why they showed us this in Scout camp training). If for some reason you don’t believe me, you can hone in and get close and you’ll see it.  Even a very tiny spider causes a profound reflection.

WARNING: If you are deathly afraid of spiders never do this!  You will never go outside again!  Ever!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. Find info about him and his books at http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee Update

pinkribbonIf we were having coffee today, I’d be inclined to give you a little update.  About two months ago  I posted about going to a local animal shelter (Avoiding Shelter) while looking for our son’s lost dog.

I included a sad story about a dog named Daisy being surrendered while we were there.  Although we were very moved by the experience and thought about rescuing her, we found out she was quickly adopted and were hopeful that she had found her forever home.

I’ve found out a little more about her in the meantime.  This shelter posts pictures of the pets that they have.  I had still been periodically looking for my son’s lost dog (still lost!).  A little over three weeks after we had seen Daisy at the shelter, she popped up again on the shelter’s website. I called and inquired about her.

“Is there anything wrong with her?”

“Not a thing.  It’s people that are her problem,” the nice lady at the shelter told me and gave me a little more info on her past.

The owners who originally surrendered her in February had no real explanation. They’d had her for four years and had adopted her at the shelter.  After that, she was quickly adopted, then returned after ONE DAY.  That was the day we saw her. Another couple adopted her pretty quickly.  As the story goes, they tried to sneak her into their apartment but weren’t allowed to have a dog and of course, they didn’t get away with it. After three weeks they either had to move or get rid of the dog.  That was when she showed back up at the shelter and on the website.  So, within five weeks, Daisy had been surrendered at the shelter three times.  This last time she was fostered and I had a good long talk with her foster mom.  She too was at a loss to understand Daisy’s problem finding a home and was quite fond of her.

I think you can guess the rest of the story:
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She’s a bit blurry-eyed … I woke her up for that picture.  She’s spent a little over a month with us so far. She’s an outstanding dog.  She’s five years old, is house trained, is completely obsessed with our neighbor’s chickens, guinea-fowl, and ducks (who all seem to love to visit, hopefully eating ticks in our yard), and is trying to figure out how to be friends with our existing clowder of cats.  She’s trying, but the cats still want to keep her at paw’s length. The vet says she is a beagle/spaniel mix.

She is just now starting to really feel at home with us.  I don’t blame her for some of her confusion.  She’s bursting with love for just about everyone she meets.  I hope she doesn’t do that with burglars. (“Hi, take anything thing you want!”)
When she’s really happy to see you, she doesn’t just wag her tail, she wags the entire back end of her body.

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in NC.  My lead picture is still a pink ribbon.  My wife is mending and I want to thank all of you who responded to my last posting.  Please give to breast cancer research … even a little goes a long way.

Still Basking

img_6284If we were having coffee today, I’d realize I hadn’t seen you in a week so I guess I’d simply have to mention my latest review.  It’s a little bit of a redo since I’ve already posted about it but consider this: the review was so good, I think it deserves two posts.

If an author is a scone, reviews are the butter and jam.  They are a source of validation, although they can sometimes be the source of consternation.  The best reviews are unsolicited, but writers can also submit books for review.  I hope that doesn’t surprise you but surely you didn’t think those newspaper or magazine book reviews were random, did you?  It is always a gamble.  Not every book is for every person so you never quite know how your book will be received.

In a way, this was a random review since the reviewer expressed interest in the book.  Some reviews, like on Amazon or other sales outlets are pretty much a surprise. “Oooo, look, a new review!” I’ll say when I notice it.  But when you submit to a reviewer the waiting game starts.  There is a period of anticipation as you wonder, will they like it?  Will they not like it?  Will the simply post something like, “Meh … yeah, it’s a book,” or “wow, what a lot of words.” But wow, when it is finally out and you read things like, “Thomas Fenske is an incredible talent and an author whose work radiates throughout,” it tends to make one’s heart beat a little harder for a few minutes.

But that’s just me. You can check it out for yourself here.

I guess it sounds like I’m reviewing the review, but really, I’m humbled by the reviewer’s reaction and elated. I want to share it from the highest mountaintop.  But I guess quietly talking over a steaming cup of coffee will have to do.  Now, for some reason I’m hungry.  Scone?

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Thomas Fenske is an author living in NC. He encourages you to leave reviews for your reads … they are important to an author.  A simple review on Amazon can be a big deal to the success of the book.  It doesn’t have to be long, “really enjoyed it” will do.  Even “Meh” helps … it’s something of a numbers game.
Check out his web page at http://thefensk.com

Avoiding shelter …

Public domain image, royalty free stock photo from www.public-domain-image.com

If we were having coffee today I’d tell you about the lost dog.  It belongs to my son’s family, slipped out a week ago when a gate was apparently left ajar.

Sadly, Bert is a bit long in the tooth, an older dog with a variety of mild illnesses.  Partially blind, not too worldly.  Poof.  Gone.

We’ve joined the search, but I’ve been here before and it is harder than trying to find the proverbial needle in a haystack.  We’ve all done all the usual things.  It is just amazing how completely they can disappear in such a short period of time. I half-expect them to show up on the island of odd socks or the valley of the missing coat-hangers.  They disappear that completely.

They live three towns west of us, and the shelter for that county/town is on the eastern side of town; it is actually closer to us than it is to them.  So, we’ve been going to the shelter.  There are no happy dogs or cats at the shelter.  Excited, yes. Running the gauntlet in the hall of the German Shepherds is evidence of that.  There was no Bert, either.

When we first arrived, there was a woman there with a quiet dog sitting patiently by her side.  I thought she was perhaps in the midst of adopting.  Quite the opposite.

As we returned we witnessed her handing over the leash and walking out the door.  The dog moved to follow her, was stopped by the leash, looked back and then forward at the closing door, a look of total confusion on her face. Then we could see a distinct look of realization and resignation flash over her face.  Welcome to the shelter, right?

We just lost a dog last July, by natural causes.  We have ten cats.  We are overrun.  But we were sorely tempted by this dog, Daisy.

We followed up on Daisy’s status.  She was almost immediately adopted.  We’re both happy for her, but we’re also just a little sad.  We got totally involved and invested in that few seconds.  But we’re both hopeful that she found her forever home.

Bert’s still missing.  We’re checking the shelter online now.  They update their webpage hourly, which we know for sure now.

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You can find out more about Thomas Fenske at http://thefensk.com … the Kindle version of his novel THE FEVER is on sale for $1.99 for the rest of February.