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Monday, April 26, 2010

Cat-o-Nine Tails and Lives...

Going away to vet school was a big move for me.  I went "away" to undergrad but was only an hour and forty five minutes away from home at any given time.  In New England the states are so small compared to the Midwest, that I was three states away in that short distance.  I lived in Rhode Island and went to Franklin Pierce College in Southern New Hampshire.  So starting in Rhode Island, I would head through the entire state of Massachusetts, to my destination in Rindge, New Hampshire.  To make the same trip in Iowa, I would only be in the next county!  This short trip made it easy for me to head home for weekends, holidays, and special occasions.  During vet school, moving from Rhode Island to Iowa was a completely different story.  I was fortunate to have been able to go home for holidays and vacations, but I had to get used to not being able to head home any weekend I wanted to, no matter what the reason.

I coped with this separation by calling home routinely, twice a week.  My Mom was always glad to hear from me, but when the conversation started getting too long, she would say, "Ok, that's enough."  This was before the cell phone era (ok, I am dating myself), so each minute on the phone was a billed minute.  Mom figured one minute less on the phone, was money put towards my trips when I did get to come home or even towards my education. 

One night I was talking with my Mom on the phone.  The only phone we had was in the kitchen.  It was one of those phones that was physically attached to the wall (again, dating myself).  You were tethered to it by one of those curly cords and were very limited in the distance you could travel as we only had about a two foot cord on it.  This shortened any lengthy conversation any teenager might have because there was no privacy, and you had to sit down on a stool that was certainly not meant for long term use.  Mom stopped me in the midst of our conversation that evening by stating, "Hold on a minute, the cat's tail is on fire." 

There was no panic in her voice.  There was no urgency in the statement at all.  I hear the phone being placed down on the counter.  Meanwhile, I am on the other end of the phone panicking!  "Mom?! What do mean on fire??? MOM?!" 

A few moments later, she returns to the phone.  "It's okay, I put it out." she says very matter-of-factly and proceeds to continue with the previous conversation. 

My mind is in a frenzy, "Mom, what happened with the cat? Which cat was it?  How did it catch on fire?  Is it okay?  Does it need to go to the vet? How did you put it out?" 

Mom had lit a scented candle on the center of the stove.  Oreo, our longhair tuxedo cat, had pounced onto the counter and proceeded onto the stove to investigate Mom's supper which was still in a pan on the stove.  During the cat's investigation, her tail spent a moment too long hovering over the jarred candle, and burst into flame.  The cat was completely unaware of the danger it was in.

Mom witnessed the flame, walked to the stove, picked up the cat, carried her over to the faucet, and doused that tail under a cool stream of water before any harm was done.  The cat was safe, although agitated that it did not get a taste of  Mom's supper! 

The funniest part was my mother's calmness during and after what could have been a disaster!  What if the cat ran?  What if the cat was seriously injured and Mom could not catch her?  What if the cat jumped down and spread the fire throughout the house?  The possibility of damage to the cat, to the house, and potentially to my Mom is very sobering.

While I love scented candles for the fragrances they provide, I dislike the potential for danger that escorts them into the house.  With pets, children, and my swiss cheese-like memory, I worry about the risks of them getting knocked over or being forgotten and left to burn when no one is home.  I also happen to be married to a man who blows the candles out as fast as I can light them.  He worries about soot stains developing on the ceiling. Each time he blows them out, he declares "The wick is too long!  The wick is too long!" like Paul Revere declaring that the Red Coats are coming during his Midnight Ride.

Recently, a friend approached me about a new product, Scentsy flameless candles. From their website, "Scentsy Warmers use a low-watt bulb to melt specially formulated wax slowly, maximizing the fragrance time of the Scentsy Bar or Scentsy Brick. With no flame, soot, smoke or lead to worry about, the Scentsy system is a safe way to enjoy more than 80 delightful Scentsy fragrances."

The scents are fragrant and there are so many that everyone can find a favorite.  If your child sticks their fingers into the melted wax, it is completely safe.  It does not burn the skin.  It is comparable in temperature to a paraffin wax dip.  Warm but not dangerous.  There is no flame so if your furry feline knocks the unit over, there is no flame to spread.    The Scentsy burners are much more attractive than a half burned soot filled jar-o-candle. 

I can finally have a nice scent emanating throughout the house without the husband blowing out the flames, and without the fear of letting it burn too long or unsupervised.  The Scentsy plug-in has taken the place of our night light in the hall.  It provides plenty of light for the stairwell and we awaken to the scent of our preference each morning.  I am so enamoured with this product that our South Hamilton Animal Alliance is having a fundraiser with our local Scentsy representative. 

From now until May 30, we are holding a Scentsy products fundraiser.  You can view the products at .  When you arrive at this page, you will see a little box in the upper right hand corner labeled "My Open Parties".  Scroll through them to find the "South Hamilton Animal Alliance Fundraiser" then click on "Buy from Party".  You can then view the products, with styles that represent everything from animals to sports, contemporary to vintage, classic to country.  If you already own a Scentsy burner, stop in and order a few new scents!  The burners make wonderful gifts for showers, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and there is something to suit everyone's taste.  The only downside to buying them on the internet is that you cannot smell the fragrances. 

Rest assured that with each purchase, you will help us provide shelter and medical care for our animals in need, as well as make your home a safer place for your family, furry and otherwise.   If you order online, your order will be shipped directly to your shipping address, and the South Hamilton Animal Alliance will be credited for the sale.

You can visit our adoptable animals at . If you cannot find a Scentsy product that suits you, hopefully you will find a furry friend that will...

(Just an FYI... those of you who are Followers on this blog, thank you! If you want to receive the blog into your email inbox each time it is published, all you need to do is go to, and enter your name into the subscribe box on the upper right side of the page. Wait for the blog to send you a confirmation email, then reply and you will receive the blog when it is published. Much easier than you going to look for it! Please, continue to follow and please subscribe!   And don't forget to read some of the older ones...)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Hug for Junebug.

I have a close friend that I have been fortunate to have kept in touch with over the years.  We ran with completely different groups in high school but our friendship is one of the few that has sustained years of separation.  I have always felt that the two of us are oddly similar in nature, and yet completely different in so many other ways.  I have always felt close to her because of this.  When we talk, it is as though we just saw each other yesterday.

She has two beautiful children that are close to the ages of my kids.  June and her husband, David, are two of the same soul.  They are both vocal, outgoing, and boisterous.  Granted, sometimes these shared qualities can lead to conflict, and I am certain they had their fair share of that.  But both are so musically inclined and talented that it is almost like the two found each other in order to keep each other in tune!  Dave played the guitar at my wedding while June sang beside him.

June's and Dave's kids are every bit the lively characters that their families have been for generations. They are boisterous, energetic, beautiful, and lively. Their kids go through phases of looking more like one parent than the other, but truth be told, you can see both parents in their beautiful faces. Growing up in the same neighborhood as June, my family knew her family pretty well.  The last time I visited home, we had a cookout, and June brought the kids.  My sister pointed at June's daughter, and said, "Now that is a Jarvis" in reference to her athletic build, dark eyes, and exhuberent personality.  We both laughed as my family is hardly athletic and more introverted.

The Jarvis family was always active when we were growing up, camping, skiing, hockey, etc.  I envied that.  I envied how jovial, animated, and boisterous their family gatherings were.  I can remember tales of the kids skiing for the first time at the age of five, and they would ski between people's legs like a slalom!  In high school, I went skiing with them for the first time in my life, and had a great time, despite the minor concussion I received after sliding down the hill backwards not stopping until my head hit a rock!  Yeah, not kidding! Just another expression of the lack of athleticism inherent in my genes!

Dave was full of animation himself.  You couldn't help but love him for it.  He had a knack for sticking humor into almost any situation.

Right now this family is suffering.

Dave passed away from cancer a few weeks ago.  He was just 49 years old. 

June is having to deal with the loss of her husband, the loss of a co-parent, the loss of her best friend, and the loss of what has been her comfort zone for years.  On top of that, she is helping two kids cope with something that they are likely too young to fully understand. 

I cannot help but think of how much better it would be for me if I could just walk up to June and give her a big hug.  I say better for me, because I realize a hug from me won't heal her pain, or fix her problems, but it feels like the only way I can express my sorrow to her and my love for her.  I have been unable to do it through email or even on the phone.  The words just don't come.  I am not sure the "right" words actually exist. 

I hope June knows that even though there are times when her strength seems spent, that she has more strength within.  I have always admired her for her strength.  I just never thought she would need so much strength all at once. 

When I go to Dave's facebook page, his status is blank.  Dave was very vocal in life, and the blank status speaks volumes of what is now missed.   It is a blessing to see how many people take time to update his page with their blessings, sorrow, sympathy, and even sharing their daily events with him as though he is still on the other end of the computer. 

In one of June's favorite songs that she often sang with Dave accompanying her, are these words,

"Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me,
Somewhere over the rainbow"

June, someday the clouds will be far behind you.  Time will lessen the mourning and you will again be able to celebrate the humor and the joy that Dave lovingly brought into your life.  And it will be at that time that you will feel close to him again. 

That is your rainbow. 

Every rainbow has a little blue in it,
just remember to see all the other colors that Dave has left you in your life.

(Just an FYI... those of you who are Followers on this blog, thank you! If you want to receive the blog into your email inbox each time it is published, all you need to do is go to, and enter your name into the subscribe box on the upper right side of the page. Wait for the blog to send you a confirmation email, then reply and you will receive the blog when it is published. Much easier than you going to look for it! Please, continue to follow and please subscribe!)

Legless friends or foes...

I admit it.  I am not a big fan of snakes.  The other day, we found yet another snake in the back yard of our house.  Last fall my husband  found an entire litter of snakes squirming around together in our yard which gets quite wet during periods of high rainfall.  Prior to that, my employee, Miguel, had been installing paving stones in a donated kennel in the back yard of the clinic when he encountered a snake.  The more he tried to gently coax the snake away from the kennel area so he could continue working, the more the little thing LUNGED at the shovel he was using as a prod. 

I do not appreciate suddenly encountering snakes in nature.  I do not respond well to legless surprises.  But I have held snakes if they are under the control of another person, as long as they do not look me in the eye.  That is when I start to panic, when his eyes meet mine.  I do believe I know the origin of my fear of snakes.  Rikki Tikki Tavi.

For those of you who are unaware of Rikki Tikki Tavi, it is an animated cartoon that I watched several times on TV as a child.  It is about a young boy who rescues and befriends the cutest little mongoose in his garden. 

The mongoose plays in the garden and loves his boy, as all good pets do.  When the boy is confronted with a cobra,  the mongoose protects his boy and battles it out with the snake. The battle scene of course is enhanced with fierce animated eye contact between the adorable mongoose and the evil snake. 

I believe it was this battle scene that induced my fear of snake eyes... perhaps that is also why I haven't been to Vegas?  Even if I am holding the snake away from me, if it turns it's little head and looks at me in the eyes, I start to hyperventilate, tense up, and my eyes get as wide as golf balls.

I remember mountain bike riding with a friend of mine in high school in a local field.  I was riding a bike that was holding me about 2 1/2 feet off the ground, surely high enough to be safe from any critter that would be crossing my path with the intentions of attacking me.  Suddenly, across my path wiggles this horrible legless creature, and I am embarrassed to say, he was a rather tiny one.  I was certain he was after me!  I screamed like a baby, panicked wildly, making the front wheel of the bike wobble uncontrollably since my arms were trembling in such a manner that I was barely gripping the handle bars.  I literally almost fell off my bike!  Not the brightest thing to do when the thing you are fearful of is awaiting your arrival on the ground!  I did not fall of my bike, but I did have to stop and recompose myself after this dreadful attack.  I bet the poor little snake had to do the same thing, curled up in a ball, hidden safely in the grass after the incident,  asking his legless friend if he saw me try to attack him!

I studied alot of exotics medicine in veterinary school.  It was fascinating stuff, but rarely did I get a chance to use it.  I amputated some iguana toes due to malnutrition, and of course educated the owner's on the lizard's proper nutrition.  I have trimmed beaks, wings, and nails on birds.  I have neutered, treated infections,  and trimmed teeth on rabbits and guinea pigs.  I worked at the Roger Williams Park Zoo for a month during my fourth year in vet school (boy do I have tales to tell from that experience!).  I have caught injured wildlife and transported them to the Wildlife Care Clinic at Iowa State University.

But nothing will impress me more than Darth Vader.  Okay, so his name was not Darth Vader.  I don't know his name.  I never really fully entered the room, well, I did, but only long enough to say that I did enter the room.  He was a large snake, Python or Boa.  I am not sure which, but he was big.  His girth had to be 16+ inches in circumference.  It took two people to escort him into the hospital.  What was most eerie was his illness.  He had an upper respiratory infection that needed treatment and was the reason for his visit.  As you stood in the room, the snake would breathe.  A normally silent breath, was quite audible due to inflamation in the airways making a sound reminiscent of Darth Vader.  It was eerie and fascinating.  The snake was given an injection of antibiotics, and sent home with more medicine.  As far as I know, he did well.  As far as I know, so did I.

For those of you who read the previous blog, I want to add this information.  For those who did not read it, head on back! 

I went online to try to identify the snakes we have seen in the yard.  I have narrowed it down to either an

Eastern Garter Snake

or a Western Ribbon Snake

As I continued to read about snakes in Iowa, I found that while these little guys that I have become familiar with are not endangered, several snakes in Iowa are endangered, and some of them are venomous.

The Copperhead Snake and the Massasauga Rattlesnake are endangered Iowa snakes.  It is illegal to kill or collect these species in Iowa. They are venomous snakes. 

While snake bites, even venomous ones, are not mandated to be reported, there are an estimated 8,000 venomous snake bites per year within the US, up to 12 of them being fatal.  The Massasauga can deliver a fatal snake bite even hours after it is dead!  The Copperhead, although endangered in Iowa, is quite common in other areas of the country, so is not at risk of extinction.  Both of these potentially deadly snakes are  protected creatures by Iowa law.

It makes me wonder, with only one mountain lion sighting being confirmed in Iowa in five years (and that confirmation was through the killing of that cat), why mountain lions are not on Iowa's endangered species list and protected.  It is obvious to me that other potentially dangerous creatures make the protected list, so why not these cats?  Mountain Lions are responsible for less than one death per year within the entire US and Canada, and yet venomous snakes are responsible for approximately 12 deaths per year within the US alone.  We won't mention our friendly hunters this time around.

I am not suggesting that the venomous snakes should be removed from the endangered species list. Although I would rather not run into one of them on a long walk, I do think these creatures also have their place in nature.  Neither mountain lions nor snakes should be kept from the endangered list simply due to human risk, since they are both ecologically valuable creatures. 

If a person can be fined or imprisoned for killing a poisonous snake, I would think the same should be true for the unprovoked killing of a mountain lion perched in a tree.

To quote the DNR, "The tolerance or intolerance of humans will dictate whether they (mountain lions) will ever be able to get a foot hold in the state. Some sort of legal status in the Iowa Code will be necessary. In the meantime, their possible presence in Iowa has generated considerable excitement both pro and con and only time will tell whether they once again will become designated wildlife in the state."

Now, I think I will go to bed, and have nightmares about snakes.  Good night.

(Just an FYI... those of you who are Followers on this blog, thank you! If you want to receive the blog into your email inbox each time it is published, all you need to do is go to, and enter your name into the subscribe box on the upper right side of the page. Wait for the blog to send you a confirmation email, then reply and you will receive the blog when it is published. Much easier than you going to look for it! Please, continue to follow and please subscribe!)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I am not lion...

Back in December I read an article in the local paper.  "Iowa Deer Hunter Kills Mountain Lion".  A man had gone hunting, and while awaiting his game, he sees movement in a tree above him.  To his surprise, he sees a wild mountain lion perched in the tree above him.

The man sat there for 40 minutes and using his cell phone, contacted the DNR and the land owner to find out if it was legal for him to shoot this cat.  I do give him credit for making sure the kill was legal before cocking his gun.  Once he was told it was legal, he pointed his gun at the cat perched quietly in the tree, pulled the trigger, and watched the body, once graceful and strong fall haphazardly to the ground.  The mountain lion was a young immature male.  The hunter plans to stuff the entire carcass to prove to everyone that he killed a mountain lion.

This is the first confirmed sighting of a mountain lion within Iowa in over 5 years, so Iowa is not overrun with these massive predators.  This lion was not sitting on that branch trying to decide during that 40 minute hiatus  whether to attack and kill this hunter who was innocently and conveniently sitting below him.  If he had wanted to do so, he would have done so.

People complain about the problem of deer overpopulation in Iowa.  There are traffic accidents as their paths inconveniently cross our roads, and they are ruining trees, shrubs, and gardens as they are desperate for food in the cold winter months.  Yet we have all but obliterated the natural predators of the deer within our state.   In Iowa in 1817, there was a bounty placed on the heads of wolves and coyotes as they were considered vermin.  The result was the diminishing of both populations. While the coyote has made a comeback, the populations of wolves, mountain lions, and black bears are very low in Iowa, almost non-existent.

The fact that a hunter shot this beautiful creature JUST BECAUSE HE COULD, is a poor reflection of our humanity.  Has this man never heard of a camera?  Here is a wonderful article in Iowa Fish and Game, a hunting and fishing magazine written for, by, and about Iowa hunters, advising that hunters bring a camera to capture the moment of meeting a mountain lion rather than removing the creature from their already suffering population.  The article ends with, "The return of cougars, bears and wolves to Iowa isn't likely to hurt our outstanding deer hunting. It will, however, add the thrill of possibly sighting an Iowa native that has been long gone but has now returned. The chance of seeing one adds zest to any trip afield."

 "Mountain lions have no protection in Iowa and while the Iowa DNR does not encourage people killing a lion they come across, it is not against the law."  Even the Department of Natural Resources does no encourage the slaughter of these amazing beasts.  Unfortunately, a law to prevent their killing unless in a state of defense needs to be put into the books before events like this are outlawed.

Mountain lions rarely attack humans.  As a matter of fact, from 1991 through 2003, there were a total of 73 mountain lion attacks on humans, with 10 of them resulting in fatalities.  This amounts to an average of 5.6 mountain lion attacks per year, with an average of only .8 of the attacks resulting in death per year.  That is less than one death per year in two entire countries.  These statistics are for BOTH the entire USA and Canada.   

In the state of Texas alone, from 1991 to 2003 there were a total of  563 hunting accidents, with 69 of them resulting in fatalities. This amounts to an average of 43.3 hunting accidents per year, with  an average of 5.3 accidents resulting in death per year in a SINGLE STATE.

As I walk through the woods, I am more fearful of meeting a twitchy hunter than I am of meeting a mountain lion.

(Just an FYI... those of you who are Followers on this blog, thank you! If you want to receive the blog into your email inbox each time it is published, all you need to do is go to, and enter your name into the subscribe box on the upper right side of the page. Wait for the blog to send you a confirmation email, then reply and you will receive the blog when it is published. Much easier than you going to look for it! Please, continue to follow and please subscribe!)