Owning a cat

I made John watch the videos of The Bloggess putting her cats in this astronaut backpack thingy, and he was like, “Isn’t that kind of cruel, to force them into the backpack?”, and I was like, “Dude, that’s what you do when you have a cat.  You dress it up in clothes, you drape it around your neck like a stole, you sit it in your lap and pretend it’s a drummer, you laugh when it sits in the kitchen chair and looks like it’s ready to eat dinner with you, and you hope it doesn’t claw you when you try to scratch its tummy.”  That’s cat ownership in a nutshell.

Headline: I still have two feet

A horse stepped on me this weekend.  I’m fine (really fine – I ran this morning), but I was a little anxious for a couple of hours on Saturday.  I spent the day at a horse show just south of Portland.  Wendy was there with Tigger, Olive, Dobby (Tigger’s co-dependent pony friend), and Ava (the horse who stepped on me) because two of her 14-year-old students were riding in it.  Their events were first thing Saturday, so I got up early and drove up to watch them.

That part, the whole day really, minus the part where I got stepped on, was pretty cool.  I got to see my lesson horses compete and do more than I’ve asked them to do, and I got to watch a whole lot of really good riders on really big horses do really cool things.  The weather was beautiful (not a cloud in sight), and it was really neat to just hang out and watch all the riding and jumping.

The stepped on part: Wendy needed to clean out stalls, so Elaine (my friend who wrote the romance novel) and I volunteered to take Olive and Ava for a walk to give Wendy time.  Ava was anxious, even right next to Olive, and I couldn’t calm her down, so we headed back to the stalls.  We got separated (too many people), and Ava basically freaked out.  Then someone zipped by on a scooter, and a golf cart passed us, Ava spun around, and while I was trying to turn her the right direction to go home, she stepped on my right foot.  Like, STEPPED on with her full weight because she was walking.  It was…painful, and I may have yelled some things in front of some children, and then she stepped off and we made our way back over to Wendy.  Wendy wasn’t done with her stall, though, so I still had to deal with a giant* nervous horse.  I was letting her eat grass, but we were near a food truck and there was an extension cord, and she didn’t like me trying to move her away from the extension cord to keep her from eating it and she was still high-strung even being closer to her herdmates, whirling around every time a car went by, and I wasn’t super calm since my foot hurt and she was making me nervous and I’m sure I wasn’t successfully radiating serenity even though I was trying to, and it was a whole not-fun thing.  I was relieved to put her back in her stall.

*I’m not kidding about giant.  I mean, there are bigger horses, but she’s the biggest one I’ve had to do anything about.  She’s half thoroughbred and half shire (workhorse along the lines of a Clydesdale), and she’s 16.2 hands at her withers (top of her shoulder, a tad higher than the top of the base of her neck), which puts her withers at the top of my head (because if I did the math right, 16.2 hands is 66 inches – the .2 refers to two inches, not two-tenths of a hand – which is my height).  That’s big.

I was wearing my chucks that day, not boots, so basically no protection, and I spent the next several hours wiggling my toes and flexing my foot to make sure I still could.  The pain faded to an ache, and then that faded, too, and by the time I drove home, I was totally fine.  I have a fun bruise I keep poking at, but no lasting damage.  Until one day the front half of my foot falls off because it turns out I have a hairline fracture or something and I didn’t rest or treat it because it didn’t hurt, but eh – why borrow trouble?

Also, it’s dirty

I saw a snake today on the trail during my run.  I managed not to freak out (out loud), but I did give it a wide berth as it slithered off into the weeds.  It was…little, I guess, but snakes are snakes, and I don’t like them.  This is the problem I have with the outdoors.  I like being outside right up until I’m reminded of all the things that live outside.  Which reminds me: one afternoon a few weeks ago, right after work, I took my book and a bottle of water, and I hiked up to the top of Spencer Butte to read.

I sat there pretty comfortably for nearly two hours, reading my book, ignoring the chatter of the other people on the summit (it was a busy day for hikers), shifting occasionally because sitting on rocks is not that comfortable, and then out of nowhere I heard the a loud buzzing sound.  Like, LOTS of buzzing.  Like the sound of a beehive buzzing, a sound I’ve only heard in the movies and in cartoons.  I glanced to my left and there were a whole bunch of bees flying in a clump, hovering by a rock not one foot away from me.  I suppose that’s what swarming looks like.  I hope I never know for sure.  I got away (duh), and frankly, I’m a little amazed at how quickly and smoothly I moved.  I grabbed my stuff and was 20 feet away, looking over my shoulder the whole time.  I’m super glad they didn’t chase me because there were no lakes in sight.  Seriously, everything I know about swarms of bees comes from cartoons.  And My Girl.

Anyway, that was the end of my pleasant afternoon on a mountain top.  I hiked back down, and before I got in the car, I checked out the map on the information board.  The information board helpfully informed me that the indigenous rattlesnake population was rebounding and they can be found on and under the rocks, so hikers should be careful and definitely not reach under rocks.  Also, mountain lions hang out on the butte.  Well, hell.  I just spent two hours sitting on and among the rocks.  It’s amazing I survived the day.

So yeah – outside is pretty and all, but things that want to kill me live out there, and that’s not even counting spiders and UGH mosquitoes, so maybe I should just stay inside.

Distraction

Rainbows, shmainbows.  Turkeys!  Baby turkeys!

So, before you ask, no, I don’t think that’s the turkey who spent the winter sleeping (and pooping) on our front porch.  I mean, what do I know from turkeys, but I know we had more than one adult turkey hanging around, and I don’t think this is the one who chose us.

They seem to spend most of their time in the neighbor’s yard behind us.  As we were walking by the other day, two of the neighbors were out trying to herd one of the baby turkeys back towards the house.  The mama turkey and the rest of the babies were on the roof of their house, and the last baby was cheeping and scurrying around their yard because it couldn’t fly quite high enough.

It was cute.  Baby turkeys are cute.

Pick a little, talk a little

After rubbing several layers of skin off on one spot on my right calf during Tuesday’s riding lesson (a spot I discovered hours later when hot water hit it in the shower and I shrieked in pain), I have decided it is finally time to shop for real riding clothes.  I need full seat breeches, a helmet of my own, and real riding boots.  I will probably get paddock boots, actually, and half chaps, instead of tall riding boots, since that’s what was recommended to me by two different people (Wendy being one of them).  Still, the half chaps will protect my calves.

Wendy suggested I go to this farm store to check out sizes for pants and boots and then order them online, but I finally went out there this afternoon and they had NOTHING.  They had a whole section for clothes and shoes, but it was all western.  No riding boots, just cowboy boots, and no breeches.  No chaps of any kind.  I tried another similar store, but they didn’t have anything, either, so now I have to shop online.

BUT wait!  Complaining about shopping online is not why I’m here tonight.  The shopping trip wasn’t a total bust because the first farm store had baby chickens!  Tanks and tanks of baby chickens!  I only took a picture of the bin with the fluffy yellow chicks, but they had all kinds and they were making adorable cheeping noises and IT WAS SO CUTE I didn’t want to leave.

But I did leave, and I’m glad I did (WITHOUT taking home any baby chicks) because the next store had harnesses.  For your chickens.

So you can walk your chicken on a leash, I guess?  Or maybe go bungee jumping with her?  They came in pink, red, and blue – all colors to suit your chicken-harnessing needs!

My life is richer for knowing people take their chickens on walks.

Spring has sprung

John and I were walking in the park this afternoon, chatting, enjoying ourselves, and then he nudged me hard in the upper arm.  I lost my balance and windmilled a bit to keep from landing in the muddy grass, and DUDE. I barely tapped you on the arm. Overreacting much? (or some such) went through my head.  I didn’t fall on the grass, I did get my feet under me on the sidewalk, and then John yelled, “No, SNAKE!”  You would have been SO impressed by my high-stepping prancing moves.  I leaped OVER the teeny tiny TERRIFYING snake that I was thisclose to stepping on and landed on the far side of the path.  Then I came back to look.  Now maybe it was more scared of me that I was of it, but if it had made any sudden movements I would have been up a tree.

I’d like to show you what it looked like, but I didn’t take a picture of it, and there’s no way in hell I’m googling snakes.  I don’t google bugs, either.  I don’t need those images in my brain.

I haven’t met any singing mice. Yet.

The wildlife in Oregon is straight out of a cartoon.  John and I both get distracted by squirrels peering in our office windows during the day, that damn turkey keeps showing up on our front porch like it wants to come in, and today I saw a gray squirrel and fat red robin having a conversation on top of a tree stump in the park.  I wasn’t fast enough to get a picture.  I saw them, they looked at me, I swear I heard “Cheese it, it’s the fuzz!”, and then the squirrel scampered off.  The robin stuck around and gave me the evil eye as I ran past.  Maybe slightly more Adult Swim than Disney Channel.

NOPE

No.  Uh uh.  Not gonna do it.

Look, a puppy cam! Gosh, they’re cute. But now they’re napping.

Ooh! Donkey cam! That’s fun, but they’re not really doing anything.

Holy shit, penguin cam!

Maybe today’s not so bad after all.  For those of you not into live-streaming animals, have some random adorable pictures from the internet instead:

You’re welcome.

Moving on up

Guys, I jumped over 2 feet today! Well, the horse did, but I stayed on! Things are progressing on that front.

The jump looked like this, but not as fancy (there’s not much fancy at this place):

I have no idea if Tigger and I look like that horse and girl. We probably don’t look that cool. And actually, that might be higher than 2 feet, so you know? I probably don’t look anything like that.

I got a glimpse of my future today, too. I shared my lesson with Daisy, a 14-year-old who has been riding for half her life. (I don’t think becoming a 14-year-old is in my future.) We were basically doing the same things, but she was doing them better, faster, and then Wendy had her jump the same course WITHOUT STIRRUPS. What kind of leg muscles do you have to have to canter a course of eight 2-feet jumps without anything to brace your feet?

Someday.

Learning quickly

My horseback riding lesson is the highlight of each week.  I started on Willow, learning to catch her, groom her, saddle her, etc.  Around week 4 or 5, I switched to Tigger, a younger and occasionally more difficult horse.  He has opinions, and I’m learning how to show his stubborn ass that I’m in charge.  I switched back and forth between the two for a few weeks, re-learning how to post, learning two-point (prep for jumping), and trotting courses through and around the jumps in the arena, with all the horizontal poles on the ground so I could get better at directing the horse where I want him to go.

All of that was going well, and I was really enjoying it.  Then one day, lesson #9 I think, I had just finished a course with the poles on the ground, and then Wilhemina (name changed to protect the innocent) set one of the jumps up to one foot and said, “How do you feel about jumping today?”

SUPER EXCITED was the answer.  So I did, and it was awesome.

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The middle of that X is a foot off the ground.

From there, she set up all the jumps like that, and my courses around the arena have included LOTS of jumping, and I just can’t tell you how much fun it is.  (Hint: SO MUCH FUN!)

A couple of weeks ago (lesson #11, maybe), she had me pick up the speed a little so Tigger starts to canter when he lands the first jump, and the week after that (or maybe it was the end of that week?) I could canter the whole course (starting after the first jump).  It’s incredible.

So then this week, she was describing the course she wanted me to take, no different than the others that I noticed.  She had me going over two jumps straight down one long side of the area, making a wide turn, and then taking the jump at the far corner on the way back and angling diagonally across the arena to another jump, then stopping at her end.  It’s about half the course and pretty typical of what we’ve been doing.  I did the long side, took the one in the corner on the way back, and when I was about a horse-length in front of the last one, my brain went HOLY SHIT THAT ONE IS HIGHER.

It looked kind of like this one, except not nearly as picturesque.  No uprights on either side, just kind of a dirty white low wall.

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The jump went fine, and weirdly, it didn’t feel any higher than the other jumps, which is the first thing I said after stopping.  She swears it’s 2 feet high, double the size of the jumps I’m used to.  So then I did it again, and THIS time, it felt higher, which is also the first thing I said when I stopped.  Turns out I’m not crazy or imagining things just because I knew it was higher.  Wilhemina said that the first time we went over it, the distance perfectly matched Tigger’s stride, so he just cantered over it.  The second time, the distance wasn’t perfect, so he jumped it, and yes, I actually went higher that time.

I’m jumping two feet!  Okay, Tigger is jumping two feet, but I’m not falling off!  It’s so cool.

Also, I’m riding Tigger all the time now because he loves to jump, and I guess Willow doesn’t.  It means I get more practice enforcing my will, which is something I really need to be better at.  There was one point last week where we took a jump because he wanted to, not because I wanted to.

This past week was lesson #13, and it’s wonderful, and I love it.

Pesky little rodents

I saw two little birds taking a bath in a puddle today.  It was adorable, of course, the way they hunker down and fluff up and shake all over.  I could watch for hours.

Not so cute are the squirrels digging up our yard.  It’s like we have dogs, only the holes are a little bit smaller.  I don’t know if they’re burying something or digging something up, but they’re ruining the sod in the backyard.  I don’t care so much for myself, but the landlords put fresh sod down right before we moved in.  They’ll probably notice if the yard is destroyed when we move out, and I don’t want to be responsible for replacing it.

Damn squirrels.  Get off my lawn!

Our fine feathered friend

So…this happened today.  (Apologies to those of you who saw this on Twitter already.)

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I’ve been meaning to write about the turkey in our neighborhood.  We think it’s someone’s pet, but it seems to have the run of the block.  We’ve seen it in the alley in the middle of the block and on each of the four streets surrounding us.  And it’s definitely bigger than it used to be.

I hope it doesn’t turn into someone’s dinner.

Birds and creepy stories did the trick

I was a little blue when I left the house for my run today, but being outside (or running or time or podcasts or ducks) lifted my mood.  My run was chock full of what passes for excitement during the week.  First, I freaked myself out.  I ran on a new part of the path, and just as I entered this very cool tunnel of trees, where it got darker and atmospherically creepy, a character in my podcast started describing the time she saw a little boy at the end of her bed, and you know what?  I’m not going to keep telling that story because I’m in bed now and I’m freaking myself out again.  Trust me – it was scary and I was in a scary part of the trail that I didn’t know existed and now kind of want to avoid.  Except it was cool.

Later, I saw a heron/stork-type bird (skinny legs, long beak) staring intently into the rapids of this little creek.  He looked like he was fishing, like he might dart forward and grab a fish any second, so I stopped to watch.  He gave me a look, went back to staring at the water.  Gave me another look, stared at the water.  After the third look, I left.  I was cramping his style.

On my way home, I saw a family of four feeding dozens of ducks while leaning on the sign that describes the harmful effects of feeding the waterfowl.  The ducks didn’t seem to mind.

That’s it.  That’s my exciting afternoon.  Don’t mock – I felt better.

Taking advantage of the rain

I mentioned the rain the day we went to Epcot, right?  Well, I forgot I had proof on video. While everyone with any sense was hiding out under every structure with a roof in the park, one duck took the opportunity to scout for food.

We were hoping for a break in the rain so I could make a dash for the nearest bathroom. Over the course of our four days in Disney parks, I got very familiar with the bathrooms. Surprisingly, the one in fake Canada was the worst. Fake Morocco’s was great.

Poor lonely slightly cross-eyed cat

I heard the loudest cat in the world the other morning.  I was sitting at my desk working when some cat started meowing.  It was so loud I thought it was in the room with me for half a second.  (It wasn’t.)  I checked outside both office windows, but didn’t see a cat.  I checked the backyard – no cat (unusual, considering how often we see cats in our yard).  I eventually found it, sitting on the hood of our neighbor’s car, facing our living room window (which is as far away as you can get from my office), yowling its head off.

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I meowed at it.  It meowed back, and that was the end of the conversation.  Maybe it just needed someone to acknowledge its existence.  You exist, kitty.  Now shut up.

Soggy routine

I get up, work, go for a long bike ride.  While I’m out, I get rained on, and I see a wild animal.  Today, it poured for seven miles, and I saw a fox.

This is my life now.

I miss running, not least because I didn’t feel I had to do it for an hour and a half to burn any calories.  You’re less likely to get rained on if you’re not out for 90 minutes.  I need to join that gym.  I’ll get a pool, weights, classes, no rain, and no wildlife.  And eventually, I’ll be able to run again.

Too close

I saw a raccoon on my bike ride, right in the middle of the highly-traveled, well-populated park.  It was the middle of the afternoon, not dark, not all that overcast, and in the spot where I saw it, there were half a dozen people running, walking, and biking in both directions on the path RIGHT NEXT TO THE RACCOON.  There was also a guy on a bench nearby watching it.  I sent him a “Was that really a raccoon?” incredulous look, and he gave me a “Seems to be.  What can you do?” shrug in return.  I know Eugene is in the Pacific Northwest, and by definition, that makes it closer to nature than anywhere else I’ve lived, but I think today’s encounter (fine, “encounter”) took it a step too far.

The raccoon was in the grass between the sidewalk and the trees (with the river on the other side of the trees), and it was barely in the grass – less than a foot from the sidewalk, I think.  It was HUGE – bigger than Roxy, smaller than Riley – and it had its front paws on the ground and its back arched like a cartoon cat.  Really big head.  I didn’t have much time to think about it, but if I’d been any further away when I saw it, I might not have ridden by it so close.  I whizzed by with no more than 3 feet in between us, I think.  It happened so quickly I didn’t have time to be nervous.

Fact: raccoons don’t look so cute when they’re that big and that close.