Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Dog Treats

With the current scares about processed pet foods, a lot of folks are turning over a new leaf and feeding all natural food and treats. In the spirit of the holidays, Todd Muchmore of Rover's Recipes offers this delicious recipe sure to make your dog drool:

Apple Cinnamon Doggie Biscuits

·1 package apple, dried

·1 teaspoon Cinnamon --(I usually just shake some in)

·1 Tablespoon parsley, freeze-dried

·1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

·1 cup ice water

·1/2 cup Corn Oil

·5 cups flour

·1/2 cup powdered milk

·2 large eggs

·1 tablespoon corn oil

Put the apples in a food processor so that pieces are small. Combine in a bowl all of the ingredients--can add oil or water if dough is too dry. Using a rolling pin roll out dough to about 3/16" thick (can make thinner or thicker). Using a cookie cutter--cut into shapes -place on cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for approx 20 -25 minutes (until golden). NOTE: if you substitute corn meal just subtract about 3/4 cup from flour and add Corn meal .

Todd offers special treats for dogs with allergies and a host of other options. Check out his site at

Also, if you are shopping for a new dog food, consider Life's Abundance.

I have a personal testament to this food. My last foster puppy, Perry, was a parvo survivor. Perry was a half Australian shepherd whose mother had been abandoned while pregnant. She had the litter in a foster home. I had actually adopted Perry's littermate before him, who broke with the terrible virus and I had to take him in to be euthanized.

The original foster mother, who lost most of the litter, was devastated. She offered me Perry to replace the other pup. Perry had been sick too, but he'd recovered. He was a very good-natured puppy, blue merle, mostly black, with a blue spot in one eye. I named him Perry, short for "Periwink." I brought him home when he was about ten weeks old.

Perry had beaten the disease. However, it had ravaged his intestines. He had a loose stool that no matter what I did, just would not firm up. I tried giving him canned pumpkin and yogurt, and I tried several different foods, including cooking hamburger and rice.

Finally I tried Life's Abundance. Perry's recovery was nothing short of miraculous. He immediately started gaining weight, and his coat shone. In just a week's time he was radiating good health.

Perry has since gone to a good home with a wonderful family. He enjoys playing with Buster, his Boston Bull buddy, and I am told he fetches the paper every day!

Life's Abundance dog food is holistic, no preservatives, and shelf life is never over six weeks. You order it online and it's delivered right to your door. They offer cat food too, AND horse treats!

Here's wishing you and your pet "Bone Appetit!" and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Bird Toys

Thanks to, I found something for the bird who has everything. Goober the African Grey lives with my friend Debbie Hendrickson in Ohio. I had recently discovered Etsy, the site with things handmade, and took a chance. Sure enough, my search revealed bird toys -- and what a great deal I got! There are all kinds of wood and plastic chewies on rope with a bell on the bottom. I purchased this from XnO Bird Toys on Etsy.

It can't always be easy living with a parrot. I have always liked birds but have never taken on the responsibility of a large one. (I did have a parakeet once; a delightful little guy named Joshua.) I imagine it will happen someday.

I was saddened to hear of the death of Alex, the famous African grey who shattered all science's ideas about the limitations of the avian mind. Alex died in September of this year at the age of 31. He was emotionally equivalent to a two-year-old child (yikes!) and intellectually a five-year-old. He could identify 50 different objects, 7 colors, 5 shapes, quantities up to 6, and most astonishingly, knew the concept of zero.

Alex did math better than I can!

Dr. Irene Pepperberg spent 30 years working with Alex, and I can only imagine what it was like to lose him. Reportedly his last words to her were something like, "Goodbye. You be good. I'll see you tomorrow. I love you."

*gulp.* Sure makes me look at KFC a whole different way....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (or, Deck the Halls with a Laser Light Show)

Disclaimer: I have never been a heavy metal person; my tastes tend to run in the pop direction. But I am a hard hitting Christmas lover.

I went to see TSO last night at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and the sound is still ringing in my head... Or is that my fillings?

Up until this year, I'd never even heard of TSO, which is rather surprising since they have been around since the 1990's.

Unfortunately, I found the concert to be a hard sell; tradition wrapped up with some original stuff that's somewhat gutter style -- lyrics about bartenders having a change of heart (P.S. How could he afford to give out free drinks all night when he'd emptied the cash drawer?), and a lot of flash. Lasers, glitter, smoke, flames. Woo hoo. Not to mention a gaggle of blondes with big boobs. There was also a 20 minute drum solo. Okay, maybe it only seemed like 20 minutes, but I thought drum solos were relegated to basement parties.

Admittedly, when it comes to Christmas, it probably is difficult to come up with original material. The group obviously exudes musical talent. I loved the "keyboard duel", especially when one of them launched into "Linus and Lucy".

But overall, I found that the songs all sounded the same, and the concert was waayyy too long -- nearly three hours. I came out feeling like I'd been beaten about the head and shoulders with a glow-in-the-dark fiddle.

However, I am probably not the one to ask. I have found Christmas while out walking in the woods.

The Postman Always Rings True

So I was at the P.O. yesterday sending out more Christmas cards. Apparently people are still mailing Christmas cards because they continue to buy them from me.

Anyway, as the postmaster put them on the scale he asked, "Do these packages contain anything liquid, fragile, perishable or potentially hazardous?"

I started to say no, but then hesitated. "What do you mean by potentially hazardous?"

"Why?" he said.

"Well, these are Christmas cards. They might cause a paper cut. Or someone could choke on one."

"I wouldn't put them in my mouth," he said.

"Well, someone might. You might consider striking the word, 'potentially' from your spiel there."

"Look, I know people are going to lie to me anyway."

"You know people are lying? That's not very optimistic."

"I don't care if they are lying. I just need to ask the question, so I can sleep at night."

"Knowing people are lying makes you sleep better?"

He paused from totting up numbers on the register, and looked at me. For a moment, he didn't say anything. Finally, he turned back to his machine and handed me the receipt. "Sometimes when you come in here, I feel like I'm under interrogation."

"I'm just the customer!"

"I know. But there are so many questions!"

"I'm just asking! When people ask you things, it only means that they are interested."

"I'll have to remember that. Can I help who's next?"

One cannot overlook, in this case, the reputation of postal workers being prone to sudden bursts of violence. I took my receipt and quietly left the building.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Border Collies (or Puppies as Gifts)

I was having lunch with my friend Beth the other day. She's a biologist and very savvy dog trainer who is working with a few puppies on an in-home basis. She has a friend who lost an elderly dog and wanted a pup to replace it. The woman apparently was not an extreme "dog person", although she liked dogs well enough. So Beth found some adult dogs in the pound that were gentle natured and desperately in need of homes.

But the friend went to a breeder and bought two puppies instead.

"Littermates?" I practically gagged on my sandwich.


We both looked at each other and started laughing.

The friend had already broken at least one of the cardinal rules about the average person getting a puppy. Three of them are as follows:

1) Do not obtain more than one puppy at a time.

2) Do not acquire puppies, or give them, as Christmas gifts.

3) Do not acquire a border collie.

To us the reasons are obvious, but I'll go over them briefly.

1) One puppy alone is enough of a handful. But when two littermates go together, they will tend to bond to each other, cleaving only unto themselves, and forget you! You are in for Dog Training Hell.

2) Bringing a puppy home in the midst of Christmas chaos is the worst thing you can do to it. There is no chance for establishing a schedule, no time for real bonding, and no full attention that takes for early good house training habits. On top of all this, there are unlimited "goodies" like tinsel and plastic and chocolate to chew up and destroy, and vomit up or create large vet bills. Besides this, no reputable breeder would recommend bringing a puppy home for Christmas. If you have already reserved your pup, consider asking the breeder to keep it until the hubbub dies down.

3) Border collies should go only to homes that will offer the high-energy dog a consistent job like agility, herding or flyball.

A puppy is not a toy; it's a family member that will be around hopefully into its teens. Please be responsible enough to think about this when you're being charmed by those happy eyes and wagging tails.

Besides, it will pee in your house.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday's Ornament - Belgian Tervuren

A Belgian Tervuren expresses joie de vivre in this lively watercolor. I had a lot of fun with this commission. I met the big Terv, named Twister, at a dog show in Mason. I had my trusty digital camera along and Twister posed patiently while I photographed him.

Twister's owner has artists in her family, so she was savvy enough to give me artistic license with the commission. I thought it would be neat to have him leaping through the air as his name suggested.

I didn't have any pictures of him in midair, but I had a good representation of his markings and features, so guess who the "airborne" model was? That's right! Good ol' Cajun, my own happily flying friend!

Now Caje is a lot bigger boned than a Terv, so I had to take that into account. But it all worked out. Twister's owner was thrilled with the original watercolor, and this resulting ornament is my best-selling Terv piece. Belgian shepherd fans tell me that it embodies the true spirit of the fun-loving Tervuren.

I never told them the model was a German shepherd!

Today's Watercolor - Great Blue Heron

This is a Christmas gift for a friend's mom who lives on a river in northern Lower Michigan. The heron frequents the area around her house and she snapped a pic of him napping in her front yard one day.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday's Ornament - Friesian

This is a sketch in charcoal of a Friesian. I distinctly remember that while I was drawing this, I was talking on the phone with my mother, which might explain why the horse's hair is standing on end.

Snow Day

Reminiscent of my days in Fairbanks, everything was covered in frost yesterday morning, with a soft low-lying fog that kept the weak winter sun from burning it off. The dogs love the cold weather! Rippy and Cajun had a great time romping in the snow.

A lot of people are surprised to find out that horses love winter! Trudy and Clifford are so happy right now. The only thing that bothers them is wind or freezing rain. Otherwise, there's no heat to contend with, and no bugs. They stand out in the pasture foraging for whatever is hidden under the drifts, and at mealtime they come charging in, blowing and snorting, all a-shivery and ears forward. They purr happy snorts while waiting for their grain and then settle down contentedly.

Horses "burn hay" to stay warm. With plenty of hay and an escape from the wind, they do just fine. They do drink a lot of water. I am so grateful for their electric buckets, because I don't have to break ice, but I have to fill them every day. As they consume more hay, they need to drink more, and that's fine because it keeps things moving.

With that in mind, I have a strong opinion that horses need to be outdoors as much as possible. Mine have free access to the outdoors at all times. On the rare occasions when Clifford is shut in his stall, the first thing he will do is go to his Dutch door and open it so he can put his head through and see outside.

I think as long as horses can keep moving, and put their heads down to graze or forage, their digestive system is healthier and they are less prone to colic. Plus, they are happier too.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Today's Watercolor - German Shepherd Puppy

Actually, this was finished a week or so ago, but it was a gift so I couldn't post it. This is my friend Mary Ann's German shepherd puppy, Sable. The watercolor was commissioned by Mary Ann's very generous Secret Santa, who shall for now go unnamed. Mary Ann was being good, and had left it wrapped and under the tree, but the Secret Santa couldn't stand it any more and sent a message saying, "Open it, dammit!"

I love the colors in this shot and the backlighting effects especially. It was such a nice photo to work with.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wednesday's Ornament - Sheltie

This watercolor is called "Squirrel Patrol". I actually found a photo of a squirrel raiding a bird feeder and wanted to paint that. But I incorporated the dog to make it into a little story that most dog owners can recognize. It's also one of my best selling Christmas cards.
I don't currently own a Sheltie -- I had one years ago when I lived in Alaska. I really enjoy painting them though and seem to be accumulating a collection of Sheltie Art. Maybe there will be another calendar in the works at some point.


Proof of the new alliance! Pepper hanging out with Ripple on this snowy afternoon. Pepper will be 15 tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Movie Review - I Am Legend

First of all, I am going to tell you right now that they kill the dog.

That being said, the dog (whose real name is Abbey) is a great actor. It is almost worth seeing this movie just to watch the dog work. I may be biased, since the German shepherd is my breed of choice.

I've long had this fantasy of being a movie dog trainer. To this point, the best movie actor dog I've ever seen is probably the Brussels Griffon from "As Good As It Gets". Other favs are the corgi from "The Accidental Tourist", Toto from, "The Wizard of Oz" and of course "Ol Yeller" -- both of the latter were trained by Rudd Weatherwax, the guy of Lassie fame.

The Cuteness Award goes to the "Bruce Almighty" dog, but he wasn't quite as plausible as the others.

Am I digressing? Sorry, I always get a little distracted when there's a dog in the movie. On to the review, proper:

This film is a heart-thumper almost straight from the beginning. Plenty of zombies, yucky scary-looking veiny hairless guys, and a little of Will Smith's schtick. New York is overgrown with weeds, and to make things even more desolate, the remnants of a Christmas season. It should be noted that the disaster's setting is I think the year 2009, and gasoline is over $6.00 a gallon!

There is a helicoptor explosion, but the filmmakers' credit, they don't actually show it. They do, however, show the bridges getting blown up. (As if zombies weren't enough to attract the male viewers?!) Also, although the city of New York is AGAIN the target for disaster, the Statue of Liberty is for once left alone.

The zombies can't come out in the daylight, but after dark, watch out. It's an invasion of the Undead ala "The Omega Man". I use the term Zombie loosely, as these never were actually dead, but getting there. The virus which has mutated them seems to have added amazing athletic ability. They can jump like monkeys and run like deer. They feed on (what else?) blood.

I may be waxing glib because this film made me uncomfortable. The scraps of information that are fed to me throughout the beginning, the piecing together of what has happened, and why, all come with a sense of, "There, but for the grace of God..." There are newspaper articles tacked up here and there. There are snatches torn away about the virus, initally a cure for cancer, gone haywire. I watch Will Smith's character make mistakes, and I really care about him. He's funny, compassionate and heartbreakingly isolated. And I especially don't want anything to happen to the dog. This was all good stuff early during the movie.

I like the premise, but felt "I Am Legend" never really filled its potential. It caved to sensationalism, but that was probably the intent. After all, it DID sell a lot of tickets. I didn't understand why religion suddenly showed up in the last ten minutes, like a slap on the side of the head with a hymnal. And this without any Charleton Heston!

Overall though, I had a heart-slammin' good time. And that, after all, is what it's all about.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Cat and the Christmas Miracle

Now this I don't believe.

Christmas Pepper, my one remaining Somali, will be fifteen years old on the 20th of this month. I acquired Pepper when she was about five months old (she "chose" me at a cat show). She is a benevolent soul, always unruffled and was the cat I elected to trust with Amanda, my little sis, at shows. They did great together. Pepper raised several litters here. Although she allowed Reva, my maternally-driven German shepherd, to surrogate all her litters, Pepper was never crazy about dogs. In this respect she was vastly different from my other cats. I know it is because she wasn't raised with them, and she herself was not one of Reva's "children".

Since Kenya died two weeks ago, Pepper for the first time in her life is the only cat in the household. I wondered how she was going to take this, especially at her age.
Well, just a few minutes ago I came around the corner into the living room and found her rolling and purring and nuzzling on CAJUN!!!

If it weren't so dark, I would snap a couple of photos of this new development.

Times, they are a-changin'....

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Christmas All Over the World

The Bernese Mountain dog, or Berner as he is better known, is one of my favorite subjects although I have never owned one. My friend Nancy Jean has a couple. They are huge, sloppy, happy guys who always seem to be smiling.

I recently did this pastel painting, and adapted it to a Christmas card. Apparently the charm of the Berner is not lost on the world. The original painting was sold to someone in England. Since then I have shipped these cards to Washington state, Belgium, Australia, and Idaho, respectively.

Most interesting was the Washington lady who turned out to be a theatre buff, like me. She was appearing in a stage performance of "Meet Me in St. Louis". The cards were a gift for the lead singer who, besides singing the lyrics on the card, "Faithful friends who are dear to us...", also owns a Berner!

It's pretty neat how the Internet brings an influx of these types of stories, and that someone is giving/getting the perfect gift this year. I love Christmas for the spirit of generosity that prevails, all over the world.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What to Get Your Girlfriend for Christmas

I am seeing guys with sort of glazed expressions, wandering around the malls. The poor souls have been swallowed up into the Christmas Vortex. They are lost, searching for an answer, looking in shop windows for something to jump out at them.

One year my ex gave me pants with one leg shorter than the other, and a sweater with a hole in it that you could have fit a quarter through.

That's not WHY he's now my ex, but I suspect at one point he was one of those glassy-eyed shoppers.

Here's a suggestion: For those of you with big bucks, a diamond tennis bracelet would work just great. Trust me on this. And yes, she IS worth it!

For those of you who don't have the resources for a tennis bracelet, I will save you the whole hassle of the mall, and the expense of gas. Go to Type your girlfriend's favorite color and then "bracelet" into the search, and see what comes up. You will be amazed at the truly beautiful handmade items to select from -- and at reasonable prices too! Does your girl like horses? Try typing in "horse". Is she a dancer or skater? Try those too. You get the picture.

There is nothing that speaks of a gift from the heart like a handmade treasure. Plus, you will be supporting the arts! What could be better?

Have more than one girlfriend to shop for? Can't keep em all straight? You sly dog! Try typing in "ornament" and see what comes up. There is nothing like handmade Christmas ornaments. Believe me, Christmas items like ornaments are very dear to us, and will give us something to remember you by, or burn, after we dump your sorry cheatin' ass.

Happy Shopping!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tuesday's Dog Ornament - Westie

This is Becky, a West Highland White Terrier owned and loved by my friend Debbie Hendrickson in Ohio. The verse, "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas" certainly applies here. Becky lives with two very large German shepherds, but doesn't have any problem holding her own.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Today's Ornament - Alaskan Malamute

As the countdown to Christmas commences, I've decided to share some of my favorites of my ornament designs. I have over 175 designs now; most of which are dog breeds. If you click on the ornament it should take you to the WonderMutt store where they are available.

Today's ornament is a team of Alaskan Malamutes. The two lead dogs actually belong to my insurance agent. He mushes here in Michigan as a hobby. His girlfriend had given me some photos of them lying around the house, but wanted a dynamic painting to hang over his mantle.

I looked around online and found some images of dogs mushing. I used the images as a guide, but made the two lead dogs his dogs. Bob is actually in the picture too! But I cut him out for the ornament. If you look on the right you can see a little of his blue jacket.

This painting is one of my favorites because of the action. I think one can see the pulling effort as the dogs throw themselves into their work. Dog sled races are a lot of fun. When I lived in Alaska I was lucky enough to experience the North American Sled Dog races in Fairbanks. What a great time that was!

Showing these ornaments off is going to be a fun project for me. The only problem is that there are so many to choose from.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Friends and Cats

My friend Ellen has a cat, an Abyssinian named True Religion. Awhile back she sent me a photo of True and one of his pals (I think the other cat is his brother, Blue, although it's a little hard to tell). As soon as I saw the jumble of legs, I knew this had to be a painting someday.

So here it is, a pastel version of True in his state of blissful body heat on the cat tree.

This painting is one of those featured in my new book, "Abyssinian and Somali Cats In Art".
And speaking of cats, my friend Chris came over this evening to help me bury Kenya. We laid him to rest under a rock in the back yard, near a sunny spot where he and Pepper always liked to sit.
It's a true friend who will drive on icy roads to stand out in the cold, digging a hole in the frozen ground. AND dump the wheelbarrow full of manure that's been sitting in the barn for a couple of days. AND buy you pizza and hot chocolate.
It is never easy to lose a kitty, but if one chooses to look, something good can come of every situation. In this case I didn't have to look very far. Lucky me!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Today's Project

...A new equine Christmas card design, from a watercolor I did earlier this year. I love the colors and the mare and foal together in the snow... Kind of rare. The inside of the card says, "Let your heart be light".

How I Saved Money When Christmas Shopping at the Mall

There's a Christmas party happening tomorrow night, YAY!

Despite the fact that I can't see the floor in my closet, I have nothing to wear. I started shopping online days ago, and found the dress I wanted, a sexy red number that will accentuate all the right parts and diminish all the others.

I go on my computer, through all the dialup rigamarole, only to find it on backorder through the 16th.

I decide that since I am going to Ann Arbor anyway, I will go to the mall and look for a dress. No back orders. No dialup.

I walk around the mall. Christmas lights twinkle everywhere. Store fronts are littered with huge signs that say, "SALE" and "SAVE". Every store has dresses, but there isn't anything that is the right color, the right size or the right price.

Finally, I find the Dress. It is black, the universally slimming, safe color. It is sparkly and festive. It's 25% off! It is by Calvin Klein. I can't afford it, but it's Christmas so I try it on anyway. Maybe it will be lumpy and make me look fat.

I squirm into it. Of course, it is perfect. I look like a movie star. Okay, maybe just an extra. But this is the dress.

I put it back on the rack. I walk around the mall some more in hopes that I will find another dress that's half that price. Maybe a green one! Green is my favorite color, after all, and I already have the shoes.

The search leads me past Godiva Chocolates several times. The scent of chocolate milky delicacies wafts out at me. I am thinking, if I have to pass this one more time, I am going to go in and reward myself for my frugal and tenacious efforts.

But then, I go outside and get in the car and drive to Dress Barn, where I am greeted by an enthusiastic salesperson. She says all the party dresses are in the front. I go and look at them. There are no green dresses, but my head is now swimming with images of the Black Calvin Klein. The way it's cut. The fit. The sparkles.

Oh, hell. It's Christmas. I go back to the mall and apply for a credit card and save 15% more on the dress.

Amount saved on dress: 40%.
Amount saved on potential gasoline to further search: Approx. $36.49.
Amount saved on Godiva chocolates: Approx. $9.00.

Now I need shoes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's Christmas Time, In the Country...

My friend Joni the Pony, a wonderful graphic artist in her own right, directed me to this website where I can have Giclee prints made of my work, and pick the mattes and frames right online. This would be an artist's dream if it weren't for one thing: DIALUP.

I have an equine art gallery started on the Imagekind site, but only four images. I intend to do canine and feline galleries too. It's time to get serious, make a CD of all my best images, and go to a friend's house who has high speed! On the occasions when I do this, it's pretty depressing to think how many hours I have spent sitting at my home PC, watching little green dashes crawl across the box.

Time's a-wastin' though as the countdown begins, and the shoppers rush home with their treasures.

I live seven miles from the nearest gas station. The farm sits way back on a half mile driveway, behind other property, not visible from the main (dirt) road. There are rumors that Livingston County will be getting free high speed internet next year! Hmmm... Wonder how long it will take them to bring it back here! Cable? Forget it! I looked into a satellite dish, but it's too costly.

Don't get me wrong. Country living is the way to go. Clifford and the dogs can roam around loose without me having to worry about traffic. I don't even get traffic noise. Deer come up the hill all the time. Maggie the Redtail Hawk still frequents the breezes above the pastures. Last year a kestrel made a nest in my barn. She raised four babies and taught them to fly screeching over the back field. It was wonderful.

Inconveniences like dialup are the price I pay for these experiences.

Meanwhile, the dog breed Christmas ornaments are selling like gangbusters. I have over 165 ornament designs and keep adding new ones all the time. But when I think back about all that downloading on dialup, it boggles my mind.

Joni suggested getting a laptop computer and going to a local coffeeshop and loading stuff there. That is a great idea -- but who can afford a new laptop?!


I wonder how long it will be before dialup is completely obsolete. I'm counting the days like they're little green dashes.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kenya, the Clicker Kitty

I hesitate to write about the days when I showed cats. First of all, it requires admitting that I showed cats. I found out, not surprisingly, that some people who show cats are walking on the lunatic fringe. Sadly, I was married to one of them, and during the twelve excrutiating years we were together, it was the only thing we really did as a couple.

The experience did, however, lend itself to a really funny book.

But I said goodbye to a friend on Sunday. His kidneys failed him and his time was up. So I will go back in time, to my Hall of Shame, in his honor.

He was a retired show cat, son of the greatest Somali of all time, although he didn't quite follow in his dad's tracks, at least from a showing standpoint. He developed a bad habit of hosing down the show cages -- and yes, I do mean hosing. It got so bad that at times, the judge would have to retrieve him from a puddle.

His name was Ch Foxbrush Kenya Strut. He lived up to the name, since he had a serious case of happy feet that didn't quit.

When he was at the height of his show career, in hopes of distracting him from the peeing habit, I taught him to do tricks. I used a clicker and some soft canned food -- some kind of veterinary diet that was mostly liver and water -- on a plastic spoon.

He loved it. He learned to sit up, twirl in a circle, salute with one paw. I taught him to jump through an embroidery hoop too. He got so good at it that he could leap several feet off the floor. He loved lapping the soft food off that spoon and would become quite excited when he heard the click. Sometimes he would grab the spoon with his paw, as if he couldn't get it fast enough.

My favorite of his tricks was to "shake". I would hold out one finger toward his front paw and tell him, "Shake!" and he would lift the paw and flutter it, as if it were wet.

Kenya was twelve years old and long retired from the Show Cat Halls of Shame. Our tricks had fallen by the wayside too, as I had become distracted by other things over the years. A couple of weeks ago, he was still purring and "marching", but he was ill and his appetite waning, so I took him in to the vet.

In the exam room, the vet tech brought in a can of soft food.

"Let's see if he'll eat anything." She scooped into the food with a small, flat wooden stick and held it out to Kenya. He immediately lunged for it, wolfing it down voraciously. The tech looked at me strangely, obviously wondering if I ever fed this poor cat.

I just smiled.

Rest in peace, sweet boy. You will be missed.