Nature is Thriving

The coronavirus is affecting humanity in a way that has not been seen before in my lifetime. It is a humbling experience to think of a tiny virus, a microscopic blob of RNA, can kill one person within weeks and leave another one with mild symptoms. None of us knows whether they will be one of the lucky ones and live to tell the tale. Those of us who are hiding out in our homes and behaving responsibly are sheltering in place and practicing social distancing while watching the numbers of deaths go up at an alarming rate. And until a vaccine is discovered, we will all be vulnerable to catching this virus and possibly dying from it. There is no place that is safe anymore.

I am spending my days exploring the backyard with my camera in hand and the wildlife is thriving and actually doing better without all of the people around. The birds are singing with less interruptions, and my neighbor down the street even had a wild turkey hen visit her backyard. Sweet Pea, the dominant male, Costa’s Hummingbird rules his territory with lots of spunk and plenty of girlfriends, and I had a Phainopepla, a rare blackbird with red eyes that usually only lives in Agua Caliente, visit the other day. He must have blown in with the fierce winds that have rattled the blooming ocotillo that then scatter seeds and pollen everywhere across the sand. Hooded and Bullock’s Orioles arrive to raise their young and the bright golden yellow of their feathers is startling to see after the faded and washed-out colors of the windblown brittlebush have all but disappeared. A Belted Kingfisher suddenly showed up one day and announced his arrival with a comical cackle that pierces the silence when he dives down into the murky water from a tree limb that hangs outstretched over the shoreline. He quickly disappears under the surface with a splash and effortlessly catches a fish and flies straight back up to the same branch he left just seconds ago with a tiny fish wriggling in his strong beak. The graceful Great Egret soars across the surface of the water silently on huge outstretched wings and settles down on the safety of a rock for the evening in the company of noisy frogs croaking loudly in the fading light.

Callie is doing marvelous and has a brand new passion. Every evening a family of some kind of desert mouse comes out from their daytime burrow and zips along the outside of the sliding door of the entertainment room in search of a meal. She waits with heightened anticipation and excitement at dusk and just about the same time every day she chases them along the glass barrier until they disappear into the night. They seem to know that she can’t hurt them because they stop and stare at her which drives her absolutely insane. Her tail jerks spasmodically as she chirps to herself in frustration at not being able to catch her prey. The bats won’t arrive again in huge numbers until the summer months, so thank goodness there is a new game in town for her to enjoy.

I hope that all of you are staying safe and healthy and learning to cope with your newfound reality. If you are reading this blog post, surely you have a blog of your own and have a creative outlet to explore. I can’t imagine not having something to do that gives you joy during these difficult times. Thank you again for taking the time to read my adventures with Callie blog. I am hoping we can hit the road again soon.

The Pond
Sweet Pea
Sweet Pea’s Mate
Costa’s Hummingbird with Aloe Vera Blossom
Costa’s Hummingbird with Ocotillo
Belted Kingfisher
Hooded Oriole
Bullock’s Oriole
Great Egret
Mallard Duck
Callie on her walk!
Waiting for the mice to come out to play.

Self-isolation

In response to the Coronavirus, and because Michael is over 70 and especially vulnerable to lung infections, we packed up and headed to the desert to try and ride out the worst of the pandemic. Fortunately for me, I love to read and write and go out and shoot photographs. I am so fortunate that I bought several weeks’ worth of groceries and stocked up on one, 12-pack of toilet paper. Shame on anyone who took more than their fair share. We must all try and work together as a society and look out for the elderly and those that are all alone. I have two neighbors on the same street that share my passion for photography and we are here to show support of one another if needed.

Callie is doing very well and is self-isolating too. I pulled out her old Kong bed that she used to stomp on and collapse the roof before sleeping on top of the bed instead of inside. She has aged considerably and mellowed out since the last time she saw the bed because now she really loves curling up inside to take her naps. It won’t be long before she jumps back up on the roof though.

I can only hope that most of you are doing the best that you can under these trying circumstances. The more we choose social distancing, the quicker we will get a handle on this virus and a vaccine will possibly be developed. Stay well my friends.

If the Box Fits

What is it about cats and boxes; it is a universal trait and even big cats like tigers and mountain lions will crawl up into a box if they come across one. Callie is no different, and when a wonderful neighbor dropped off some goodies for me and after I had unpacked the sourdough bread and strawberries and placed the empty box on the floor, she didn’t hesitate to claim it as her own. The box was just a tad bit too small though, but that didn’t seem to discourage her as she curled up extra tight in order to fit and sighed deeply while closing both eyes and settling down for a nice long catnap.

Time to stretch out and get petted!

Bloom Where You’re Planted

“Bloom where you’re planted” was a favorite piece of advice that my mother would tell her 7 daughters and one son. It is a phrase I remind myself of frequently. One must always strive to do the best that you can under any given situation.

Living in the desert with March right around the corner, the creosote and brittle bush are in full swing and the scent of flowers is everywhere. The mimosa tree will stop you in your tracks if you get within 30ft of it. All the plants in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are offering up their pollen and nectar to insects and birds and the desert is alive with chirps and buzzes and brilliant flashes of gold and orange colors.

Callie is doing very well and we have found the right medications for her asthma. She is less stressed with the CBD oil and the prednisolone cream that is applied to her inner ear flap has lessened her coughing spells.

I finished a painting of a bighorn ram that I have titled “Size Matters” for a flora and fauna show at the Borrego Art Institute, and if it is accepted, I will have put my toe in the door for exhibiting again. Bloom where you’re planted, has been achieved.

Waiting for birds to arrive
Out on her walk
Chuparosa and Costa’s Hummingbird
Female Costa’s Hummingbird
Chuparosa
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Sweet Pea
Costa’s Hummingbird and Creosote
Verdin on Brittle Bush
Carpenter Bee
Verdin on Ocotillo Blossom
Desert Bee and Brittle Bush
Sweet Pea
Size Matters

Oakzanita Campground

I am having a delightful time at Oakzanita Campground in Descanso, California. It is a Thousand Trails facility and we have a membership that we bought into last summer. The campground is in need of a facelift, but the bathrooms are clean and warm, and the staff is very friendly. The best part of all is that I have had ample opportunity to do bird photography and Callie has been able to go on walks and to meet friendly dogs.

Descanso is located about a 20-minute drive to Rancho Cuyamaca State Park and I spent hours photographing Red-winged Blackbirds and Great Blue Herons. Our friends, Fred and Becky have joined us and we head to Agua Caliente today for several days.

Callie is having a marvelous time, and the CBD oil continues to amaze me by helping her with her asthma and anxiety. She had one evening of coughing when we first arrived because of the chilly evenings but has stabilized again and all is well. She is happy and playful and has a hearty appetite.

Happy trails.

A Bird Sanctuary

I am not sure if most of you know this, but I am a wildlife photographer and birds are my passion. I started painting birds first though in my early twenties but was forced to retire because of Pterigium’s in both eyes. I had eye surgery last year and it was successful, so I am attempting to paint again. We have a fabulous, world-renowned art institute here in Borrego Springs and I am considering joining and submitting works of fine-art.

Birds escape cold winter weather just like humans do, and they migrate from all over the world to stay in the mild climate of the desert during the winter months. We live within 40 miles of the Sonny Bono Nature Preserve, which attracts thousands of birds, but I am also trying to create a bird sanctuary right here in my own backyard for photo opportunities. Yesterday, we built a water feature and laid gravel and I will set up my tripod to take hummingbird images. I am debating on getting a feeder too but haven’t decided yet whether I will go that route. I have mixed feelings about sugar water, and how quickly one hummer will dominate at the peril of all others, but we shall see. If the sound of running water alone is enough, I will stick to that.

The pond behind my house is also a wonderful place for waterfowl, coyotes, rabbits, and many other species to congregate and to find freshwater to drink. I love living in the desert for this very reason, and I am so fortunate to have wildlife all around me. Anza- Borrego Desert State Park is still a wild place to live in and we have some of the healthiest herds of bighorn sheep in the country. I will keep you all updated on the art institute. I am planning on submitting a bighorn ram for a flora and fauna exhibition in the spring. The entrants are juried before even getting into the show, so it is very competitive due to limited space availability.

Callie is still doing very well and the CBD oil is no less than a miracle for her. She hasn’t coughed at all and is a very relaxed and happy cat!

A Sense of Well-Being

I gave Callie CBD oil at the suggestion of my husband about a month ago and wrote about her response in my last post, but I just wanted to follow up with the results a month later.

It is nothing short of miraculous how well she has taken to the oil. Not only does she lap it up with enthusiasm, (she is a very picky eater) but her personality along with the cough has improved dramatically. Callie has a big personality for a cat, Calico’s are notorious for being prickly and she is no exception. I have managed to turn her from a neurotic stray, into a well adjusted, spoiled, and certainly pampered feline by allowing her to be a participant in just about every aspect of my life. We are joined at the hip and she believes herself to be an equal standing member in just about every way.

The hitch comes when we leave her alone in our desert house. She doesn’t like it when left by herself and feels abandoned and resorts to throwing up all over the place. I believe it stems from her youth and her past trauma. Since I have been administering the CBD oil, Callie seems much more relaxed and happier in general than I have seen her in quite some time. When we leave, I get a look of, so what, and when we return, I don’t have to clean up her fitful messes. She is much more playful in general and acts like a kitten again. Callie is at least 11 years old, I don’t know her exact age because I adopted her when she chose me about 8 years ago.

Callie has always been outgoing for a tiny cat, she took to walking on a leash and riding on the dash of our RV, but it has been the separation anxiety that causes her the most harm. The CBD oil has given her a new lease on life, and she isn’t wracked by coughing fits as often and doesn’t appear to be as stressed out. I am also applying prednisolone, transdermal cream to her ears for asthma, but that alone can’t be given credit for her overall sense of well- being. I can only speak for myself, but I would highly recommend the oil and have not witnessed any negative side-effects.

Happy trails and happy tails for all, and a Happy New Year to my wonderful readers.

CBD oil and Asthma in Cats

Callie was diagnosed with asthma several years ago after a persistent cough that never cleared up with 6 months of antibiotics. Once she was put on prednisolone cream which is applied to the ear flap, her symptoms all but disappeared. Unfortunately, we have had to change veterinarians and because we have been traveling so much, we ran out of the cream and are waiting for a compound pharmacy to make more. The cream won’t be ready until tomorrow, so we have had to get creative and decided to try CBD oil to see if it can carry us through. This oil is specifically made for animal consumption only.

The first time Michael and I gave it to her, I assumed that she was going to hate it because she is such a picky eater. I chose the burrito wrap approach, which means I wrap her up in a blanket and had Michael squirt the oil into her mouth as I held on to her tightly so that she wouldn’t rake me with her claws. She protests violently because of the lengthy antibiotic days, but as soon as I let go of her, instead of foaming at the mouth and retching, she licked her lips and walked away with a surprised look on her face. I too was surprised and Michael suggested that the next time we give it to her, I drop it into her food. I did not believe it was going to work, and that we would just waste the oil, but reluctantly decided to give it a try. To my total astonishment, Callie did indeed love the taste and licked it up and begged for more. It isn’t a cure but it does seem to relax her enough and her coughing fits are down about 75%.

The only downside to CBD oil that I can see at the moment, is that I am putting it into canned food, and Callie is really prone to gum disease. When I first rescued her about 9 years ago, we had to have her teeth cleaned and I was told that she should only eat dry food. Her gums have held up well and her breath is fresh and clean and there is no sign of gingivitis. Introducing canned food again is going to be a problem for her, but having asthma is much worse. I have decided to only give her a teaspoon of canned food when I give her the oil and the rest of the time, I will insist she only eat dry food. Good luck with that! Callie has a way of getting what she wants, and I struggle with maintaining a firm approach to discipline and maintaining the precarious alpha female position.

Tomorrow I am excited to say that we are heading to Las Vegas to visit our daughter and will be staying at the Thousand Trails Campground on the east side of the city. I am hoping the weather will permit visiting Valley of Fire, Snow Valley, and Zion for landscape photography. Other than that, we will have fun with Lara and do whatever we want to do.

The prednisolone cream will help her with her asthma, so now I am considering giving her the CBD oil for anxiety. She throws up when we leave her alone for long and has separation anxiety, but that is indeed another story for another time. Cleaning up vomit on the rugs, and of course, she chooses the rugs and not the linoleum to barf on is no fun to clean up, and I am hoping we can resolve that issue next. Oh, the fun of traveling with a cat in an RV.

Happy holidays to all of my beloved readers. Thank you so much for reading my adventures with Callie blog. Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, I am hoping that all of you find peace and joy at Christmas and Hanukkah or whatever celebration brings you happiness and gratitude. I am looking forward to many more years of traveling with my husband and cat in our marvelous, 24 ft Class C RV and sharing my stories for all of you to read and enjoy. There is something so special about my relationship with Callie, and I am so appreciative for her friendship and for having rescued her and she, me!

Rug Beater

Cohabitating with a nocturnal cat in a 24ft Class C RV can be an ideal situation, that is until it is not. But the advantage of having a cat over a dog, for instance, is that you can leave them unattended for most of the day and they don’t bark and bother the neighbors. Cats also do not have to be taken out for potty walks because the litter box can easily fit into a corner of the RV. We keep Callie’s in the shower in the bathroom, and this works out perfectly. I do have to cover up the leather seats with towels and that doesn’t exactly go with my choice of decor, but it is a small price to pay for enjoying her company and not having the seats scratched up. If a cat will take to traveling as Callie has done, they can provide you with lots of fodder for storytelling and they usually aren’t as much work as a dog. Readers may argue the point either way, but because I adopted Callie as a stray after having put my beloved but aging Jack Russel down, it is even more bittersweet to be defending her as a good RV companion.

The disadvantages with cats over dogs are that cats are nocturnal, and every once in a great while if Callie has been left alone for too long, she stays awake all night and tries to come up with things to entertain herself throughout the long and dreary hours. Running up and down the hallway and springboarding up to the loft gives her a great deal of pleasure when she jolts us both wide awake with a heart-stopping thud. This seems to be one of her favorite tricks because of the sheer drama of seeing our reaction. But the game she prefers more than anything else is to beat up the area rugs at pre-dawn with as much noise and drama as is possible.

I have always discouraged her from sharpening her claws on the furniture, so grasping the heavy-duty cotton rugs, with all claws extended, provides her with the sensation of killing a substantially large-sized animal as she pummels it with her back legs and embraces the poor thing tightly in a death grip with her front paws. Callie loves to make a dash for a singled out rug as if it is her chosen prey and doesn’t stop disemboweling it until her teeth have sunk deep into the nape of the fabric and all signs of life have been extinguished. The morning after attacking the rugs, I find them all scattered about and bunched up and tossed to the side of the hallway like an antelope that a lion has killed during the night. The two of us solemnly survey the damage she has done and try not to crack too big of a smile or belt out a laugh. She looks up at us then to see our reaction and seems quite proud of herself as she struts back to bed with her tail raised high in the air.

We would much rather that she take out her aggression and energy on the rugs than jumping up to the loft and on our heads. And because Callie seems so satisfied with herself after a night of battle, we are grateful that she has found an activity that suits her and doesn’t destroy the RV in the meantime. Michael and I really love traveling with her and wouldn’t change a thing except for maybe excessive shedding, vomiting up hairballs and just a few other minor inconveniences….. But like I said, minor issues, and who is counting anyways.

So, after several years of hitting the road and being confined to such a small space together, we three have worked out most of the pros and cons of nomadic life and couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. When she enthusiastically jumps up on the dash just as soon as the motor starts up and takes her rightful place as co-navigator and road warrior, she settles down between the two of us to begin our travels with Callie adventures. My heart just beams with pride then, for having rescued this incredible little creature, and for giving her a life of meaning and purpose and high jinx and adventure. With all of that in mind, just who rescued who would be a fair question to ask yourself!