Miss Adelaide

I am always writing about Miss Callie, but every once in awhile I will refer to my deceased Jack Russel Terrier, that passed away just months before Callie came knocking on my door. I was still grieving and in no way ready to adopt a cat for God’s sake, when Callie came scrambling up to my front porch, very frightened and lost! She had other ideas though and clearly adopted me as much as I reluctantly adopted her. I have told the story of reluctantly deciding to adopt her several times and won’t get into it again but thought I would instead show off an acrylic on canvas, the self portrait I did of Adelaide and me years ago.

She was an incredible dog. Really funny looking, but brave to the point of fearless and spoiled, rotten, crazy beyond words. I always joked that if her legs were any shorter, she would be upside down. If Addy gained too much weight, she looked like a little pig and was addicted to chasing tennis balls. If you got tired of throwing a ball for her, she would soak it in water before dropping it in your lap. That always got an immediate reaction out of you!

When Addy became an only child after our beautiful and regal white shepherd Coya, was put down at the age of 12, Addy never even grieved for her. Coya was always protecting Addy and she really should have been missed. But Jack Russel Terriers are extremely narcissistic and the thought never crossed her mind.

One time, Addy was carried off unceremoniously by a coyote and the coyote had her by the throat but lived to tell the tale. I heard her screaming for backup and the white shepherd and I both dashed outside to come to her rescue.The coyote let her go at the sight of both of us bearing down on it, only to have Addie go right back after the coyote in outrage. Fortunately, the coyote had had enough and took off running with my shepherd running after it.

So Addie was the love of my life and we did everything together. When she died, I never, ever thought another pet would take her place! Well, Callie has managed to do just that, and she has become one of my all-time favorite pet companions. When she first arrived, I told her that if I was going to adopt her, she would have to try really hard to act like a dog, because I wasn’t thrilled about having a cat. Callie heeded the warning though and walks on a leash, rides on the dash of the RV, as well as a basket on my bike. You can’t ask for more than that from a cat. Everywhere we go, I get the same response from people. “Is that a cat on a leash?” and “How did you teach that cat to walk on a leash!”

And even though I have said my goodbyes to Miss Adelaide. I didn’t have much time to miss her because Callie wouldn’t have allowed for it. From day one, Callie has stolen the show, as well as my heart.

A Game of Cat and Mouse

Since Callie cannot play outside by herself unattended, she needs to be played with at the end of the day or my night will be miserable. She already requires permission to eat 2 times a night, and if she has insomnia to boot, I won’t get much sleep.

Now you might be wondering why Callie needs permission to eat at night? I can only respond with, I just don’t know. I didn’t raise her as a kitten, so maybe it was something that happened to her in the past, but I swear I have done everything I can, from kicking her off the bed to spraying her with water, and the worst of all GASP, was locking her out of the bedroom at night! She sobbed over that form of discipline for hours, while she peered under the door jam in an attempt to see if I was coming back to rescue her and apologize! I could see two little white paws reaching under the door while trying to open it as she meowed loudly. I also threw her out of the house one night, only to find her huddled by the back door and looking absolutely pitiable. All of this, of course, would make sleep impossible. So throughout the years, it has been 7 now, I have become much more relaxed, and Callie has become much more, manipulatively charming.

Every night around 2 am, she makes sure to jump on the side of the bed while missing a toehold, just enough, so that she has to scramble up with her claws in order to make a lot of noise. Once she is on the bed, she shakes herself off and with a soft meow of hello, clamors over Michael to get to me. Once she gets to my side, she plops down and starts to purr and then cuddles up next to my chest. I then have to pet her for a few minutes while she stares at her food that has been placed on the floor next to the bed. Now why she comes up on the bed in order to eat food that is on the floor by the bed is beyond me! Once she has decided that she has had enough petting, she jumps back to the floor and starts to eat with relish. I feed her Science Diet Oral Care and the kibbles are the size of jawbreakers, so you can only imagine the noise she makes will eating! And to think that I actually use to walk all the way out to the kitchen to feed her before Michael came up with the brilliant idea of feeding her in the bedroom at night. Those days are behind us now, so all I have to do is pet her for awhile before she can eat. I know it sounds ridiculous, but you don’t know Callie.

So to get back to playtime at night. One of her favorite toys is a whip-like device with feathers at the end of it, that I tap her with and have her try to catch the feathers with her front paws. Little bits of feathers are scattered all over the place while we are playing, and when she gets really worked up- she kicks herself in the head with her back feet! Does anyone else have a cat that literally kicks them self when they get overly excited? When this happens, I have to tone it down because she has injured herself in the past. One day our daughter visited and when Callie turned her head, Lara gasped at the deep scratches that were clawed down her throat. It looked like she had been in a serious cat fight. When I told Lara they were self-inflicted- she told me not to let Callie do that to herself anymore. So now we stop playtime when she starts kicking herself in the head!

Her next favorite toy is the catnip mouse. She grooms it while licking and kicking it to death before eventually falling asleep with the stuffed mouse held tightly in a loving embrace. If I give her enough attention at the end of the day, Callie in return falls asleep like the little angel that she is, in spite of waking me up several times a night in order to receive permission to eat. I just haven’t managed to break her of that habit, because the joy and appreciation she expresses while eating at night, is worth the bother of being woken up. At least I’m not breastfeeding a baby anymore. Those days are behind me, so now I can act like the indulgent grandmother that I have become.

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places

Last night after I went to bed, I heard a scream from Callie that made me jump out of my skin. She has attacked the glass door and back window before, but this time I was able to turn the outside lights on just in time to see the culprit. I have always thought that it might be a desert fox or coyote because it would leave a calling card on the patio screen door; the telltale mark of scented urine dribbling down the side of the screen door, that would make Callie’s lip curl and her eyes glaze over. I was never able to get a view of what it was though because it would be long gone and running for its life after Callie would hit the glass, screaming her lungs out.

She yells so loudly, and with so much rage, that it didn’t surprise me when I saw a gorgeous black and white tom cat, staring serenely at me on the other side of the door. He didn’t know that Callie can’t stand other cats! This tom seemed calm and dignified and only wanted to get a closer look at her. Callie, on the other hand, was so put out and outraged, that I couldn’t even touch her without her jumping back and screaming, spitting and hissing loudly! This handsome boy didn’t believe her though and was obviously hoping that she would come to her senses once she laid eyes on beautiful, handsome him. What he didn’t know though, was that Callie will never, ever have anything to do with another cat!

It pains me to see a cat running loose outside in the desert. The predators are everywhere- from great horned owls to coyotes, rattlesnakes, and hawks. Cats do not live long out here if allowed to roam free, and especially if they roam around at night. Cats may get away with it for awhile, but their chances of survival are slim, and sooner or later they will wind up missing. He looked well fed and happy and was at least twice the size of Callie, and really tall and elegant. I wasn’t able to get a photo of him in the dark, but believe me, he was a good looking boy. He must be a newcomer to the neighborhood because I have never seen him before, and most people know better than to let their cat’s out at night.

So Callie for some reason or other, has never, ever liked her own kind, and acts so put out if a cat so much as looks at her. This tom will not get any closer to her, and sadly, he is looking for love in all the wrong places. Be safe beautiful black and white kitty, and try to stay indoors at night. Otherwise, you will become a meal to a coyote.

A Beautiful Day of Biking in Borrego Springs

The weather is finally starting to cool off, and bike riding in Borrego Springs is a treasure to behold! There are very few cars out on the road in the center of Anza- Borrego Desert State Park, and as I have always like to say- in the middle of nowhere.

Wildlife viewing is abundant and there are very few hills. The conditions of the roads vary according to taxpayer dollars and some of them like Henderson Canyon, can be quite poor. The extreme temperatures here in the desert are hard on the asphalt and they heat up and crack. In spite of the road conditions, this area is by far my most favorite place to bike.

Heading west on Di Giorgio – you pass a plant nursery that specializes in herbs, and the smell of basil and rosemary, fill the air with a delicious scent. Several orange groves have been left fallow this year, and it breaks my heart to see these trees die an agonizing and slow death. I wish they would cut the trees down right away. The good news is that maybe citrus growing has lost its appeal here because of heavy water usage and the price of water has gone up! We have a deep aquifer out here, but because growers have unlimited use of wells, the attitude is starting to change and people are complaining about it.

Coyote Canyon is at the end of Di Giorgio, and there is a Swainson’s Hark viewing station and counting bench where you can watch these magnificent raptors when they migrate through from Argentina and Mexico, on their way to Oregon, Washington and as far away as Canada. They are capable of hunting in midair, and it is fascinating to watch them capture Hawkmoths that have morphed from caterpillars to really large moths. These moths help pollinate the Sacred Datura, so the circle of life, not always fair, continues. The caterpillars can be so abundant here that they cover the street on their way from one side of the desert to the other. The plants that have made it through the summer and winter, grow fast and flower right away, only to be mowed down by insects, and the insects fall prey to the birds.

Swainson’s Hawks can have a wingspan of over 4 ft and are large, stocky fliers. They travel in what is called a “kettle” and circle the air currents high up above in large numbers. It is a world event when they pass overhead from February through April and attract birders from all over!

As we biked around the De Anza Golf Course, who should I see but the 4 hen turkey sisters that came through my backyard during the summer? They were pecking seeds off the newly planted golf course and are always looking out for one another. These gorgeous creatures constantly talk back and forth, and it amazes me that they have traveled down from the surrounding mountains and are calling the harsh desert, home. I would think that coyotes would capture them because there are so few trees in which to roost. Maybe it is all the tamarack windbreaks that ranchers plant. These rows of large, leafy bushes are tall enough to shelter these birds. They have survived through the summer though and look healthy. What a joy it is to see turkeys in the wild. They are so smart and alert and make our domestic turkeys look rather pathetic.

Roadrunners are abundant too, and we usually spot at least one coyote straggler in the mid-morning before it heats back up, trotting into Coyote Canyon to sleep off the rest of the day. Biking is a pleasure and very rewarding here in the desert during the spring and winter months. I can only imagine that in the years to come, this will become a much-desired biking destination. We have one bike rental and repair shop on our teeny tiny Main Street shopping mall called: Bike Borrego. The owner, Dave, is a really salty character, but very knowledgeable about bikes and has serviced ours, frequently. Visitors coming to Borrego Springs can rent a Cannondale for less than $50.00 a day.

The tourist season has started again and Borrego Springs opens its restaurants and shops and people start to appear from everywhere. The homeowners like us, who have survived through the heat of the summer, usually flee in June and come back in October. We were fortunate to head out this summer in our RV with Callie. Last summer we hunkered down and marveled at how anything survives out here!

The Roadrunner

The fascinating thing about roadrunners is that they are members of the cuckoo family. They are born to run and can outrun a human being. Roadrunners can take on a rattlesnake, eat mammals and insects and are very territorial. These cheeky birds mate for life but live solitary lives until the springtime comes, when the male and female will join forces to build a nest together in order to raise their young. Roadrunners survive in some of the most inhospitable environments and have made Anza- Borrego Desert State Park- home. You can see these birds racing down the side of a road, or if severely threatened, will take to the sky in short bursts of flight.

One day last winter, Michael and I were biking along Borrego Springs Road toward Seely Ranch- a grapefruit, date and orange farm when we spotted a roadrunner sitting in the middle of the road. I biked past it and did a double take because it was staring off into space and didn’t react to the sight of me cruising by. When Michael also biked past him and he once again didn’t react, I knew something was terribly wrong and we circled back over to check on him.

He was breathing rapidly, with his beak slightly open, and looked dazed and confused. I thought to myself that it must have been hit by a pickup truck that had passed us on the road a little while back. We both got off of our bikes and I knelt down to get a closer look. There was no blood or obvious harm, and the only thing I could see that was wrong, were maybe a few feathers misplaced on the upper, right-hand shoulder.

I stood up and ran over to the grove to get a long stick and went back to the Roadrunner and gently nudged the stricken bird. I chose a stick because of all the photos I had seen of roadrunners leaping up in the air and grabbing rattlesnakes with their beaks. I didn’t want the roadrunner to fly up in my face and send me running in alarm! It didn’t leap up in my face but only reacted just enough for me to continue prodding it while I carefully guided it off the road. If we would have left him there, he would have been hit by the next vehicle that drove past.

Once I got him over to the shoulder, it continued to pant with its beak slightly open. I stayed with him, and after awhile, his eyes started to clear and he slowly came to his senses. I continued to speak softly to him just to make sure he didn’t go back out into the street. After 5 minutes or so, the poor thing shook his head in dazed confusion, but then looked me square in the eye before taking off at a lopsided, but much steadier lope, back down the row of orange trees. By the time it disappeared into the trees, he appeared to be almost normal again.

The truck must have just barely clipped him as he was dashing across the street; just enough of a blow to daze him, but not enough to cause any lasting damage. I have seen this happen to me when a roadrunner dashes across the street and I have narrowly missed the bird. Roadrunners are incredibly adapted to the harsh conditions of the desert and smart enough, and tough enough not to get hit by cars very often. I have never seen one dead on the road.

And this reminds me of the rascally roadrunner that has claimed my backyard as his own, and visits almost daily. If he so much as spots Callie looking at him, he will let out a prehistoric screech and start running over to her.

This scares the living daylights out of her and she tries to play it safe by sitting on the inside of the screen door. Even that isn’t a safe zone for her though. He has actually gone so far as to come looking for her inside of the house if the door is left open. Now that is one, tough, bird!

Tree Climbing Cat

I have never had a cat that loves to climb trees as much as Callie. And she especially loves to climb trees with me watching her. She crouches low to the ground and waits for me to notice before she races up the trunk of the nearest olive tree. When she sees me looking at her, off she goes in a blur of fur! As soon as she gets to where she wants to be, she settles down and surveys her surroundings like the desert queen that she is.

A State of Bliss

In the winter, Callie sleeps inside her Kong bed and curls up into a little ball, but in the summer when it is warm, she flattens the roof down and sleeps on top of her smashed bed. At first, I would get upset with her and when she wasn’t looking, I would push the roof back up and straighten it out. She has a mind of her own though and will stomp on the roof all over again. I have since given up trying to convince her that it is better for her to sleep in the house/bed. I placed the bed way up high on the TV hutch about a year ago, and the first day she discovered it, it was love at first sight.

Callie is finally finished with a 7-day course of antibiotic and steroid cream to combat acute bronchitis that she developed when we were camping in a smokey area of Northern California. The Santa Rosa fires had been burning and smoke was everywhere. We spent one night at Salt Point north of Bodega Bay but were forced to leave because the smoke was so dense. She started coughing soon after that.

Today is the third day she hasn’t coughed and I think she has finally gotten well and is totally blissed out. Coughing takes it out of her, and she hasn’t really been able to sleep deeply until today. I can hear her snoring and wanted to videotape her, but felt that it might be just a little over the top and that she would view it as an invasion of her privacy. I don’t think she would object to still shots though!

So happy for modern medicine and that Callie is finally feeling better again because in a few days we are going to plan on another short RV trip.

A Sequel to the Sacred Olive Trees

Today dawned golden and bright with a brisk temperature of only in the 50’s. This is the best time of year to be living in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and Borrego Springs. Exotic migratory birds like the oriole, tanager, and flickers, return for the winter. Packs of coyotes have raised their young and if all goes well, the pups will survive and contribute to the chorus of howls and yips by adding their own little squeaky voices to the early morning mix. The bighorn sheep once again move to higher ground with their springtime lambs and every one of us that made it through the harsh summer can take a deep sigh of relief. The desert is where I call myself home now, and I am eternally grateful that the heat is once again behind us.

The summers are brutal here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We had a high of 124 degrees F, but because there is a constant source of water that is made available with natural springs flowing most of the year, bighorn sheep, bobcat, mountain lions, badgers, desert foxes, quail, roadrunners, many species of birds, jackrabbits, cottontails and so much more, are able to survive the summer heat.

Fortunately for us, we were able to travel in our 24ft Class C RV during most of the hot summer in order to escape the scorching months of July and August with our cat, Callie and only had to return last week to settle in for the fall and winter season. We will continue to take shorter trips for the fun if it, but the desperation of fleeing the heat of summer is behind us.

Callie has been on an antibiotic for 7 days now for acute bronchitis, which was triggered again when we drove through the horrific fires of Santa Rosa, California. Due to the highway 101 closure, we were forced to dry camp at Salt Point Campground north of Bodega Bay in order to try and get away from the smoke. Fires had broken out all over the map and we were not successful in finding a campground which was smoke-free. She started coughing soon after we spent the night there and it became progressively worse the second half of the 5-week trip. Fortunately, I have a good vet in Morro Bay who was able to call in a compound prescription for us and she is on the road to recovery.

This morning was the first day Callie dashed across the backyard in order to reach a fast enough momentum to climb high up on her beloved olive trees. She loves these trees and climbing them is a passion for her. The higher she climbs, the prouder she becomes! It is always a good sign when she throws herself on the trunk of the tree and then dashes straight up until she can climb no higher. It made me feel good too, to see her once again feeling better.

The Sacred Olive Tree

I know when Callie’s health has returned, only because she has the strength and energy to climb her beloved olive trees again. She has always loved climbing trees and I can remember when we lived in Redlands, California, and I adopted her as a stray, she would scurry up a eucalyptus tree and frolic joyfully on the roof of our rental house.

When I reluctantly decided to keep Callie, I had tried to leave her in the driveway of our landladies “grove house” in the middle of an orange grove and across the street from my house. Theresa’s family had long been farmers in the Redlands area and I thought Callie would be happier over there. So I raced across the street with Callie in my arms and left her in hopes that she would stay. I had only had her for a couple hours and was sure someone was looking for her. Such a cute little cat couldn’t possibly have been abandoned!

Well, Callie had other thoughts, and as soon as she noticed that I was missing, she started howling and looking frantically for me. My landlady opened the window of her upstairs bedroom and leaned out and yelled: “Joanie, your cat is calling for you!” Theresa had watched me assist my Jack Russel during the last days of her life and had told me frequently that I had a way with animals. She wanted to see me keep this cat. I, on the other hand, didn’t want to adopt a cat after having only recently put “Addie” down. I was still in mourning and I wasn’t ready to take on the responsibility of another pet. But Callie had other ideas, so I had to run back over and scoop her up in my arms and take her home with me to stay.

So fast forward three years later, we are now living in the desert and she can’t run free anymore. I have to supervise her playtime outdoors at all times because of all the predators that live wild in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Our backyard is adjacent to this wilderness area and I can see foxes and coyotes hunting on the other side of the wall. They could easily scale the wall and attack her.

With supervision, climbing the olive trees is her favorite thing to do, but she can’t do it when she has bronchitis. It takes too much strength to climb and her cough stops her mid track! So today is a good day for Callie and an even better one for me. To see her joyously climbing the trees again makes my heart sing. Two more days of antibiotics and we should be finished dosing her. It has been a tough illness again for her. The Santa Rosa fires with all the smoke it produced, was just too much for Callie. The clean, dry, air of this beautiful wilderness area, is starting to do its magic and Callie is beginning to finally heal.

Home at Last

Having to leave Morro Bay and head home to the desert was a mixed bag of emotions. My daughter, husband and sweetest cat in the whole wide world, have been on a month-long road trip in our 24ft Class C RV and we got as far north as the redwoods in Eureka. We had a fabulous time except for the smoke and devastation that broke our hearts in Santa Rosa and Callie’s bronchitis returning from inhaling all the smoke. We are so fortunate though and are reminded of how good we have it when others have lost their lives, loved ones, pets, and homes.

The drive from Morro Bay to the desert takes about 7 hours, but you have to tack on all the errands you need to run before returning to the middle of nowhere. Food and supplies have to be purchased, and a thoughtful assessment of what one will need for about 3 weeks or so planned out. We are an hour and a half from any decent grocery store and it is necessary to prepare yourself as much as possible before crossing into the desert to get back home.

We managed to return to the house in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and Borrego Springs around 7:30 pm to winds that were blowing strong, with gusts that bent the palm trees and olive trees low to the ground. When there is a rainstorm inland, the desert usually pushes that storm along when the cold meets the hot temperatures. Today the winds are blowing again and I have heard that the coastal areas of Southern California received light rain. Maybe Northern California will get a drenching so that all the fires are put out once and for all.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is cooling off now and today the high is only 78 degrees. We got in an early afternoon bike ride and we have unloaded the RV, done all the laundry and put away all the groceries and supplies. Callie’s cough is improving and she actually climbed one of the olive trees this morning. That is a good sign that she is feeling better.

Being home at last and settled in the desert is a good thing after all. I love the solitude of and the wildness of this location as long as I have good food in the house and plans to get away in the near future! Anza Borrego is a beautiful place to live as long as you don’t have to tough it out during the hot, summer months!

My sister sent me this photo of when I was a young girl. The pigeon was my brother’s bird, but I have no recall of what I was doing with it. To this day, I love animals and riding my Cannondale Bike!