Posts Tagged With: animals

Living With Animals

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Jennifer Skully author photoMy guest today is the wonderful Jasmine Haynes, AKA Jennifer Skully. She does such a great job introducing herself, I’m just going to let her take it away.

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Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Kate! It’s a pleasure!

Just to let all you of you know who I am, I write humorous romantic mysteries as Jennifer Skully and classy, sexy romances as Jasmine Haynes. I love to include animals in my stories. My latest book, Can’t Forget You (by Jennifer Skully), features a lovable dog named Samson. He grew on me to the point that I had to give him his own voice in the story! In Somebody’s Ex (by Jasmine Haynes), Randi Andersen has a Norwegian Elkhound just like my very own dog, Star. And in another of my Jennifer Skully books, It Must Be Magic, my heroine talks to animals, with a special affinity for cats.

I could go on and on, but I really wanted to talk to you about living with animals, the great joy as well as the trials and tribulations. I have always lived with animals, from dogs and cats, hamsters, gerbils, birds, rabbits, fish, and a husband. Oh wait! He doesn’t count as a pet, does he! For the last 18 years, we’ve lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains, so we’ve had lots of feral cats adopt us, too.

For the most part, we’ve had cats. Over the years we’ve been home to many (not all at the same time, of course!): Buddy, Gort (so named because my husband and I love the old movie The Day the Earth Stood Still and Gort was the robot), Louis (she was named for Louis Leakey because she liked to sleep in what we called the Olduvai Gorge between my husband and I at night), Boneyard (because she was starved and all skin and bones when she came to us), Eddie (who was named for Eddie Munster because he truly terrorized his sisters Louis and Boneyard), CT (short for Crooked Tail because she had a big bend in her tail), and Whitey (because he’s black and we had to differentiate him from CT who was also black). And of course, there was wonderful Star, our Norwegian Elkhound.CT Sun Cat 1

I love my animals to sleep with me and stay in my office beside me while I do my work. And when I’m outside on the deck or in the atrium writing on my word processor, I love to have them out there with me, too. There’s just something so calming about a furry friend right near you. Of course, they can be a nuisance, too. Eddie Munster was such a cool cat to human beings, but he terrorized Louis and Boneyard. We have very high ceilings with rafters, and Boneyard sat up on a rafter so that Eddie couldn’t get her. Or she’d climb up my clothes in the closet and sit on the highest shelf. Louis couldn’t take it unfortunately and she ran away. Eddie and Star tolerated each other, except the time Star was sleeping with me on the couch, and Eddie walked right over her as if she were part of the sofa. That didn’t go over well, let me tell you. But no matter the nuisance they are, they always give you so much love. Star was such a sweet dog. She loved to walk with me in the redwood park, and she was always with me wherever I was in the house. And of course she slept on the bed along with the cats. Sometimes, I’d have a cat at my back, one at my knees, and Star in the middle between my husband and I (she liked the Olduvai Gorge, too).

The unfortunate thing about living in the mountains is that we have a lot of predators. We tried to keep them inside, but the cats wanted to be outside during the day, sleeping on the deck in the sunshine, even visiting the neighbors. My neighbor built a pass-through in the fence so the cats could sleep on her deck, too. Of course we always brought them in at night. But eventually we lost Buddy and Gort to the wild creatures. Louis came to live with us, but Eddie drove her out. I wonder if there’s a moral there, maybe 3 cats are too many. Or maybe you shouldn’t mix male and female. Boneyard wouldn’t come in one night when I called her, and we lost her, too. Eddie died 3 years later of stomach cancer. On a cold winter’s night shortly after Eddie passed on, CT moved inside. She was a smart little thing and knew how to steer clear of predators. She was a stray, but not feral, and was always very friendly to us. We have a flat roof and she slept up there so the coyotes couldn’t find her. Once she moved inside, she and Star were very companionable, sleeping on the bed together. She was a dream cat. I didn’t even need a cat box because she was like a dog and I let her out to go to the bathroom.

Jan 09 download 053Then tragedy struck and our Star died very suddenly. She had a brain tumor which literally took her in 4 days. We had no clue. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her. Although later the vet said that she’d been walking on her toes, which was a symptom. But it was a terrible shock. I don’t think I would have gotten through it if CT hadn’t been living with us and given us all her love and healing powers. She gave us another wonderful year and a half after that, but then she succumbed to intestinal cancer. My husband and I gave her subcutaneous fluids and put her on steroids, but alas, there was nothing we could do to save her.

After losing CT a year and a half ago, my husband and I decided we could no longer have animals. It’s too painful to lose them. Six cats and a dog was too much for us to take. We decided we’d have our little feral cat Whitey and that was it. Whitey loves our food and our deck, but he doesn’t love us. He won’t get within more than about 10 feet. And that’s after 5 years of coming 2 to 3 times a day for food. A year and a half with no loving animals in the house! Oh wait, we babysit my sister’s dog Elvis. He’s the cutest poodle. But still, he wasn’t ours. Still, we kept saying we just couldn’t stand the heartbreak again.

WrigleySo who do you think caved first? My husband! He’s such a softie. He dragged me to the SPCA. And there we found Wrigley (so named because she likes to wriggle around on the carpet, rolling all over and begging us to scratch her tummy). She was 7 months old when we got her, and 5 months later, she’s the darling of our lives. She sleeps with us, she lays on my desk while I’m working, and sits under my chair in the atrium. I do wish we could teach her to go outside to use the bathroom like CT, but so far, we’re keeping the cat box. The atrium is an enclosed area where no predators can get to her, but she still gets the sun. Gort used to be able to climb out of the atrium, but I’m hoping Wrigley won’t figure that out. Besides, to her, the atrium is huge after having lived in a tiny box for the first 7 months of her life. She’s adorable.

So the message of this long story is that despite the inevitable loss of our beloved pets, they bring so much joy and love into our lives. Despite the fact that I’ll have to go through the pain again, it’s still worth everything to have them here with us right now, bringing the sunshine into our lives. In fact, my husband has a summer cold, and Wrigley’s right next to him on the bed giving him comfort.

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And here’s a look at Jennifer Skully’s latest, Can’t Forget You.

cantforgetyou_300There’s something very special about the house Maggie grew up in. It’s sort of…alive. With a mind of its own.

And it has plans for the people living there now.

All Maggie Halliday has left after the divorce is the family dog and the home her grandmother left to her when she passed away two months ago. Maggie’s got no other choice but to run back to her hometown of Cottonmouth, California, only to discover her high school sweetheart, Cooper Trubek, is living in the house, along with four other boarders for whom Maggie is now responsible. And according to Nana’s will, Maggie can’t kick any of them out.

Unless one of them commits murder.

Still grieving for her grandmother and trying fix up the house that seems to be falling down around her, Maggie’s got more trouble than she can handle. Then things go from bad to worse when Samson the dog starts digging in the basement…

 

Jasmine Haynes’s erotic romance Take Your Pleasure is free until the end of July on Kindle and most other retailers.

http://amzn.to/1kZ9es1

 

 

Categories: animals, Books, Cats, dogs, Dogs and cats, humorous mystery, Mystery, romance, Romantic suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 24 Comments

A Mongolian Adventure

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My guest today is Paula Boer from New South Wales, Australia. My first visitor from Down Under!

Paula at homePaula started her lifelong love of horses at age 7 when she first rode a pony on a ranch in Canada. Two years later in England, she started weekly riding lessons and became hooked. She competed in many horse disciplines, caught and broke in brumbies, and mustered on remote cattle stations in Australia. Her Brumbies children’s series is based on her own experiences with wild horses. Set in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, the first of the series, Brumbies, became an Amazon ‘Best Seller’ in 2012. Her most recent book Brumbies In The Outback has just been released.

But today, instead of talking about those experiences, she’s going to tell us about a fascinating adventure among the horse people of Mongolia. Take it away Paula.

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Turning forty is a major milestone. Wanting to escape the possibilities of surprise parties or reminders of creeping age, I jokingly said to my husband I wanted to go to Outer Mongolia. It wasn’t only the remoteness that appealed to me, but the fact that the country has more horses than people. So we went.

Mongolia 2Horses canter around us across the open grasslands. Their hogged manes and lean hides accentuate their movements, muscles taut and necks stretched low. Riders of all sizes wave their arms, flap their legs and twitch the long ends of their reins to gain that extra effort from their mount.

The annual horse races in Mongolia are a splash of colour against a backdrop of rolling green hills. Clothes and tack are made from assorted materials knotted together or tied with rawhide. Our guide tells us that many competitors have ridden for hours to come to this event. The horses will race more than once over a distance of forty kilometres before being ridden home again.

The horses respond instantly to every command – spinning, barging, galloping or sliding to a halt to gain advantage over the other competitors. Riders jostle amidst an equally raucous crowd cheering on their favourites and shouting advice. The race winds over hills, through rivers and down valleys, the riders knowing the route from experience. No specific tracks mark the way. Cheers and jeers announce the invisible finish line where horses are swamped to be cared for in preparation for the next race.

The day after the race I had my chance to ride these tough horses. Despite having competed the day before, the ponies felt keen as we mounted up. I cantered through flowers that grew as high as my horse’s nose. Suddenly there was much shouting. Turning to see what the commotion was, I was signalled to return. Believing the situation urgent, I galloped back to the anxious guides. I pulled up as they leapt from their horses. Grinning, they indicated my girth had come undone and was dragging on the ground!

That event resulted in a comradeship I hadn’t sensed before. We climbed through vast stands of conifers, the smell of pine needles rising from under the horses’ hooves. We crossed grasslands where the horses nibbled seed heads as they walked. Herds of horses dotted amongst the lush feed in every valley.

Mongolia 3We learned that everyone in Mongolia can ride. There are more horses than people. There are statues of horses, horses carved into musical instruments and furniture, even drawings of horses on their banknotes. Horses provide transport, entertainment, food, drink and income.

There are no fences. The herds roam freely, ownership identified by brands. Twice a day the mares come in to feed their foals tied to lines in rows. The mares are milked for human consumption before the foals are permitted to drink. Children nurture the foals that are to be theirs, creating a lifelong bond. I can’t think of a better way to live.

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Brumbies in the Outback

Brumbies Outback book 4Ben and Louise discover that life on a remote cattle station is very different to their Snowy Mountains home. Missing her horse, Honey, Louise struggles to adapt to the outback. Ben has a graver concern: he is desperate to prove that Brandy, his stallion, is fit after a serious leg injury, otherwise he may be destroyed. From mustering and working cattle, to tracking and taming desert brumbies, both friends are challenged by their experiences.

http://www.amazon.com/Brumbies-Outback-Paula-Boer-ebook/dp/B00KH07Y16
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/440143
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/brumbies-in-the-outback-paula-boer/1119582978?ean=2940045958257

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Excerpt:

As the sun rose higher, more and more cattle thronged in to the mob. Ben had forgotten how slow a muster started. There had been little for him to do with the experienced stockmen chasing back cattle that didn’t want to stop. Although he’d hoped to have a chance to chat to Jacinta, they needed to keep their separate posts. Looking across to where Louise sat on Splash, he thought she seemed relaxed in the shade. The pony appeared to be asleep; an old hand at this game, he knew he’d need his energy for later.

A shrill whistle alerted Ben. Graeme signaled for them to start walking the cattle out. He had explained earlier how he wanted everyone to work—Ben and Jacinta on the wings, the head stockman and one other in the lead, and Louise with the remainder of the riders on the tail. They planned to keep the cattle close together and move at the pace of the slowest calves.

Ben’s chestnut mare pranced as she closed with a large Brahman bull, his neck hump wobbling with each step. Pushing his horse into the bull’s shoulder, Ben guided the old male back towards the mob. He turned without complaint, lumbering his great bulk with plodding steps. Pleased how his horse responded to his leg aids, Ben patted her neck.

Settling in for a long walk, Ben rode automatically, watching the cattle for any that might try to stray. Every so often, another small group would come running in from the scrub to join the herd, chased from far away by the buzzing helicopter. The heat had returned to the day and dust clung to his sweaty skin. Ben took a long swig from his canteen, letting some of the cool water dribble down his chin. While trying to re-secure his water bottle, the chestnut mare shied.

“Whoa! Steady there!” Ben slipped sideways, almost coming off. Grabbing the mane, he hauled himself back into the saddle. Overhead, a kite flew low with a snake in its claws, the writhing body of its meal casting shadows over the horse. The reptile had been easy prey while slithering away from the thousands of hooves trampling the dust.

“So that’s what spooked you.” Ben shortened up his reins and sat deep, preventing the mare from bolting as she continued to panic. As he brought her back under control, the helicopter appeared from behind a small bluff with a roar.

Too much for the green horse, she snatched at the bit and broke into a gallop.

Categories: adventure, animals, Australia, Brumbies, Horses, Mongolia, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Body Language of Horses – Part 2

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Last time I focused on the front of the horse—ears, mouth, face. Today I’m going to talk about the other end. The rear is the other important area to be aware of because it’s the most dangerous. The two important indicators are the tail and the legs and feet.

A tail is like a flag, signaling safety or danger. Hanging softly while standing still or waving slightly small_2431865552when moving usually shows the horse is relaxed and comfortable. A tail stuck up straight, combined with a high head, indicates an alert or excited animal. You often see high tails when horses are playing and even ones curled over the backs of exuberant Arabians. A horse will sometimes clamp its tail, just like a dog does, when it is frightened and trying to protect its vulnerable areas. Or it could be clamping to protect against cold water when being bathed. J

In the summer when there are flies about, horses swish their tales to chase away the pests. Usually, this is a fairly lazy motion, but sometimes it can have some force as anyone who has been hit in the face can attest. However this is quite different from a rapidly slapping tail that indicates the horse is angry or upset about something. Be very careful when you see this. A kick may follow if you aren’t careful.

A kick can be quite powerful and damaging. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a frightened or angry blow. On the other hand, often kicks are just warnings and have no power behind them and/or are not intended to connect. Horses often cock their legs as a threat and may medium_132910292even kick out but not actually hurt another horse. Most of the time they kick out of fear and to defend themselves.

This is one reason you don’t want to startle a horse. You always should talk to horse if you come up behind them to let them know you’re there. This goes doubly for touching them unexpectedly. A defensive blow that another horse might barely notice can be much more damaging to a human. One of my horses, after spending most of the day being bathed, shaved, having her mane pulled (which she hated) and braided, and getting thoroughly primped for a show, had simply had enough. Her patience had run out. When my trainer bent down to adjust a rear leg wrap, the horse lightly tapped her on the leg, not trying to hurt, simply telling her to go away. Unfortunately, she hit the trainer’s shin and that did hurt like blazes.

There’s one other thing I’d like to mention about protecting yourself from being kicked. It’s actually much safer to be close to the horse than back a ways. If you’re next to the horse, a kick will be more like a push. If you’re father away, you can get the full force of the blow. You’ll notice most horsemen keep their hands on a horse. This lets the animal know where they are and person can immediately feel any changes in the horse’s body, such as tensing to kick or move.

IMAG0335I mentioned before that a horse might cock its leg in threat. They also cock their legs when they’re relaxed and comfortable. You can tell the difference by reading the whole body language. Is the body braced and tensed? Be careful. Or is the body slack and loose? He’s probably dozing. If he’s dancing around, he’s excited and maybe fearful. So what it comes down to is you need to be aware of your horse and learn to read his body language. Horses have different personalities and you need to learn to interpret his particular dialect.

Categories: animals, horse body language, horse care, horse personalities, Horses, How horses talk, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Snakes and Alligators and Frogs, Oh My!

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Ever had an alligator for a pet? How about a boa constrictor? My guest Susan Muller has had both and today she’s going to relate some of her adventures with exotic animals. Where do frogs fit into the picture? You’ll just have to read on to find out.

 

Susan Miuller.

Susan C. Muller is a fourth generation Texan who started her first novel at age eleven, but life got in the way and it wasn’t until many years later that she returned to that first love, writing.  Her novel, The Secrets on Forest Bend, has won several awards. The Witch on Twisted Oak was released in August, 2013, Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte in January, 2014, and Circle of Redemption in May, 2014.

She enjoys speaking to book clubs and writer’s groups and serves as president of her local RWA chapter.

Take it away Susan.
 

 

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Sorry, Kate, I’ve never owned a horse. But being from Texas I have been around them from time to time. I’ve even ridden a few. Of course, I always wanted one, but the expense, not to mention the time and effort, prevented me.

I have owned pets, though. And I’m not just talking dogs or cats, although I’ve had plenty of those. I don’t know what it is about boys–my daughter only had hamsters, gerbils, and kitties—but my son had a turtle named Mr. Turtle Green and a gold fish called Chicken Leg. I only realized last year that the poor fish got that name because he resembled, you guessed it, a chicken leg. Don’t know why it took me forty years to figure that out.

Later, my son got a baby alligator. Of course, alligators only eat live food. During the summer, my son held the flashlight while I caught teeny, tiny frogs and Al, the alligator, snapped them up. As the weather got cooler, the frogs grew too big and I had to improvise. I took a small cube of ground meet, tied a string around it, and jiggled it up and down in front of Al. After he clamped down on it, I had to get scissors and snip off the string hanging from the side of his mouth.

Later, as my son got older and Al had gone into hibernation for the last time, he talked his grandfather into buying him a boa constrictor. We named the snake Hercules because he was so strong. Snakes also only eat live food; generally white mice

Not all pet stores carry white mice or, even if they do, don’t necessarily have them when needed. So we got a large aquarium, put a cover on it, and bought two or three mice at a time.

Do you know what happens when you put two or three mice together? You get six or seven mice, and then twelve or fifteen. Many more mice than Hercules could eat in a month.

Hercules may have been strong, but he wasn’t the smartest snake in the world. The first time he tried to catch a mouse, he missed, injuring the roof of his mouth. Have you ever tried to find a vet who treats snakes? For a week, we had to swab the inside of his mouth with some stinky concoction. This was a two person job. My son held Herc, as we called him, and I swabbed with a Q-tip.

There have been many other pets over the years: a Great Dane and a Shih Tzu who were best friends, an Irish Setter who stole golf clubs and brought them home, a Weimaraner who got on the counter and ate only my regular cookies, forgoing my husband’s sugar-free ones, and a cat who roamed the neighborhood on garbage day, knocking the lids off cans until we had to buy several neighbors new cans with locking lids.

As I think about it, I might have saved money with a horse.

But, of all animals, I love dogs the best. When I needed someone to discover a body in my novel, The Witch on Twisted Oak, I picked a Border Collie. I even put the opening scene in her point of view. I thought I had come up with a brilliant new idea. Later I read Robert Crais’s best seller, Suspect, and realized there’s nothing new in the world.

Molly was only supposed to be in the first scene, but I fell in love with her and she became a major character in the story. Here’s an excerpt from The Witch on Twisted Oak featuring Molly and a cat named Bob who may or may not be a witch’s familiar.

Do you have a dog, or a cat, or a horse, or any other fur baby you love?

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WitchonTwistedOak_850 (1)A powerful psychic is brutally murdered.  Secrets are revealed.  An old enemy is out for revenge.

Detective Ruben Marquez is thrust back into his childhood memories when he investigates a gruesome murder that occurs only feet from his mother’s home.  Is the killer somehow connected to his own past?  Is the beautiful, mysterious daughter of the victim, someone he can trust?  Or is her revelation that she’s a witch a sign he should stay clear.  But how can he, when it appears she’s next on the murderer’s to-do list.

In the ultimate test of courage, he uses himself as bait to protect all he holds dear . . . his career, his family, and the Witch on Twisted Oak.

 

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Molly had spent fifteen minutes searching for Bob (a cat) and never figured out he was hiding behind a curtain. She had finally given up and made do with checking out the litter box. She watched Ruben with innocent eyes, but a pyramid of kitty litter sat on top of her nose.

Mamacita stuck her head out of the bedroom door. “I’m going to bed now. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Tessa stepped out of the bathroom, her face damp and shiny clean, the last traces of make-up removed. Although why she bothered to wear any with that skin he wasn’t sure.

“Could you wait a few minutes?” she asked Mamacita. “I’d like to feed Bob in there where he won’t be worried about the dog. And he won’t eat if there’s anyone around.”

Ruben almost cheered. He couldn’t have arranged things any better. It was almost worth having the cat around. Almost.

It took ten minutes and the efforts of both he and Tessa to convince Bob to stay in the bedroom and Molly to stay out of it. The dog lay with her litter covered nose pressed against the one inch gap at the bottom of the door, occasionally letting out a pathetic wine.

Mamacita scooted as far down the sofa, away from Tessa, as she could get. The only difference in her actions and the cat’s was that her claws hadn’t come out. He looked again. Well, maybe they had.

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Amazon:  The Witch on Twisted Oak:   http://tinyurl.com/pat8l65

Amazon author page:   http://tinyurl.com/khohbla

Website:  http://www.susancmuller.com/

Twitter:  @SusanCMuller

Facebook: Susan C. Muller, Author

 

 

 

 

Categories: alligators, animals, boa constrictors, Dogs and cats, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 21 Comments

My Dope-y Cat

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Janis WilsonThis week’s  guest is Janis Wilson, who is working on her first novel.  GOULSTON STREET is a story of a woman’s attempt to solve the Jack the Ripper murders. Janis has a great deal of experience with the Ripper. She taught a class at Temple University entitled, “Who Was Jack the Ripper?” and has lectured on the Ripper. Last November, she was one of the delegates to the Jack the Ripper conference in Whitechapel. Go Janis!

Today she’s going to be talking about a much less gruesome topic—her Maine Coon cat, Loki.

 

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I had always wanted a solid black Maine Coon, the fluffy cat with the regal bearing. They are called gentle giants because of their pacific nature and their impressive size. We wanted a black one because I have always had and loved black cats. They seem mysterious and glamorous.

LokiSo it was a pleasant surprise when my husband and I, motoring from Virginia to Canada on vacation, happened to spot a classified ad for just such an animal at a price that people who vacation in their automobiles could afford.

The ad appeared in the Washington Post and, as we were not immediately shopping for a cat, it was just black cat luck that we happened to spot it. We phoned the owner just before we left Washington but did not connect.

In New York, we were able to get through and explained why we could not immediately come and purchase the kitten. We agreed to stay in touch with the owner and to meet up on our return trip.

And so, having seen plays on Broadway and at the Stratford (Toronto) Festival, we turned the car southward and started making calls. The kitty lived in Maryland and we made arrangements to meet the owner in a shopping center near the interstate.

The advertiser described the van she would be driving and we pulled into a spot beside it. I climbed into the van to meet the prospective new member of our family. We wanted a cat that would get along with our other two kitties. The kitten permitted me to pet him. To my astonishment, he sat in my lap as if we were old friends. I knew we had a winner. I climbed down and gave a full report to my husband. He entered the van and also was taken with the sweetness of the little black cat.

As we had not been on the hunt for a cat, we had no supplies. I walked into a discount store and purchased a carrier to ensure the kitten’s safe passage to Virginia. Meanwhile, my husband hit the ATM to get cash for the transaction.

I returned to the van with a fist full of cash and departed with a crate full of cat. It struck me that, with my out-of-state vehicle, and my repeated ingress and egress into a windowless van with a couple of hundred dollars in cash, an onlooker might think a big drug deal was in progress.

In fact, it may have been. For the kitten, whom we named Loki, gave us so much pleasure in the ensuing years, that he acted as a mild sedative.

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Here’s an excerpt from Janis’s Work-In-Progress, GOULSTON STREET.

 

jacktheripper“Lord, she was drunk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody as drunk as she was, sliding down the wall and all. Drunk as she was, she still agreed to come along and have another gin with me and to do whatever I could pay her to do. I didn’t give her the chance to do her filthy business. I made her do the paying – with her worthless life.

I put on my cloth cap and walked to the news agent’s to purchase the Daily News. I smiled as I read the headline that said “More Murders.” The article went on to say two women had been killed in one night. The first one was on Berner Street, but this was a surprise to me. Now they think I’m even quicker than I really am.

They should know the first one wasn’t done by me. I wouldn’t have left her guts inside her. They should know my work by now. I get a whore and cut her throat and pull out her insides and walk off with the other parts. No whore deserves to keep her guts, so I take ’em out. No, sir, I did not kill the Berner Street woman, but I am glad they think I did. I worked on the one found over by the Imperial Club. Wonder what her name was? Doesn’t matter. I got to kill another whore and get my arms into the bloody mess of her belly. I was inside her up to my elbows. Nothing is more thrilling than cutting out the womb. It was lovely and warm when I put it in my sack. I had to take it home. It was too dark out for me to admire it properly. Besides, someone came out of the club and I had to run like a maniac to get away safe.

Why do these whores keep coming out? Because they know they deserve to die and that I am here to help them do it. Whores don’t have the courage they need to throw themselves in the Thames, so I help them to stop being a scourge on the community. Help them with my knife. I help the whole city with my knife.

Wouldn’t my boss be surprised if he knew I am the one they call “Jack the Ripper.” Shows they think I am English, naming me Jack. Like the Union Jack. But if I were English I would have been better treated. No tolerance for foreigners in this country. Probably some newspaperman made up that name, but it is all right. Now I have a title and people will remember me better. They will never find me for I am quick and nimble. They should call me “Jack be nimble”, for I can pull bellies apart in the blink of an eye and get my work done quicker than they can say “Jack Robinson.”

With Scotland Yard thinking I fixed two in one night, the peelers will be everywhere. I will have to lie low until people’s blood cools down. I’ll wait until no one expects me anymore. The papers say somebody who goes by the name “Leather Apron” has done my deeds. That was good for a laugh. Let them arrest him and I’ll go to the hanging. I will keep an eye on the newspaper to see if they get any better ideas about who I am.

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Website: JanisWilson.com

Death Knell V

Catch Janis’s short story The Devil’s Triangle in the Death Knell V anthology put out by the Delaware Valley Mystery Authors.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Ripper Newspaper photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/bradford_timeline/6349438279/”>Bradford Timeline</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: anthologies, Cats, fear, history, Jack the Ripper, Maine Coon cats, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Horses’ Body Language

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Sorry for being a little late today. The computer gods were being difficult.

horse headLast time I talked about how horses communicate with sounds. While humans are naturally most focused on vocalizations, the horse’s most important form of communication is by body language. The variety and complexity is actually quite astounding.

If you see a horse with its ears back and pinned to its head, eyes slitted, nose tight, and head snaked forward in an aggressive manner, I hope you would realize that the animal is upset or angry about something. And that you would have enough sense to stay away. On the other hand, a horse with its ears forward, eyes open, nose relaxed, and head slightly extended is interested in something and possibly looking for a treat. That’s a horse you can approach (with the owner’s permission). Between these two extremes are a wealth of expressions that indicate what is going on with a horse. And this is just looking at the head.

The ears are like miniature radar cones and they tell you where the horse is focused. Ears rigidly forward with the head high, eyes wide and nostrils flared says he’s on high alert and looking at something exciting or scary and debating about departing the scene. Since horses are prey animals, their first response to something frightening is to flee. That plastic bag may be a horse-eating monster!

A slightly modified version of this, with the head down and a curious expression, indicates something interesting to explore. Again, as prey animals, it’s important for them to investigate their environment to determine if something is a threat, so they have a strong sense of curiosity. And an even stronger desire to play. My Portia was initially scared of the pink unbarrel racericorn piñata hanging from a tree near the pasture and high-tailed it back to the barn. When a crowd of kids gathered around it and began playing with it, she couldn’t contain her curiosity and crept back up to the fence. Each time someone whacked at the toy and sent it swinging, she’d run away, then stop and turn to watch. In a few minutes, she was back at the fence again. I think she was quite disappointed when it finally broke.

Ears that are swiveled backwards are quite different from angry, pinned ones. These mean the horse is focused on something behind him, hopefully the rider. You see this quite often in training sessions and in the show ring. The horse is paying close attention to the rider’s commands. You’ll also see one ear turned back and the other forward or sideways. This indicates a divided attention, with something that the horse needs to keep an eye and ear on.

horses on beachSometimes you’ll see the ears flopped sideways, with the head down and eyes half closed, indicating a totally relaxed, unconcerned attitude. This is great when lazing around in the pasture. However, on the trail a spaced-out horse could be suddenly startled and react in a way that may unseat its rider. Personally I prefer a horse that’s paying some attention to its surroundings.

Learning to read horse body language is a skill that takes time to develop. Also, not all horses are alike, so you need to be aware of the individual. But if you’re going to be around them (or write about them), it’s a vital knack to develop. This post focused on the head. Next time I’ll talk more about the rest of the body.

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Horses on beach: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicksee/3908901846/”>nick see</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Horse head: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/2889785643/”>Tambako the Jaguar</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Barrel racer: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/alanenglish/3354741725/”>Al_HikesAZ</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Categories: animals, horse care, horse power, Horses, How horses talk, nature, riding, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Language of Horses

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In contradiction to what we often see in movies and on TV, horses do not constantly make noise. They don’t whinny every time someone rides them, nor do they “scream” if they are hit by a whip (as one misguided author wrote). As prey animals, they tend to be quiet, not wanting to attract attention. They do, however, have very effective communication, using both vocalizations and body language.

small_2645376508A mare talking to her foal uses a low, soft whicker to show affection. She greets a friend, of any species, with a slightly louder, rumbling nicker or, if she’s excited, a higher pitched whinny. If you walk into a barn at feeding time, you’ll probably be barraged by both loud and soft greetings, according to the different personalities and how hungry they are.

Squeals are also a common way that horses communicate. When horses meet for the first time, they sniff noses, sometimes getting quite noisy about it, then often they’ll squeal and strike out with a front foot—a dominance behavior. Mares in season tend to squeal a lot too, usually adding a slight, threatening kick to tell others to keep away. The squeal and kick also say “stay away from my food!” My mare Glory has to assert herself this way whenever the gelding in the next stall looks at her while she’s eating her grain. You’ll also hear squeals as an expression of high spirits and playfulness.

Horses are herd animals and bond very strongly. If they are separated from one of their friends they’ll often neigh repeatedly, calling to them. If another horse answers, it may start a “conversation” that doesn’t end until the looked-for horse returns. Since a neigh is a high-pitched vibrating sound that can be quite loud, this can get old very quickly. My Portia had a bellow that could hurt your ears.

About the only time you might actually hear a horse scream is when a stallion is challenging a rival. A fight is a noisy affair.

small__6087150424The one sound you don’t ever want to hear from your horse is a groan. Horses tend to be quite stoic and tolerate a lot of pain. By the time they hurt enough to groan, they usually are in big trouble and you’d better get the vet out ASAP. The groan associated with colic is one of the scariest a horse owner can hear. However, the hurting groan is different from the grunt and groan you often hear when they roll. That’s just a “oh that feels so good” sound.

I had originally intended to talk about body language too, but that would make this post too long. I’ll save it for next time.

So the next time you see a movie where the horse whinnies as it does something, you can shake your head and mutter “Hollywood.” What silly things have you seen horses do on screen? Or have read about in a book?

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Mare and foal: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/nomanson/2645376508/”>nomanson</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt
 
Photo: photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/55839122@N04/6087150424/”>NatureNerd (probably outside)</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;
Categories: animals, horse care, horse personalities, Horses, How horses talk, Mother Nature, outdoors, riding, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 24 Comments

Wildlife in Suburbia

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CochranKelly-1

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Please welcome Kelly Cochran, author of Buying Time: An Aspen Moore Novel, the first in her humorous mystery series. Buying Time was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award and is currently, a quarter-finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Kelly is a lover of all animals and has even been known to have her husband capture and release spiders to the outdoors.

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My entire life I’ve lived in the suburbs. I’ve never had to wake up in the morning to feed the chickens, slop the hogs, or clean out the horse stalls, and therefore, I’ve never lived on acres of land that are a natural habitat for wildlife.  Animals, in the suburbs, include the neighbor’s dog, the robin on the perfectly manicured front lawn, or the relentless squirrel frantically digging to find the nut he was sure he’d buried under the mulch.

The only similarity between me, the suburban dweller, and those who live in rural settings with acres of land, is the wish to keep development to a minimum. So, when my suburban home, located only eight miles from the St. Louis city line, became a condominium complex for groundhogs, we protested and took action to stop the over-development of our community.

Gregory-1A call to a critter control company that relocates animals ended with traps being set in the front and back of our home. In the end, one raccoon, and two groundhogs were caught. One of those groundhogs was Gregory, who’d been a part of our lives for several years, even making it into our Christmas letter twice. I was sad to see him go, but the man said he would take all of them to a 300 acre property far from our home and release them. What animal wouldn’t love acres and acres to roam? The next time I saw the man he informed me that Gregory was now in a better place. Well, I’m not sure about you, but in my youth, when a person told you that someone was in a better place, they didn’t mean a 300 acre piece of land. I could only hope that Gregory was indeed living out the rest of his life on those 300 acres.

Two years later, I noticed leaves left over from the fall had been disturbed at the corner of our porch. My husband said it was just the wind. I didn’t give it another thought until the next day as I headed out the front door to the get the mail and I came across Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe, and Bob.

babies-1Although I thought the groundhog babies were adorable, my husband said they had to go. We kept an eye out for momma, but she never showed. Luckily the man we use to trim our trees said he’d take them to his house and keep them in one of his rabbit hutches until they were old enough to release in another location. Over a period of a week, we enticed them with cantaloupe and were able to trap a few. The others we ended up grabbing with our hands (gloved of course). By that time, the crew had grown to include a brother named Charley and two other unnamed siblings. Total count: Eight!

 

The truth is, even though I didn’t want our suburban lifestyle overrun with wild animals, I missed those little babies in our front yard….until I looked out at the pool in our back yard!

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Aspen Moore has a new life in a new city, complete with a new career. As a personal concierge, she sells her time to those who don’t have enough. One of the perks of her business is focusing on other people’s lives so she doesn’t have to face the demons in her own.

When Aspen’s most loyal customer dies and his suicide looks eerily like murder, she anonymously tips off the police so she won’t expose a secret she desperately needs to keep. But, murder and mayhem are a bothersome duo and she soon finds herself caught in a web of chaos.

A string of crimes, long enough to make a real detective sweat, threaten her livelihood and ultimately her life. Aspen’s only hope to untangle the mess before they cause permanent damage is to track down who’s responsible. Pursuing the truth means solving the mystery of a decade-old land deal, while juggling a quirky DJ and his dog, an eccentric paraplegic, a curious set of twins, and a flirtatious neighbor with spy gadgets.

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Buying Time is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.  Read the excerpt, see the fine reviewers’ comments that helped Buying Time advance in the contest, and leave your own review of the excerpt!  http://www.amazon.com/Buying-Time-2014-ABNA-Entry-ebook/dp/B00JOU31MG 

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Buying Time available at Amazon
www.kellycochran.com
Blog
Facebook
Twitter: @KellyLCochran
The Series: www.aspenmoore.com

 

Categories: animals, critter control, ducks, groundhogs, humorous mystery, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized, Wildlife in suburbia, woodchucks | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

Kentucky Horse Park

Kentucky Horse park.

Last month, guest Kathryn Jane told us interesting facts about the Kentucky Derby. This week I’d like to talk about the Kentucky Horse Park, a unique facility celebrating America’s horses.

Located in Lexington, the home of the Kentucky Derby, the Park is a tribute to the racing Thoroughbred. A huge statue of Man of War stands over his grave in a courtyard near the entrance. On the path leading up to the memorial are markers showing the stride length of a few of the most famous Thoroughbreds of all time. The distance that Secretariat covered in one leap vividly demonstrates why he is still the fastest horse ever. All throughout the park you will find statues and graves of many famous racers and other tributes to the state’s most important industry. In addition, at the Haman of warll of Champions you can see retired Thoroughbred, Standardbred and Quarter Horse racing champions exhibited daily.

The Park was designed as a living museum dedicated to all horses, not just Thoroughbreds. One of its most fascinating features is the International Museum of the Horse, the world’s largest museum chronicling the history of the horse and its importance to man. Associated with the Smithsonian, the IMH uses its 60,000 feet to educate the public about the horse’s unique contributions to human history. As you walk up a long, winding ramp you follow the development of the horse and its various roles throughout time. Also there are interactive exhibits about the Arabian horse, the Kentucky Thoroughbred, Draft horses, Horse Shows, the famous Buffalo Soldiers, and horse-drawn vehicles. In addition to the IMH, there are the American Saddlebred museum and the Wheeler museum, which details all aspects of the hunter/jumper world.

KHP tourOne of the most popular attractions is the Horses of the World. Over thirty different breeds live in the Park and are featured in daily shows or tours. Many unique horses with costumed riders are presented and after the shows visitors can meet and pet their favorites. In addition there are horse drawn tours and carriage rides, horseback riding and pony rides, and in the Spring mares and foals to visit.

If you are at all into horses and end up near Lexington, you should try to visit the Kentucky Horse Park. It’s a fascinating and totally unique experience that the whole family should enjoy—especially any horse crazy female members.

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Photo Kentucky Horse Park courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/rbglasson/3742826141
Photo Mar of War Memorial courtesy of http://www.fotopedia.com/items/kweaver2-JCMfVLC4B
Photo Horse Drawn Tour courtesy of myoldkentucky.blogspot.com/2007/10/kentucky-h
 
Categories: Horses, International Museum of the Horse, Kentucky, Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Horse Park, nature, outdoors, Racing, Show jumping, stables, Thoroughbreds, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 14 Comments

Kentucky Derby Facts

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May is coming soon  and with it the Kentucky Derby. Today author Kathryn Jane, a race horse trainer, tells us some interesting facts about the Derby and its traditions.

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With the approach of the first Saturday in May, better known in my circles as Kentucky Derby day, I thought I’d share six  interesting facts for writers and everyone else.

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When including the Derby in your writing, there are a some things that really shouldn’t involve artistic license so I’ll save you the embarrassment with a few details that may help you with your work, and those of you who aren’t writers will have a tidbit of knowledge to impress your family and friends as you settle in front of the television on May 3rd to watch the 140th Kentucky Derby.

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Fact 1
The Kentucky Derby has been tagged as the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” because the journey begins before a horse is born, takes years of preparation to get to the race itself, and then the whole thing is over in about two minutes.

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Fact 2
The Derby is exclusively for Thoroughbreds in their three year old year. This year, all entrants will be foals of2011, and because Thoroughbreds are typically born between January 01st and May 31st, most of the horses competing will be literally, three years old. (Officially, Thoroughbreds are all considered to have the same birthday, January 1st.)

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Fact 3
The field will be made up of mostly colts. That is, unaltered (unneutered) males. Geldings and fillies are allowed to compete in the race, but fillies usually run in the Kentucky Oaks instead, a race restricted to three year old fillies. There have only been three fillies and nine geldings to win the Derby. Colts and geldings carry 126 lbs, and fillies carry 121lbs

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Fact 4
The Derby is run on a dirt racetrack, never on turf. (Turf is a grass track and a much different surface for horses to run on. Horses are very rarely successful on both surfaces as the two require different types of conformation and running style. It is not unusual for a well-bred horse that has been a racing disappointment on dirt to be switched to turf and show amazing talent.)

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Fact 5
Approximately 400 foals will be nominated each year, and no more than 20 of those will be allowed to compete in the Derby when they turn three. Entry eligibility is based on money earned.

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Fact 6
The race is a mile and a quarter, is run counter clockwise (as are all US horse races), and has never been run in less than one minute and fifty-nine seconds. Secretariat still holds the record for the fastest win at 1:59:4

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It’s been fun to stop by and I’ll stay posted for any questions you’d like to ask

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DaringToLove(2) final coverDaring to Love

A woman who reads hearts…
“Help me…” As an empath working for an organization dedicated to locating missing children, Liz MacKenzie is accustomed to using her unique abilities to sense the emotions of others. She’s not accustomed to hearing them call for her. That’s the specialized skill of a telepath.

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A man who reads minds…

Galen Keifer’s special method of interrogation involves telepathic seduction, a technique that drove away the love of his life two years ago. In spite of their rocky past, Liz has reached out to him again. He’s the one man who may be able to discover the truth about the mysterious voice calling to her.

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A voice from the darkness…

Liz can’t ignore the child’s voice, one that may be connected to a dark secret in her past. Barely recovered from her last rescue mission, she doesn’t trust her own senses, or a man who uses seduction in such a devastating way. But with the possibility of a child’s life in danger, Liz and Galen can’t afford to let it get personal again. Finding the child comes first, even though their hearts and minds are daring them to love…

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THE INTREPID WOMEN SERIES
Stubborn, self-sufficient women, and the men who dare to love them.

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You can find out more about Kathryn at:

Kindle : http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I13NB9U
Print: http://bit.ly/1d8Wq0w
Website: http://kathrynjane.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kathryn.jane.921
Twitter: @Author_Kat_Jane

 

Categories: Horses, Kentucky, Kentucky Derby, Racing, riding, Thoroughbreds, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments

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