Vanishing act

Two things managed to disappear Thanksgiving eve: a portion of my bed’s new quilt and my cat Cora.

The night wound down like it would after any successful holiday feast. I was grateful to be wearing plus-size yoga pants, which were extremely forgiving after a smoked turkey dinner and all the fixin’s. Cora hopped up on the kitchen counter, and I scooped her up, waltzing into the dining room.

I wouldn’t see her again for 24 hours.

The house was full. Matt and I were eager to entertain, our first major holiday in our new house. Guests included Matt’s uncle, his cousin and her husband, along with their adorable two pups Tippy and Coochie. In addition to our dogs Charlie and recent addition Max, this brought the total dog number up to four for the weekend.


Max is the newest member of our family. He has a taste for quilts.

The activity was unusual for our normally quiet household. Especially with us smoking the turkey in the yard, there was a lot of traffic in and out of the house. It’s hard to know when it happened, but sometime that night, Cora quietly slipped out into the darkness.

We consider Cora an indoor cat, but always joked that she would know how to hold her own since she has 23 legendary toes. Meaning 23 claws. The rescue we found her at said she spent considerable time on the streets before we adopted her, so we think of her as a tough cookie.

Under covers

Sometime well past midnight, I dragged myself to bed and conked out. Both of my dogs, Charlie and Max, curled up into me, a Jenga-like puzzle of paws, legs and fur. I fell into a deep slumber.

Until I heard something like fabric ripping.

I was sure it was a dream. But then I heard it again. I sat up, and turned on the lamp next to my bed. Max was down by my feet, with our brand-new quilt in his mouth. I pulled it away, only to find, not one, but two huge holes. Like the size of pancakes. All he needed was syrup. He literally ate the two holes, leaving no fabric evidence behind.


The evidence. Max was caught with the quilt in his mouth. No more late-night snacks allowed!

Having no idea of what to do, I took him outside for a potty, hoping he would barf up the fabric. I fell asleep on the recliner waiting for him to finish his business in the dark.

We felt our way back up the stairs, and I climbed into bed, carefully pushing the holes to the side of my feet. Max slept in his dog bed on the floor.

Search party

In the morning, I took note that Cora still was not around. But I soon busied myself with making two quiches for breakfast. After Matt’s cousin, her husband and their pups left, my mind returned to Cora. I figured she must be hiding because of all the activity.

I also kept a close eye on Max. I’m happy to report that he pooped throughout the day, and he ate both breakfast and dinner. My anxiety about a possible blockage from the quilt started to dissipate.

Matt jostled me out of my daydream.

“Have you seen Cora?”


Cora took herself on a 24-hour adventure. She’s no worse for the wear.

I hadn’t. I checked her cat food. Not touched since the day before. Highly unusual since this cat does not miss a meal. Also, her litter box was not used in what appeared to be a day.

Matt and I split up, checking closets, the basement, under the couch, beneath the beds. “Kitty-kitty Cora!!!” we cried out, hearing nothing in reply.

“She’s got to be here somewhere,” Matt said.

As we left for dinner, I saw the weather would drop to 30 degrees this night. When she got out the day before, it was still an unseasonable 58 degrees. I imagined Cora huddling under a wet bush, shivering in the cold.

“Don’t worry, I’ll find her,” I said.

Warm welcome

When we returned from dinner, I grabbed a strong flashlight and went in the front yard.

“Kitty-kitty Cora! Mew mew mew-mew!!!”

I flashed the light in the front bushes, and up an enormous oak tree. I called out her name once more, and waited.

Then I heard something. I thought it might be a meow, but I also thought I could have imagined it. So I called out her name again. Then I heard it loud and clear: “MEOW!” She sounded about 10 feet away, and I found her on the other side of my fence in a dog run out back.

I ran into the house, and told Matt to grab a towel. “I found her!” I blurted out.

Once I walked into the dog run, I called out her name. I couldn’t see very well, even with the flash light. I pointed the light in the far corner, where I keep the temporary chicken coop from when we first moved into the house. I stood still, and gasped as Cora walked out the front door of the coop. It had rained for the last 24 hours, and she was bone dry. The coop, still filled with straw bedding from the chickens, kept her dry and warm. I scooped her up, and put her into the towel Matt held out in front of him.


The unused chicken coop Cora took refuge in during her extraordinary odyssey.

Once in the house, both Charlie and Max sniffed her and offered a warm welcome.

To celebrate, Matt placed her on top of the cat tree and gave her a handful of treats. She quickly gobbled them up, then casually licked at her fur, totally nonplussed by her vanishing act.


We’ve been busy in the last few months preparing to expand Our Furever Family. I’m happy to announce two weeks ago we welcomed three chicks! Here’s a blog post about our latest adventure. Join us as the babies grow into chickens. Eggs are just around the corner!

Chicken Scratch Fever

One of our chicks checks out the house, while Cora checks out the chick ... from a safe distance. One of our chicks checks out the house, while Cora checks out the chick … from a safe distance.

The babies are home!

Jilli, just before picking up the chicks. Jilli, just before picking up the chicks.

After spending the weekend in Cleveland (most of it holed up in a hotel room because poor Matt is awfully sick) we got up early this morning to pick up the chicks. While we were finishing breakfast at the hotel, I received a cheerful call that the chicks were ready and waiting for us.

We drove an hour away to Polk, Ohio, where Meyer Hatchery is located. When we walked into the shop, a sound wall of peeps greeted us.

We got three chicks: a Black French Copper Marans, a Dominique and an Olive Egger. I think I’ve figured out the Olive Egger, but the others look too similar to figure them out right now. When we lifted the lid…

View original post 456 more words

Life at Our Furever Family

Charlie chills on the couch with his favorite bone.

Charlie chills on the couch with his favorite bone.

There’s so much to catch up on!

In many ways, the last year has been a blur. I had a hysterectomy and somewhere in my recovery I decided I wanted chickens. Our new cat Cora has settled in, and has taken to pooping in the bathtub. Charlie learned how to snag Scooby snacks off the counter when we aren’t looking.

Jilli in front of the recently completed chicken coop.

Jilli in front of the recently completed chicken coop.

A good portion of the last year has been dedicated to researching chickens and building the coop. I write about our experience in the blog Chicken Scratch Fever. With absolutely no building experience, Matt and I constructed what I consider the most beautiful chicken coop I’ve ever seen.

We will pick up three chicks March 17 from a hatchery in Ohio. They will live in a brooder in our basement until May. I am so excited, and can’t wait for people to start calling me The Chicken Lady.

Cora visits the loo, I mean bathtub.

Cora visits the loo, I mean bathtub.

Out of nowhere, Cora decided to start pooping in the bathtub. I keep a pretty clean litter box, so I was stumped about why she chose to switch it up. I tried cleaning the box every day. I put in all new litter. I added a second box.

I found only one approach 100 percent successful: Closing the bathroom door. Laugh all you will, but in a house with two busy people, it’s hard to remember to close it every time. Somehow during the Christmas season, we managed to keep it closed for several weeks. We were vigilant. Then we accidentally left the door open once, and she ran in to relieve herself.


The evidence.

The evidence.

Charlie has never been one to beg. Well, maybe a little bit. He might gently place his snout on my lap while I’m eating dinner, looking up with his sweet feed-me eyes. But he’s never grabbed at food or barked.

Until we had pizza one night. He skipped begging all together, and waited for us to zone out in a post stuff-our-faces haze. We heard a loud noise from the kitchen, like something falling. I chalked it up to the cat knocking something over. A few minutes later I walked into the kitchen to discover Charlie had managed to grab a couple slices and had a pizza party for one.

Bad Dog. But Charlie got a slice, so I’m sure he would argue Good Dog.

Charlie and Jilli all snuggled in bed.

Charlie and Jilli all snuggled in bed.

I just found this photo on my phone tonight. No doubt Matt saw a moment of cuteness and snapped it. There were three photos in all, but I will spare you the others. Pictures of me sleeping are not for the faint of heart.

All in all, the last year was a huge success. Charlie and Cora continue to surprise me every day, and we can’t wait to expand Our Furever Family in the spring. I know great challenges and victories are just around the corner, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.



A new trick

A box of Christmas gifts from my mom arrived in the mail yesterday. When I opened the box, Charlie quickly shoved his nose in the box and surfaced with a wrapped bag of Iams biscuits.

Right then, I decided Christmas would come early to Charlie … if he would learn a new trick.

He already knows sit, down, off, back up and my favorite: gimme kissy. I thought of what was left. Of course the choices are infinite, but my mind went to the obvious: roll over, bang-dead (how morbid!) and shake.

In the end, shake won out. I grabbed a biscuit, broke off a small piece and put my hand in front of him.

“Shake!” I said firmly.

Charlie wiggled then went into a “down.” I tried again. This time he went back on his hind legs into begging position.

It was clear he didn’t know what was going on, and was pulling out all the other tricks that usually produce a biscuit.

So over and over, I said “shake” then grabbed his paw. Soon, the problem became evident.

Charlie is a south paw.

So I tried one more time, reaching out to his left paw, and he magically reached out to me.

When Matt got home, Charlie was eager to show off his new trick. As soon as Matt said shake, Charlie lifted his left paw in the air, then excitedly jumped up for some loving.

Good boy!!!

Even better news: Charlie has two more baggies of biscuits with his name on them!


Lexie and me on Dog Beach in Muskegon, Mich. Photo by Bryan Bogater.

Lexie and me on Dog Beach in Muskegon, Mich. Photo by Bryan Bogater.

Lexie and I are on a deserted island. Her black fur shines in the bright sun, and for a moment I am fooled into believing this mirage. Normally my dreams are dark, full of squeamish things. But Lexie’s eyes are bright. It’s been such a long time since she’s looked so aware, and I am eating up every moment.

I grab a small piece of driftwood and toss it into the ocean. Lex bounds through the waves and pushes her snout under to grab the knotty wood. I’m surprised to see her swim, and wonder aloud if this is her first time swimming.

Instead of coming right back, Lex swims circles and plays in the waves. I call her over, and she trots up to me, magically dry.

I bend down to touch her soft ears, but she turns and runs back to the water. She’s swimming farther and farther out. I call for her to come back in, but she won’t listen. She’s relaxed, buoyant.

I call again. My heart beats harder. She won’t come to me.

Then I see she is surrounded by four dolphins. Lex is in the middle. The dolphins dance.

“Lex! LEX!”

I blink once. Twice. My heart drops. I can’t see her anywhere.

The dolphins drift below the surface one at a time. Lex is gone.

I wake up in a panic. Charlie is circled behind my legs, under the covers for the first time since we’ve had him. Smart boy.

I force myself out of bed, and silently walk downstairs. I see Matt, and tell him about the dream. My voice cracks.

Somehow I walk into the kitchen before the tears fall.

My dear Lexie. It was so good to see you again. If only in a dream.


The biggest cat tree in the world!!!

Frolicking feline.

Frolicking feline.

Tonight we decided to surprise Cat Cora with what appears to be the largest cat tree on Earth!

At 6 feet tall, and with three perches, it towers in the front room. Matt sprinkled some catnip on each landing, and moments later Cora appeared. He placed her on top, and she rollicked in her newfound carpeted getaway.

Cat tree: For The Win!

(Found at Costco for $67.)

How do I get to the top?

How do I get to the top?

Hey, I could get used to this!

Hey, I could get used to this!

I really like my new tree, but please let me keep my cardboard scratch box. This thing rocks!!!

I really like my new tree, but please let me keep my cardboard scratch box. This thing rocks!!!

We’re going to have chickens!!!

After a week of clucking about it, Matt and I have decided to raise chickens. This is our new blog about our journey to endless eggs. Cheers! — Jillian

Chicken Scratch Fever

When I was a cub reporter in Cheboygan, I had a neighbor who kept a dozen hens. Every day I would  walk over and watch as Weyona sang Methodist hymns. Then, one by one, the hens came running. The songs seemed to make the chickens happy, and they laid countless eggs in return.

A couple years ago, I thought about having chickens of my own. In my yard. In a relatively urban setting.

I didn’t tell anyone. Especially my boyfriend Matt. Still, I harbored fantasies of converting my sizable city lot into a mini farm.

When I looked into it, the ordinance in Ferndale was restrictive, so much so that just a handful of city residents would qualify to raise hens.

I thought this was the end of the road. I kept quiet about it.

Until a couple weeks ago, when Matt and I visited a friend with a farm…

View original post 385 more words