Baaa

Seriously--is there anything cuter?

Seriously–is there anything cuter?

Having spent the morning assisting at a birds of prey program at the Little Owl Festival at Audubon Acres, next on the agenda was lunch.  There are certain places that people who come to visit Chattanooga want to go.

Pat’s sister wanted to check out the Hair of the Dog Pub downtown.  My original sister-in-law came with a recommendation for Sugar’s Barbecue.  We decided on the “Q with a View” location of Sugar’s.  Not only does it offer great food and scenery, but there are also goats.  It’s a place we like to take visitors.

Mama was unperturbed by my presence and concentrated on what she was chewing

Mama was unperturbed by my presence and concentrated on what she was chewing

In case you are worried, no goat meat appears on the menu at Sugar’s.  I don’t know exactly why they have goats, but I like to think it’s for keeping the grass on the hillside trim.

Sugar’s has good barbecue.  We particularly like their brisket.  It’s extremely tender, falling apart when we pick at it.  I also love their macaroni and cheese.  And their mayonnaise-based coleslaw, which barely seems like it has mayo in it at all.  And their banana pudding is hard to resist.  I suppose it will come as no surprise if I mention I gained a pound or two in the day and a half my brother and sister-in-law visited?

Frolicking kids on the patio

Frolicking kids on the patio

After ordering and getting a tutorial on the various sauces Sugar’s offers (something I can never keep track of, except that there are 3 that are tomato based and 3 that are vinegar based), I slipped out to see the goats while we waited on the food.

The goats are divided into two areas.  One is along the hillside and has a series of footpaths that only goats could possibly navigate.  It’s like goat heaven.  Except perhaps for the poop.

Kids or puppies?

Kids or puppies?

The other area is in the middle of a lovely patio with picnic tables that are undoubtedly occupied during the months when it’s dry, sunny, and pleasantly warm without being too hot.  We have never been to Sugar’s during the kind of weather conditions that would encourage people to sit out on the patio.

The center of the patio is fenced in, forming a good-sized yard where several goats are usually hanging out, hoping for a handout.  On this day, three kids were hanging out with two moms.  They were irresistible.

Naw . . . they're not related

Naw . . . they’re not related

There really aren’t many things cuter than baby <fill in the blank>.  Baby birds, baby people, baby dogs, baby sheep . . . you name it.  They’re cute.  Goats are particularly cute babies.  Perhaps it’s their giant, floppy ears that seem so disproportional to their tiny heads.  Or maybe it’s that they look so innocent while their elders always seem to look like they’re up to something.

Front and back

Front and back

Whatever it is, I enjoyed getting some shots of the goats.  So much so, I couldn’t resist taking a few shots with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone, too.  Funny how quickly a modern goat can be transported back in time.

Looking historical

Looking historical

Kittens and a Year of Blogging

This is my 366th consecutive, daily post.  Since it was leap year, I figured I had to get to 366 to say I’d completed a year of posts.  🙂

Collectively, I’ve written over 250,000 words in the course of blogging for one year.  That’s over 1000 pages worth of words.  If I would have said I wanted to write 1000 pages, I probably would have quit after the first 100 or so.

Here are my lessons from a year of blogging:

  1. In the end, it’s about people.  I didn’t expect to meet people through blogging, but I have.  I keep writing because all of you keep reading.  I look for you, I watch for regulars, I peak at your blogs when I have a few minutes.  You matter to me.  Please come back.
  2. I can only write one day at a time–one word at a time.  Thinking about the collective volume is fun after the fact, but not the goal.
  3. The delete key is my friend.  I went from an average of 1200 words a post to setting a limit of 500 words.  Although it initially took me much longer to write 500 than 1200 words, I think we’re all happier.
  4. Sometimes, you do have to think about more than one day at a time.  Scheduling posts ahead of time when I’m traveling has kept me going.  Had I not figured out how to do this, I would have given up on my goal of one post a day about a month into blogging when we spent 2 weeks in Germany.
  5. Every post can’t be my best post ever.  I started with the expectation that every post would be an improvement over the last.  What’s “best” depends on the subject and what people are interested in.  Sometimes I have the need to think about the meaning of life.  Sometimes I have the need to improve my photography skills.  Which one is better?
  6. Some days, I’m writing right before bed, falling asleep as I write, trying to get the morning post scheduled before I pass out on my keyboard.  Those aren’t going to be my best posts.  For each post to be my best ever, I’d need to quit my day job and do this full time.  I don’t love blogging enough to give up food and shelter, so I’ll just apologize for those posts now.  For me, it’s more about establishing the discipline of meeting my commitment to post about 500 words a day every day.
  7. At some point, I will have to consider the possibility that I’ve said enough in this forum and it’s time to move on to the next.  For now, I’m content to keep posting.
  8. Kittens are irresistible.  And since these kittens are indirectly responsible for Tisen coming into our lives (they are foster kittens–my sister-in-law inspired me to foster dogs), I thought they would be a good photographic subject to celebrate the completion of this milestone.

It’s been a good year–thanks!

The End of Foster Care

We’ve decided.  Tisen stays.

We took him hang gliding on Saturday.  Tisen ran over and start licking my face in the middle of a hang check and then follow my glider all the way down the big hill and back up again.  When I told the instructor he was a foster dog, she said, “That’s your dog.  He has claimed you.”  She’s right.  He is my dog.

It’s funny how this happens.  I wonder how a dog decides you are theirs?  And you cannot resist.  You find yourself committed until death do you part.  Except you’re committed to a well-behaved 3 year old with fur who will never be able to use the toilet.

Upon deciding that Tisen must stay, we immediately went to PetsMart to celebrate.  Since we are working on crate training, we, of course, needed a cozy matt to put in the crate, special chews to keep him busy while we’re gone, and a new squeaky toy since I’ve discovered he’ll do about anything for a squeaky toy.  He picks a bear for his squeaky toy, but then is so enamored with a ridiculous long, red dog that I cannot resist getting it for him, too.  It’s a good thing I don’t have children.

When we get home, he picks up the red dog and carries it in from the car, trotting along with his head held high like he’s won some sort of award.  The joy I experience watching him is well worth the extra $8.  When he gets to the living room, he plops his new toy in the middle of the floor and then pulls his stuffed squirrel out of the crate, laying them out on the floor side-by-side.  It’s hard to know what goes through a dog’s mind sometimes, but I have to wonder if he really just wanted squirrel to have a friend.

I pick up the dog and give it a squeeze.  Tisen starts poking at the dog with his nose trying to make it squeak.  Pat joins in and starts squeezing, too.  I grab my iPhone and try to get a shot (not having time to change lenses on my camera).  Tisen gets irritated with the flash, picks up red dog, and hides out in his crate.  I take this as a sign that crate training is going well.

Tisen’s obsession with squeaky toys reminds me of a story my mom used to tell about me.  When I was about 2, I was given a doll who would cry if you squeezed her.  Except, I wasn’t strong enough to get her to cry.  But, I figured out my own method.  I horrified a nice lady at the bank one day when she complimented me on my cute baby and I responded by throwing it on the floor and stomping on it.  My mother smiled weakly and said, “It’s the only way she can get it to cry.”  It’s really a good thing I don’t have children.

Faster than a Foster Cat

My sister-in-law likes cats.  However, she and my brother, like us, are at a place in their lives where they don’t want to tie themselves to an animal for the next 15-20 years.  My brother often jokes about looking for animals with a short life expectancy for this reason.

My sister-in-law, Megan, being more practical, has come up with an ingenious solution to the problem of how to have pets without having a long term commitment.  She provides foster care for a local cat shelter.

Megan has fostered numerous pregnant cats who gave birth under her watchful eye as well as taken in young litters with no mother.  Keeping kittens with no mom fed, emptied, and cleaned up is a big chore that has to be performed diligently and regularly.  It’s not for the faint of heart.

Megan nurtures these kitties through the tough part of their early lives or supports their mom in doing so.  When they are weaned, healthy, and confident, they are returned to the shelter until they find permanent homes.  Megan takes a break from fostering if she has a heavy travel schedule or needs a break and then takes on another set when she can.

Other than the heartache of getting emotionally attached to animals that you will eventually hand off to someone else, it’s the perfect way to have pets without taking on permanent ownership.

Chibs and Clay, named by the shelter (perhaps by a fan of Sons of Anarchy?), are the current kittens staying with my sister-in-law (see photos).  Chibs needs to see Clay do something before he is willing to give it a try.  Even when he finally joined Clay in my lap and laid there purring, when something moved, he would dart off again to hide.

Getting even these few pictures was quite a chore.  First of all, they were doing something cute and my 100mm prime lens was on my camera.  While I really like this lens, I could have used the 400mm of my telephoto zoom given Chibs’s skittishness.  But, I started shooting and gradually crept forward, crawling across the floor slowly and shooting every few seconds so I didn’t lose out on a decent shot because I was holding out for a better one.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. Rapid fire shooting mode is a must.  The faster the better.
  2. Focus, focus, focus.  Rapidly moving critters in low light make this difficult.  I often end up with out of focus faces and sharply focused feet or rear ends or backgrounds.
  3. A little more depth of field is better–otherwise, I end up with just the eyes in focus and then the surrounding face is too soft (see the second photo).
  4. When flash is not an option, the animal is fearful of cameras, and the light is low, I just have to live with a shallow depth of field.
  5. Most animals will not pose.  Bribing domestic animals with treats and toys can be helpful, but requires an assistant.