It’s Time For Spring Chicks!

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Yep, it’s that time of year again- time to start raising the next batch of chickens.  In the past Sal has gotten 6 or 7 day old chicks from our local feed store every other year or so.  This time we’re doing it differently and have decided to get new chicks every year so there won’t be any reduction in overall egg production as the youngsters grow to maturity and the older hens stop producing.  Our 7 Rhode Island Red chickens from last year (now 1 year old) are still producing reliably and haven’t started to molt yet, so we should have plenty of eggs until the little ones are ready to start laying.  This year instead of our usual Rhode Island Reds we got 6 White Leghorns.  The Reds lay brown eggs and the Leghorns lay white eggs, so we’ll be able to know who’s producing and how much.

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One of my Rhode Island Red chickens

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Our 6 new White Leghorn chicks

So far we’ve had good luck getting our day old chicks from Olsen’s feed store.  A few days before we’re ready to pick them up I wash the chick cage with soap and water and scrub it thoroughly (I do the same thing before we put it into storage too), then spray it with vinegar to sanitize it.  Their feeder and water container get the same treatment and everything is allowed to dry in the sun.  Sal made this cage years ago, when he first started raising chickens and it has served us well.  By the time the chicks get too big for this cage they’re usually ready to go out to the coop.  There’s a removable tray under the bottom of the cage that we line with paper so it’s easy to clean.  Of course the bigger these critters get, the more often I need to change their paper (they can be messy little buggers!).

For the first few weeks (or longer, depending on the weather) we keep the cage on the island in the kitchen, with the heat lamp positioned over the top.  Figuring out the right position of the heat lamp is a bit of trial and error, but the basic rule is if the chicks are all clustered together under the lamp they’re cold and you need to move the light closer.  If they’re avoiding the lamp and are scattered around the cage, as far from the light as possible they’re hot and the light is too close.  They should wander around the cage comfortably and sleep in small groups all around the cage floor.  It took me a while, but I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out how to keep them comfortable.

The really fun part is always introducing the other animals to the chicks.  I do like having the chicks get used to the cats and dogs so they’re not afraid of them, and having the dogs especially realize that these chicks are not prey, but family members they’re supposed to protect.

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“This thing is fascinating!”

This is Dewey Dude’s first experience with chicks, and I’m making a special effort to get him familiar with them.  He’s getting better with the older chickens, but still wants to jump on them sometimes.  He’s a very skilled hunter (he caught his first mouse when he was just 3 months old, and since then has caught a variety of birds, rodents, and rabbits) so I want to be sure he understands that this is not the same as the critters he hunts.  He’s very intelligent and watches me talking to the chicks and holding and petting them, so that also reinforces the idea that these little things are part of the family and are to be protected.  Ziggi’s been through all this before and really has very little interest in the chicks (or the adult chickens, for that matter).

Then of course there’s the cats.

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Ginko is utterly fascinated with the chicks.  He’s always been a housecat and has never caught anything bigger than a spider, but he’s got some pretty strong hunting insticts.  He’s not quite sure what to do with these things, but they sure do smell interesting!  BTW, I’m very careful that no animals get hurt or stressed out during these little meetings.  I’m actually surprised at how calm the chicks are when I take them out and let them interact with the cats and dogs.  Of course if the chicks were running around the house unsupervised I’m sure it wouldn’t take Ginko too long to figure out what a cat does with a critter like this.  Calcifer, on the other hand, is a complete love.

calcifer and chickcalcifer and chick 2calcifer and chick 3

I could probably let all 6 chicks cuddle with him in the chair and he wouldn’t mind at all.  He’s actually a little afraid of them when they start cheeping loudly and fluttering around in their cage (they really get excited if a gnat or something flies into their cage!).

And so this is just another sign of spring around here- the peeping of fluffy little chicks on the counter 😉  When the weather warms a bit more we’ll put the cage out in the garage with the heat lamp and I’ll start taking them outside for brief “field trips” to get them used to the outdoors, the sun, the wind, the feel of grass under their feet, etc.  Sal’s going to build them a separate little coop in the main chicken enclosure so when they’re big enough to go out full time they can safely be with the big chickens.  When they’re the same size as the Reds I’ll allow the flocks to intermingle.  If I put them together when the chicks are too small they could get hurt- chickens can be pretty vicious.  And when the Reds stop producing we’ll give them away to someone who wants them for bug patrol like we did with the last batch.

This will be the fourth year that I’ve raised chickens, and each year I learn a bit more.  I’ve already learned that Leghorns spook easier than Rhode Island Reds.  Loud noises have the chicks peeping and fluttering all over the cage, and any time I change the water or feed them they all spaz out- LOL.  They are getting used to me though, and I hope spending  a good bit of time with them will help them calm down and realize I’m not going to hurt them.  They do seem to enjoy it when I hold them and pet their little heads- they close their eyes and get this blissful expression 🙂

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Just hanging out with my peeps 😉

So that’s life down on the farm 🙂  I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to post now that it’s getting to be planting season, but I’ll try to keep you all up to date on the latest happenings.  On that note, the seedlings are all doing well.  I’ve got them under lights in the guest bathroom like I did last year (you can check out this post to see just what I did last year https://gettingcreativewithcreativecritters.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/starting-seeds-indoors-the-beginning-of-the-2015-gardening-season/).  I’ve been putting them out in the greenhouse during the day for extra sunlight and that seems to really be getting them off to a good start.  Then I bring them back in before it gets too cool in the evening.

Hopefully this season will be at least as productive as last!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters
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Dewey Dude’s New (recycled/ repurposed) Dog Bed

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My little boy is growing up! LOL.  The bed that fit Dewey Dude when he was just a  little two month old puppy just wasn’t working anymore.  Now he’s a great big 8 month old (and still growing) puppy and it was definitely time for an upgrade to his dog bed.

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Look at that cute little puppy! I could pick him up with one hand at this age!

morningstar hike me and dewey dude

Now look at The Kid (one of his many nicknames)! I can barely pick him up with both arms- he’s at least 50 pounds!

I thought about buying a new dog bed, but c’mon, this is me we’re talking about here!  I don’t buy anything I can make myself, and I usually make it better than what you find in the stores 😉

Last year we got a new mattress, but of course we still had the old one.  Sal’s like me- he doesn’t throw away anything that he might be able to recycle, reuse, or repurpose.  So we carefully took apart the mattress, which had a really nice pillow top, and the box spring and put everything in storage until we found a use for it.  The box spring will likely become a gate, and I already used some of the padding to re-stuff Ziggi’s dog bed.

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Ginko was helping me work on Ziggi’s bed- he’s a very paws on kind of supervisor 😉

I decided to use the pillow topper from the mattress to create a new Big Boy dog bed for Dewey Dude.  Since he likes to sprawl when he sleeps I knew I’d have to make a pretty big bed.  I cut the well padded pillow topper in half then folded it and sewed the seams.

Of course I had help from Calcifer!  It was a real pain (quite literally!) to sew all this by hand, but it did turn out really nice.  If I were to buy a bed this big and soft it would cost well over $100.  This thing has four thick layers of padding and is very durable.  I covered it with his blankets so he would know it was his, and so I could easily wash the blankets and keep the bed clean.  Dewey Dude certainly approves!

 

Hopefully he won’t outgrow this bed anytime soon!  I’ll make one for Ziggi when my hands heal up from this one.  I managed to shed a little blood on this project 😉  Hey, anything to make my critters happy! 😀

Be sure to check back and see what else I’m working on!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

2015- A Very Good Year!

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Yes, I know, we’re already two weeks into 2016, so I’m a bit late in posting this 😉  But, as usual, I’ve been rather busy and just haven’t taken the time to sit down and blog.

2015 was a very good year indeed.  The garden did quite well, and for the first time (since I’ve been in Arizona anyway) I started the seeds indoors and allowed the seedlings to mature a bit before moving the trays out to the greenhouse.  This strategy worked very well and resulted in strong healthy plants that thrived once they were transplanted into the garden.

P1030693 There were some insect issues, as usual, but the regular applications of Neem seemed to keep the squash bugs and cucumber beetles somewhat under control.  We’re considering getting Guinea Hens this year and allowing them to free range in the garden.  I’ve heard they’re excellent at insect control and not as destructive to plants as chickens can be.  If anyone wants to share any info on Guinea Hens with me please leave a comment below- I’d certainly appreciate it!

In March we got 7 new chicks to replace our older chickens who were no longer producing many eggs.  We gave the older chickens away to a lady who wanted them for bug control in her yard, so no chickens ended up in the soup pot 😉  I’m not sure if I could actually slaughter our chickens- I do tend to get attached to them, so I’d much rather just find them a new home when we get new chicks.  And our chicks have been very happy and healthy little critters!

chicks 10 days old 3 And now these cute little things are full grown and giving us delicious fresh eggs every day 🙂

Then in April we found out that Sal’s daughter, Christina, was pregnant 🙂  Anna was born in September and both she and her mother seemed to appreciate the gifts I made for her.

The kitty was named Miss Kitty and Christina used the booties and hat and blanket the whole time she was here visiting in early December.  We spent a very enjoyable 5 days together and I had a chance to get to know Christina even better, as well as spending some quality time with Anna.  Such a beautiful girl!

Anna and Miss Kitty In June Sal and I spent 5 glorious days relaxing on the beach in Mexico.  His friend has a beach house in Rocky Point and let us use it for our vacation 🙂  We played in the ocean, had dinner on the beach, and chilled out by the fire at night.  Of course Ziggi was with us and he just completely wore himself out chasing sea birds up and down the beach and swimming in the ocean.

rocky point mexico june 2015 3 The trip to Mexico was one part of my 40th birthday gift.  The second part of my gift came in July.  We’d been discussing getting another dog for almost a year and Sal decided that the time was right this summer.  And so we adopted the sweetest, most wonderful German Shepherd/ Rottweiler mix ever ❤  Dewey Dude has been such a joy and has brought even more happiness into our household.  And I finally have my own dog, which is something I’ve desired for years.  This is what my little guy looked like when we brought him home at 2 months old.

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Dewey Dude

How cute is he?!  And this is what he looks like now at almost 8 months old.

dewey dude.jpg He’s grown into such a handsome dog!  Of course he’s still got a lot of growing left to do 😉  I love this guy so much!

One sad thing this year was that Calcifer got sick and I had to take him to the vet where they put him on antibiotics for an infection.  He hadn’t been eating well and had dropped to just 8 pounds.  I started feeding him kitten chow, which he loves now, and once the antibiotics cleared up the infection his appetite really came back.  Now he’s up to 11 pounds- more than he’s ever weighed!  He looks great and seems to feel as good as he looks.  He’s still eating Kitten Chow (it’s the only dry food he’ll eat) along with his canned food, and he has a good, healthy appetite now.  So what started out as a worrisome thing ended well.

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In October  we took Dewey Dude to Beaver Creek for the first time and had a blast watching him romp and play with Ziggi.  This was also the first time he was allowed off leash on a hike, and he did very well when it came to sticking fairly close to us and coming when called.

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Since then he’s been on several more hikes with us and I feel confident about allowing him off leash when we’re out in the wilderness.  Of course when we’re around other people or dogs I keep him on a leash.   Sometimes he can be a little too friendly, and not everyone appreciates that 😉

In November Ziggi was the one headed to the vet when he cut his leg.  We think he was running past some sheet metal Sal has in the yard and sliced his leg open.  He had to get about a dozen stitches then had to wear the cone of shame for about a week.  The cats couldn’t figure out why the dog was wearing a lamp shade on his head 😀

Ziggi and cats He’s as good as new now, although he does sport a very macho scar on his front leg.  And the incident did prompt Sal to go around the yard and try make all his scrap metal as safe as possible so this wouldn’t happen again.  The dogs just tear around here at breakneck speed, so we have to try to eliminate or safeguard as many obstacles as possible.

And then there was December, and December 23rd, which turned out to be a very important day in our lives (and not just because it was Calcifer’s 6th birthday ;))  That was the morning that Sal proposed to me!  I love this man with all my heart and have had every intention of spending the rest of my life with him, with or without being married, but I really did want to be his wife, rather than just his girlfriend.  And yes, I did cry when he slipped that diamond engagement ring on finger, tears of the utmost joy.  And the days that followed were filled with even more joy.  Later that day we headed out (with the dogs) to the Embassy Suites where we had a room booked for two nights and Sal had arranged a banquet for his birthday (which was on the 24th) that night.  And the birthday banquet ended up doubling as an engagement party 🙂  There was so much love and laughter in that room that night!  Sal’s family is wonderful and I am thrilled to finally become a true part of it.  Most of them have considered me part of the family already, but this makes it official 😉  On the 24th we got engagement pictures taken and then headed over to his brother’s house for the annual Christmas Eve dinner and party- always a fun time!

engagement pic.jpg Oh, and when I was planning my outfit for the Christmas Eve party (before I knew we’d be getting engagement pictures taken), I picked out Gramma’s necklace, bracelet, and earrings to wear with my dress.  Not only did they go nicely with the engagement ring, but it felt like Gramma was there with me, at least in spirit.  I wish she could have lived long enough to meet Sal- I know she would have liked him, and I know she would be so happy for me.

We headed back home Christmas day, taking our time and stopping a few times along the way to let the dogs out to run and play in the desert.  We had a very peaceful Christmas day, and enjoyed being back home.

Then to start off the New Year we put our Christmas gifts to use.  Without planning it his aunts gave us gift certificates for dinner at the historic Hassayampa Peacock Room and his daughters gave a gift certificate for an overnight stay at the hotel.  We had a wonderful  time and I think the best dinner I have EVER eaten!  Life is so good, and I am thankful beyond words for all the many blessings in my life!

Here’s to more of the same in 2016! 🙂

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

 

 

Calcifer Kitty Isn’t Feeling Well :(

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Poor Calcifer hasn’t been feeling well this week.  It started Monday when I couldn’t get him to eat more than a few pieces of his dry food, or take more than a token lick of his canned food.  Since Calcifer is normally a very finicky cat this wasn’t totally unusual.  But after it continued like this for the rest of the day I knew something was wrong.  He acted like he wanted to eat, but just couldn’t.  I gave him some NutriCal, which is a high calorie supplement in a gel form and is supposed to help stimulate a cat’s appetite, and later some hairball medicine in case he had a hairball stuck.  He’s a very fluffy cat so he ends up ingesting a lot of fur even though I brush him and Ginko just about every day.  Unfortunately Calcifer also washes Ginko so he ingests even more fur from his brother, who’s quite the shedder.Calcifer washing Ginko

Then I checked Calcifer’s teeth and gums to see if he had an infection in his mouth that was keeping him from eating.  Surprisingly he didn’t object too much about me handling his mouth and running my finger along his gums.  He’s actually got some very healthy looking teeth and gums, so that didn’t appear to be the issue.

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When he still wasn’t eating the next day I knew I had to do something.  He’s not a very heavy cat in the first place and really can’t afford to lose any weight.  So I called the vet and made an appointment to get him in as soon as possible.  Unfortunately that wasn’t until Thursday, so in the meantime I had to figure out how to get some food into my skinny kitty.  I got him some chicken baby food and some Kitten Chow and he showed some interest in that.  When Ozzy was elderly and sick from kidney disease the only thing that would spark his appetite was chicken baby food, so I had hopes it would have the same result with Calcifer (even though he’s only 6, not at all elderly).

I felt better that I was at least getting a little something into his belly, but he still wasn’t eating much and wasn’t feeling good.  Even Ginko knew his brother was sick and was being very sweet to him.

calcifer and ginko cuddling

Wednesday I brought Calcifer’s carrier up from the tack room and put his favorite blanket in there so he would get comfortable with it and not freak out when it was time to go to the vet the next day.  Both cats took turns hanging out in the new Cat Cave 😉  Calcifer really seemed comfy and cozy in there.

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Before his appointment I gave him some Rescue Remedy to help take the edge off his fear.  He actually likes the flavor and will lick it right from the dropper.  When it was time to go he was already curled up in his carrier and all I had to do was close the door.  Of course he wasn’t at all happy about the ride to the vet, or the exam, but he took it better than I expected.

This was the first time I’ve been to the Prescott Valley Vet Clinic and I must say I really liked them.  Dr. Rogers and her assistants were very good with Calcifer and gave him a thorough exam.  They took some blood tests to see if any of the usual cat issues were the problem: thyroid, diabetes, liver, kidney.  He had a fever so she gave me some antibiotics for whatever infection he may have.  She also gave him some subcutaneous fluids since he was a little dehydrated.  When we got home Ginko was very concerned about Calcifer and gently washed all the places where they poked and prodded him.

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I gave Calcifer his first dose of antibiotics when we got home and he actually perked up a bit and ate some baby food and kitten food.  Today he seemed to be feeling even better and ate more kitten food and even a bit of his canned food.  I’m still giving him the NutriCal and will continue until he puts on the weight he’s lost.  The vet said he should weigh 10 or 11 pounds and he was down to just 8 😦

Dr. Rogers called this afternoon with his test results and he seems to be a very healthy cat, thankfully.  No issues with his thyroid, kidneys, no diabetes, and just slightly low liver enzymes- nothing to be worried about.  So he may have just picked up a small infection and that put him off his food.  He’s got a few more doses of his antibiotic and the vet has some pills that are supposed to help his appetite, so I’ll pick those up next week.

I’m still feeding him every few hours, sitting on the floor with him and putting a small pile of kitten food on the floor, just the way he likes it, and letting him lick the baby food off the spoon.  It’s time consuming, but he’s worth it.  Hopefully he’ll get back to eating like normal (which still isn’t all that much).  But I’ll do whatever I have to to keep Calcifer healthy.  I love this cat with all my heart ❤

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And if anyone has any tips on getting a finicky cat to eat, please leave a comment below- I can use all the help I can get!

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Personalized Catnip Pot

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One of our friends rescued a kitten several months ago and has been in the process of spoiling her silly 😉  Pita is a frisky gray tabby cat who earned her name by being a bit of a PITA, according to her mom- LOL.  In spite of being the occasional pain Pita is a much loved kitty and is very affectionate.  The first time Sal and I visited Pita leaped right onto my shoulder and started rubbing against my head and purring in my ear.  She stayed there for most of our visit!  Of course I immediately fell in love with this sweet and adorable kitty.  I’ve already sent Gayle home with some fresh clipped catnip as well as a bag of dried catnip, but I decided this kitty needed her own supply on demand.  And since my own catnip is doing so well I knew I’d be able to divide one of the clumps and pot it up so Pita could have her fresh nip whenever she wanted it.  But of course I couldn’t just plop it in a pot and be done with it- oh no, not me!  I had to make it extra special, so I made the pot personalized by sculpting a miniature Pita kitty lounging on the rim and adding a sign saying PITA’S CATNIP, just so everyone would know who the catnip belonged to. 😉

Calcifer says, "Cute kitty- awfully small though."

Calcifer says, “Cute kitty- awfully small though.”

Of course Calcifer had to inspect my work 😉

So where's the catnip?

So where’s the catnip?

I dug up a few healthy little shoots that should do well.  They had some nice roots and I think this pot will be full of catnip in no time.

PITA's catnip pot 2

I just wanted to share this quick little project with you all.  Lately it’s been all about catnip!  I’ve been busy making new catnip toys to replace the ones I’ve sold.  If you’re interested in any of my catnip or cat toys check out my Organic Catnip Toys category in CreativeCritters.

And of course if you’d like me to create a custom order for you (pet sculptures, cat toys, etc.) just let me know and I’d be happy to work with you 🙂

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Meet the Newest (2 legged) Member of the Family!

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This beautiful little girl is Anna, Sal’s granddaughter (Sal’s the man I live with and the love of my life <3).  His daughter Christina gave birth on Tuesday to a healthy 6 lb girl and the whole family couldn’t be happier.

Of course the minute I heard Christina was pregnant I started planning the gifts I would make for the new baby 😉  The baby blanket took months to complete and wasn’t totally finished until I was able to embroider her name and date of birth.anna's blanket 2

I found the heart pattern baby blanket here http://www.knittingonthenet.com/patterns/babyafheart.htm.  It’s a fairly simple pattern, but it creates a really pretty blanket.  Of course I chose to use purple yarn 😉

anna's blanket

I used white yarn with specks of purple for the crocheted edging and the embroidery.  The edging is my own pattern and is basically a shell stitch.  It actually took about 3 tries before I settled on a pattern for the edging.  It’s been a while since I’ve done any crocheting, so I had to play around a bit to remember how to create the look I wanted.

anna's blanket ginko

And of course my quality control inspector, Ginko had to make sure everything looked good and was well made 😉  He also had to inspect the yarn as I was knitting, frequently trying to take it into his own room for closer investigation.  My kitties are all about quality and inspecting my work very thoroughly!  They are the backbone of CreativeCritters after all 🙂

anna's hat and booties

And while I was making the blanket I was also knitting this cute little hat and booties (I’m always multitasking- LOL!).  I used the purple and white yarn held together so they match the blanket and are super soft and cozy.  Christina lives in Chicago, so this baby’s going to need a nice warm blanket, hat, and booties to keep her toasty from head to toe this winter!  I used my knitting loom to make the hat and found the pattern for the booties here http://www.gina-michele.com/2015/01/easiest-baby-booties-ever-knitting.html.  This is a really easy pattern as well, which suits me just fine!  The end result is really cute, without having to stress over a lot of shaping or complicated stitches.

anna's hat and booties calcifer

Calcifer was my quality control inspector on this set 😉  He’s very into knitting and likes to take a “paws on” approach, helpfully “guiding” the yarn as I knit 😉  He doesn’t even seem to mind getting bonked in the head with my knitting needles while I work (it certainly doesn’t make him move off my lap anyway)!

anna's kitty

And finally I knit Anna this cute blue eyed kitty cat, because every little girl needs her own stuffed kitty to love and cuddle.  This one is completely my own pattern, knit from soft gold and white yarn and softly stuffed.  I made the bright blue eyes nice and large to give the kitty an open, happy, and friendly expression.  This is the sort of stuffed animal that a baby can grab onto and let her little finger sink into it.  It’s very soft and huggable ❤

anna's kitty calcifer

And of course one kitty has to inspect another!

So these projects have kept me pretty busy (along with my paying work) while I awaited the arrival of little Anna.  I’ll have to wait a few more months to actually give her these gifts, since Christina won’t be coming to visit until Thanksgiving.  Heck, I may end up making her something else by then!  I love making gifts for babies and kids, and this little girl is definitely going to be spoiled with lots of handmade goodies 🙂

~Michelle of CreativeCritters

Cheese Kitty!

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To Dewey Dude, Ginko will forever be known as Cheese Kitty!Ginko LMAO

Twice a week I make omelets for breakfast. One of the benefits of having our own chickens is a surplus of fresh eggs 😉  Calcifer and Ginko have gotten into the habit of getting a bit of cheese when I add it to the omelets.  They’re so smart they even know when it’s time to add the cheese and they both come into the kitchen to wait for their treat.We're ready for our cheese now!

We’re ready for our cheese now!  Ginko prefers mozzarella and Calcifer will only eat goat cheese 😉

After I got Dewey Dude Calcifer requested his cheese in a dog free area for safety reasons 😉  Ginko the Fearless still wanted his cheese in the kitchen though, and since the puppy was usually sleeping while I made breakfast he figured there was no reason to change eating locales.

dewey and ginko

The first time we did the cheese thing Dewey Dude woke up while Ginko was eating his cheese, completely unaware that there was food to be had.  All he saw was a kitty, and he wanted to see the kitty, and jump on the kitty, and lick the kitty.  Of course Ginko made his escape as quickly and gracefully (which wasn’t very graceful at all- LOL) as possible, leaving behind a little pile of shredded mozzarella.

ginko and dewey

Of course Dewey Dude was quick to find and eat that delicious cheese!  And he seemed to think that it came from Ginko.  After all, he jumped on the kitty and then there was cheese!  This has happened several times now, with the same result.  Ginko gets his cheese, eats a bit, Dewey wakes up and jumps on Ginko,  Ginko leaves and voila- there’s cheese!  So Ginko has become known to Dewey Dude as Cheese Kitty!

Come back Cheese Kitty!

Come back Cheese Kitty!

I almost think Ginko does it on purpose now.  He really is a very generous cat, and will often leave his toys in the dog’s bed as a little gift for them.  He’s lost several toy mice like this 😉

I just wanted to share this little bit of humor that brightens my day a few times a week 🙂  I hope it gives you a giggle too! 😀

~Michelle of CreativeCritters