Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Downtown Tree Talk

3/26/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

“Trees or no trees?” That is the question currently facing Cottage Grove residents regarding refurbishing downtown Main Street. My first response was, “Oh, no! Not again!” I have lived in this area for 25 years and trees on Main Street have always been controversial.

Among other things, the new Main Street Refinement Plan offers a choice of reduced tree plantings or no trees at all in downtown’s future. It’s a strange conundrum for a town that is called “Tree City USA.” A town recognized for excellence in urban forestry management.

Many shopkeepers are averse to the cost, maintenance and mess of trees. I understand that. Customers might even grumble if they pick up a few wet leaves or mud on their shoes. I understand that. But wait a minute. I really don’t get it. This is Oregon and we are green!

 Sure, it costs time and money to water trees in the summer and energy to sweep the sidewalk in front of stores. And no, I don’t like to get my shoes dirty. But are trees really the reason why people don’t shop downtown? Are they hindering access to shops? I don’t think so. Let me play the devil’s advocate and offer another opinion.

The whole purpose of owning a business is to draw customers into your store. In this day and age it takes more than great merchandise, wonderful customer service and easy access to draw people downtown—especially those with vacation dollars in their pocket. It also takes a charming visual package.

Studies have shown that consumers actually enjoy having trees in shopping districts and are more willing to spend money where trees are present. Check out the following website that visually shows the difference between trees and no trees in shopping areas and why people prefer trees. You will be surprised:

Why do trees make a difference? The reason is simple. They provide curb appeal. For many of us, shopping is more than buying. It is about “ambiance.” Cold, sterile and boring doesn’t cut it. I zip in and out of those kinds of shopping areas. No looking around and wondering what’s going on elsewhere. I buy and get out.

On vacation, I bypass the big shopping centers. Instead, I look for a street of charming, tree-lined shops to draw me in their doors.  Whether I’m shopping for fun or necessity, I look for that elusive thing called “character.” What is this place about?

In a town that advertises itself as “Tree City USA,” trees do more than give us bragging rights. Attractive trees are not only eye candy but they foster a sense of community, improve air quality, reduce traffic speeds, and provide shade and wildlife habit (think birds). They’re also a distraction from some of the less desirable aspects of an urban area such as empty buildings or closed shops with ‘flexible’ hours.

In a spirit of fairness I considered whether or not I’m barking up the wrong tree by suggesting we keep the trees. I know that from a sidewalk and street perspective, trees can be trouble. Is there a right tree to be planted in a downtown area in a small sidewalk space, near shops and a busy road? I wasn’t sure.

So I checked out a few websites that led to the conclusion we do have options for practical plantings. If you want to check out what other cities are successfully doing, I suggest the following websites:

The Main St. Refinement Plan contains many ideas and suggestions. They range from removing the crown in the road to wider sidewalks, increased bicycle parking, a “festival square” and more signage. Here’s my take on some of these ideas:

Do we need another gateway arch at the west end of Main St. and delineation of the historic downtown neighborhoods? Not yet. First we need to get some other pieces in place. We need unity and purpose. We need a common theme that says this is our history; this is where we’ve been; this is where we are now and this is where we’re going. We need cohesiveness of design and architecture. Bike racks we’ve got. We need access for disabilities. We need our car doors to stop scraping sidewalks. We need a plan that includes the right trees.

But enough about what I think. What do you think? If you’d like to chime in and say yea or nay on redesigning Main St. check in with city hall for the next public comments opportunity. The entire Main Street Refinement Plan can be seen at the project website,

Cottage Grove has been a Tree City USA for 20 years. Every April, cities across the U.S. celebrate Arbor Day. In Oregon alone, there are 57 Tree City USA Communities. On April 25 at 10 a.m. there will be a tree planting at Bohemia Park. Put it on your calendar and show your support. Let’s keep and celebrate our trees. Speak up! We’ll be healthier and happier if we do. Trust me.

Readers Write
Our town is known for volunteering and showing support for worthy causes. I always appreciate input on volunteering and other story items. Recently, I received this note:

Hi, Betty,
Did you know that the Veterans put the flags downtown the 11th of each month to honor all Veterans? Paul Tuco Aka at Buster’s was the motivating force behind this great idea and gives them a free lunch on that day. Thought it might be a good story. From S.D.

Thank you volunteers! You all make this world a better place.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Trivia Time!

2/26/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

February has been a dark and dreary month. It has rained—a lot! And that much-needed rain has been accompanied by day after day of gloomy skies. A day or two of blue skies and sunshine would be nice about now. You know, like the ones we had in January when it was supposed to be raining cats and dogs.

You can tell that I’m not a native Oregonian. The first clue is that I’m whining about the weather—I only like rain if I’m out of it. The second is that my daily cold weather ensemble of several layers of sweatshirts is getting worn. The third is that over the sweatshirts I wear a jacket and carry an umbrella at the first sign of rain.

The real-deal, born and bred Oregonians revel in this cold, miserable winter. They often are wearing shorts when they go outside. Rain? “We need it,” they’ll say, as they dash out of their cars in shirtsleeves and into stores between the raindrops. Jackets are so unnecessary in 32-degree weather. Snow? Ice? Freezing rain? No problem. No umbrellas. Oregonians are exceptional, hardy, practical people.

That practicality has been demonstrated in the emails I’ve been receiving this winter. I’ve not been bored while I’ve stayed warm and cozy in the house this winter. Here’s an assortment of trivia that I’ve been mulling over while sipping hot chocolate. It ranges from elbow licking to bulletproof vests to Tic Tacs.

Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

Men can read smaller print than women can but women can hear better.

Rumors that Coca-Cola was green are not true but it was originally bottled in green bottles.

It is impossible to lick your elbow.

The cost of raising a medium-size dog to 11 years of age is $16,400.

Mark Twain was the first novelist to use a typewriter.

The San Francisco Cable Cars are the only mobile National Monuments.

Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplace.

The most popular boat name requested by boaters: Obsession.

The State with the highest percentage of people who walk to work is not Oregon—it’s Alaska!

The percentage of Africa that is wilderness is 28 percent. The percentage of North America that is wilderness is 38 percent.

Bulletproof vests, fire escapes, windshield wipers and laser printers all have one thing in common. Women invented all of them.

“Everyday products you probably use the wrong way” was the subject of an enlightening email. Since this isn’t a magazine you’ll have to visualize these ideas for yourself. These are mostly about food. I’ll save the rest for another time.

You may be surprised that Tic Tacs come with a built-in dispenser. There’s no need to violently shake the container into your palm for too many pieces. Instead, tip the box and let a mint gently glide into the tiny crevice on the lid. So simple.

Did you know that those little individual serving cups of applesauce come with a spoon? Well, sort of. You can pull off the foil lid and twist one-half of it into a handle that connects to the wide part like a spoon.

And speaking of applesauce, juice boxes are hard for little ones to hold. Just pull the little ear sides up so your child has something to grasp and stop them from spilling so much. After all, kids will be kids.

Jars of natural peanut butter tend to separate the oil and get dry on the bottom. Store the jar upside down, so the oils distribute evenly.

Honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil. It may crystallize but just sit it in a pan of warm water until it returns to its normal state. Remember, that infants should not eat honey until 1 year old.

And how about those tiny little paper cups that fast food places give you to pump a drop of ketchup into? Pull them apart at the edges for twice the space. Just be sure to carry them on a flat surface!

And speaking of food… Did you know that Chinese takeout containers are made to fold out into plates? You unfold the box to eat your meal and then reassemble it to store the leftovers. My hubby saw this on the TV show “Castle.”

Here’s a handy hint if you eat the kind of Greek yogurt that comes in two sections: Chances are you’ve been scooping the topping onto the yogurt. It’s much easier and neater to fold the topping holder and pour it directly on top of the yogurt! Who knew?

Here’s a couple of ideas about soft drinks. If you drink out of the can with a straw, turn the tab around so that it acts as a holder and can stop the straw from rising out the can as the soda fizzes. Plastic ‘go’ cup lids can double as a coaster. There are three bumps on the top. You can set your cup down and the ridge in the lid fits the bottom.

Most aluminum foil boxes have press-in tabs on the ends of the box that secure the roll in place so you don’t have to worry about the foil flying out every time you rip off a sheet. I checked and it’s true. You just punch in the tabs and it securely holds the roll.

Oh, and one more thing, 75 percent of the people who read this will try and lick their elbows! (It didn’t work did it?)

Spring and sunshine are coming. Until then—stay warm!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Valentine Trivia!

2/12/2014 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser
Puppy Love

It’s February. It’s cold and miserable outside. One minute it’s hailing and the next minute it’s snowing. I’m grumpy and ready for springtime. But wait. Can you feel it? Something warm and fuzzy is about to happen—Valentine’s Day is coming—love is in the air!

The day, of course, is named after St. Valentine. But who decided that Feb. 14th would be the day when sweethearts declare their love with gifts and romantic cards? Some say because it was the day when birds chose their mates. I think that’s a stretch. But really, who cares? It’s a day for young and old to celebrate romance.

Valentine’s Day is a fun tradition. But when it comes to celebrating and gift giving, the most important thing to remember is: don’t forget!  A 2013 survey conducted by the Retail and Marketing Association found that 53% of women who didn’t receive something for Valentine’s Day would end the relationship!

Every year, about one billion cards are purchased and sent—mostly by women for men. About 40 million boxes of chocolate are purchased—mostly by men for women. About 198 million roses (the flowers of love) are sold—mostly to men for women. Jewelry is another hot item and accounts for about $4.1 billion in spending—again by men for women. It sounds good to me.

So ladies, we get off relatively easy. A recent survey showed that men prefer a gift certificate to their favorite store over that other “stuff.” Of course, we may have to cook dinner. The survey also found that the vast majority of couples prefer to enjoy a romantic dinner at home for a fraction of the $150 cost at a fine restaurant.

Today we enjoy this holiday but we don’t take the meaning of it as seriously as couples did hundreds of years ago. I think that the following traditions maybe coined the term “blind date.”

You’ve heard the saying, “wearing your heart on your sleeve?” Well, in Colonial America, young ladies would write their names on slips of paper. At a Valentine’s party, young men would draw names out of a hat. The guy would wear the name of this lady on his sleeve for days to proclaim her as his valentine. Interesting. It makes me wonder how things worked out if the wrong name was drawn.

Across the pond, in England, a suitor would leave a basket of gifts on his beloved’s doorstep and run off. Surprise! In Italy, young ladies would awaken before sunrise and look out their window. Tradition said the first man they saw would either look like their future husband or be the man they would marry. Another surprise!

In Denmark, a man would send a woman a Valentine letter containing a rhyme and sign it with a series of dots to represent his name. If the woman guessed his identity correctly on Valentine’s Day he would reward her with a gift. But I wonder, what if she didn’t like the guy and didn’t want his gift?

Today’s generation is a bit more cynical. One Valentine’s season, Meg Pickard and her housemate David Pannet were joking around about the lack of available cards for those who don’t like the hearts and flowers hype of the season. According to an article in The Telegraph, UK, their anti-valentine card idea was born and their first cards were on the web within an hour.

Meg took the idea and ran with it. The cards were cynical, fun and immensely popular. Most of the sayings can’t be printed here but with slogans like, “Oh, my ***. Thirty and still single,” they poked fun at the commercialism of Valentine’s Day. In 2000, they sent out a couple of thousand cards. By 2005, the cards went past the 200,000 mark.

Meg has since moved on, married, had a child and shut down the website. But there are others that feel as she did. November 11 is Singles’ Day in China; a type of anti -Valentine’s celebration. It's a day for young people to celebrate being single and an excuse to log onto websites where products are sold at half price. Last year, just six minutes after midnight, $164 million was spent on, China’s version of Amazon and eBay.

Call me silly but my most memorable Valentine’s Days were in my youth. As a child, the love and appreciation for others was pure and innocent. I can still remember sitting at my desk at home and carefully choosing the person who matched the pictures and verses on each card. I envisioned my friends doing the same.

All of us then took the cards to school and placed them in a shoebox decorated with red tissue paper and doilies. Near the end of the day we had the familiar red punch and homemade cookies party. It was such a thrill to open the envelopes from your friends, bask in their attention and nibble Sweetheart candies that said, “Be mine.”

Simple sentiments made us giggle with appreciation: “Roses are red, Violets are blue, Sugar is sweet, just like you!” And it was really special if a card said, “You’re sugar and spice ‘n everything nice. Say that you will be my valentine!” Or, “They call it puppy love.” In High School, some of the more brazen teens would write: “Plenty of love, Tons of kisses. Hope one day to be your Mrs.”

Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all! (And whatever you do, don’t forget your sweetie!)

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The adventure of life goes on

Ah, youth! Betty circa 1946
1/15/14 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

“The adventure of life is to learn.
The purpose of life is to grow.
The nature of life is to change.
The challenge of life is to overcome.
The essence of life is to care.”
William Arthur Ward

Today’s column is a bit self-indulgent because it’s my birthday week. I’m celebrating 75 years of living and learning by taking a look back at what the world was like in the year I was born. I was born on a Friday the 13th, 1939. Some say that day is unlucky. I beg to differ. Sometimes attitude helps make your own luck.

So it's true, I've been lucky but I’m also blessed. I was born to birth parents who for some reason couldn’t keep me. I spent time in orphanages and was finally adopted when I was six years old. As a child, I always had a roof over my head, food to eat, education and wonderful friends. As an adult, I have had love, purpose, a fabulous family and priceless friendships.

Yes life has been an interesting challenge. But I’ve followed my heart and been here-there-and-everywhere! I couldn’t ask for anything more. Still, I have questions. What happened in 1939 besides me? Well, as I learned, it was a tense time in this world.

The Great Depression was grinding down the USA. The Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Grapes of Wrath” described in graphic detail a family that lost their farm and livelihood and traveled to California looking for hope. That era surely resonates with those who lost jobs and housing and hope in the Great Recession of 2008.

In April 1939, The New York World’s Fair opened. A bullet shaped time capsule weighing 800 pounds was buried and not to be opened for 5,000 years! Yes, you read that correctly. In the year 6939 it will be opened along with the one buried in 1964.

Rumblings of World War II were beginning in Europe. On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland. That was considered a prelude to the beginning of the war. Germany earlier had annexed Austria and invaded Czechoslovakia and Italy’s Mussolini invaded Albania in April. War was coming.

Joseph Stalin was named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year in both 1939 and 1942. They chose Pope Francis as Time’s Person of the Year in 2013. Journalists are an interesting bunch.

In sports, the New York Yankees won the World Series Championship (again). The Green Bay Packers defeated the New York Giants 27-0 to win the National Football League championship. And the NCAA Basketball Champion was…wait for it…Oregon!

Compared to the late 20th century, 1939 was an entertainment era of innocence. Today our movies and music bombard us with graphic violence, sexuality and profanity. “Swearing like a sailor,” as the old saying goes, simply didn’t drive the media like it does today.

However, here’s an interesting bit of movie trivia: Clark Gable’s line at the end of “Gone with the Wind,” when he said to Vivien Leigh, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” was voted the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Institute in 2005.

Many wonderful movies were released in 1939. They included: Goodbye Mr. Chips, Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Wuthering Heights. Each film was an incredible work of art but Judy Garland’s “Somewhere over the rainbow” is still bringing hope to broken hearts today.

Actresses wore more clothes in those days. These “hot” movie stars and fashion icons of 1939 strutted their stuff in swirly dresses with shoulder pads, hats or (gasp!) two-piece bathing suits: Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Greta Garbo, Betty Grable and  Hedy Lamarr (famous for her sarongs).

So what else was going on in 1939? Aviation progress was in full swing. The Sikorsky helicopter was invented and the first commercial flight over the Atlantic had people talking. Einstein wrote a letter to FDR about building an Atomic Bomb. Sigmund Freud died and a major earthquake in Chile killed 30,000 people.

Television was in its infancy. It made its debut at the World’s Fair with the first presidential address by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The New York Times reported that the broadcast was received in strategic locations and the pictures were clear and steady. It would be another 10 years before it was widely available to the masses.

Of course, I was a newborn. I don’t remember anything about 1939. I do remember the 1940s as the time when my grandfather held my hand and walked me into my new home and later into school and my first grade class; drinking milk and eating cookies after school; playing hopscotch; listening to the radio and reading under the covers at night by flashlight; looking forward to summers in the mountains and wondering what life would hold for me.

By the 1950s I was tall and lanky, a serious student and violin player. I dated, got my first job, went to college, married and started a family. The 1960s and 1970s were the best. They were all about the changing ages and stages of a growing family: church, school, clubs, dancing, parties, swimming, music and sports. Mostly they were fun!

By the late 1970s we were well established in business and volunteer work. Soon it was the 1980s and the kids were off to college, getting married and starting their own families. And for the last 25 years Chuck and I have had great adventures here in Oregon.

Looking back, I can honestly say that I have no regrets. Life is good. It’s not easy but most adventures are meant to be challenging. If the object is to learn, grow, care, serve and dare—I’ve done it all—and then some.

Praise God for these 75 years of endurance and joy!

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

The Candy Bomber

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Childhood Christmas carols, cookies and church

12/18/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

“How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood
That now in memory I sadly review:
The old meeting house at the edge of the wildwood,
The rail fence and horses all tethered thereto…”
James Whitcomb Riley

I was a city girl so I have no stories to tell about tethering horses to hitching posts at the neighborhood church like James Riley’s poem. Our church, Vermont Ave. Presbyterian, was located in the heart of Los Angeles. We rode to church in cars from around the city to sing, read the scriptures, worship and socialize.

Some of the most vivid scenes of my childhood revolve around Christmas activities at church. Although I certainly waited with great anticipation for Santa Claus to come and drop down the chimney with presents, the activities prior to that day were equally exciting.

Each Sunday evening in December youth meetings were cancelled. Instead, we kids donned our coats and mittens and went Christmas caroling. The area around our inner city church could be dangerous after dark. So we all jumped in cars (driven by parents) and headed out to nearby neighborhoods where we sang traditional carols and hymns for the elderly or shut-ins.

I still remember the delight and joy the recipients expressed as we sang, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing;” “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful;” Silent Night” and other requested favorites. After the last notes were sung we drove back to the church to warm up with hot cocoa and homemade Christmas goodies. (See recipes below.)

The highlight of the season was the Christmas pageant. Every year we kids re-enacted the birth of Jesus. It was a big deal. Altogether the church seated about 2,500 people and they came from all over the city to rejoice in the good news. Messiah had come! The large church interior was transformed for this event into a cozy theatre. The auditorium was darkened, and readers used flashlights to follow the script as children’s sweet voices filled the stage.

I was 14 years old when I was chosen to play Mary in the annual pageant. Oh, my. This was a huge honor. Over the years I had worked my way up through the ranks of shepherds and choirs of angels. As a seasoned performer, playing Mary was a piece of cake. While everyone else was running around in the fields of Bethlehem, I sat, head covered, dressed as a peasant girl with Joseph and the baby Jesus. We were under a spotlight in a tower above the stage that had been transformed—complete with hay— into a stable.

It was a memorable evening. A reporter and photographer from the Los Angeles Times covered the event. The next weekend, much to my surprise, my picture graced the front page of the newspaper. Unfortunately, my family’s copy was lost long ago or I would still be reveling in my (very) brief claim to fame.

Again, this being a church, refreshments were served after the pageant. Women from all over L.A. brought their best offerings. Coffee was black and strong; hot chocolate was made with real milk and melted chocolate. Cookies and cakes were all made from scratch. No store-bought or box mixes allowed!

As I recall, everything was simple but delicious. The pride was in the experience of the baker not in the complicated recipe. The different pastries represented the ethnicity of the providers. Sugar cookies took many forms and would melt in your mouth.  A gingerbread boy was a real treat. Spice cake was relished by young and old.

In the spirit of Christmas’ past, it seems only right to share a couple of those recipes. The first is a replica of a favorite in Chuck’s German family: Butterhorn Cookies. His mother and grandmother were wonderful bakers. In fact, his grandmother owned a bakery in Wisconsin during he early 20th century. The second recipe is from my mother’s recipe book written in about 1932.

Note: Since this will be my last column of the year I wish each of you a blessed holiday. Remember the reason for the season is love. So, as a wise man once said, “Little children, love one another.” Enjoy!

Grandma Sautner

2 c. sifted flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 lb. butter
3/4 c. sour cream
3/4 c. sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon
1 sm. pkg. chopped walnuts (chop nuts really fine)

Sift flour into mixing bowl. Add butter, mix with fingertips until it looks like meal, then add egg yolk and sour cream. Mix until well blended. Shape into 4 balls on floured wax paper.

Store in refrigerator several hours or overnight. When ready, roll out like a pie. Sprinkle with the filling and cut into wedges, 8 to 1 crust. Roll up, starting at wide side. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and roll in sugar mixed with cinnamon or when cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

LaVaughn Varner

3/4 cup soft shortening
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2-1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger

Mix shortening, sugar, egg and molasses thoroughly. Measure flour and sift with dry ingredients; mix all together. Chill. 

To cook: Heat oven to 375° F.
Roll dough into balls the size of large walnuts. Dip tops in sugar. Place, sugared-side-up, 3" apart on greased baking sheet. Sprinkle each with 2 or 3 drops of water. Bake 10-12 min. Makes 4 dozen.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart.

Lessons learned from a sweet kitty

R.I.P. Gracie
12/4/13 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

Lessons learned from Gracie

I didn’t know that Gracie was dying. I knew something was wrong with my sweet, 11-year-old, gray kitty but I didn’t know what. And while I was busy observing her symptoms and analyzing the possible causes—something was killing her.

We pet parents try to take good care of our animals. But sometimes their sneaky symptoms are sneaky. Cats are especially good at hiding their illnesses. Lesson: their life spans are short and we should not be cavalier and ignore on-going problems. Let me tell you Gracie’s story and maybe we can all learn something from it.

Graceful Gracie didn’t walk—she danced. She didn’t jump—she leaped ballerina style landing on her toes. She didn’t MEOW—she softly mewed. Summer days would find her and George scampering through the vegetable garden, hiding under trees, playing chase and yes, squabbling. Sometimes he would bat her around and she would go looking for her favorite dog to protect her. 

Lesson: Tread lightly and have friends you can trust.

By nature, cats are hunters. In fact, during warm weather they get kind of wild. They constantly stalk and pounce on a variety of bugs, mice and flying creatures that invade their space. And it’s not because they’re hungry. During the day ours free-feed on a quality kibble with lots of clean, cool water available. Still, hunting is the nature of the feline personality.

All of our animals sleep inside at night. In the summer our cats rebelled against being corralled. They thrive on sunny days and balmy evenings. Getting them inside was an ordeal. Fortunately, they love to be groomed. Brush in hand we are able to coax them in to be groomed and then rewarded with a nice dish of tuna.

When the weather is cold, there are not too many arguments about coming in early. They spend the evening cuddled in front of the fireplace or on our laps and then head out to their comfy beds in the heated garage. Although there are four beds, the two dogs burrowed together in layered cushions and the two cats slept together in a bed off the floor. It’s a good life!

Unfortunately, cats are notorious for coughing up hairballs and it’s difficult to know which of them is having the problem when they sleep together. It’s even more difficult when one of them is bringing up an entire meal. Recently, we thought it was George.

Over the last couple of years Gracie had several serious spells of illness. Each time, we assumed she had gotten a bad bird. She spent some time at the hospital on fluids and at home on antibiotics. She bounced back. Sort of. She never really regained that happy spark that set her constantly in motion on little fairy feet. She spent much of her days sleeping outside on the wicker settee.

Sadie, her favorite Dachshund, died last month and all of the animals went into mourning. Sammy’s pain is still palpable. Every time someone drives in the driveway he practically jumps in the car looking for her. He turns over beds and cushions and checks out her favorite corners. He is bewildered. Where is she?

At the same time, the cats took to sleeping in separate beds. In hindsight, a sure sign that something else was wrong. George would sleep for several hours in the morning on Sadie’s favorite cushion. Gracie curled up in a ball in her bed, upchucked almost every meal and lost weight—a shell of her former self. What was wrong?

We thought it was grief but it was more. Last week, relaxed on my lap, Gracie cried, wretched and brought up her now bleached kibble dinner. The next morning she had a high fever and was breathing erratically. At the vet’s office this very sick kitty PURRED during the exam. The hope was that the root of the problem could be found, meds given and she could come home at the end of the day.

Instead, her condition worsened as specialists consulted. There was an obstruction. Cancer? Her options were few and expensive—an ultrasound, exploratory surgery, more pain. She never came home.

I have beaten myself up and cried copious tears wondering how I could have missed the severity of her condition. Lesson: I thought her illness would be easily solved. I should have stopped analyzing and listened to that intuitive voice that said, “Something is very wrong. Take her to the vet—again!”

We pet parents sometimes neglect getting professional care and “pet medicate” because of the cost. Why do we hope that the problem will magically go away? Why do we think that animals, are not suffering and will shrug off an illness? That may be thrifty, wishful thinking but it is not wise or humane.

So what have I learned with the death of two furry children in the space of a month? 

Lesson one: I need to act on my first instincts when I am aware that something is wrong. 

Lesson two: Sometimes, despite our best efforts there is not a positive outcome. Only God knows why things happen. 

Lesson three: Eventually we have to say goodbye.

R.I.P. Gracie. You were my sweet girl and I miss you.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart