Category: dogs

Living Your Best Life: The Time is Now

Why did this happen to me? We often ask ourselves that when change is forced upon us. What if you flip that around and the answer is this is happening for you.

A dear friend was initially surprised when her husband left her because she had been a loving wife, but upon further consideration she saw in hindsight there were problems in the marriage and realized she felt underappreciated. Then, the divorce became a pain. A real pain. She was a woman of faith and persevered with prayer, a lot of inspirational quotes (which she often shared on social media), emotional support of friends and family, her own abiding deep strength and a great sense of humor.

She also had a vision. She decided to pursue what she really wanted. She wanted to be independent. She wanted to move to the mountains. She wanted to return to nursing. She wanted a cabin in the woods. She made it all happen.

After the divorce, she bought a lovely cabin on a beautiful property in the mountains. She and her mother spent time together there and she wanted to renovate a building on the property for her friends and mother to stay in.

She made new, great friends. She kept up her love of fostering hounds and caring for her own dogs. She got a job at Home Depot in the garden department, which she loved, while pursuing her return to nursing. Then, she got a job as an ICU nurse at a regional hospital and was so happy about it.

She was living her best life. The life she wanted for herself on her own terms. And she was really happy and very loved. It came as a total shock when she passed away at age 59 between Christmas and New Year’s. It seemed so unfair because she was so young and really hitting another stride in life. Yet, it was a consolation to know she was enjoying all the things she really wanted before going home forever.

Think about it. What if she had passed away before making huge, life-fulfilling changes? There is no what if because she got to where she wanted to be.

So I ask myself and invite you to question, am I where I want to be? Will I achieve what I want in the coming years too? What do I need to do now to make my best life happen today and in the future?

Make the change. Health condition? Get a second opinion. Hate your job? Seriously look and persist. Bad relationship? Reevaluate. If it really isn’t good at the core, prepare to move on. Feeling unappreciated? Find a constructive way to express that.

Did you have New Year’s resolutions? One of mine was to start getting up at 5:30 a.m. to make time to exercise, read and write before starting the work day. Guess who makes me go walking at 5:30 a.m.? A coonhound named Cinnamon Sally. Sally was my friend’s foster dog.

Now is the time to tell you how I met my late friend, Sonya Renee Anderson. She was my boyfriend’s cousin. Moreover, she was the beloved cousin of many in a large, tight-knit family. She was the most enthusiastic about the annual family reunion and put herself in charge of the next one, telling her cousins it was time for their generation to take over for their parents (who are all alive).

This year’s family reunion without her means we won’t share in her beautiful smile, we won’t get a big hug from her and she will be greatly missed. But we will celebrate in her honor.

We had the blessing of getting to visit with her this past October, when she tried to convince us to adopt Cinnamon Sally. We demurred because we already have two dogs. We did consider it. When Sonya passed away, we realized we had to go get the dog and bring her home.

I think about Sonya a lot these days. She was an inspiration to me when she was alive. Now, I trot after this silly hound and reflect on what Sonya would tell me if she was still with us.

If it wasn’t for Cinnamon Sally, I wouldn’t be sticking to my first New Year’s resolution. In the little over three weeks we’ve been walking together, my waist has gotten a little bit smaller. Now, it’s up to me to achieve the other resolutions: write a book, start cycling again and make more money.

So, I ask again, are you living your best life? Why not? What’s stopping you. Make the changes. Make it happen. And have fun.

When Counter Surfing Goes Wrong, the Sandwich Disaster

My boyfriend endured a stressful work week so I wanted to make a perfect sandwich for him on Friday. The bakery-fresh English toasting bread held ham, turkey and cheese with sliced lettuce and tomato.

I placed the mayo and mustard on just right. I evenly layered the meats and cheese. I adorned each quarter with a half a jalapeno olive, affixed with toothpicks. The plate also had green grapes and pretzel sticks. I placed this work of art up on the bar-height counter.

Byron walked in and I went to present this masterpiece, only to realize Buster the Catahoula Leopard Dog ate one of the quarters, toothpick and all. The vet said to keep an eye on him. We prayed it would pass without injuring him.

Checking the aftermath of the puppy’s counter surfing reminded us of this scene from Jaws.

The dog seemed unfazed and he enthusiastically ate a big bowl of kibble for dinner, per usual.

We settled in to watch Dateline and the puppy became uncharacteristically quiet. We praise him for calmly laying down. But, it was an upset stomach that brought him down. Suddenly, he stood to the barf position. I guided him to his crate and gave him a bowl of fresh water. Within minutes, the poor doggie barfed up dinner along with other things.

Mercifully, Buster rejected the toothpick and there was no apparent blood. I felt like the Richard Dreyfuss character in the autopsy scene in Jaws when he pulled a license plate and other random items from a shark’s belly; when the puppy coughed up his dinner, we found the toothpick, the olive, tomato, turkey, a rubber band and a dryer sheet.

He felt good enough for a little second dinner. We encouraged him to drink extra water. He went to bed at his normal time and woke us up for his breakfast.

We updated the vet’s office with his condition. I am very relieved he did not eat the green grapes, which are harmful to dogs.

For breakfast this morning, I opted to prepare a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. Buster watched and sniffed as I cooked the bacon, which at no time was left unattended. While I fried the egg, the bacon dish was secured in the microwave for storage. Buster himself was secured. It is a good idea in this house to place a wayward or begging dog in a crate or the bedroom to prevent counter surfing.

The next time you make a sandwich that won’t be immediately eaten by a human, be sure to lock it a way. The microwave is a great spot to stash food to keep it away from the doggies!

The Catahoula Leopard Dog and the Foxhound: Jealous Much?

The Sage Leopard is a lifestyle blog primarily about cooking, but bear in mind it is named for a dog who thinks he is a prince. Today, Higgins reminded me I have always told him I love him more than anything, except he now notices I love someone else too.

That someone is Buster Tobias, our Catahoula Leopard Dog, who is at this writing is 50 pounds and counting. He’s nine months old and new aspects of his personality continue to emerge, including jealously.Catahoula Leopard dog in jealous repose.

As I pet Higgins on the love seat tonight, Buster first sat in disbelief and let out a protest howl. He then laid down and bore into my soul with the guilt-trip eyes. Higgins challenged me to stop giving him my undivided attention.

This dynamic might be part of the reason I’ve struggled to train them alone. Instead, my boyfriend and I took them to our favorite dog trainer. Higgins immediately knew his master from his boarding school days and Buster is so happy-go-lucky he had no idea what we were bringing him into. After a few visits, Buster started crying on the way to obedience training, even if training mostly amounts to heel, sit, stay and lay down.Foxhound-Catahoula mix lounging on couch.

The truth is Buster is not a fan of rules any more than Higgins is. When he first was learning to stay in lay-down mode, he started stretching out his back and front legs to inch forward with his paws.

His trainer was not letting him get away with it. Whining ensued. I think I caught Higgins laughing at Buster. The key to getting this training to stick was bringing Byron along so the four of us trained together. That’s when the hounds realized I was serious. Now they had two humans to follow.

Tonight when Byron got home, Buster had not immediately noticed because he was outside. When he came back in, I asked, “where’s Daddy” and Buster ran to the front door. When he eventually found his human daddy in the master bedroom, he wagged his tail and wholeheartedly greeted Byron.

This begins a night of relaxing and a cycle of habits: Higgins racing around the backyard looking for possums and barking like crazy, Buster climbing furniture to watch Higgins through windows and crying, and of course: Higgins and Buster vying for the role of top dog.

Introducing Buster Tobias, the Catahoula Puppy

Social media can truly save the day for stray dogs. This is the story of how we adopted our second Catahoula Leopard Dog puppy from the county shelter. Our love for Buster began with a shelter video posted by volunteers to a Facebook page for the pound. A woman in the region then shared the video to a closed group on Facebook for Catahoula owners. That’s when my Saturday morning and life changed. I saw this trembling creature and knew we had to go spring him.

Earlier this year, we lost our old Chester B. to ravages of cancer and his younger brother Higgins was despondent. We’d been conferring on the right time to get another dog and my boyfriend wanted to hold off. That is until he saw the compelling video of the shaky puppy at the pound. That prompted him to push back a meeting with a man about a dove lease. We later showed up for the hunting lease meeting at a Buccee’s with our new puppy wrapped in a towel from the shelter.

The puppy was an estimated 4 weeks old and weighed 5 pounds, but we were guessing a lot of that initial weight was from worms! His little body was terribly distended from worms. This displaced his center of gravity so when he tried to walk forward, he ended up knocking his forehead on the ground. By Sunday morning, our concerns grew for his health.

To put it delicately, there was an environmental disaster in his crate. Live worms came out of poor puppy. This was after his first dewormer dose. Without getting into further revolting details, we made sure his go time was in the front yard and not in the backyard where Higgins plays. Buster was discomforted and even looked a little scared. I could not wait for our Monday morning appointment with our regular vet. Dr. O. set the puppy on the right track with another kind of dewormer, an antibiotic for a skin condition, other medication and well wishes for the addition to the family.

The vet also estimated Buster was actually six weeks old and would likely reach 50-60 pounds when full grown. Just looking at his paws, we wonder if this is a low estimate for his adult size. Sometimes when he stretches after a nap, he appears taller.

He has been growing like a weed, gotten healthy and begun his life of adventures, starting with the backyard.

He has learned leash walking, sit, stay and lay down. He previously obeyed fetch, or “bring it,” but now relies on his own discretion with that command. We will seek to reinforce “bring it,” especially as we want to take him bird hunting. Before we do that, a lot more training steps and phases are in order.

He is now a little over four months old and weighs closer to 30 pounds. He is thriving. He’s also eating my shoes and clothes. The good news: he has stopped gnawing on my hands. He’s learning to bay and starting to boss around Higgins, our four-year-old Catahoula/Foxhound mix.

This is the second time social media saved the day for dogs at our home. A lost mother-daughter yellow lab pair showed up and their family saw my post on a lost & found page. We have had several dogs turn up here and the previous owners said there is something about this house that draws them in — maybe because they just like it here. Buster and Higgins, our pound puppies, love it here.

Moral of the story: Adopt a shelter dog. There is so much love at the pound!

The Sage Leopard

Chester, Hold Us a Spot in Heaven

Chester B. joined Molly Mae in heaven yesterday and our hearts are heavy. They’re heavy because they are so filled with the endless love this generous soul always gave us. Byron in 2008 adopted Chester, already a mature dog living at a rescue ranch.

dog adoption

The day they met in 2008, Byron signed on to be Chester’s human.

The intent was for Chester to be Molly’s companion but he was a friend to everyone he met and the steady rock of Byron’s home. He was a lot like Byron: caring, kindly, gracious, nonconfrontational, loyal, quiet and loving. Chester really liked to give hugs. A little over a year ago, he was given 30 days to live without medical intervention and Byron elected to give him chemotherapy. The dog went through chemo twice but it stopped working this April, when he was already over 13 years old. The past couple of months he didn’t show he was still suffering as it quietly reemerged. Instead, Chester enjoyed life per usual, and by that, I mean making the most of everyday. Each morning, Chester liked to enthusiastically start with a healthy breakfast before a snuggle session. He would stretch and hug and stretch more. Then hug again. Chester absolutely loved hanging out in the garden and backyard to watch the world go by. He was known to occasionally bag a dove (sneakily).


Chester B. enjoying the outdoors

He acted very casual but he was serious about being steadfast. Between Molly and Higgins both being bossy boots, he stoically put up with a lot of nonsense. He would walk up to his humans and gently nudge for a little gratitude and petting. He also kissed when he felt appreciative. Chester was extraordinary with children. He was so loyal it felt as if he would be with us forever. Yesterday, he suddenly suffered from brain swelling and he was brave. He was able to say good-bye to many medical caregivers who got to know him. His grace was widely felt. Now, he truly is with us forever as our guardian angel. We love you, Chester, and are eternally grateful.

Love, Katharine & Byron

The Sage Leopard

This Dog – How the Sage Leopard Took over My life

I’ve never met anyone quite like Higgins. When we first laid eyes on him at the pound he was a high-energy, playful puppy of 7 months. He was labeled as a cross between an English foxhound and a Catahoula Leopard Dog. I had no idea what a Catahoula was and supplemented my internet search knowledge by joining a variety of Facebook groups for Catahoula lovers.

IMG_5237In short, the breed is the official dog of the state of Louisiana. The stewards of the breed guard it and express concern that some Catahoulas are not living the life for which they came into being: hunting and working. Well, we’re working on it. For the record, I think he might be a cross between Catahoula and Beagle. He is only 40 pounds, which is much smaller than the typical Catahoula Leopard Dog, which is an amazing breed. Higgins is not purebred, but we consider him part Catahoula and he does have some traits: he has webbed paws, spots in his fur (within the white part of his patchwork markings) and incredible intelligence. As I type, he is crying at me to stop and go play with him. His vision is stunning. He can spot an owl up in a tree in darkness, a squirrel down the street and wood ducks in a high flyover formation. Sage Leopard dogThe challenge is for me to harness all his skills and prowess. When I initially got him, I thought he would make a great jogging partner. He soon started running, and running really fast. He actually pulled me down, jerked loose and ran to the bayou’s edge. Amazingly, he also came back when called. He exerted himself in a very bossy manner and refused to direction from the eldest dog in the house. She was beside herself that Higgins ignored her. He also seemed to ignore me or rather listen selectively. I grew up with golden retrievers who happily complied with every command, so I became exasperated and took him to a trainer with a two-week boarding program. After two weeks, I hadn’t heard anything and called to check on the dog.Catahoula dog mix The trainer informed me that there are rare occasions with some dogs that take longer to train. After about three weeks, he came home much more obedient, but not quite. Unfortunately, the incident followed. A lost dog was staying with us a little while and Higgins was very possessive of me. Higgins and I sat on the couch when Roscoe, a miniature schnauzer, sought attention from me. Higgins snarled and I moved toward him chiding him to stop. Big mistake. I should have stood up and commanded him to get off the couch. His snarl turned to snap and he caught my lower lip. He realized his mistake and ran outside to hide. It was bad enough for me to go to an urgent care to have it checked out. This led to my beloved hound being reported to the county pound where we originally got him. My vet referred us to a behavioral vet who guided us on more training. Higgins has become far more affectionate, reliant and obedient. I haven’t given up on him because I absolutely adore him. We wrap up most nights with Higgins on possum watch and me watching him. The possum crossings over our fence line provide endless entertainment for the dog and it warms my heart knowing he is happy at home with us. He is my best friend, my inspiration and my happiness. He has many nicknames: cutey booty, pound hound, bossy boots, punk and, of course, the Sage Leopard. Higgins dog

The Sage Leopard



Finding Ginger and the Mystery of the Missing Dogs

When my boyfriend closed on his house, the sellers warned him that stray animals tend to show up here. He thought they were joking. The parade of lost animals started with a pair of little white dogs. In the coming years, they were followed by a crazy, menacing mixed breed pair; mother and daughter Labradors; a carrier pigeon; and a miniature schnauzer. Last week, on Byron’s way to work, a little lost Yorkie ran under his pickup truck. This was near a busy road, so he got out and picked up the dog. Next thing I knew, I was driving the Yorkie to the vet.


Little lost Yorkie, as found in the street

She was only wearing a bow, and where she wasn’t balding, her fur was matted. I was really pumped when the microchip scanner alerted and then was equally dejected when the vet’s assistant related that the chip company said the last information they had on the dog was from 10 years ago in Miami. Things got wild from there. I received a call from Yajaira, the original owner in Miami. She was shocked that Ginger was in Texas. I was shocked that the dog had been missing for so long and no one else had brought her to a vet for a check. I immediately updated the quick post I had placed on a local lost-and-found pets Facebook page. Most people liked that the update announced the owner was located with a microchip. Of course, a busybody piped up that I should track down whoever had her in Texas and let that person sort out ownership with the Miami lady. I fumed. Really? The Miami lady had the dog’s original papers and had her animal chipped. Whoever had Ginger in the meantime had not been kind in terms of keeping up with medical care. Perhaps they were well-intentioned, or perhaps they dumped her. All I knew was no one appeared to be looking for her, either online or with neighborhood signs. Most importantly, her legitimate owner was flipping out and planning to bring her home to Miami. That was such a refreshing contrast with the original owner of the schnauzer that showed up in our driveway in 2014. Byron tracked down the person from an old rabies tag on that dog. The guy said he had not seen the dog in two months and ultimately did not want the dog back. He suggested Byron drop it off at the pound. We kept that dog in the family and Roscoe now happily lives with Byron’s parents. Here, with the little lost Yorkie, we had the original owner on the line, overjoyed to hear her dog was located, 10 years later. We also had a little logistical crunch in that Byron and I had immediate travel plans. We had been selected by lottery by Texas Parks and Wildlife for a management hunt, which is a means of controlling against deer overpopulation. We had already paid for our permits and had reservations to camp. I suggested that Ginger be kenneled with our dogs at the vet’s office and she could be examined as well. We’d be back in a couple of days. This ultimately worked out fine, especially as her Miami owner wanted her condition checked out, and the plan was to bring Ginger to the airport on Saturday. We were all so excited. Driving to the airport with Ginger on my lap, I got a sense something might be wrong. Then again, we were listening to David Bowie’s last album and the ominous tone of the music was giving me a bad vibe. Well, maybe I had a premonition because when we got to unnamed airline’s cargo office at the appointed time on the airbill, the door was locked. A man’s voice expressed indifference to our plight. We begged the terminal staff for assistance and they earnestly cared, but could not override the system to let a cargo dog fly in the passenger cabin without an accompanying passenger. Yajaira and I had been madly texting each other as she was on the phone with the airline. Ultimately, the reality dawned that Ginger wasn’t getting on a plane to Miami that night. We resolved to regroup and try Sunday morning with United Airlines. What a world of difference. When we got to the designated area at the United cargo office, there was a van with photos of doggies.

Byron & Ginger preflight

Getting ready for her flight from Houston to Miami

We walked in and were warmly greeted by an amazing, dedicated United PetSafe staff. The counter lady said at the outset that she would do everything to make sure Ginger made her flight. She was not kidding. We had the wrong kind of crate and Byron set out to a store to get the right one. He came back with the wrong size. The lady found a spare and gave it to Ginger (after first checking with the person who had left that crate behind). She took care of all the paperwork and made sure Ginger was safe and secure. It was time to say good-bye to Ginger. I could not celebrate yet because I wanted to wait until I knew she was back with Yajaira. I set up a flight status alert with the United app. Finally, we received a photo text with Ginger and Yajaira in Miami. That was the ultimate relief. We received multiple photos and videos of Ginger back at her Miami home. Yajaira said the dog just walked right back into the house. That doesn’t surprise me at all. Ginger is a very smart dog and knows where she is truly loved.


Back where she belongs... Ginger in Miami

Back where she belongs… Ginger in Miami