Cairn Terriers


Gracie sunning on the deck

I have been proudly owned by two cairn terriers in my lifetime, over a span of 28 years, and fully expect to have the pleasure of loving at least one more.  Having recently lost our sweet girl Gracie I am still very tender-hearted, but wanted to write and expound on the attributes of these dogs, small in stature but so very big in heart.

Webster defines the cairn terrier as-

“One of the oldest of the terrier breeds, originating in the Scottish Highlands and recognized as one of Scotland’s earliest working dogs. The breed was given the name cairn, because the breed’s function was to hunt and chase quarry between the cairns in the Scottish highlands.”

Indeed, they are known for their ability to catch rats and small rodents.  I think one of my cairns’ favorite pastimes was chasing squirrels.  Thankfully they never quite succeeded in catching one, but came awfully close on more than one occasion!  We have always had cats, but cat chasing was reserved for the “outdoor” stray cats, and not our own.  The game was certainly in the chase, because our cairns were far too gentle to ever hurt any cat.  In fact they are perfect companions for other family pets.

And as you can imagine, going after quarry in the cairns would involve digging and a willingness to go underground.  For this reason cairns excel in earth dog trials, and are listed as one of the eligible breeds to compete in these AKC events.  While my girls never competed, my first cairn Tessa could turn dirt faster than I could with my best shovel.  If I could have just taught her how to dig where I needed a garden planted…

Cairns have a rough, weather-resistant coat that comes in a variety of colors, and can include any color except white.  Many are brindles, with a variety of colors in their coat.  They are one of the few dog breeds that are said to be good for folks that have pet allergies, registering on the “low” end of the allergic scale for most people.  I can attest also to their ease in grooming.  And hey, a little dog that I can bathe in the kitchen sink is the dog for me!  They average in size from about 12-17 pounds.

By far their greatest attribute, though, is their winning personality.  They are feisty, independent, extremely intelligent, and robustly active.  They are perfect as a child’s pet, because they can handle both the roughhousing and high energy level that children naturally have.  My first cairn played with the neighborhood children for hours, chasing a ball and going down the playhouse slide with the kids.  So cute!

Both of my cairns showed an absolute fascination with fetching.  Cairns learn quickly, and once taught will fetch a ball or toy for hours, so be prepared.  They do need to be actively played with and/or walked every day due to their high energy level.  They slow down a little when older, but not much.  That said, they rest as hard as they play, and are not nervous dogs that stay constantly underfoot.

Most famous cairn ever?  No doubt the dark cairn terrier that played Toto in the 1939 movie the Wizard of Oz.  And cairns have played in many movies.  In fact here is a list of just some of the movies they have played in.  See some of these movies and their adorable pups!

So, if you are looking for a small breed dog that’s easy to keep and has the most wonderful personality, think about getting a cairn terrier.  I promise they will win you over with their scruffy charm.  And if you have any questions about these great little dogs just ask.  I will be more than happy to respond!

“Remember, it is not how much you love, but how much you are loved by others.”-Wizard of Oz, 1939


Discount Pet Meds


I just received a notice in the mail from Walgreens Prescription Savings Club.  My prescription plan for Angel, or as we affectionately call her “Miss Big Kitty”, was about to expire and they wanted to know if I would like to renew it. Considering the savings are substantial, you can bet this is something I want to do!

Just as for people, you can order and pick up some pet medications (that are human equivalent compounds) through your local pharmacy, as long as your veterinarian will write you a prescription.  But here’s the part that a lot of people don’t know about.  You can also register your pet at some pharmacies for prescription discounts – just like you can for people who don’t have insurance or have inadequate prescription coverage!  And yes it can make a huge difference in the price you pay for your pet’s meds, whether they are generic or brand-name.

My discovery was simply by accident.  I was helping my daughter a year ago with some medical issues, and we registered her at the Walgreens Pharmacy in her town for their Prescription Savings Club.  In reading the brochure information about the savings club I saw that it mentioned pets, so asked the Walgreens representative a few quick questions, and they verified that my cat would be eligible for the discount.  The plan itself costs $20 per year, but the savings on the costs of Miss Big Kitty ‘s hyperthyroid meds is substantial.  My savings this past year alone have been around $59, after the plan cost, which is quite a bit!  The plan also gives you additional discounts on other Walgreen services/products.

CVS Caremark has an iSave program that saves an average of 31% off generic and 15% off brand name prescription drugs at any of over 65,000 participating pharmacies, nationwide.  Pet medications for seizures, infections, allergic reactions, heart conditions, pain relief, diabetes and thyroid conditions, and anti-depressants used to treat behavioral disorders in cats and dogs are just some examples of medication types that are covered under this plan.  Individual plans are $14.97/per month.

Walmart gives instructions to “bring in your pet’s prescription, or have your vet call it in”, but I could not find any information about offering discounts on those prescriptions.  Since Walmart has many generic medications for $4, I checked on their list to see if Miss Big Kitty’s medication – methimazole – was offered, but it was not, so I am not sure what the medication would cost with them.

Costco also has a Member Prescription Program that is open for Costco member pet meds.  You are advised on their website to contact your local Costco pharmacist for details.  The Costco Member Prescription Program is a value added benefit of a Costco membership, which starts at $55 per year.

I hope if you have pets on regular medications that you will do some research on your own to find the best cost solution.  For now, the Walgreens plan is the best choice for me.  And if you are already using a great pet med program, please let me know about it!


Oh That Face!




She really has a very expressive face, more so than any cat I’ve ever known.  There is her sweet face (top), and then there is this one.  The one that makes you think twice about getting any closer with your camera, for fear of what might happen.  Still she is a beautiful kitty, and a very girly one too.  She loves the water, and a favorite spot is to sit along the edge of the tub while her human takes a bath!

Gabion Fence

Winter has finally come to central Texas, and I am grateful for the quiet because now my husband and I will get a much deserved break from the ongoing landscaping projects that we started in early fall.  Just prior to the holidays we completed a sixteen foot section of fencing and made a working gate for a portion of our backyard.  For years we have had a very large section of our backyard partitioned off; it was originally a dog run for our black Labrador retriever.  It has a long rustic section of fencing, comprised of 1×2 inch wire mesh, metal t-posts, and cedar stays.  We took one end section of this fence and reworked it, building gabion boxes and topping them with the original cedar stays cut to size.  The photos here show both the work-in-progress and the finished product.

The word gabion is Italian – gabbione meaning “big cage”.  It is essentially a cage or box filled with rocks, concrete, or soil and is most often used in civil engineering and road building.  You will quite often see them used as retaining walls to protect against soil erosion along constructed roadways.  For walls like we wanted, you stack them vertically rather than battered (angled back towards the slope).  They are quite trendy right now and you can find some beautiful examples of their use on my Pinterest page.

We had a definite reason for their use.  We needed three posts set into the ground, two of which were to hold our new gate.  But here’s the rub – we have VERY rocky ground in central Texas.  Dig two inches down and you hit white limestone rock, lots and lots of rock.  And since we are not as strong as we once were, we found digging 18”-24” post holes in the rocky ground to be an impossible task.  So I started looking for another solution, and that’s when I came up with the idea of the gabion boxes.  And boy do they work!  My posts which stand within the rock boxes are as strong as ever; it’s like they are basically set above ground.  So if you need a solution for setting posts other than digging holes, this might be just for you!

Though this fence was very labor intensive, it is also inexpensive to build.  Here is what we used:
1.  Three 2×4 6-foot posts cut to size (two for gate and one for end post)
2.  Two 5-foot t-posts (for supporting the wire in the middle section of the 16’ run)
3. A 50-ft section of 2×2” welded wire
4.  1 yard of 2-4″ diameter river rock (plus some rock from the yard)
5.  Bailing wire for forming the boxes and tying the welded wire and cedar stays on.

The boxes adjacent to the posts were built 2’ long by 1’ deep by 1’ high, with an additional box the same size stacked vertically on top of the first one.  To make the boxes we just cut the welded wire to size, allowing about a 1” overlap to connect the sections together as we went.  You can just use your fingers, or a pair of needle nose pliers, to bend the end pieces to tie them together.  My husband purchased an inexpensive angle grinder to help with the wire cutting.  You will also want a good pair of work gloves; the wire really can cut you if you are not careful.  Once the boxes are built (save the tops for last), place them on the ground, position the posts where you want them within the box, then start filling with rock.  Add the wire box top last, cutting as appropriate to slide over the post.  Then tie onto the main box frame by bending or using the pliers.  Complete each rock box and fill, going along until through.  Be sure to insert the t-posts in place as you come to those boxes.

Once the boxes were all in place, we added the welded wire fencing on top of the boxes, and then individually tied the cedar stays to the wire with 10” strips of bailing wire.  We left space between each stay so that the fence retained an open feel.  Cedar stays are readily available in this part of the country, but use whatever you have available locally.  The gate was added last, and painted a vivid shade of blue.  It really stands out in the garden, and I look forward to spring when I can add some more blue accents to tie everything together!  It does not show in the photo, but we have added a magnetic gate latch.  Full instructions for adding a magnetic latch can be found on this great website:  The Art of Doing Stuff.

Gabion boxes are great in that the are very rigid, yet can be conformed to the land on which they are placed.  Meaning they can be made in straight rows, or also can be shaped to a curved path.  I also thought about people who have dogs that are diggers.  It is pretty easy for a dog to dig under a wooden picket fence, but it would take a very determined dog to dig a 1’ long tunnel under a rock wall!  We love the way ours turned out.