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Meet Harvey the Hell Cat: Art Therapy Project

art therapy emotional turmoil

He’s flattened. He’s wincing. His wide eyes are filled with fear. Heck, he even has a fear portal located keenly above his solar plexus where fear can be pumped in or sucked out, depending on the mood of the day.

He’s Harvey the Hell Cat, and he’s one creepy creature indeed (who happens to look smashing on my living room wall).

While Harvey the Hell Cat may seem like a peppy enough project to be done for fun, he was actually the result of yet another intriguing art therapy topic from Tucson’s Dr. B.

  • Topic: Emotional Turmoil
  • Result: Harvey the Hell Cat, a kooky critter crafted out of papier-mache-like clay then painted with dark colors. Additional details include eyes made from a metal washer and nut, sheet-metal teeth, and the aforementioned fear portal framed by gold and blue hues.
art therapy emotional turmoil

Why a flattened cat?

Flattened cats have a strong link to my past emotional turmoil, one of which was the star of an incident back in Brooklyn. When my then-boyfriend’s cat was dying, the cat waited until I came home one day to perform his final dying ceremony. It came complete with a swan song.

He crawled into the center of the room, laid on his side, and let out the loudest, most distressing extended cat yeowl I’ve ever heard in my life. I tried comforting him as he continued, until taking his very last breath.

I still get goosebumps thinking about it, especially what I called in a poem “his glazed eye filled with fear.”

Fear of death has kicked up plenty of emotional turmoil in me over the years, although I’m learning to deal with it by reaffirming my belief that yes, our souls live onward and no, I won’t come back as a picnic table.

Is Harvey the Hell Cat for sale?

You bet!

While I cannot part with the original Harvey the Hell Cat, I’d be delighted to make you one of your very own, using any colors you wish. Order now at the rynski etsy shop.

Enjoy!

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Dogs vs. Cats: A Fresh Take on an Age-Old Debate

dogs as needy girlfriends

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Yes, you can be both. And yes, you can switch sides.

I was a cat person growing up, until I discovered dogs in adulthood.

A woman I met at the recent Valley Dogs Rescue fundraiser, Petsfly Founder Jeni Redmond, was just the opposite. She also gave quite a thought-provoking reason for her switch from dogs to cats.

“Dogs are like needy girlfriends,” she said, noting their constant pleas for attention are akin to the flurry of texts you get from gals who feel they’re being ignored.

When dogs get too insistent, she just wants to scream “Stop texting me!’” She explained it all with a laugh.

I laughed, too. Then I immediately thought of my Belgian Tervuren Reggie who actually sits on my head when I’m lying down watching Netflix instead of him. Yep, that fits.

So if dogs are prone to falling into the needy girlfriend category, what does that make cats?

With their aloof nature and penchant for completely disregarding you, many could definitely double as the emotionally unavailable boyfriend. To make sure the idea was on the right track, I tested the theory below.

Dogs as Needy Girlfriends

dogs as needy girlfriends
Dogs Needy Girlfriends
Demands to know where you are at all times Yes Yes
Checks in on you multiple times a day  Yes Yes
Gets upset if you go somewhere without her Yes Yes
Gets mad if you forget her birthday Not really Yes
Gets jealous if you give attention to someone else Yes, sometimes jealous enough to draw blood Yes, sometimes jealous enough to draw blood

This one appears to check out, aside from the tidbit about the birthday.

Cats as Emotionally Unavailable Boyfriends

cats as emotionally unavailable boyfriends
Cats Emotionally Unavailable Boyfriends
Doesn’t bother to tell you where he’s going or when he’ll be back Yes Yes
Ducks your calls multiple times a day Yes Yes
Gets annoyed when you ask to accompany him wherever he’s going Sometimes Yes
Totally forgets your birthday Yes Yes
Doesn’t even notice if you give attention to someone else Yes, unless it involves food or catnip Yes

This one aligns, too, proving the theory is correct.

The Good News

The good news is you don’t have to date your dog or cat. And not all dogs and cats will neatly fit into the needy girlfriend or emotionally unavailable boyfriend category. Not even all girlfriends and boyfriends will fall into those categories (thank goodness).

Please note this theory is all in fun, providing altogether politically incorrect stereotypes that hopefully made you at least chuckle.

Dogs and cats each have their unique quirks, which is part of the reason they’re so much fun. It’s even more fun when you learn how to work with those quirks to make a truly personal connection.

I know I’m overjoyed when Reggie rewards my constant attention with his happy little clicking noise in the back of his throat – or by moving far enough off my head so I can actually see the TV screen and breathe.

I was likewise over the moon when the cat pictured above, my pal Stephanie’s cat Witchbird, actually let me take her picture without running to hide in the closet.

Bonding with animals is a treat, whether its dogs, cats, goats or rats. This especially holds true when you fill the needs of a needy-girlfriend dog or get an emotionally-unavailable-boyfriend cat to open up or remember your birthday.

For more insights on dogs, get The Rynski Doggie Dictionary. For more insights on cats, check back later after Witchbird comes out of the closet.  

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Is Your Dog Fat? How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

fat dog

Elmo is a big dog, but the vet says 109 pounds is just a bit too big. He’s not yet into the obesity stage, but he has joined the 54 percent of dogs in the U.S. who are officially overweight.

A handy chart at the vet lets you spot check if your dog is fat. The thing looks something like this:

dog weight chart

The chart says if your dog is a healthy weight, you’ll be able to easily feel his ribs. If his ribs are protruding, he’s underweight. If his ribs are covered by a slight padding like Elmo’s, he’s overweight. If his ribs are covered by enough padding to stuff a couch, your dog is obese.

Tips for Helping Your Dog Lose Weight

Even though most of us think “diet” is a nasty four-letter word, your dog doesn’t have to suffer while losing weight. These tips helped Elmo shed pounds once, and they can help once again.

Don’t quit treats cold turkey.

Dogs that have come to expect treats on demand will have a hard time accepting their demands are no longer being met. This counts triple if their demand involves cornering you near the kitchen counter by the treat jar and jumping up and down while wildly barking.

Rather than foregoing a treat altogether, try cutting the treat in half. Or thirds. Or even quarters. Reducing the amount of food given per feeding time can also work better than trying to cut out a feeding time completely.

Do try broccoli.

Broccoli comes with a calorie count lower than spring temperatures in Michigan. And most dogs spit it out the minute it hits their mouth. That means your dog gets zero calories and you still get points for giving a treat.

I remember reading somewhere that dogs don’t really care what you give them, as long as you give them something. I’m not sure if that’s true, but giving them broccoli can result in a notable dog weight loss if your dog doesn’t eat it. P.S. Elmo has since learned to eat it.

Don’t let the soulful eyes get to you.

When you hand over broccoli instead of, say, beef, your dog is likely to give you “that look.” It’s a sad look with soulful eyes that pierce your heart, wrenching it in half in a deeply powerful bid to please hand over some beef. Just. Say. No.

Do have a general idea of calorie counts.

While you don’t have memorize the calorie count of every food in the kitchen, like I did during my high school dieting phase, you should have a general idea of how many calories you’re feeding your dog. Some of those treats can pack a hefty punch.

Calories in Common Dog Snacks

  • 732 – Busy Bone, large
  • 672 – Beggin’ Chew, large
  • 443 – Busy Bone Dental, large
  • 182 – Pig’s Ear (Elmo’s favorite)
  • 115 – Milk Bone, large
  • 94 – Tbsp. Peanut Butter (Elmo’s second favorite)
  • 40 – Beggin’ Strips
  • 20 – Pup-Peroni (Every dog’s favorite)
  • 3 – Good ole Charlee Bears

The calorie chart also noted a bite of a McDonald’s cheeseburger adds 330 calories to a dog’s diet. Ouch.

Do have a general idea of how many calories your dog needs.

Just like people, lazy dogs need fewer calories than dogs that are always on the move. Low-calorie Charlee Bear has a chart that shows how many calories it takes to sustain certain weights.

Dog Weight: Calories Needed per Day

  • 20 pounds: 420 to 680
  • 50 pounds: 830 to 1,350
  • 100 pounds: 1,400 to 2,270

Don’t count rolling over in bed as exercise.

Increasing your dog’s exercise is another way to help him reach his desired weight. And no, much to Elmo’s dismay, rolling over in bed does NOT count as exercise.

Jumping around for his treats counts a little bit, and Elmo’s new trick of spinning in a circle counts even more. We’ll also add extended weekend walks to the list, after which he’ll be keenly rewarded with a big, juicy hunk of broccoli.

Want more fun dog info and facts? Get the Rynski Doggie Dictionary.

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Art Therapy Project: REBIRTH

floating goat illustration

The art therapy topic of REBIRTH immediately brought to mind born-again Christians, which brought to mind all sorts of religions, which brought to mind cults.

This then prompted me to think of the creepy cult episode of Netflix’s Encounters with Evil where the Heaven’s Gate guy said humans need to remove their genitals so they can be more like aliens and then everyone killed themselves.

And I just didn’t feel like going there.

So I took another path with the rebirth topic instead.

  • Topic: Rebirth
  • Result: Rebirth painting alternatively known as “The Mystery of the Floating Goat.” Acrylic, glass paint and paint markers on canvas. Note the floating goat is in an orb of light, protected from all the demonic things writhing around him.

Artist Q&A

What’s with the floating goat?

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been convinced that if I were ever reborn I would come back as a goat. For some reason, reincarnation/rebirth always makes me think of goats – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The goodliness of it all was reinforced when a Gen Xer pal pointed out that the letters from GOAT stand for:

  • Greatest
  • Of
  • All
  • Time

Pretty cool, no?

What’s with the demonic things?

The demonic things represent evils of the past. These evils include less-than-boastful behaviors and the horribly negative mindset I used to succumb to on a regular basis. Self-care, therapy and lots of love have helped me escape the demonic things of my past to become reborn as, well, a floating goat.

Anything else we should know?

Changes throughout our lives cause us to be reborn constantly. Whether it’s with a new job, a new relationship or an entirely new mindset. This is a good thing.

Coming back as a goat would be a good thing, too. I had five pet goats in New Mexico and they’re tons of fun. They hop. They play. They climb trees. And it sure beats being reborn as a gnat or something.

Where can we get more Rynski goat artwork?

Oh, I love that question!

Check out a whole goat collection of goodies on Zazzle.

Enjoy!

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How Not to Go Crazy Missing Your Dogs while on Vacation

belgian tervuren gigi and me

There’s a reason our family frequently heads to San Diego’s dog beach. It’s because two of our family members happen to have four paws, and traveling with the dogs is the ultimate vacation. But no matter how spectacular it is to travel with the dogs, there are trips where they just can’t tag along.

Like on extended flights to Florida. Medium flights to Michigan. Or that trip to New York you’ve been planning in the back of your head for the past nine years or so.

Dogs on the plane aren’t going to work in all cases, and tragedies can happen even when dogs are allowed on board. Road-tripping more than 1,000 miles can leave you spending more time on the road than at your destination. We dog moms have to face it – there will come a time when we simply have to leave our hounds at home.

Yes, it’s brutal. Yes, it’s heartbreaking. But no, you don’t have to let missing your four-legged kids consume or ruin your whole trip. During my travels without my pooches I’ve picked up a few tricks for enjoying myself immensely, sans guilt, even without my dogs in tow.

Make Sure They’re in Good Hands

If your dogs are safe at home with your significant other, you have this first base covered automatically. Otherwise, look into a trusted pet sitter that can come to your home to keep your dogs in a familiar environment.

Dogs that may be too apt to chew that environment without mama around may do better at a pet boarding place. Pick one that has solid reviews, room to ramble, and the word “resort” in its name. You want a place where your dog can hang out with other pooches and have fun, not stand jammed in a crate on a shelf somewhere.

Knowing your dogs are safe takes away the worry that could otherwise invade your mind as deeply as missing them.

Keep Photos Close

With all the pix stored on your smartphone, tablet, laptop and Facebook feed, you’re likely to have zillions of photos of your darling dogs. This gives you ample opportunity to gaze lovingly at them throughout your trip. Just don’t gaze and weep. Gaze and smile, thinking about the sheer glee you’ll feel when you’re all once again reunited.

Plan a Rollicking Reunion

Dog park, anyone? Plan a perky homecoming activity where you and your dogs can celebrate your grand reunion. Of course, this activity comes after the initial homecoming ritual which involves being knocked flat on your back in the middle of the kitchen floor with your face licked and glasses ripped excitedly off your face.

Snag a Few Souvenirs

No matter where you travel, you’re sure to run across a few dog toys, treats, bones, or other goodies you can bring home for the pooches. Snagging souvenirs for your happy hounds can make them even happier. Besides, if your dogs are like mine, they won’t let you back in the house without them.

With all the dog photo-gazing, souvenir-shopping and other adventures during your trip, you’ll be back home with your pooches before you know it. And yes, they’ll remember who you are. So get rid of that thought, pronto, even before you board the plane.

Want some dog-happy reading for your next trip? Go for the Rynski Doggie Dictionary

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