Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Delicate Process

Introducing a new cat to the household is a delicate process, full of potential mis-steps and unfortunate misinterpretations.  Believe me, I know.  We had a very rough year when we were trying to introduce poor Romeo into the household, and I truly think that he'd still have to be kept isolated from the others if he were still alive today.

Which is why I felt quite a bit of trepidation with releasing Foster cat Mitchell in with our girls.  I probably wouldn't have done it at all, except that he was desperately lonely after Foster cat Patches got adopted.  So we decided to see what happened.

We had one advantage:  he'd lived here for nearly six months under quarantine already, and the cats were already well aware of the fact that he was here. They had his scent, and despite the quarantine, there were a couple of "jail breaks" so they'd had a couple of Mitchell sightings already too.

So we left the guest room door open one day last week to see what would happen.

Nothing.  Well, at least at first.

Once Mitchell figured out that he was free to roam, he sauntered out into the hallway, and stopped cold when he saw Annie.  He made a glad little sound and ran over to her and began grooming the top of her head.  I think that Annie stared at him in stunned shock and silence for about three seconds before she made the "Annie war-cry" and slapped him down.  And then it was Mitchell's turn to stare at her in stunned shock and silence.  (Patches had LOVED being groomed.)

Hmm.  That could have gone better.

But he didn't let that put him off.  Romeo would have turned and run and remained hostile for days.  Mitchell kept trying to make friends.  I could see Annie started to soften towards him, especially since he'd always try to groom the top of her head, an impossible spot to reach herself.

He then tried to approach Charlotte, who predictably made a gargling sound like she'd been possessed by demons.  We split them up really quickly afterwards - Charlotte still hasn't 100% accepted Annie, who she has lived with for two years, so we have no reason to think that she's ever going to be friendly to another cat.  At least Charlotte is willing to "live and let live," as long as she isn't disturbed or annoyed too much.

But Mitchell didn't give up on her either.  He periodically tries to approach her, being as gentle and unassuming as he can be.  Most of the time she drives him away.  But...  I caught them touching noses earlier this evening.  All was well until I saw Charlotte's ears flick back, noticing me entering the room. Then of course she had to save face and snarl at him.  Mustn't let me think that she was weakening.

Bit remains our "hard case," which I expected.  She was Romeo's primary tormentor, following him, stalking him, attacking him from nowhere and making him a nervous wreck.  She was the main reason that we kept him isolated from the other cats... Bit just did NOT know when to quit, and poor Romeo had no knowledge of how to get her to leave him alone.

I was worried about the Bit-Mitchell encounter the most.  After all, if she drove him to the point of a nervous break-down, or made him dislike other cats, the shelter would not be happy with me!  (And I'd feel horrible.)

When she saw him, she started doing the same thing that she'd always do to Romeo, which is to say that she laid her ears back and started slinking towards him, in that predator-tracking sort of way.  She fully expected him to run away and hide. What she did NOT anticipate was for him to chirp at her and bounce happily towards her expecting to play.

Well, this didn't go over very well, to say the least.  Bit seems to be very worried about him, but I think that maybe she's even relaxing somewhat.  We're trying to feed her "gooshy food" in his presence which does seem to be helping.

And...  we're already leaving all of the cats alone together.  Mitchell and Annie hang out together the most, usually on our bed, and I walked in on a mutual grooming session the other evening.  I think that Annie really, really likes him, possibly because he's the only cat in the house that will defer to her.  She's also been the one that has spent the most time with him... the first several days, there was no way we were leaving all of the cats alone together.  But we didn't want to leave Mitchell completely alone because he so clearly didn't like it.  So we'd put Annie, the one who'd reacted the best to him, in with him.  So they've gotten some bonding time.

Anyway, things are moving along much, much better than I thought they would.  I feel like a United Nations peace broker, but I do think that we're through the worst of it and are working towards a smooth integration.  (After which, of course, Mitchell will likely get adopted into his Forever Home, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Join the Fellowship of the Black Cat

This is Petfinder's Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week.  Bloggers all over are posting about "less adoptable" animals and encouraging readers to give these deserving animals a home.

I'm posting about a group of animals that is near and dear to my heart - black cats.  They are so often overlooked, and I know that my local shelter has so many black cats right now that it isn't even funny.

They are in no way shape or form actually less adoptable...  black cats are often some of the most friendly animals up for adoption.  It seems like many people overlook them -  maybe it is the only the truly discerning, observant, and astute people that love the black kitties?  There should be a club - a fellowship, even, of those rare, lucky individuals.

Then again, I'd rather see more black cats get adopted than to belong to some exclusive club.

I'm going to start with a (mostly) black cat that is near and dear to my heart:  Mitchell, my remaining foster cat.  (Patches, his partner-in-crime, a tuxedo kitty, was adopted over the weekend.)

Mitchell has the sweetest nature of any cat that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.  He is extremely gentle with people, purrs with delight when he is gently petted, and will happily lie on top of you, or beside you, or at least on the same bed as you, as you nap.  He is also gentle with the other cats, and is patiently working on winning my "girls" over.

He is curious and fun, and will keep you well entertained as he explores and comically over-reacts to little things, like his reflection in a mirror, or discovering the bathroom sink.  We can't keep him, because we have a full house.  But I would love, love, love to see him go to someone who will adore him as he deserves.

Two other ARL cats that are up for adoption and black:

This is Mama.  According to the ARL site, she was found with her litter of kittens.  Her kittens are now gone, but she remains at the shelter.  Those eyes always get me - she wants to be rescued and taken to a home where she can get the pampering that she deserves.

Mama loves people, by the way, so her adopter would be guaranteed an affectionate, gentle companion.  The only caveat is that she live in a home without dogs.

And this is Annie.  (No, not MY Annie, though she too is a little black cat.)  I think that's why this picture tugs at my heartstrings so.  THIS Annie is gentle and not really taking to shelter life very well.  That makes her actually quite similar to MY Annie, who did not do well at the shelter either.  Her personality was not suited for it.

That's why I am certain that this Annie could have a "happily ever after" in someone's home - get her out of the caged environment, and you, like me with my Annie, will watch her blossom.

There are so many more - at the ARL, and no doubt at every shelter in the country.  (Here is a link to Castaway Cats - who talks about even more of the black cats at the ARL.)   So join the Fellowship - you know you want to!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Happy Gotcha Day

In August 2008, we did one of the most terrifying things in our lives:  we closed on our first house.  We spent the rest of August and half of September doing some minor renovations to it before moving in...  fresh coats of paint in several of the rooms, ripping down the inexplicably hot pink trim from the master bedroom, etc.  We moved in over the weekend over September 20th.  My mother flew out to stay with us that week so that she could help us unpack and start making our house a home.  Some of you may have heard at least part of my description of move-in week, which is when we got the "girls," but others haven't, so I'll retell the story on the anniversary of the great event.

On September 21, which was a Monday, Jeff had to go out and do an errand.  My mother and I were standing in the dining room, which was the "staging area" for all of our boxes, which is to say that we were surrounded by stacks of boxes nearly up to our heads.  Jeff came in to say good-bye and told me that when he got back, we should go to the animal shelter and each pick out a cat.  (He wanted a kitten, I wanted an adult, so we already knew we'd be getting two.)  

I had a sensible reaction to this, and told him in no uncertain terms that we were not introducing cats into the house when we were still living amongst and out of the boxes and while my mom was sleeping in the guest room.  He left to do his errand, and by the time that he'd returned, I'd completely changed my mind. I'd found the website for the Animal Rescue League, just a short drive from the new house.  And on that website, I'd found a profile for a certain little cat named Annie.  I've always been drawn to the cats that I felt like no one else wanted.  This was partially why I wanted an adult.  Annie was black as well, which brought down her adoptability for whatever reason.  She'd just returned to the shelter from a foster home, which she had been in to give her a much-needed cage break.  

So, Jeff, my mom and I drove to the Animal Rescue League.  The numbers of cats in cages was overwhelming to me.  They hadn't yet built their cat center, so there were no colony rooms, and cages lined the hall.  I saw Annie, but she was in the back of her cage, probably hiding from the chaos (there were a lot of people looking for a pet cat that weekend.)  I meant to go back and meet her, but Charlotte got my attention.  I KNOW many of you have heard her story, so I won't go into details there, but she chose me without a doubt, and I knew that I needed to take this tuxedo kitty home with me.

So she was my choice.

Meanwhile, Jeff had looked into the cages of several of the cats, but was instantly intrigued by one containing a little gray fluffy kitten.  She didn't even have a name on her cage yet, though later her paperwork named her as "Fluffy."  One of the shelter workers mentioned to him that she was a polydactyl, which intrigued him, and he asked to have her brought to one of their rooms that they have designated for potential adopters/adoptees meetings.   Fluffy, soon to become Bit, startled when some dogs started barking, and leapt onto Jeff's arm and ran up to sit on his shoulder to get away from the noise.  He fell in love immediately, and I knew that she was to be ours.

We went home with Charlotte (who was always named Charlotte, by the way.  She came with that name and it just seemed to suit her so well that I never even dreamed of changing it) and Bit, whose real name is Q-Bit, by the way, short for Quantum Bit.  

And all was well.  Except that I couldn't get a certain black kitty out of my mind.  I looked back on the Animal Rescue League's website to see if she'd been adopted, hoping that she had been and that I could quit fretting.  No one adopted her.  I checked back on Tuesday, then on Wednesday, then on Thursday.  Annie was still there.  I started re-reading her history.  Found stray, brought in, kept in the shelter for several months.  Went into a foster home for a few weeks, then brought back.  She'd been in the custody of the Animal Rescue League for a little over a year.  No one was going to come in and take her away, I realized, even if I checked back daily.  (Okay, eventually someone would have.)  But black cats get adopted slowly, and shy ones that don't really like to be petted all that much even moreso.  

I was at work.  So I emailed Jeff, wondering how I was going to sell him on going back to get her.  We emailed back and forth a few times.  I called him.  He called me back.  We decided that we could handle three cats.  At the time, it seemed like a huge decision.  I have to laugh at how seriously we took it, given that now the idea of having just three cats makes it seem like I'm getting off easy!  I got home from work as soon as I could, and we took off back to the shelter, squealing into the parking lot half an hour before they closed.

If the volunteers and staff there thought it odd that we burst through the doors, flustered and out of breath,  wanting to meet Annie, they didn't say anything to us about it.  They brought her back to a meeting room, and she was thrilled to play with feather toys with us for awhile.  I could tell that she was not a snuggly cat, but something in her eyes, maybe a quiet desperation, made me feel really protective of her.  And in ten minutes we had her in one of their cardboard carriers and were taking her home.

So even though technically Annie's Gotcha Day isn't for another couple of days, we're going to celebrate everyone's day all together.  The "girls" have been a constant source of joy in our lives.  Bit the Troublemaker.  Charlotte the Diva-Queen.  Annie the Rogue.  They're some of my favorite people on the planet, and I would do anything for them.

And they know it.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good-bye, Patches

Patches has been adopted!  We took him to his new home today.  He'll be an only-cat there, and have his human completely to himself...  although he did well with other cats, I suspect that he secretly wished for more one-on-one attention, so I think that this should please him immensely.  I happen to know that he's in a really good home,  because he's going to go live with my mother-in-law!   I was secretly hoping for this to happen all summer, and was thrilled when she told us that she would like to adopt him.  I mean, he gets his own home, one that I can feel good about sending him to AND we'll get visiting rights!  How much better does it get than that?

So, good-bye and good luck to you, Patches.  You were a good napping buddy while we had you here.  I will miss you!  But this is the very best kind of good-bye that there could be.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Keeping Everyone Happy

Everyone has little quirks and things that make them happy - and our animals are no exception.  Every one of my animals has something that really makes them happy.  I try to humor them with this as much as possible, because I like to know that they're happy and for more selfish reasons...  a nervous, unhappy animal tends to make everyone else miserable as well!

Bit is easy to please.  Crack open a can of "gooshey food" and she's over the moon.  She doesn't even seem to mind that she has to share it with the fosters, the only other cats in the house that like gooshey food.  Every night the three of them split one of the small cans three ways.

She also loves loves LOVES the cat tower that my husband built for them last week.  She is frequently seen up in the crow's nest perch, rolling on her back and purring to herself and making little trilling sounds of contentment.

Here is a picture of her, not in the crow's nest, but in the "house" area, another part of the tower that seems to make her happy.

Charlotte is a little more complex - but once you know how she thinks, it's easy to make her happy.  She loves coming downstairs for a splash or two of milk in a saucer.  She loves her milk, but I think what she REALLY likes about it is that it makes her feel special.  THAT is what makes Charlotte happy.  She gets milk, which the other cats do not get, and lately, she gets to come downstairs, which the other cats do not get to do.  (It's too much of a pain to search for all of the cats to put them back upstairs if we have to leave the dogs alone.)  Charlotte likes to feel special.  If I sense that she's getting frustrated with the other animals, usually a little bit of one-on-one time with one of us, with all of the other animals shut out of the room will make her feel much better.

And naps.  Charlotte loves napping on the beds, especially if she can manage to get into a puddle of sun.

Annie is our most easy-going, easy to please cat.  Really, she's just happy to get attention from us, and she doesn't particularly care where we are or what we're trying to do.  It makes her happy to perch on my pillow beside my head, usually in the middle of the night.  I humor her, though this is somewhat painful, but she's come so far when it comes to trusting people and wanting attention from them that I won't begrudge her.

I've focused largely on the cats in this post, but there are things that make the dogs happy too.  They are generally so easy to please.  Pay them a little attention, give them food and a soft place to lie, and they'll be largely content.  (My two, anyway.  I'm sure that some dogs are more demanding.)

Mine like pillows.  Pillows make them very happy.  In fact, I just saw Maera stand up on the couch and nose the pillow that I'd put on the back to get it out of her way.   She knocked it back down and then started using it as... well, a pillow.

Argos shows her how it's done...

Why yes, 98% of all of my dog pictures are of them on the couch.  Why do you ask?  Actually, it's a pretty good indicator of one of the breed's favorite past-times.  There's a reason that they're called 45mph couch potatoes!

Monday, September 12, 2011


There are many different methods and techniques for training dogs, and I know that sometimes dog training is the subject of fierce debate.  I've seen a quote a few times, "The only thing two dog trainers agree on is that the third one is wrong."  (I don't know who to ultimately attribute it to - sorry!)  I do know that there are certain techniques that I am more comfortable with than others, and there are certain training methods that I would never subject any dog or cat to.  But I would imagine that one thing that all trainers would agree upon - or should - is that you have to use a lot of patience.

I was talking with a friend this weekend, who told me a story about what NOT to do when training a dog.   He told me that he saw a couple of dogs that were probably pit bulls tethered out in a yard when he and his own dog were walking by.  The dogs started barking at him as he passed.  A woman came outside and called the dogs to her, sounding angrier and angrier when they didn't respond by coming over to her.

Finally, one of the dogs came to her as she was standing on the top of the stairs.  She started yelling at the dog, jerking his collar, and dragging him up the stairs.

My friend said that he really resisted the urge to go over to the woman, screaming in a language that she didn't know, making emphatic hand gestures, etc.  Followed up shortly by grabbing her by her shirt collar and shaking her and continuing to scream at her in that same foreign language while dragging her up a flight of stairs.

Which really brings up a very simple, but often-forgotten point to consider when dealing with dogs.    They're dogs.  They don't understand English.  Just like any other foreigner, raising the volume and getting angrier with repetition does not mean that they are going to be able to understand you any better.  Escalating it to physical violence is also just unacceptable - gently tugging on a dog's collar to guide them is one thing, but dragging a dog up the stairs while yelling at him?  After he did, finally come to you?  I do have to wonder what she was trying for there.  (Actually, I'm sure that her actions were born out of pure frustration.  It sounds like she needs to be trained in dog training more than the dog himself needed training.)

I'm not saying that a dog that ignores his human never understands what he is supposed to do...  my dogs deliberately ignore my commands sometimes, or feign magical, ever-conveniently timed deafness.  I deal with it when it happens, but it needs to be done calmly and patiently.  Without screaming.    But you know?  Sometimes, especially with Maera because she's so young and so new to us, I can see the confusion in her eyes when I'm trying to teach her something.  Screaming at her would not help train her any faster.  It would make her less inclined to trust me.  I know that I would certainly trust someone less if they consistently flipped out on me!  So when I see that confusion in her eyes and see that I'm not getting through, I back off.  Much better to do that than to let the frustration build to the point that I want to start yelling at her.  I'll come back later, after considering for awhile, and try again.  Possibly trying a new technique, one that she might understand better.

I feel sorry for that pit bull that my friend saw, because if the way that the woman treated him was a sampling of how he is typically treated, he is heading down a rough road.

As for training cats, of course screaming at them would be an exercise in utter futility.  Oh yes, I would succeed in cowing them...  with the possible exception of Charlotte, who would just skulk off and begin planning my death.  But I would never actually accomplish anything besides looking like a gigantic bully in my own home.

I'm sharing this, not because I think that my readers go stomping around and yelling at their dogs all of the time, but because of the way my friend shared the story with me - it really made me think.  Yes, I knew intellectually that animals do not always understand our words, but his illustration really made what it must seem like from the dog's perspective crystal clear.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Party With Greyhounds

Once a year, Steel City Greyhounds has a big greyhound birthday party, to celebrate all of the greyhounds that have been adopted through the adoption program.  It is held at the Lucky Paws Pet Resort, in Freedom, PA.  Some of you may remember my post from last year, when we took Argos.

The greyhounds all have so much fun at these outings... we went to this year's birthday party today, and there were about 40 dogs there!  They are able to run free in a large, fenced in area, and they happily charged around the enclosure, chasing and being chased, and generally having a great time.  And then of course if they need to cool down, they can race into the enormous dogs-only swimming pool!

At one point, the resort employees brought around baskets full of cups of vanilla icecream for all of the dogs!  I got Maera a cup of icecream.  I didn't realize that my husband also got her a cup of icecream, and she wound up polishing off at least one other cup that another dog didn't care to finish.

Argos doesn't like icecream, so at least one of the hounds doesn't have a belly ache tonight!
Maera eats icecream.
 Unfortunately, we'd only been there for about 10 minutes, when Argos ran through the pool at top speed, but lost his footing.  He hit the ground hard, and when he came back up out of the water, everyone, and I mean everyone, could see that his entire back leg was covered in blood.  Eeek!

Geez, Mom.  Overreact much?
We of course raced up to grab him (by the way, he did NOT make the "Greyhound Scream of Death" which should have been my first clue that the wound was a lot more minor than it looked.)  We figured out pretty quickly that was just that he'd scraped his leg on the cement, so it wasn't a deep wound at all.  He got to wear the spiffy red bandage that you see below for the rest of the outing.

The scrape didn't encumber him at all, and he was promptly back to running around with his pack of buddies like nothing had happened.  I would try to get him to come over to me to at least make sure the bleeding had stopped, but suddenly, he ceased to know who I was, haha, and completely ignored me.  Ran AWAY from me even, when I tried to approach.  (I suddenly feel some empathy for the parents of teenagers.)

I just let him go, figuring that he'd slow down if it started to truly bother him.  And it was fine.  Except.  Every once in awhile, I'd see him start to limp.  It was always when there was a woman, any woman (except me) nearby.  He'd limp up sadly to her, and lean against her legs.  She would make sympathetic noises and pay lots of attention to him, and oftentimes give him a treat.  He would soak up as much sympathy and food as he could get, then would be off running with his buds again.  You know, until he saw another "mark."  Help me.  I have a con-artist living under my roof.

Maera did well too, though she didn't go for as much running around and playing with the other dogs as Argos did.  She did a little bit, and was willing to wade into the water about ankle deep, but for the most part, she attached herself to my hip or Jeff's hip, and didn't let either one of us out of her sight.  (Well, until random strangers started offering her icecream.  Then her loyalties wavered a little bit.)  I was actually very pleased with how she handled everything, because I've started to notice on our walks, that she is oftentimes  fearful of other people, and sometimes of other dogs.  She definitely soaked up a good experience today, and I expect that it will help us to build her confidence.

Both dogs are passed out into little heaps on their beds tonight.  These events are a lot of fun, for the pups, who get to exercise and socialize, and for us humans too, because we can talk with other greyhound folks.  But one of my favorite side-effects is how placid everyone is afterwards!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Tower of Cats

We have a new cat tree!  It was planned and created from scratch by my husband this week... with some help from me.  I must say that in this exact moment in time, I hate sisal rope with a passion, and am still trying to pick the sisal fibers out of my fingers.  (Yes, yes, I should have worn gloves when helping to wind the rope around the posts.  Lesson learned for next time.)

So far, Bit is the one that has taken to the tower the most, with Annie in for a close second.  Bit likes the "crow's nest" and they both like the little house with the circular doors.  Jeff reports that they are upstairs playing "seige" with one another, with Bit inside the house and Annie attacking from outside.

Charlotte is trying to pretend that she isn't interested, and doesn't realize that we did see her rubbing her face on it last night.

The dogs seem to have no opinions about it.

Update:  The foster cats love it, and seem to understand instinctively that this is a toy, while our own cats were a little confused in the beginning.  Maybe they both had trees in their former homes?  Or there was a tree in the colony room at the shelter?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I am not a Cat Lady!

Well, okay, maybe I am, but I do so hate the stereotype!  It doesn't help that I'm a librarian by day, either.

A few weeks ago, I was grumbling to my husband, and anyone else who would listen,  because a fellow librarian on Facebook was complaining that so many librarians out there (including me) have cats in their profile pictures that we were just perpetuating the stereotype, and that if we wanted anyone to take our profession seriously, we'd change to something else.

This offended me, the idea that I should hide part of who I am just because someone doesn't approve of it.  It would be like me trying to hide that I was female, or that I like the color red, or even that I am a librarian.

So.  Maybe I am a Cat Lady.  I have multiple cats.  I definitely cater to their whims.  I would have more if my house could handle it, or if it was legal to have more in this city.  I go out of my way to find ways to make the cats happier, and to improve their lives, and to make them more confident and content.  And how is any of this a bad thing?  Until I start sleeping in the litter boxes, or going to work with cat pee soaked trousers, I think that the profession's image is safe from me.

Speaking of doing things for cats...  my husband is using some of his valuable time off to build them an awesome cat tower!

He is complaining that I am putting this picture up so soon...  so be gentle.  It is not finished yet.   (Though I think it looks fabulous, even incomplete!)  He is going to finish up the construction tonight, and then the two of us are going to start covering it with carpet remnants that we got for dirt cheap at Construction Junction - a local used and overstock building supply place, as well as wrapping those posts in sesil rope.

We're going to put it upstairs in the study (where the cats spend a lot of their time) in front of the window overlooking the back yard.

I anticipate that the cats will love it! Jeff says that they'd better like it, with as much work as he is putting into it.

So, if I am a Cat Lady, what does this make him?

And speaking of being a cat lady...  Jeff took one of my favorite pictures of Charlotte and captioned it for me, in response to people who would be overly critical of those of us that are devoted to cats.  It uses some language, so I am putting it behind the cut.  If bad language offends you, or it would completely ruin your enjoyment of this blog post, then please don't follow the link!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Just an Animal

Sometimes, I think that we "pet people" unnerve others.  Not everyone, of course... you don't have to have pets of your own to understand love for animals.  But I know that I at least encounter several people who have never had pets, will never have pets, and it has probably never occurred to them that they could have pets.  Which is fine, actually, because we don't want people who don't really, really love animals having pets anyway.  I think that's probably often the biggest reason for animals being left at shelters, or worse, because someone didn't actually, deep down, care to have the responsibility of a pet.

I know, Annie.  Hard to believe, but true.

The attitude that I frequently see from some of these types of people (and I seem to encounter a lot of them) is honest puzzlement for how much of my life is now taken up with my own pets, and as if that isn't enough, how much time I spend volunteering in order to get homeless pets adopted by someone else.  The attitude is, "it's just an animal..."  

And I'm not here to be critical of these people, even though I find them as bizarre as they seem to find me, but to show how some of these creatures that are "just animals" have really changed my life, and I think for the better.

First, they've taught me to slow down.   I will admit it... I am one of those Type A people, who always has a goal, or a project, and am pursuing it full steam ahead.  I will work at my job all week, and then throw myself into weekend projects, and am very bad about not giving myself any downtime. But how can you not slow down when Charlotte is on the bathroom rug, showing you her expanse of white belly...  or Maera comes up and nuzzles your elbow for attention... or Argos leans up against your legs...  or Bit trills at you and then races to the bed, in an obvious attempt to get you to nap with her...  or Annie climbs onto your pillow JUST as you were thinking of getting up to start your day?

And sometimes, you just need to slow down and enjoy those around you.  My animals have taught me this lesson, one that I may have never learned without them.

Yeah, Mom, slow down and smell the Christmas tree!
Second, they're teaching me how to trust.  Trust is something that does not come easily to me.  There were some wrongs done to me by people who should have been friends that quite honestly had me very bitter and untrusting of people in general.  As a general rule, I expected to be betrayed.  I expected for friends to randomly inform me that they were sick of me.  Or that I had some huge flaw that suddenly made me not good enough for them. Which meant that I was prickly, difficult to get to know, and reluctant to trust.  While I'm not saying that I've "arrived" and suddenly trust all people, the animals have really taught me to open up.  They provide companionship without judgement, they never talk about me behind my back, they don't lecture me on my "odious" personal habits, they don't try to correct any perceived bad behaviors with long-winded lectures.  They just love.  And trust.  And they're teaching me to do the same.

Patience.  Really, does anyone that reads this blog need to have explained how an animal can teach you patience?    I've become much more patient with the humans in my life too, and it is thanks to my animals and the lessons they have taught me.

Selflessness.  Not that I was little Miss Selfish before the animals, but I have made decisions that I never would have thought I'd be making...  decisions that hurt my pocketbook, compromises on household decoration, doing activities that I knew the animals would enjoy even when I really wanted to stay in bed.  I sometimes even let the dogs take over the couch, something that maybe some dominance-styled trainers would cringe at but meh.  It makes them happy, so it makes me happy.  If I needed to sit, one of the doggies would get gently ejected.

Argos is so worn out from today's Hound Hike that he can't support his own tongue....

But the most important thing that my animals have taught me is the Art of Joyful Living.  I was happy before I had them, don't get me wrong, but watching them live in the moment, to truly express JOY undamped by worry, anxiety or anger is an inspiration to me.  I resolve to myself every day to approach life like they do - to live in the moment.  Obviously, I have to plan ahead and be responsible, etc., something that they don't have to worry about, but I can still put my worries on hold and experience the joy when I see Argos and Maera frisking across the dew-soaked yard.  Or when Charlotte makes eye contact with me and "gronks" her morning greeting to me.  Or when Bit folds herself around my foot and "hugs" it.  Or even when Annie sits on my head to wake me up in the morning.  Or when the fosters greet me with a cacophony of loud, Siamese-like yowling (Mitchell) and tiny little baby mews (Patches) when I go into their room first thing in the morning.  

You got all of that out of a gronk?  Weirdo...

And THAT is why I look at them like I think they're crazy when they say, "But it's just an animal..."

Friday, September 2, 2011

We are the Cats of the House of Carnivores

And we are beautiful.  Aren't we?  AREN'T WE?

Charlotte never did learn the art of the soft touch.  Here she is, in one of her favorite places, which also happens to be my husband's place on the bed.

You're probably wondering why I called you here tonight...
Yes, the cats are doing well.  This is them on my admittedly unmade bed, waiting for us to come in for sleep.  What this means is that Charlotte will sit beside my husband and demand petting for about 10-15 minutes, Annie will climb all over me, but leave after five minutes; less if I don't pet her, and Bit will trill at us and run up and down the length of the bed until she flops over onto her side, usually somewhere up against me.

They've been remarkably patient with having a new dog in the house, and are actually somewhat restrained in abusing her.  They don't seek her out for abuse, that is... but if she sniffs them, at least Annie and Charlotte have proved that they do have claws and they're not at all hesitant to use them.  Bit isn't so confrontational, but she does a great job at keeping well away.

OMG Annie is letting us photograph her eyes.  Post the picture, ASAP!
And the fosters...  well, they're just great cats. They like people, cats, and dogs.  It is interesting to read what is on their intake sheets, because apparently Patches is frightened of dogs.

I know that you can all see the terror in his eyes.

Mitchell too.  Though he was never reported to be afraid of them.  He IS a bit more cautious than Patches, despite what you see in the picture above.  But he's more cautious about everything, not just the friendly local canines.

It's been a pretty quiet week.  I'm really glad for the holiday weekend, though.  We have lots of stuff that we need to do, and will need the extra day to work everything in!

Tomorrow I'm going over to walk some of the new greyhounds in the Steel City Greyhounds adoption program, and take some footage and photos of them.  The NEXT day we have a "hound hike" in the morning, with a group of greyhounds (and their people, of course) in the park.  Don't worry, there will be treats and playtime for the cats as well!  In fact... in a couple of weeks, a certain trio of kitties is going to have their "Gotcha day" celebration.