Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dogs - The New Cigarette

Let me explain.

Back in my misspent youth, I smoked cigarettes.  Back then, it seemed like less of an admission to make than something to brag about.  I haven't touched one in over 15 years, and can't even stand the smell of the things now.  But there is always something that I missed about smoking.  It wasn't the taste, or the momentary relaxation that the nicotine brought, or even the physical action of smoking, though I did at first miss all of those things.

It is the social camaraderie.  As an introvert, it has always been difficult for me to meet people.  Oh, I've come a long way; my years as a research librarian in big law firms has forced me out of my shell, to engage with the much more gregarious attorneys, to find out what they wanted, to be able to communicate my findings.  I've gotten better.

But back when I was younger, I didn't have that life experience.  And I was horrible at meeting people.  I would get tongue-tied, especially around people that I admired, and either say the complete wrong thing, or I would clam up and not say anything at all for fear of saying the complete wrong thing.  Or I would magically lose the power of speech and find myself stuttering some nonsense at them.

Smoking provided a way to meet people.  At that time, we could all stand outside of buildings and smoke, and we would do so.  And you would be instant-friends with all of the other smokers.  Some of those friendships actually became lasting things, sometimes it was just someone to talk to, but as a smoker, you were never lonely once you lit up.  I really, really missed that, especially after I first quit, because I didn't feel like there was anything to replace it with.  There was no way for introverted non-smokers to instantly bond, nothing to bond over.

Until now.  It occurred to me that I talk to a heck of a lot of people when I'm out with the dogs.  There's the people who aren't with dogs, but either have one waiting for them at home or would love to have one but can't.  They seek me out and beg me for permission to pet my dogs, ask me questions about them.  Then there are the other people with dogs on the other end of the leash.  There's an instant bond there as well...  you know.  Eyes meeting, wry smiles as our dogs thoroughly sniff each other from head to tail.  Or as one or all of them start their synchronized pooping.  Swapped stories, suggestions for good walking places, rescue tales.  Most people approve very highly of the idea of rescued dogs, and tell me so.  They frequently have questions about the racing industry once they find out that I have ex-track dogs.  It happens nearly every morning.

I had imagined long, solitary walks, just me and Argos, when we first got him (our first dog) and the thought really appealed to me.  The reality is, when we take our morning walks, I find myself talking to no less than six or seven people a morning.  Sure, sometimes it's just a few words, sometimes it's more.  And that reality is far better than my solitude ever would be.  It forces me out of my introvert shell, encourages me to meet people's gazes.  And honestly, the presence of the dogs means that I usually see a person's good side.  Dogs bring out the good in most of us, I believe that with my whole heart.  People are gentler, kinder, softer-spoken, less inclined to argue with me when I have the dogs.

So yes, for me, dogs are the new cigarette.  They are the perfect way for this introvert to meet people, or at least, to meet dog-lovers.  (I am fairly certain a couple of people do cross the street to avoid us, so I guess I won't be meeting them anytime soon.  Then again, there were always people who actively avoided the smokers too.  My analogy holds... yay!)

Anyway, this left-field thought is brought to you by the letters A and M.  And out of my strong, strong desire to write or do anything to avoid checking the news sites and getting my daily blood pressure increase  dose of politics.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cats, Cats, Cats

(I imagine this sung to the tune of Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls."  Anyone who grew up during that era can now thank me for putting that song into your head.  You're welcome.)

Last weekend, I mentioned that I had an orange tabby house-guest named Eddy.  Unfortunately I only got to enjoy his company for a couple of days because he was very constipated.  Out of concern for his health, the shelter clinic staff told me to bring him in, and to leave him there with them.  I did get the good news that he went home with his regular foster mum on Tuesday, though, so I was pleased.  Let me just say that Eddy was a sweet, sweet cat.  He was quiet and non-pushy, but came out to greet me immediately any time that I entered the room.  When I laid down on the bed to either spend time with him or take a nap (or sleep in there his first night) he would purr up a storm and lay down on the pillow next to mine.

I actually now have some new fosters in the house.  Well, they've been here for exactly one week, but I've just been negligent about posting it.   They're both older cats, and need to have a place to relax for awhile while they regrow some hair - they have miliary dermititis.   They were completely terrified of me, the house, and everything for the first couple of days that they were here.  They stayed under the bed, my only comfort being that the food I'd set out for them was disappearing on a regular basis, and they were creeping out at night to use the litter boxes (thank God.)

Well, they've conquered their fear of our house, are out from under the bed and are now relaxing and enjoying life.  Tom supervises everything I do when I'm in their room, and insists on getting petted and talked to constantly.  Junior is more quiet and laid-back, but will gently head-butt me in the face when I get down to her level.

Junior.  Who is, despite the name, a girl.
My own cats are being much more patient with the idea of fosters in the house this time around.  We don't let them mix constantly, but there have been a couple of brief encounters when someone would run in or out of the foster room.  There was mild hissing, but nothing like the fireworks that happened when we first got Patches and Mitchell last year.  Or heaven forbid when we got the kittens in December.  Maybe they've become resigned?  Maybe for some reason Tom and Junior seem to be less of a threat?

Charlotte approves of the new basket blanket.
It would be fabulous if they would become more accepting of fosters...  it would make the entire process easier for all of us.

Charlotte is still doing well off of her medicine, by the way.  She's now been off of everything except for the aspirin since last Saturday...  so 8 days.  I still have to rein myself in every morning; my hand automatically goes to the medicine cabinet where we have her bottle of lasix stored.

In all of this, the dogs have been very patient as well.  Perhaps it's because they've heard us talking about a certain trip that we'll be taking with them in late April.  I'll make another post about it, since some of the dog people may not have read to the end of this cat-centric post, but is anyone going to Greyhounds in Gettysburg?  There's two big greyhound events every year; GIG in the spring, and Greyhounds Reach the Beach at Dewey Beach in the fall.  We talked it over, and decided that for a first time, GIG is better for us.  It is only four hours away, as opposed to eight.  Not sure that I'm ready for an 8 hour drive that skirts Washington D.C. with two dogs in the back of the car.

Anyway, good night, all!  Take care of yourselves.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Low Sort of Humor

I think that I am forced to acknowledge that Argos, as graceful, elegant, and lovely of a dog as he is, has a decidedly low-brow sense of humor.

First, there's the peeing on Maera's head about once a week.  Granted, Maera walks right into that one every time by having her head nearby, but you can't tell me he doesn't realize what he's doing.  Especially since he gives me a look when he does it...  he has a certain gleam in his eye.

One of his other favorite things to do is to wait until a gaggle of school girls comes by, and THEN he decides to poop, right in front of them.  (I may have mentioned this in passing before.)  It happened again yesterday when we were out on our morning walk.  The schoolgirls, about six of them, got up to us, and Argos was immediately pooping in the grass.  The girls were a-titter.

"Oh, Argos," I sighed, with what I like to think was weary sounding amusement.

He looked up at me, caught my eye, and gave me this HUGE doggy grin, and wagged his tail once, as if inviting me to appreciate his fine sense of humor.


MOM.  I can't BELIEVE that you would tell these people such things.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wonderful Wednesday

I don't really have time to make a long, thoughtful post, so I will give you the high points of life in the House and leave it at that.

1.  Charlotte has been off of all of her medications since Saturday morning and everything seems to be great! This has completely boggled my mind, and I'm slowly getting accustomed to sleeping the night through again instead of leaping up every couple of hours to check her breathing. (yay!)

2.  My weekend foster kitty went home with his regular foster mama last night, released from the clinic.  (yay!)

3.  Argos, if I have never mentioned this before, has really, really bad teeth.  The vet recommended another dental this year, even though he had one last year.  I scheduled that for mid-March.  (boo!)  But also (yay!)  His teeth are getting rather brown, despite my brushing attempts, so I know that it's a necessity.

4.  I have another couple of foster cats in the house.  They're shy cats, and spent the first part of the week hiding under my bed.  I was just starting to despair, when Tom, one of them (a tabby boy) came out last night to get petted for five seconds before running back underneath.  Tonight, he stayed out for half an hour, demanding loves and attention.  He climbed all over my lap, pranced across my laptop keyboard, attempted to steal and eat my jelly beans (!) and proved that Charlotte is not the only cat in the house with a plastic bag fetish.

The other, a tuxie girl, is still very standoffish, but was watching Tom's interaction with me curiously.  She did let me pet her, briefly, which is progress.  (yay!)

No pictures of the fosters yet.  Tom kept bumping his head into the camera and knocking it out of my hands, so I finally gave up and just let him soak up the attention.  He does insist on one thing:  when you are petting him, you are required to use both hands.  Nothing less is permitted, LOL.

Now, here is a picture of Bit, who I have said nothing about.  I'm putting it up for the simple fact that she's darned cute.  She does sleep on top of me almost every night now, though... in fact, if I am slow to get to bed, I get a rather vocal scolding.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Road Chosen

We have all gotten to where we are in our lives by making certain choices.  For choosing to walk down certain roads and not others.  This can of course be both to our benefit and our detriment, depending on where the road leads.

But have you ever found yourself wondering how your life would have gone if you'd chosen a different road?  It might not necessarily be better or worse, but it would certainly be different!

This weekend with Charlotte has made me think a bit about that.

I made a post a few days ago that the new vet told us that Charlotte's congestive heart failure diagnosis could have been incorrect.  There was really no good way to know until and unless we were willing to take her off of all of her medications and just watch to see what happened.

This left me disconcerted to say the least, and very concerned.  But Jeff had another talk with the vet last week, and she reassured him.  She told him that we would most likely know within the first 24 hours of taking her off of the meds...  if she started having labored or shallow breathing, that we were to put her back of the lasix immediately, and that it would help her within half an hour.  We just needed a weekend where someone could be home with her for a few extra days to watch her.

I will admit, I wanted this time to be comfortably in the future.  While it would be fantastic to confirm that she does not have heart failure, the idea of taking her off of the medications that we'd so diligently given her every day, twice a day, for the past three years under the assumption that not to do so would be to kill her made me sick to my stomach.   But we realized that we would not get another weekend like this one for awhile.  For my husband, it's a long holiday weekend.  (Alas, this is not the case for me.)  So I reluctantly allowed myself to be talked into it...  on Saturday morning, we withheld her first dose.  Saturday was, to say the least, stressful for both Jeff and for me.

And she's fine.  It's now Sunday evening, nearly 48 hours after she got her last dose.  Her breathing hasn't changed a bit, her attitude is the same, her eyes are bright and alert.  So...  I really don't know what to think at this point.  (Well, Wahoooooo! comes to mind, but it may be a bit premature for that.)  We're going to need to schedule another appointment for her with the vet soon now, so that we can talk about our options going forward.

One thing that I put my foot down about:

No expensive medical tests.  Especially since expensive medical tests are also frequently invasive medical tests.  Charlotte has been extremely patient with the poking and prodding over the past three years, and I'm a little bit sad that she had to go through so much.  We thought we were saving her life...

Which leads me to my "road chosen" thoughts.  I guess we could have brought her home from the hospital with just the pneumonia antibiotics, and refused to put her on the heart meds, but at the time, we thought (because we had been told by veterinary people) that the meds were needed to keep her alive.  I'm not sure that under those circumstances I would have been able to choose any differently.

Our choices that week were to

1) Go ahead with the recommended treatment, and that meant accepting the congestive heart failure diagnosis.

2.)  Euthanize.  Because at that point, the lady could not breathe on her own.  It would have been an easy solution.

3.)  Take her home without the meds to see what happened.

Really, from my perspective, there's not much of a choice there.  Of course we were going to take the recommended treatment option.

I don't know where the future leads, but Charlotte's may have just gotten a bit longer.  THIS part makes me happy.  I will try not to think about the thousands of dollars that we have spent on veterinary care for her.

The road that I chose made me feel tender and protective and grateful to be with Charlotte.  I tried to treat every day spent with her as a gift, because I didn't know how many more there would be.  And really, that's the way that we should feel about all of our pets.  Not just the ones that we think are terminally ill.  You never know what is going to happen, and you should soak up every bit of love and friendship that you can.

And if the cost of that lesson (for me) was thousands of dollars in feline medical care, then so be it.  I will call it money well spent.

I can only hope that on some level, Charlotte feels the same way.

The above is a picture that I took of Charlotte the first day she came back from being hospitalized.  I didn't think she had long to live at the time that I took it.  Can you feel the love?  I can.

On another note:

My short-term foster cat that I was looking after for another foster parent was not feeling well this weekend, though he didn't let that keep him down.  He was snuggly and purring and affectionate the whole weekend...  only, I had to take him back to the shelter clinic this afternoon, since his symptoms were still bugging him.  They're keeping him there.  Everyone keep toes and fingers crossed that he's feeling much better soon!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Busy Busy Busy

It's been a busy, difficult couple of weeks, and once again I have been a Bad Blogger (TM) and not keeping up like I would like to.  So if I've neglected your blog lately, mea culpa.  I hope to do better.  Real life is a bitch sometimes, it really is.  We've had another death in the family, Jeff and I both got colds at the same time (which are NOT turning into bronchitis, yay!) and it just got really busy all at once.

However, there have been some periods of joy and peace that helped get me through.  I'll show you some of them.

A snowy winter's kiss
It snowed last weekend.  It certainly wasn't a lot by normal Pennsylvania standards (three inches, maybe?) but it has been the most that we've gotten all winter.  It started Friday night and snowed most of the day on Saturday... just enough to keep the road in front of our house slick, and killed any desire that I had to leave the house.  So.  My simple solution was:  I didn't leave the house.  I stayed home, nursed the last of my cold, and enjoyed the time with my husband and the animals.  I had just found out about the family death, and it was a nice way to quietly grieve, far from everyone else's view.

TWO weeks ago (before the snow) I met two dogs that were up for adoption at Steel City Greyhounds.  Sophia is the white one with the brindle patches.  She has since been adopted.  Fly Rod, the handsome black male, still needs a home.  Know someone in the Pittsburgh area that wants a dog?  Tell them about Fly Rod.  He's a gentle, affectionate, unassuming dog...  the perfect pet.  

Know someone that wants to adopt a dog but doesn't want a greyhound?  I have another suggestion!

This Mama dog and her nine puppies were found abandoned by the side of the road in rural Western Pennsylvania.  Fortunately, they were found by dog lovers, and brought back to Pittsburgh.  The puppies have been weaned and have all found homes, but poor Mama dog is still waiting for her own place!  It is thought that she is a German Shepherd mix, and she's only two years old herself.  If you know someone who might be interested, direct them to me and I'll put them in touch with the rescuers!

The cats are doing well.  I haven't taken many pictures of them lately, something that I must rectify this weekend!  Here is one of Annie that I just took tonight, which makes me laugh.  It's not the highest quality photo, but still makes me smile, and it shows her eyes!  (Annie is notorious for averting her eyes when it's picture time.  That and the black fur makes it difficult to photograph her face to begin with.)   It's Annie's "Well?"  look.  She wants gooshey food.  Frequently, this is the first thing that I see in the morning, two inches from my eyeball.  Yikes!

And this weekend, we're going to have one more cat in our house.  He is being fostered by another foster mom while he gets fattened up (he was found stray, and starving.)   He is just staying at my house for a few days, then is returning to her.  I haven't even met him and I can tell that he's a real sweetheart of a cat.  Take a look at this picture!

See?  I can let cats that aren't shades of black and gray in my house.  I can!  (Seriously, I have no color preference.  It just happens that my cats are all black, white, and gray, and up until now, all of my fosters have been black, or black and white. Coincidence only. )  This guy's name is Eddy.  

I will talk more about him this weekend, after I get to know him a little.

I hope that everyone is having a good week!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Like Cats

This probably comes as no surprise to my regular readers, but I am making this pronouncement to the world at large.  I like cats.

My first pet was a cat.  I live with three cats.  I now foster cats and kittens on an on-going basis.  I cannot imagine a time when I would not have at least one of them in my home.  This is the way that it has always been, is now, and always will be. (Amen?)

Are you going somewhere with this?
So I find it really upsetting when I realize just how many cat-haters are out there.  I'm not talking about those of you who prefer dogs to cats, or just aren't that into cats.  Everyone has their own tastes, and is free to enjoy or not enjoy something as they please.  But it really upsets me when the cat-haters seem to want to make a convert out of me.  

First of all, it ain't gonna happen...  these cat-haters can talk until they run out of oxygen and turn blue in the face and I will be no more convinced than I would be if someone tried to tell me that clouds are made out of candy.  Or something equally dumb.  So... why in the world would a cat-hater feel the need to interject into the conversation, once they find out that I have cats/rescue them/whatever with "I hate the little bastards."  

Huh.  How am I supposed to respond to that one?  Is it an attempt to shut me down so that I don't torture them with cat talk?  Is it an effort to pull me into a debate?  Is it just someone mindlessly (mindlessly being the operative word here) expressing their opinion, oblivious to the fact that they're being insulting and obnoxious at best, hurtful at worst?  

But the latest approach that I have seen is the all-wise, oh-so-condescending attitude of "if you truly understood cats, you'd hate them too.  You only  like them because you're a delusional tree-hugging hippy who is guilty of anthropomorphizing."  

Umm... no?  

One of the examples that I've been given:  that the cat rubs her face on me to mark her territory, not to show affection.  My response:  Umm, duh!  Anyone who has studied cat behavior at all knows that they mark territory like this.  I don't find that a reason to dislike cats...  does anyone, really?  I don't think that territory marking and affection are mutually exclusive in the cat either.  If a cat is "marking" you, you should really feel honored.  You don't see cats marking people that they don't like.  From the cat's perspective, there is nothing wrong with identifying her territory, that's what cats do.  (Really, that's what we do too.  Wedding bands, anyone?)

And of course, cat-haters always refer to the cat's aloofness and lack of affection.  Yes, they do tend to be more aloof than a dog.  Some cats are not affectionate, though that is usually less because they are cats and more because they were poorly socialized.  And again, I feel like I should state (since so many of my readers are dog lovers, and some I know aren't crazy about cats)  it is OKAY to not prefer cats.  I am not trying to get into your face here.  It's the people that try to bludgeon me with this perspective that get under my skin.  

So if a cat hater comes to me and tells me that cats are aloof and not affectionate, I usually tell them that they don't understand cats as well as they think, that cats aren't all interchangeable, that they all have their own unique personalities.  

And then of course they pull out the next weapon in their arsenal  *eyeroll.*  The crazy cat lady stereotype.  Once I prove myself to be unconvertible, and even dare to suggest that cats are individuals, then I become the crazy cat lady.  Of course the reason that I like cats is that I'm unbalanced, insane, somehow mentally deficient.   It can't be that the cat-hater is wrong about cats, or even with the softer interpretation, I can't just have a differing opinion about cats.  

My point to all of this?  It's not to make converts out of non-cat people.  I can't do that any more than a cat-hater can make me into "one of them" and I think that it is of the highest arrogance to try to persuade people to change their minds anyway.   I guess that it's more of a rant against those that would try to change my mind, my lifestyle, my opinions, about something that I don't just like, I love.  

Cats are cats.  They have quirks, sometimes they can be royal pains.  They are at the same time good friends and companions, and even the most plump housecat is beautiful in a predatory, untamed way that makes my heart feel free.  They are a definite presence in the home - in any social gathering in someone's house, just look at the guests' reactions when the cat strolls into the room, tail and head held high, holding court.  These are the things that I love about cats, and no mere hater is going to steer me off of my course.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Training Maera

One thing that I've mentioned on this blog a couple of times is that Maera came to us with an... issue.

That is, she would get so excited to see us when we came home (even if we'd only been outside for 15 minutes) that she would literally pee all over the floor as she danced around, butt and tail wagging.  Sometimes, even when we were both home, she'd race into the room that we were in, tail wagging excitedly, and pee on the floor at our feet.

To say that this was frustrating is an understatement.  Jeff had to deal with the majority of this, because he was the one to get home first on most nights... poor guy.  Because when you have two large dogs excited to see you, and pee is involved, pee also gets stepped in and then tracked all over the place.  Need I elaborate any further?  We went through a couple of large-sized jugs of Nature's Miracle cleaner, that's for sure.

I think that we've dealt with it.  Finally.  After six months.

So here are the facts, as we understand them.

-  This is not unheard of, though not extremely common.  When it does occur,  it seems to usually be with young, submissive female dogs, across many different breeds.  That description fits Maera perfectly.

-  The common wisdom is that the dog "grows out of it" eventually as she gains confidence.  The pee comes from two issues.  One:  separation anxiety and the corresponding joy upon us returning.  Two:  extreme desire to please.  As bizarre as it seems to us humans, dogs often urinate to show submission.

-  Which means, everyone from internet dog gurus to the obedience trainer that we trained with back in the fall told us, Do NOT yell at her for it.  It will only make the desire to show submission stronger, which would make her more inclined to pee.  Yelling would have the exact opposite effect that we wanted for it to have.  (And when I say "yell" I actually mean firmly reprimand.  I don't think anybody is recommending that anyone YELL at a dog.)

Sigh.  That is quite a conundrum.  How in the world do you train a dog not to pee upon seeing you if you can't reprimand her for doing so?

We found a winning formula that worked/is working  for her.  It very much seems like it just "turned off" overnight too.   I don't know if it would work with every dog, but I thought that I would post in case someone else is having the same problems.  Our methods might work for that person too.

Despite the fact that just two weeks ago, she stopped doing this just overnight,  I do think that there was a process.  Since we couldn't deal with the pee incidents themselves, except to not react to it at all, and then quietly clean up after it was all over, we needed to get at the root causes.  And each step needed to be built upon.

Step 1 - Basic Training

First came the obedience training classes.  Maera took to the training REALLY well.  She sits like a champ.  Greyhounds don't often like to sit because of the way that they're made... it's uncomfortable for them. It doesn't seem to bother Maera.  It's what she does now if she wants treats, and we've made her sit before mealtime as well, and wait to be told that she can eat.  (We do something similar for Argos, but I have him lie down completely, since he hateshateshates sitting.)  This is where her fervent desire to please is really obvious, and I've learned from these training classes that she is smart as a whip.  I was amazed at how quickly she picked up each new command.

Step 2:  Separation

Because Maera  is a young dog, she is a bit of a hooligan sometimes.  She frequently helps herself to the "goodies" in the cat litter boxes, or eats the cat food, if she can get to it.  Or she steals our shoes, my houseslippers, rolled up dirty socks, small pillows, rolls of duct tape, paper towels, any number of things.  So my first instinct when we got her was to keep her with one of us at all times so that we could supervise her and keep her from eating things or carrying off things that she shouldn't.

But this was not helping her separation anxiety.  She was literally with one or both of us at all times when we were home, and was having a hard time coping when we were away.  Thus her explosive (and damp) joy when we finally got back home.

So we decided to start encouraging her to spend time in other rooms if she wanted to.  This was really easy once she discovered our bed.  She loves being on the bed, and tries to stay up there as much as we will let her.  We started letting her jump up on the bed, and then we would leave the room.  She became more and more comfortable with that idea.  Now we can spend time in the study, with her in the bedroom, and no drama.

Step 3:  Distraction

I think that being allowed up on our bed even with us not in the room made her start to be less anxious.  Which meant that her greetings for us when we got home were slightly less frenetic.  Oh yes, there was still pee, and she looked like she was taking off like a helicopter with her tail, but it was somehow less desperate.    Which gave Jeff the idea that she was finally distractable. Maybe, just maybe, we could get her to stop if we could get her mind immediately onto something else.  First, we tried tossing a small handful of kibble onto the floor when we came into the house.  Since she's so food motivated, we thought that she would try to grab up every piece and then be too distracted to pee.  This had mixed results.  Yes, she did try to eat every piece, but sometimes would still pee anyway.  It wasn't distracting enough.  Picking up loose pieces of kibble is pretty mindless.  We needed to engage her brain.  (Remember, as I said earlier, she is a really smart dog.  That brain needs to be stimulated.)

So we combined our obedience training with the new distraction theory.  Immediately upon entering the house, we now present her with a piece of milkbone (or any treat that will take her at least a few moments to consume.)  We tell her to sit.  She knows that she has to sit to get the treat...  and she does.  And, no pee.  It's worked for three straight weeks, every single time. Even with a few days at the pet resort when we were in Jamaica thrown in the middle there.  Like a spigot turned off, if you'll pardon me for the imagery.   God willing, it will continue to work.

If we hadn't trained her to sit before, the milkbone would have never worked - I think giving her a "task" to do to get the milkbone is key here.   And if we hadn't started teaching her that it really is OK to sometimes be alone in our bedroom, I don't know that she'd have ever been able to focus enough on "sitting" for the milkbone.  Not until it was too late, anyway.  It all worked together, with time, and took some patience and thought on our parts.

Not to toot our own horn, but I'm pretty proud of that.  Most important, I think that Maera is pretty proud of herself.  I think that it's boosted her confidence.  And that's what we all want... happy, confident pets.