Thursday, December 30, 2010


Romeo made me get all misty-eyed today.  I crouched down to pet him, and he made a mrrring noise in welcome and walked over to me, to twine around my ankles.  He's never done that before!  I was just considering this morning that he has obviously become much happier with us this past month.  And it shows.  His demeanor is much better; he's more inclined to purr when we pet him than to bite us, he's getting some exercise, and his litter box habits are starting to improve.  We still have a lot of "misses" with the litter box,  but I've seen a strong improvement.  The other night, he was scratching at the floor as if he was going to do his thing there.  All I had to do was quietly say his name in a chiding tone, and it was like he shrugged, then went to go IN THE BOX.  And as long as the box is completely clean, I think we have a near 80% "hit" rate.  If he or God forbid one of the other cats has soiled it already, our chances go down by over half.  But for the first time in awhile, I feel like I'm not completely failing the guy.

Romeo's increasing happiness made me start to think.  How do animals let you know that they are happy? All of mine do, but in different ways.

Argos dances for joy when he first sees one of us,  wagging his tail like a crazy man, but how I know when he's really content?  When he sacks out, usually on my lap, but possibly in his crate at night, he will stretch out and groan, really loudly.  It always makes us laugh, but I have never heard such an eloquent expression of contentment.

Annie will jump up to announce herself, and purr, non-stop, while we are paying attention to her.  She also covers my hands with little kisses and licks.

Bit trills.  She pounces.  She shakes her tail as if she is a rattle-snake.  When you reach over to pet her, she promptly falls over onto her side.  I haven't quite figured that one out yet, but it's very clear to me that she's happy.  Sometimes I'll wake up in the middle of the night and she'll be curled into a tight little ball against my chest, and will be quietly purring herself to sleep.  Can anyone say awww?

Romeo makes a mrrring sound, and will start rubbing his face on everything around him.  His eyes roll back in his head in near-ecstasy if you take the time to scritch the areas right above his eyes.

Charlotte purrs when petted, but how I know she's really happy is when she follows me around the house, making bossy little noises at me.  If Charlotte is "directing" me, it's her way of showing that she's happy, and happy with me, her minion.

How do your animals express their happiness/contentment?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


My blog went on an unintended hiatus while I waded through the insanity that was December.  The holidays are a good time, but there is so much packed into those days!  We're all doing well, though, so I thought that I would get on and wish everyone a happy holiday, and give a status update on the furry ones in my life.

Argos is being such a good dog this season... though he IS the reason that we didn't get a tree this year.  I was uncomfortable with the idea of leaving him alone in the living room with a decorated Christmas tree; I was afraid that the strings of lights and the shiny ornaments would be too much temptation for him.  And since there was no way to shut him out of the living room without sticking him in his crate all day, I just decided to do without the tree.  I pulled out a little table-top tree on Christmas Eve, so that we could put presents around it, but by then Argos wasn't going to be left alone.

Here he is, reluctantly modeling his new fleece coat.  His pleading look is begging me to hurry up with the pictures so that we could take our Christmas evening walk.   This was a big one for him - it was his very first Christmas inside of someone's home.  He was perplexed, to say the least, when we started opening presents and throwing wrapping paper around.  And then intrigued.  Eventually, I had to try to distract him so that he didn't eat all of the wrapping paper.  And of course, he received a couple of squeaky toys.  One he chomped a hole in within about 20 minutes, which was unfortunate, but at least he had fun doing it!

Try as I might, the cats were simply not getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  I tried to put the santa hat on all of them, and was rejected time and time again!  This picture is the closest I got to getting them to wear it.  As you can see, there is not much wearing going on.  Instead, Romeo has a smug, mean look about him that suggests that he's belching and commenting, "Tasty elf."

Though he has been showing some progress on other fronts.  I mentioned in my last post that he was frequently failing to use the litter box.  That seems to be getting better...  maybe?  Like I said before, he has good days and bad days.  We've tried to liven up his routine to keep things interesting for him, as well as make sure that he's getting enough attention from us.  So some days he gets to stay on the first floor of the house, which gives him access to us in the evenings, and gives him some of his favorite perches.  Other days we put him in our bedroom with us, which means that he gets to sleep on the bed with us all night.  He seems to enjoy mixing it up.  He gets more exercise when he's downstairs, which is a good thing, since he definitely needs to lose some weight!

Bit is still herself... which means that she is being a sweet, gorgeous, lovable airhead most of the time.  She's the most playful of all of our cats.  First, she is the youngest, but second, we're convinced that she has some Maine Coon lineage in her.  That is supposed to be a trait of the breed.

She's the only one who will play with the cat toys that they got for Christmas.  I find them in strange places all over the house.  The latest finding was a little stuffed toy, which was artfully tucked into the toe of my boot.  I was wondering why it was so hard to pull on!

Sadly, she still has a particular hatred of Romeo.  At the moment we're not even giving them the opportunity to interact.  We believe that Romeo needs to become more confident in himself before we try that one again.

Annie is, I am firmly convinced, trying to be the best cat in the entire world.  Sometimes, I think she overdoes it a bit, but she is determined to show her affection.  She attends me while I'm in my bath, sits with me when I'm reading, purrs if I even look in her direction, and wakes me up if it looks like I'm going to oversleep.  She licks the back of my hand, or if that's not possible, she's even been known to lick the top of my foot.  She's even being better about Argos!  (She is the one who will smack him for no reason whatsoever, just because she can.)  I feel lucky to have such a delightful cat, but sometimes feel bad for her; her affection seems to be somewhat desperate sometimes.  I lavish attention on her, so I'm not sure where all of that is coming from.

This picture is the best that I can do for her.  Her particular brand of affection makes it really difficult to take a picture of her; when I back off a few feet to snap the picture, she follows me!

Which leads me to the last of the critters, my darling Charlotte.  Who you will note does not have a picture on this post.  This is because, despite the fact that she has  been affectionate with me throughout the entire season, she has absolutely refused to pose for any pictures.  It's as if she sees me bring out the camera, and decides to leave the room, with one disdainful flick of the tail.  So.  No picture of Charlotte.

She is doing well, though.  She is still in good health, and is actually turning into quite the winter dumpling.  I know that some of that is her winter coat filling in, but that's not all fluff!  The lady has some pudge.  I love to see it on her, since weight loss can only mean that her condition is worsening.  So yes, for once you're going to see me cheering an overweight animal.

And that is that...  I will try to make another posting soon.  I am not going to become a once-a-month poster, I promise!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Winter... and Romeo

I know that winter doesn't officially start until later in the month, but it is in reality already here.  It was cold and blustery every day last week, and we've already gotten three (light) snowfalls.  I've had to break out the sidewalk salt.  So yeah, it is wintertime, no matter what the calendar says!

That doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things.  Life goes on whether it's freezing cold or swelteringly hot, but there are some changes.

We still take Argos outside for walks and to run around in the yard, but now he has to wear his heavy fleece coat.  I don't think that he appreciates it very much - he tries to shake it off frequently when we're walking.  The yard is a little less fun for him right now; the snow has melted, but the ground refroze.  In all of the spots that I have failed to get grass started, the ground is rough, and since it's frozen, I'm sure those rough spots seem kind of "spikey" to walk across.  I noticed that he doesn't run around as much...  it makes me wish that I'd forced some sod in earlier in the fall, even knowing that it probably would not survive the winter!  Dead grass is still more of a cushion than no grass...

Bit didn't have much to do with me over the summer, probably because she was upset about Romeo being here.  But the cold is enough that she is willing to seek me out.  I might be annoying her by letting Romeo stick around, but I do generate body heat that she can take advantage of!

The cats have remembered that the radiator covers get warm in the wintertime, so it's rare to not have at least one of them perched on top of the radiators.  Sometimes there is one cat per radiator per room!

Winter is not my favorite season, and it never will be.  It is, I admit, made marginally better by having the kitties be more willing to snuggle up with me.  And Argos keeps me honest - I have to take him outside no matter what I feel like, which is keeping me true to my daily walking exercise.  I can guarantee that if he wasn't here, there is no way that I would be dragging myself out for walks, so having him around is clearly good for my health!  (At least, it is until I slip and fall on the ice outside, LOL.)

And now onto the topic of Romeo.

I haven't been talking much about the difficulties that we're having with him because it seems somehow disloyal to talk about a member of our little family... but it is getting frustrating to keep it to myself.

I don't know how many remember the story about how we got Romeo, but to refresh memories with the "short version," he had been surrendered to the animal shelter because he'd stopped using his litter box when a new baby was born in his previous home.  When we first got him to our house, I was pleased to see that he used his litter box regularly.  But as time went on, he started to slip up in his habits now and again.  (It was always with poo.  Thank God he pees in the box faithfully.)  Then it became less of an occasional slip-up and more of a regular habit.  He has good weeks and bad weeks, but unfortunately, it seems like we're having an awful lot of bad weeks.

I am almost positive that this is tied with the OTHER difficulties that we're having.  Not really with Romeo, but it concerns him...  the problems are with Bit.  She is simply NOT accepting him.  We cannot have them in the same room together, because she will single-mindedly try to make his life miserable.

We try to be equitable about giving everybody the same amount of attention, but it's hard.  Romeo stays in our bedroom most of the time now (although he has the entire first floor of the house today.)  It means that to pay attention to Romeo, I have to not pay attention to the other three cats, and sometimes Argos.  But then I feel guilty when I leave him alone to go spend time with the other animals.  I think that I probably still manage to spend more time with my animals that I give myself credit for, and I don't notice anyone "pining" for additional attention, so I'm sure that I'm just guilt-tripping myself here.  I'm bad about that.

I'm pretty sure that Romeo's litter box problems are largely a territorial thing.  We've tried so many other things...  new litter boxes, tall litter boxes, covered litter boxes, low walled litter boxes..  we've tried different kinds of litter:  regular scoopable, pine, clay...  We even bought the expensive Cat Attract stuff which is supposed to be guaranteed to make cats use the litter box.  We've tried placing the litter box in different areas, to give him access to more than one.  We've tried covering the floor around the boxes with newsprint. I've tried ignoring him when he's using the box, I've tried praising him when he uses is properly.  I've tried to build good associations with using the box properly, such as using his favorite brush on him afterward.  But the end result is frequently the same:  he'll poop on the hardwood floor.  Always close to the box, but never in it.

And yet he's become so loving with us.  He usually sleeps with us, using my legs as a pillow.  He is a very affectionate cat, and I think that he really likes us.  He does NOT, however, like the other cats.  And they don't like him.

I don't really know what to do.  I feel like we're failing at giving him an environment in which he can be truly content.  I'm not giving up; I am not the kind of person who abandons an animal just because they're having some difficulty.   My husband and I are both very attached to him, for all that he's making us want to pull our hair out.  We'll do whatever it takes to get him (and Bit) past this...  I just wish that I knew what that was.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I've deliberately waited to write anything about Michael freaking Vick because I wanted to get over my frothing-at-the-mouth-ragefest before writing something that could be read by anyone who happened to stumble upon my blog.  For those of you who have been reading my blog, I don't think that you have to try very hard to guess that I am...  not happy... with Michael Vick.

I'm not happy with the Philadelphia Eagles for signing him, either.  Nor am I happy with the NFL for allowing him to be signed.  Nor am I happy with his fans, who seem perfectly content to forgive him a lifetime of wrongs against animals just because he's having a good football season.  But when I heard about his dramatic entrance onto the field surrounded by fireworks and hailed as a hero, I'm pretty sure that my head exploded.

Michael Vick is NO HERO.  Sure, he might be able to play football, but that does not mean that he's a freaking hero, it does NOT mean that he has redeemed himself, and it does NOT mean that he's changed one little bit.  Yes, I believe that he isn't involved with dog fighting anymore, but for more self-serving reasons than "I just one big happy dog lover now and would never hurt a sweet innocent pup."  No, he's just smart enough to know that getting caught a second time would be very, very bad for him personally.

I have a tough time believing that his little tiny prison sentence made him realize the error of his ways, as he is claiming.  I'm pretty sure he sat there behind bars wondering why everyone was picking on him, and why we were all so meeeeeean to him.   I do not have a tough time believing that he felt some regret, but only regret that he got caught.  Because if he hadn't gotten caught... you'd better believe that he'd still be fighting dogs, and yes, killing dogs.  And he wouldn't be feeling any remorse for it.

I find myself appalled at the numbers of people that will defend him.  Granted, I think I put one or two of them off by my foaming at the mouth last month,  and maybe they felt compelled to defend him against someone who was obviously crazy.  I've heard lots of arguments for why I shouldn't hate Vick, and that I should forgive him.

1.  They're just animals.  You eat animals, so you're no different from Vick.   I will admit that I am very conflicted about this.  In some ways, I have to agree with the argument.  I do eat meat.  I feel horribly guilty about it, and try to keep that to a minimum.   Setting that aside for the moment (something like that could take up an entire blog post by itself)  I still do not believe that eating meat = torturing and killing dogs.

2.  He's served his time, so leave him alone.  Yeah, he's served his prison sentence, which I don't think was nearly long enough, or harsh enough.   All this  means that he has satisfied the LAW, and does not have to be incarcerated for his crimes anymore.  This does not oblige every manjack one of us to forgive him as well.  And it certainly doesn't oblige us to be happy that he's making an ass-ton of money and getting treated like he's the only guy who's ever been able to play football.

3.  He's working hard to redeem himself.  Even the Humane Society has forgiven him!  And for the life of me, I do not know why they have.  I'm not saying that it's a bad thing that he's going around warning people away from dog fighting, but the cynic in me thinks that he's just doing it to repair his public image. I don't think that he is truly remorseful for his actions, but I do think that he's sorry that he lost favor with the public.

4.  He's not the only public figure who ever did something bad!  Don't hate!  Um...  there is plenty of hate to go around.  I hate Vick, I hate every public figure who ever abused their fame to be able to hurt someone else.  Whether that's hurting and killing dogs, raping women, killing to cover something up.  I can surely state that I hate Michael Vick without listing every single other person that's ever done something equally bad or worse, right?  Because that would be completely stupid, and none of us could ever have a conversation about ANYTHING without having to list out every single conflicting factor first.

I find it terribly sad that we are so starved for heroes that we are willing to embrace anyone who shows any modicum of talent playing a game.  I lost a lot of respect for the NFL over this and other recent incidents with other players, and am really struggling to be able to sit there and smile blandly when people are cheering and exultant over football games.  (In the interest of full disclosure, I have never been a gigantic football fan.  I watch it sometimes when I feel like it, or when my city's team makes it to the Superbowl, but you're never going to see me hurrying home just so that I can turn on the t.v.)  That being said, I haven't been able to make myself even want to watch a game this year.  I think that I've gone from bemusedly indifferent to feeling nothing but contempt and animosity.

So...  even though I live in a huge football town, and even though I doubt very much that the NFL gives a crap about little me, I refuse to watch a game this year.  I especially refuse to watch any game that includes the Eagles.  Will it make a difference?  I doubt it very much - I'm not exactly going to be trying to convince people to go along with me.  I don't have anything against anyone else who likes to watch football, I don't have anything against any Philadelphia Eagles fans out there.  But this little boycott of mine is the only way that I can feel at ease with my own conscience.  I will not support an industry that supports the likes of Michael Vick.

That is all.  Rant off.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Adoptable Hounds

There are some new greyhounds up for adoption over at Steel City Greyhounds.  I created a separate blog for their available dogs, and just made a new post about the current "batch."  They're all litter-mates!

Here's a link:

Also, only a couple of days left in the Pepsi Refresh Challenge!  Won't you vote for us again?  We're in eleventh place, and need to drop at least one more to tenth to get the grant money!

Just click on the button on the right-hand side of my blog screen to take you to the page that allows you to vote. It costs you nothing but a couple of seconds of your time, but could make such a difference in the lives of ex-racing greyhounds!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello, readers!  And happy Thanksgiving to you.  Mine is essentially over, because we eat our feast early in the afternoon, but that doesn't mean that I can't pause and reflect on what makes me thankful.

1.  I am thankful for my family and friends, all of which have been so supportive of me over the years, even through my idiosyncrasies.

2.  Now that I've made the "encompasses all" statement, I would like to let it be known that I am especially thankful for my husband.  We celebrated ten years of marriage earlier in the month.  We're such a great team, and he really does bring out the best in me.  And he's great with the animals.  There's no one else that I would rather have with me in our house of carnivorous creatures.  :)

3.  I am thankful that we (humans and animals) have had reasonably good health this year.  Minor colds for the humans and a bladder infection for Romeo were the biggest worries.

4.  Which leads me to a biggie:  I'm thankful that we still have Charlotte.  The veterinarian predicted that she wouldn't even be alive at this point.  I know that we're on "bonus time" with her, and am so happy for every day that we have.

5.  And here's a big one:  in the middle of January, just about two weeks before Snowpocalpse buried Pittsburgh in over three feet of snow, we adopted Argos!  I remember how scared I was at the time that we were going to be horrible dog owners and that any day now, people were going to realize that and come and take him away from us.  I know.  Crazy stuff.

We have bonded over the year, having been through Snowpocalypse when he was still very new to us, the ever continuing Cat Wars, learning how to interact with one another, going on vacation with him, taking him to the dog park. And he has rewarded us tenfold with his affection and devotion.

So I am very thankful that we got to adopt him, and I know that he is very thankful to have a home, especially one with two people so very determined to spoil him rotten.

6.  And here's another biggie:  over Memorial Day weekend, we decided to give another cat a home.   As is my usual tendency, we wanted to give a home to a cat that might have a difficult time getting adopted otherwise.  We went out thinking that we were going to get an adult black cat, but wound up with Romeo instead.  Romeo was obese, seven years old, and was kind of glum (the guy HAD lost the only home he'd ever known, and was too large to be completely comfortable in a cage.)  He'd spent a long time with the shelter.  We brought him home.  We continue to have some adjustment issues with him, but we're willing to be as patient as it takes.  I have grown very fond of his quirky self, and am so thankful that we have him.

7.  And of course I don't want to leave Annie and Bit out, even if they haven't survived beyond what was expected of them, and even if we didn't adopt them this year.  :)  They're both sweet, affectionate cats, and they make my life a little bit brighter by being in it.

8.  I'm thankful that I found the pet blogging community - I have gotten levels of support that I could have only dreamed of!  You are such a great group of people, and I am thankful for every one of you!  Finally!  A group of people that doesn't make me feel somewhat freakish for loving animals as much as I do, or for having as many animals as I do.

I think that hits the high points!  I'm thankful for other things too, such as my job, etc., but I figured no one really wanted to hear about that.  :)

One more thing:  if you're reading this, and haven't done so already, would you vote for Steel City Greyhounds in the Pepsi Refresh challenge?  You can vote DAILY if you feel moved to do so.  We are at this point #12 in the 5K contest.  We need to drop two more ranks to at least #10 to get the grant money, and we have to do it by November 30, the last day of the contest.  So I hope that I'm not beating a dead horse (what a horrible phrase, must think of a different one) but if you would please, please vote that would be fantastic.  Let's give more of the gorgeous greyhounds something to be thankful for!  (There is a button that allows you to vote directly from this blog.  It's free, and only takes a couple of moments.)  I appreciate the help.  I know that many of you have already voted, and I am very thankful for it.  (See, another thing to be thankful for!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Hey, everyone -

I know that there are a lot of people from a lot of different places that land on this blog sometimes, and you might not necessarily be in Pittsburgh but I have a favor to ask of you!   If you've heard of the Pepsi Refresh Challenge, you know that they are going to provide grants to organizations, if they get enough votes.

The group that found Argos, my heart-dog for me, is one of the contestants in this contest, and I would very much like to see them get the much-needed boost!  Would you please vote for them?  They'll use the funds to take care of ex-racing greyhounds, in order to feed, house, and provide veterinary care for them until they find their forever homes.

They are in the 5K "bracket."  To make it easy, just go back to the main screen on my blog, and click on the button telling you to vote on the right side of the screen!

I (and Steel City Greyhounds AND the hounds themselves) thank you.  :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010


While we're on the topic of words, I would like to state that I hate the use of the word "it" when it applies to an animal.  When I talk about my animals, I always use the same pronouns that I would use for a person of the same gender.  He, she, him, her.   I find myself cringing, and sometimes even bristling, when people persist in calling my animals an "it" even when I have taken pains to introduce them by name, and to refer to said animal as "him" or "her."  "It" refers to a can of soup or a lampshade, not a treasured pet.

What got me started on this?  I had to call the emergency vet the other day (no, no emergencies, no worries!) but they are the ones that treat Charlotte for her heart condition, and I had a question about the medication.  The receptionist continued to call Charlotte an "it" throughout the entire conversation, which, quite frankly, pissed me off.  I tend to write it off when some joe on the street calls Argos an it, because who knows, they might not be an animal person, they might not realize what gender he is.  But someone working for a veterinarian's office?  C'mon.  It's not like the name Charlotte makes the cat's gender unclear.  Anyone who works with animals should feel enough empathy for them to grant them a status above that of a THING.

Because really, there are only two types of instance when I myself will call an animal an "it."  The first is if I'm not certain of the gender.  Using a sentence like, "Oh, I like your dog.  Does he or she like other dogs?" DOES sound kind of awkward.  So if I can't tell by quick observation, "it" will suffice, that is, until the person walking the dog gives me some clue about the animal's gender.

The other is if I'm talking about an animal in the generic sense.  "If you have a cat, please keep it in the house."  Again, saying "Please keep him or her in the house" sounds awkward.  It even sounds awkward when we're forced to throw that into a sentence about humans, and even moreso with animals.

Maybe I'm making a mountain out of a molehill.   But I don't think so.  When we relegate a living creature to a "thing," then it matters less how we treat him or her.  (C'mon, in a post like this, like I'm going to refer to an animal as an "it.")  Things don't have rights, and if an animal doesn't have any expectation of having any rights at all, then it's okay for the Michael Vicks and Mary Bales of the world to abuse animals in any way that they see fit, for profit or for kicks.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pet Names

I think that the huge array of names that people give their pets is amazing.  We have much more freedom in naming our animals, as people are likely to be more tolerant of odd names than they would be with our children.  And I was just thinking (yes, probably overthinking) that there are several naming conventions for animals.  I've probably used most of them throughout my life.  So here is my collection of animal naming conventions, for a not-very-serious Saturday morning post.

Food names.  I have a friend who always uses food names for her animals.  "Salsa" and "Popcorn" are names that come to mind.  I started out with the food naming convention because I myself have used it:  I named my first cat Peanut.  I was four years old at the time.

Physical Feature names.  These are names that focus in on one of the animal's physical features.  Blackie, Onyx, Star, Blaze.   I've used this one as well:  a white cat became Snowball, and later, a nearly feral black and white cat with white paws became Boots.

Famous/Legendary/Mythical names.  This is a personal favorite of my husband's.  He picked out the name Argos for our greyhound after the hound that faithfully waited for Odysseus to return.  (Though I say that the hound got a raw deal out of life.)  I think that this is probably a favorite naming convention.  I've met dogs named Loki, Thor, Odin, and I'm sure that there are plenty of other names out there.  We also have a cat, Romeo, named after one of the main characters in that oh-so-famous Shakespeare play.  We may name our second greyhound, still only in potentia, Cabal, after King Arthur's hound.  Jeff is still working on me with this.

Human names.  This is a personal favorite of mine.  I guess that it makes an animal easy to identify with if they have a name that I associate with "normal."  Charlotte and Annie, two of our cats, are examples of this.   I can't take credit for naming them:  the shelter actually did that, but the names were perfect for the personalities of the cats so I didn't change them.  I've also named a Suki (later changed to Susie) and a Wendy.

Iconic animal names.  Fido, Rex, Simba, Killer, Spike.  All names that have been used for a long time for pets.  I've had a couple of these in my life:  I named my very first horse Prince, which seems very iconic of all names horsey, at least in the realm of little girls, and later named an orange kitty Simba.

Behavior Names.  This is how Bit got her name.  Her actual name is Q-bit, short for quantum bit.  Jeff named her this because of her kitten-like ability to be, against all laws of nature, in multiple places at once.  Another that I have heard recently is Frisky.

I'm sure that there are plenty of other naming conventions that I'm not thinking of, at 6:30 in the morning on a Saturday, with my Suda-fed addled brain.  In fact, blame this entire post on the Sudafed.  :)  No, seriously, as someone who has been labeled a "word nerd" in the past, I think that things like naming conventions, history, etymology, etc. is fascinating.  I think that pet names are probably very telling of someone's personality, since, as I stated before, we don't face as much public censure if we get creative.  (I'm sure, for example, that we would have gotten grief if we decided to name a human child Romeo or Argos, or heaven forbid Loki!)

So, I hope that you enjoyed.  What naming conventions do you typically use?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Some Days...

Some days, the world really has a way of making you feel like everyone is "out to get you" and that you're just barely getting by (whether or not that's really true.)

I came home in a very bleak mood the other day.  Nothing catastrophic had happened, but to steal a line that I've heard before,  and it felt like I was being nibbled to death by a bunch of ducks.  Lots of little stuff.

But I challenge anyone to remain in a bad mood if they are greeted at the door by happy, dancing greyhound, who is delirious with joy for seeing them.  As soon as the door opened, Argos raced over, and did the little greyhound dance in front of me (kind of looks like the Peanuts characters dancing, come to think of it, but with more spinning.)  He was soooo happy to see me, with a big doggie grin on his face, tongue lolling, tail spinning like a helicopter propeller.  Ah, the joys of home.

Jeff and I made dinner together, and I could feel myself relaxing even more as we talked, even if some of it was just routine stuff like, "Did you medicate Charlotte?"  or "What's on for tomorrow," that kind of stuff.

Later, after our walk, and everyone had eaten and their various needs cared for, I sank into the recliner, putting my feet up.  Let's not mention that I did this so that spouse and the dog could lie on the couch:  there was no room for me!  A few minutes into our television show  (Glee, if you must know!) and Charlotte jumped up into the chair and then up into her favorite spot, on the chair back above my head, tail occasionally dropped down over the front so that she could twitch me with it.  A few minutes later, Bit jumped up and settled in to nap between my feet, which were covered by a warm fleece blanket.  And then Annie jumped up and settled in on my lap.  All three were purring.

And wait, wait it isn't over yet!  Later that night, as I climbed into bed for sleeping, Romeo jumped up onto the bed and snuggled up against my leg.  He's learning that humans and beds = warmth and snuggles, now that I have learned to look before moving my legs in the middle of the night.

This kind of evening is what life is all about.  It makes all of the other stuff more bearable, you know?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Annie, Superstar

I always feel bad that Annie doesn't get much "air time" on my blog...  it's not that I don't adore her, but she never does anything wrong!  It seems like Argos gets automatic air time, because he's the one that we take out to do things - he gets to go to dog parks, meet & greets, car rides, walks, friends' houses.  Of course the cats don't do any of that because they would have a heart attack, poop in my car, or kill me, quite possibly all three.  And when I talk about the cats, I tend to talk about Charlotte's heart condition, Romeo's adjustment problems, or Bit's rather alarming aggression towards Romeo.  Annie... not so much.

So this blog post is for you, Annie.  Perhaps fitting that I'm blogging about my black kitty on Halloween, yes?

Annie, who apparently requires an exorcism.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vet Drama Resolved, and a Rant About Llama Killers in Pennsylvania

So, first things first:  Argos is fine!  He went to the vet for his teeth cleaning today, and everything went smoothly.  When I called them at 1:30 to get a status update, they reported that they'd already finished the procedure, and that he was awake.  We could come get him at 3:30.

They had to pull two teeth, neither one of which was a surprise to me.  Of course one of them was the one I'd noticed was loose.

Jeff went to get him at 3:30, and brought him home.  By the time I got home, Argos trotted up to the door to greet me.  Perhaps not quite as enthusiastically as usual, but his tail was wagging.  He also immediately began begging for dinner.  I gave him a half portion, which he gobbled.  Per the vet's instructions, I observed him for half an hour to make sure that he wasn't going to be sick, then gave him the rest.  Which he also gobbled.

So it all looks good.

And on to the rant.  Apparently, some horrible person or persons have decided that it is a good idea to kill pet llamas in my part of the state.  Douchebags.

I have to admit that I didn't even see that in the news until I saw that a good friend of mine posted about it on her blog:

The type of person that would drive by someone's farm in the middle of the night, shoot a llama and drive off...  I have no words for how much that person disgusts me.  I don't give a crap who they are, what their so-called reasons were, I don't even give a crap if it was "just" a stupid teenager... that person deserves to be punished, and harshly.  Not that it will happen.  The wishy washy police will just start mouthing platitudes and statements like, "Well, it's just an animal" and give them a little slap on the wrist, if they get caught at all.

I hate senseless death, of any kind, and I abhor the idea that these innocent animals died just so that some douchebag could get his rocks off and pretend like he's some great hunter.   Or whatever he (or she, I guess) thought he was doing.  People like that are completely incapable of empathy and if caught, they should be locked up and kept locked up until at the very least, they learn enough empathy to keep them from running around the countryside taking potshots at family pets.  If they never learn it, oh well, throw away the key and never let them enter society again.

I do hope that they catch the person/s that did it, and publicly announce their names.  Because on top of whatever puny punishment that law enforcement gives them, I think a good public shaming goes a long way.  And of course they should have their stupid guns taken away.

Update:  Ah.  They have a confession.  It WAS in fact, a teenager.  (I had a feeling on that one.  It seemed like a stupid teenaged prank gone too far.)  Which means that the public shaming route probably isn't going to fly.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More Vet Drama...

Yes, there is going to be more vet drama, in a couple of days.

When we took Argos for his check-up and vaccinations last week, they told us that he needed his teeth cleaned in a bad way, and that we shouldn't wait too terribly long to do it, because one of his teeth was the tiniest bit loose.  I fully intended on scheduling him for it in the next couple of weeks, and then he ripped his dewclaw out and we had to deal with all of the drama with that.

I'd kind of wanted to let him totally recover from that before subjecting him to teeth cleaning (and pulling, at least with that one loose tooth, if not others.)  But I noticed last night that the slightly wobbly tooth is now REALLY loose, and he's a little bit less willing to eat his hard kibble now.  So I'm sure that means that it's hurting him.

I called the vet today, and told them about the worsening tooth, and about my concerns about him getting this done so close to the dewclaw incident, especially since he's still on antibiotics from that.  I was told that him being on antibiotics was no big deal, and that in some ways it would be better that he'd been on them for a few days leading up to it.

And essentially that we should get this done ASAP, no big surprise there.  So now he's scheduled for the first day that we could get him in, which is Thursday.

I'm a little traumatized by it, since I know it will require him to be put under to have it done...  this is a great vet clinic though, and all of their doctors have tons of experience with greyhounds.  So it's not like I'm handing him over to someone who has never put a greyhound under before.

I'm sure that it will be fine, and I'm looking forward to having it all past us.

And then no more vet visits for awhile guys, okay?  Please?

But here is a question that I want to put out there for all you greyhound people.  Have you had to have your grey's teeth cleaned?  What do I have to prepare for, once we get him home?  Is he going to have to eat soft food?  Can he be left alone for awhile the following day, while we work?  I'm sure that the vet will tell us everything that we need to know at the time, but I'm obsessing curious about it now.

Friday, October 22, 2010


We are indeed recovering from our rather "interesting" week, in which four of our five animals went to the vet for routine care, one went back for treatment for a ripped dewclaw, I was sick with a cold, and work was insane for both me and for Jeff.

Most importantly, of course, is that Argos is doing just fine.  I knew that he was first thing this morning - he heard Jeff get out of bed, and he flung his head up to see what was going on.  Curiousity, always a good sign! And when I drug myself out of bed, he was immediately on the floor and running around us with his tail wagging. And he tucked right in to his breakfast, even allowing us to trick him into taking an antibiotic!  (I still marvel at that, mostly because most of my pill-giving experience involves cats, which is a completely different scenario.)

He has to wear his cute little teal bandage for 72 hours, to give the wound time to heal over without him fussing with it.  Here's a picture of him, curled up in my lap as I'm stretching out on the couch this evening for some much-needed R&R.  You can see his wrapped paw.

He always starts out curled up at the far end of the couch from me.  Then he crawls a little closer, which is what you see above. But if I heaven forbid have to get up to go to the bathroom or do something elsewhere in the house and then try to come back to claim my spot again, THIS is what happens...

The above is his relaxing face.  So I just let him stretch out on the couch and I just perched on one end.  He isn't spoiled at all, right?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Trip to the Vet, Again

We had some trauma in our house last night...  I was ushering Argos up the stairs when suddenly he fell down about three steps, crashed into me, and I noticed blood everywhere.  I was completely freaked out about it, but stayed pretty calm - I slowly backed back down the stairs, helping him come back down as well, and keeping him from slipping in the blood.

Then I checked him all over to see what the heck had just happened...  and as it turns out, he somehow ripped his dewclaw out on one of his front paws!  Ow ow ow!  I got him to come out into the living room, and then proceeded to create a bloody, sodden pile of paper towels as I tried to stop the bleeding.  I was home alone at the time, so called my husband and asked him to come home, and to stop and get some more bandages on his way back.  And of course told him what was going on.

He was with a group of people - and as it turns out, a friend of a friend that was there just so happens to be a veterinarian!  So he told the guy what was going on, and he confirmed that I was doing the most important part, which was to stop the bleeding.  But he said after that we could probably safely just wrap his paw in bandages for the night, but to take him to the vet the next day to check it out, make sure that there wasn't any shards left, and to get him on an antibiotic to prevent infection.

By the time Jeff got home, I'd gotten the bleeding to stop, though the carnage was still all over the house.  So we put a little ointment on the wound, put a bandaid on that, and then wrapped his leg.

Argos kept fussing with the bandages, and we quickly realized that if left to his own devices, he was going to eat them in the night.  So...  we didn't leave him to his own devices.  There's no way that an injured greyhound could sleep on our bed with both of us, so I let him sleep beside me on the guest room bed all night.   I am an incredibly light sleeper, and could wake up if he started chewing on the bandages and make him stop.  (He was pretty good - I only had to wake up and stop him a couple of times.)  It was a long night, all the same, mostly because I was lying there worried about him.  Those questions that float through your mind sometimes...  I was questioning whether we should have taken him to the emergency vet, whether his paw was going to get infected, whether I was at fault for letting his dewclaws get too long  (as it is, they weren't - the vet confirmed this the next day) and OMG he is going to have to have his entire foot amputated and it is going to be all my fault!!!  Yeah, I have a little bit of a problem with anxiety sometimes.

I HAD to go to work today, because I took two days off earlier this week due to not feeling well myself. So Jeff got the task of taking him in.  They had to lightly sedate him in order to work with his paw at all...  as it turns out, if one has to rip out one's dewclaw, one might consider doing it just like Argos did - it was a completely clean tear, with no bits left inside.  So there's no reason that it can't reheal.  They also told Jeff that I'd done a good job in getting the bleeding stopped...  I'm guessing that means that the bandage wasn't bloody, and that there wasn't anything congealed in the wound.  So they gave us some antibiotics for him, and sent him home.

He is not a happy camper tonight...  he's still kind of sluggish from the sedatives, and is probably in quite a bit of pain.  He has refused to eat his kibble, or even his favorite snack - a milkbone.  I did scramble him some eggs, which he more than happily ate, so I think that the crunchy stuff just takes too much effort right now.  We slipped his first dose of antibiotic into the eggs, so that's taken care of.

Poor lovey.  I'm sure that he is in a lot of pain as well.  I've never seen him so subdued...  hoping to see more of his regular personality tomorrow.  I got the faintest glimpse of it tonight.  After I made him the first egg, and he so enthusiastically gobbled it up, I went back into the kitchen to make him another one.  He got down off of the couch and trotted into the kitchen after me, eyes bright and wide, hoping for more food.  It was just for a moment, and he didn't eat all of the second egg, but it was something.

For now he's on the couch at my feet, dozing.

Send good thoughts his way.  I know that his malady is a minor one compared to what some doggies have to put up with, but he (and Jeff and I) are thoroughly traumatized by all of this, and need all of the good thoughts that we can get!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Trip to the Vet

Argos got (more or less) a clean bill of health at the vet!  He tested negative for heartworms (as we expected, since we've been diligent about giving him his monthly preventative - our iPhones are even programmed to "ding" us on the correct date!)  He's up to date on his shots, and the worrisome bump on his leg is just a wart.

The only "fly in the ointment" we expected - his teeth are in rough shape, and they recommend a cleaning soon.  Track greyhounds frequently, usually, even, come with with bad teeth to begin with, and it looks like our poor boy is going to have to get at least one pulled.  I did brush his teeth, I really did, but even I could see that the teeth weren't looking that great.  So I'm going to try to schedule him sometime the first week of November - after we get our end-of-month paychecks and recover somewhat from this round of vet care for all.

I am kind of dreading the day that we take him in for that - I hate the idea of him being put under, but it IS necessary.  I did notice this week, and the vet noticed today, that one of his teeth is a little wobbly, and needs needs needs to come out, and of course no sane dog is going to allow extensive dental work while still awake, so I do know that he needs to be put under.  Still, I will worry.  Greyhounds, as many of you know, can't be put under the same way that other dogs do - they don't react well to the barbituates, and treating them like any other breed of dog could kill them.  (Deep breath.)  I keep telling myself that this is a good veterinarian, and they do surgical work on TONS of greyhounds every year -  they do all of the spays and neuters and teeth cleaning for the Steel City Greyhounds adoptables, so they know greyhounds.  They are not going to kill my dog.  I will still be very relieved when it's over and done.

One thing that made me a little sad - apparently when the vet pulled out some tissue from the wart on his leg for testing, she commented that it was most likely harmless (she was right) and that these things just happen with age.  Sniffle.  With age.  I want to say, "It's not fair, we've only had him for nine months - how can he be getting older on us?"  But...  we did adopt a dog who was nearly 7 years old.  We knew what we were doing, but it fills me with nearly unspeakable sadness that we may not get as many years with him as we could have if we'd gotten him as a young'un.

But I've learned a few lessons over the past year and a half - since Charlotte's diagnosis with congestive heart failure/bad heart in general.  As many of you have heard me say in the past, we've lived with the knowledge that Charlotte could die any day ever since her diagnosis.  She could have a heart attack (she's already had several, apparently, that no one knew about) she could get a blood clot, her medicine could stop working, her kidneys could shut down.  And she is young.

The lessons I have learned - you just have to enjoy the time that you have together, to the max, and do everything that you can.  And that's what I intend to do with all of our animals:  of course poor Charlotte, and middle-aged Argos, and the others.

I didn't intend to slide into "depressing-speak" and apologize if I brought anyone down...  this is, alas, something that I think about quite a bit (nothing like having a bad prognosis hanging over one of your pets' heads to make that a difficult subject to let go of.)  But it's not all sad -  I really have nothing to complain about.  Charlotte is dear to my heart, and I probably love her more fiercely now, knowing that our days together are limited, than I might have before.  I know that I don't take our days for granted, and appreciate her more.  I'm also more forgiving of her foibles, more protective of her health, more conscious of her feelings.

And you know what?  That extra layer of awareness between her and I has made me a better pet "parent" to my OTHER animals as well.  If I'm being extra-forgiving of Charlotte for being such a grump sometimes, or for tripping me in the stairwell, then why not be extra-forgiving towards Bit for chasing Romeo, or Argos for knocking over my soup bowl?  And if I'm extra-appreciative my time with Charlotte, why not be the same with Annie, when she slides into my lap, purring?  Or Romeo, when he thumps onto the bed to sleep at my feet?

So yeah, I'm a little bummed that I have less time to spend with Argos than we would if we got him when he was two or three years old (barring disease or accidents) but that doesn't mean that I would choose any differently.  That cold January day that they brought out a skinny, tongue lolling, tail wagging big boned red-haired boy out to us?   If I had that day to live over, I would choose him all over again.

And to end on a lighter note, I am leaving you with a picture of Argos, the world's most reluctant pirate.  Okay, he doesn't look much like a pirate, because he refused to wear the red bandana over his ears like a do-rag.  Jeff says that he looks more like a french painter!  Argos, not so much into Halloween costumes...

Mom?  Can you please take this off of me?  

Monday, October 18, 2010

Three Angry Cats

I have no pictures tonight, but did want to complain a little - one problem with getting three of our cats close to the same time is...  they all have to go back to the vet for their annual check-ups and vaccinations at the same time!

Jeff and I packed up Annie, Charlotte, and Bit into their carriers and drove them to the vet (in the pouring rain, of COURSE.)  We listened to three voices Mrrowring all the way over there, and at least part of the way back. We couldn't help it, and started to laugh at them (even though we did feel bad about it) because it sounded like we had an entire animal shelter in our back seat.

We're all back home now, but only after having to clean up vomit and poop in one of the carriers. Annie has provisionally forgiven us, but the other two are staying well away, angry, sullen.

They all got a clean bill of health, and the vet even kindly trimmed their claws for us in addition to their shots.

October is an expensive vet month for us.  Because we realized that Argos was last vaccinated by the track kennel in October of last year.  So...  he's going in tomorrow morning for his check-up and vaccinations.  I won't be going along on this one, since I won't be able to leave work.  We decided that having Jeff take Argos to the vet alone was far less traumatizing than taking three cats to the vet alone, which would have been a nightmare.

And oh yes,  Charlotte goes back to the critical care specialists next week to get her quarterly chest x-ray.

As much as I'm complaining about it, I know that it is all necessary, and don't begrudge our animals the health care.  But yikes, having it all come at us at once.  Except for Romeo, thank goodness, who doesn't have to go in for his until May.  I guess that the best way to look at it is that we're getting most of our routine vet care out of the way, all at once.

Anyway, I'm off for the night.  I'm going to go in to read, and probably to be glared at by at least one angry cat.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Goo (he raced under the name Yellow Goo) is a very large, muscular white hound, and has a VERY striking appearance! It became apparent that he, like many large dogs, is very patient, gentle, and laid-back... a gentle giant.   He was also great on the leash - he didn't pull at all, and didn't startle at noises or movement.

He seemed a little uncertain of us at first, but did start to warm up by the time we got finished with his walk and photo session.  In fact, by the end of our time together, he was leaning against my husband, and thoroughly enjoyed having his neck scritched.

You'll see in the photo above that he has enormous brown soulful eyes, which he did use to his advantage to make me stop what I was doing to pet him.

My impression of Goo is that he is a snuggler, and if you want a hound who will curl up with you on the couch to watch t.v. at night - he would be an awesome choice!

Goo decided that neck scritchings felt SO good that it warranted a little nap.

And just because it seems that we are never going to have a "photo session" in which one of the dogs doesn't come right for the camera in mid-shot, here is a photo of Goo, doing just that.  He had been watching my husband curiously throughout the time that he was taking pictures, and finally couldn't resist any longer... he HAD to know what the little clicky box was.

Camera?  What is this camera that you speak of?
Goo was born in July 2006.  He was a very good AA racer, but broke his leg, ending his racing career.  As you can see, he's feeling much better now!


Carolina is an energetic, yet VERY sweet natured red fawn girl.  When she was brought out to meet my husband and I, she danced for joy, her tail wildly wagging back and forth... in fact, because of this tendency, her tail was taped at the end to provide some cushioning for it!  (You can see just a little bit of tape in the picture below.)

She is a lover through and through, and without hesitation covered our faces with kisses any time that either of us at all within reach.  I was also amused, because though my husband was the one walking her, when we first set out, she kept looking back at me as if to ask my permission to move forward.  (We see who SHE thought was the boss.)  Though as the walk went on, she did do that less and less, especially after he jogged with her for awhile.

For all of her enthusiasm, she was a very gentle walker on the leash, not pulling too much, and treated Violet, the other adoptable greyhound (who has a blog post all of her own) respectfully.

She's very curious and bright-eyed, and wanted to have a role in everything that we were doing.  Tie my shoe?  She wanted to have her nose right there to see what was going on.  Take pictures?  She wanted to sniff the camera, kiss the camera, yes, even lick the camera.  (And then she wanted to kiss the camera man!)  Carolina was definitely much more into getting attention from us than she was in any photo shoot.

Carolina is a friendly, happy dog and I have no doubt that she is going to bring some lucky soul a lot of joy.

She is also quite young - just a little over two years old!


Violet is a beautiful brindle girl, who is up for adoption at Steel City Greyhounds!  I met this sweetheart this morning,  and got to take her for a walk along with Carolina, another greyhound up for adoption.

Violet is quiet and shy, at least with us (she has never met us before.)    She was an absolute joy to walk - this girl is not a "puller,"  though she was extremely curious about everything around her and would occasionally veer off of the sidewalk to check out an interesting leaf, or even a couple of random pieces of litter.  She did get very excited when she saw another dog running and playing in the turn-out pen across the street at the animal shelter -  she very badly wanted to join in the fun!

In fact, my husband and I could tell right away that she likes other dogs, because she kept as close as she could to Carolina throughout the entire walk!   Carolina was far more energetic than she, but Violet took her companion's high energy in good stride, and was very mellow about the whole thing.

It seems to me that Violet would love to be adopted by someone who enjoys a quiet, ladylike companion, and who will be willing to be a little patient with her while she works to overcome her initial shyness.  (I'll bet it won't take long, once she gets into a home with kind, affectionate people and all of the creature comforts!)

Will you be the one to give this sweet dog a home?  She'd make an excellent companion for another dog, though I'm sure she'd adapt to getting all of the attention as the only dog in a household as well!

Violet is very young, born in February 2009.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I've blogged about a lot of topics lately, but I haven't made one of my good "old-fashioned" posts just about how my animals are doing.  So here goes...

Argos is doing well - but he is ALWAYS doing well.  He really is one of the most trouble-free animals that I could have ever asked to have.  He never shows any inclination to chase the cats (thank God!)  he loves going for walks, is okay with being home by himself while we're at work, is polite and well-mannered in public...  good stuff!  He is turning into a ridiculous beggar, though.  OMG, that dog is food-motivated!   He was extremely picky about what he ate when we first got him - we could get him to eat meat and rice, with a little plain yogurt mixed in, then he turned his nose up at the yogurt.  We had to beg him to eat his kibble most meals.  He just wasn't that into it.  He wasn't even interested in most "people food," though he never turned down a piece of meat.  Now...  he loves people food, and will happily hoover down anything that I drop on the kitchen floor while cooking.  Spaghetti, cheese, and most recently, french fries.  He'll also hoover down his kibble like he's breathing it in.  What we used to have to beg him to eat now gets gobbled up in less than 5 minutes.  It's astounding, truly.

Argos, sun dog.
Charlotte is fine too.  She's still doing really well on her medications, and rules the house with an iron paw.  Seriously, the other cats are terrified of her, and it's very obvious to everyone but Romeo that she is dominant in this house.  More on that in a bit.

Charlotte, queen.
Annie has discovered a little kitty-bed that I bought for them this past summer, that no one was using.  (I think it was because it was too hot outside.)  But now it seems like every time I turn around, she's on the bed.  It warms my heart when they actually like the stuff that I buy for them.  Silly, isn't it?  The picture below is of her and Bit on the bed.

Annie and Bit, snuggling.  Sorry for the poor light quality.
Bit.  Bit is being a little nightmare, STILL.  She is obsessed with Romeo the way that a stalker is obsessed with his hapless victim.  She pesters him constantly, and has him very jumpy.  I'm concerned about him.  We've escalated it now... if Bit starts harassing Romeo, she gets picked up and dumped into the bathroom, which she HATES.  Don't worry, we're not mean about it, or inhumane.  She is in there with a litter box and at least a bowl of water.  She's never in there for long enough that she misses a meal.  We're hoping that it starts to sink into her head that when she's mean to Romeo, she goes into the bathroom.  

Romeo.  Romeo is currently napping between my feet at the foot of the bed.  He's in here with us by himself tonight, because we know that Bit will just antagonize him the whole time and we won't be able to intervene because we're, well, sleeping.  I thought that they were getting better, but they're not.  Bit had him so agitated this week that he pooped in the window sill rather than to jump down and try to get to the litter box.  And I can't blame him, because it would have gotten him ambushed if he'd tried.  I feel bad for him - he'll hiss and growl and make a good show of defending himself, but doesn't really stick with it long enough to really deter her.  We do what we can for him, though.  If we're gone, he gets to hang out in our bedroom by himself, with his own food and water, and his own litter box.  If we're home, we make him "mingle" with the others at least a little bit, because they do have to eventually learn to get along.

And now Charlotte has gone after him a few times... she was previously content to just glare at him from across the room, but now she's gotten more stroppy about it.  I think she's trying to assert her dominance, and when Romeo doesn't immediately roll over for her, it annoys her.

I don't know.  Cat people?  Do you have any other tips or advice for me?  I would love to be able to wave my magic wand and have the felines in my house less willing to beat each other senseless, but have the feeling that we're in for a long battle.

Here's Romeo, on his new favorite perch, the dresser.  That is normally forbidden to the cats, but we've been letting him do it because it gives him the high ground.  This is the only thing that keeps Bit from trying to stalk him.

It's not all gloom on the Romeo front - he's getting more affectionate with us, and seems to trust us a little more.  At least, I'm choosing to interpret his lack of desire to claw, bite, or hiss at me as a positive sign!  He loves getting petted now, and even purrs when I give him a light hug.  So I think he likes us humans just fine, but probably wishes that Bit and her sisters would go jump in a lake.  (And when I say that he did used to claw and bite at us pretty often, it was almost always as a warning.  He was never trying to hurt or draw blood.  The only time he drew blood was an accident, when he went to jump off the bed, and hooked the cuticle of my toe with his claw.  Ouch.)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Deciding NOT to Get a Pet

I firmly believe in adopting and rescuing animals - dogs, cats, horses, whatever, and would whole-heartedly recommend that anyone looking for a pet to consider this option.  I wish that I could convince more people to adopt animals, and I'm sure that those that work or volunteer at shelters or rescues feel even more strongly about it.  But in my conversations with friends considering getting an animal, friends that HAVE gotten an animal, and reading the reasons that many animals are surrendered to local shelters, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that not everyone should adopt (or purchase, really)  a pet.  And yes, I'm sure that there are some of you out there that are saying, "Well, DUH," but it really did take me this long to get to the point that I could admit that to myself, let alone publicly on my blog.

Obviously, anyone who is inclined to abuse an animal is not ideal pet owner material.  I wasn't referring to THOSE sorts of people, who should probably not even be allowed to have a houseplant of their own, but to people who have good intentions, but still cannot provide the home that an animal needs to thrive.  

1.  Time.  I think that this is the big one.  If someone does not have time to add anything else to his or her schedule, then introducing a new animal to his household is probably a big mistake.   Is there a work-around?  Sure.  If an adopter can afford it, he could hire someone to look in on the animals in the middle of the day, or even take the new pet to daycare.  Or someone with less money might be able to have a relative or neighbor check in with the animals.  Maybe with cats, who use litter pans indoors and don't necessarily need outdoor bathroom breaks, someone could choose to adopt two, to keep each other company during working hours.  But in my humble opinion (and take that for whatever it's worth) if someone has to work long hours, and has a busy evening social schedule, or will have to leave the pets alone to travel a lot, that person should think long and hard before adopting an animal.  

2. Stability.  I will admit it.  I torture myself on a regular basis, and read through the ads on Petfinder, or at the local rescues, reading the descriptions of the animals that are looking for homes.  But one side-effect to this rather masochistic hobby of mine is that I read lots and lots of reasons that are given for surrendering an animal to a shelter.  And one of the big ones is that the owners had to move to a place that did not allow pets.  Now, I know full well that we can't see into the future and plan for every eventuality, and I know that the economy is still pretty rotten, and a lot of homeowners are being forced to "downsize," sell their homes, and move into rental properties, some of which do not allow animals.  So I'm sure a lot of these surrenders are due to that.  But some of them make it pretty obvious that the person KNEW that their housing situation wasn't permanent and chose to bring an animal into it anyway.  That is selfish.  Animals are not throw-aways, to be discarded whenever they cease to be convenient.  If a person doesn't believe that they can provide a home for that animal for the forseeable future, then he or she has NO business getting one.  And for heaven's sake, if a person does have to give up animals for housing reasons, every reasonable effort should be made to rehome these pets, instead of surrendering them to a shelter.  

3.  Babies.  Everyone loves babies.  But oftentimes, pets don't.  It seems like a lot of Petfinder ads mention a new human addition to the household being the reason that a pet is surrendered.  I find that very sad, and brings me back around to my "animals are not disposable" argument.  I know that many,  many households manage to get through those rocky first few months with both baby and animal, so I'm not saying that someone should never ever combine babies and pets.  But I do think that if a person is going to be having a little one any time really soon, they should be extremely cautious about getting a new animal.   Babies take a lot of time, and let's face it, those first few months of sleep deprivation, hormone fluctuation, feeding schedules, and sometimes inexplicable screaming are going to be challenging, and maybe even a little demoralizing.  It might be good to plan ahead - if a new mother (or father) is going to be tied up with taking care of baby's needs, who is going to walk the dog?  Clean the litter boxes?  Give the animals affection and attention?  If the answer is "no one" then maybe it would be best to wait until the baby is a little older.

4.  Money.  Let's face it, few of us (including me) are rich, with limitless resources.  And again, we can't see into the future and know how much money we're going to be asked to spend to keep our animals healthy.  No one can predict chronic illnesses, lay-offs, etc.  But some people clearly can't afford to keep an animal - if someone is struggling to feed themselves, then they have no business getting an animal.  That animal is just going to be eating sub-standard food (or possibly not getting enough food,) skipping routine vet care and vaccinations, and not getting taken to the vet in emergency situations due to lack of finances.  I will totally sympathize with an owner who is either in reduced circumstances or dealing with some major health expenses, but get really aggravated when I hear people talk about not wanting to spend the money for vet care, high quality (or at least decent quality)  food, or even heartworm preventative.  These things shouldn't be optional, and anyone who thinks that they are, shouldn't have a pet.  

So...  those are the reasons to NOT get a pet that jump out at me.  Am I forgetting anything?  

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Brrrr! Cold

Brrr!  It's cold around here this week!  Well, it's been down in the 40's, and while that is nothing compared to what it will be like later this year and early next year, it is still a shock to the system.  Especially after we were spoiled with three months of very warm, sunshiney weather.  I've even broken my long-standing rule of never turning the heat on before November.  I'm blaming it on the animals.  They're cold, therefore the heat comes on.  It has nothing to do with me shivering under the blanket, no sir.

It started to get cool on Sunday, only we were caught unawares.  We went to North Park for an event called Hearts and Hounds, hosted by UPMC, a large local health system.  It was to promote good exercise and good health, by walking your dog!  Walkers and their dogs were invited to join for a donation fee, all proceeds to go to the American Heart Association.  We were asked to go as representatives of Steel City Greyhounds, and to set up a booth for the group in case anyone there was interested in adopting a greyhound or wanted information about it.

It was a lot of fun!  There were dogs of all shapes and sizes there; everything from Westies to a gorgeous Newfoundland.  There were even two other greyhounds, which pleased Argos immensely.

But as I said, the cold caught us a little by surprise.  Jeff had a hoodie, and I was wearing a thick fleece pull-over, so we were fine (though still a little chilled.)  But then about half an hour after we got set up, I noticed that Argos had started shivering.  Yikes!  It was going to be a long morning with him being so cold, and I was trying to figure out what to do about it when Jeff stepped in and saved the day.

Why yes, that is a hoodie that Argos is wearing.  Jeff stood there in his short sleeved shirt the rest of the morning so that 'gos could stay warm.  What a guy!  I think that some people were startled by his devotion, but some (including me) were impressed.  Argos got quite a bit of attention in his new get-up.

I do think he was happy to get back out of the hoodie, but he kept that red bandana (given to us by the event hosts) and seemed terribly pleased by it.   He strutted around, showing it off for the rest of the day!

So, I'm not sure of what to do about keeping Argos warm.  I have a winter coat for him, that I purchased for him last year.  It's really heavy, though, and is a little bit of overkill for anything besides truly wintry weather.  And I remember that when we got him last January, he didn't have a winter coat, and it didn't really seem to bother him that much unless it dipped into the twenties.  So does this mean that he'll get used to the cooler weather?  Should I get him a light jacket?

Here's a secret...  well, not much of a secret, but it IS the first time I've admitted it online... I'm attempting to knit him a sweater.  I imagine that it would be PERFECT for weather like this, but at the rate I'm going, he might get to wear it in the spring.  (It's a beautiful sweater, or at least the picture on the pattern is.  It's a ribbed turtleneck, and looks oh-so-elegant on the long greyhound neck.)

But anyway, I think I want to try to get him a light jacket in the interim.  It's not the pup's fault that his mom is such a slow knitter.

The cold has another side-effect that I had completely forgotten about in the summer heat...  the animals get much more affectionate!  They are constantly seeking us out to be a source of warmth for them, which means lots of snuggle time!  I can't prop myself up on the couch this week without Argos climbing onto my lap and sandwiching himself between my legs and the back of the couch.  He'll stay there absolutely as long as I do, never showing ANY interest in jumping down.

We haven't spent a night in the bed without at least one of the cats joining us, usually Bit.  I've awakened most nights this week to have her curled up in a tight little ball up against my stomach.  I've seen her do something similar with Jeff.

While I'm sorry that everyone is cold, I do have to admit, I am enjoying the snuggle time.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chance has been adopted!

Update:  Chance has been adopted!  Congratulations, Chance!  And congratulations to his new adopter!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dog (and Cat) Proofing the House

I don't remember EVER giving any thought to making the home environment safe for my dog and cats when I was a kid...  possibly because my parents had taken care of that step without telling me.  But now, it seems to be something that I spend a lot of time doing.  There are so many ways that animals can get hurt in a human household!   In the two years that I've had animals as an adult, here's what I've found so far - some through experience, some through research.

Houseplants:  OMG, EVERY tropical houseplant out there is poisonous to animals, to one degree or another!  I do love houseplants, but I have to say that I can't have many of the ones that I would typically have.  Dumb cane is out.  Peace lillies are out.  Porthos and philedendrons are out.  As far as I can tell with my research, most ferns are okay, and I have a couple of Boston ferns and a few asparagus ferns.  (Asparagus ferns do, I warn you, make your cat throw up if she eats them.  I'm looking at YOU, Annie.)  Spider plants are okay too, but for some reason I've never been able to keep those alive.  Oh, and banana trees.  Those are fine too.

What I had to do when we got the cats was put my philedendrons and porthos plants up so high that the cats can't get to them.  I have some on top of our china hutch, which the cats are only getting on top of if they sprout wings, and on top of the floor to almost ceiling bookshelf in the living room.  And anything kept  lower is non-toxic, because Annie WILL sample them.

Plastic bags:  This one is a no-brainer; everyone has heard of  kids and animals suffocating themselves.  I am always super-diligent to pick these up and put them in the closet (they're too handy as used kitty litter holders to just throw away.)  I think that most of the animals would ignore a plastic bag, but not Charlotte.  She is obsessed with them, and will even forego her evening saucer of milk if I've just brought a bunch in from the grocery store.  Suffice it to say, she's only allowed to rub her head on them while I'm in the room to watch her.

Food:  Argos has only, to my knowledge, counter-surfed once, in his first week with us.  We reprimanded him and he's never done it in front of me again.  But I'm super-careful to make sure that no food is left on the counters when we leave him unattended.  Not even if it's in a plastic bag, like bread.  Especially if it's in a plastic bag.  I also take the stove knobs off, but I think that I can probably stop doing that.  He's never shown any interest in the stove, so even my paranoid self is starting to accept that he's not going to turn on the gas and burn down the house while we're gone.

Easily swallowable items:  If we're leaving Argos alone, this means that I have to do a sweep of the downstairs to make sure that the cats haven't left any kitty toys lying around, that there isn't a pair of socks on the floor, and that I haven't left any wash cloths out and about.  Argos has a "thing" for white items, which does include wash cloths and socks.  For the cats, I just have to make sure that I haven't left any of my yarn out - Bit has a nasty habit of eating it... several feet of it.  She has gone to the emergency vet TWICE because she ate yarn and had two feet of it hanging out of her backside by the time we caught on.  (Okay, to my credit, she did it with my yarn the first time, then I started putting it under lock and key.  The second time she went up to the attic and drug a spool of string/twine that we didn't even know we had out of a box and off of a shelf.) 

Trash:  Our trash can latches on the top, and you have to push a button to make it pop open.  But I'm still really leery about leaving Argos alone with the kitchen trash, which must smell delicious to his canine nose.  So it gets locked in the downstairs bathroom if we're leaving.

Litter box:  Since we put the cats upstairs in the bedrooms, and Argos downstairs in the common rooms, I can shut away the downstairs litter box so that Argos isn't tempted to go fishing for "tootsie rolls."  It doesn't take any extra effort:  we keep it under the sink in the downstairs bath, which is already closed off to prevent trash-diving.

Chemicals:  (If you read this before and chemicals weren't listed, it was because I forgot them.  Duh.)  None of our animals have ever gone for the chemicals.  But just in case, those are shut into the closet or otherwise put out of reach as well.

Luckily, Argos is not a chewer, so we haven't had to worry about him going after power cords, pillows, couch cushions, etc.  I know that some dogs are, and geez.  I don't know how people deal with that.  I think if he did make a habit of chewing, he'd HAVE to be crated while we were gone.

And as long as I can keep Annie away from plants, Bit away from yarn, Charlotte away from plastic bags, and Argos away from little white objects, they're pretty low-maintenance. (I'm not leaving Romeo out because I'm forgetting him, but he hasn't really gotten into anything truly dangerous.  Though he will shred and eat newspaper if we don't feed him quickly enough.  That can't be good for him.)

So did I forget anything?  What have YOU had to do to dog or cat-proof your house?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adopting an Adult Cat

There's been a lot of talk over the past couple of weeks about adopting an adult cat versus adopting a kitten, as everyone is posting about adopting "less adoptable" animals.   As you can imagine, adult cats have a much harder time finding homes than kittens do.  And while I'd never suggest that kittens do not deserve homes too, I always find it very rewarding to adopt an adult.  Three of my own cats were adults when we got them - Charlotte, Annie (though considered a YOUNG adult) and most recently, Romeo.

Adopting an adult cat is very rewarding, because the cat knows full well that he or she has been rescued.  Usually this means that they're grateful.   My thoughts on adopting adult kitties are that it's easier than some might lead you to believe, as long as you're willing to keep three things in mind.

1.  It takes patience.  Maybe some adult cats are more gregarious than mine, but all of mine had issues that they needed to work through before they could let themselves trust me.  Romeo is still working on that a little bit, but he will grow to trust me as well, in his own time.  Charlotte didn't trust me to do anything besides feed her and scoop her litter box until that first fateful night at the emergency vet.  It sounds crazy, but I think that she KNEW that we had the power of life or death over her that night, and we chose life.  She's been a very affectionate cat ever since.  But it did take months for both Charlotte and Annie, and it will take months for Romeo.  And that's okay, because I know how great it will make me feel when he voluntarily jumps into my lap and starts head-butting me for attention.  (He already sleeps on the bed with us, though I suspect that's partially because he knows that sleeping with the humans affords him some protection from the other cats.)

2.  It takes respect.  Cats are sticklers for respect; and they don't hesitate to let you know if they feel you haven't respected them enough.  I've learned to give them space when they want it.  They come to me on their own accord when they want my attention, and it's so very rewarding to see them choose to spend time with me because they WANT to, not because I pick them up and force them to sit on my lap.  I think that this is difficult for non-cat people to understand sometimes... if you're more used to dogs, it seems so foreign.

And have you ever had a cat sulk for hours because you made the mistake of laughing at him when he fell off the back of the couch?  Or even if you were able to restrain your laughter, had the cat sulk just because you had the audacity to witness his moment of clumsiness?  Yeah, your lack of respect has been noted.  :)

3.  It takes consistency.  I have yet to meet a cat that likes chaos (unless, ironically enough, they're the ones causing the chaos, then they revel in it.)  They like routine, and they like calm.  Nothing upsets our cats more than for us to wreck their routine by going out of town, inviting guests over, or  even waking up at a different time.  Not that I'm going to rearrange my schedule or forego vacations for the sake of the cats, but it's good to at least keep the cat's comfort levels in mind, and try to reduce the number of stressors in the environment as much as possible.

Really, those are the big ones.  I think that anyone who's willing to be patient, respectful, and more or less consistent, will earn the trust of a cat.  Especially if feeding and treats are involved.  :)  
Charlotte, in a basket way too small for her... girth.  As you can see, there have been many treats.
Disclaimer:  Charlotte is pudgy, and it's all my fault.  But don't judge!  She's terminally ill with congestive heart failure.  We've just decided to let her enjoy what life she has left, and with Charlotte, that means eating what she wants.