Sunday, February 28, 2010

Animals and Kids

I've noticed that there are a lot of similarities between pets and children... and no, this is not the start of a really bad joke.  I started thinking about this last night, when we took Argos with us to a friend's house.  He had to learn the rules of their house, which were different than the rules in our house.  First, let me say that it took him only about twenty minutes to figure out that he wasn't allowed in the kitchen or dining room or up on the couch.  Another five minutes after that to realize that yes, we were serious and that he couldn't convince us otherwise.  And then another five minutes after my husband showed up to relearn the lesson.  Not bad for one evening.

But anyway, back to the whole pets and kids thing.  He spent that five minutes testing the boundaries of the rules, very much like a child would if he or she was uncertain of where the boundaries were.  But then, there are other ways in which pets are like kids.

  • They trust.  (At least, if you are doing it right.)  As a child, I unquestioningly trusted my parents.  I might not have agreed with them on everything, but I trusted them.  Argos trusts us, or is learning to.  The cats... they trust us to a point.  They're too independent for the blind trust a dog is willing to give, but do extend a certain amount to us all the same.

  • Jealousy.  Anyone who doesn't think that "sibling rivalry" is alive and well between pets doesn't have a multi-pet household.  It doesn't matter if they normally get along perfectly well, you will see the resentment flare if you give one of them something that the others want, whether that's a saucer of milk, extra attention, or a place next to you on the couch.

  • They can be loud, disruptive, and messy.  Oh, and how!  

  • They will choose to disobey or act out when they have the best audience.  Or in Argos' case, he will wait until we have all eyes on us before deciding to poop in the middle of the sidewalk.  Oi.  :)
But mostly, they are so rewarding...  They are like our children (especially for those of us who don't have any of the human variety) in that they require our care, attention, and love, and are more than happy to reciprocate.  I guess that the main difference between how one raises pets versus children is that the child is "in training" to be a fully functioning adult in our society.  A pet will never be independent, and will depend upon us to take care of them for their entire lives.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Like Animals Better than People...

Does this make me a bad person?

And no, it's not just me being a misanthrope.  I've always been that way.  (And no, that does not mean that I don't like individual people - I love my family and friends, so don't think that I'm dissing on them.)

I can even remember as a little girl asking my babysitter if she liked animals or people better, and being completely shocked when she told me people!  I proudly told her that I liked animals better, and she just looked uncomfortable.  I guess that was my first clue that I wasn't normal.

I think it's because I have never completely understood why people act the way that they do sometimes - I have a very difficult time with it to this day.  I've gotten good at "reading" people's emotions, but am sometimes completely clueless about why they feel that way, and cannot for the life of me understand their reasoning.  Animals are simpler - yes, they behave badly sometimes, but it's not difficult to figure out why.  If a dog is angry and growling, there's a reason for it, and it's not just because he had a fight with Cindy last night and is worried that he won't be able to pay the mortgage.  You probably just walked too close to his food bowl, or he was abused as a puppy. Completely understandable.

If a dog loves you, he loves you.  He doesn't care about what people think of you, of him, or anything else.  Cats are a bit more complicated, but still much easier to understand than human beings.  My cats purr when they're happy, hiss when they're angry, meow when they want something, and run away when they're scared.  People would find some way to mess up even those most basic reactions...

And I will never completely understand what makes us tick.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pets I Have Known

I have been blessed with a life that has almost always known some kind of pet or even more than one.  Here are the ones that I remember:

1.  Peanut.  A black and white kitty that was my first cat.  I don't remember much about him because I was awfully young.  I think I was five years old when he passed away.

2.  Girl.  Not my pet, but Dad's hunting dog that he had for awhile.  I remember when she had a litter of puppies in the basement:  I was fascinated!  I even remember the names of two of them:  Rusty and Maggie.

3.  Dingbat.  Definitely not my pet.  This was Mom's cat from back before she had children.  Dingbat was definitely unhappy with the new additions to the family.

4.  Snowball.  Mom and Dad took me to the pound to pick out a kitten, after Peanut died.  Out of all of the kittens I could have picked, I chose the one that hid from me.  He was the orneriest, most grouchy cat I have ever known, but was very devoted to Mom and would even show me some flashes of affection.  He had feline leukemia, but survived many years past what he was supposed to.

5.  Captain.  Another white cat, this one was my brother's.  I have a vague recollection that my uncle brought him over.  I'm not sure if that's accurate, though.

6.  Wickitt.  My first dog, a Pekingese, that I got when I was 11.  This was the year that we moved to the country.  It took me a long time to fit in at school, and Wickitt was my most loyal friend.  Yes, he was named because as a puppy, he had a striking resemblance to an ewok.  See, I was a geek even back then.

7.  Spunky.  My brother's first dog.  She was part basset, and was a heck of a good dog.  She loved to roughhouse and play in the mud with the boys, and could be counted on to be in the thick of everything.

8.  Prince.  My first horse!  We got him shortly after moving to the country.  He took advantage of our ignorance in the beginning, but didn't have a mean bone in his body.  After I learned more about making a horse obey, he was a great horse, and fun to ride.

9.  Cody.  My second horse.  I went to Colorado to help my aunt on her ranch one summer.  She gave me Cody, to take home.  He was the first horse that I showed in the 4-H.  He was very tall, at 18 1/2 hands high.  Quite a tall horse for such a short girl, but I managed!

10.  Billy Bob.  I hesitate to call him a pet - menace more like.  He was a goat with curling horns.  We didn't have him for very long, because of his penchant for slamming people with those horns.

11.  Ducks.  We had our very own flock of ducks for awhile, before coyotes and snapping turtles ate them all, the bastards.  They were a lot of fun.  It was especially hilarious when the two that we'd named, Paul and Silas, mated and laid eggs together.  Not sure where that fits into your theology, but it's kind of twisted....

12.  Pal.  My brother's first horse, a palomino.  He was a sweet boy, but very old.  He had bad teeth, and so was very skinny.  He died the first winter that we had him.

13.  Shawnee.  My brother's second horse, an Appaloosa mare.  She gave birth to a filly, Patches.  A very pretty horse, though she did not endear herself to me when she stepped on my foot and broke my two little toes.

14.  Twenty -Nine.  My third horse, also given to me by my aunt when I went out to visit her for a month one summer.  She was a registered AQHA mare.  I showed her in the 4-H as well.  She was a lot of fun to ride - just spirited enough that she would prance and run fast when I wanted her to, but not so spirited that I couldn't control her.

15.  Susie.  A little black cat that we adopted from a local farmer.  She was a little ball of fluff, and was always sure that she was really meant to be a housecat.  (She was an outdoor cat back then.)  She made the move to college with me, and stayed with me in my apartment for a couple of years.  I had to give her back to my parents when I moved to Boston, something that grieved me over the years.  She lived a good long life with them, though,  surviving until she was about 18 years old.

16.  Wendy.  Susie's littermate.  Wendy was a sweet cat.  I remember that she and Susie both had kittens at the same time out at the farm.  That was a great time, with lots of little kitties running around!

17.  Boots.  We managed to get rid of all of the kittens except for one, Boots, who stayed at the farm.  She was a wild one - half feral, much more at home in the woods and fields than in the house.

18.  Pigs.  I can't believe that I forgot pigs!  My brother and I each got a runt from one of the neighbors.  We named them Zakk and James (after Zakk Wylde and James Hetfield - I'm sure that those two would be HONORED to know that we named our pigs after them, LOL.)  We had to bottle feed them a lot in the beginning.  We ended up giving them to a pig farm because as we found out the hard way, we're not really cut out to be pig farmers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dog v. Cat

We're actually making quite a bit of progress on the whole dog versus cat thing.  Let it be noted that while hostilities do exist, it's not the dog's fault.  He has been very good, and has responded well to our "No Kitty!" training.  (If he even looks at the cats and perks his ears up with too much interest, we would just gently tug on his leash to get his attention, and say, "No Kitty!")  He's sensitive enough that stronger measures haven't really been necessary.  I haven't even had to use the squirt bottle that I bought for that purpose.

The cats are the ones that hiss if he accidentally walks too close.  Annie has bapped him with her paw a couple of times... yesterday right in the face, and he didn't even respond beyond looking up at me like, "See what I put up with?"

But for two days now, Annie has jumped up on the couch with me, even knowing that Argos was there.  Yesterday, she just sat on the arm rest, but today she walked up and sniffed him, and then settled down on my lap.

Charlotte and Bit are still holding out a little more than that.  Charlotte doesn't often deign to be on the same furniture as the other cats, so I don't really anticipate that she's going to warm to him, ever.  She will consent to being in the same room as he is, and she's lost her fear of him, so that might have to be as good as it gets between those two.  Really, as long as there isn't open warfare, I'm okay with that.

Bit is the one who is still the most scared of him, but even she is making progress.  Yesterday, she jumped up on the bed with me and Jeff even though the dog was curled up between us.  Her eyes got really wide, so I could tell that she hadn't known he was there, but she didn't flee.  She cautiously settled down between Jeff's feet and probably stayed for 15 minutes.

She has learned that Argos sleeps in his crate at night, so can't get to her.  This is when she usually visits.  Last night I must have fallen asleep petting her, because I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, with her still curled up under my hand.  So sweet.

Oh, and here's perhaps the most saccharin-sweet picture EVER, at least of our kitties.  I can't take credit for it, because Jeff took it, but I was more than happy to steal it from his blog.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Argos, our most recent adoptee.  A lot of our friends are surprised that we ended up with a greyhound, but that's because they weren't privy to over a year's worth of conversations about dogs, potential breeds to adopt, and what would be best suited for our lifestyle.  It didn't hurt that my aunt is involved with greyhound adoptions/rescue, and currently has four of her own.

It was actually Jeff that brought up the breed for the first time for serious consideration to adopt.  I really liked the idea.  My aunt's greyhounds had always seemed so calm, dignified, and docile.  And gorgeous too, of course.  I did some internet research, though, and saw some warnings that they have a high prey drive, and that our cats would never be safe with one.  That definitely put us off, and we moved on to consider other breeds.  But we kept circling back around to greyhounds.  Then my aunt (and a couple of other people) told us that not ALL greyhounds have a high prey drive, and that there were plenty of dogs out there that could peacefully co-exist with our girls.  Well, THAT put greyhounds back in the running, if you'll pardon the pun.

We checked out a book from the library about adopting ex-racing greyhounds, and then found a cheap used copy of Greyhounds for Dummies, and read both of them.  We went to a meet-and-greet out at a Petco one afternoon, and spent over an hour talking with the two volunteers there, and making a big fuss over their dogs.  We left that store much more confident in adopting one.

It wasn't too long after that meeting that I filled out an online application with Steel City Greyhounds, a charity that pulls retired greyhounds from the racetracks and puts them up for adoption in Pittsburgh.  That Saturday, they told us that we could go to the kennel where the greys were kept, to meet "Willie," a six-year-old red faun.  We went, with the intention of taking a look at him and then leaving to think about it for awhile.

But that's not quite the way that it happened.  We went, met him, and loved him immediately.  He was so sweet-natured and began wagging his tail as soon as he saw us.  Then we were told that we could "borrow" him for a few hours if we liked, to take him home to meet our cats to see how he was with them.  So, we packed him into the back seat of our car and drove him to our house.  He completely ignored the cats, in fact, I think he barely registered that they were even there.

I think it was at that point that we decided that we wanted to keep him.  We drove back to the kennel to fill out paperwork, have him washed and groomed by professionals, and to pay the adoption fee.  And then we were the proud new owners of a greyhound!  Haha, we were so unprepared, since we hadn't been thinking we would adopt that day!  We had to go immediately to Petco (with him in tow, of course) to buy bedding, food dishes, food, treats, doggie toothpaste, and toys.  Then Willie became Argos, and the rest is history.

Argos has adapted well to us.  He loves to go outside for walks, but loves sleeping on the couch just as much.  He is content to curl up beside us and watch t.v. or to nap with us up on our bed.  He's also learning to play, and especially loves toys that squeak or honk or make noise.  He is very loving and obedient, and is the first thing I see when I come home.  (I would ordinarily at least kiss my husband first, but Argos makes that difficult, since he's typically cavorting and prancing in circles around me, ecstatic that I'm home.)  He is lying at my feet as I type this, and seems to be very content.


So...  Bit.  Her real name is Q-bit, which is short for Quantum Bit.  Jeff chose this name because of her kittenish ability to be everywhere, into everything, at one time.  I always thought that we'd just call her Q, but it seems that we've settled into calling her Bit.   

I think I've mentioned in one of my earlier posts that she climbed on top of Jeff's shoulder at the shelter, for protection from the sounds of barking dogs in the next room.  As soon as I looked across the room and saw him sitting there with a little tiny ball of gray fluff on his shoulder, nuzzling his hair, I knew that he was a goner.  There was no way that anyone with any shred of decency could have left her there after that!

We think that she has some Maine Coon in her lineage.  Why do we think this?  First, Google "maine coon" sometime, and look at the pictures.  Compare the way that their faces look with the way that hers looks.  Not all of them are a match of course, but she looks eerily like some of them.  But she also has several other traits that are common with that breed:
  • She is polydactyl, which means that she has extra toes.  She has extras on all four paws.  
  • She makes a trilling noise instead of a meow sometimes.  (though she's quite capable of meowing LOUDLY to get your attention if she needs to.)
  • She is shy around strangers.  People have a hard time believing that she can actually be something of a trouble-maker, since she spends the typical guest's entire visit hiding upstairs.
 Some Maine Coons get to be pretty large, but we're not sure that she will do that or not.  I guess it depends some on the other cat breeds that are mixed in.  She's already pretty large, having surpassed Annie in size.  She's actually just about as big as Charlotte, though not as erm... rotund.  She does have a strange growth pattern, but one that we've started to recognize, so we know when she's going into another growth spurt.  (Maine Coons don't become fully grown until they're 3-5 years old.)  What she does, is she starts to become long, disproprtionately so.  She gets to a certain length, and then will slowly start to fill out.  There will be a lull for awhile, then she'll start to elongate again. 

Bit's personality is ... complicated.  She is very sweet and gentle.  She loves attention, but it has to be on HER terms, not yours.  She doesn't really appreciate being picked up, and is very particular about how she'll let a human approach her.  I have good luck with slowly walking up to her with my index finger extended.  She'll sniff the finger, and then it will be okay to gently pet her.  But not too much - she'll probably run away after a few moments.  This will continue for days, and then she'll just randomly get affectionate, purring and rubbing around your ankles, demanding attention and scritchings.  Or else I'll wake up in the middle of the night and she'll be asleep in the bends of my knees.  (She does this with me more often than with Jeff, but I think that's because I tend to pick a sleeping position and stay in it all night long.  Jeff, not so much.)

She is still very frightened of Argos, and tends to keep her distance from us if we're with him.  She is starting to get a little bolder, at least - this morning, she came down to see me in the living room while Argos was sleeping beside me on the couch.  She wasn't willing to come up with us, but was content to let me reach down to pet her for a couple of moments, and then went to the recliner to watch us from relative safety. 

She CAN cause trouble, and because of her, I've had to take several precautions that I wouldn't have had to take otherwise.  First of all, my yarn is locked up in a closet, in a sealed tupperware box.  We had to take TWO trips to the emergency room in the middle of the night because she ingested over two feet of string.  (My yarn the first time, and then some kind of twiney string found in the attic the second time.)  We've also come home from work to find an entire roll of toilet paper shredded all over the bathroom floor.  I've caught her in the act often enough that I KNOW it was her. 

But we love her anyway.  Life would not be the same without Bit.

Saturday morning

I love Saturday mornings.  I'm able to relax and sit still long enough for the animals to come to me, and they love it too!  I will frequently spend part of a Saturday morning with Argos on my lap, and the other part lying on the guest room bed to take a quick nap with the cats.  They LOVE it when I do that, and I don't get to do it often enough.

How insanely busy and pointless our lives must look to them, when we have to get up, get ready, and go to work every morning, leaving them home alone.  (Not that it isn't necessary - SOMETHING has to pay for the roof over their heads, and the food for their bellies.  But I don't expect for them to realize that.)

We're starting to find that one of Argos' peculiarities is that he would rather spend time with us than eat his food.  So if I feed him in the morning and then go into the other room, he might eat a couple of bites, but then comes to find me.  To ensure that he eats everything (and I do need to do this, since he needs fattening up) I pull up a dining room chair and sit next to him through his breakfast.  Even then, he is more interested in me than in the food, and I have to pet him and reassure him that I'm still there before he'll continue.  Weird.  I'd worry about it a little more, but he enthuasiastically eats the entire dish once he realizes that I'm okay with that.

A dog's loyalty... it's nothing to be trifled with.  It's also somewhat humbling that there is a creature that devoted to me.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Annie was always a hard-luck case, at least until she landed in our house.

Something about her web profile on the rescue website appealed to me.  It said that she was friendly but a little skittish around people, and that she was a little shy.  Her picture even looked shy - she was (and still is) a small black cat, and her photo made her look so wary.  My heart went out to her, and though I went to the shelter that first day with the intention of getting her, Charlotte physically man-handled me and got  my attention.  I took Charlotte home that first day (along with Bit, Jeff's choice) but I didn't forget Annie.

I went back and read her profile again, hoping that it would be updated to show that she had been adopted.  She hadn't been.  The profile said that she'd been in the shelter for so long that she had been sent to a temporary foster-home for awhile because the cage was driving her crazy.  She'd just come back from the foster home, and was stuck in a cage again.  She had been with the shelter for over a year.  I think that the more outgoing, gregarious cats were the ones that were getting adopted, and that shy, timid Annie was continually getting overlooked.  Prior to getting picked up and taken to the shelter, she'd lived on the street in a part of town called the Northside.  No one had any idea of how she'd gotten there or how long she'd been on her own before getting picked up.

I lasted three days, before I emailed Jeff at work saying that I really wanted to go back and get her.  By the time I got home from work on that third day, I was in tears, convinced that the cat was never going to find a home.

An hour later, we were back at the shelter, having left my poor mother and a cooked meal behind in our haste to get there before they closed.  And we brought her home.

Getting Annie to trust us has been a long road.  She still doesn't totally like being picked up, but she does tolerate it better than she used to.  And now she's the one that seeks me out for cuddles and attention, moreso than the other two.  She's also the one that is the least afraid of Argos, so is frequently right in the room with us, even if he is sleeping at my feet or in my lap. 

Annie has actually been our trouble-free "child," knock on wood.  No medical bills beyond yearly check-ups, vaccinations, and one horrible itching problem.  No expensive medical testing, no midnight trips to the emergency vet to have two feet of string extracted from her, like some other cats that I could mention.

She loves being a housecat, and as far as I can tell, never pines for her days of "freedom" when she was loose on the Northside. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Jeff and I both love animals.  We both love cats, but always promised each other that we would never get any animals until we owned a home of our own.  That gave us more control over the situation, and we wouldn't be at the mercy of a landlord.

And we were true to our word.  And then we bought a house, in August of 2008, right before the bottom dropped out of the housing market.  We spent that first month renovating, and didn't actually move in until September 20, which was a Saturday.  My mother flew out to help us move, and was to stay with us all the next week.  By Monday, we were still living out of boxes, the house was in a disarray (though quickly being put to rights by Mom) and I was eager to get settled in and actually feel like I had a home.  Jeff said to me, that morning, "Let's go get cats."

I laughed at him, and said no.  I told him that my mother was here, we had too many boxes, that the cats would have a harder time adjusting to life with us with everything in flux, and that we should wait until we were at least unpacked.  He seemed saddened, but agreed with my good sense, and left to go renew his driver's license.

By the time he got back, I had completely changed my mind.  I'd looked at the Animal Rescue League's website, and saw all of those sad furry faces, and knew that we had to go adopt RIGHT NOW.  And so we did.

We had already agreed that we would be getting two cats, one for each of us to pick out.  I knew that I wanted an adult.  I also knew that I had to feel an instant bond with whichever animal I chose.  That may sound silly to some, but I knew it was possible to share a deep bond with an animal...  I had felt that with Susie, a cat that we got when I was a teenager, and who lived a nice long life with my parents after I had to give her up to move to Boston.  I missed that cat so much, and I knew that I wanted to feel that type of bond again.

So I walked up and down the line of cages (is there anything more sad than dozens of sad, frightened cats in cages?  I swear to God if it were possible I'd rescue every single one of them.) I stared into the eyes of the cats that would let me.  There were several that I could have taken.  That I jotted notes to myself about.  I had just turned to go back up the row, when a cat from one of the bottom cages grabbed me with her claws, and pulled me towards the bars of her cage.  I looked down, and made eye contact with Charlotte for the first time in my life.  And that was it.

I had originally planned on getting a little black cat named Annie (you will possibly remember that I do have a little black cat named Annie. Coincidence?  You be the judge.)  But that moment that I met Charlotte's gaze, she had me.  It had to be fate... because she didn't behave very well in the meeting/greeting room that they put us in.  It was too close to the dog side of the shelter, so she was unhappy and frightened, and preferred to hide in the corner or under my mom's chair than to let me pet her.  When I tried to pet her, she took a bloody chunk out of my thumb with her claws, hissing at me.  If I'd been looking for a cat that was easy to get along with, that was my first clue that this might not be the one.

But I couldn't leave her there.  I had to take her home with me.  Because even if she wasn't behaving well, I had looked into her eyes, and felt like I KNEW this cat.

She didn't exactly endear herself to me in the beginning once we got home, either.  She immediately ran to hide, and tried to stay hidden as much as possible the first week we had her.  I did worry that we'd made a mistake... Jeff's kitten Bit was certainly playful and sociable enough, and I felt a little bit jealous that my chosen one preferred to hide in boxes in the attic than to be with us.

But it all ended up well.  She eventually came out of hiding, we became friends.

She's not the most affectionate cat (unless she wants to be) and is sometimes positively grumpy.  She bullies the other two cats, and has them afraid to approach her at all.  She got sick shortly after we got her, and after many medical tests, we got the bitter diagnosis that she has congestive heart failure. They said she might live a year, maybe a little longer, but not much more than that.  And even then it was medication every day for the rest of her life.

Many people might say that getting her was a mistake, that it wasn't worth the time, money, and heart-ache.  I've had people suggest that we should have put her down immediately, that it was an inordinate amount of money to spend on "just a shelter cat."  I always want to respond to them, "Would you want to kill someone who suggested that you kill your own child if she was diagnosed with a terminal disease?  Because that's how I feel about you right now." 

I consider it all worth it every time the two of us make eye contact, or when she jumps up in my lap or onto my chest when I'm lying in bed.  Or when she comes and stands next to me and purrs.  Or even when she stands in front of the refrigerator and howls for milk.

It will break my heart when she does go, but for now, my Charlotte is still with us, demanding milk every night, making her "gronking" noises at me, and looking into my eyes when I pet her.

Monday, February 15, 2010


It's interesting to observe the animals sometimes, and in just how much like humans they really are.  Right now we're dealing with some severe jealousy on the part of the cats.  They just hate how much attention that Argos gets.  I hate to see them so upset, but you can't exactly explain to them that a dog is not as naturally self-sufficient as they, and needs to be with us.

Annie is probably the most blatant about it, mostly because she has the least amount of fear of him.  She has hissed at him a couple of times, and once even tried to slap him with her paw.  (He didn't even notice, as she was batting at his back.) 

Charlotte and Bit are more cautious - in fact, Bit is still terrified of him - but they're jealous too.  Charlotte contents herself with sitting in the doorway of whatever room he is in and glaring in at him balefully.  Bit stands outside the room that we're all in and just cries, repeatedly.  She's too afraid to come in, but desperately wants our attention.

We try to give it to them - the poor cats have a huge adjustment to make, and they were the queens of the house until we got him.  We both spend some time with each of them every day, petting, reassuring, holding.  It seems to help - they are usually happy for the attention.  Bit has taken to sleeping on the bed with us every night, something that she hasn't done since she was a kitten.  But I don't know if that's just to be near us, or to be near the warmth.  For a long-haired cat, she gets cold easily, so with these frigid nights, she just might be drawn to the body heat and the blankets up on our bed.  :)

So, the saga continues.  I know that it will take awhile for everyone to adjust.  I should probably consider ourselves fortunate that they're out from under the bed, where they all camped the first week or so that we had Argos.  And that he doesn't show any interest in them at all - I don't know what we would do if he was interested in chasing them. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Greyhound Racing Statistics

There is a nifty website that collects statistics on racing greyhounds, and our boy is on it!

The site is at  If you do a search on "Coach Williams," his track name, you'll get his stats.  It even has a few pictures of him, from when he was younger!  You can tell he's a little older now, because his muzzle is a little grayer... sniffle.

For those that don't care to go to look, here are some of the basics:

He's run 55 races in his lifetime, and won 16 of those.  It looks like he spent his life prior to us in West Virginia, at two different tracks: Tri-State and Wheeling Downs. 

What amazes me is the pedigree - his family tree is bigger than mine!  What is even more amazing is that his sire fathered (at this point) 10,288 puppies!  Mind you when we checked these statistics out last month, it only showed that he'd fathered 9,700ish puppies.  Yikes, that's a lot of kids!  Our boy was either never bred, or none of his pups have been registered.

Not that any of this matters... we'd love him dearly if he'd never won a single race, but it is kind of cool to see.  It's kind of difficult to imagine our loveable couch potato on the track, actually. 

A New Blog

New beginnings...  I have decided to start a blog about our animals for many reasons.  First, they're right up there on my list of most favored things to talk about, so I always have something to say.  That leads into the second reason...  I'm sure that I have been driving my real life friends and co-workers and my Facebook friends crazy with my non-stop talk about my animals, so maybe this will let me vent my enthusiasm without driving everyone crazy.  Hopefully there will be plenty that will enjoy reading it.  And finally, I've been somewhat lazy when it comes to making myself write.  This should motivate me to write something.

So, with no further ado...  here is a description of the "players" that you will hear me talk about the most often.

Me:  (Mel).  I am a thirty-something law librarian with no kids.  In addition to my husband and animals, I am a huge fan of reading - mostly fantasy, as I never outgrew the need for escapist literature - knitting, sometimes cooking, and gardening. 

Husband:  My husband is possibly the only man that I know that I could have married that would not object to having three cats and a dog (and possibly a second dog?)  In fact, he was the one who first pushed to get the cats, sooner than I had expected.  We do many things together, and I could not ask for a better partner. I am  also grateful for my husband, because he may well be the only thing that prevents me from completely conforming to the stereotype of "cat lady."

Charlotte:  Charlotte is a four year old black and white tuxedo cat.  She is a little bit grouchy sometimes, but is very devoted to me (though she tries to hide it.)  She is our first heartbreak with our animals.  Though she is still with us for now, she was diagnosed last year with congestive heart failure.  We give her Lasix (just like a person) and a decongestant every day, but we've been warned that the Lasix will start to lose its effectiveness over time.  For now, she's doing very well, and has already outlived the vets' expectations.  Like all of our cats, Charlotte is a rescue from the local shelter, the Western Pennsylvania Animal Rescue League.

Annie:  Annie is a two year old black cat.  Her shape, coloration (a brown undercoat) and loud voice cause us to believe that there is some Siamese blood in her lineage.  When she came to us, she was very shy, hated to be picked up, and would rather hide under furniture than to have you pay attention to her.  Over the year and a half that we've had her, she'd gradually gotten bolder, and now will trail after us, demanding attention.  Even if it means walking under the dog.  Even if we are actually asleep.  Or eating.  Or in the bathroom.

Q-bit:  Q-bit, usually known as Bit, was a tiny, fluffy kitten when we got her.  She endeared herself to my husband by climbing onto his shoulder immediately at the shelter, in an attempt to get to safety.  As soon as I saw her do that, I knew that we would be taking her home...  that tiny, fluffy kitten has grown by leaps and bounds.  We've done a little bit of research, and her features make us believe that she has some Maine Coon in her bloodline - we're not sure of how much.  She isn't huge like they usually get, but we've been assured that they don't hit their growth spurt until between 3-5 years of age.  She is 1 years old at this point.  Bit can sometimes be a bit of a troublemaker, but is an adorable one, so we regularly forgive her for shredded toilet paper, attacked feet, or whatever mayhem she can cook up.  She has settled down a little with age, and is positively shy and retiring around the dog or human houseguests.

Argos:  Argos is our most recent addition, and is an ex-racing Greyhound.  We got him through Steel City Greyhounds, a local group dedicated to greyhound adoption.  We've only had him for a few weeks, but he has completely stolen our hearts.  We could not ask for a better-behaved, more affectionate, obedient dog.  Our cats still do not care for him, but he completely ignores them.  He has adapted to living in a house quite well, and his favorite sleeping spot has become one corner of our couch.  It doesn't really matter to him if it's already holding a person, so we may need to encourage our guests to sit in the chairs from now on, and we will take the couch ourselves...  we're used to a 75 pound lap dog, but I'm guessing that most people are not.