Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Few Things About Kittens

First of all, I'd like to state up-front that there are no new kitten pictures to share.  That is because kittens either run full speed ahead (and my iPhone camera is just not enough to keep up with them) or they are asleep in a pile.  But I've been wanting to update, so decided to do so tonight, with or without pictures.

We have had a good time with our kitten fosters.  It's been a long time, however, since I've been around kittens though, and so it was like a new experience all over for me.  As a "newbie" with kittens, here are some of my observations:

1.  Kittens are made out of bouncy balls.  They can ricochet off of walls, radiators, me, the sink, into the trashcan, back out of the trashcan, with no harm done to themselves.

2.  Kittens are masters of destruction.  I turned my back for 30 seconds to get their food ready and when I turned back around the bag of nasty dirty litter was overturned and spilling out onto the freshly swept floor, and my iPhone was upside-down in the newly cleaned litter box.

3.  Kittens know NO fear.  Which is why ours spend their unsupervised time in a large crate.  It is to protect them (and my house.)  They are fascinated with the dogs, and want to play with them very badly.  They climb my shower curtains, and do all sorts of feats of daring with absolutely no regard for their own skins.  One dove head-first into my bath with me tonight.  I had to spend quite a long time finger-combing and drying her out in front of the portable heater so that she wouldn't get chilled.

4.  Worming medicine works fast on kittens of this size.  And let me tell you, you haven't experienced life until you find one of your kittens...  umm.... oozing out a tapeworm.  Blech!

5.  It's amazing how quickly kittens adapt to having humans around.  I am their favorite jungle gym, climbing wall, spring-board, trampoline, and that I am their primary food-giver doesn't hurt.

6.  Kittens will decide that it is time to snuggle, and that is that.  There are a couple that climb up my torso if I'm sitting on the floor with them and cuddle either under my chin or into my hair.  Sanitary?  Probably not.  But do I care?  Not a bit.  How can one possibly care about that when there is a purring kitten under your chin?

I've named them.  It took me awhile, because in the beginning, they all looked like black cats to me, and I couldn't tell most of them apart.  But I've learned to look for those tiny distinguishing features.

So, the roster is:  Ophelia, Hamlet, Horatio, Lara, Violet, and Ellie.

Lara is the one that dove into the tub, and she has the least amount of concern regarding her own survivability.  I'm pretty sure it was also her that bapped Maera on the nose when Maera stuck her nose up to their crate, and it was probably her that climbed the radiator grill the other night too.

Ophelia is the biggest and fluffiest.  She is also The Boss and does not let the other kittens forget it.  Horatio is a scrappy but affectionate little guy, who also serves as Ophelia's chief enforcer/right-hand-man when it comes to bossing around the other kittens.

Hamlet talks a lot to get my attention, and he also does this little high-pitched whine-growl while he eats.  I haven't decided whether he's warning the other kittens away from his meal or he just likes to sing.  He is the second largest and fluffiest, though doesn't really have any interest in being "in charge."

Ellie was the first one named, because she has a rather obvious white splash on her underside.  She is a sweet-natured little girl, and is one of those that like to snuggle with me.  She was the first one to ever purr for me, so I'm particularly fond of her.

Violet is a sweet-heart as well, though I do think that she's training to be a wire-fu artist.  She doesn't leap so much as hover in the air when she's pouncing on her siblings, hovering into open bags of cat food, etc.

No, I'm not attached at all.  I'm going to be sad to take them back next week, I'm sure.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Coming Home

Everyone remembers the first day that they came "home."

I remember walking up the steps to the house and putting the key into the lock on the front door of our house the day after we closed on it.  It was empty, but I felt as if its timbers and bricks were welcoming me in, whispering to me.  Yeah, I'm a fruitcake that way.  But I knew that I was home.

Do you remember the day that your pet came home for the first time?  Did they know that they were home, or were they just frightened of their new surroundings at first?  How long did it take them to come around?

Charlotte was furious with us when she came home.  I'm not sure that she realized that she was home yet.  I think she was angry about being in the shelter for a week and a half, angry about the car ride to the house, angry about the fact that we had the nerve to bring a kitten home with her, and then angry that we let her out of her carrier and expected her to god forbid interact with us.  I write all of this with a faint smile on my face, because I think that this is how I, many times, react to change as well.  Even change that eventually turns out good for me.  Charlotte knows that she is home now, and is very content.  But that first week was spent hiding under the largest pieces of furniture that she could find, and hissing and spitting at us if we interfered with her much.

Annie didn't know that she was home yet either, when we brought her home.  She paced the floor that first night like a wild animal.  She tried to claw out one of the window screens to escape.  She had been found stray by Animal Control, though she was not feral.  My guess is that she was accustomed to the outdoors, and felt terribly confined in this house of strange people and cats.  So definitely not home.  I'm not sure that she felt like she was home for a full year.  That was when she stopped running away from us, anyway.  I sometimes fear that she still doesn't feel like she is completely home.  She is a very anxious cat, and the way that she "sucks up" to me, I sometimes wonder if she's trying to convince me to let her stay.

Bit never questioned the fact that she belonged here.  It was home for her from the time we first let her out of her carrier.  She was a kitten, four months old, though.  All she wanted to do was play, and be adored, and explore all of the nooks and crannies of her new home.  The things that kittens do best.  She never questions it, but sometimes I also feel like she doesn't appreciate it either.  (Isn't that just like a kid?)  She takes for granted that I don't mind that she literally sleeps on top of my legs every night, that she is going to be fed, that she is going to be cuddled and crooned to and treated pleasantly.  And you know, that's okay.  I'd rather have her that way, than to be afraid.

Argos  immediately knew he was home.  I remember Jeff unlocking the door as I urged Argos through the doorway.  He looked up at me at first incredulously, then with joy.  It's absolutely amazing that a greyhound that had never seen someone's home before, having only known the track, knew that he was home.  Maera was nearly the same way - but having a different personality than Argos, her reaction was more one of curiosity than gratitude.  She wanted to explore ALL of the things, jumped up on ALL of the furniture to see what would be the most comfortable.  Taste ALL of the food.  But she too knew that she was home.

And that's what I think this animal rescue thing is all about.  Not just saving animals from certain death - either from euthanasia or the many unhappy endings that await them outdoors - though of course that is part of it.  But giving them a place that they KNOW is their home.  A place to belong.  Not just a house or apartment, but a place where they are part of the family.

If you've done that, even for just one of these animals, then you are a hero, no mistake about it.

What brought on this post?  I think that it's reading everyone's blogs, and thinking about how incredibly lucky their pets are to be in such caring, GOOD homes.  (And of course how lucky the HUMANS are to have such lovely animals in their lives.)  I count myself among the fortunate that I have been allowed to get to know you lovely pet bloggers, and that I can see just how much good is being done on behalf of animals.

Happy holidays to all of you.  I wish you joy and peace and warm snugglies with your favorite furry friends.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Hoarding Situation

With the recent publicity, most people know that true hoarding is a manifestation of a mental disorder.  My topic tonight is not that kind of hoarding:  those types of people are going to hoard no matter what happens, or at least until they are able to get help.

But I find myself wondering... how many reported hoarding situations are actually the result of a mental illness and how many are the result of a truly compassionate person who is incapable of turning an animal away?  Then of course, they get in over their heads, are afraid to ask for help, and things spiral out of control until animal control shows up and starts taking animals out in carriers and crates.  THAT is the situation that I am addressing here.

Because I can see how it could happen.  The need to give all of the homeless and unwanted animals a place to live, a chance at life,  is HUGE, and is never, or at least for the forseeable future, going to be completely satisfied.  There are always going to be people who can't take care of their pets any longer, for good reasons or bad, and there is always going to be pressure on an animal lover to DO SOMETHING about it.

How many messages do we see, on the Web, on signs, at the local shelter, letting us know either point-blank or by insinuation that if a particular animal doesn't get a home within three days that they are going to be killed?  What is the animal lover supposed to do?

In my own life, I see at least three of these messages a day.  And on extra-special days, I have friends directly query me on whether I can take their cat or their friend's cat in.  (I am not saying that any of these people are doing anything wrong at all.  The responsibility is on ME to say no. But I think that is where some animal lovers fall down.)

To prevent a "hoarding" situation in my own home, allowing it to get to the point that I am unable to clean up after everyone on a daily basis, or getting to the point that I am unable to feed everyone nutritious food, I have had to learn to say "NO."  Even if I knew that the animal was probably going to die because of it.  Even if I cried myself to sleep about it, and felt guilty about it for days  weeks months afterward.  Even though I still sometimes have doubts that I did the right thing.  I think that every animal lover has to draw that line in the sand, wherever it may be for that person.

For me, the City of Pittsburgh made it easy.  The ordinance is that no home can have more than five animals in it.  Yes, it would be easy to circumvent that rule; no one would ever need to know.  But I have a fear that it would start the spiral downward.  First, I would have secret animals in the house.  That means that if I'm truly worried that I'll be reported, I stop inviting people over, and retreat into my own shell.  I think that is where it would start.  But when you're over the invisible line, I think it is easier to say, "Well, we're already over, what's one more?"  So for me, five animals is the limit.  For some, even having five animals is unthinkable.  For some, who have a totally different living situation from me, they can handle far more than five.  And I think all of that is OK, as long as each individual knows his or her limits.

An animal lover, though, needs to be on guard.  We need to think really long and hard before adding any "newbies" to our household.  We need to think about available resources.  How much attention we're able to pay to each animal.  Whether anyone is going to be neglected.  Whether there is time in the day to scoop everybody's litter, fill everybody's food, give everybody's medicine.

And I really wish that we would get over our obsession with hoarders, putting them on t.v., showing them on the news, making fun of them, shaking our heads and feeling superior to them.  Hoarders are in the situation that they're in at least in part because they've retreated from the world.  I can't see where dragging them out into the light and mocking them on national television is possibly going to help them in any way.

I also wish that there were more resources to help "hoarders."  One of the most commonly quoted reasons for why someone had too many animals is that they were afraid that the authorities would kill them all.  And...  that fear is actually pretty well-founded.  I am sure that a lot of animals that are found in true hoarding situations are in bad enough shape that a quick and merciful death is truly the best route.  But I'm not so sure about many of them.  I've seen footage of some animals being taken out of homes.  To me, they don't look like they've been starved.  Most of the time, the cats look like they have respiratory infections.  Which can be cleared up with the proper environment and medications.  I don't blame animal control for choosing to euthanize instead of rehabilitate. Rehabilitation is expensive.  Which is where the wish for more resources comes in.  If there were more homes available to temporarily foster some of these babies, then shelters wouldn't be filled to bursting after a single raid.  I believe that some of these so-called hoarders would be much more willing to work with the authorities to rehome their animals if they thought that a genuine attempt to rehome was going to be made, and that the threat of the death of their furry loved ones wasn't constantly a factor hanging over their heads.

I don't know, maybe I'm full of crap.  Maybe those of you who actually work in shelters will tell me that the animals that come in from these situations are always in terrible shape.  But I do know that I wince when I hear about a raid on a hoarder.  Yes, in sympathy for the animals, of course.  I have seen pictures of some that were in truly deplorable condition.  But there's also a part of me that winces in sympathy for the hoarder.  Whether they're a true hoarder with a mental illness, or just an animal lover who couldn't say no, I feel horrible for them.  I can't imagine how it must feel to have all of your animals taken away from you, to who knows what fate.

Monday, December 19, 2011


A friend of mine has written several blog posts about kindness.  Here's a couple of them, but if you haven't checked out her blog for yourself, I highly recommend it.

Her words about kindness, along with her most recent post in which she talks about kindness to the self

have made me start thinking about that concept, and the role that it plays in all of our lives.  In our human lives, and certainly in the lives of the animals under our care.

And here is my thought about kindness.  We are all pre-disposed to expect it from others.  Our animals are the same.  We want to be treated kindly. We can really only react to others with kindness when we ourselves have been shown kindness, at least at some point in our lives.  And we react with hurt, anger, or even rage when it is withheld from us, or when we are treated unkindly.  We all have different threshholds, but I do know this much, even if the threshhold is different for each and every one of us, there is HELL to pay once it is crossed.

Because being treated unkindly isn't something that can easily be shrugged off.  It can break someone, human or animal.  How many broken people lash out and do serious emotional damage (or worse) to themselves and those around them because they were treated poorly for so long that they finally just gave up on others?  How many animals do the same?

Every time I hear about a dog attack, or a vicious dog, or hear the rage-filled screech of a cat lashing out at her handlers, I wonder what that animal's story is.  How badly did that dog have to be treated to be unable to bear the sight of a human being any longer?  Dogs aren't so good at generalizing (as anyone who has only trained their hound to "sit" in one room will learn - the dog might not realize that she has to sit anywhere else but that room.)  So how badly do they have to be treated before they ARE able to generalize that all humans are bad?  How many individual people have to fail them, either by offering them abuse and neglect, or by looking the other way when others do?  Dogs especially are very forgiving - I am always humbled when I read stories of so-called "vicious" fighting dogs gently wagging their tails and licking the hands of their human rescuers.  Or dogs like Patrick the Dog, who was starved, neglected, and eventually disposed of down the trash chute by his former owner.  If anyone has the right to be angry at the world, it's him.  But by all reports, he is gentle and kind, and still expects good things from humans.  These dogs are better than I would be in the same situation.

Many members of the pet blogosphere are dealing with the consequences of someone else's unkindness to an animal.  They are the ones who come in and try to pick up the pieces when an animal simply has no hope left.  I know that I read some of your blogs, in which you are rehabilitating an animal who has been abused, or neglected, or starved, and I am in awe.  Some of your stories bring me to tears, they are so filled with hope, love, fear that it will never be enough, and above all, kindness.  You know who you are.  May your kindness overshadow these animals' pasts, and drown out all of the unkind treatment that they have received.

And here is my second, sentimental wish (blame the holiday season, I guess.)  My wish for all of us is that we learn to treat those in our lives, both human and animal, with utmost kindness.  But most of all, that we learn to treat ourselves with that same kindness.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Weekend Has Arrived (At Last!)

It is going to be a busy weekend, with holiday parties and general housework type things, and making sure that we keep all of our critters happy and well.

I promised the animals that this post would NOT be about the kittens, but let me just say this much.  Kittens:  I am in awe of your mighty destructive prowess.  I think that these six little bitties managed to completely trash my bathroom in about twenty minutes tonight when I let them out to run and play.  Let's see...  one dived head first into the water bowl, sending water SLOSHING all over the floor.  After which the others, delighted at this, splashed and pounced happily through the puddles as I was desperately searching for a towel to clean up.  And then ran through their litter box.  So not only was my bathroom dripping with water, but it was now completely tracked up with wet clay litter!  They managed to climb into the trashcan, climb into the holder for the toilet scrubber, and one of them figured out how to slide under the radiator, which meant that they all caught on to that little game quickly.

Here is a picture of them being a little more sedate:

But anyway.  About my non-kitten post.  My other animals want for me to tell you how they are doing.  So.  In no particular order:

Argos and Maera are becoming better and better friends.  There are still little spats now and again, but I'm pleased with how well they get along.  Maera becomes positively distraught when Argos leaves without her, which he's done a couple of times:  once to go to the vet for his annual check-up, and once to go to the Meet & Greet at Ross Park Mall last week.  Jeff reports that she cries when we leave, and seems generally depressed about it until we get back.

Mommmmm, she's got cooties!
Bit and Annie have always been fast-friends, but they have been best friends lately.  Probably because they think I'm terrible for bringing the Tiny Menaces into the house.

Charlotte is herself.  She seems annoyed at the time that we spend behind closed doors with the kittens. (I'm quarantining them for at least a few days before I even let our cats in the same room, to make sure that they're not incubating kitty colds.)  She threw up a little earlier, which has me mildly concerned.  Any change in Charlotte's health is something that worries me.  I keep telling myself that all cats occasionally throw up, and hers even looked like it was at least partially a hairball.  Normal cat malady, Mel.  Take a deep breath.  All the same, Jeff and I have agreed that she's sleeping with us tonight so that we can be aware of any additional troubles.  (Her congestive heart failure was misdiagnosed as attempts to cough up hairballs, originally.  That being said, back then, her coughing never actually PRODUCED a hairball, it just sounded like it.)

Charlotte is unconcerned about my concern.
Maera continues to do well.  We've given her a bit more freedom this week to choose which room she wants to be in.  In the past, she was always required to stay with one of us, because I didn't quite trust her not to harass the cats or to get into things that she shouldn't.  I trust her with the cats now, and am learning to keep certain things out of temptation's reach, so now want to wean her off of being in the room with us at all times.  Frequently, she does choose to lie down on our bed in our bedroom while we're in the study in the next room, so that's a step towards more independence.

OK, this picture has nothing to do with Maera's independence, but it amuses me.  I think she's doing an iPhone intervention with me.

I hope that all of you have a wonderful weekend, and that you are able to lavish your furry friends with love and attention and affection.  I know that I plan to!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Our kitten babies are doing well.  They eat like little horses, and are just so adorable that I want to snuggle with them all.  They're still not too certain that THEY want to snuggle with ME, though, but a couple of the bolder ones seem to be coming around.  I think I even heard a tiny purr coming from one.

Jeff built a carpeted "kitten shelf" to put in their Kitten Containment Unit.    It took them awhile to figure out how to use it.

The first to figure it out:
I am the 1%!
The rest of them figuring it out (with a little help from my husband):

They are lovely.  I have no idea of how I'm going to be able to tell them all apart enough to accurately name them though!  There are two fluffies and four short-hairs, that much I can see.  But there isn't much color variation here to work with.  I know that there are two boys and four girls.  I can't wait to name them!

The dogs are cheerfully oblivious that we have other creatures in the house, though I do get sniffed from head to toe when I leave the kitten room.  The cats have suspicions, but choose to not be too concerned about it until they actually see proof.  They were all glaring at that closed door this morning, though, when they heard the kittens playing with a jingle ball...

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I was going to get on and rant about something tonight, but something came up to distract me.

Kittens!  The Animal Rescue League asked us to foster a late litter of kittens for them until they're big enough to keep at the shelter.  And how on earth was I supposed to say no to THAT?

Hopefully I will have more attractive photos later.  They still think that I am a Big Scary Monster (TM) and so aren't hitting their super-model poses for me yet.

Anyway, it is impossible to muster up enough righteous indignation to rant about something bad when you have six sets of little eyes peering at you.  So instead I am going to melt into a kitten-induced coma.

A couple of first night observations, from a kitten-newbie, before I go to bed:

1.  Kittens never stop moving.  There is a seething black pile of undulating fur in my guest room right now.

2.  Kittens have no sense of self-preservation.  Which is why they are in a crate right now.  I have no desire to have to pull kittens out of my box springs, or off of my curtain rod.  Or from under the radiator.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Easy Like Sunday

Usually, I see these beautiful restful pictures on CAT blogs, but dogs are pretty good at lazing about as well.  Particularly greyhounds.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This and That

It's been a rather busy day today, as Saturdays often can be.  After giving Argos an early morning bath and giving him a chance to dry off, the two of us (leaving Jeff and Maera at home) drove across the city to the Ross Park Mall.  We had volunteered to do a Meet & Greet event in a new venue - a store called Moochie & Company.  It was a fantastic store!  I imagine that most greyhounds would completely love to be in it...  it has lots of stuff for dogs, but what I saw EVERYWHERE were toys, toys, toys.  Most of them with squeakers.  Which meant that every time new customers came into the store and tried out the squeaky toys, Argos and adoptable hound Flyer would throw their heads up and STARE into the back of the store.

The Meet and Greet went very well.  Argos has a great personality for these events - he loves people of all kinds, and just assumes that the feeling is mutual.  He's not shy about just walking up to someone and leaning against their legs, staring up at them beseechingly for petting.  It melts the hardest of hearts.  Adoptable hound Flyer did an awesome job as well.  You'd have thought that he'd spent his entire life meeting and greeting all kinds of people, for all that he's only been off of the track for a few weeks.

One of the things that Moochie had that AMAZED me was a rack of squeaky toys that were every bit as long as a greyhound.  Argos would eye them with a certain gleam in his eye every time someone squeezed one of them and it made a noise.  I almost bought one, but then worried that Maera would destroy it too quickly - and then we would have a giant orange squeaky toy with the stuffing coming out, like all of its miniature cousins hidden in our living room closet.

I did buy a couple of other toys for the dogs, however.  One is a long green monkey/grinch looking thing with a santa hat on.  Maera caught sight of this when I got home before I even took it out of the bag, and before I knew it was pulling it out and playing with it.  I'd say that she approves.

She is now lying on top of it on her bed so that no one else can have it.

Which makes Argos sad.  Maera stole the best toy AND he has to lie on the couch and have holiday pictures taken of him.  You might think that this is the most glum Santa you have ever seen, but just you wait.

Maera is glum.  She is not allowed to eat the Santa hat.

That's better.

But the most upset of them all, and the one the most lacking in this thing called "holiday cheer" is:

Ho.  Ho.  Ho.  I hate you sometimes.
I'm not sure what displeased her more:  that I put the hat on her to begin with, that I started laughing and taking pictures, or that after the third shot, Maera leapt up over the back of the chair and whisked the hat right off of Charlotte's head before running off with it to do a bizarre parade of the vanquished around the main floor of the house.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Have you ever wondered WHY dogs adore us so much?  Is it because we are magic food machines, or is it a more pure love than that?  I personally think that it's a little bit of both - no one does devotion like a dog does, and I don't actually think that mine are that devoted to me just because I am Food Provider.  (Though it doesn't hurt.)

I frequently wonder why they adore me so much.  I mean, I'm not a HORRIBLE person, and I'm kind to them, and love them to distraction.  But part of me feels very unworthy of the level of devotion that I am shown.  I get irritable - frequently with them - and am not as patient as I could be.  I worry over them too much - constantly on the lookout for something that might be wrong.  I can almost sense the eye-rolls sometimes.    Though I do take them places, I don't do it nearly as often as I might like, and there's that whole abandoning them every workday thing, so that I can earn enough of a paycheck to feed them.

But they don't see it that way.  When I'm irritable with them, they keep seeking me out, clowning for me in an attempt to appease me and to put me into a better mood.  (I for one, would avoid me, and possibly give me the silent treatment.)  When I fuss over them - whether it's their training, their health, their attitude, they endure it with quiet patience... they don't seem to care whether I take them hiking, to the park, or into the back yard. Because what they really want is to be with me, no matter where we are.  And if they get upset with me for going to work, their joy upon my return makes them quickly forget.

And really, although this post started out being about the dogs, my cats show a similar level of devotion.  I know that felines have a reputation for being aloof, but honestly, I do not see that trait in any of my cats, nor did I see it in either of the fosters.  They are simply delighted to see me when I get home, or when I get out of bed in the morning, greeting me with loud meows and purrs, shaking their tails at me like they are rattlesnakes instead of cats.  They don't punish me for leaving them, and they quickly forgive me for any bad mood that I might be in.  And it's not because I'm the perfect cat-mom, either.  I just think that they have more of a capacity for loyalty and love than they're given credit for.

May I show my loved ones that same understanding and devotion that my animals have modeled for me.  I have a feeling that I'm on to something there - this is the kind of thing that would shake the world,and in a good way, if it were more widely practiced.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I've made a post about the beauty of things around me in the past, and in that post, I talked about how beauty affects me (and probably everyone else.)  It warms the heart.  It turns thoughts towards things that are good, and pure, instead of focusing on the ugliness that at times seems to surround us.  My thoughts have been gray-tinged for awhile now, and that tends to only amplify during the holiday season.  The holidays just don't warm me like they used to - I think that I see all  of the nastiness that people are capable of leading up to the celebration...  the woman who pepper-sprayed other Walmart shoppers for threatening her shopping turf, the nasty drivers in the shopping district near my house, so intent on getting out and accumulating stuff that they bang on their horns for any and all reasons, and make nasty gestures out of car windows at one another.  The sheer volume of people increasing no matter where you go.  Whatever.  My intent is not to bring anyone down, or to convince others to not like the holidays - there is good there too, I just have a difficult time seeing it sometimes.

Which is why I decided to take today to focus on the simple pleasures in my own home, far from the hustle and bustle.  And even though I've made a similar post before, I thought it appropriate to do it again, in case anyone else is stuck with me in this place of grayness.  These are the things that fill me with a sense of appreciation.  I'm glad that I have my husband (though he is not pictured) and my animals, and the life that we have made for ourselves.

Okay.  There's really nothing that beautiful about a ratty pair of sneakers and a single mary-jane, but this is what I saw when I came downstairs.  It made me giggle, then laugh.  I must have needed the laugh, because I had to eventually sit down.  Maera loves to hoard shoes.  This is all Maera's fault.  But I thought that anything that got me to give a belly-laugh deserved a mention in this blog post.

And speaking of Maera, one cannot continue to have negative thoughts when THESE brown eyes are gazing at you adoringly.  Well, gazing at you asking for treats.  But I'm sure that there was some adoration in there too.

Bit's glamor shot.  Caught quite unintentionally while she was watching me get ready to do my little bit of shopping.  I love her green eyes.  And her ear tufts.  A world with kitty ear tufts cannot be that bad of a place to live.

Though the photo quality might not be stellar, there are few things that are more pleasant and relaxing than watching a cat groom herself in a shaft of sunlight.  That is the image that I get in my head when I think of the word "contentment."

It's good to see that Argos and Maera are becoming friends.  It warms my heart to see it.  Even if they did evict Annie from the bed.  Really, they'd have been happy to merely join her, but Annie would never consent to that.

One thing that tells me that all is well, and I can relax, is when I come home and Charlotte is on the back of the recliner.  It is HER perch.  It's the first place that I look when I can't find her.  All is well, Charlotte is at her post.

And one thing that I can finally do is look at old pictures of Romeo, and enjoy the beauty that is in them.  I was avoiding pictures of him, because seeing them always made me feel a lump in the back of my throat, and I would have to fight down guilt that we couldn't do more for him than we were able to.  I have finally set aside the guilt, and can look at the single year that we had him as a reprieve from the shelter for him.  He got soft, warm places to sleep, and as you can see above, he WAS able to relax in our house, for all that he was bullied by the other cats.

I hope that you enjoyed the photos.  I know that photos of other people's pets are probably not as relaxing as photos of your own, but I would encourage anyone who is suffering from the holiday blahs to take some time, slow down, and enjoy the loved ones, two-legged and four-legged alike.  The beauty and comfort is there if we but look.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why We Chose Greyhounds

We always knew that we would eventually get a dog.  We really were only waiting until we owned our own home.  We never really thought about breed all that much either: it was just assumed that we would get a dog, and that we would love him or her no matter what breed, or mix we wound up with.

The seed of an idea was planted back in 1997.  Jeff and I had been conducting a long-distance relationship (He, in Boston, Massachusetts, and I, in Northwestern Missouri.)  We had decided to end this long-distance nonsense, and I made preparations to move out to Boston to be with him.  I'd gotten rid of most of my worldly goods, as I didn't have much anyway, and much of what I had just duplicated something that was already up in the apartment in Boston.  We were out at my aunt's house for a family send-off, and Jeff and I showed up a little early.  I remember that we opened the front door to enter the house, and a huge river of whippets streamed down the hall towards us, leaping over one another, cavorting, rejoicing that new people had come.  (My aunt bred whippets.)  Behind the wild pack of whippets, walked two greyhounds, quiet, self-assured, patiently waiting for us to give them some attention.

We both kept getting drawn to those two greyhounds, as much fun as playing with the lively whippets was.  My aunt explained that they were rescues, and that was the first that I had ever heard of rescuing greyhounds from the racetrack.  That information got filed.  Since we were in no position to even consider getting a dog at the time, neither of us even stopped to think about whether we would do a greyhound rescue ourselves.

Fast-forward through our years in Boston, our wedding, a move to Pittsburgh, several years of apartment living, to finally getting our own home.  Many of you have read the story of how we got our cats, so you know that we adopted all three of them within a week of moving in.  A dog, we put on hold.  Jeff was the first one to mention that he wouldn't mind having a greyhound, when the time came, and I agreed that it would be awesome.  We both could just picture a greyhound walking down our hallway.  I started to do a little research, and unfortunately was immediately dissuaded by someone saying that greyhounds were not capable of peaceful coexistence with cats.  I didn't read any more about them.  Disheartened, I shared the information with Jeff, and we regretfully decided that having a greyhound was just not for us. Even though this might have been the time to start researching other breeds, I just didn't have the heart for it.  I figured that I'd get around to it eventually.

I was back in Kansas City, visiting family one Easter, and my aunt dropped in to visit at my parents' house.  She brought one of her greyhounds with her.  As I was petting him and paying him  much attention, I mentioned my concerns about greyhounds and cats to her.  She quickly reassured me that not all greyhounds were incapable of living with cats - that some didn't have much natural prey drive, and could be taught to leave them alone.  A spark of hope!

I went home, and Jeff and I started researching in earnest.  Cat safe greyhounds did exist!  We found three different rescue groups in the general Pittsburgh area, and decided that we would give Steel City Greyhounds a try.  We went to a Petco Meet & Greet right before Christmas two years ago, and interrogated the two volunteers there for a solid hour, while petting and fussing over their two greyhound "ambassadogs" the entire time.  We were convinced.

We went back home, and right after the New Year holidays, I submitted our application to adopt a greyhound.  They called me the very next day for a phone interview, and must have liked what they heard, because we were invited to drop in that weekend to meet a big red fawn male that they had, named Willie.

And from there, we were gonners.  They led a great big, skinny dog out to meet us.  He looked at me with his enormous brown deer eyes and wagged his tail at me uncertainly, and in that one moment frozen forever in my memory, stole my heart.  It didn't hurt that we brought him home for a "test run" and he didn't even seem to realize that our cats existed.  He sniffed EVERYTHING in the house, except for the cats.  They'd hiss and follow him around, and he just never even looked at them.

The typical adopter seems to bring the dog back and then goes home to think about it for a couple of days, or to at least prepare.  We couldn't do that...  we took him back, but only to sign the adoption paperwork and to hand over the adoption fee.  We didn't have bowls, bedding, a crate, anything...  so took him on his very first outing to Petco that very day and outfitted him with the basics.

And as you all know, Willie became Argos.

Argos, still at track weight, about a month after we adopted him.
Meeting a greyhound "in the flesh" is definitely what won us over.  And that is why I volunteer to help out with Meet & Greets and similar activities whenever possible, and why I am patient to stop and answer questions when we're out walking...  I don't think that adopting a greyhound is something that a lot of people think about doing UNLESS they've met one, or know someone who has one.

Could we have been happy with another breed of dog?  A happy, grinning pit bull?  A peppy, energetic Jack Russell?  A protective and gorgeous German Shephard?  A big mixed breed of indeterminate lineage?  Absolutely.  We're animal-lovers, and would have loved whichever breed that we adopted.  But I'm so glad that we got to know greyhounds.  I love them.  And not just ours - the breed is one that simply delights me.  Their elegance.  Their reserve (though it should be said that greyhounds, like everyone else, are individuals.  Some are more reserved than others!)  Their beauty.  And yes, I'll admit it, their strong desire to sleep on the couch all day.  The fact that yes, they do need exercise, but not hours and hours of it.  The fact that they are largely quiet.

I love my dogs.  I cannot imagine a time that we will not decide to have a greyhound.  I've made plenty of mistakes in my life, but adopting greyhounds is NOT one of them.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  I hope that everyone (that celebrates it, that is) was able to feast today, and to spend time with loved ones, furred and not so furred.

Our Thanksgiving was a quiet one, as they tend to be.  Three humans and one cat, at my mother-in-law's.  You might remember that my mother-in-law's one cat is Patches, an alumnus of the House of Carnivores.  For those who have started reading late, Patches was a foster-cat at our house for six months.  My mother-in-law liked him, and so now he is in his forever home with her!

Here he is.  You'd almost think that HE was the one that was stuffed full of turkey and carb-heavy (but tasty!) food.

Patches, sleeping.
Patches is one of those cats that is a good lesson:  sometimes it is GOOD to let go and let one of the kitties go on to their destiny, even if that is with someone else.  He was reasonably content in this house, but he is very obviously HAPPY at my mom-in-law's.  He was far more relaxed without having to constantly assert his dominance over another cat, and seemed pleased with the amount of space that he has to romp with.  And he seems very fond of his new person as well.

I had planned to take advantage of the daylight hours home and get some new pictures of everyone when the lighting was good, but those plans were shot by a late afternoon nap that went on just a little too long...  ah well.  It was a good nap!

Again, happy Thanksgiving to all!  I am thankful for all of you, and for the support network that you are part of.  It has really been good for me to get to know so many people with animals; it's been such a learning experience!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Reasons to Have Multiple Pets

Many people think that we're crazy for having a houseful of animals, and well, they may have a point there.  But I wouldn't give it up for anything, as I'm sure most of you would agree.  I've been mulling over a list for a few weeks now, and would like to provide it to you.  Reasons to have multiple animals.  Some reasons are more serious than others.

1.  You never, ever have to sleep alone.  There is always SOMEONE who wants to snuggle up beside you.

2.  You never, ever have to go to the bathroom alone.  I don't know.  Maybe this isn't such a good one to include in the list.  Even if it is true.

3.  Their antics will make you laugh.

4.  Their interactions with one another will give you plenty of insight into the human condition.  Since I've had my animals, I've become much better at stripping the varnish and gloss from people's words, and seeing the truth underneath it all.  We're not so different from them.

5.  You save multiple lives by adopting them.

6.  You will never ever have an excuse to be bored again.

7.  You will become great friends with the workers at your local Petco or similar store.  Between dog kibble, cat kibble, canned cat food, cat litter, toys, training treats, litter box deodorizer, enzymatic cleaner, etc. etc., it is a rare weekend that we don't have to pop in.

8.  If you have dogs, you will get to know every dog owner on your block, in your dog park, etc.  They will know your dog's name, and if you're lucky, will remember yours.

9.  It's tremendously fun to see a new animal's personality emerging as he or she gets more comfortable around you.

10.  They are all so excited to see you when you get home, and compete for your attention throughout the day.  It's difficult to not be flattered by this, even if you do sometimes have to put the brakes on the competitive attention-hogging for them.

11.  You will wonder what you ever talked about before getting the animals.

12.  You will find yourself saying things that you'd never dreamed of before:  "Maera, get your head out from under the radiator" was the winning phrase of the day here.

13.  You will never be cold again.

14.  It will make your heart grow.

OK, I'm sure that most of these are true even if you have one pet... no judgment if you decide to stick with one!  But if you DID want to sneak in a second, or third, or fourth...  maybe one of these reasons will be your justification?  (Me, the Enabler.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Life Goes On...

I guess it's one thing that you eventually (maybe) learn when you agree to become a foster home for animals, is that after their departures for what are hopefully happy forever homes, life does go on.  I'll keep you posted on whether I'm EVER able to completely learn this lesson.  Patches gave us a nice "soft start" to giving up a foster - he went to my mother-in-law, which means that we knew exactly what kind of home he'd be in, and we knew that we'd get to see him again in the future.  It was a little harder with Mitchell, since we are looking at every possibility of never seeing him again.  But it does help that we know that he went to a good home.

And like I said, life does go on...

Maera seems to have developed a UTI.  I understand that this is not uncommon in female dogs, particularly young ones.  We took her in to see the vet last week, as soon as I started to notice that something was wrong:  there were a couple of potty accidents in the house, and several additional attempts to potty once outside.  They gave us an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory after testing her urine and finding bacteria.   I have to laugh at how much easier it is to give her antibiotics than it is for us to do the same for one of the cats...  push the pills into a piece of hot dog, offer hot dog to Maera.  Gulp.  End of story.

We've been trying to play with the dogs a little more in the yard.  A tired Maera is a much better-behaved Maera, and it's good for Argos to be a little bit less lazy as well.  Usually they can be convinced to chase each other around and around the yard, sometimes we need to throw one of their toys for them to go get. Sometimes, it takes getting down on the ground with them for a little friendly wrestling match.

Mom, what are you doing on the ground?
No, really?  What ARE you doing?
Both dogs got a certificate after we finished up their obedience training classes on Saturday.  The classes were invaluable training for all of us.  What we got out of them - dogs that have started a more "trainable" portion of their lives.  Maera sits on command now, and Argos will after much grumbling and complaining.  They're getting better about stays, and better about "leave it" and their recall has improved.  But I think that most importantly, Jeff and I have learned how to train the dogs appropriately, and have learned about how to use the clickers/treats to get them to do what we want.

As for the cats, I  think that they miss Mitchell.  Well, Charlotte doesn't.  Charlotte probably would be happy if all of the other cats vanished.

What do you mean that I can't be Queen without other feline subjects?
The night after Mitchell left us, Bit paced around the house all night, occasionally crying.  It was like she was looking for him...  the two of them were playmates, Mitchell being the only one who was willing to chase her up and down the stairs.  Annie probably misses him the most:  he snuggled with her and groomed the top of her head for her every day.  But they've adjusted, as they always do when we humans go and mess things up.  Annie and Bit are spending more time together again:  they were inseparable before Mitchell, but when he was around, Annie seemed to choose his company over Bit's more often.

So that's really our lives right now...  the cats are getting used to being Three again, doing lots of snuggling with us in the process, and the dogs are completely unaware that we're short one cat.

Everyone keep your fingers crossed that poor Maera's UTI clears up ASAP.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Good-bye, Mitchell (in a good way)

Mitchell got adopted tonight. I won't say much, out of respect for the new owner's privacy.  However, I will say that I am pleased with how everything turned out.  Mitchell is going to be very happy in his new home, and I wish him all the best.

But damn, I'm going to miss the little guy.

I suppose that's one of the hazards of the "job" when you foster.

That being said, I just emailed the foster coordinator of the shelter and told her that we might take a brief break, but would be up for fostering more in the future.  So clearly I haven't learned my lesson!

It's okay, Mom, you still have ME.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Who was your first pet?

My actual first pet was a black and white boy (cat) that I named, in all of my three-year-old wisdom, "T-nut"  (my valiant attempt to say Peanut.)  He died of unknown causes when I was five years old.  I was barely able to understand the concept, and didn't grieve overly much due to that lack of understanding.  Which is why, when I think of my first pet, I don't have many memories of Peanut, though he must have been a sweet, gentle soul to have so gamely put up with me at that age.

No, the first pet that I remember was a cat of a completely different stripe.  After Peanut was buried, my parents gave it a couple of weeks, then took me to the "pound" to pick out a kitten.  I don't remember much about this shelter, though I don't think it was a very progressive, no-kill type of place.  Even at five years old, I knew that not every animal was getting out of there.

The shelter workers put me into a room, and then turned loose about twenty kittens on me.  Haha, I can't even begin to imagine setting that kind of chaos loose on a five year old child, but I seem to recall that it was fantastic and fun regardless.  Kittens of all colors climbed all over me, cavorted with one another, and had a party in the way that only a group of kittens turned loose on a small child can manage.

And then there was one.  He climbed up my back, using his claws as tiny crampons.  He got to the top, that is, my shoulders, took one look into my eyes, and panicked!  He leapt off of my shoulder and went skittering across the room to hide... behind a giant chest freezer.  And that was the one that I wanted.

My parents tried to talk me into choosing an easier-to-get, possibly more compliant kitten, but I was dead set on that one.  We had to make it a team effort to get him out from behind that freezer, and then he was mine.

He was pure white, with short, soft fur and green eyes.  And he became "Snowball" that day.  (No, my naming abilities hadn't really progressed that far beyond the days of "T-nut" yet.)

Never a more cantankerous cat existed.  He would ride my toddler brother down the hall by sinking claws into the poor kid's back...  though come to think of it, my brother thought it was kind of funny.  He would hide from us sometimes, and then leap out of the shadows and scare us into gibbering insensibility.  And this is what he did for FUN.  And yet he would come in and snuggle up beside me at night, before my father would come and send him to the basement until morning.

Snowball contracted FeLV at some point.  He was an indoor-outdoor cat, and so likely got into a fight with an infected cat.  Not much was known about the disease at the time, this was back in the 1980s.  (Or if it was known, it was not conveyed to us.)  Despite his disease, he lived to be a very old cat, passing away when I was a teenager.

He wasn't much of a child's pet, really.  He liked my mom more than he liked anyone else, and had an unfortunate habit of lashing out at us kids if he felt like we were invading his space.  But I loved him.

It is probably Snowball's "fault" that I have my current taste in cats.  The cantankerous, difficult to get along with ones are the ones that I have a soft heart towards.  The ones that I itch to remove from the shelter so that they have a home in which they can be themselves without worrying about euthanasia due to personality.  I'm sure that I have him to thank for Charlotte - if I hadn't had him around for eleven of my formative years, a cat that bloodied me on our first meeting would have probably scared me to death.

Thanks, Snowball.  I hope that you peer down at me over the Bridge sometimes, and that you think of me fondly.  I've grown up quite a bit from the little girl who would occasionally tug your tail, I promise.

So, who was your first pet?  Did you have a pet as a child, or was this an adult-onset mania?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


We are in the process of training the dogs in basic obedience.  We attend a class just for greyhounds every Saturday afternoon, and we have been introduced to the world of clickers and treats, and using these wonderful tools to get the dogs to do what we want for them to do.  It's just the basics for now - sit, down, stay, come, "leave it."   And a little bit of very basic agility work.

I have to admit, in the beginning I was hopeful yet a tiny bit skeptical.  Argos is a very well-behaved gentleman, but he is stubborn and a bit set in his ways.  I knew that he would be resistant, at least in the beginning, to learning new things.  And Maera, while very anxious to please us, is still so very excitable that sometimes she forgets how to listen, and in the process forgets her manners and does things like jumping up on us, nipping (though gently) at our hands, etc. etc.

But it is working very well.  Maera is still excitable, though we are slowly starting to get through to her, and she's starting to look to us for cues.  If I get a milk bone out of the "treat closet" for her, her butt instantly hits the floor into a "sit" as she anxiously awaits her treat.  This is a vast improvement over launching herself airborne, sometimes at my head-height, to get the treat ASAP.  And Argos is still stubborn.  He still doesn't really WANT to learn to do all of these things, but he's doing them.  And in class, he just lights up and enjoys showing off when he has either me or Jeff all to himself (the other has Maera and is all the way across the room, with several dogs in between.)

I think what I like about the rewards-based, clicker training, is that the dogs really ENJOY learning.  They love class, because they get gobs of treats.  And it's really helping Maera get over her fear...  the first couple of classes were spent with her tail between her legs and not letting anyone besides me or Jeff approach her but slowly, very slowly, she is starting to wag her tail at the other dogs, and sometimes she even lets other people approach her without shying away.

I've read some additional manuals, guides, whatevers, to training, and am just impressed by the amount of knowledge that is out there about training the dogs.  But I am also starting to see that there are some differences in opinion on how to train dogs...  many differences in opinion and approach.  I won't go into very many of the particulars, because I don't want to make it sound like I'm condemning anyone for choosing different training methods than we're using.  All dogs are different, so different approaches are no doubt warranted.  My opinion is that if the dogs are learning, and they are happy, then the approach isn't  important.

But there are certain things that I've chosen to reject in THIS HOUSE.  I can certainly respect that other people have chosen differently, and can see valid reasoning behind it, though.  One light-hearted example:  many of the training guides (not in our Saturday training sessions)  say to keep the dogs off of human beds and human furniture at all times.  That to allow them to be so elevated gives them ideas that they are higher in the pecking order than they are.

I say "meh" to that.  At least with my dogs.  I don't notice them trying to establish their authority over me even on their less than perfect days.  I want them to be comfy.  I want them to know that this is THEIR home too.  They don't just take up space.  They live here.  If one ever challenged me for my place on the bed, then they would lose bed privileges, but until then, as said before, "meh."

Not to mention, I would get heartily sick of listening to the sad violin music every time I tried to shoo Argos off of the couch!

I believe that there is nothing in this world that he is so attached to more than the couch.  (Jeff and I being the happy exceptions to this rule, I think.)

Though Bit is equally attached to her "crow's nest" at the top of the kitty tower.

But anyway.  Here is to happy dogs (and cats.) May we always be able to balance our training with fun for them.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fall in the House

As the seasons turn, things start to change in the House of Carnivores.  As it gets cooler, it is rare for me to wake up without cats curled up behind my knees, beside my torso, and sometimes snuggled up to the back of my head.  The dogs are friskier in the backyard, and run kicking through the leaves, in their still awkward playing style... a combination of nipping each other and RUNNING away, and sometimes getting mad at one another for nipping too hard.

Maera got to see her first snowfall last weekend, which came before the leaves started to fall,  (Luckily for us, even if it snowed enough to give us about an inch, it all melted within hours.)

Windows are closed, and cats are a little more interested in hanging out on top of the radiator covers these days...  they are actually putting off heat, after all.

I do always mourn the loss of summer and its green growing things, but I have to admit, it is a cozy feeling as we close up the house and start preparing for winter.  Very homey.  I've been cooking a lot of comfort foods (which is in a way unfortunate, as I am TRYING to lose weight for a trip to Jamaica in a few months.)  And I'm inside more often, which means that I get to enjoy the company of the cats more often.  And we've finally hit that "golden" stretch of fall where there is blue sky and bright sunshine that seems to make the colors on the trees glow almost like fire.

Oh, and Patches is back.  Just for a couple of days while my mother-in-law is away at a conference.

So enjoy a collection of my fall photos:

First, some fall color.
Now on to the animals...

The first thing that Patches did upon his return was to prove his dominance over the dogs.
While Charlotte carved out more of her kingdom...  elsewhere.

Why did no one TELL us that this is a throne?
Mitchell finds the sweet spot:  warm towels stacked on top of warm radiator.
My 65 lb lap-dog.
Jeff's rather shameless 65 lb lap-dog.

Argos and Maera model their winter coats on a cold day
And Annie steals Charlotte's basket.
And here is a picture of Bit, hiding from the camera:  Ok.  There is no picture of Bit.  She kept running away whenever she saw the purple case of my iPhone.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Allergies, Part Two

I made an earlier post about how I've been afflicted with sinus congestion and a cough since July, and wanted to update my status about that and to make a point.  To summarize, for those of you who didn't see it, I mentioned that one of my very real fears was that these symptoms were caused by allergies, and that the allergies might be to my pets.  At the time, I was starting to suspect a mold allergy more than anything, but the fear that my babies might be causing my problems was still gnawing at me.

My symptoms have mostly cleared up.  My cough is 99.9% gone.  I can breathe.  Which is good news!

But it has been a very rough few months.  And I suddenly have a better understanding of why people dump their cats off at the shelter, complaining of allergies.  No, no, I haven't done it and was not even tempted to do so.  I've just developed an empathy that I didn't have before.  Let me explain.

My cough was bad.  I would get started and would be unable to stop.  Sometimes it would happen when I was trying to talk, or when I was trying to eat or sleep.  Sometimes I would cough so hard that I would make myself throw up.  And if that is not demoralizing, I don't know what is.  Remember that all of this time we didn't know what was causing it.  At first, we just thought it was a cold gone into my chest.  But when it persisted for weeks, a month, then two months, we knew that it had to be something else.

It seemed like the entire world,  articles written by medical personnel first and foremost, wanted for me to get rid of my cats.  I read tons and tons and tons of medical literature on how to deal with pet allergies, because I was that scared.  The literature was not helpful.  ALL of it suggested that I get rid of the cats.  And I guess from a purely clinical standpoint, the suggestion makes sense.  Sometimes the literature would make a grumpy-sounding second suggestion, the tone of which sounding like it thought that only a truly unreasonable person wouldn't just ditch the cats.  It would go on to say that I could try shutting them out of my bedroom at all times to give myself a "safe zone" free of cat dander, though usually these articles were quick to emphasize that even that might not work.

My cough persisted.   I worried.

I went down into a deep, dark hole and no one could follow me there. (OK, pause for a moment.  I know that this sounds melodramatic, but that really is what it seemed like. I will admit that I was terribly depressed. Bear in mind that I had also just lost my grandmother, and was dealing with the emotions that come with that.)  There was no relief from my worry, since my symptoms never relented, and at night I would bury my face in the fur of one of the cats, or one of the dogs during the day, and cry.  It never occurred to me that the act of burying my face in fur without triggering a massive allergy attack probably was a clue that the pets were NOT my problem.

My husband, bless him, kept me sane.  He would talk me through my anxiety attacks, reassuring me that even if I was allergic, that we would find a way to keep the animals.  I could take allergy medicine.  Maybe get allergy shots.  I did some research, and discovered a product called Allerpet, which is supposed to neutralize a very large percentage of dander before it even goes airborne.  (Although we never tried it.  Have any of you?)  We would try the cat-free bedroom if it came to that.  But for the moment, we were in a holding pattern.  We didn't want to banish the cats from our sleeping quarters if we didn't have to, or start spending the money on dander treatments if we didn't need to, so I just followed the doctor's orders, taking three different kinds of medication to try to cut down on the sinus congestion which would in turn cut down on the cough.  I also used a Neti Pot in the mornings to wash out my sinuses.  We ran air purifiers on each of the floors of the house.

And my symptoms slowly went away.  I started to feel good again.  My mood is starting to lift.  Hooray, let the trumpets sound.

But not everyone is so lucky.  I had a few things in my favor, when it came to the decision to keep my animals.

1.)  I am stubborn.  If you look up "stubborn" in the dictionary, some editions might just have my picture displayed.  I had extended my protection over these animals, and I would have rather chopped off my own foot than get rid of a single one of them.  This stubbornness grew every time I read an article telling me that I should get rid of them.  Or every time a friend or acquaintance suggested that I do the same.

2.)  I had a good support network.  My husband, certain family members, and a very small group of friends supported me through this time.   The pet blogosphere was a comforting place as well, even if I wasn't yet able to publicly talk about my problems.  (I can't count how many nights I sat there, poised to tell all of you about this, but just couldn't bring myself to do it.  It just made the problem seem too real to write about it.)   When I would, exhausted from coughing and wondering if I was going to die before this was resolved, worry out loud about what I was going to do if this was brought on by dander, these lovely people would soothe my fears.  They would, God love them, remind me of what a stubborn cuss that I was, and that I was, behind the cough, a very strong person.  They would gently push me to start working on an "action plan" that would enable us to keep the animals, allergies or no allergies.  They made me feel a little bit less like a social pariah, which I really was feeling like at the time.

What does a person do when they're down in that deep, dark hole when they don't have my mulish stubborn streak?  Or if they don't have a support network?  What if all of their friends and family are telling them to get rid of the animals?  And what if their doctor joins in?  Are they really going to want to wait three months for the doctors to come up with the perfect combination of the perfect drugs to clear up their symptoms?  Or are they going to start trying anything, ANYTHING to get relief?

Don't get me wrong, I am still very cynical at the high numbers of pet surrenders due to allergies.  I think that many times, the allergies are just an excuse.  Allergies are like the no-fault divorce in the pet world.  You avoid judgment, after all, you're just looking after your own health, and also your pet avoids judgment.  No behavioral issues here.  No one's fault.  A confused, sad animal still winds up in a cage, to be adopted by strangers, or even worse, to be adopted by no one at all.

I know that there are people with very real, very intense allergies to pets.  And that these people have a legitimate medical reason for needing to seek relief by removing a pet from their household.  I think that this number of people is very small...  much smaller than shelter statistics would suggest.

I have to wonder, how many of these owner-surrenders are from people that were in a place like I was?  No confirmed cat allergies.  Just a whole lot of unexplainable symptoms, nights of coughing-induced sleeplessness, and questions without answers.  I felt very lonely during this time, even with my support network.  I felt like no one could truly understand how I was feeling (and in the light of day, I can see how untrue such a feeling was, but in that deep, dark place it made perfect sense.  No one understood me.  No one could.)  What would someone in this position do, if they were feeling the same things that I was feeling?

How many of those people would have kept their animals if they'd been shown how to minimize their exposure to dander, or at least been talked through it by someone, anyone.  Or if their doctors were more inclined to try alternatives before recommending pet removal.  Or if there was at least one person there to support them and encourage them to try to keep their pet.

I'm sure that many, or probably even most, shelters do have something in place to counsel allergy-sufferers.  (Shelter workers, correct me if I am wrong.)  Do veterinarians counsel about pet allergies?  Would someone even think to ask them?  What if doctors were more educated on alternative ways to deal with pet allergies?  Are there non-profit groups devoted to this?

I really don't know what the answers are to these questions - I'm just throwing them out there in case someone DOES know and can educate me.  Maybe if there isn't a non-profit group devoted to this, there should be.    And I wanted to post a very candid piece on what it was like to be where I was...  with the hope that it will encourage someone who is in the same place.  That it might prevent even one animal from becoming homeless.  That someone might not feel quite so alone.  It might not even be pet allergies, but even if there is, there are options.  There might be a way to keep the pets and make the allergy symptoms tolerable at the very least.

I hope fervently that this doesn't sound too preachy.  I am writing from the heart, what has been weighing on my mind for months and I acknowledge that it might be a little heavy in places.  The goal is to help - and yes, to vent, but mostly to help.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Costumes

I put together some quick, inexpensive costumes for the dogs tonight, because we have a Howlin-ween party to go to on Friday night, for the grand-opening of a local doggy daycare, Urban Dog Day Care  (Door fees are going to be donated to Steel City Greyhounds!)

So here they are:

Argos is, as you can hopefully see, Superman.  He looks pretty annoyed about the costume, and that's because he actually is pretty annoyed about it.  He lost patience with me fussing with his cape after oh, five minutes.   That's a cape for a female vampire costume, and a child's Superman logo t-shirt.   We thought about dressing him up like "Bark Kent, Mild-Mannered Reporter," but that one might have been too difficult to make obvious.

Maera is a fairy princess.  That's a set of child's fairy wings, and a child's sparkly sequiny scarf.  You may notice two things.  One, the wings are on backwards (I think.)  If the large wings are anywhere near her face, she eats them.  She turned into a wild bucking bronco in the beginning, because she was desperate to eat those wings.  I have no idea of how the party Friday is going to go...  it may be the most short-lived costume ever!   The other thing that you may notice is that she is NOT wearing lavender feathery glittery "bracelets" around her forelegs.  There is a reason for that.  She wants to eat those too, and I think she might actually succeed at that so am probably leaving them off.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Easy Like Sunday

So as I was looking through today's blogs, I saw that Kat's Kats is having a sleeping photo contest!  Sleeping is what my kitties do best, so now it's just a matter of finding pictures.

I don't know if this one counts, because his eyes ARE open, but here is foster-cat Mitchell (who would dearly love to have a home of his own, by the way!) soaking up the late morning sunshine.
Propriety?  Meh.  I've never let propriety stand between me and a good sun-soak.
And here is my all-time favorite sleeping shot, of my heart cat Charlotte.  She is on top of a quilt that is in turn, in top of me, so I was desperately trying to position my iPhone and get a picture snapped without waking her up or moving too much.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

State of the House

I have been quiet for awhile lately, because my mom was visiting from out of town.  We had a great time, but there was not much time left over for blogging!

So, now it's time to get people back up to speed on the comings and goings in the House.

Let's start with the cats.  They're all doing very well, and I have to say that I firmly believe that Foster Cat Mitchell's adjustment period is over...  he has been completely accepted by the other cats, and no one is trying to terrorize him.  I guess that just goes to show that our contentious lot CAN let in newbies, if that newbie has the right attitude.  It makes my heart break anew for poor Romeo, who was never accepted even though he lived here for a year.  But...  Mitchell plays with Annie and Bit (the latter being Romeo's primary tormenter) and is even tolerated by Charlotte. (Charlotte barely tolerates Annie, who she has lived with for three years, so I think it's about the best that we can possibly hope for.)

Moo-om...  this is a kitties-only club.  You can't come in!
Now that the weather is getting chilly at night, I'm finding that I am once again waking up with one or more cats sleeping on top of my legs or pressed up against my side.  They might get annoyed with me for not feeding them gooshy food every hour of every day, but I do serve as a good heat source!

The cats did well with having Mom here...  most of the time, they are very shy around anyone who isn't us.  Charlotte even jumped up and napped in her lap one afternoon, shocking all of us.  She barely does that with us!  Even timid Bit climbed up in her lap once.  That makes me happy.  It shows that our attempts to socialize them better are starting to pay off.

The dogs are doing great as well.  Maera lovedlovedlovedLOVED my mother, and was almost embarrassing with how she fawned all over her.   I would frequently have to pull her off of her so that the poor lady could have a cup of coffee in peace.

 We've enrolled both dogs in basic obedience training for greyhounds, and had their first class yesterday.  We've introduced them to the concept of the clicker, and both of them seemed to enjoy the class a lot.  (Probably because they got tons of treats as part of the clicker training!)  They both did a good job, though Maera is so timid in unfamiliar surroundings.  For much of the class, her tail was firmly between her legs, especially if she was approached by any people or dogs that weren't us or Argos.  That is something that I'm trying to work with her on, and I'm sure that she'll get her confidence eventually.

Around the house, it is a completely different story.  She is a riot there, and is always galloping about with something in her mouth.  Hopefully it's a chew toy.  Sometimes it's a shoe.  Or a dish rag.  Or a throw pillow. I think today took the cake, though.

Yeah, that is supposed to be a kitty scratching post.  That's the base at her feet.
Argos just gives her a look that very eloquently says, "What is your PROBLEM?" when she starts acting like that.  Then he gives me a worried look like he thinks that I'm going to blame him for her bad behavior.

Please don't blame me for my sister being such a spaz.
Anyway, we're going to be getting back to a regular schedule starting tomorrow...  I just got back from taking my mother to the airport.  The dogs are going to be very sorry she's gone.  She stayed home with them every day last week, even when we had to go to work, and gave them treats and took them outside for extra potty breaks.  They're really going to miss that!