Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dog Bed Annexing Sunday

Sleepy Sunday...  yes, maybe.  But the HoC cats are in fine form today...  they're taking over right and left and aren't going to tolerate the best beds in the house going to the dogs any longer.

Actually, the girl cats are just dominating the heck out of everyone.  I'm not sure that the "structured play" with Bit is lessening her desire to BEAT THE CRAP out of the fosters.  The following photo is Bit taking up her position in the entertainment center.  (Perhaps I'm tipping my hand and showing that I'm a bit of a geek with this observation, but I think that she looks for all the world like a Sith lord.)  She is waiting for foster cat Tom to walk by.  Since he frequently vocalizes as he walks (echolocation has been suggested)  we can all hear him coming towards us...  God help me.  Or him.

Despite this, it does seem like there is some give and take in her relationship with Tom.  Yes, she's tormenting him today, but I did see him do a very amazing leap off of three stairs to land on her back once, completely taking her by surprise.  So I'm not exactly sure what the score is, but it is certainly evenly matched.  Yesterday, no one fought at all.  So I'm keeping fingers crossed that today is an anomaly.

You'll note that none of these pictures is of poor Annie.  She tries to dominate every foster cat that comes through here, but always winds up being low cat on the totem pole.  Poor thing.  She's now sitting on the cat tree with her back to the entire room because she's upset at all of us.  The only creatures in the house that she can dominate, ironically enough, are the dogs.  They are terrified of her, and she revels in her power over them.  She sits on the back of the recliner, which they have to walk past to get into the house.  And once they walk beneath her, she whaps them on the back of their heads.  As soon as the dogs come in and see her sitting there, they start jostling each other, both trying to be the one that walks through Annie's "kill zone" the furthest away from her.

Good times.

Oh.  And you might ask... if the cats are on the dog beds, then where are the dogs sleeping?

Daddies make excellent  pillows.  Argos, not pictured, stole MY spot on the bed.  It was even still warm from where I was sleeping.

Update:  Oh, oh, oh!  I can't believe that I forgot to post this originally!  I got confirmation yesterday that Miss Junior, who was fostered here with her former housemate Tom, was adopted from the shelter on Friday!  Yay!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What I Wish I Could Tell Them...

There are a large number of dogs sitting in shelters because their owners belatedly discovered that they were too busy to provide a home for a dog.  This saddens and aggravates me, because it adds a complication to the dog's life.  First, he's been abandoned, which has to do some psychic damage to an animal that is created to belong to a pack.  Second, he's in a shelter, where nothing is certain, not even a continued existence.  No one knows how long he'll sit there in a cage, in limbo.  Third, it ties up a cage in a world where cage space is not as plentiful as the unwanted pet population.

I wish that I could speak with first time dog adopters BEFORE they adopt.  It seems counter-intuitive, because a candid talk about what to expect might make some of them walk away.  But maybe that is for the best, before any damage is done?  (Then again, something might sound daunting enough to prevent someone from trying, someone who might be good at it when the time came.)

I don't know the answer to that; of course it's going to vary from person to person.  But for me, I will always say that more information is good.  Jeff and I researched like crazy before we became dog owners.  Not just about breed specifics, but on the day-to-day care.  We talked long hours about our lifestyle, and what type of dog would be able to come into our family with the most ease.  Although we didn't prepare for every eventuality, I think that we were very well-prepared for taking care of a dog when we did finally "take the plunge" and adopt Argos.

Here is what I wish that I could say to EVERYONE who is adopting for the first time:

1.  Dogs need attention.  If you're going to want to ignore the dog most of the time, or expect him to lie quietly in the corner while you live out your life, he isn't going to be happy.  They want to be petted, cuddled, loved.  The intensity of this desire is going to be different for different dogs, but it will be present in nearly any dog who is ready to be a pet.

2.  Dogs need exercise.  And you'd best be prepared to give it to them, or out of frustration and pent up energy, they will cause trouble, chew things, and there will be mayhem in your house.  Can you spare at least a couple of walks a day?  Can you play with the dog in the yard?  This is every day.  Even if you have the flu.  Even if you don't feel like it.  Even if you have deadlines at work.

3.  Dogs poop.  There will need to be bathroom breaks.  If you work incredibly long hours, you will need to find someone to take your dog outside.  It's not fair to ask them to hold it for umpteen hours and then get mad at them when they have an accident on your floor.

4.  Dogs take time.  Jeff calls it the "dog tax" that we have to pay whenever we get ready to go somewhere without them.  They have to be reassured.  We have to quickly survey the living room to make sure that it is "Maera proof."  We have to take them out for a quick potty break.  We have to structure our outing around their bathroom, exercise, and meal breaks. We have to make sure that the cats are all shut upstairs so that they don't mingle with the dogs.

5.  Dogs have to be taught.  Even the best-trained dog is not going to know your expectations when they first come into your home.  And let's be honest, the majority of dogs, upon adoption, wouldn't qualify as the "best-trained."  You are going to have to be prepared to teach them.  Are they allowed on the couch?  Where should they sleep?  How are they to let you know they must go outside?  What are the rules for eating?  How should they interact with other pets?  They might need some remedial training on begging, jumping up, or even house-breaking.  Be sure that you know what you're in for, and have an idea in mind for how you plan on training them.

6.  There will be damage.  I don't care how well-trained your dog is, there are going to be things that happen.  There may be scratch marks on the sofa, from where a dog scrambled up.  He might stain a comforter by puking on it.  He might have house soiling accidents.  None of these are fun for anyone to deal with, but they do happen and you have to be OK with that.  Dog ownership does not often (ever?) go hand-in-hand with a pristine house.

7.  Are all family members on board?  Does everyone know what is expected of them?  . Make sure that everyone is willing to do their fair share, and that you know what each other's definitions of "fair share" are.  If you find out that you're going to be the only one disciplined enough to consistently take the dog out for bathroom breaks, is this going to become a problem?  We split the "dog chores" very evenly in our house, which works out really well.  It means that if I need a break, then I can take one without guilt, because I know that Jeff will take up the slack.

8.  Dogs require routine care.  They need to be taken to the vet. Sometimes they may need their teeth cleaned.  They will need to be groomed.  Their nails will need to be trimmed.  Their ears will need to be cleaned out.  They will require basic preventative maintenance.  Heart worm preventative.  Vaccinations.  They will probably need to be licensed with your city or county.

9.  You are responsible for your dog's actions.  If your dog is put into a position where he bites someone, or someone's pet, both you and your dog are in serious trouble.  Train him not to do so if that's possible.  If you have a reactive dog, take steps to isolate him from people and animals that he might hurt.  Don't set him up to fail.  Don't let your dog roam freely.  Most dog attacks that I read about were caused by dogs being allowed to roam around and terrorize the neighbors.  A dog that is gnawing on a bone on his bed or sleeping on your couch with his head in your lap is not causing trouble for others.

These are the big ones that I can think of.  Probably most of my readers have had dogs for far longer than I have.  Can you think of any that should be added?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Greyhounds in Gettysburg!

We're going!  For those that do not have greyhounds and may not be "in the know" this is a special event that happens every spring.  Greyhounds from all over the country descend upon Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We've wanted to go since we first heard of the event, but life often conspires to keep us away.

But this year, the planets aligned, both Jeff and I were able to get time off, and everything else seemed to fall into place.  We've booked our hotel room, made arrangements to have my mom-in-law look in on the cats, and are (more or less) prepared for a drive across Pennsylvania with two dogs in the car.  And now it's just two weeks away!

We realized after looking at Maera's paperwork that her vaccinations were going to come due this month, so we took her in to the vet last week to get her up-to-date.  Always a good thing to have everything current when going to an event where there are going to be numerous dogs!

So...  greyhound people.  Are you going?  Anyone care to meet up?  I will never find you in the crowd if we don't make prior arrangements, so thought I would at least put that out there!

Maera MIGHT have to wear a red bandana, which is the event's way of notifying others that the dog is shy, and that people need to give her space.  I really think she'll do OK.  We actually took her to her first meet & greet yesterday, and she did great.  She still tucks her tail when meeting new people, but will still come up for petting, and those that were patient enough to stay around for a few minutes while ignoring her tended to get kisses from her when she was able to work up her courage.  But we're bringing a bandana for her anyway, in case it's all just too much.

Will there be treats in Gettysburg?
Argos I'm not worried about.  He takes most things in stride.  As long as there isn't thunder, he should be OK.  I say this because there was some light thunder during the meet & greet yesterday, which pretty much immediately dampened his enthusiasm for the event.  I'm glad that Jeff was with me, to take him outside frequently while Maera and I stayed and did the greeting.  Normally Argos is Mr. Ambassadog, so I really felt bad for him.

I hope there's no thunder in Gettysburg!
The event coordinators sent a helpful brochure with a list of things to bring to make the visit more pleasant and stress-free.  For those of you who have been to this and similar events - do you have any recommendations for us?  We've never traveled with two dogs before, and I have to admit I'm a little nervous.  Our dogs have never disappointed me before, so I'm sure that they will be fine.  But I still worry.

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Predatory Nature

I watched an episode of Jackson Galaxy tonight, the episode in which he deals with a Maine Coon with some serious aggression issues.  While I'm always interested in this show, I was especially interested in this one, since we have long suspected that Bit is a Maine Coon cross.  I've read up a little bit on the breed, but really don't know much about them.

The Maine Coon in the show frequently attacked his owners, seemingly without reason.  He stalked them, attacked them in their sleep, and even attacked them after "lights out" when they were trying to cross the room to get into the bed.

I know that a couple of you have dealt with having cats that treated you like prey, and I even remember the solution:  to tire the cat out with play, and to give them an appropriate outlet for their prey-drive, with toys.

Jackson's recommendation for this cat wasn't much different than that.  But something that he said really struck me.  He said that Maine Coons have evolved to be top-notch mousers, protecting the grain silos in the Northeast from rodent infestation (I'm seriously paraphrasing here.)  The instinct to stalk, chase, capture, and kill mice is strong in them.  He didn't say this, but the implication seemed to be that the instinct to do this was perhaps stronger than it is in other breeds of cats.  In the absence of a mouse, you, the dear owner, might serve as a stand-in.

Hey guys?  There's no mice under the bed.  Now what?
Bit does not stalk Jeff and I.  She is very sweet and affectionate to us.  She is currently sleeping in Jeff's lap, after spending an hour in mine and a few hours in his earlier this morning.  She has a very gentle demeanor with us, and always trills at me with a question in her voice when she sees me, as if she's asking me nicely to come pet her.

But Bit is an utter bitch to other cats, if you'll pardon my language.  Not to Annie, who is her best friend.

Not to Charlotte, who she has a healthy fear of.

But to any other cat that comes through here?  She is relentless.  She flattens herself to the ground and stalks them.  She spies on them.  She tries to sneak up on them.  She goes up on her hind legs to see them over the edge of the chair.  She pounces on them, backs them into corners, hisses at them, swats at them.  Makes them afraid to leave the corner.  And God help the poor cat who turns and flees from her, because that is all part of the game.  (Some of my longer term readers may remember my descriptions of how she tormented Romeo, a cat that outweighed her by three times, until the day that he died.  Romeo was not a fighter, and would run from her every time.)

It makes it challenging for us to integrate longer term fosters into our house.  It can still work - after all, Mitchell was able to overcome her predatory nature.  But Mitchell never behaved like prey.  His playful nature made him think that everything was a game, so if Bit came after him, he was delighted to have a playmate.  This eventually won her over, but it took time even with him.  Patches did OK with her too, but he is a very confident cat.  He did not give off prey vibes.  (Though interestingly enough, now that he's been gone for several months, he was far less confident when he returned for a weekend visit a few weeks ago.  We actually had to keep him separate from Bit most of the time.)

We're still playing it by ear with current foster Tom.  He is not as fearful as Romeo was, but he might run from her.  (Granted, he might also fight her - he can be very assertive, and has already started standing up to Annie.)  I will not let her torment the foster cats.  Some of them are already freaked out enough without her adding to the confusion.  So it takes a lot of patience, a willingness to isolate her, or them, or some combination of the above, and the ability to go from room to room and make sure that all of the isolated cats are still getting enough human interaction.  It's not an easy job.

But the point that I'm eventually coming around to is...  it never occurred to me that she was just acting according to her nature. Her breed's nature.  I get very frustrated with her, because she's made it so that certain types of cats can never live here, or if they do, I have to accept that they will live in quarantine away from her.  I really, really like fostering cats, and I feel like it's how I can help out homeless cats in my own small way.  But she limits us somewhat.

We don't usually do the more structured play sessions with her - frequently she seems content with playing games of chase with Annie around the house.  Since these chase sessions seem very much to be mutual, they don't concern me.  However, maybe the structured play would make her less inclined to stalk and torment guest cats.  The toy that Jackson used with the cat on the show was a string toy, but with a mouse on the end instead of the usual bird or feathers that I see at the store.  I may look for such a creature this weekend.  See if we can start getting that prey drive re-directed.  I will be very eager to see if we can get her to where she's less interested in stalking the fosters.

Game on, lady.  
I'll update once I have results:  good, bad, or indifferent.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Slumber Party Sunday

Our cats do sometimes get on the bed together by choice, just not often.  So I thought it warranted a photo, even if the bed looks slept in.  (OK, who am I kidding?  The bed getting made doesn't actually happen unless the planets align perfectly.)

Slumber party time!

Slumber party?  I do NOT do "slumber parties."
Argos had a long day and night the day before, because we invited several people over.  It's hard work being adorable with all of the guests!  This is how he spent most of today, recovery day.

Nope.  Don't know how that's comfortable.  And yes, I did check his breathing when I first came in to see this.