Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Plea for a Canine Friend

Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail. - Kinky Friedman

I've started writing this several times over the last few months, and I've never really been satisfied. It's been a rant on a particular situation and a diatribe on what seems to be a way of life for many. It's been a plea to potential dog parents in general, and a plea to a particular dog owner who I am all too well acquainted with.

But tonight, as I sit listening to a sad, lonely, uncertain dog who is just a few feet away from a place where he could feel happy, find company and feel secure, this piece has become a little bit of all of those failed attempts.

Please forgive me if it gets too personal.

My canine friend sits next door, his pet "parent" has left for the evening. Moose-boy, as I affectionately call him, probably hasn't been fed - "He's got food all the time, I don't starve my dog" is what I hear, despite the fact that the vet and others have pointed out that Moose is about 20 pounds underweight and still losing, and that sometimes dogs just want something different. I should also mention that when Moose arrived in my life, he came without food, treats, toys or bowls, and so we winged it with what my dogs eat for over a month - maybe he's decided he just wasn't getting what he wanted. I do feed him with my own dogs whenever he's with us, although it doesn't seem to be helping.

Moose has also gone through some very traumatic changes in the last six months, and his "parent" has done little if anything to address his symptoms of severe separation anxiety. He lost his home, his "dad", his canine companion (traded for a motorcycle) and his routine. "He's just got to learn to deal with it - I've got to work/go out/get on with my life" is Owner's point of view. There's been no attempt to rework obedience lessons, or to follow the commonly recommended separation anxiety protocols.

Owner doesn't see the need for Moose to have more than 5 minutes in the morning to attend to "business" - "I take an hour to wake up" or "I'd have to give up my visit with Dad every morning" are the usual excuses. Moose puts up a fuss if I walk my dog without taking him (I think removing a window air conditioner or eating a screen window counts as a "fuss"), so I sneak him out when I can, and on a daily basis it's obvious his "business" wasn't done in those 5 minutes.

Moose has the additional stress of being very near things he enjoys the most - a place to run, people to hang out with and dog friends too. So not only is he NOT being taught how to cope with being alone, he's being tempted by the very things he desperately wants - no matter how quietly the rest of us sneak around and no matter how many barriers his human erects.

(And as a very personal aside, all the help and assistance I offer is being turned down because Owner doesn't like me - but that's a whole 'nother story....)

So apart from getting all this aggravation off my chest, what's the point of all of this?

It's a plea for my friend, and for all of the other pets in the world who need us.

When we take animals into our lives, just as when we take on any other responsibility, we take on ALL the things necessary to make their lives as comfortable as possible, even if our lifestyles are disrupted. That includes feeding, helping them adjust to changes, proper exercise and potty time, and not tormenting them with things they can't have (or denying them what they could have just because we don't feel like it!).

Being a pet-parent means being responsible for another living creature. If you take an animal into your life, please be sure you are willing to care for them for their entire life OR be willing to take the time and effort to find someone who will. Don't abdicate that responsibility and don't let pride or personal differences get in the way of being responsible.

And if you know of anyone who would love a large, goofy GSD who's great with other dogs, cats, children and humans, but who needs a bit of help with being alone, please let me know... I would love to find a real home for my canine friend.

PS. Moose is on the maximum dose of Clomicalm, and has been checked for all the standard things which might cause weight-loss and anxiety.

09-28-10 One month later and Moose is either with someone OR locked in an airline crate, sometimes for hours. When he's in his crate, he howls almost constantly. Because it isn't technically illegal - he has food, water, shelter - there is nothing else to do legally if Owner doesn't come to their senses.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Introducing Piglet or "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished"

A little over a month ago, I was out front weeding and keeping an eye on the dogs when I heard a loud, pitiful, "meee-yowl" from the shrubs. I assumed it was the granddaughter's wayward kitty, until I caught a peek - it was a small gray kitten. Me being me, I tried calling the kitten out, and when that didn't work, I left food and water and waited.

After about 15 minutes, the kitten emerged to eat and drink, and it was a very small kitten indeed.

Several days passed, the kitten refused to come anywhere near me. No one came to claim "her", she was eating less and as we live on a very fast, busy road, I decided to bring out the live trap. It took about 12 hours before she was brave enough to try it, the trap finally snapped at about 5:00 am. At 9:00 am we were at the veterinarian's office. At 9:15 I learned "she" was a he, he was healthy and that long-haired (he's a short-hair, sigh) gray males make wonderful pets (well, he is turning out to be pretty wonderful).

The kitten was installed in the spare room, in a large crate with food, water, litter and toys, so I could start socializing him while I worked. He did a lot of hissing at first, but soon decided that the large hands that brought food weren't going to hurt him. He started playing, and learned to enjoy being picked up and petted. He ate and pooped a lot. He learned to ignore the large dogs that came to visit him, and decided it was fun to swat them on the nose, safely behind bars.

He earned the name "Piglet" from the messes he made of toys, food, water and litter. I once watched him stand in the litter box, somehow moving all four feet in four different directions at once, scattering litter everywhere. He got a covered litter box the next day.

Once he was named it was pretty much inevitable - Piglet was here to stay - the only stipulation being that he NOT destroy clothing, furniture, carpeting or draperies, and that he NOT terrorize the existing feline population, an older, shy kitty named Cloe. I started letting him out of his crate when supervised so I could suggest (I don't think any cat cares to be "told" and certainly not Pig) different behavior when he started to claw things. When liberated he does the spooky Halloween kitty routine for 15 or 20 minutes, bouncing, hair puffed, back arched, eyes wild, swatting everything in reach. (Update: Pig is now liberated pretty much all day and most of the night - doing well except for the poisonous plants and waking me up at 2 or 3 in the morning just to say "Hi".)

Pig is learning to use his log and Turbo Cat Scratcher rather than the furnishings, but apparently I'm fair game - I have little bruises, scratches and bites just about everywhere. His favorite trick is to hide under the bed and strike when I walk back into the room, followed by jumping on my lap using all claws out just enough to really hurt. He does, however, generally keep his claws in when he swats and generally doesn't bite too hard - generally.

Pig uses the bed, dresser and my desk as a little race track, and when he knocks something off, he always looks back at me to observe my reaction. Everything is a toy, everything is interesting and everything needs to be investigated, including my glass of ice tea. For some reason he thinks the CD holder on my boom-box must be left open and the antenna in any position which results in loosing the signal.

I'm treat-training him to come when called, although playing his favorite game, "kitty fishing", with a string, my back scratcher and a bit of crinkly plastic works well too. He's already very good about having his nails trimmed and he's learning to wear a harness so he can go outside.

We don't know how Piglet arrived in our lives, we can only guess that someone dumped him out (my S.O. accuses me of doing it myself so I could have a kitty of my own). The vet guessed Pig was only six weeks old or so when we found him, and between the heat, lack of food and water, cars, coyotes and stray dogs, he would not have survived without our help. How anyone could be so cruel and uncaring is beyond my comprehension. Local shelters are full, but kittens do find homes if you try hard enough.

By the way, I know what I'll be asking for this Christmas - a trip to the vet for Piglet to be "fixed". It's not as exciting as the Lamborghini or pony I've been asking for, but it's a little more responsible, I think. (Update: Pig was taken care of mid-September, so no little Piggies will be available.)

Piglet's contribution to this post (apart from managing to delete several of the pictures I took - I haven't even figured out how to do that!):

"hjnnnnn cv".

Update November 6, 2010: Piglet is now over six months old, almost as big as his big sister, calico Cloe, and has calmed down a LOT! He sleeps on the pillow next to me every night, purrs most of the time, and apart two are three "mad half hours" a day, he's doing great!