Things I Dislike

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1) Sad puppies. I dislike when puppies are sad, rather; I still like the puppies themselves. And really, I dislike when any critter is sad, species notwithstanding.

2) Fleas. This is self explanatory.

3) Ticks. Also self-explanatory.

4) Toxic chemicals. Although I feel this one should be self explanatory, it’s a bit more nuanced, isn’t it? Because (4a) I REALLY dislike bugs, and I therefore love my Epically Concentrated, do-not-apply-to-synthetic-fabrics-or-face-skin-because-both-will-melt-off DEET Max when I have to be out in the nature. So one thing I dislike trumps another thing, and not necessarily in the most logical, or even reasonable, way.

4) Being a generally paranoid person as regards the health of my critters. This is where my other dislikes come home to roost.

I dislike fleas. Fleas make critters sad. Sad critters are sad and I also dislike that. Fleas are killed by toxic chemicals which I generally dislike UNLESS they somehow improve my life. But the toxic chemicals in topical flea and tick prevention also make critters sad and also, possibly, negatively affect their health.

But do toxic chemicals make critters sadder than fleas make them? And are the potential health ramifications of the toxic chemicals mitigated by the very real threats presented by fleas and, especially, ticks? For me, all things being equal, the toxic chemicals are preferable to flea infestation, which we’ve had and which I hope never to have again because have you ever tried to flea dip a cat?

Not pretty. It’s all blood and grudge holding.

Flea infestations–really the least damaging possible outcome of untreated dogs–make all living things miserable. Seriously. And they require additional, atomized toxic chemicals to be rid of them before minds are lost. So aren’t topical flea products better than evacuating all living creatures for 48 hours? Usually.

Unless you happen to be me, a generally paranoid about the health of my critters person, awake at midnight and obsessively watching Karmann who, upon being administered her (very much undesired) monthly dose of topical flea and tick preventative, began to breathe funny. Not quite panting, really, but quicker than normal respiration. Extra quicker than normal respiration considering she should currently be sleeping peacefully and thus respiring even more slowly than normal.

Midnight on doggie breath watch is exactly where all my aforementioned dislikes become riotously conflicting and misery-inducing. For all living things.

Kind of like fleas.

Stoned, Immaculate

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chilling better through chemistry

I’m having one of those synergistic moments where I keep bumping into the same topic everywhere around the intertubez–even on blogs and pages that aren’t immediately related to the topic. That topic being the use of medication, specifically for dogs, specifically for anxiety, specifically-specifically about how they should be an absolute last resort after years of training has proven ineffective. As the steward of Calvin, the medicated Beagle-ish seen above relaxing through thanks to the wonders of Trazodone, I have feels about this. And with the disclaimer that I am not a veterinary or behavioral professional (although I am besties with a vet tech and I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express a time or two, just saying) my feels are as follows: 

If you have allergies, you take an antihistamine. Yes? 

Or if you have acid reflux, an ulcer, or the like, you take a Proton Pump Inhibitor or an H2 suppressor. Right?

And if you’re one of the 20% of Americans (as of 2010) reportedly taking medication for an anxiety or behavioral disorder, you take your meds and probably expect Judgy McJudgerson’s to shut their fat faces about the fact that you take medication for a medical condition. Correct?

But you expect your dog to manage a medical condition without medication because somebody told you it wasn’t a medical condition so much as the fact that your sweet little puppy is actually a brutal dictator who keeps a copy of Mein Kampf stashed beneath his pup-r-pedic bed and if you just showed him who’s boss and took him for longer walks he would be normal. In other words, you have a chronically stressed out dog? It’s your fault and you’re doing it wrong and your dog is LAUGHING AT YOU every time you turn your back, and he’s calling all his puppy friends and telling them what a sucker you are because he totally rules this roost, he says, as he kicks back on your couch and puts his feet up on the coffee table. 

No seriously. I had a trainer once tell me that that was basically what Karmann was doing when she barked at squirrels. Kicking her feet up. Owning me. That’s another story, though. 

Ok, so look. The above makes a few assumptions, chief among them being that you have a chronically anxious dog and you’ve worked with him and you meet his physical needs and he’s been to the vet and you’re at the point where everyone is sort of scratching their heads and making up back stories for why your dog is so awfully awful and averse to learning and normalcy. It assumes you’re at the point where maybe a vet that you trust has thrown down the M word for your consideration and you’re like, “Yeaaaaahhhhhhh ummmmm . . . anti-depressants are an absolute last resort for my dog, because he’s a dog and, like, I mean, HE’S A DOG and that seems weird and, like, my family is going to laugh at me and buy me a Cesar Milan book if I tell them the dog is taking an anti-depressant.”

And if you’re at that point, can I just say, no shame. Seriously. I have been there, and a teensy little part of me still fights going back there. It is counter-fucking-intuitive in our culture–that condemns human beings for taking human medication to help with anxiety and other mental health problems–to accept that not even your dog can pull himself up by his bootstraps.

But here’s the thing. Stuffy nose? Decongestant. Infection? Antibiotic.

Anxiety disorder? Anxiety medication. 

Some people can’t deal on their own–they need help to get them to a place where they can learn and adopt better approaches to various situations. Why is it so hard for us to extrapolate that such a condition can occur for some dogs? And further, that when such a condition occurs in a dog, why is then so difficult to make the leap and medicate for it? Karmann has Addison’s Disease, I don’t refuse to give her prednisone and cross my fingers that more rigorous training and better exercise will somehow force her adrenals to do their job, so why would I apply the same logic to Cal’s anxiety issue and wait tentatively for his brain chemistry to correct itself just because we walked three miles today, instead of two?

The most common undercurrent that my spidey-sense picks up in all these medication-as-last-resort discussions is not the long-term effects of medicating a dog (and hey, that’s legit no matter the species), it’s the weird insinuation that medicating a chronically anxious dog would somehow be cheating. To which I have only one response, ever, and that is: you know that’s not how it works at all, right? 

I didn’t just chuck a Prozac down Cal’s throat and *WHAM!* instanormal. 

I don’t give him a Trazodone before a particularly stressful event and then proceed to bring the pain. 

Administering behavioral meds will never allow you to abdicate your exercise/training/need-meeting responsibilities to your dog. Giving her a valium doesn’t instantly turn her into a bored housewife who eats two martinis for lunch, and it won’t make the Rolling Stones write a song about her, either. 

It allows them to learn. 

That is all. The right med or cocktail of meds doesn’t turn your dog into slug, or suck their energetic joy. It allows them to learn new behaviors where they would otherwise whip themselves into such a frenzy of fear and anxiety that they would be incapable of learning those coping behaviors. 

Yesterday I took Cal to the vet. I gave him a full dose of Trazodone before we went, knowing that the vet is a horrifying place for him. Just about a year ago I did the same thing–took Cal to the vet–without the Trazodone. 

Last year, he couldn’t be examined without a muzzle. He barked, and freaked out, and was, as he has always been since his arrival, seriously under weight. 

This year, he’s gained 7lbs and is finally at a healthy weight, and although he was clearly nervous, he remembered to look to me for help navigating the situation. No muzzle was needed, and he willingly approached both the vet and the tech, before AND after the exam, and took cookies from them. 

Six months ago, a full dose of Trazodone would have bought us enough time to remove ourselves from a situation he couldn’t handle. Yesterday, Cal powered through a 1/2 hour vet appointment. The amount of meds didn’t change; the meds cannot in any way be held singularly responsible for the difference between six months ago and yesterday. What made the difference is their ongoing deployment in a (positive, non-putative) training routine to help him learn how to deal with stressors. The meds helped him learn. 

They helped him learn. 

They helped him learn.

For me, overcoming the, “What do you mean, my dog needs Prozac?” issue was a struggle since I, myself, don’t like taking meds for anything. I would prefer–and wouldn’t we all?–to have a perfectly healthy dog who doesn’t need any sort of pharmacological intervention. But I don’t have that. I have a dog who needed more help than any sort of training, alone, could provide, and I had to decide between giving him that help, or doing nothing and hoping that his truly awful interaction with the world around him would just magically disappear and, more importantly, not cause him continued pain and stress. In my mind, failure was not admitting that he needed that extra help. Failure would have been to refuse that help and continue allowing him to lead an uncomfortable, perhaps even psychologically harmful, life. When you look at it like that, the choice shouldn’t be a difficult one. 

Your dogs comfort and safety shouldn’t be an inverse moral judgement on your choices as a dog steward. And if somebody tries to make it that, tell them to fuck off to the shrink and get their own prescription, because they’re clearly a miserable soul. 

I hear Trazodone works wonders. 

 

 

The Puke Moon

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It happens every so often. I’ve posted about it before. There are times–mysterious, sacred, spiritual times–when all the house critters are united by a common thread . . . And they all start puking.

The Puke Moon.

We are currently under the influence of The Puke Moon.

We had a disastrous weekend. I will spare you the details but highlights include me getting stung in the neck by a bumblebee, Cal spontaneously freaking out while alone and scratching the crap out of our bedroom door while we were away, and Schmoop gesticulating in such a manner that he dislodged his favorite sunglasses from the top of his head, sending them flying out the window of the car, on the parkway, where they were immediately run over.

So, as a kind gesture to erase the negative juju, Schmoop bought the pups some all-natural cheese cookies yesterday. We feed raw, and the pupsnacks are generally liver or kidney jerky and something called a lamb puff, so the cheesey cookies, being grain-based, were the equivalent of doggie junk food. A little can’t kill them, right?

As it turns out, no, won’t kill them. It will make them turn their stomachs inside out, though.

Shortly after eating his 3 cookies, Cal started with the lip licking. It died down, though, and I charged brazenly ahead with critter dinner. That was a bad idea. Because during human dinner on the patio, Cal became frantic, trying to eat my dead plants, and the grill cover, and neurotically licking the concrete floor, and I knew what was coming as frantic consumption attempts only ever lead one place with him: the evacuation of more food than he could ever possibly have eaten–in his entire life, let alone for dinner–by volume.

Calvin is magical, he creates matter. Being the source of All Things in the universe may explain his mental state. We may be star dust, but star dust is actually Calvin poop.

After puking all over the place the boy pup settled . . . Until 10:30. When the frantic need to consume returned. Except there was nothing left in him to evacuate, so I hauled myself out of bed and we came downstairs where I could keep an eye on him as he rode out the nausea. By happenstance, he finally settled around 1:30, about 30 minutes after I finally gave him a Gas-X, and a little later we tottered back upstairs.

And then Karmann woke me at 6. Puking.

And then at 11, Mort puked twice.

So I’m calling it: Puke Moon. Nigel hasn’t started yet, but he can’t possibly be far behind.

So excited for the next 12 hours!

Call Me Androcles

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I am capital-D doped at the moment, in the thrall of codeine cough syrup while convalescing, Victorian-style, with a summer grippe. I am so entirely overcome with illness that, for the past two days, my poor dogs’ morning walkies have consisted of some bleary bumbling between the front and back yards while I try to keep my lungs within the confines of my body.

My identification as a Roman slave has nothing to do with codeine, though. Honest. My fascination with the way the rain drops glint like little rainbow sparklies on the hemlocks outside my window? Yeah, that’s probably the codeine. And my recently-discovered superpower of being able to zero in on fur tufts alight in the window breeze, to the utter exclusion of all other sensory input? Admittedly, that might also be the (MAGICAL!) codeine. But I’m totally, and non-delusionally Androcles because Calvin made me him by being a lion who acts like a dog.

This is all making sense now, right?

While on our sad, drowsy shuffle through the front yard this morning I was busily honking apologies to the pups for the lame walk, while imploring them to please pee quickly because mama’s time on earth is rapidly dwindling, when–miracle of miracles–Cal appeared to heed my pleas. He lifted a leg on the boxwood and just as I coughed out a strangled “good boy!” he yelped and collapsed into a tripod while frantically chewing on his front right paw.

It took me roughly 32 minutes to process what was going on, but then my new super power kicked in and I rapid-focused on a three inch piece of jagger bush attached to my beagle-ish via his paw pad.

This was terribly disturbing for me in my addled state.

It also involved solving complicated problem sets to work out how vegetation could become stuck to a dog, as well as examination of concepts like “puncture,” and an inappropriate sidebar with myself about where a jagger bush branch would even come from because there are none in our yard, or in either of the neighboring yards and—*dog continues gnawing on foot*

Oh right. Situation. Requires solution that does not involve ingestion of thorns by anxious puppy.

On it.

So, Cal is notoriously squeamish about his tootsies. So squeamish that it took an inordinately long time to teach him the requisite “shake,” and even still he will not do it if anything in his environment is out of place. He will not shake with someone he does not know. He will not shake with a trusted individual if said individual is in the presence of an un-trusted individual. He will not shake if he suspects the shake may be preceding an even more unpleasant request of his patience. When he passed the “dog tolerates physical examination” portion of his Canine Good Citizen test, the look on his face as I picked up his paw could have gotten me hanged for animal abuse by 99% of PETA’s membership base.

I have no idea how his groomer manages to trim his nails, but I imagine it involves a double bourbon, a tranq dart, and kevlar gloves.

Suddenly, though, I am Androcles after a week long bacchanalia and I am in the cave with a imperiled lemon spotted lion.

And here’s where I discovered my second opiate-induced superpower: total chillaxness in the face of life-threatening situations. Or at least icky ones, anyway. Because without giving it much additional thought, I honked another quick apology to Cal, told him this might hurt but I’d make it quick, lovingly grabbed his paw, removed the thorn, rubbed the thorn hole, set his violated tootsies on the sidewalk, and kissed his little noggin.

I lost no limbs in the process.

Which is when, even in my semi-stupor, I discovered Cal had developed a superpower of his own: a modicum of trust. Throughout the speedy transaction, he never pulled away, bared teeth, licked lips, growled, or otherwise expressed any fear or displeasure. He just let me help him, even though he was in pain and the assistance required me to touch his paw.

I have always been *reasonably* certain that, if we were pitted against each other in gladiatorial combat, Cal would not eat me. But now I’m almost, like, 100% certain. Say, 95%. A very confident 95%.

I leave a 5% uncertainty margin because presumably other animals would be present, and calmness and self-control in the face of other quadrupeds is a superpower that, uh, well, we need to work on it a little more.

Later, though. After a plague nap.

All joking aside, I feel like this is huge. I realize he needed help and I was the only game in town, but he didn’t *have* to consent as readily as he did. He made the decision, despite a stressor, to let me do something he doesn’t generally like without any significant communication that he didn’t like it. That’s lunar landing-style major.

MY LITTLE BOOGER IS GROWING UP!

Just Like a St. Bernard Only Tiny

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“Why does everybody keep asking me if there’s brandy in this stupid thing?”

Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m a terrible person who makes their very innocent little kitteh wear a tiny backpack. And I laugh about it. In fact, looking at this picture now, I am still wont to giggle.

I am giggling.

When I’m not busy abusing and disrespecting my animals, I occasionally run a road race and by “run” I mean “plod”, and by “race” I mean that’s what all the people in front of me are doing while I swear and plod. This past Saturday, I suckered Schmoop into joining me for a 5K, because I really like to spread the abuse around rather than limit it to only the species over which I have total, fearsome dominion. So, we picked up our race packets Saturday morning at WHY-DOES-THIS-TIME-EVEN-EXIST??!!?!??-o’clock, and immediately dumped them out in the back of the car.

They contained . . . a tiny backpack.

A tiny backpack laden with band-aids of all the shapes and sizes that nobody could ever possibly need. Little itty bitty band-aids unfit to cover a splinter hole, all the way up to standard sized bandages, all of an off-brand. You know the super plasticky ones that wouldn’t reliably stick to a a recently steam cleaned pane of glass, let alone human skin? I have a tiny back pack full of those. Actually, our household technically has two.

Two tiny backpacks full of totally useless first aid devices.

Oh, plus two antiseptic wipes–two per wee rucksack, bringing our total, of course, to four–which will actually come in handy in the middle of the night when Mort exacts his revenge by gouging at our faces. Mental note to remove wipeys from tiny backpacks and divide amongst our nightstands.

So after much perplexion (should totally be a word) we did what any self-respecting cat lovers would do. We made the cat wear the tiny backpack, effectively turning him into an off-brand version of a St. Bernard.

He was not amused. His stupid humans, however, were sorely entertained and snapped many pictures and did all manner of truly awful things like picking him up off his window perch and setting him on the ground so that we could watch him melt into the floor because cat bones immediately decalcify when presented with unpleasant situations. It lasted maybe five minutes (probably an eternity in kitten years) and then we lovingly removed the backpack and gave him snuggles and gently put him back up on the window, all while fending off two puppies who can smell cat humiliation as if it were brisket.

But here’s the thing: this is not my fault. I cannot, in any way, be held accountable for my monstrous actions because what else was I supposed to do? Race organizers gave me a tiny backpack of useless treasures and literally the ONLY being IN THE ENTIRE WORLD that could EVER wear the tiny backpack is a cat. And I have two cats, and I found myself–entirely unintentionally–with two tiny backpacks and WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?

So I did the only thing I could and I took photos and I’m not proud but cats in tiny backpacks are hilarious and you know it. YOU KNOW IT. So you can’t judge me.

I’m Down With OPP (Other People’s Puppies)

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This week Schmoop and I are hanging with niece puppy, Kota. She’s a four year old GSD who combines Karmann’s slobberful loveyness with just a hair of Cal’s grumbliness. So although I am separated from my own hounds as I explore the west with the extended furbaby family, I sort of feel like they’re with me.

Kota would like to lick you. Unless you happen to be walking outside, in which case she would like to eat you. But only until you get within actual eating distance. Then she would like to lick you. She also has a very charming (if you’re a dog person) need to jump onto all beds and rub all of her all over the pillows, before trampling them into nestable perfection and flooping down dramatically. So I’m also spending this week sleeping on fluff covered bedding. Which is pretty much exactly what I’d be doing at home.

Also: GSD ears are the best.

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Reunited!

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I am a horrible cat mom.

Mr. Naughtypants has finally figured out how to apply his brute kitteh force to the cellar door, thereby popping it open, so he’s been spending some time down the basement while his stupid humans are out of the house. We generally return to find him hunkered on the steps, as if to insinuate that he cracked the door open but did not–would not ever–explore the basement. There’s nothing down there that is particularly dangerous to him, I just don’t want to have to pry him off the top of a storage cabinet, or remove him from the laundry lines, so I haven’t been particularly pleased with his new love of interdomicile travel. I’ve been pleased, these past couple days, to discover that all his door digging (and there has been a lot) has come to naught and, try as he might, little stripey kitteh has been marooned on the upper levels of the house.

Fast forward to today, when I was in the basement sorting laundry. In the middle of chucking some socks into the workout pile, I spied an aberration on the pale blue duvet cover heaped onto the floor, awaiting it’s go in the washer. A small, kind of icky, animal-printed aberration.

Tiger.

Apparently Mortie took Tiger with him on one of his subterranean adventures and the little guy wound up abandoned. On an admittedly comfy portion of pending laundry because Mortie may wake the household humans every day, without fail, at 4am, but he is exceedingly kind to his stuffed and squashed-headed bestie.

And then I stopped to think about the last time I saw Mortie with Tiger and . . . DOGS HELP ME I CANNOT RECALL.

He has been without Tiger for so very long that I have no idea when the dynamic duo were last seen together. Bad kitteh mom! Bad!

So I abandoned my laundry sorting to take Tiger upstairs and Mortie immediately batted him around, then picked him up and walked him all over the house–never letting Tiger touch the floor–for about 20 minutes. And then they laid down and I took the above picture and came upstairs to post it because I’m supposed to be cleaning the house but bleh. And then Mortie picked him up and brought him upstairs, where he’s spent the last 10 minutes reacquainting his truly-baby-kittehood buddy with the living quarters.

Tiger is currently being shown the bed.

Me and Karmann and Calvin and the Asshats

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Leave Calvin ALOOOOOOOOONE!

Let’s talk about second amendment rights. Lord knows enough people can’t shut up about them, and now I have decided that I want them. Specifically, I propose amendment 2b.

Amendment 2b affords me, a single, unincorporated person (disregard all that “well-regulated militia” crap since everybody seems to ignore it anyway) with dogs, the unalienable right to–if not outright shoot–at least threaten people with an angry-looking piece of weaponry any time they attempt to approach, converse with, or otherwise capture my attention while my poor little Beagleish is losing his shit.

I dropped something?
Don’t care.

My other dog is very adorable?
I am aware. Shut up.

My (ALSO ADORABLE, PEOPLE!) small hound is hilarious when he’s angry?
I’d flip you off but my hands are full, so please accept this withering look of disdain instead.

Can you pet my dogs?
Are you fucking stupid?

Upon my arrival home this afternoon–covered in bug bites and spider webs, and desperate for my own pee break–I took the dogs out to the back yard, intending them to have a quick pee so that I could hurry up and light myself on fire in an attempt to remove ALL OF THE NATURE from my person.

Cal would not pee.

Cal did not want a pee break; Cal wanted another walk.

I tried refusing, and stomping my feet, and reasoning with him. None of this worked. So, I walked him down the block where he was able to pee on a tree. HOSANNAH.

We then turned around to head back up the street, only to discover a family of three–blonde and smiling and tan and utterly loatheable in their presence, was rapidly approaching between us and the house.

[stay tuned for future blog post in which we take up my immediate and irrational dislike of people occupying the public thoroughfare when doing so complicates my life]

I just wanted Cal to pee. I was not interested in a teachable moment–I had been in such a rush to wash the ticks out of my hair that I hadn’t thought to grab treats. My lack of preparedness just made me hate the blonde happy perky people even more DAMN THEM ALL.

So we turned right.

AND THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WITH A CANE I CURSE YOU YOU INFERNAL UNIVERSE OF SUCK AND DOOM.

Old ladies with canes? Ambulating families for Buddha’s sake??

Well. There goes the neighborhood.

Cal was interested in the old lady. He was looking at her and seemed unsure but in possession of himself. So in lieu of delicious liver treats, which I did not have because blonde people suck, he got copious amounts of scritches and praise. And while I scritched and praised, the stupid infernal family decided to make the same right–probably going to the park because that’s what awful people do.

And the movement was enough to send relaxed but unsure Cal right on over the edge.

So he barked.

So the kid ran toward us, while screaming “DOGS!” because he’s a future Darwin Award winner. Even as we ran behind the bushes to manufacture some sort of visual barrier, the child screamed. And charged. And screamed some more while his parents, Chip and Buffy from the club, smiled huge white straight-toothed smiles.

And as we cut through the apartment lawn, behind the bushes, some joker came out of the building, presumably to yell at me for cutting through, shouting “Miss! Hey! Miss!”

Because what I really need right now is a conversation. About, like, anything.

We ignored everyone and made it back to the sanctity of our driveway where I’m pretty sure I am allowed to throw baggies of dog poop at infiltrators trying to talk to me. Cal, for his part, is to be commended for the quickness with which he calmed down once the terrible hellspawn was safely behind us. And I settled for a vigorous scrubbing rather than self immolation because were I to exit in such fashion I’d not be around to witness–and benefit from–the passage of my very excellent Amendment 2b.

Though, I will accept a very large stick, or also, possibly, a set of brass knuckles in the event the cranky old men of the Supreme Court determine that a walking, unincorporated uterus cannot wield a gun.

Consider this my Christmas list.

Kittehs Got Aim

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Our house was built in 1928 and, for the most part, the original floors are in great shape. The above is a noted exception where some event of history has gouged a not insignificant chunk from the board at the joint.

The above is also exactly where some kitteh deposited their most recent hairball. Lovingly, it would seem, and overnight so that the soggy wad of fluff had time to really fill the crevice before human discovery the next morning.

I now have a positive model of that crevice made of cat hair, if any jewelry makers out there are interested in starting a line of construction-related lost wax obliquely cat centric baubles.

Nobody?

Eh?