Tag Archives: pets

One month, zero accidents, and a shaken-up worldview

All my life I had been told that homeopathy was little more than quackery, and even though I had never really tested that claim, well, the assumption did seem commonsensical enough… and then my thirteen-year-old dog started developing a number of health issues. As a responsible dog owner I took her to the vet, and when a new problem developed I took her back again, and again, and again. In short, I was receiving a different diagnosis each week as the vet vivisected her diagnosing what was wrong with this organ and with that one, utterly forgetting the fact that there was just one dog. It was frustrating, so much so that in the end I decided to contact a homeopathic vet. No, I wasn’t expecting much in terms of treatment, but I needed someone who would look at the whole dog and at least try to see if all those issues had a common cause… one that might enable me to go back to my vet and maybe get her to treat the underlying problem.

The vet came and went, leaving behind a diagnosis for a hormonal imbalance and a couple of remedies I didn’t particularly trust. Still even though I was rather skeptical, I decided to give them a shot.

Anyway, one of my main concerns had to do with the fact that she had become incontinent. Seeing how she’s usually with me as I write, that was a problem, especially because I didn’t want to punish her for being sick by kicking her out of what had always been ‘her spot’ (though I didn’t particularly relish the idea of sitting on a poodle of pee either). It was, in short, a symptom that was incredibly annoying, readily apparent and easily measurable… notice the past tense.

Yes, to my surprise the thing worked like a charm. It’s been one month and two days since that visit, and one month since she last had an accident (they used to happen a couple of times a day before). I don’t understand why it worked, I know common sense says it shouldn’t have, but no matter how I look at it I can’t deny the evidence of my own eyes, nor can I attribute the changes to a placebo effect because the bottom line is that she has no way of knowing that the treat she gets a couple of times a day has a few drops of a homeopathic remedy added to it. She’s a DOG for crying out loud!

In other words, it’s a puzzle, one I can’t quite make sense of, but at the same time I have to admit that I am incredibly grateful for how things turned out, and by the fact that I was able to preserve her quality of life without sacrificing mine.

Professional… sort of

A couple of days ago a friend pointed out that this blog is getting to be a little too personal, and that I should at least try to keep things professional. In other words, it was a ‘can the dog talk’ kind of advice. In a way I can see where she’s coming from. I realize that this blog is supposed to be about promoting my books, and that some of the things I’ve been writing about lately do little to add to my professional image, but there’s a reason why I called this blog ‘Message in a Bottle’ and the subtitle reads ‘random thoughts cast into a sea of voices’. As I’ve said countless times:

yes, I would love for my books to sell -and I won’t deny that getting the word out about the fact that they actually exist is one of the reasons I started blogging in the first place- but the bottom line is that I write because I love writing, because there’s a story stuck between my ears itching to get out… and because I want to be able to read how that story ends.

In other words, if things seem a little unprofessional to you at times, I’m sorry, but this blog was always meant to inhabit that odd in between space, and I really don’t see that changing any time soon.

Do I really want to take charge?

Er… yes… this blog seems to be going to the dogs, or at least to one dog. A rascal that came into my life a few months ago, and seems to require a lot of attention, to be accurate. I am a long time dog owner, and while up until now all of my dogs have been rescues, this little fellow is different in that he wasn’t born a stray. Oh, we are getting along great, but I will be the first one to admit that he can be a bit of a handful. There are some bad habits I’m trying to break, but I admit that there is a point in which I am hesitant when it comes to discipline, or maybe I should say obedience.

The thing is that I acknowledge that my dog is a living, breathing being with a will of his own, and I don’t want to do anything that would change that.

Sure, I would love to have a well behaved dog and all that -especially when we are out in public- but at the same time I realize that dogs don’t have an on off switch, that the price I would have to pay for a well behaved dog in public is part of the spirit of the dog I fell in love with in private… not to mention that some of the advice seems to make no sense, not to me anyway.  A perfect example of this is the expected walk etiquette. They tell me that my dog should walk sedately by my side, if not behind me… and that he most definitely shouldn’t be on the brink of dislocating my shoulder whenever he catches a glimpse of another dog. Good luck with that!

The thing is that, as far as I am concerned the whole point of taking him out for a walk is to give him a chance to enjoy himself, to sniff around, lift his leg and so on… not to mention that the normal walking speed of most dogs is greater than a human. In other words, getting him to behave like he is supposed to would defeat the whole purpose of taking him for a walk in the first place. It would go from something I do for him so that he can have a chance to act like a dog and interact with others of his kind, to being just another excuse for me to assert my control over him, his own needs be damned.

Oh, I know in the end we’ll work the kinks out of the system, that eventually he will come to understand when he should listen to me, like my other dogs have, but the bottom line is that even though he likes to challenge me, he is playful, full of energy, smart and he enjoys outsmarting me, I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

No, he is not going to be winning any obedience contests any time soon, but even though I’ve been told time and time again that some obedience training will do him a world of good, and make him a better pet, the one thing I can’s stop thinking about is, if at the end of the day I don’t agree with that statement, will there be a way for me to undo the damage? What can I say, I’d rather have him kill the occasional shoe than be responsible for crushing his soul.

… But I want you to play with me…

So here I am, trying to write something for my blog -a blog that’s been feeling kind of neglected- but staring up at me is one of my dogs, the sad remains of an old shoe in his mouth, looking at me as if saying  ‘but I want you to play with me’. It is a familiar scene (one that may have something to do with why my blog’s been feeling so neglected in the first place), but I can’t help myself. Yes, the pros say I should be in control, that I should establish myself as the pack leader, that I should decide the day’s activities and so on. The problem is that, truth be told, I’d rather be playing with him too, it’s just that I have this silly notion that tells me I should be doing something else.

I look at my dog once more, decide that he’s the one that’s got his priorities straight, so I type a few words, and chase after him.

Training the dog is easy…

As I mentioned a while ago, I recently adopted a new dog. We are still working out the kinks in our relationship, but so far things seem to be coming along nicely… as long as it’s just the two of us. The problem is that while training the dog is not that hard, that training has to take place within the context of the real world, and that real world is not always as accommodating as I’d like it to be. I mean, I love my dog, but let’s face it: the world does not revolve around him, and that in turn means that I can’t rearrange everyone’s life around his training. If I have someone over, I have to be able to interact with that someone. I can’t exactly afford to spend most of my time instructing my guests on how to act around the dog -that’s not what they are here for- but at the same time I am all too aware that one well intended guest that doesn’t understand that feeding the dog at the table is most definitely not allowed can do away with weeks, if not months, of training. In fact that was pretty much what happened with my first dog (though to be fair I’m not sure if that one was the guests’ fault). She was a former stray, and as such she was used to begging. It was a skill she had relied on for her life, so breaking her out of that particular habit wasn’t easy. Eventually I managed to do it… or so I thought until I had some people over and I realized that what she had learned was that while I wasn’t going to give her anything, everyone else was fair game (what can I say, she wasn’t dumb).

Anyway, back to my current situation. When it comes to my new dog my main headache has been the whole door etiquette thing. I mean, if someone knocks on the door I can’t exactly leave them standing there for five minutes while I try to ensure that the little rascal doesn’t get a chance to dash out the door, and don’t even get me started on what happens when I come back carrying some packages. That situation is compounded by the fact that the dog is still a little shaky when it comes to recognizing his new name (especially when he gets excited), that he is still in the process of getting settled, and that he still doesn’t quite recognize my house like ‘his home’. Yes, I know, he will  get the hang of all of those things eventually, but eventually isn’t now, and the bottom line is that for the time being I can’t even open the door without breaking into a cold sweat.

Trying to address this issue I did what most of us do these days: I turned to the web for help. Unfortunately that research wasn’t particularly successful. The problem is that while there are plenty of articles on how to keep a dog from dashing out the door, finding one that deals with the specific challenges posed by a rescue dog in a realistic way has turned out to be all but impossible (in fact you can probably scratch that ‘all but’ from that statement because I’m still looking). Simply put, the situation most of those articles seem to describe is not the one I am dealing with, nowhere near it. They seem to treat door etiquette as something that should be addressed after basic obedience is in place, they assume that the dog has already mastered other basic commands, that he knows his name, and so on. This is often not the case with a rescue dog, where door etiquette is one of the first things that must be tackled for the dog’s own safety, and where the dog in question is used to being able to roam the streets on his own.

That in itself is a pretty major problem, but in addition to that there is also the fact that most of the articles I have come across seem to have beer written by dog trainers. That is understandable given the subject matter, but unfortunately it also means that, while they are great for training, they don’t seem to take into account such trifles as real life. Oh, it would be great if I could simply park my dog in an isolated pocket out of the time/space continuum until the whole training thing is conveniently out of the way and he can be let out safely, but that’s not the way the world works. Regardless of my dog’s training status I still have to be able to interact with other people, open the door, go to the grocery store and so on… unfortunately according to most of the articles I have come across whenever I do that I am undermining my own efforts because ensuring that the dog behaves as he should is not my only (in fact it’s not even my primary) concern.

Yeah, right, welcome to the real world.

As I said above, I know this is just a minor bump in the road. I know we will overcome this, that my dog will get the hang of it eventually, and I will be able to go back to opening the door without giving it a second thought, but for the time being things are a little complicated, and I’d love to be able to find some help that is actually helpful. Unfortunately most of the information I have been able to find so far seems to be built around one very basic premise: training the dog is easy… all you have to do is get rid of the rest of the world.

A nameless kitten’s story

Back in March, a couple of blocks from home, I saw a kitten sitting outside of a vacant lot. It was about six weeks old and absolutely adorable. I tried to approach it but it scrambled under the fence and there was no way I could follow. A couple of days later I saw it again, and I asked a shopkeeper whether or not that kitten had a human. The man told me that, as far as he knew, it had been abandoned. A few more days went by and I saw it again. This time I tried to catch it, but again it managed to slip away from me. I was about to go away for a couple of weeks, and I didn’t have anyone lines up to look after such a kitten, plus I knew that bringing it home would make my dog jealous and I knew she was going to have enough trouble dealing with the fact that I was going to be gone for two weeks anyway, so I reluctantly walked away.

Anyway, I figured that the kitten was so adorable that someone was bound to adopt it in my absence, but I was determined that, if the kitten was still there by the time I came back, I was going to adopt it myself. Sure enough, when I came back two weeks later the kitten was still there… dead just inside that fence. That day I learned a pretty harsh lesson about taking action and doing the right thing when the opportunity presents itself and not when it suits my schedule. I guess that was one of the reasons why, when a dog that was either lost or abandoned followed me home a few weeks ago, I didn’t hesitate to take him in. In the two blocks he had followed me it had become painfully obvious that that dog didn’t have a clue of how to cross a street and after what had happened with that kitten I dreaded the idea that the next time I walked out the door I would find that he had been run over by a car or something like that. So here he is, in part because of that nameless kitten, a kitten I failed to help, but one that taught me a lesson I hope never to forget.

Too many nines

And today, on the ninth day of the ninth month of the year, I am still missing my cat, who left me nine months ago (and that’s not even counting the whole nine lives thing, which I really, really, really wish he’d had). I guess I should be getting over it, whatever that means, but I still miss him like crazy and today it hit me like a ton of bricks. Still, don’t panic, I promised that I was going to try to keep the pictures of my pets to a minimum, so I’m not going to repost them here. I already uploaded them three months ago so, if you want to meet the little fellow, you can find them here (a fair warning: you’ll probably get a new batch for the first anniversary on December 9, though that should be the extent of it).

Collar of no shame, a how-to

my dog wondering what she did to deserve this.

And here we have another pointless personal post… or maybe this one won’t be quite so pointless.

Yesterday I had to take my dog to the vet. She had an allergic reaction to something and she was scratching so much she was sent home with several drugs and an e-collar (aka a ‘collar of shame’). The thing reminded me of a medieval torture device, my dog was miserable, I was miserable and it took me about twenty minutes to decide that the thing just wasn’t working, so I set out to find an alternative.

I found some very fancy products online, but none of them came across as particularly appealing and they were not available from my local vet. Seeing how I needed them now, not in 48 hours, they were most definitely not an option. That meant I had to come up with an alternative by myself… and I had to use materials that were readily available.

Here you have a picture of what I came up with, and I have to say that she is much happier. She can see where she is going, she can eat and drink, she can rest comfortably and she is not bumping into things or falling down the stairs. Continue reading Collar of no shame, a how-to

Six months

Six months ago today I lost my friend of almost fourteen years. Yes, he was ‘just a cat’ and I should be over it by now, yadda-yadda-yadda… Well, I’m not. I still miss the little critter, so you get stuck with a bunch of photos (don’t worry, I don’t intend to make a habit of this).

At play
At play
An afternoon nap
An afternoon nap
Like cats and dogs
Like cats and dogs
Into the distance
Into the distance