Breaking up is hard to do. I have made the comment in prior posts about foster fails, where I’ve intended to take an animal in until it can find a forever home, in those cases their is only cause for celebration when you realize you and your new friend were made for each other. But what about when you bring a four legged friend into your home only to discover that you’re not a match made in heaven? In relationships we sometimes fall hard and fast, maybe because we were feeling needy or had just experienced a loss or you were enamoured by someone’s good looks, but then comes the day when you realize things aren’t working out and a hard choice has to be made, to work on the relationship and get help or move on. I don’t think that people realize, this too can happen with our pets. We adopt a really cute dog from the shelter only to discover it’s an incessant barker or we bring another cat home to befriend the one we already have, only to create a problem where one cat starts peeing all over the house. You come to a place where you say, this isn’t working, I’ve been there, more times than I care to admit. We had adopted our cat Romeo, who healed my heart at a very difficult time when we’d lost one of our dogs. Awhile later we thought he could use a friend, we went to Kitty Kare and adopted Savanah, a big eyed girl, who when we met her at her foster home, seemed like such a sweetie. Well, life with Savvy, wasn’t as clear sailing as we would have hoped, she behaved like a Ninja warrior, attacking our old husky Nishka, she bullied Romeo at food time and hissed at us when we would get near her. For the woman, who used to be afraid of cats, this was a bit problematic. Romeo got very sick due to stress and none of us, including Savanah, seemed happy. So what do you do? We chose her, we’d made a commitment to her, but things were not working out, and just like in any relationship, sometimes you realize the only way to move forward is to go your separate ways. This being said, as humans, if we break up, we have choices, our pets do not. We are making choices on their behalf! It worries me in this day and age of Kijji and social media where we can buy and sell wanted and unwanted items, what can happen to our pets. You put an ad on Kijji to give away your dog, you talk to a few people and decide on a person and hand over Fido. This brings me back to, ‘you made a commitment’, one really has to take due diligence to make sure your cat isn’t going to become bait for a dog fight or your dog doesn’t get sold for animal research. You need to go see where your pet is going, you need to check in on them after you’ve adopted them out and you need to be willing to say if it doesn’t work out for you, I will take Fido back til we get things right. I got lucky with Missy and Smokey and found them awesome forever homes and as for Miss Savanah, I knew she just needed some time and to be an only cat, thankfully my daughter was moving out and was able to take her with her. The awesome part for all of us, Savannah is happy and I’ve watched her blossom into an entirely different cat, who no longer hisses at me. She comes to visit from time to time when my daughter is away, granted things aren’t perfect as she pees on my couch as a way of saying…this isn’t forever right? But we persevere and I know she’s safe and happy with my daughter. Breaking up is hard to do, just remember that the choices you make are the ones your pet has to LIVE with.
I realized as I was walking this afternoon, my posts have been very canine focused, I love dogs! I have to admit, as a child I was rather afraid of cats. My Pet sitting jobs started at a very young age, I think I was ten when my Aunt entrusted me to feed and watch out for their cat Tippy. Tippy was a beautiful looking boy, grey and white with an upside down question mark on his face, and man, was he big. I went over to feed him one day and couldn’t find him, I began searching through the house and had no luck uncovering him, and then out of nowhere he came running at me, startled I slipped on the tile floor and landed on Tippy, which he didn’t appreciate. This resulted in him taking a claw to my hand and slicing it from top to bottom, and thus began my fear of cats. I continued feeding him for years and years when my Aunt would go away, but never ever did I trust him or try to pet him. When I would encounter a cat, I would smile and talk to it, but I would admire it from a safe distance. It took Samantha, a sweet five month old stray to change my mind. I found her in Brockville and rescued her from getting hit by a car on Canada Day. I brought her home , and I will admit, I was a nervous wreck. She’d attack my feet when I was sleeping and she’d race around the room chasing tin foil balls and she would stare at me while I was in the bath tub. Rarely did I ever pick her up, she’d curl up near me on the bed or on the couch, and that was cool. She convinced me that cats could be trusted! My bond with her encouraged me to rescue Missy, a feral cat that could ward off coyotes and Smoky, a sweet little kitten frozen to the ground on a -40 evening in Hay River. I found each of them homes, but one cat was good enough for me. That was until I met Holly , a gorgeous black and white Manx, she was such a character, she’d sleep in our sink and lay by my head when I slept and really helped me gain an understanding of cats. Samantha got very sick at 16 and we had to say good bye, and Hollie died shortly after. We got Nishka, the cat eating Husky, and decided no more cats for us for awhile. Then one day I heard an ad on the radio about a rescue organization called Kitty Kare, they were looking for Foster families. Up to that point in my life, every animal that had lived under my roof, was of the female persuasion. When the rescue ladies brought over this scruffy, male cat I remember thinking “perfect, I will not be a foster fail.” Romeo, very aptly named, was their first save and what a blessing that was! Romeo has taken me to a new plateau in cat appreciation! I do think, he has ruined me for all other cats. He is the most loving, gentle and tolerant creature I’ve ever met. He’s a Maine Coon, but on the small spectrum for his breed, I could go on and on and on, about my love for my boy. Suffice to say, as much as I like to talk about my canine friends, I am now a cat lover and when I look back to my days of caring for Tippy, I realize he taught me that cats need introspection and finesse when getting to know them. With a little time and mutual understanding, cats can be mans best friend too!
As I walked through the park with my friend Newton this morning we encountered a woman with two children, and my loveable girl friend , whose the life of the party and so incredibly outgoing, had her hair raised on her back. She became a bit skittish and nervous. She’s such a love, and I thought how uncharacteristic that was of her. I think many people, even pet parents, look at our four legged friends and think they are just a dog or just a cat. I think we forget that like us, our pet has its own distinct personality. My friend is warm and affectionate and in so many ways an extrovert , but she is also very shy. She has to take things slow and get to know a person before she relaxes and becomes her exuberant self. I realized I am a lot like that, I come off to people as very hyper and friendly, yet I have a hard time letting people in my personal space. Being the life of the party doesn’t mean you don’t have a shy side, an introspective nature that has to assess new people and situations. So like us, I am reminded that our pets are distinct and unique, with their own set of boundaries and personality traits. We need to honour and respect them and not make assumptions on their behalf. Our four legged friends need our understanding when being approached not only by other dogs and cats, but also by children, teens, seniors and strangers that we encounter out on walks or coming into our homes. This morning I realized that Newton and I are two peas in a pod.
Today it was -17 out as I strolled through the park with Sam. It struck me that usually when I walk through that particular park I encounter at least one or two people walking their dogs. Not today, it was just Sam and I. Often when I’m out dog walking I will think about clients pets, or my two boys at home or in today’s circumstance I got to thinking about Nishka, my husky that passed on five years ago. She loved winter, watching Sam bury his face into the snow and hop into the fresh pristine patches of white made me smile and think of how much my girl loved her walks. Which then lead me back to my original thought of Sam and I alone in the park, I don’t think we were alone. As crazy at it sounds, I imagine all my past pups following along with us. That’s the special thing about our four legged friends, they never truly leave us, they are always in our hearts, even after they leave this world they bring a comfort and sense of well being to us. So today, I’m feeling blessed for the paw prints left on my heart.
Cold January days. When we are out and about in brisk wintry weather I ponder when to put a jacket on the dogs and when not. I have been admonished by people without dogs and some with, that your dog doesn’t need a coat. My old guy, his coat was thicker a few years ago, but as of late he has a lot more exposed skin in patches under his arm and chest area and frankly, he actually shivers at times. I have two coats, one that is more to break the wind and keep him from getting mucky and the other that is quilted and provides warmth to his core. I think it is a matter of preference really, I understand that dogs have fur, but when it’s -25 out and your coat is very short, I tend to worry. When we go out it’s not a stroll around the block, we head out and at minimum return a half hour later. I appreciate my layers! My rule of thumb, if the temperatures are hovering around -5 without a wind chill, I don’t worry about a jacket, but if I lose the feeling in my hands from stooping and scooping, then a jacket for the dog isn’t a bad thing.
One of my furry friends is a rescue, her life before her new family is a mystery, as most rescue animals are. I walk her three times a week and our friendship is a new one. When we are out and about walking she has such a zeal and enthusiasm and can’t wait to get moving. There is another side to my dear little friend though, one that shy’s away from my hand if I go to pet her, or looks down and shrinks when I want to wipe her paws, she becomes timid and very afraid. The family she has now loves her and is committed to her, but it is obvious that life before this new home wasn’t so easy. I often will sit with her when we are done our walk and I work at connecting with her, petting her back and talking to her softly, assuring her that my hands are friendly ones and that she is safe. It breaks my heart when I look in her eyes to see the pain and uncertainty there. I think as humans, we often feel we are the only species capable of feeling sadness, that we have a monopoly on heartbreak. At some point in this dear little girls life, she suffered and it is present when you look into her eyes and when you watch her interact, she wants to trust you, but she’s also gone down that road and it hasn’t worked out so well for her. Rescues are a work in progress, they take a lot of time, patience and trust that things can change. Right now she is anxious, fretful that things could be bad again. It is hard to live with a pet that suffers from anxiety , has accidents or makes a mess in our home, I have been there and I get it. It’s hard to stay patient and go the distance when your carpet is covered in stains or your couch is chewed up, but if we as caregivers can accept there is no perfect, and that if we can stay committed and work on forging a new bond with this troubled little soul, one day things can be better and they can heal and perhaps teach us a life lesson along the way. I don’t think they ever truly forget their former lives, often with my old guy he yelps and cries out in his sleep and he when he wakes he seems befuddled which turns into relief when he realizes where he is. As for my new little friend, I will keep hoping for her that with each cuddle and passing day in her new life, that she will blossom.
Last night, as I sat on the couch reading a book I looked at my rescue dog snoozing beside me. Lucas is a Shepherd Mix, we’ve had him for four years, but he is getting up there in years. In the short time we’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him, his muzzle has gotten grayer and his once muscular physique is now less so and his skin has become more like something you’d see on a Sharpei. We agreed to foster Lucas from an organization called New Hope Dog Rescue whose mandate was to rescue dogs from the local pound that were slated to be euthanized by paying their adoption fee and finding them foster homes. Lucas had been at the pound for 14 days (it was suspected that his actual family surrendered him because they no longer wanted him), after that point if the owner hasn’t claimed their pet, it is either deemed adoptable or euthanized. Due to Lucas’ suspect lineage and his age, he was slated for euthanization. Thank goodness for organizations like New Hope, he was given a second chance. We agreed to be a foster family because we were dog less, as our two dogs had both recently died and we felt, although it was too soon to get a new dog, we could give a foster dog a roof over it’s head while it waited for a forever family. I remember I had requested a small to mid size dog, as we had two cats. In walked Lucas, solid muscle, a rather burly boy, one blue, one brown eye and rather menacing looking compared to my Sheltie we’d recently lost. My first thought, “Hell no, that’s not coming to live here, he will eat the cats!” Lucas walked through the house and sniffed, ignored the cats, this was after two weeks of being caged up as we were the first stop from being sprung from the pound. I took him out to the back yard and what transpired next softened me and was the reason I checked my bias or prejudice at the door, He rolled in the grass sniffing and wriggling for a good twenty minutes, in pure delight and abandon, so happy to be free. I decided he could stay, and we’d see how it went. The next day I took him to a conservation area for a walk, he saw a grouse and a squirrel,very exciting for a dog that had been caged up and took me off my feet. Up in the air I went and down on the ground I landed, Lucas dragging me by the arm down a rocky slope, as I bashed up my entire right side, partly my fault because I wouldn’t let go of his leash in fear I’d loose him. But not a great start to a new friendship. As days became weeks, he barked incessantly if left alone, made lakes of drool, but we persevered as his foster family. And then we found out we were moving, I looked at this dog, who’d been bunking with us for 9 months and thought, ‘now what?’ Well, there were no foster homes available, Lucas would have to go live at at a kennel until someone wanted to adopt him, and I knew in my heart he wouldn’t show well or would attract the wrong kind of person who wanted a guard dog in the yard to look menacing. How could we do that to him, with a little Gravol, because Lucas was an anxious mess in the car, he made the 17 hour drive with us to our new home. It took him less than a month before he had an incident and made a hole in the wall when I left him alone for a few hours one afternoon. I was so afraid the Hubby would say he had to go, I enlisted the help of my brother-in-law to cover up his transgression. He eventually settled into our new home, he’s become more relaxed and has basically adopted us, he trusts us finally. And here we are today, I think about his journey with us and I am so thankful for what he’s taught me; not to judge a book by it’s cover, sometimes you have to persevere to get hooked. I wonder often what the beginning of his story looked like, but all I know, is I want the final chapters to be a very happy ending.
Walking through the snow with Sam today and it was fun to watch his enthusiasm as he would jump into a patch of untouched powder and plunge his face down deep, coming back out with a beard of white. At this time of year when the snow falls, and falls some more, we humans feel inconvenienced and annoyed. Me, I am like the dog, I love the snow! You dress for the temperatures and what a wonderful way to spend a half hour! There is this man I pass every afternoon as I am out walking, he is dog less, face red as a beet and boy oh boy, is he surly, he never says hello, just grunts. As Sam and I strolled along I thought, that maybe if that man had a dog, a friend to join him as he huffed and puffed he might be able to see the world before him in a whole new light. Friends with four legs are magnificent at helping one enjoy a wintry day!
Welcome to No Time To Paws. I hope to share some insights with you on pet care and especially exercising your pet. Check back regularly for updates.