Meet Tiger

Meet Tiger (1)

Waiting for a New Family

By now you know that I have two Italian Greyhounds which I adore. I also share my home with four rescued indoor cats. I’ve previously written about the two latest additions, Barnabas Collins and Vlad. In this post I will introduce you to the first cat I adopted through my volunteer job.

We already had two cats when I started volunteering for the shelter approximately 15 years ago. They were acquired as kittens, the products of what I call “oops” litters. Annie was a brown tabby, perhaps mixed with a little Siamese, and Ozzy was a gray marble tabby (and the best cat in the universe), whose mother was Russian Blue. Sadly, we lost both of them exactly a year apart on June 2, 2015 and June 2, 2016.

There was an orange tabby in the adoption center. He was an adult cat who just wanted to lay around, and he didn’t stand out among the other cats looking for forever homes. I’m not sure why because he is a very handsome cat.

Week after week we developed a routine. I would lay my coat on the bench and he would curl up in it. I would come in for my shift and if he was already out of his cage, he would look to me for my coat, and I always obliged him. Since no one had showed any interest in him, and we had a bit of a bond, Tiger became cat #3 in 2009.

Fast forward nine years later, and guess what? He still lays around. That’s ok, now he has a much bigger space to lay around. I’ve heard that orange male tabbies are some of the friendliest cats. (Did you know that the majority of orange cats are male?) I have to admit that this isn’t accurate when it comes to Tiger. He is the least friendly of our felines. This is not to say that he is mean, but if you pet him too long, he will reward your effort with teeth marks. However, he is a cat’s cat, affectionate on his terms. He will head butt for attention, and climb into an available lap when the mood strikes him. Sometimes Tiger will even lay close to his humans in bed.

He likes to carry his toy mouse around and meow loudly, delivering us his latest “kill.” For this we heap tons of praise on him. He is the hunter of the group, and the only cat of the four who does this.

We call Tiger Pass-Out Cat, because he likes to sleep face planted. It really is adorable. If he’s really cold, he will burrow under the covers on the bed. If you see a lump, you know there’s an orange kitty under there. Again, he’s the only cat of ours to do this.

Tiger may not be a cat thrilled with kisses and cuddles, but we love him just the same.

Meet Tiger (2)

Pass-Out Cat

Yearly Tune Up

Yearly Tune Up (2)

Is It Our Turn to See the Doctor? 

The pups recently had their annual well visit at the vet. Of course, it’s not one of their favorite places to be, but for them it’s a necessary evil. Moose is often open to visiting other patients in the waiting room, while Red tries to blend into the floor in hopes no one will notice him. It never works, but yet he tries.

We were ushered into an exam room. The boys were in for a bit more than a nail trim, but we included that service in the appointment. Red now has a heart murmur that was barely detectable through the doctor’s stethoscope. He is hard of hearing, and we know that he can still see, but we’re not sure to what extent. He is doing exceptionally well with his aquapuncture treatments that he receives from another practice. (As he will no longer stay still for the time required for acupuncture, he now receives aquapuncture injections instead).

Moose’s heart murmur is worse than Red’s, but remains unchanged since last year’s visit. He requires no treatment for it at this time. Although we believe he is a year older than Red, his vision and hearing are better.

While Moose needed one vaccine, Red needed two, as they are not on the same schedule when it comes to inoculations. I felt bad for both of them, but more so for Red because he had aquapuncture only four days before his checkup. The poor guy must have felt like a pincushion.

Since both dogs are microchipped, we make it a habit of scanning them at their annual appointment. Chips can migrate or become unreadable, but both were easily found and read by the scanner. I doubt if either of our boys would go missing given that they no longer have an active social life (playdates), but you can’t be too careful.

Next month they will both go in for their dental appointment. Red did not have a dental last year because he was in bad shape; he could not stand, let alone walk. Now that he has recovered, his mouth requires much needed attention. Of course, both dogs will have bloodwork done the day of the procedure to be sure it’s safe for them to undergo the dental. Their existing heart issues should not preclude them from having the procedure.

A couple days following the vet visit, we received a call that their stool samples tested negative for any parasites. At least this year their samples actually made it to the vet’s office. At last year’s appointment, we arrived only to discover that the paper bag containing their samples was missing. We know we left the house with it, but I think in the process of loading the car with dogs, the bag was put on top of the car and forgotten. Oops.

So now the boys have had their tune ups, and next month we await the dental appointment. The bottom line is I am happy to report that both dogs are in good shape for their ages, 14 and 15 respectively.

Yearly Tune Up (1)

“If I blend into the floor, the vet won’t see me.”

Happy 2018!

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Red and Moose Doing What They Do Best, Nothing

It’s been quite a while since I’ve visited this site, but here I am. I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a great start, holding in store for you far more mirth than madness. In fact, I’ve decided to take this blog mainly in the direction of mirth, involving my beloved pets.

Why the change? There is so much anger and negativity in the world, and I don’t feel a need to contribute to that. I found that I have become a much more compassionate person, and my attitudes towards things have changed. You never know what someone is going through, so it’s best to be kind. People can change for the better. I yearn to see a glass half full, instead of half empty and cracked. I hope I am growing in a positive direction, and see things in a more positive light. As a result, this site will be a lot about my pets, and with 4 cats and 2 dogs, I think they will provide me with plenty of content. (Sometimes I may offer a random, positive musing).

One thing that I feel blessed about is still having my two dogs (knocks on wood) after some difficulties earlier in 2017. I’m happy to report that Red is still receiving monthly aquapuncture (vitamin injections, as he no longer wants to be still for acupuncture) and is continuing to do very well. Moose now has a heart valve leak, but it does not require medication at this time. In fact, there is also a chance that it will never worsen, but we continue to monitor his condition.

Moose had a photo with Santa before we adopted Red, and they may have had a photo taken together early on, but I honestly can’t remember. Their combined age of 29 prompted me to take them in for a photo. The process was extremely well run, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Also, proceeds went to an animal charity, which was great.

Moose is 15, and Red is 14. It’s tough seeing them grow old, knowing that their best years are behind them. I treasure the time we have together, and I try to spend as much time with them as I can, because I know I will be devastated when they leave me. My good friend growing up had a black lab/border collie mix that lived to 21, so my fingers are crossed for my boys’ longevity. Love those sweet seniors!

Belly Bands and Brothers

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You may know that I have two dogs, Moose and Red. You may also have noticed that they are always wearing an article of clothing in most of their inside pictures. So what is that material that wraps around them?

What the brothers are wearing are commonly known as belly bands, or weenie wraps, or squirt stoppers. As the names imply, these are specifically geared toward male dogs. In our house we call them man pants.

Their purpose is to be used as a housetraining tool. They also prevent your canine companion from marking his territory in inappropriate places, such as against the refrigerator or curtains; not that my angels have ever done such things. If you have an incontinent dog, they’re good for that, too. They’re not meant to be worn at all times, but . . .

Italian Greyhounds are a notoriously difficult breed to housetrain, unlike their larger cousins whippets and greyhounds. They do not like wind, rain, or the cold. Unless the conditions are optimal, there’s a good chance your little guy will run back into the house to do his business, no matter how long you have kept them outside on potty watch.

Because of their lack of reliability in the house training department, this is the reason they are most often surrendered to shelters and rescues. I hear they can be taught to go inside in a designated area, but that’s something I haven’t attempted.

Moose had very good potty habits when he was young. He was neutered at 6 months of age, and taught himself to ring the bells on the back door when he had to relieve himself. Nowadays he rings the bells and jumps on the couch to steal your spot when you get up to let him out.

Moose was three when we adopted Red, and that’s when the problems started. The Petfinder ad did mention that Red wasn’t housetrained but was smart and would learn quickly. Oh how wrong they were. Red’s arrival launched pee fest, with both dogs becoming leg lifters in the house, even though both were neutered.

We discovered belly bands, which enabled us to keep the boys in their forever homes. The brand we like uses fleece, and has elastic along both sides, similar to Huggies diapers. The fabric wraps around the dog, covering the boy bits, and is fastened at the top with Velcro. For extra absorbency we line the band with a feminine pad from the dollar store. Of course I would prefer them to go au naturel, but that’s not an option for them, especially in their advanced age. I think they’re adorable just the same.

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When Does Compassion Become Cruel?

 

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When Ozzy left me suddenly last June, I think he knew something I didn’t. I would need all my resources and energy to care for another ill fur family member. I believe Ozzy planned that time to go, somehow with the knowledge that one of his canine brothers would suffer ill health.

Red is our rescued Italian Greyhound, adopted into our family at the age of 1 or 2. We noticed recently that he “knuckled,” walking on the first bend of his paws, akin to human wrists. In fact, his paws bend all the way back, resembling flippers. He stumbled when he walked, which worsened quickly. To better accommodate him, we covered our kitchen floor with yoga mats for better mobility. We also moved a water dish into the family room, so he wouldn’t have to climb the two steps into the kitchen.

Our regular vet checked him and believed he suffered from a neurological problem. We consulted a specialist in Philadelphia, who believed Red’s issue was centered in his neck. This vet thought he had a herniated disc causing the problem. It was a better diagnosis than a brain tumor, but it was still disheartening.

There were two options to treat his condition. We could opt for medicinal help, using prednisone to see if that would give him any improvement in his mobility. We could try to keep him on the lowest dose possible. The other option was surgery. Red would need an MRI at the cost of $2,500 to see the exact cause of his problem. The specialist cautioned us that he would only operate on our dog if the problem were clear from the test and he thought surgery would help. Surgery would be an additional $3,000. Of course, he told us we had to decide if we wanted to put a 12, possibly 13 year old dog through that. We decided on the prednisone, reminding me of all the times I gave it to Ozzy. In fact, we still had some of his pills left to now give to Red.

We tried different dosages of the prednisone with varying degrees of success. One pill per day worked the best, but that wasn’t saying much. His conditioned worsened to outright falling over on his side. Back to our regular vet we went, where I asked how much prednisone he could tolerate. Two and a half pills per day would be the maximum, but it would cause muscle loss, his head eventually becoming misshapen. There was no way I could do that to him, I would see him euthanized first.

Although Red’s condition is shocking to anyone who sees him, other than this, he is healthy, and that is our dilemma. They say you know when it’s time to say goodbye, but I’m not getting that vibe from him. On one hand, he’s almost totally immobile at this point. His best times are when he first wakes up, he’s able to toddle around on his wrists. His back end isn’t much better, but it’s better than the front. He needs to be carried everywhere. When outside he sometimes needs to be steadied to relieve himself. He can stand most of the time to eat and drink, with a spotter nearby so he doesn’t fall over and choke.

We realize his best days are behind him and our time together grows short. Still, even though he has limited mobility, he has joy in his life. He loves to lay on our couch and snuggle with Moose, our 14 year old Italian Greyhound. He loves sleeping between us at night, secure that he won’t roll out of bed. He’s not missing out on walks (he never liked leaving his house), or running around anymore, as at his age he’s a couch potato. His appetite is as good as it was before he was on the prednisone.

The vet tells us he is not in pain. Every time we’re in the yard and he falls into a heap on the grass, I worry that the neighbors are calling the doggie version of DYFS. I feel judgmental eyes on me when I carry him into the vet’s office. We carry him everywhere he needs or wants to be; I’ve even Googled living with a paralyzed dog, although Red can feel and move all of his legs, he doesn’t know where they are, which is how our vet put it.

Two vets recommended against the surgery due to his age. Younger dogs have had the surgery and recovered, with another 10 years ahead of them. We know we don’t have that long with Red (although I had a friend whose dog lived to 21).

So it leaves me to wonder, when does compassion become cruel?

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Shattered

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I could barely see anything through the stinging haze of my tears, as I slid into the passenger seat of my vehicle. The radio turned on as the engine started, and I didn’t think it was possible to cry any harder than I already was. Slaughter’s “Fly to the Angels” filled my ears, and I switched it off with a trembling hand. How apropos. Now sitting in the shadow of my vet’s office, only moments before, I sent my beloved cat Ozzy to fly to the angels.

Ozzy had been chronically ill 11 of his 14 years. Through it all he stayed the same gentle soul everyone loved; from several medical interventions peppered throughout the years, to his strict medication and prescription food regimen, he was always a happy guy.

Nothing got my boy down. That’s why it was strange in the weeks leading up to his death, that he fought me when I tried to medicate him. I asked him if he was trying to tell me that he was done with it all. He just looked at me with his usual expression, always appearing to smile.

When he showed signs of illness soon after, I didn’t think much about it. Surely it was another setback and he would bounce back from the vet, as good as he could possibly be. As my better half secured him in his carrier for the trip to the doc, I assured my boy he would be home soon. Little did I know one of the last things I told my baby was a lie.

The baby vet called with a diagnosis that I was not expecting. I say baby vet because she was new, and not one of the two senior vets that I normally dealt with. Ozzy had end stage renal failure, with maybe a week left. My heart broke in a million pieces. Is this really the end? Despair turned to anger when baby vet said that his kidney values were normal in December, but now (June) they were awful. Did he get into anything he shouldn’t have? It took every ounce of strength not to scream, “Are you kidding me?” into the phone. Eleven years of enemas, xrays, MRIs, hospitalizations, prescription food, and medication from various places. Again, are you kidding me? Most likely several years of meds took their toll on his kidneys. It was a double-edged sword, if it weren’t for them he would have been euthanized at age 3 at the suggestion of our prior vet. He made it to 14, much longer than was expected.

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We were given the option to bring him home (our regular vet would later tell us that was not possible), or give him another day of fluids to see how he responded. We made the difficult decision to euthanize him.

When the techs brought him to us, one glance at him told us it was time. He looked so tired, he’d had enough, and he had been trying to tell me. It was heart wrenching. My boy needed the gift of peace, but it was painful. I told him how much I loved him, and what a good boy he was, and how I tried for so long to keep this day from coming. I begged his forgiveness, his fur damp with my salty tears. I told him I wanted to stay with him until the end, but I was a coward and could not. (It’s the same with humans, I don’t get the point of viewings. I want to remember the person alive, not dead in a box).

Fortunately my petsitter and dear friend held him as he took his last breath while I sobbed outside the building. She told me he was at peace, and had closed his green eyes. I will be forever grateful to her for staying with him. All I could say between heaving sobs was, “my baby is gone.”

I have to believe that a Rainbow Bridge does exist. I told Ozzy when I get there I will look for him first. My boy was deservedly at rest, but where did that leave me? Shattered.

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