Paris

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Paris

No, this isn’t a post about the city. Paris is the second dog in our house. We have no idea how he got his name. When we found him at our local Humane Society almost eight years he was already 3 or 4 and had that name, and it didn’t seem like a great idea to change that for him, so he was and is Paris

Paris is what a friend, who is an animal behavioral consultant, calls a “sensitive dog.” He was at the shelter for many months because he was depressed there, and made no effort to even look at people. He just kept his head and eyes down, was silent, and attracted no attention from potential adopters. He was so depressed that he was 30 pounds underweight. We didn’t look at him at first either, but the shelter folks thought highly of him. He wouldn’t make eye or much other contact with us, but he didn’t avoid us either, and we took him home.

 

Thin Paris

He parked himself with his butt up against the back door, and pretty much stayed there for the first couple days until he decided that we were keeping him, and maybe it was time to check things out.

 

Paris at door

At 3 or 4 years old, Paris had had maybe 2 minutes of training. He couldn’t walk on a leash, and once he realized he was home, he jumped on us endlessly. He chased the cats and was generally a handful. But he was also smart, and he was easily trained in a couple weeks (using positive reinforcement!)

Paris is a total daddy’s dog, and follows Marley around. Paris’s very favorite thing is sleeping with Dad.

 

Paris and Marley

In the last couple years he has had more than his share of medical challenges, largely difficult to diagnose. He began to lick himself incessantly, and we have been down the road of anti-anxiety meds/behavior modification, as well as every medicine for nausea in the arsenal. He had an ultrasound about a year and a half ago, and goes for another one on Tuesday. We know he has irritable bowel disease. We’ve tried every kind of food that exists, even hydrolyzed proteins, and nothing really helps. Except one medication which costs $9/pill, which helps for a few hours. Two other meds helped, but one caused neurological problems and the other sent his liver values flying.

Paris’s most interesting medical adventure was an unexplained high fever out of the blue one morning (what the vets call a fever of unknown origin). He spent the day at the vet’s with a catheter getting fluids and massive doses of antibiotics and his fever finally broke mid-afternoon. They sent him home overnight (to be brought back in the am) with his catheter capped and wrapped. At 4 am, he decided to chew the cap off the catheter and send blood flying all over the bed…heck of a way to wake up. Luckily I have a good pet first aid kit, and I pulled the catheter and re-wrapped the area. No need for coffee that morning.

Despite his medical issues, Paris loves his daily walk with Dad, hanging out on the couch with Butterscotch, and occasionally using Butterscotch as a pillow.

Paris and Butterscotch

 

Paris on couch

He is a sweet boy most of the time, with a bark that can (literally) be heard two blocks away. No one is breaking into our home unannounced! He scares mail carriers and delivery people who don’t know him, but he’ll stop barking the second you pet him. He just wants to be loved!

I can’t imagine how Paris ended up at the Humane Society. He is a smart dog, easily trained using positive methods, and despite his sad sack face, he is generally a happy boy. He’s probably 11 or 12 now, which is pretty senior for an 80 pound dog with health problems, but he goes for an hour-long walk (more like a stroll) each day, and seems content with his life. We’re pretty content with him too, and so glad that the staff of the shelter matched us up with him many years ago.

Here’s one of my favorite pictures of him surveying the day – I call it Noble Paris!

 

Noble Paris

A blog that one of my sisters wrote…please read! The business of puppy mills (and kitten mills) just has to end.

Gardens For Goldens

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I am angry.

Let me preface this with the understanding that this is a personal blog. When I speak here, I speak as an individual, not as a representative of the organization I volunteer with and love. With that out of the way…

There is a tremendous sense of fulfillment that comes with rescue. Blessings surround us daily. I heard a saying recently – “hard is hard”. There are certainly many hard things in rescue. Some of these are just strenuous physical challenges – some are difficult emotional challenges. I try to accept what comes our way with as much grace as possible: good people who surrender their dog through no fault of their own; others who surrender their dog for a myriad of reasons that, to me, are unfathomable (he got big; he got sick; my boyfriend doesn’t like him). I try to keep my judgement in check and…

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Gabby

Gabby is the most senior of our pets, and the one who has been with me the longest. She is a stately calico cat who watches over the other five cats carefully, but it wasn’t always so. Gabby, in her younger years, was a demon cat. Gabby showed her colors from day—or perhaps I should say—night 1. She made no bones about who she was right from the start.

 

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I got Gabby about 14 years ago, as a small 3 pound ball of fluff from a local rescue group. She was absolutely adorable, and I was smitten with her instantly. She came home with me that first evening, and overnight I put her in a room of her own until I could get her to a vet appointment the next day, before meeting my other resident cat, Cody. By the morning, Gabby had broken out of her room.  Who knew that such a little creature could open French doors?

Gabby’s favorite activity, for the first two years of her life, was to pick one activity and pursue it relentlessly until the next day dawned. It might be trying to dig a particular cord out of a particular outlet, or dumping all the dirt from a houseplant, or her absolute favorite: going up into my office in the loft, turning on the computer printer, jamming all the paper, and tossing everything off the desk. I’ve never had a cat before or since who made me as crazy as Gabby. (It’s that calico thing!) I would give her (and me) time outs so I wouldn’t hurt her, but even a half hour in a private space couldn’t deter her from continuing on with whatever the day’s designated destruction might be.  I’m pretty sure she needed more exercise/play than she was getting, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was newer to kitties back then.

On one fateful day Gabby was upstairs in the loft throwing everything around as usual. I finally realized (duh!!) that she loved it when I went running up to stop her, so that day I sat on my hands and shut my mouth. After a few minutes she peeked around the top of the stairs at me with a “Aren’t you coming up?” look on her face.  “Not a chance,” I told her. I was the last time she attacked my desk. Thankfully.

 

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Gabby kept her antics up for years until three kittens, the Greys, joined the household. Three solid grey siblings that you’ll hear about sometime soon, came from the Humane Society, and not in the best shape. I spent a few weeks nursing them, and then it was time to meet Gabby. In no time at all the Demon Cat became Mother Superior, supervising and caring for the kittens as if she were their mother. The transformation was remarkable. A spiritual director of mine at the time told me that the line between Devil and Mother Superior is pretty thin, and Gabby seemed to be proof of that.  She has been Mother Superior since that time, watching over her brood.

 

Gabby

She’s a huge fan of the upstairs cat room. (We have 2 cat rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. Both are no-dogs-allowed areas.) You’ll find her most often in one of the cat beds on the couch, or up in one of the cat trees near a window taking in the sun and the view. She loves to play with wand toys, but only when you can get her alone. Otherwise she will defer to the younger cats and just walk away. She will not, however, surrender a catnip toy to anyone.  Under any circumstances.  She’s a lap cat too, and loves sitting in my lap (when Butterscotch isn’t there).

 

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In our house she gets the respect due to seniors, mostly. And she is a sweet and gentle soul, mostly. Perhaps it is a holdover from her early years, but she feels the need every once in a while to sit on the back of a chair that I’m sitting on in order to chew out some of my hair. I have enough to spare, but still.

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Maybe she doesn’t want me to forget who she was as a kitten. Once a demon cat, always a demon cat, at least in some small corner of her life.  An occasional demon now, rather than a fulltime one. We love her anyway.

 

Monday Riddle

What is the difference between Butterscotch and an alarm clock?

 

Answer: You can turn an alarm clock off on days when you don’t need to be up at the crack of dawn.

 

The wake up litany starts around 5:45 am,  earlier in the summer when the sun comes up before 6 am, and you’re allowed to hit Butterscotch’s snooze button a time or two, but then it’s breakfast time. Breakfast may not be served later than 6:30. End of story. Once the meal is served you’re good until dinnertime, when the alarm goes off again.  Structure in life is a good thing, right?

 

Butterscotch

 

 

The Blessing of Butterscotch

Butterscotch is the most recent addition to our family. She was my dad’s dog until three years ago.  She was one of the loves of his life, and  is one of the loves of my life now too.  Dad went into the hospital unexpectedly and  would not be returning to live in his home, but would move to an assisted care facility instead. I had always said that I would take her when it was time, and it was time.

So in early March, we found ourselves driving through the Adirondacks to upstate NY, just a few miles shy of the Canadian border, to take Butterscotch to her new home with us.  Dad had long complained that Butterscotch wanted to eat and drink all the time, and got him up during the night to go outside. She’d been tested for diabetes, and her blood sugar levels were fine. We all just figured she was overweight because Dad fed her a portion of everything he ate, including his daily bowl of ice cream. Butterscotch was just a bit pudgy at 50.5 lbs.  Though that never stopped her from thinking she was a lap dog!

 

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Within a half hour of getting to Dad’s, however, I knew something was wrong with Butterscotch. She drank like a fish, and when she went out to urinate in the snow, her urine had no color. Made a quick phone call to my vet to schedule her for a check ASAP, and headed for home. She turned out to be an excellent car traveler, and made the 8 hour drive home without problem. This was my dad’s favorite photo of her, as she looks out the back of the car on the way to her new life.

 

Butterscotch

Butterscotch had Cushing’s Syndrome. That means her adrenal gland is missing the chemical that says you are full or not thirsty anymore, so she was, indeed, insatiably thirsty and hungry. She responded very well to the medication and within a year’s time she went from only being able to walk a block, carrying her 50 lbs, to a svelte 39 lb dog who walked for a half hour or more at top speed each day.

 

Butterscotch

 

Butterscotch’s lesson for the world is unconditional love, or nearly unconditional love. That doesn’t extend to ground hogs. Don’t ask me what happened with one while she was running in a field one day; suffice it to say she doesn’t get to run loose in the fields anymore.  But otherwise Butterscotch’s assumption is that you’re loveable and trustworthy. She quite literally walks up to strangers and rolls on her back, just in case they might be looking for a belly to rub. You never know.

 

Butterscotch

 

Butterscotch’s life with us has been good. She is my shadow, a real momma’s dog. Whenever I go in the house, she is never far away. She’s a bit of a barker; she literally goes out the door barking in case there’s something to bark about…you never know.  I know how to train this out of her…just haven’t done it yet.  My dad lived out in the country and encouraged the barking, so he would know when someone was approaching. Maybe I let her bark because he liked her that way, and it doesn’t bother me all that much. (I do make her come inside, so she doesn’t bother the neighbors.)  She is a total snuggler, and now climbs on my lap when I’m in an easy chair; she is glued to me at night and getting her to sleep elsewhere would be way too hard.

My dad and I always talked about Butterscotch in the three years between when I retrieved her and his passing. He never got tired of hearing how she was doing, or about her first obedience class (Rally – O at age 10! – she loved it!) or any other detail about her. I knew that he was incredibly grateful that I’d taken her, figured out what was up with her health-wise, and continued to dote on her.  My dad died not too long ago, and I still find myself thinking that I need to tell him about something Butterscotch has done and the blessing she is in my life. “You can still tell him,”   one of my sisters commented. And so I do.

 

Butterscotch

 

 

Learning to be Dr Doolittle

Some years ago I wrote a book, All God’s Creatures: The Blessing of Animal Companions. It was my eighth book, and I expected to run around the country and talk about it, as I had with some of my others. Little did I know that the book would take me down a whole new path.

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In the process of writing the book and speaking about living in covenant with the animals, I realized that I was meant to work with animals, not just live with them.  I decided to become a vet tech, and took enough classes to remember just how much I hated science, and how poorly I do in that field. I managed the biology class (mostly), but when it came to chemistry, the game was up.

Undeterred I went to work for a local vet, a small one where you get to do a little of everything. I loved the work. I got to help with surgeries, run tests, clean kennels, medicate animals, work at the reception desk, and anything else that needed to be done by someone other than a vet. I learned a lot about medical problems. Then, as often happens, I started pet sitting on the side. Within four months I was busy enough with pet sitting that I had to choose that or the vet practice, and I decided to launch my pet sitting business for real

More than five years into that business, I know I am where I am supposed to be. I get to work with great people—we are now a staff of nine— and pets, and every day is an opportunity to learn something new.  Sometimes what I learn comes from the people I know, clients and other professionals. Often it comes from the dogs and cats I care for as well as the ones I live with, who have done their best to teach me their “language,”  to think like them,  or see the world from their perspective, and what I can do to bond with them and provide them with the best care possible.

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I am not always as quick a learner as I would like to be, but I’m definitely a quicker study with the animals than with a chemistry book.  In the next while here, I’ll introduce you to my live-in teachers, all rescues: Paris, Butterscotch, Thomas, Lilly, Stripe, Gabby, Minh, and Hiro. Some have major health issues, and one or two have some interesting behavior problems. But all of them are a blessing, (most of the time!)