Happy Howloween

>> Sunday, October 24, 2010

Yesterday we went to the Petsmart Howloween parade and costume contest. It was SO much fun and a great learning experience for our pups. Alan brought home the little brochure about it, so we dressed up all of the pups and headed over. Walter wasn't too keen on being dressed up, but once we got to the store he was a big ham and enjoyed being fawned over by all of the people there. Any time we bring him somewhere, we are bombarded with questions. One of the store associates actually ran up to me and said, "Hey! Your dog's leg is stuck in his costume!" I explained to her that it was stuck like that for good and she seemed relieved that I wasn't dragging him around with his leg stuck in his clothes.

All of the pups wore matching bandanas in different colors along with their costumes. Walter was a football player: a "wide retriever" as his shirt said. We wanted to dress him as the auto mechanic, but he was too big to fit into that costume. He wore a red bandana to match his jersey. Reagan ended up being the auto mechanic with her green bandana, and Quincy was a bumble bee and wore a turquoise bandana. Of course we gather a lot of attention when we take them anywhere, and they were the biggest dogs that were dressed up. All of the other dogs were little dogs, and many of the people were just letting their little dogs lunge at our big ones, which was kind of frustrating.

The first
part of the festivities was getting their picture taken. Walter wasn't cooperating because he was too busy looking at me, while Reagan and Quincy got their pictures taken together. Finally, Walter sat in front of the backdrop by himself. I think I made the associates mad because I said Walter was on the dumb side. It was not an insult, but he is just a stubborn Chow mix and does his own thing most of the time. Oh well...he knows how much we love him!
print the pictures there and then we bought some frames that go with them. The frames even glow in the dark! I don't like Halloween, but these are pretty cute (really bad cell phone shot).

After they got their
pictures taken, it was time for the parade. We had to wait a few minutes for it to start, and a woman who works at a rescue was in the store, and she had seen Walter over the summer when I was in. She was shocked at how different he is now, and how well he was doing.

When the
parade started, we were second in line. Walter had a good speed going, until Quincy decided to....eliminate...in the middle of the parade. It was just falling out, no squatting or anything (sorry this is disgusting...I hate bathroom talk and I'm trying to be delicate). Luckily, nobody stepped in it and it was an easy clean up. Because of this, we did not finish the parade around the store!

Finally, it was time for the costume contest. There were some really cute dogs there, and even a miniature
pig dressed as a jester! Another lady had the smallest dog I've ever seen in person. A teacup doodle poodle designer dog thing dressed like a devil, and she dressed up in a costume too. I think that dog weighed maybe a pound. There were dogs dressed like moose, a butterfly, a ballerina (which Wembley would have detested, because she was such a princess and wouldn't like the attention given to someone else in pink), and a panda bear. There were maybe twenty or so dogs, and we were the only people with multiples.

For the costume contest everyone gathered around in a circle, and we had to walk down the middle of the aisle, say our dog's name, breed, and what their costume was. We were the only
people with mixed breeds, which I found surprising. When Walter walked down, everyone said "Awwwwwwwww." I mentioned that he wasn't hurt and that we adopted him like that too, because people always think he is injured. When Alan walked down Reagan, everyone laughed that she was an auto mechanic, and Quincy was a big hit with the children in her bee costume. At the end of the walk down the aisle, everyone got a goody bag. They actually gave us one for each of our dogs, which I thought was incredibly generous! We didn't win the costume contest (even though I saw them gesturing at Walter...he must have been a contender), but afterward the associates handed out a bunch of coupons and gave us a bunch since we have so many dogs, which was incredibly nice! The best part is that we can actually use them for the cats too.
The goody bags were also really generous,
packed full of treat samples, more coupons, and even cat treats! We are going to use all of the samples to stuff their stockings at Christmas.

Alan and I were SO
proud of the dogs. Walter is still learning socialization, and Quincy too. Quincy has a tendency to bark and growl at strangers, even children, because she gets scared and nervous easily. Yesterday, besides the little accident, she was on perfect behavior, letting children and adults pet her, without growling or feeling scared. It was a really positive experience for her. Walter also gathered a lot of attention from adults and children alike, and Reagan is always a hit with kids, and she loves them right back.

When we came back home, Alan remarked how he had a blast out with the dogs and I did too. It was just a great family outing and a good o
pportunity for the dogs to interact with others.


Change Foods and Change A Life

>> Friday, October 15, 2010

When Wembley was first diagnosed with cancer, I immediately questioned her dog food. At the time, we were feeding her Science Diet. Like millions of others we were duped into believing this was a quality dog food, since the first vet she ever visited recommended it. There are all sorts of politics involved with veterinarians and Science Diet, but that isn't my intent now. My issue is with the poor quality of their food.

I started reading several resources about dog food, and was horrified when I found out what we had been feeding our dogs all those years. I don't blame Wembley's cancer entirely on Science Diet, but I do believe it was a factor in why she got it at such a young age.

Many dog foods are preserved with BHA, BHT and Ethoxyquin. These are chemical antioxidants and Ehtoxyquin is a carcinogen. All three of these have affects on health and interfere with kidney and liver functions (Wembley's cancer started in the liver). Science Diet is one of many foods that uses these preservatives.

These are not the only alarming ingredients found in many dog foods. Food is prepared with fillers to create bulk weights with low cost, and what is suffering is the health of many dogs, cats, and livestock. Dogs thrive on grain free or low grain diets. Reagan used to eat Science Diet Sensitive Stomach because she always had stomach problems.

These are the first three ingredients in Science Diet Sensitive Stomach formula:

Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, and Animal Fat.

Brewers Rice "is the small milled fragments of rice kernels that have been separated from the larger kernels of milled rice."

Corn Gluten meal is "the dried residue from corn". It is actually a corn by-product.

Animal Fat is used for flavor. It is usually rendered meat by-products, which can include:

"spines, hair, hooves, feet, heads, euthanized dogs and cats from veterinarian offices and animal shelters, roadkill, zoo animals, dead animals and those declared unfit for human consumption due to disease and illness are also placed in the mix, pentobarbital, rancid restaurant grease, toxic chemicals and additives."

The last one is especially appalling. Many foods are also sprayed with animal fat to make the food taste better and greasier for dogs. I highly recommend Food Pets Die For by Ann N. Martin to learn more about rendered meat and by-products and what they do to the animals consuming these products. This book really sparked my hardcore research into finding a better dog food for our pups. Dog Food Analysis is a great web resource for looking into what your dog food is rated, or to check out what tops the list of dog foods. It is all about finding what works for your dog too, because if you pick out a holistic dog food, that doesn't mean your dog will immediately take to it. It is best to switch to a new food gradually and see how they do on it.

After heavy, time consuming research and reading, reading, and more reading, we decided to go with Wellness dog food, which is a holistic brand that we get at local, independent pet stores, although PetSmart has started to carry it. This is slightly alarming, because I hope Wellness doesn't change their formulas if there is a higher demand. Other brands that we will feed include Taste of the Wild, Merrick, and Orijen. These are not the only good holistic brands out there. Others include Solid Gold, Wysong, Fromm, Canidae, and Eagle Pack. If you are going to switch foods, I suggest researching what would be best for your dog according to health issues or breed. For example, we feed Reagan the formula with glucosamine because she has hip dysplasia.

It all comes down to knowing what to look for on the label. If you refuse to buy anything for yourself with high fructose corn syrup, you look at the label, right? It's the same thing with dog food. Look for natural ingredients, like beef, chicken, turkey, or duck. If it says "chicken meal" or "turkey meal" that is okay too. All that "meal" means is that it's a combination of clean flesh and does not include bones or feathers. If it is a by-product, it will contain ground up feathers, bones, and more.

Another thing you can do for your dog is to feed raw. I am not well-versed in the raw diet, but it requires a lot of knowledge about what vitamins and minerals are needed to keep your pet healthy. K9 Cuisine has a great list of links on feeding your dog a raw diet. This is something we are hoping to start doing a few times a week, but haven't started yet.

Reagan is a shining example of how switching to holistic foods changed our dogs for the better. Before feeding holistic foods, Reagan was ridden with stomachaches, gas all day long, and allergies. She was always itching and scratching and very, to put it mildly, flatulent! After we switched to Wellness, she lost seven pounds, her coat is smooth, shiny, and healthy, and she only gets a bellyache after she gets into something she shouldn't. Her allergies are virtually GONE. At her yearly check up, our vet said she is healthier than she's ever been in her life. Her coat was so gorgeous that he thought we had just given her a bath, which was not the case! Reagan's nails are growing really quickly these days too, and the vet said this is a sign of good health. I attribute this to changing dog foods and giving our dogs a solid vitamin regiment, which I discussed with the vet.

Now, I realize not everyone can afford to feed their dogs holistic food, and I would rather see a dog eating a less desirable dog food and have a home than be homeless because someone can't pay holistic dog food prices, but if you can, spend a little extra on dog food and get something that is quality. Having three dogs doesn't make this a cheap venture by any means, but we love them and are willing to cut things out of our lives in order to feed them what they deserve. After all, they give us unconditional love and endless amounts of joy, and for that they are worth it.

*The same applies to cat food. Our cats eat a variety of holistic foods including Wellness and Taste of the Wild! We do this so they don't get fussy.


Quincy is Growing Up

>> Monday, October 4, 2010

Quincy celebrated her first birthday on September 10th. It's hard to believe our little pup is already reaching adulthood, but she has proved this so us in many ways since turning the corner to one year.

This summer was a very trying period for us. We essentially had to figure out what this border collie business was all about, and how to be the best parents for her. We haven't experienced the "border collie boredom" that happens, where should would be destructive and destroy things, but she has chewed up some magazines and other paper items when we weren't watching. This of course is a very small thing, but we are still learning how to eliminate these behaviors.

Quincy needs an abundance of exercise. Even after a walk, Quincy just isn't tired. If anything, she is more hyper. Luckily, we have discovered that she has a huge talent for frisbee and is very good at retrieving. This is our way of giving her "jobs", since we clearly don't have any sheep to herd. Quincy leaps into the air and catches the frisbee every single time. Hopefully we can teach her some tricks soon!

Another exciting development is that she is A LOT more receptive to learning. Quincy hasn't been a fast learner, but now she is getting the hang of things. I finally taught her how to beg, and our next trick is going to be teaching her to jump into our arms, which Alan started to work on this weekend.

The best part of seeing our little pup grow up is her personality blossoming. Quincy is the sweetest, kindest little girl, and a major love bug. She's always by my side, loves to give kisses and be held and snuggle. She gives Reagan endless devotion, she plays with the cats, and she adores Walter. Quincy came into our lives at the perfect time, and even though we weren't planning on getting a little border collie mix, I am sure am glad that we did.


For Wembley

>> Thursday, September 23, 2010

"I Cried For You"

You're beautiful so silently
It lies beneath a shade of blue
It struck me so violently
When I looked at you

But others pass, the never pause,
To feel that magic in your hand
To me you're like a wild rose
They never understand why

I cried for you
When the sky cried for you
And when you went
I became a hopeless drifter
But this life was not for you
Though I learned from you,
That beauty need only be a whisper

I'll cross the sea for a different world,
With your treasure, a secret for me to hold

In many years they may forget
This love of ours or that we met,
They may not know
how much you meant to me.

I cried for you
And the sky cried for you,
And when you went
I became a hopeless drifter.
But this life was not for you,
Though I learned from you,
That beauty need only be a whisper

Without you now I see,
How fragile the world can be
And I know you've gone away
But in my heart you'll always stay.

I cried for you
And the sky cried for you,
And when you went
I became a hopeless drifter.
But this life was not for you,
Though I learned from you,
That beauty need only be a whisper
That beauty need only be a whisper


Do All Things With Love

>> Monday, September 20, 2010

We spent a lovely weekend relaxing at the cabin. It just happened to fall on the 18th, which marked eight months since Wembley and seven months since adopting Walter. While we have a large yard and the dogs are not suffering for any major outdoorsy time, they sure love being at the cabin. Reagan and Quincy especially enjoy chasing the mule, and Walter always finds some lucky curve of the earth to nestle in as a makeshift bed.

We had a bonfire, lit fireworks, did a lot of reading, stayed warm by the wood stove fire, and gave the pups a special treat- cranberry and pumpkin biscotti with meat and vegetables on top. They all nibbled on fresh pumpkin too; a very nutritious and tasty treat.

There is a photo on the table of this family I married into, taken on another weekend where we all worked on odds and ends. Wembley is in this photo, for it was taken back when it was just our golden girls. Wembley and Reagan are not looking at the camera, but have their heads tilted to the side, in the same direction, which seems appropriate in a melancholy way. Wembley loved the cabin and enjoyed many fine days there.

Even though our pack has changed, we felt Wembley all around us, knowing she is the reason we are so lucky to have Walter, Reagan, and Quincy. We fell in so much love with Wembley that we opened our home to these other loving creatures one at a time, and because of that, she will always be around, as will each one after.

This weekend we watched as Reagan, riddled with hip dysplasia, ran and ran some more. She also swam and retrieved the stick with such force, her muscles bulging and flexing with every step and paddle. Earlier this year, the vet said Reagan was healthier now than she ever has been in her life. This is all thanks to endless hours of research and reading that Wembley's awful disease provided us with. Thanks to Wembley, Reagan is in the best health of her life.

Quincy tagged along with her sister, and she swam for the very first time this weekend. Before, she was scared. Now she jumps right in. I can't help but feel so grateful for this little one. Quincy ensured that Reagan would never be without a playmate. She distracted Reagan as we drove hours back and forth in the middle of the night for emergency vet visits with Wembley. She brought Reagan's smile back.

Walter stunned us this weekend with his abilities. We saw him run- and I mean really running as fast as his disability will allow, and he was quite fast! No, he can't go far, but he did it, and he was very proud. Walter climbed a hill too, and rode in the back of the mule on his dog bed without jumping out or being terrified. He showed us trust and an ability to survive and love and overcome in the way that only a dog can.

So many people put a cap on how much love should be designated for a particular person or thing. Like you should love your children more than your pet, and love your children more than your spouse, and love your spouse more than your parents, or love your million dollar home more than the thousand dollar trailer you had before you made the big money. All of this logic is ridiculous. Do all things with love, and love as much as you want. There is nothing wrong with loving your child or spouse or parent as much as you love your dog, your cat, ferret, horse, or rat. If we didn't love as much as we do, Reagan may have never bounced back to life from losing her best friend. Walter would be long gone from this world, and Quincy might still be at the rescue, waiting for a forever home.

All of the love you give to a pet, you will get back a million times over, without conditions. Now that is true love!


They Choose Us

>> Friday, September 3, 2010

I've been doing some thinking about breeds, types of dogs and cats, and preferences that people keep, myself and Alan included. Saying that we love Golden Retrievers is an understatement. Clearly, we are Golden Retriever fanatics. We also love the Great Pyrenees, Newfs, St. Bernards, Chow Chows, pits, and the list goes on. Last fall, we decided a Newfoundland would be our next dog. Two dogs later, we do not have a Newf, and that's because sometimes they choose us.

Alan said, "No dog for at least another year," and this was last fall before we got Quincy. I had a feeling we were going to fall in love at the pet expo, but Alan insisted this was not true. He never looks at shelter dogs or adoptables, because he feels bad for them and doesn't want to fall in love with one. When we saw Quincy's litter at the BFF rescue at the expo, we did think they were Newf mixes upon first sight. We weren't the only ones, either. Even our vet thought we had a Newf mix on our hands! I picked up Quincy, and she nuzzled her head into the crook under my chin. She gave me some puppy kisses and held on for life. We stood there for ten minutes until Alan gave in and admitted he was already attached too. Even though the rescue said she was a Border Collie mixed with "anything," at that point Quincy had already picked us as her people.
I have never been into Border Collies, and would never have thought of myself as a BC mama, but here I am with one.

After Wembley passed away, the pain was unbearable, especially for me. I lost my sidekick. We decided to wait until spring to find a Newf puppy or rescue for our family. That seemed like it was months away. I casually browsed rescues, looking at the same breeds I always look at: Goldens, Chows, and Newfs. There were many cute dogs, but in my grief I was not feeling much. I just wanted another sidekick, knowing full well it would not a princess girl like my Wembley. Then I found Walter, a lost soul, unwanted and sad. Our "Newf puppy" ended up being a disabled senior Chow/Golden mix. I never thought I would have a boy dog either, and here we are with the best boy in the whole world.

The same thing applies to the cats. We didn't think we would have any cats, much less three! Now we have this perfect pack of six, and we are incredibly blessed to have this mish-mash of personalities.


Graduation Day

>> Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Today is a big day in the saga of Walter: we took down his crate.

Alan and I have crate trained all of our dogs because we have had a very positive experience with it. Each of the dogs has learned to enjoy being in the crate and considers it a safe place, like a human would view a bedroom. Whenever Wembley was scared of something, she always went into her crate. If Reagan had a bellyache, into the crate she went. When we try to get Quincy to sleep in our bed, she always goes back into her crate instead. Walter is no different. He goes into his crate and even opens the door with his nose when it's time for bed.

Our bedroom is a decent size, but when there's a king sized bed and two dog crates, it really isn't that big. Luckily, we do not have dressers and we only use the closet. Dog crates are definitely not part of the decor we would like, but it's a minor inconvenience to make them happy. We could easily put the crates in the basement like logical people, but we like to have the dogs sleeping by us, so in the bedroom the crates went.

Walter's crate is big. He panicked in the smaller crate, so we picked up something more spacious that will also house our future Newfoundland (whenever that may be). Walter was not totally housebroken when we brought him home. He had a lot of accidents at first, which was frustrating. I think he might have been an outside dog and just completely neglected, left to fend for himself.

The big question: Can we train a senior dog already set in his ways? The answer proved to be yes. With a strict schedule and crate training, Walter is now fully housebroken!

Here's what his schedule looked like:

First thing in the morning, take Walter out of the crate and put him on the lead in the front yard. He wanders, so we didn't want to leave him unsupervised without the lead. We also put him in the front yard because there are only two steps, so it's easier for him to get down.

If we left the house, Walter either stayed in his crate or the kennel. After he got out of the crate while we were gone, we decided to leave him in the kennel only, because he panics when he's in the crate and I'm not around.

At night, Walter went into his crate when we went to bed, and then the whole cycle repeated the next day.

This summer we had some opportunities to test him. When Alan and I went to DC to visit Delina and Gary, we brought Walter to save some money on kennel fees. Walter not only was out of his crate for over eight hours without an accident in their apartment, he also made it up and down three flights of steps for the duration of the weekend.

When we got back from DC, Alan stayed the night at a friend's house because he had to work in their area the next day. I was too tired to haul the crate out of the trunk, so I just put the dog bed where his crate was, and Walter slept on it all night (I'd like his next move to be sleeping by me).

For some time now, Walter has been going outside with Reagan and Quincy in the morning, not down the front two steps, but all the way down the back deck stairs! He has no problem zipping up and down those handfuls of steps (maybe 8 or so?).

All of this led to taking down the crate this afternoon. He's probably not going to like it, since he is not a fan of change (his Chow side comes out at any change in his routine...stubborn), but I think as long as he has his dog bed, he will be good to go.

I'm so proud of how far he has come in all of this time.


Wembley Wednesday - Love.

>> Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seven months later. The time of year where we discovered Wembley's cancer is getting closer. Soon, it will be one year since diagnosis. One year since her last Christmas. One year since losing her. I hate all of these things and often wonder if this will ever stop hurting.

Most of the time, I try not to think about her sickness, but instead how much fun we had together. Alan and I had Wembley during several very exciting points in our lives: courtship, getting Reagan, engagement, getting married, and our first home together (the apartment with the terrible cupboards). I especially miss the way she slept on my pillow every night. In these more uplifting thoughts, I can't help but feel baffled about how *lucky* we are to have had such a perfect dog. She was the easiest puppy, well-behaved, kind, beautiful, and full of snuggles day after day. Everyone who met Wembley was in awe of her, giving her a doggie celebrity status that she adored. Wembley was the princess. My princess.

Since she has been gone, several odd things have happened on a regular basis. Any time we shower one of the other dogs with praise, Wembley seems to do something to make sure that we are always thinking about her. One day with Molly we were driving to PetSmart, and I made some kind of remark-I can't remember what it was now, but after I stated it, I told Molly, "Because of this, I'm going to see a senior golden that makes me cry." Sure enough, about thirty minutes later, we saw a senior golden at the store. If Alan makes a remark about Reagan being the best retriever, a golden retriever commercial will pop up on TV shortly after. These aren't one time occasions, either. They are oddly consistent with our actions, and we are both convinced it is Wembley trying to make us feel bad for praising anything but her. She was very much like that, because everyone told her how perfect she was all the time.

And she will always be my perfect angel and the love of my life.


Getting Bigger and Learning

>> Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rhoda is growing every day. She has already doubled in size and weighs a little over two pounds now, compared to the one pound she weighed during her first vet visit a few weeks ago. It's such a special time in her life, and we are trying to enjoy it before she is all grown up.

Piper is showing Rhoda how to be a cat. She is teaching Rhoda how to hunt and how to take down "big game" (the dogs). Yesterday, when Alan was leading the dogs outside, Piper escorted Rhoda out of the way and guarded her from getting trampled by them.

Besides Piper having a new buddy, she and Aurora are getting along much better with Rhoda in the mix. Aurora is warming up to Rhoda now, and they will play together occasionally, but on a whole, the cats are getting along swimmingly. Rhoda seems to be the glue in their little group. Granted, Aurora hasn't been here very long yet, but with Rhoda in the mix she is being a little less "diva" and a little more friendly. Aurora has also started sleeping on Alan every night (he's her favorite).

Rhoda is very affectionate. She usually sleeps on my neck, which I imagine will be uncomfortable later on if she still wants to do it, but for now she curls under my chin and purrs and purrs. She still needs to nurse though, and sometimes gets a bite in on my chin, ear, or lip. Rhoda even nurses off of Walter. She likes to wrap herself around Walter's bad leg and suckle his fur. It very much reminds me of Piper trying to nurse off of Wembley.

She's definitely our little darling!


Walter: Six Months Later

>> Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's hard to believe Walter has been here for six months tomorrow, August 18th. It's a bittersweet day. Wembley passed away on January 18th. Just typing that out makes my eyes brim with tears. I avoid saying those words. Because of this, Walter is incredibly special to me. Even though we still had Reagan and Quincy during the first month of Wembley's absence, my heart was unbearably empty. Wembley was always by my side, in my lap, pawing at me, laying on me, snuggling with me, and sleeping nose to nose with me. She was my best friend. And this shy golden chow boy popped up on Dogs in Danger.

I never thought I would have a boy dog, but when I saw Walter's face, the thought of him dying alone, disabled and without a family, just destroyed me. By adopting Walter, there would be some sort of silver lining to the tragedy of Wembley.

Now, the odd part of this story is Walter's name. At the pound, his name was "Pops". In January, when Wembley was still alive, my sister took a cat home from work that nobody wanted. She was trying to find a home for the cat, and was taking name suggestions. It was a boy cat, so I told her to name him Walter. The cat ended up being called Guido, but I still had the name Walter bouncing around in my head for some reason.

Flash forward to the 14-hour round trip drive my sister and I made to the dog pound, and we were thinking of names. I tried calling Walter a bunch of typical dog names, like Max, Rusty, and so on, but he didn't respond to any of them. That's when I realized the reason the name Walter was floating in my head for over a month, and it stuck.He was terrified of people, but wanted affection. He had a nasty accident in the car because he was so scared, only a block away from the dog pound, and later repeated this in the bathtub. Walter was scared to eat, but hungry, and shyly ate the heaping bowl of tasty wet dog food I set down in front of him. He was so scared of everything that Alan and I had to actually carry him everywhere for the first night. I took him to the vet the next day, and even then I had to carry him out of the house and into the car, which he hated. On the drive there, I cried and cried, not sure if Walter was even going to make it. The vet concluded he was in excellent health, and just being a stubborn Chow Chow.

Slowly, Walter began being rehabilitated. I don't know if he was ever potty trained, because he had several accidents in the house in the first months, but with a strict schedule and crate training, he is now fully housebroken and crate trained. He is still a little timid with certain things, and carries that dominant Chow Chow trait of not liking a change in his schedule. Walter doesn't like new men, but warms up to them when he knows they're nice. He loves children, and he no longer tries to hide in the dog beds or toy bins when we take him to the pet store.

I hope he is having the best time of his life. We may have saved Walter, but I'll never be able to repay him for what he has done for me. Walter is my therapy dog in this nightmare of losing Wembley. He is loyal and kind, sits by me, snuggles with me, and just loves me the way that only a dog can do: unconditionally. He may have been a reject at the dog pound, but in this house he is a royalty. Our silver lining, and so much more.


The Dynamics of Adjusting

>> Thursday, August 12, 2010

It is always interesting to see the dynamics of our pack when there's a new arrival. Reagan especially has had a lot of adjusting to do this year. Rhoda is fitting in swimmingly of course, and the cats are now forming their own little clique, even though I think all of them prefer the company of dogs.

Aurora was not a huge fan of Rhoda, as expected. She came from a family with only dogs, but she is doing a great job of getting along with Piper. Aurora is a diva. She likes to be the center of attention, and loves to be held. She was so annoyed with Rhoda that she stayed in the basement for the majority of the first two days. Now she is back to normal, roaming the house and showing up in our bed or next to it every morning.

Walter is a lot better with Rhoda now. The first day we brought her home, he picked her up thinking she was lunch! Now he still gets into "I see prey, must get it" mode only on occasion. He can walk right by her and sit by her (under supervision). I wouldn't leave him home alone with her, but we don't have to stick to him constantly either. Once she gets bigger, this won't be a problem, but his Chow Chow prey drive is strong, and by all means not his fault.

Quincy is being driven mad, only because she thinks Rhoda is something to herd. As Rhoda gets bigger she will make a good playmate for Quincy.

Piper and Rhoda are my favorite to watch. Piper is the best cat in the world (she is the Wembley of cats), and incredibly patient with Rhoda. She lets Rhoda bat at her, she lets Rhoda invade her space on the cat tower, and she even lets her take over playtime. Rhoda follows Piper, and I think sees her as a mother figure of sorts. Piper is teaching Rhoda how to hunt. If their favorite toy, Da Bird, is out, Piper will hunt first, and let Rhoda try it out next. At first I thought this was a fluke, but they have continued to do this often. Sometimes I catch them napping side by side. Over time, these two are going to become best friends.


Rhoda Day 2

>> Tuesday, August 3, 2010

We are very much enjoying our new wee one. Rhoda fits right in here, and is getting comfortable navigating the house. Today, I weighed her on the postal scale and she came up at about twenty ounces, so just over a pound. This was surprising to me because Rhoda seems much smaller than Piper was when I found her, but Piper was one pound, one ounce. I will know for sure her weight on Thursday, when she goes to the vet for the first time.

Rhoda is very affectionate and loves cuddles. She is always sitting on us, purring and nestling in the crook of an elbow and the curve of our necks. One thing that makes me feel very sad is how desperately she wants to nurse. So far, Rhoda has tried to suck on our eyes (yes, that says eyes), our chins, my hair, our ears, and our fingers. She cries and cries and tries to nurse, which makes me feel very sad for her.

The exciting part is falling in love again. It's exciting for both of us to watch her learn and grow, and predict what she might be like as an adult cat. I love seeing Alan nurture her and snuggle with her. He is adorable when he takes care of our critter children.

Piper has been following Rhoda everywhere. She continues to reach out and tap at Rhoda's back, then run away. Or, she will put her nose against Rhoda's and run away a few seconds later.

I can't wait to see what she does next!


Small Surprises

>> Monday, August 2, 2010

There is nothing quite like an unexpected critter. This is definitely our last one, per our critter family agreement. We visited Delina and Gary over the weekend, and Alan fell in love with their new kitten, Claire. He was a cat person before he was a dog person, and sometimes that guy comes out, especially when there's kittens involved, so another kitten was his idea. We decided to get one from Midland County Animal Control for many reasons, one being that they use the gas chamber to euthanize their animals, and the other that they kill most of the kittens that come through their doors. Alan wanted to pick out this one, so we went on the website and he found one that he liked.

I called early and asked if they had the kitten, and the woman on the phone said yes, so I told her we wanted to adopt it. She told me to come over and called the kittens "little monsters". When I got there, some lady was at the front desk bitching up a storm to the deputy about some man that apparently poisoned her dogs with antifreeze, and that she couldn't pay $1000 to save them. It was totally awkward for me to be standing there, but I didn't know what else to do. Finally, the woman came out from behind a door and lead me to the back. A white pit bull gazed at me with sad eyes. A rottweiler mix stared; dogs barked and barked hoping to be let out. She grabbed the kitten out of the cage and left me in the "quiet room" with her.

The quiet room was not quiet. Instead, it was filled with howls and cries of fear from the dogs trapped in small cages. My heart was pounding, knowing the unfortunate fate of those poor souls. I waited and waited, bonding with the kitten. She crawled all over me, purring, climbing onto my shoulders and nestling her tiny self into my hair. The kitten she gave me was not the kitten Alan wanted, but a different one, but the woman had not told me this. It was hard to tell because the photo was so dark, and they are both gray and white tabby cats. The plan was if the kitten Alan wanted wasn't there, that I had to call him.

Finally, the lady came back and said, "You know that isn't the kitten in the picture." Why would she tell me on the phone that kitten was available, give me a different one, and THEN tell me? I knew Alan wanted to know if that one wasn't available, but after bonding with this girl, how could I turn my back?

After jumping through some crazy hoops that included calling my vet and pre-paying for a spay (can't take the cat home until the spay is paid for), the little girl was ready to go home. The deputy said, "Good luck with this one. She is wild."

We named her Rhodesia (Zimbabwe's name when it was just a republic)--Rhoda for short. She is very small and purrs constantly. She loves to be held, and is of course incredibly curious. And oh my, she is just SO small it boggles my mind. Piper was only a pound when I found her at work, so I am anxious to see how much Rhoda weighs, because she seems smaller.

The other critters are reacting like they usually do to a new addition. Reagan wants to play, Quincy is nurturing and also wants to play, Walter unfortunately has a very strong prey drive and wants to eat her right now, which will change when she gets bigger. Piper follows her everywhere and occasionally bats lightly at Rhoda, and Aurora (that diva) is currently pissed off, which she will get over eventually.

Alan is in LOVE. I adore seeing him hold her and pamper her. Rhoda is a good fit.


The Rock of the Family

>> Saturday, July 24, 2010

This has been a trying year for our pack, and more specifically, Reagan. She is the rock of this family, much more than Alan or I, and sometimes it is easy to forget that more than any of us, this year has been the toughest on her. In just five months, Reagan has:

-had to adjust to a new puppy in the house (Quincy)
-moved to a new place
-lost her best friend in the entire world (Wembley)
-welcome two new pack members (Walter and Aurora)
-somehow adjust to Wembley not being here

Reagan deserves a lot more credit than she gets. People are hard on Reagan if they don't know her. She's often called dumb, too hyper, and crazy. She is hyper and she is crazy, but she has a heart of gold and an unrivaled maternal instinct for the rest of the pack, including us. Reagan is pure love.

The day after Wembley died, we took Reagan and Quincy to Petsmart. We were trying to get out of the house and its emptiness. At Petsmart, a senior golden was walking in a different aisle. Reagan saw this, and started wagging her tail. She had a look of hope on her face, and we both knew she thought this dog was Wembley from afar. While losing Wembley has been horrible for us, seeing Reagan mourn has been just as painful, and that moment tops everything. Sometimes Reagan checks for Wembley at the car doors or peeks hopefully around corners. She isn't the same carefree girl she used to be. She's never quite as happy as she was with Wembley, and she needs more affection from us than she ever has before.

I just hope we can give Reagan everything she needs, because she is our pack leader. Reagan is the core, the heart, and above all, selfless.


Happy Third, Aurora!

>> Thursday, July 15, 2010

Today is Aurora's third birthday. She has only been with us since the end of April, but it feels like we've had her for years. She fits in here perfectly. Having a deaf cat has also been quite the learning experience for us. We thought she might have some confidence issues because of it, but she is doing just fine.

For her birthday, we bought her a crinkle sack and some treats. Even though she can't hear the crinkles, she does like hiding in the sack and playing with it, so it was a good choice.

Tonight we took her outside on the leash. She was running and playing, leaping, chasing bugs and birds and butterflies. It's nice to see that she is comfortable being outside and especially on the leash. We don't usually bring the cats out, but sometimes we allow them to enjoy that luxury.

We weren't expecting to get another cat this spring. It was not a plan at all, but we both know it was meant to be, and we hope she has many more birthdays.



>> Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Today is a particularly bad Wembley day. I have a lot of these, but the approaching six month anniversary of her passing isn't helping, nor is the fact that her collar still smells like her.

Wembley had many collars, as all of our animals get their collars changed for seasons and holidays. While Reagan can't wait to be "naked", Wembley loved wearing her collars and always looked a little prouder when we put a new one on. The ultimate collar though, is the Wembley collar, that being a bright pink collar with her name spelled out in rhinestones.

All of her collars are tucked away now in a pink hat box with hearts all over it. I remember when I bought the box just to store all of her stuff. I put her dog shirts, her cheerleading outfit, her favorite toys, all of her collars, and all of the cards we received while she was sick and when she passed away. There's a ceramic heart with her paw print on it too. The cashier, trying to make conversation, remarked,

"Someone is getting a big Valentine's Day present."

Now, I know he was only trying to be friendly, but it was only a week or so after Wembley's death, and it took every piece of strength I had to not cry at the checkout. Instead, I smiled, and cried in the privacy of my own car.

The rhinestone collar finally went into the box this afternoon. It was slung over a picture of Wembley as a puppy, but I discovered that this collar still holds Wembley's scent very strongly. For those fleeting seconds it seemed like she was still here and this nightmare never happened. If I can smell Wembley on this collar, no doubt Reagan can, and that's the reason I put it in the box. It is easier for us to understand where Wembley went. We know the gory, clinical details, but Reagan doesn't. She doesn't understand cancer or chemo. She doesn't understand why Wembley isn't here. People might think that is easier, but Reagan is an intuitive pup and she still looks with hope that maybe Wembley came home from work with Alan today, or maybe Wembley is just hiding in the corner, or maybe Wembley is in one of her usual napping spots. Reagan is not the same dog. She's happier now, but there is something different about her, and that's just one more reason to put the collar in the box.

If only removing the sadness were so easy.


Aurora's Big Adventure

>> Friday, July 9, 2010

Sometimes animals are very similar to children in their actions. Today was one of those days for Aurora and Quincy. Apparently, Quincy can't learn "down" or "beg", but she knows how to open patio doors, which is exactly what she did. She opened the glass door and the screen door, and I found this out when I spotted her sitting in the grass. Quincy loves sitting in the yard and she usually sits out there for quite awhile, but with my supervision of course.

I closed the door and brought Quincy inside, not thinking that one of the cats might have escaped. About an hour passed, and the dogs started barking ferociously at the window. They always do this. They bark at the bus when it drops of the neighbor's son who has down syndrome- he comes home from work every day at five via the bus. They bark at UPS, they bark at people mowing the lawn, they bark at other dogs that stray into the yard. Today, their barks were a little different. They were more urgent, and they kept looking back at me. Even Walter was up and barking, and usually he just looks at Quincy and Reagan as if to say "Oh, PLEASE, I am so much better at behaving than you."

Somehow, I just knew something was going on. When I turned around, I saw Aurora, a deaf and front declawed cat, (who at the time was missing her collar and tag because it fell off somewhere in the house) across the street in the neighbor's driveway. She was starting to walk across the road, and I saw a car whir by, WAY too close to her. I bolted out the door and ran, barefoot into the road, scooped her up and held her tight. My heart was pounding and my legs were shaking at what could have happened to her, not to mention the fact that she had been outside for at least an hour. When I picked her up, she was purring and purring, and all afternoon she has been strutting around the house as though she completed a daring feat. It's situations like this one that make me upset that she is front declawed (a decision made by her previous owners).

I can't even express how relieved I am that the worst did not happen, that she didn't wander very far, and that she is now safe and sound. Lucky for her, cats have nine lives! :)


A New Summer

>> Friday, June 25, 2010

For the first time in eight years, we are going to the UP without Wembley. Actually, something very monumental is happening when we will be away: July 4th marks eight years to the day that we brought our beautiful girl home. Alan will still be camping on Isle Royale, leaving me alone to process and question something that started eating away our little baby. Even if I had every clinical answer, I would still be asking why this happened when it did.

This trip will mark our first time in the UP with our new pack. It will be Walter's first time up there, and Quincy's first time as a nearly adult dog, and Reagan's first time without Wembley. I'm hoping Q will learn how to swim and not be afraid of the water, and that Walter will use his life jacket and enjoy some freedom from the pressure of his bad leg. There will be all sorts of fun things for them to explore, other pups to meet, and romping around with their pup cousins, Zeke and Honey. All I want is for them to have fun, because every once in awhile Reagan slips into "looking for Wembley" mode, which is the single, most heartbreaking part of our loss. We know what happened, but does Reagan? She knows her best friend is gone, but everything else is most likely a mystery.

We're all still learning how to be without her, and I am hoping this trip perks things up for all of us. Alan and I often talk about how we feel stuck in a bizarre tunnel where time marches on, but our sadness clings to every thought and moment. A haunting that will only grow the more we love, but looking into the faces of our critters, we know it's worth it.


Chow Chow Head Tilt

>> Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just a silly video of Walter and a little bit of Quincy. Walter's head tilt is responsible for the many cute pictures of him. Anytime he hears a noise, he tilts his head. I don't know if this is a Chow Chow thing or just a random thing, but I've seen many videos of other Chows doing the same, so perhaps it is the breed. In any case, it is adorable!

Note- he's watching a video of someone playing with a squeak toy. That is NOT me!


Taking a Chance on an Undesirable

>> Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I've been anticipating the premiere of "Last Chance Highway" on Animal Planet ever since I saw previews for it. Before the show aired, I watched this clip: "Rescue From Death's Door."

While it is a wonderful and beautiful thing that these people devote their spare time and money to saving dogs in danger, I couldn't help but be struck pretty hard by a concept in the video, that being the idea of picking out the most adoptable dogs. Yellow dogs are the most popular, and of course so are puppies. The dogs with most adoption potential were plucked out of the pound and rescued.

Alan finally said the words we were both thinking: "Walter would have been left there."

Being a lover (which puts it mildly) of golden retrievers, I am sure many people would point their own fingers at me for loving yellow dogs. I do love yellow dogs, but I love black dogs, white dogs, red dogs, brown dogs, and multi-colored dogs too. It all boils down to the DOG itself. I NEVER thought I would have a boy dog, and I thought our next dog would be a giant Newfoundland. Walter is a boy and definitely not a Newfoundland, but I fell in love with him.

Most people who know of Walter know his story and how he was a death row dog, but my sister is the only one who really understands what terrible condition he was in upon arrival, and how terrifying the dog pound was for those pups.

Walter's photo on Dogs in Danger did not reflect his poor condition whatsoever. His undercoat was so matted that the groomer said it had to be shaved off in one huge chunk. He had a huge eye tumor, his eye was all goopy and crusty, his ears were dirty, and his coat filthy. He had a nasty accident on the seat in the car on the way home due to being scared, and another accident in the bathtub that same night. Walter was so terrified of everything that he refused to walk, and we had to carry him to get him to go anywhere. The vet even had to load him into my car.

Knowing just the basics of a dog pound pup, Walter was an old man, crippled with a bad paw. He was a mess. An undesirable. And as Alan said, he would have been left there because so many seniors are, not to mention the crippled ones. Despite all of this, I just fell in love with him. The day after I rescued him we drove to the vet, and tears filled my eyes with the thought that he might need to be put down, not knowing if this old boy had cancer or some other terrible disease. I had only known him for one day, but I loved him as if he had been mine forever. In the end, I knew that if it was time, dying with a family who loved him was much better than dying on the cement floor of a dog pound, unloved and scared.

Luckily, that was not the case. This "undesirable" is a well-adjusted dog now. Walter has really come out of his shell in the last month or so. He gets excited about eating, which before he just seemed shocked that someone gave him a bowl. He snuggles with Alan after being scared of him (just for being a man) for quite awhile. Walter runs and hops around the yard, plays with stuffed animals, enjoys all of the attention he gets at Petsmart, and doesn't try to hide in the dog beds there anymore. He even climbs up onto our bed and waits for me to get ready in the morning.

While we took a chance on him, Walter has given us something we can never repay him for, and that is helping us heal from the loss of Wembley. He won't take her place (nobody will), and that is not what we expected, but he makes our life feel full again. Seeing every new step he takes toward becoming a well-adjusted dog makes us happy and grateful for him. Walter is our lifesaver.


Wembley Wednesday - Five Months

>> Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dear Wembley,

Friday is June 18th. That means you have been gone for five months now. Any time one of these milestones creeps up, I grow increasingly sad. The regular days are sad too, and even though I am tired of crying, I never want to get over you. I never will, either. There's space for other dogs, and I will love all of them in different ways, but we had something special. My nose isn't a perfect fit with anyone else's nose, and I know there will never be a dog as girly-girl/princess-y as you were. And don't worry, I am getting the hints you drop when I make a statement about how much I love Walter/Quincy/Reagan. The songs, the golden retriever commercials- YES- I know that is you controlling the airwaves. Don't worry, you will never, ever be forgotten.

I love you more than ever, Wembs, and miss you more than that.

Love, Mommy

P.S.- Take care of Cedar. Lorry misses her.


Quincy Lulu's Tutu

>> Monday, June 14, 2010

Quincy is an oddball. Before Quincy, we had two Goldens. We both wanted another dog, that being a Newfoundland. Of course Alan was resisting, saying we had to wait before we moved into our house, and all of these other crazy reasons that we have both forgotten by now. When we were at the pet expo in Novi (we go every year), I was keeping my eyes peeled for Newfs, and then we walked past a rescue full of puppies. My eye caught the little black fur balls that looked like Newf puppies, and I basically stole Quincy out of the arms of another lady. As a side note, I actually found this person on Dogster and she ended up adopting Quincy's brother, Riley. It has been wonderful, because we can compare notes on how they have been growing up and developing. We were both convinced we had Border Collie/Newf mixes for a variety of reasons.

When I picked up Quincy, she nuzzled her head into my neck and was acting as sweet as can be, giving me puppy kisses and just generally being all cute. Alan caved. We took Quincy home knowing she was a Border Collie mix, just because we fell in love with her. Everyone we met thought she was a Newf, including people WITH Newfs. Even our vet thought she looked like a Newf mix. Now that she is nine months old, Newf she is not. Quincy weighs a whopping 30-35ish pounds, not the maybe 60 we were expecting.

She isn't what we thought she would be, but that's fine by us. She is a quirky little ball of energy. She looks like a bear cub when she runs, makes all sorts of weird noises that can't possibly be put into words, bares her teeth and wrinkles her nose with a huge smile, and gets into a lot of trouble. She is not the most intelligent dog (as Border Collies are supposed to be), but she is a pure sweetheart. In the last few months, we have been watching her develop and grow into her own personality, one that we fall in love with a little more each day.

On Saturday, I brought Quincy outside for a little photo shoot in her tutu. She isn't as girly and princess-y as Wembley was, but she is a darling little girl in her own way, and certainly girly enough to wear tutus. The moments were quiet and precious, just Quincy and I in the yard, rolling around in the grass. Sometimes it takes that one on one time to remind me that although they are part of the pack, their individual personalities are what made me really fall in love.


Pup Walk at the Bay City Rec Area

>> Thursday, June 10, 2010

The other night we decided to go on a picnic at the Bay City Rec Area and take a walk around the mile loop. There are many options to walk, but since we wanted to bring Walter, a mile was enough. It was Walter's longest walk since we've had him, and a mile seems to be his limit. He was pretty tired after that, but we were so proud of him for how well he did. It helped that we let him have a couple of pit stops to chill out, including a few minutes at the beach (which technically the dogs are NOT allowed on, but we stayed close to the boardwalk).

On our way back, a lady stopped and asked us what was wrong with his leg. Of course our natural response is always "We don't know", which needs to be changed, because she offered to look at it. We explained we adopted him like that and she said something about radial nerve paralysis, which is what he has, so she must have been a vet or a vet tech. It was very nice of her to ask, but I can't help but wonder how many people think we are terrible dog owners for letting our pup walk around the way he does, or if they think we did something neglectful for his leg to be in such a position.

The night ended up being pretty perfect and ended with three tired out pups, all happy and sound asleep on the car ride home.


Wembley Wednesday

>> Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I never stop thinking about Wembley. It has been nearly five months since she passed, and contrary to the "time heals all wounds" and "it will get better with time" cliches, it is not getting better. Alan and I talk about Wembley, cry about Wembley, and just plain miss Wembley. It seems everything we see reminds us of her. Sometimes, almost always regretfully, we pull out the Wembley box and see her collars and toys, the cards we were sent after she left us and during her treatment, her cute little cheerleader outfit and her pretty, pink princess shirts. Then there's the ceramic heart with her paw print on it, given to us by our vet on that horrible, horrible day. Her rhinestone collar bearing her name still smells like her. They're all painful reminders of the fact that she was here, and she wasn't "just a dog."

Now, we're still here, wondering how it all happened, still wondering if we did everything right. I can't help but blame myself. What if I read into her dog food sooner? What if I got a blood test when she got her yearly vaccination, and found the cancer earlier? What if we didn't live in an apartment with disgusting water and the constant, lingering scent of cigarettes from the smokers below and next to us?

This is certainly not the way I want to remember Wembley- full of cancer and medication. Most of the time, it isn't how I remember her. Mostly I remember how beautiful she was, how kind and snuggly, and how she was truly my very best friend. Despite all of the horrible things in the world, the kindness of Wembley always gave me a reason to calm down and deal with it.

I saw this quote the other day that is fitting for our loss:

"Dogs possess an indomitable spirit for life that teaches right up to their last day."

If only all of us were so noble.


Happy Birthday, Piper!

>> Friday, June 4, 2010

One year ago today, I was driving to work, hating my job, hating my life because of my job, and wanting another pet, preferably a dog. This was a time in my life where I cried every day on my drive to work, because I was teaching the class from hell where a student was sending me threatening e-mails and generally acting crazy.

On June 4th, I turned onto the road that meant work was only five minutes away, and was thinking about how I would never be so lucky to find a stray dog. During the beginning of my last class (not the one I hated), I looked out the window to my left and saw her: a teeny-tiny kitten sitting with her mama, a feral cat that had been frequenting the campus for years. Deep down, I knew it would not be right to leave her outside, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to nab her or if she would even be there when class ended. When I looked out the window again, I noticed her ear was gone, and in its place a bloody wounded mess. THEN I knew I was not leaving without her, even if I had to stay all day long.

After rushing her to the vet, I found out the kitten was indeed a little girl, and most likely about 6 weeks old. She only weighed one pound, one ounce, and was terrified. The first thing she did at our apartment was hide behind the washing machine. I held her and snuggled her as much as she would let me, just to make sure Piper knew she was safe and loved.

One year later, we have the world's greatest cat. She is cuddly, loves to play, sleeps with us, cleans the dogs, wrestles with the dogs, has the cutest trills in the world, and is generally just amazing. More importantly, Piper gave me something I will never be able to repay her for, that being a sense of usefulness during a time where I felt like giving up on everything. I just hope she breaks some sort of crazy record for being the oldest cat ever, because she is adored in this house. She is the Wembley of cats. That's like being the fanciest car of all cars (I seriously have no clue what the fanciest or best car is).

Piper's birthday presents:

Catnip bubbles
Giant life-sized rat toy (she is a crazy hunter...she loves it)
Dried anchovies
Two bags of treats- milk flavored and fishy beach mix
A squeaky mouse to hang from her cat tower
Play cube (all of the presents were in it)
Treat dispenser ball

Alan and I put the cube with all of the toys onto the bed and let Piper explore. She was purring and purring and purring, getting louder with each one. Her favorites are the beachy fish treats and the giant rat. Now, she's here on my lap, curled up into a ball, sleeping and purring some more. I think she is having a good birthday.


Kennel Stars

>> Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I am pleased to report the kennel was a positive experience. This place is fantastic, and I'm sure we will use them again when we head to DC at the end of July. It looks like a little villa on the outside, and the back (which I saw in an overhead photo of the place) is completely fenced in and has a swimming pool. Reagan will definitely be getting the swimming pool option in July. Someone ended up canceling, so we were able to snag a VIP room.

Walter, Reagan, and Quincy were the stars of the kennel. One of the workers said that when she came in, everyone was raving about how great "the family" was. She also said they were very well-behaved and the workers really appreciated all of the notes about each dog, and how we divided up the food to make it easy. They encouraged us to come back of course. After seeing how happy and relaxed the dogs were when we picked them up, I feel much better about it. They were really tired and slept the entire way home, so they obviously got some exercise during their play sessions!

I am so grateful it was not a negative experience like last time.


On Cats

>> Thursday, May 27, 2010

When I was in second grade, all I wanted was a cat to name Melody. My parents were never big on animals, so when the day came and we brought home a black cat with thumbs, I was thrilled. Instead of naming her Melody, I named her Mittens. She was all black, and of course the cat of my dreams, because I love love loved cats back then. A couple weeks went by, and my mom said the lady who gave us the cat wanted her back. I was heartbroken.

I also believed this story until I was 28 years old. It was not until last summer that my mom told me the TRUTH: she hated having a cat and gave it back to the woman. I always wondered what happened to Mittens, and what kind of life she had.

Now, we have two cats. Piper, the one-eared feral wonder, and Aurora, the deaf girl with bad knees. Piper really made me fall in love with cats all over again. My favorite part about cats is just watching them play and hunt. We don't have many bugs or flies in the house despite it being spring, and I give all of the credit to Piper. She sits at the patio door and in the window waiting for birds to show up or bugs to try and get through the screen. Aurora isn't too shabby on the hunting either. Together, they sit side by side at the patio at night and watch the moths flutter against the glass, jumping up and down as the moths fly away. It has only been about six weeks, but I'm hoping in time they grow to be the type of cat buddies who snuggle.


Wembley Wednesday

>> Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Would Wednesday be devoted to anyone else? Of course not. Every day is Wembley day, if she had any say in it. That's definitely how it was when she was here. This leads me to my topic: fantasy dogs. I was reading a dog forum and this question was posed: "Is/are your current dog(s) your 'fantasy' dogs?" Since most people have a specific breed that they love, I found this an interesting question. Of course, right away I thought of Wembley. She was the perfect dog from puppyhood until her passing. Graceful, kind, beautiful, and obedient. Wembley was an angel, and she knew it too.

Wembley and I had a bond that is difficult to explain. In the past couple years during some major work stresses, all of my anger melted away when I got home and she ran down the stairs to greet me. Not being much of a kisser, sometimes she would be so happy I would actually be rewarded with some smooches. Because they were so rare, they were incredibly special. After a bad day, I loved nothing more than curling up on the couch with trashy television and Wembley by my side- more like in my lap. She loved to cuddle as much as I did.

Anyone who knew Wembley knew how special she was. She was a princess (oh, how I hate using past tense) who loved to be pampered, but not in that "diva" way that is often carried by little dogs, but a Glinda the Good Witch way.

Now back to fantasy dogs-of course Wembley was truly a dream, but so are our other dogs. I read through this thread and found many comments that said "No, my dog sheds too much", or "No, but I love them anyway", or "No, I hate everything about the way my dog looks, but I love his personality." To me, this was incredibly disappointing. I just can't look at their faces (and Alan agrees), and think, "This isn't my fantasy dog." They're just all different and all dream dogs in their own ways. After all, they picked US.

I'm just so happy Wembley picked us first.


Boarding Woes

>> Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I seriously don't know how parents send their children to day care day after day. Nothing against day care, but I can't stand leaving the dogs behind with someone I don't know, even if their establishment has every award, certification, membership, or other fancy credential, it is definitely not the same as their mother watching them.

Will a kennel know that Quincy bears her teeth and wags her whole body when she's happy to see someone or scared? Of course not. Will they know Reagan has a tendency to get bellyaches, or that Walter is painfully shy and still in the process of rehabilitation? No and no. And this is why when we drop them off, I'm going there: I will be the crazy person with the typed up paper that includes a brief personality profile of each dog.

Now, this has several uses. First, it lets them know a little bit about each dog, but I will also have this file for later on, if we should hire the dog sitter again, or if we bring them to a different kennel. The Chi Pack, back when it was just Wembley and Reagan, stayed at a kennel one time. It was a Fourth of July holiday, everyone was busy, and nobody was able to watch them, so we brought them to a kennel. Poor Wembley didn't eat at all while there, and spent the whole time terrified and huddled in the back corner of the kennel. Reagan had no problems. Deep down, I've never quite forgiven myself for leaving Wembley there. Hopefully through the years we made it up to her, and it definitely made us plan events around dog accommodations.

This weekend, we are going to a wedding that is two hours away. Alan is in the wedding, so he has to be all involved with everything, which means we will be staying two nights at a hotel. My sister was supposed to come down to be our dog sitter, but her plans changed and she can't make it, which left us searching for a kennel. Quincy and Reagan have bordatella vaccinations, which are required at all good kennels, but Walter did not have one, so our dreams of the dogs living in luxury at the Paw Print Inn were dashed, since the vaccination needs to be administered at least seven days before.

With a little research, we discovered Halliday's Pet Resort. Walter is good to go with his bordatella vaccination, the dogs can all sleep in one room, and if the VIP suite gets a cancellation, we are the first ones on the waiting list (it has a VCR and rental movies for the dogs!!! How CUTE!). Plus, we can bring their dog beds (the spoiled pups have orthopedic beds), food, and any toys they might want. And let's not forget this little bonus for all three pups:

Combo Package
"Your dog will have a day packed with fun, while he or she enjoys all three of the above (happy hour, busy bone, extra play session)."

Another bonus? They are staying less than 3 miles away from our hotel. If there should be fire trucks or emergency vehicles in the surrounding area, I will be fully prepared to break down every door and wall and free them (a little dramatic, but come on, I don't want this to be Martha Stewart's chow chow part II).

All we have to do now is enjoy the three nights until doomsday.



>> Monday, May 24, 2010

A first post is always so daunting. Where to begin? Is an introduction? Just start randomly? Because it is first, it is truly is an introduction. Chi Pack began growing eight years ago with the most beautiful golden retriever, ever (seriously!). Now it has reached five members, all with unique personalities and challenges.

We have met some resistance and judgment from others along the way, saying we are silly and stupid to have so many "pets." Anyone who has truly loved an animal knows they are not merely pets, they are family members to be loved and taken care of . They are not disposable, they are not a nuisance, they are not solely an expense. They are the only creatures who are capable of unconditional love. They provide love, entertainment, and comfort after a bad day or a bump in the road. We simply can't imagine our lives without them.

Although you can see our pack on the right side of the page, here is a little more about them to start:

Wembley- Our girl who started it all. Sadly, we lost her to cancer in January 2010.

Reagan- Our five-year-old golden retriever who was recently mistaken for being five months old. That is how hyper she is!

Quincy - An eight-month old border collie mix. She is not the brilliant mind one might expect from a border collie mix, but she is extremely quirky and incredibly sweet.

Walter - We have no idea how old Walter is, but we are guessing somewhere between eight and eleven. Our vet guessed ten. He has been with our family since February.

Piper - I found Piper at work when she was just a little kitten. Noticing her ear was cut off and all bloody, I lured her out of a pipe with a can of tuna (and the help of some co-workers).

Aurora - She is the latest addition to our family and was recently diagnosed with two luxating patellas, which is not very common in cats. She is also deaf. Aurora is three years old and has been a fantastic addition to our home. We just love her!



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