January 24th: Change a Pet’s Life Day

Every pet I’ve had has changed my life. One of my dogs sports a collar that says “Who rescued who?” When I manage to get past my overwhelming desire to instruct the manufacturers of said collar on the proper use of “whom,” I can then focus on the fact that that’s a very good question, indeed. My pets mean the world to me. It’s only fair that there’s one day a year that helps to bring awareness to the fact that we can change our pet’s lives, too. And you don’t need to restrict your actions to just this day.

Naturally, the best way to change an animal’s life is to rescue or foster one. Because so many people don’t spay or neuter their pets, we have created a stray animal problem that’s overwhelming. Those poor dogs and cats that are left out on the streets suffer an existence that is miserable, violent and short. We can prevent that, one pet at a time. And please consider adopting older pets. They need love, too.

You can also volunteer at a pet shelter, or donate food or money to one. Shelters are even thrilled to get your extra towels. (Don’t we all have too many towels?) They go through a lot of those. If you can’t give them your time, they also appreciate toys.

If you know of a pet that’s being abused, report it to the local authorities. That’s a fantastic way to make a difference. Every pet deserves to have room to move, access to water and decent food, and shelter from the heat or cold. Also, get your pets examined by a vet on a periodic basis. They can often identify health issues and head them off at the pass before they become chronic.

Feed your pet healthy food, not that Walmart Ol’ Roy stuff, or anything similar that. There’s no nutritional value in that product. You don’t have to buy the high end, hard to obtain, super expensive stuff, but read the labels and compare ingredients. Also, keep people food to a minimum. Most pets only get fat because their owners don’t give them proper portions or the right kind of food. Overfeeding is abuse, even if you mean well.

Make your pet’s life a little less boring. Get your cat a new toy. Give your dog more attention. Take him on a walk to somewhere he has never been. The animals under your care deserve quality of life just as much as you do.

If you have rescued pets, tell their stories far and wide. Here are mine.

My dachshund, Quagmire, was found roaming the streets of Olympia, starving and terrified. He was also not neutered, and showing obvious signs of neglect. The notches in his ears, shown below, are evidence of a poor diet with not enough fish oil or water. That caused the edges of his ears to dry out and crack off. We suspect he was in a puppy mill, outlived his usefulness, and was dumped on the street like so much garbage. Now he’s my best friend and biggest supporter. He can get really worked up around strangers, and he hates it when people make big gestures with their hands. Only he knows what he’s been through. But for the most part, he sticks to us like glue and is the best cuddler on the planet.

We call our other dog Nelly for good reason. She is very nervous. She was horribly abused. It took a long time to gain her trust, and we still work to earn it every day. She is scared of loud noises and sudden movements. She often goes to another room to sleep by herself, and will leave if you enter. But when she is in the mood to be loved on, she soaks it up like a thirsty traveler who has found an oasis in the desert. She is by far the sweetest dog I have ever known. I wish she could be convinced that it’s okay to play with toys. We let her do her thing and define her own comfort zone. When she invites me into that zone, I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

Sharing your rescue stories often encourages others to do the same. Also, let people know that mixed breeds can often be healthier because they don’t have the issues that come with inbreeding, and they are just as loving as purebreds. Educate friends and family about the horrors of puppy mills. That cute purebred that you purchased from Romania could very well have been the product of a very abused mother who has spent her entire existence in a small cage, up to her chest in feces. And the long travel to get to your country was probably extremely traumatic for the puppy. Please adopt from a local shelter, folks. There are plenty of dogs to go around.

So today’s the day to remind yourself (as if you need to be reminded) that it’s important to give your pet all the love you have to give, and then some. My babies, pictured below, say “Woof!”

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I Want a Familiar

Who couldn’t use an assistant to do all the errands?

For the purposes of this blog post, I’m using Merriam-Webster’s third definition of familiar, which is “a spirit often embodied in an animal and held to attend and serve or guard a person.”

As I was folding my laundry the other day, I was thinking, “Why is it that witches are the only ones that get to have familiars?” I mean, what person couldn’t use someone else to run out and do all the errands? Imagine how much extra time we’d all have if you didn’t have to do the grocery shopping or pick up the dry cleaning or mow the lawn or water the garden or empty the dishwasher.

The familiar of choice seems to be a black cat, but I don’t think that’s the best idea. Cats don’t have opposable thumbs. They couldn’t easily pick things up for you. They couldn’t type your correspondence. They’re not wild about water, so they wouldn’t like dealing with the swimming pool or the plumbing. And also, I happen to be allergic to cats, so that would make things awkward for me. And my dogs would get jealous.

My dogs do guard me. I think my dachshund, in particular, would kill the first person who tried to assault me. He’d start at the ankles and work his way up. But both dogs kind of fall short when it comes to the “attend” and “serve” part. They don’t even reliably fetch. And then there’s the whole opposable thumb thing again.

I suppose I could hire an assistant, but I wouldn’t be able to pay them what they’d richly deserve. Maybe I should figure out how to transfer my spirit into another creature’s body and be my own familiar while my body takes a nap. I do love my naps. But would I get a good rest under those circumstances? Probably not.

Clearly this plan is lacking some critical details. Rest assured I’ll be giving it plenty of thought as I water the garden and pump gas and the like. But I’d welcome any brainstorms that you happen to experience on the subject.

Happy Halloween.

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A Natural Moment

This happened, and I’m still amazed.

This happened, and I’m still amazed.

I got home, after working the swing shift, just before midnight. It was still rather warm out, so I opened the back door to get a nice cross breeze, and let the dogs run into the fenced yard at will. I settled in to watch some television.

About a half hour later, I heard my bigger dog barking on the back deck. This was rather unusual. She almost never barks at night, mainly because there’s very little to bark at. We are surrounded on three sides by a city park, so it’s usually very quiet at this hour.

I let her get her bark on for a bit, because I believe everyone has a right to express themselves. But as she got more agitated, I figured I’d better go have a look. Safety first.

It’s very dark out back, so I could only see so far. But I vaguely made out that my little dachshund Quagmire was running back and forth along the back fence, leaping and prancing and wagging his tail with enthusiasm. Interesting.

I walked halfway across the yard, and discovered that there was another dog on the outside of the fence. He was also running back and forth, leaping and prancing and wagging his tail. Awww… Quagmire made a friend!

I watched them play for a while. They were having so much fun! It was really cute, seeing their pure joy. But after about the tenth lap along the fence line I started thinking about this dog. There was no human around, and he didn’t have a collar, and it was late at night. Clearly he was a stray. He looked healthy. His light brown coat was fluffy and shiny. He was absolutely beautiful. What was I going to do with this dog?

I got about 5 feet from the fence, and that’s when the dog saw me for the first time. He had been so focused on his play that I hadn’t become part of his reality up to that point. He stopped dead in his tracks, less than 10 feet from me.

He looked into my eyes. He tilted his head. I tilted my head. We had a moment, this beautiful creature and I.

And then he started to growl.

And that’s when I realized that this was no dog. This was a coyote. And this coyote might be playing with Quagmire now, but my little dachshund could become the top item on the menu at any point.

I called Quagmire, and by some miracle, he actually listened to me and came. (You have to understand, that almost never happens.) I picked up Quagmire as the coyote continued to growl.

I said, “Why are you growling at me? I didn’t do anything to you.”

That’s when the coyote turned tail and ran into the park. I, in turn, retreated to the house and closed the door. I was saying, “Omigod, omigod, omigod… what just happened?”

I was dying to tell someone, but I knew that no one would appreciate a call at that hour. So I just sat there, shaking my head, and contemplating how cool that had been. I saw a side of a coyote that I had never seen before. A coyote with his guard down.

I knew coyotes were in the park. You can often hear them howling at the moon. And we’ve caught images of them on our nature cam, like the one below, on many occasions. (As a matter of fact, this could very well be the same guy.) But they’re usually furtive and skittish and shy and focused on the hunt. Often the only evidence of their passing is tufts of bloody rabbit fur.

But this guy was playing! Granted, he was probably playing with what he thought would be his next meal, but still… he was playing. And it was glorious to watch. I think that the reason I didn’t recognize him as a coyote right off the bat was that his pure, comfortable, playful joy did not seem the least bit coyote-like to me.

It makes me happy to know that coyotes give themselves a break every now and then. It also makes me realize that I’ve been getting a bit lax in supervising Quagmire when he’s in the yard late at night. Rest assured that that won’t happen again. Even though we’ve never seen a coyote jump our fence, it could most likely do so if properly motivated.

But, yeah. That happened. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

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A Redirected Maternal Instinct

There are many ways to love and nurture.

I never wanted children. Ever. And so I never had any, despite the thousands of people who have told me over the years that I’d change my mind. Well, I’m 56 now, am still childfree and have zero regrets.

Rest assured, I have never tried to talk people out of their desire to have children. I say go for it, if the spirit moves you. Even though I don’t feel the same way they do, I don’t view them as broken in any way. I wish they didn’t act as if I were broken in return. “I find it strange that you have no maternal instinct,” I’ve been told multiple times.

But I don’t see myself as missing any vital thing. In fact, I do believe I have a maternal instinct. It’s just not directed toward having children. There are many other ways to be loving and nurturing and maternal.

For example, I love dogs. I’ve always gotten my dogs from animal rescue, because there are so many pets out there in desperate need of a home. I view it as a win/win. A mutual rescue. And I tend to go for the full-grown dogs. Puppies are cute, but they’re a trial.

I also love my little free library. When I look out the window and see someone, young or old, excitedly choosing a book, it makes my heart swell. I enjoy promoting literacy in my community, because I think it makes for better, more well-rounded people.

And when I see someone hurting, I naturally want to comfort that person. I don’t care what the reason is. I just know that I want comfort when I hurt, so I want to give comfort when the tables are turned. Compassion is an organic reaction for many of us.

Recently, I rented mason bees (and blogged about it here). I love to quietly visit the bees and see them poking their fuzzy little heads out of their little holes. They’re so cute! I just want to hug them. But of course I don’t want to hurt them. I also love watching them fly over to my blossoming cherry tree to belly flop their way into the pollen. And I know that they wouldn’t be at that very place, enhancing that particular bit of nature, if it weren’t for my putting them there. Yay for nature! Double yay for those who nurture nature!

And speaking of nature, I love seeing the flowers and vegetables in my garden thrive. I love watering them on dry days, and I even talk to them just as I do with the bees and the dogs. I enjoy making delicious food from the harvest, and also adding beauty to the world.

In addition, I am very protective of the friends and family whom I love. Don’t mess with my peeps! I will turn into a lion!

So I don’t see myself as lacking a maternal instinct. I just see it as my putting that instinct to a different use. I hope it makes a difference. I know it makes me happy.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear reader. This day should also celebrate those nurturing souls out there who don’t have children. And I’m blowing a kiss skyward to my own mother, may she rest in peace.

My mason bees, peeking out to say hello!

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The Very Best Dogs are Manipulative

But he’ll always be my baby.

I just read a really interesting article entitled, “Science Proves a Harsh Truth About Very Good Dogs”. I almost didn’t read it, because with all that’s going on in the world, I’m not sure I’m ready for a harsh truth about my dog. I mean, seriously, I don’t think I can take one more thing. But it turns out the article was worth the read.

Have you ever fallen completely in love with a dog simply because it has a very expressive face? That pretty much does it for me. Shoot me the sad eyes and I’m completely at your mercy.

Until quite recently, the general consensus seemed to be that those expressions were involuntary, just as they are with the bulk of the animal world. If a dog feels sad, we assumed, he just automatically made a sad face. I know that when my dog gives me that look, I just have to hug him.

But no. A scientific experiment was conducted to determine if dogs made the same expressions under the same circumstances if a human was paying attention or not. They gave the dogs food with an attentive human feeder, and also with a feeder whose back was turned, and studied their facial expressions. Turns out that dogs give many more facial expressions if the human is attentive.

To make sure it was the human attention that was the game changer for the dog, rather that how visible the food was, they experimented with food visibility, too. No change. It was all about the attention. According to the article, “the faces your dog makes are less about the food you have in your hand and more about getting you to do what it wants.”

I still believe, though, that my dog loves me. Even if he is a manipulative little monster. He may be performing to get a reaction, he may know darned well that he has me wrapped around his little paw, but he’ll always be my baby.

Quagmire, my manipulative boy. ❤

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Traveling with Dogs

My dogs march to the beat of their own drummers.

I would love it if my dogs could go with me wherever I go. I know they’d love it, too, unless I was going someplace scary or noisy. They live to have my attention. It would be fun if I could just say, “Let’s go!” and they would hop into the car and sit quietly and politely in the passenger seat, with a little doggy smiles on their faces.

But those are not the dogs I have. They’d be jumping from the front to the back, trying to climb on my lap while slobbering in my face. They’d bark at every moving thing they saw. If I tried to restrain them in some way, they’d howl. They have also been known to take “sit”, “stay”, “come”, and “shut the eff up” as mere suggestions.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is my fault. I’ve always been rather lax with training, albeit  generous with love. The fact remains: as much as I adore my dogs, they are a pain in the butt to travel with.

They’re even more of a trial during long distance travel, because even though they do tend to settle down eventually and snore, it’s not as if I can leave them sitting in a hot car while I sight see. Most buildings don’t allow pets, and there’s no way that my dogs could ever be mistaken for service dogs. And when out of my car, my dachshund, in particular, attempts to maul any human that comes within mauling distance. He thinks he’s a rottweiler.

I also have to stop much more frequently for potty breaks for them than I do for myself. And if we’re staying in a hotel, I can’t just drift peacefully off to sleep. No, they have to go do their business, right before bed time, regardless of wind and weather. And since it’s a new place for them, they have to thoroughly inspect the grounds before finding the perfect place to make their deposit. These things take time. And then, being the responsible citizen that I am, I have to collect that deposit. Oh, joy. A souvenir of our travels.

And just like any living creature, my dogs march to the beat of their own drummers, so if I leash them up and walk them simultaneously, they tend to want to go in different directions at different speeds. So in essence, I feel as though I’m being drawn and quartered. This can be particularly painful if they each decide to go around a different side of the same tree.

But I love my dogs to pieces, so every once in a while I relent and take them on a trip with me. But more often than not, I instantly regret it. I’ve found that missing them, but knowing that they’re safe at home and slobbering on a dog sitter, is the best way to go.

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Mid-Month Marvels: Fostering Hope

Home is where the dog is.

A recurring theme in this blog is the celebration of people and/or organizations that have a positive impact on their communities. What they do is not easy, but it’s inspirational, and we don’t hear enough about them. So I’ve decided to commit to singing their praises at least once a month. I’ll be calling it Mid-Month Marvels. If you have any suggestions for the focus of this monthly spotlight, let me know in the comments below!

I just love it when people think outside the box, and their workplace is supportive of that thought process. According to this article, back in 2018, Teresa Johnston had one such thought. As the Director of Sales in Home2 Suites outside of Biloxi, Mississippi, she noticed that many of the guests seemed lonely. This is an extended stay hotel, and having stayed in one myself for several months, I can attest to the fact that the loneliness in those places is palpable. The very corridors seem to be whispering, “I want to go home.”

So, Ms. Johnston began thinking of ways to make the guests feel more at home. What were they missing? One thing, she realized, was their pets. So she coordinated with the Humane Society of South Mississippi to have the hotel foster one dog at a time. The guests could play with the dog, walk it, or even have it spend the night in their room.

If a guest or employee fell in love with one of these dogs (and who wouldn’t?) they could adopt the pet right at the hotel with a 50 dollar adoption fee. Because of such encounters, the hotel’s “Fostering Hope” program has adopted out 60 dogs to date. This just proves my theory that home is where the dog is.

I’ve never been to Biloxi, but now I’m tempted.

clancy

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Anthropomorphize Much?

You have got to be kidding me.

Just when I thought I’d seen the most ridiculous product to waste money on, another one crosses my path. I can’t even… Just… Sigh.

Neuticles, y’all. Neuticles.

According to their website, these prosthetic nuts for pets “allow your precious pet to retain his natural look, self-esteem, and aid the pet and pet’s owner with trauma associated with altering.”

As they say in the South, Jesus, take the wheel.

I mean… I’m struggling to find the words to adequately express how… (the enormously long pause while I gather myself has been deleted in the interest of space) nonplussed, stupefied and generally flipped out I am by this product.

Oh, where to begin. I can’t even…

Okay. First of all, do you honestly believe that your dog’s self-esteem is shattered when you get him neutered? Really? I mean, I’ve had a lot of dogs fixed in my lifetime, people, and not one of them has appeared to have sunk down into a bottomless pit of depression afterward. Granted, I don’t know what they’re thinking when they wake up, all alone and nutless, at three a.m. on a random Friday night, when all the other dogs are all nutfull and partying, but whatever it is, they seem perfectly willing to play fetch the next day. Life goes on.

Trauma for the pet? Well, yeah, I’m sure it doesn’t tickle, but they seem to recover quickly, and their health and life expectancy vastly improve, all while reducing the stray dog population. (Talk about trauma. Try being a homeless dog for five minutes.)

I’ve often said that I wish my veterinarian had done my hysterectomy. It would have only cost about 75 bucks, and I would have been up and running the next day, rather than flat on my back for 6 weeks. And I think my self-esteem would have been just fine.

And trauma for the owner? For heaven’s sake, get a freakin’ life. If that’s the most traumatic experience you’ve ever had, then you must be living in a plastic bubble. I certainly wouldn’t recommend that you be subjected to the average Seattle commute or, heaven forfend, a Brazilian wax. You wouldn’t survive.

But hey, Kim Kardashian’s dog Rocky has neuticles, so we should all rush out and get some, in order to keep up. Visit the website to find a participating vet near you. (I truly hope my vet isn’t on this list.)

Oh, and while you’re there, you can also order PermaStay! Those are ear implants for dogs, “to correct broken, bent or floppy ears that should otherwise stand up straight.” Because the world can’t abide dogs who don’t have perky ears.

Give me strength.

Dog
This dog fears for your sanity.

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Yet Another Way to Share

Sharing builds community.

I’ve written with great pride about the Little Free Library in front of our house. I’ve also written about Chat Benches and Little Free Galleries and Little Free Gardens and even Bug Houses. Another friend recently sent me this little article about another wonderful idea: Stick Libraries for Dogs.

It seems that this gentleman’s dog loves sticks, and there were none in the dog park in New Zealand that they frequent. So, being handy, he built a box and filled it with smooth-edged sticks for the dogs who visit to use and return. What a delightful gesture. A lending library for dogs.

All these ideas have a recurring theme: Sharing. Sharing builds community. Sharing gives people a stronger sense of place. Sharing promotes generosity.

In a world that seems increasingly polarized, the guy who built this box seems to be saying, “I’m not worried about your politics or your religion or your race or your social standing. I just want to make your dog smile.”

I’m sitting here on the other side of the world, and the concept is making me smile, too. I hope it catches on. The dogs of the world would thank us.

Stick Library

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Dog Mom Diaries

He looks at me as if I’ve taken leave of my senses.

My dog Quagmire is soft and warm and relaxed at 5:30 am. It’s so sweet. I almost hate to disturb him. Almost. Then I remember the millions of times he’s woken me up out of a sound sleep without even a hint of remorse. So…

“Wake up, Fuzz Head.”

He groans. Burrows deeper into the blankets. Gives me the hairy eyeball.

Quagmire is not a morning dog.

I pick him up. He’s as limp as a dishrag. He’s hoping that if he plays dead, I’ll leave him alone.

“It’s time to go pee.”

As I carry him toward the back door, I notice that the rain is coming down in buckets. And it’s cold. Great.

I open the door and put him down. He looks at me as if I’ve taken leave of my senses. He attempts to come back inside.

“Errr.. no. Go potty.”

Maybe I have taken leave of my senses. I’ve only had about 2 hours of sleep myself, as is pretty much standard on Friday mornings, given my insane work schedule. The room is kind of spinning, if I’m honest. I need caffeine. But first, I need this dog to go outside.

He attempts to scoot past my legs. “Quag. Mire. Go. Pee.”

He reluctantly steps out onto the covered deck. He considers doing his business right there. But he forgets that I can read his mind. “Nooooo. Go potty.”

Appearing really resigned and grievously put upon, he trudges out into the downpour. I am so grateful that I’m not a dog. He can’t grasp that this is for his own good. He just knows that no one should have to get one’s paws wet.

He does his thing and runs back inside. He shakes. I towel him off and give him a hug. I put him back to bed, and he falls back to sleep instantly. Okay, maybe I do wish I were a dog.

I put on my raincoat. I grab my backpack. I trudge out into the downpour.

Somebody has to bring home the kibble.

Quagmire
Quagmire

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