Tag Archives: cats

From the Couch’s Potatoes

I am a confirmed couch potato! I like nothing better than curling up on the sofa with a quilt, a book and a cup of something hot by my elbow.  Can’t say I’m exactly PROUD of preferring a life with little physical activity, but I’m definitely NOT ashamed of being an introvert who needs privacy at home to recharge my batteries!  For some reason, I always thought that recharging was best done from a reclining position on the couch!

For years as an adult I’d lived with cats, who approve and support the introvert lifestyle — as long as THEIR introvert is properly trained as warm-blooded furniture! Not that I didn’t LOVE dogs and want one, but my job was in the theatre and that means long hours away from home. Two cats can keep each other company and be happy to snuggle with their human when she finally drags in, but a dog or even two dogs — not so much!

Finally, I adopted Kita, in spite of the scheduling issues because I realized that my aging body needed motivation to pry it off the couch cushions! I couldn’t keep to a walking schedule all on my own, but would have to get moving in order to exercise my puppy! And it worked! Though I had to re-arrange schedules at the theater and come home between activities, Kita got a good 45 minutes of exercise in the morning (even in the dead of Winter when that meant setting forth  in the dark before dawn) and 45 minutes to an hour every evening. And the couch potato did, too!

At least the evening “walk” always started out as aerobic, but in my neighborhood, EVERYBODY took their dog to the park after work. It wasn’t unusual for the humans to stand around socializing and let their dogs frisk about, socializing on their own. The neighbors encouraged me to let Kita off leash so she could have fun with the other dogs and I couldn’t resist!  Yep, Kita had fun, but after she organized and lead break-away adventures in the woods a couple of times, they stopped suggesting that!  (Kita was far more independent than most 6-9 month old puppies and still doesn’t have a rock-solid recall because of that trait.  But that’s another subject.)  Still, she got a good measure of movement, and compared to the pre-Kita days, I’d added quite a bit of activity to my day!  Until Kita was over a year old, it was no problem getting her enough walks and play-dates to keep in shape.  Then we moved.

Foolishly, I thought that we’d get MORE activity in a semi-rural area. It wasn’t until we were all unpacked that I realized a couple of things — out here there are no sidewalks or streetlights.  In addition, the road we live on may be only two-lanes, but is one of the only connecting roads between two communities and a college, so I don’t feel safe walking on the shoulder even in daylight.  With the leash-laws (by township ordinance, even CATS have to be on-leash) and Kita’s Recall being iffy, I couldn’t safely bend the rules and let her romp in the wild land behind our house even if I was scrambling around with her.  We have 2/3 of an acre fenced in behind the house, but a dog doesn’t exercise herself.  And even if she did, that doesn’t exercise ME!

This is where I started to really envy those folks with high-fetch-drive dogs.  Romping and throwing ball or Frisbee with Kita would have gone a long way to keeping us both off the couch.  After a year or so of intermittent walks at parks we had to drive to.  Short walks along the same “safe” backstreet. Running around our yard which got to be a more than a bit boring without the ball-or-Frisbee component, I broke down and adopted a companion animal for Kita – Rilka.  (It’s her picture I use as my blog avatar!)

That solved the dog’s exercise requirements — for about a year.  The girls would play and chase each other around the small barn, and we’d all walk a couple of times a week, so with yard-work I was doing OK, too.  Then, as these things happen, the girls played less, and we walked less, too.  It all happened so gradually that I didn’t recognize the increasingly frequent doggie break-outs as the symptom of what they were – two still young, lively dogs weren’t getting enough exercise!

By break-outs, I mean literally and figuratively!  The girls would break out their own fun with “boredom” chewing, garbage exploration and digging inside and outside the house.  On the literal side, Rilka was an escape artist and Kita no slouch, neither.  They took many, many opportunities to slip under the chain link, or enlarge a gopher hole under the privacy fence, or punch out a screen in a window, to get out and chase furry critters all over the area. (I wanted smart dogs and they are – they thought of ways to break out faster than I could think of what they might be thinking of!)  Considering how busy the street out front is, it was fairly miraculous that they stayed safe – except for tapeworm from eating little furry creatures, scratches, burrs, and Kita blowing a knee – for nearly 4 years.  But it eventually killed Rilka who was hit by a car.

They say hind-sight is always 20-20. I now see that I let my “couch potato” inclinations take over and — not to put too fine a point on it –neglected my dogs and myself.  Even if I found our only safe walking route boring, the dogs didn’t – the smells were always new and interesting.  There was always time, and walking in the pre-light before dawn always revealed wonderful wildlife.  No, I just failed to do the duty I got a dog to force myself into in the first place.

Since then  DRAMA DOG TRAINING activities — boarding, daycare and classes – are making sure both Kita and I keep moving,  Even though she’s now, at 9 years, considered a “senior,” Kita plays more and more with the client doggies!  If we don’t have dogs that exercise each other, Kita and I take one dog at a time for walks, so we’re doing pretty good there, too!

And it’s kind of amazing that I’ve discovered even an introvert’s batteries get recharged all the better with a little physical activity!  After a good walk, I’m more creative, relaxed and refreshed that if I sat down with a book and cup of tea!  The benefits to me are great, but to my dog, they can’t even be measured. It’s my job to keep us from “couch-potato-hood” and I wish I’d lived up to my responsibilities in time so that my sweet Rilka might still be here with us.  But I can point to myself as a bad example and assure clients that exercise DOES make a huge difference in a dog’s behavior and “bad” habits as well as her health — and theirs!

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A Difficult Decision

Just saw a FB post from a shelter who received a 12-year-old Lab X  as “an euthanasia request” and that just made my blood boil.  I can’t believe the casual cruelty — giving away a dog simply because she had grown old.  THROWING away an animal that had loved you and your family for a dozen years.  Abandoning a thinking, feelilng being because she wasn’t “good enough” for whatever reason to continue sharing their home. 

I don’t really know WHY these people left the old dog at a shelter, but the posting said there were no obvious medical issues.  The posting said nothing about a family forced into a difficult decision because they had lost their jobs and couldn’t afford a dog.  There was no mention of losing their home and being forced to live somewhere that wouldn’t allow even an old well-behaved dog.  However, because the request came from the people surrendering her to have her put down, I’m going to assume she was given up simply because she was OLD.

When we bring a dog (and most other animals) into our lives, we know that barring misfortune or accident, we are going to outlive the pet.  This means we will see our pet die, and in many cases have to make a difficult decision about how and when that will happen.  It is sheer cowardice and horribly unfair to the dog to avoid that responsibility and shove it off on anyone else. 

In my adult life, I’ve had to bring 2 cats and a dog to the vet to end their suffering.  I’ve had one cat die in my lap because she went into a coma on a holiday weekend and didn’t seem to be in any pain that warranted a visit to the emergency vet.  In every case, I stayed with my pet stroking and loving her until life was extinguished. My current dog and cat are getting up in age and I know before too long I will have to make those difficult decisions again.  But that’s part of sharing your life with an animal.

There are many kinds of avoidance.  A neighbor told me he took his dog to the vet and handed it over to be euthanized, but couldn’t bear to be in the room. So, his dog spent her last moments away from him with almost-strangers who she was probably afraid of.  The man was thinking of how he would feel, but he is a thinking human who knew he was doing what was best.  Did he think of his poor, old dog who, I am sure,  spent her last minutes looking for him?

I once saw an even worse (though still similar) abandoment at close quarters. I was volunteering at the Humane Society when a very old Golden Retriever was left tied to the outside door (for who knows for how long?) for the staff to find.  He had bad hips, and a number of other problems, and was in pain.  The people who left him clearly expected the Humane Society to put him down, but because he was just left (instead of signed over) he was officially a stray,  The staff couldn’t do anything for him until the 7-day-wait of a a stray was up.  I spent a couple of hours with that old boy.  He was a real sweetheart and loved the attention, but every time a door opened, his ears and tail came up hopefully and he looked for “his” people.  And every time it wasn’t them and the head and ears and tail drooped again.  How many times did that happen to that poor dog in the 7 days he had to wait?

I have no patience with people who try to avoid this final decision and its consequences.  Yes, it’s hard!  Yes, it hurts!  We love our animals and if it didn’t they wouldn’t be our beloved companions.  I cried buckets each time, and I’m crying now as I remember.  I cried as I petted and loved that old Golden. 

All I’m saying is that if you can’t stand the heat don’t make the decision to go into the kitchen.  Count the cost before getting a pet. If you truly love your pet, you will love that pet — and do what is best for him or her — until the very, very end.


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Dogs v. Cats

I remember as a young child thinking that dogs were the boys and cats were the girls and they were the same animals otherwise.  I think most kids go through that stage.  What is interesting to me, is that though we learn differently as we get older and realize there are girl dogs and boy cats, we somehow keep the expectation that dogs and cats are the same animals in many ways.

Maybe it’s because they’re both four-legged, furry and (most of the time) have big ears and tails.  We do regard them as having very different temperaments:  dogs are extroverts and cats are introverts.  Or put anther way:  dogs are friendly and cats aren’t, but that’s not the whole story! It took bringing a puppy into my established two-adult-cat household to teach me how very differently cats and dogs communicate with the world.

It’s not just their temperaments.  I’ve had very outgoing cats that loved people and would even fetch.  And I’ve had aloof, independent dogs that would rather be alone most of the time and looked at a thrown ball as some sort of insult.  All my dogs and cats have followed me from room to room and wanted to sleep with me. 

No, it’s in their body language which is quite opposite that the differences between feline and canine are most apparent.  Take the tail.  A dog wags her tail when she’s eager, excited and if it’s really swishy and wagging hard, she’s happy.  A cat wags (though it’s more like a twitch) when she’s upset and angry, and the more, faster and further a tail twitches, the angrier she is.   When a dog’s tail is high — straight up or over her back, she’s feeling confident, perhaps belligerent. When a cat approaches another with tail held high, she’s feeling friendly and showing she trusts the other animal.

 The greeting styles are totally different in all ways.  A dog regards a frontal approach with eye contact and wide-open eyes as a challenge.  Cats greet friends with wide-open eyes, running straight in to touch noses.  Dogs don’t commonly go straight to touching noses unless they know the other dog VERY well, and they don’t stare into the other dog’s eyes when they do!

Even play is expressed differently.  A dog paws at another animal with a clawed foot when she’s soliciting play.  A cat pawing at another animal with claws out is saying “get out of my face!”  Dogs rolling over on their back and exposing their tummies is a sign of trust and invitation to approach.  A cat rolling on it’s back is freeing up all four clawed feet for use and you approach at your own risk! 

A dog that runs from another dog is often asking to be chased.  A cat running from a dog (or another cat) is almost always trying to get away from a dangerous menace!  The terrible thing is, that by running — and running scared, cats look like prey to a dog and they will be chased.  Even a friendly dog might forget it’s friendly feelings when it get caught up in the chase.

I’ve seen very smart cats use these differences to buffalo dogs.  My tabby, Pasht, would sit and stare at a new dog.  Once she had the dog feeling uncomfortable, she’d stand up, tail high and still staring, approach.  Most often the poor dog backed away, reading in the cat’s body language that she was challenging and ready for a fight.  Pasht wasn’t fighting, she was just smart enough to know that she could make dogs back down if she acted like that — and I swear she was smiling when she did it!

I’ve also seen a lot of cats and dogs learn each other’s body language and become great friends.  That same kitty, Pasht, would take herself to one of my big German Shepherds for some lovin’ if I wasn’t paying enough attention to her.  Several of my cats have played — and played rough — with my big dogs.  But usually, one or other of the pair was introduced to the other species as a puppy or kitten.  Just like humans, cats and dogs learn new languages easier and faster when they’re young.


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