Friday, January 10, 2020

Communication

Lionel is one of the stranger cats I've ever owned (I've had cats since I was about 8). He fears nothing, is dumb as a box of highly intelligent rocks, and clearly believes deep down in his soul that he is a dog. But, like people who research their ancestry, find out they are descended from one nationality, and attach themselves to their roots without ever learning a line of their ancestral language, Lionel speaks not a word of dog.

This did not appear to be a problem with Lionel and Ray interactions. Since Ray couldn't see that Lionel was not a dog, Ray obviously thought that Lionel was a dog. Their communication consisted of Ray, every day at three o'clock, standing over Lionel blasting him with the doghorn while Lionel laid there basking in the sound vibrations. Although not immediately apparent to observers why this happened, they both enjoyed this exchange and Ray clearly thought his pack-mate was a very good listener.

Now that he has a new dog, Lionel's lack of language skills has become a bit of an issue. Because Cully can see and wants to play with her new, slightly-odd-looking dog. When Cully goes into a spastic play bow, Lionel arches and puffs. When she butts him with her nose, he bops her. I can see Lionel is very confused by these messages because his other dog never communicated in this way but it in no way interferes with his attachment to Cully. He still wants to go on walks with her (the afternoon walk consists of a stroll around the cul-de-sac with both of them while Juno waits at the end of the driveway watching to make sure everyone gets home safely), likes sleeping with her on the couch in the evening, and doesn't even seem to mind (much) that he is constantly being stepped on by his bigger sister.

As for Cully, she is much better at learning a new language than Lionel. Although she can't actually speak cat, she can clearly understand a few words. When Juno starts making her porpoise noises because there is something being prepared in the kitchen that she is excited about, Cully magically appears. I have every confidence that our new dog will be fluent in cat in no time. If she ever starts to speak it, however, I will immediately be contacting Ripley's.

Our two dogs





Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Comparisons

It's funny how bringing home a new dog makes you think of your old dog. Now that we have Cully, I think of Ray all the time. There is a constant mental comparison going on. Not in a bad way just a "huh" kind of way. Either Cully does something just like Ray resulting in an "Oh, Ray used to do that!" moment, or she does something totally the opposite which makes me think, "Well, Ray never used to do THAT."

Every day, for every tiny detail, comparisons are made. Cully is incredibly excited at mealtime and finishes her meal in a gulp whereas Ray would politely wait just outside the kitchen and then slowly and methodically eat his bowl of gruel. Sometimes he even finished it. Cully looks out windows, which I find fascinating. Ray only ever "looked" out the front door. Cully likes only the couches; Ray liked variety, sleeping on the couches and the chairs and the floor. Cully steps on Lionel without even noticing; Ray rarely, if ever, stepped on a cat. Cully steals fabric softener sheets to roll around on, so did Ray. After a big show of chewing a vegetable, Cully either spits out a big glob of whatever or actually EATS a veg. Ray would never let a vegetable even TOUCH his lips. Cully is unsure around children; Ray could not contain his excitement. Cully is afraid of everything; Ray was fearless. Cully loves her new brain game (Christmas present) just as much as Ray loved his (brain games were his raison d'ĂȘtre).

Then there are the physical comparisons. Cully's ears are longer than Ray's. She doesn't have his stamina. Her voice is deeper and more melodious than Ray's (but let's face it, there will never be another fog horn crossed with a seal). Cully's legs are shorter but somehow she takes up more room on a couch than Ray. Cully doesn't have the dancing eyebrows that Ray had or his head tilt (I really miss these), but she has a tail wag that can't be beat. Cully is paws-y, she likes to touch her humans; Ray was careful where he put his paws.


The comparisons go on and on. I can't stop myself from making them but they make me realize something: We love Cully just as much as we loved Ray. She is more "special needs" than he ever was but it doesn't matter, I am grateful that she is here and that she reminds me every day of our amazing, 'gone but not forgotten' blind boy.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Cully

Headnote* (I don't really plan on posting to this blog any more. But then I didn't plan on posting at all after Ray died. Since I'm obviously incapable of cutting Ray's followers off without a word, I'm going to post this Cully update. I honestly can't say if there will be more or not. I like to keep myself in the dark about what I'm going to do next.)

Cully's paperwork said that she was picked up in February in a rural Virginia county, emaciated and in heat. Apparently she was immediately spayed and sent to Northern Virginia. When we adopted her, she had been at the Humane Society for eight long months. Although she was listed by the Society as a 35 pound "hound mix," in actuality she was a 58 pound Treeing Walker Coonhound (if she is a "mix," she is one hound mixed with another).

Cully came with her own bottle of Prozac and a big bag of fear. When we got her home it was raining so we took her in through the kitchen entrance. She was terrified to enter so, with one of us at her head and one at the rear, sweet talking the whole time, we coaxed/dragged/pushed her through the door and into the house. Lionel was interestedly watching from the top of the cat tree. Juno took one look and ran for the stairs then stopped on the landing to see what was going to happen next.

We let Cully off her leash, dried her with towels, and let her go. She paced nervously from the living room to the TV room, stopping at the kitchen door every time to wag her tail at Gregg who was fixing dinner. She showed absolutely no desire to go any further than those two rooms so I brought out one of Ray's old beds and positioned it at the end of the couch in the TV room. She went to stand on it for a second as if to briefly familiarize herself with her new safe spot, then resumed her pacing. I noticed that the sight and sound of the TV was freaking her out so turned the sound to murmur. Gregg and I went about our business and left Cully alone to de-stress, telling her what a good girl she was at odd moments. Based on her house fears, I don't think Cully had ever been inside one before that night.

By 10:00 Cully had worn herself out and retired to her bed. Not knowing if she was housebroken or not, I brought down a blanket and pillow and settled in on the couch for the night. But Cully slept through. Gregg and I traded couch duty for three days but it was unnecessary. Cully slept. For most of the next five days Cully slept, waking up only long enough for us to coax/drag/push her out the front door or back door for walks or to pee.

Over the first eight days we weaned her off the Prozac as instructed by the Humane Society personnel; two pills for the first five days, one pill for 3 days after. By day six, Cully's personality started to emerge.

We have had so many firsts in the last two weeks that I can't even keep up; the first time she ventured into the spinning room and the laundry room, the first time she went up the stairs to the landing, the first time we didn't have to drag her in or out the door, the first time she discovered that she liked the couch (she has not been back to her bed since), the first time she treed Lionel (he was asking for it, he charged her), the first time she howled (holey moley she has a deep voice!), the first time she jumped up into the car by herself (a major celebration was had by all), the first time she used the dog door of death and didn't perish, the first time a truck went up our street and didn't turn her into a trembling bowl of jello, the first time she discovered where we slept and joined us in the morning (followed closely by Juno, Lionel was already there. We had a snuggle fest.)

So here we are at two weeks, four days, the owners of a delightful hound girl who already knows her name, wags her tail so hard it hurts, and is working on getting over her fears one-by-one.

What follows is a list of he things that scared her but that she has overcome
  • going into the house
  • leaving the house
  • TV
  • kitchen
  • refrigerator
  • cars passing us on walks
  • the backyard
  • leaves 
  • getting into the car
  • getting out of the car
The following is a list of things that still make her nervous
  • wind
  • lawn equipment
  • helicopters
  • wheeled things in general (bikes, strollers, carts)
  • vans
  • trucks
  • kids 
The following is a list of things that terrify her and make walking really scary
  • motorcycles
  • the trash truck 

Footnote* Juno really likes her new dog. At first, Lionel was excited to have a dog again, but ever since he was chased up the tree, he is reserving judgement. 
This is really scary. Do we really have to go out?
Ok, maybe this isn't so bad.

Couches are a marvelous thing.

Ahhhh. My favorite.

I claim this human as my own.
I claim this human too. He doth be mine.

Kinda liking this spot. Perfect for bone-chewing.


Mmmmmm. Couches.









Thursday, October 31, 2019

A New Chapter

Saturday night, a facebook friend of mine posted a link to a dog at the Humane Society. She had "hearted" the posting so I took a look.

It said that the "hound mix" was one of their longest residents but that they didn't know why as she was such a sweet thing. I recognized the photo of the  dog from when I started my search back in April so I knew that she had been there at least that long. She was three and a half years old back then, so close to four now. Nowhere did it say if she was cat-friendly. Feeling rather hopeless but knowing that I had nothing to lose, I filled out the online application and sent it off.

The next day there was a reply. They wanted me to call my vet and give them permission to respond to the Humane Society's questions. They didn't want to talk to a receptionist, they wanted a specific vet name. (I had been to the vet recently and told the receptionists my dog-adoption woes. They assured me that they had my back, then told me a story about a vet that had applied to adopt a cat from a local rescue and had been denied. If a veterinarian isn't qualified to adopt a cat, I don't know who is.)  So bright and early Monday morning I was on the phone to the vet doing as the Humane Society asked. By the end of the day they got back to me with a request for me to make an appointment to meet the dog along with instructions on how to find their farm.

 Feeling more hopeful than I had since my third adoption attempt, I went shopping for new dog-walking clothes. I was not quite hopeful enough, however, to buy anything for a new dog. I should have known better.

Gregg and I had a late afternoon appointment yesterday. Last night we came home with a scared girl-hound named Ellie May. Since every girl-hound I have ever met was named Ellie May, we have been calling her Cully. She is totally in love with Gregg. And Lionel is totally smitten with his new dog.

Life is good.







Monday, October 28, 2019

Four and Five

At the end of September I attended a fiber festival with my BFF and Ray's old favorites, Caleb and his family. Caleb, who had been interestedly following my attempts at adopting a dog, asked how the search was going. I gave him the latest. Caleb was not surprised at the stories. He had heard similar from people he knew who had tried to adopt dogs.

"We passed a dog rescue about 10 minutes from here," he said while searching his phone for the name of the place, "Here it is."
I could see him scrolling. He turned the phone towards me and showed me a dog.
"How 'bout this one?"
I grinned and said, "Forward it to Greggie."
I pulled out my own phone and called my husband.
"Hey, Caleb is sending you a link to a dog. See what you think, and if you like him, fill out the application."
Gregg agreed to take a look.
That evening when I got home, I asked Gregg what he thought of the dog. He told me he had put in an application. I waited until the next day to call the rescue.

"I have your application right in front of me," said the woman on the other end of the line, "But the dog you have applied for is not cat friendly. We have others who are, if you are interested."

I asked what their adoption process entailed and was told that all members of the household were required to come and meet the dog. Then all members of the household were required to go home and think about it for a couple of days. If, after a couple of days, everyone still wanted the dog, they call the rescue to arrange for the dog to be brought to them. Someone would bring the dog to the house, do a home check, and then if the dog agreed, he was adopted. The whole process took about a week. Being so recently burned by a rescue that gave my dog away while I was following their 48 hour rule, I made a conscious decision to not proceed any further. However, undeterred, I continued to look at dogs.

A couple days later, I found a hound at a rescue that I hadn't tried yet. I was encouraged to see that in their descriptions of dogs, they encouraged dog park use as a form of exercise for their higher-energy, dog-friendly dogs. But the hound was a "courtesy post" for a collie rescue that had gone south to rescue a collie and had felt obliged to bring an emaciated hound back home with them. I then checked out the collie rescue website which said that it could be up to 10 days after an application had been submitted before someone from their rescue would get in contact. Since I had been waiting months to adopt, an additional 10 days didn't seem that bad, so I filled out the paperwork and pushed the button. Ten days later I got a call.

The woman, a collie fan, was doing the phone interviews for the rescue. She told me that there were multiple applicants for the hound, that she wasn't the one who made the final decision, and that she did not get to know who was the lucky recipient at the end of the process. We had a nice time chatting about dogs. We were hitting it off. I liked her. She was normal. I had a vague feeling that things were going ok. The questions seemed pretty reasonable to me. Then everything came to a screeching halt. The Dog Door of Death entered the room. I could tell at once from the one syllable "Oh" that it was the show-stopper.

"Well," I said, "In my defense, I would like you to know that a LOT of dogs die each year in house fires. I never had to worry about my dog because if the fire alarms ever went off, Ray was the first one out of the house. If you were in his way, you better look out because he would knock you over to get out that dog door."

The woman was interested. She had never thought of it before, but as she stressed to me again, she did not make the final decision. She would pass on the information though. She wished me good luck and rang off.

The last time I looked (today), the hound was still listed on their website. Apparently, I wasn't the only one that didn't measure up enough to adopt the poor emaciated girl dog.


Friday, October 11, 2019

Third Time the Charm?

I didn't wait to start looking at dogs again. As a matter of fact, I went to the local shelter in Wisconsin just in case the perfect dog happened to live there. And I scanned our local shelter each day to make sure no perfect dogs slipped through my fingers. On the day before I was to return home, one popped up on the shelter website. I sent Gregg the link along with the message that maybe we could stop at the shelter on the way home from the airport and take a look. But by the time I had deplaned, all I wanted to do was go home. So we skipped the shelter and by the end of the day the dog had been adopted.

I had been looking for a dog at the county shelter for months but any suitable dogs were adopted quite quickly. The same 10 dogs had been there all summer long; the 10 were pitbulls, elderly dogs, a "nippy" dog, a couple that were dog (and cat) aggressive, and one "escape artist." So I decided to expand my search. I looked at dogs in other counties, the more rural ones that were about an hour's drive away.

Almost immediately I found a dog that spoke to me. He was a stray that had been quite emaciated when found, was timid, and afraid of cats. He was at an SPCA but there was no online application. I called them and was informed that they required adopters to come to their location to fill out the application and then they had to wait 48 hours while the application was processed. I asked if they had any restrictions on crates and dog doors but they assured me that they did not. I decided to give it a shot.

I drove the hour or so to the site and asked to see the inappropriately named "Valor". (I'd call him Val I decided in my head). The employee brought me to his cage and tried to coax him out. Poor Val was terrified. He cringed past the cages and outside to the run. The handler turned him loose. Val ran back and forth across the field, giddy with freedom. He stayed well out of our way, and finally stopped for a snack at a lush patch of grass on the opposite side of the chain link fence. He bent his neck to try to grab a bite but the grass was just out of reach. Val craned his neck farther and farther. Soon he was standing on his head quite determined to get some grass. I was entranced by his goofiness. I asked where to get an application and went to fill it out. The handler stayed behind trying to catch a hound that was joyfully zooming around her. I grinned.

There were no other applicants for Val when I submitted my application and I was told that there had been only one in the three weeks that he was there. That one had been rejected. I felt somewhat confident that he would be ours.

Forty-eight hours later, I called the shelter. Val had been adopted already. I was stunned. I asked why my application had been rejected. The woman who answered the phone didn't know, she transferred me to another person who could give me an answer. I asked again why my application had been rejected. I needed to know in case it was a booby trap that I hadn't thought about. It wasn't that my application had been rejected, it was because someone had come in to adopt a dog and had brought their own dog along with them. Their dog and Val had gotten along so well that the SPCA had given Val to them. No 48 hour waiting period required. They thought that the people were a "better fit" for Val. I asked how she could possibly know if they were a better fit. No one had talked to me or asked me any questions. How could they possibly know? Why was I rejected? She had no answer. I asked if I could adopt one of their other dogs, an elderly one with a large open wound on his leg.

"Of course you can!" the woman replied happily.
"So, I'm not good enough for the dog that I want," I replied. "But I'm good enough for the one you want me to have." She was incoherently trying to respond  when I hung up on her.

I cried the rest of the day (I cry every time I think about it). Since I now needed to own a dog in order to adopt a dog, my chances of adopting seemed even more remote than before.




Thursday, September 26, 2019

Second Try

I waited two months after being rejected by the dog "rescue" before trying to adopt again. I talked to everyone I could about "rescues" in our area and soon realized that each "rescue" had their own ideas about what was acceptable and what wasn't and since there was no way to tell which was which, I wouldn't even be able to lie appropriately.

I spent a lot of time looking at dogs online and scanning adoption applications for potential booby-trap questions. I realized pretty quickly that I was so scarred from my experience that I started to think ALL questions were booby-traps.

"Have you ever used a retractable leash?" (Well, yeah. Ray tripped me all the time when I was using a short one. He liked to be way out front. Or way out back sniffing something while I walked on. Is a retractable leash a deal-breaker? Is it like the Dog Door of Death, as my BFF sarcastically calls it now?)
"Will you take your dog to a dog park?" (Depends on if he/she gets along with other dogs. Ray LOVED the dog park right up until the moment that he didn't. Are you a "rescue" that thinks dog parks are the root of all evil?)
"Would you hire a dog walker?" (Probably, if I were incapacitated and couldn't walk and Gregg couldn't do it and I couldn't rope one of my neighbors into doing it. Is that the right answer? Are dog walkers a BAD thing? I don't know.)
"What kind of dog behavior concerns you?" (How do I even know until something happens that is concerning. Should I admit that I'm concerned or pretend that dogs never do anything that concern a person? What is the right answer to this?)
"Why do you want a dog?" (So many reasons, but not for dog fighting. Is that what you really want to know?)
"Where will your dog sleep?" (Wherever he/she wants as long as it's not with us, unless it's a tiny dog, that might be okay. Am I supposed to say that they will only sleep in a crate behind a locked Dog Door of Death?)

Some applications I rejected immediately because of the length (6-8 pages was a bit much) or because of the intrusive nature of their questions.
"What is your annual income?" (Really??????)
"Occupation." (I can't even begin to know why they need this info unless maybe I sell dogs to labs for evil experimentation or run a dog-fighting ring, in which cases I wouldn't be likely to tell them)
"Name of your employer and how long you have worked for them." (sigh)
"How long will you go on vacation each year." (This one really raised a red flag for me. Once they know your yearly income, your address, what kind of house you live in - another of their questions - "Check one: Area around your home: Rural, Suburban, Urban," you're really a sitting duck for thieves.)

Some of the questions were scientific:
"What causes heartworm in dogs?" (I know it's transmitted by mosquitos but do they want more detailed info than that? Because I don't really know.)

One of the questions kind of stumped me:
"Do you or your home have a weight limit?" (ummmm, yes? Is that the right answer? I don't want to become overweight so I set myself a limit. Not sure about my house though. As far as I know it's not sentient. Is that what you want to know?)

Finally, I searched on "Special Needs Dogs." Maybe "rescues" trying to find homes for "Special Needs Dogs" didn't care if my home had a weight limit. I almost immediately found the perfect dog. It was an actual person trying to rehome their perfect dog that loved kids, cats, people, and other dogs. I read the description and found that her owner loved her dog but didn't have enough time to give the "coonhound mix" the exercise she needed. Nowhere was there a mention of the "Special Need." So I sent an email.

The "Special Need" turned out to be exercise. Dog was between two and three years of age, and like Ray at that age, could go and go. Her mom was a nurse who worked long days. We set up a time for Dog's mom to bring her by for a meet-and-greet.

Both Gregg and I loved the little (compared to Ray) dog. She was charming. The one big problem was, I could tell that her mom loved Dog. Despite the fact that I had told myself I wouldn't try to talk her out of it, I found myself giving advice to Dog's mom. I told her that Ray became a different dog between the age of two and three. He really calmed down. He still needed exercise but maybe she could hire a dog walker (are they bad things? I'm still uncertain.) for an hour a day. That would really help. Dog's mom's circumstances were going to change in the next year? A year goes by really fast. Maybe the dog walker could take up the slack for the year. Then I asked her, "If you decide to give her to me and I'm standing on the curb holding her leash and you drive away and look in the rearview mirror and see her straining at the leash to go home with you, will you be able to pull the trigger and drive away?" She admitted that she didn't know. I had an upcoming short trip to Wisconsin. I'd be back the week after next, she could think about it and let us know after I got back.

I got the email while I was still in Wisconsin. Dog's mom couldn't pull the trigger. She was keeping Dog. Gregg and I were both disappointed and happy at the same time.