Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Expanding Horizons

This weekend the cats learned how to use the dog door. We knew this day was coming because a while back they learned how to use the cat door into the garage (there is a second one that goes from the garage to the outside but we closed that one off with a wooden panel). Ever since they've had access to the garage, I've been finding interesting things in the house. I think it's because Juno is a Bringer (not the creepy kind from the last season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but the kind that brings stuff into the house from the garage). I've found a plastic thingy that holds Christmas lights to a gutter, the lid from a WD-40 can, various bottle caps, those inflated plastic bags that come in Amazon shipments (those are deflated when I find them), styrofoam peanuts, twist ties, and a desiccated worm. I've also found things that I can't identify. I'm thinking of starting a drawer for them just in case they are something important that I will need later.
But access to the great outdoors obviously trumps access to the garage. Saturday and Sunday we monitored Juno and Harvey's exploring to make sure that they didn't go farther and to make sure that Ray didn't hurt them. The blind hound was absolutely thrilled to have company in his domain, so much so that we felt it advisable to leash him while the cats figured out escape routes, one of which turned out to be under the fence into Archie and Dory's backyard. Gregg acted quickly to retrieve our adventurous Dumpling and block off the hole.
What's up there?

Oh, is that all...

Where is he?

Hey, I think somebody is under MY tree!

Ew, ew, ew, ew. This feels funny under my feet

Use the pathway! That's what it's here for!

Hey Harvey, check it out, it's a good place to hide from Ray.

Also, I think we could probably climb one of these things if we need to

Can I go play now?

A whole lot of concentration going on
(note the wrinkled forehead)

By the time Monday rolled around we were all a bit more comfortable. The cats spent the entire day outside, only coming in to use the sandbox (sigh), and take a quick nap. Ray also got some exercise attempting to find and play with his friends, then was encouraged to join me in the frontyard to do some (napping on his bed) yardwork.
Then yesterday it started to rain. After figuring out that they don't care for the rain, both Harvey and Juno used the dog door every ten minutes to see if the weather had changed.
Today is the same but with even heavier rain. This morning the cats gave up using the weather station and curled up on the couch. The bored blind dog resorted to chewing on shoes. To keep him occupied, I dug out one of his old toys which apparently has not lost its charm. Here's an old video of Ray and his old toy. When the yelling started, Harvey disappeared. The always-more-curious-than-she-should-be, Juno, stayed close enough to watch from under the couch.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Gone to the Dog (and the Cats)

I used to be a fairly decent housekeeper. Like most women, I had been brainwashed to believe that a tidy house somehow mattered. A few things have disabused me of this insane notion, the most recent being the presence of a yarn-covered chair sitting on the coffee table in my living room.
"What," you may ask, "Does that have to do with anything? And more importantly, what does that have to do with Ray the Blind Dog?"
(This is going someplace, I promise) The yarn-covered chair sat on the coffee table for months with nary a person noticing it.
"You were probably wondering about the chair on the coffee table," I would say to my guests at some point.
"What chair?" was the usual response accompanied by such a totally blank look that I knew they weren't just being polite.
This rather defining moment in my life made me wonder why they hadn't noticed the chair and made me look at my house to see what they could possibly be noticing instead. I realized as I wandered around our home, that it had, quite literally, gone to the dog (and the cats).

To the cats: Harvey's Playground
Since no one ever notices the chair, and since it is Harvey's playground of choice, the chair remains in situ. I have it on good authority (one of Ray's die-hard fans), that unless the Queen comes to visit, I don't have to EVER take down the chair, and since I rather like looking at it, the chair will stay as long as it pleases Harvey and me.
To the dog: Foam corner with elastic band
The corners of the coffee table upon which the chair sits have always been a bit of an issue for the blind hound; even more so with the advent of his new cats. It's a very small room, and sometimes excitement causes Ray to forget where he is in space. So, looking for a way to bumperize the coffee table, I found these firm, foam corners designed specifically for moving furniture. They are terribly ugly and I have promised to come up with a better solution, but until then, they do the trick. Ray has ceased to injure himself on the corners of the coffee tables. If you look closely, you may see a very thin, black elastic band that I have strung through the foam and which runs all the way around the table to hold the bumpers in place; otherwise they would pop off whenever they were brushed against. So, for now, both of our coffee tables have ugly foam corners.

To the cats: Juno's roll of toilet paper
The dummy roll of toilet paper is for Juno. Realizing that throwing away a roll of toilet paper every time Juno felt the urge to destroy one was a waste of money, I decided to just leave one in place for her to shred. The real roll resides on the back of the toilet.

To the dog: Ray's chair-cover
Ray's chair-cover is a bit of a Potemkin Village. I doubt if any of my friends are gullible enough to believe that this is the only place that Ray sits in the living room, especially since Ray will climb up next to whoever happens to be sitting on the couch or try to force them out of Gregg's chair if they should make the bad decision to sit there while they are visiting. But somehow I just can't bring myself to admit that my dog owns every piece of furniture in the house.

To the dog (and probably the cats): Basket cover
I thought how lovely it would be to have a basket full of roving that I could dip into whenever I wanted to spin a hank of yarn. After finding this, I was forced to construct a lid for my lovely basket of roving. It used to have a stack of books on top of it because Ray figured out how to get past the lid, but at some point he stopped trying so hard. Now a knitted bowl  (that doubles as a really bizarre hat if turned upside down) resides on top. To be fair, although Moonie and Hugo eschewed yarn and wool, Harvey and Juno are much more attracted to it so this basket cover is now dual duty.

To the dog: Ray's spot to the right,
and now to the left and in the center

Used to be, Ray liked only one end of the couch in the family room. The end changes occasionally but lately it's been the one with the real wool fleece. Since the arrival of the wool hobo blanket (shown inelegantly bunched up on the back of the couch),  Ray has decided that both ends of couch merit equal attention. So now the entire couch is draped. It's not the dog hair that I consider a problem, it's the hound smell. If you've ever had a hound, you know what I'm talking about. Unlike an entire couch, all of the coverings seen here can be thrown in the wash.

This cat mat is totally unnecessary, but I made it for Juno and Harvey to lie on while they are in the kitchen. The heated tile floor attracts cats like rawhides attract Ray, and this mini hobo blanket gives the kitties a nice fuzzy place to lie. It's also good in a pinch for wrestling with.

To the cats: Cat mat (mini Hobo blanket)
Wrestling with the cat mat.
To the dog and cats: The gate

It kind of goes without saying, that where there is cat poop, there is a dog who wants to eat it. This gate separates cat boxes from the dog population. 

To the dog and cats: Cat feeding station
The cat-feeding station is dual-purpose; it gives the cats a safe place to eat and it keeps Ray from getting serious digestive issues. Since it is upstairs, in general it would not be noticed by random visitors to our house. But then, we've pretty much established that in general, people don't notice a yarn-covered chair sitting on a coffee table so they probably wouldn't notice this.

To the dog: Dog keeper-outer
When first we brought Ray home, when Moonie and Hugo were still alive, it was very necessary to keep the dog from the cats. They were terrified of Ray and he wanted to eat them. Now that Ray loves cats, the hook and eyes (except for the one on our bedroom door) are relics of the past. We still need  one, not to keep Ray from the cats, but to keep him from spooning Gregg at night. It's hard to sleep with 75 pounds of dog hogging the bed. Gregg arises at five. There's a reason the hook and eye remains in place.

To the cats: The bow window and cat bed relocation
When we undertook the large-undisclosed-amount-of-money-dog-door-project, one of the things that was done was an old airing porch was ripped off the back of the house and the door to that porch was replaced with a bow window. We chose a bow window especially for the cats, so that they would be able to sit and watch the birds at the bird feeders. We figured, if Ray got a dog door, something equally nice should be done for the cats. Moonie was too old to ever use the windowsill but Hugo used it occasionally when he was feeling brave enough to leave the sanctuary of the cat room. The arrival of the new guard (Juno and Harvey) brought the dissolution of the cat room and the relocation of the cat beds to their new favorite hangout. 

To the dog: Ray's futon with red wooly blanket
The futon was actually supposed to be used as an extra bed if we ever needed it. At some point, Ray appropriated it as his own. Since no one else ever used it, it now belongs entirely to him (and Harvey when Ray isn't around.)

Juno is the only cat I've ever had that doesn't really care if she sleeps with humans. She tried it a few times but decided, that for the most part, she prefers her own space (unless she's sleeping under my chin). At first she slept on the cat perch, but the winter cold seeping through the window panes made her reassess her sleeping arrangement. She then chose the hamper on the opposite side of the bedroom. Since it didn't look particularly comfortable, now before Juno goes to bed at night, I top the hamper with the wooly blanket that protects the bedspread from hound smell during the day. Juno seems quite content with her new spot and only leaves it occasionally to sneak-attack Harvey in the middle of the night.

To the cats: Juno's former night quarters
To the cats: Juno's current night quarters 

To the cats: Butt-friendly windowsills
Everyone who has cats knows how important windowsills are to them. So, every time I redo a room in the house, I make the windowsills wider so that a cat-butt fits comfortably. I can tell that the cats appreciate the wider windowsills, because these are the favorites and are used over and over again. I still have a few rooms with narrower windowsills. Eventually, they will all be upgraded to be cat-butt friendly.

To the dog: Scented sachets 
Oddly, these little wool bags attached to door jambs throughout the downstairs are noticed more often than the yarn-covered chair sitting on the coffee table. Visitors to the house ask what they are for or ask if they are there so that Ray has something soft to bump into. But their real purpose is to keep Ray from bumping into walls at all. Inside the bags are cotton balls scented with lavender. Every so often, when Ray starts to pass a little to close to the door jambs, I recharge the cotton balls with a drop or two more of the essential oil. Ray didn't often bump into door jambs, but since I have started to do this, he has not bumped into a single one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring: Confusing with a Chance of Bellyrubs

I've never given much thought to the four seasons. They don't require much thought, really, they just happen, one right after the other. But having Ray does make one think about things from a slightly different perspective.

The current season, spring, especially gets me thinking about how adaptable is a blind dog. I cannot imagine what it must be like to deal with such a rapidly changing environment without having a thought process to decipher and understand it. I realize that every season has its challenges, but spring for a blind dog must be particularly confusing.

My mind boggles at the thought of navigating through a backyard that erupts into a mess of perennials that grow, bloom, and die within a couple of months. Well-memorized paths change from clear-sailing to creepily narrowed by daffodils that mysteriously appear and then disappear. Familiar mud changes to spongey ground covers with ankle-tickling flowers. Zoomy bees appear out of nowhere. Large swaths of bare ground become covered by a variety of two-foot-tall vegetation. Stuff is, all of a sudden, everywhere.

Spring is a bit of a conundrum for Ray. It presents a challenge but, as always, there is a definite upside; along with the nice weather and the emergence of plant-life comes the emergence of people. Yesterday, it took Ray and I an hour to walk around the block. A good percentage of that time was dedicated to Ray getting bellyrubs from his various friends.

So if one was to ask Ray his favorite season, I'm fairly confident that he would reply: "It's the confusing one with all the bellyrubs." Because, in the end, what matters the most to Ray is not the obstacles but the contentment that comes from lying in the warm sunshine on a nice day getting a good bellyrub.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Cats vs Dogs

I've been a bit ill. Cats love you when you're sick. Sleeping during the day is their raison d'ĂȘtre and they are happy to keep you company while you're doing it. OCD dogs, however, are another matter entirely.

For the first two days, I was too sick to notice what Ray was doing. By day three, I noticed that he was being a bit whiney, but I was too sick to care. I also noticed him chewing shoes, knocking over the bathroom trashcan and sifting through the contents, walking around with various articles in his mouth (a pen, a bottle of aspirin, a cat toy) and shredding an entire bag of "Original Herb" Ricola throat lozenges. I was able to yell at him to stop whatever he was doing, but I still didn't feel well enough for him to drag me around the block.
By day four, I was well enough to notice him whining for three hours straight because he didn't get his morning walk, so I called Ray's girlfriend, Kappy, who was kind enough to air him out a bit. And that evening, Ray and I had our first plod around the block in four days; the upside to having a whiney, OCD dog. I'm sure the motivation he provides for me to get him exercise will make me heal that much faster.

Today is day five, and whatever bug I have is still morphing because I've lost most of my voice. Ray and I went for morning and evening walks, but the duration was severely truncated due to my lack of energy. Ray's behavior has stabilized a bit. He's still walking away with things (the Ricola lozenges are a favorite. Harvey knocks them off of whatever surface they are lying on, Ray finds them and chews them). I squeak at him but it is ineffective, even I think I sound silly, so I must get up to remove whatever he has from his mouth. I know Ray is doing this on purpose to give me more exercise because dogs are smart that way. They know that exercise makes them feel better so it must be that way for everyone.

I appreciate the concern. Really, I do. But truthfully, when I'm sick, I vastly prefer a cat's ministrations over a dog's any day of the week.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Question of the Night

It was 3:00 a.m. I'd been lying awake since one.
Ray and I had spent eight hours on the road coming home from an extended visit at my parents' home in South Carolina and obviously all the driving had my mind still racing down the highway. I decided a change of scenery might help me fall asleep.
Followed by my trusty cat, Juno, I crept downstairs to the couch. I made myself comfortable, pulled the hobo blanket over me and closed my eyes. Fifteen minutes later, I was still wide awake listening to Juno bat things around the kitchen floor. Obviously, she thought I had come downstairs to join her in a dead-of-night game of bottle-cap hockey.
Feeling, perhaps, that I lacked enthusiasm for her sport, Juno joined me on the couch, curling up on my belly. As soon as she was comfortably ensconced, we heard the thump-thump of dog feet jumping down off of the futon upstairs. A minute later, Ray appeared. He snuffled along the side of the couch, found Juno, who started to purr, gave her a quick couple of licks on the head, then continued on down the couch to my face. The blind dog's nose touched mine; he whined. Ray then went back to where Juno was lying and jumped his front feet up on the edge of the couch. It was obvious that he wanted to join her in her spot.
Juno, feeling a bit overwhelmed by the dog looming over her, jumped down and waited to see what would happen next. Ray crawled up on top of me. I laughed at the absurdity of it, then held my breath as he stepped on me, turned a few circles, then settled down, curled in his usual ball, his breadth spanning my belly and most of my chest.
Juno, seeing the dog settle down, jumped up on me and curled herself under my chin, reaching out one paw to touch her dog's back.
With my diaphragm being severely hindered by 75 pounds of Redtick Coonhound, I found I couldn't breathe. I jammed one arm under Ray's back and rested it across my ribcage. With most of his weight now on my arm, I could once again fill my lungs.
But now the dog wasn't comfortable. Ray shifted his weight, then a couple of minutes later did it again. A few minutes after that he squirmed again, then stood and turned a few more circles trying to find a spot that wasn't as lumpy as the one he currently inhabited. He settled down, this time spanning my thighs and pelvis. Juno, still comfortably tucked under my chin, didn't move during the resettlement procedure.
I lay there with a big dog on top of me and a cat tucked under my chin and wondered if it was humanly possible to fall asleep in such a position.
Fifteen minutes later, I woke up with the answer. It is possible but you can't feel your legs when you awaken. I wriggled my legs out from under the dog and rested them alongside of him. Once again, Juno never moved. I fell asleep again with my head on my furry chin-rest and with a big, boney dog crammed between my body and the back of the couch.
It felt good to be home.