Monday, February 28, 2011

Are disabled pets inspirational?

Lucy is blind but she does not seem to know it

My husband and I went to Powell's Books over the weekend. As we were fighting through the hordes of book lovers, this book about a dog named "Oogy" caught my attention.

This is a story about a dog used in a fighting ring who was disfigured, nearly died, was saved and is now a pretty amazing dog. This book was in a display of several other "inspirational" animal books, all about how disfigured and traumatized animals teach humans how to deal with adversity.

While I love it that Oogy was saved, and he seems like a really awesome dog, I am wondering about the disfigured-animal-as-human-teacher model.

As the owner of a disabled/disfigured cat (who was born that way) and the previous owner of a disabled/disfigured dog (who got that way after cancer surgery), I know something about animal disability and adaptability.

Animals do seem to have an innate ability to keep moving ahead, no matter what life brings them. But, reducing their stories to simple inspirational tales seems to do them a disservice.

Oogy didn't make a choice to be inspirational. The humans around him intervened, and it was their inspirational work that helped him to live.

Similarly, Lucy didn't choose to go on living with her blindness. She has no idea she is blind, as she's never been able to see. And my sighted animals don't tell her what it is like.

Seamus didn't choose to go on living after cancer. I chose to keep him alive, force-feeding him through his recovery.

Are they inspirational, in and of themselves? Or do they do what most animals do: Keep on living with the help of the people around them?

These stories are about how we project our narratives upon our animals, and how we choose to label them inspirational, regardless of what they might think.

The smart business move would be for me to write my own inspirational tale of how Seamus and Lucy taught me so much about perseverance that I was moved to change my life... or whatever. But the reality is that they don't truly set out to teach humans things. They are not inspirational in how they overcome disease, as they do not choose to overcome it. They move through their lives because this is what animals do.

So I will be writing no inspirational books, and I will not be looking for lessons from my pets. Rather, I will simply love them and provide for them and let them live their lives as simple animals.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dog and cat toy fight! Why my pets don't share their toys

Liam and Sinead are both obsessed with the same dog toy

This picture may look peaceful, but looks can be deceiving. Liam the pug and Lucy the blind cat are both trying to do the same thing. They're both trying to claim one specific type of dog toy.

The two dog toys culprits are called "Skinneez," and Liam is a big fan. These are long, slim toys with a squeaker at the tail and the nose, perfect for whipping through the air at high speeds.

I like them because they have no button eyes that can come off, and no internal stuffing that Liam can pull out and eat.

So we have many, many of these toys in our house.

Apparently we don't have enough, however, since Lucy has decided that these are also her toys, and she and Liam don't share well.

Lucy likes to carry these toys around like her babies, from upstairs to downstairs and then back. She has to hold her head high as she carries them, as the tails are long and trip her. She likes to play with these toys as well, rolling and rolling with them.

She will steal them from Liam when he is sleeping, and he will rip them from her mouth when she carries them.

No matter how I try, I can't keep them from fighting over these toys. I have no idea why they cannot play peacefully. Lucy could play with the fox and Liam with the squirrel, for example. But if Lucy has the fox, Liam has got to have that same toy.

As I was preparing to write this article, I was looking for information on how to keep them from fighting. I've discovered, however, that there is a huge market for videos of dogs and cats fighting over toys. Perhaps I should encourage the fights and buy myself a video camera. This might make a nice source of income!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Loud noises from a blind cat: What in the world is Lucy doing?

Lucy is silent here but she's not always so polite
Last week, I was certain that our old house was haunted.

Periodically, loud banging noises would erupt from the dining room, almost as though someone were pounding on the floor.

Bang, bang, BANG while I was making dinner, upstairs working or trying to sleep.

I was close to calling in a professional exorcist, but then I found the source of all the noise.

This is no ghost.

It's Lucy, working at something underneath a low side cupboard. She scurries from there when I come to investigate, and the banging ceases. The noises also cease when I yell her name.

I've crawled under this cupboard several times, using a flashlight, and I still can't figure out how she is making that noise. She's either pushing up on the drawers with her feet or her back, and letting the drawers fall back into place, or she is biting and pulling on the inside of the cupboard with her teeth, and the banging is her losing her grip.

Lucy is a very demanding cat, curious about her surroundings and eager to call attention to herself if she's feeling neglected. I'm hoping I can catch her making this noise, so I can see what is so fascinating, but in the interim, I suppose I'll just keep yelling to make her stop.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A dog rant: My roses are in pens because of your pets

Liam posing in front of the pens I built for my roses

I'm a rose addict. I'll admit it. But unfortunately, I live in a place that isn't ideal for roses. And my neighbors and their dogs aren't making things easier.

At the moment, I have three roses on my property. The only location sunny enough to help them grow and thrive is in the small strip of land between my house and the street.

This parking strip is narrow, and technically it is on public property, but I am still amazed at the basic thoughtlessness of the people who use the sidewalk and our parking strip to exercise their dogs.

I've seen owners allow their dogs to pee right on the stems of roses. They also let their dogs both sniff and chew at the leaves (which are sometimes sprayed with chemicals). And, I've seen owners let their dogs step on our growing roses—Which leads to broken leaves, buds and stems.

Worst of all, some owners allow their leashed dogs to run around the roses. Then, these distracted people yank on the leashes to pull the dogs back—Which pulls the roses out of the ground, roots and all.

I can see all of this damage from a second-floor window. And while I can run out and talk nicely to some of these people about the anguish they call me, new dog people always come by the next day. The damage is ongoing and persistent.

Until now.

Over the weekend, hubby and I built these large, gated barricades. They are made up of stakes driven right into the ground, connected by very thick and dense wire mesh. One side of the gate can be removed, which allows me to get in there and do a little weeding and fertilizing as needed.

I'll admit that it makes me sad to have our roses in these gated communities, but I can't figure out how else to tackle the problem, unless I stand out there and yell at the thoughtless. I think my husband wouldn't be fond of that approach, however.

So the gates might be ugly, but they keep my roses from being shredded. And they keep the neighbor dogs from being poisoned by the chemicals I sometimes use on the roses (you're welcome).

But as a reminder to dog owners: Please remember to be thoughtful of your neighbors and their growing plants when you're on your walks. Don't give us all a bad name. Be aware of where your dog is going, where the leash is and where the plants are. Then, and only then, can I take the barricades down.