Thursday, December 29, 2016

Dogs and cats sharing their toys: Something to be thankful for

Fergus the cat with a dog toy

I firmly believe that dogs and cats were made to live together. My home wouldn't be the same unless I had both species sharing my home. My dogs are my public face, and they connect me with the world outside. And my cats are my at-home face, helping me to rest and relax in spaces that are just my own. I can't imagine my life without either dogs or cats.

But living with both species comes with some challenges. For example, it means that I have plenty of different types of toys, and some toys that are suitable for some species are not suitable for others. Cat toys, for example, can be very fragile. My dogs can strip the fluff off feathers, rip the nip out of a soft center and chew the bark off a stick in minutes. And some dog toys are too big or too hard or too spiky for cats. My cats may not ruin these toys, but they may be afraid of them.

So today, I'm thankful for toys that do double duty. Like this one Fergus is kind enough to pose with.

Fergus the cat with a dog toy

This is a tiny, latex dog toy that's incredibly lightweight. Fergus likes to hit it with those snowy paws of his and watch it bounce from one room to another. And it's durable enough to resist his full-body slams and across-the-room pounces he likes to deliver when he's really involved in a play session.

But it's the same toy some of you may remember from a post about a year ago, featuring this photo.

Sinead the Boston terrier with her ball

Sinead also loves this ball. It's very satisfying for her to chew and crunch in the late evening when she's trying to settle down for a long day. And she enjoys the way this ball bounces on a throw from her humans when she needs to get a little exercise.

So this is a toy that makes both pets very happy. And on this Thankful Thursday, as hosted by Brian, it's enough to make our hearts feel full. In this year that's been filled with losses and sadness, we sometimes need to celebrate the small victories. And that's just what I'm doing today.

Thankful Thursday

Have something you're thankful for? Head over to the hop and join in. But before you go, leave me a comment, won't you? That would make me thankful, too!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Meet the dogs of the menagerie

Liam the pug in his bed

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about cats. I have five permanent residents of the menagerie that have wonderful stories and adorable faces, and I often highlight what they're doing in the posts I write. I also talk about community cats that don't belong to me but that feel like my responsibility (like STILL available King Dude the shelter cat and adopted foster kitten Eartha). So my blog can feel very cat-centric at times.

But I also have two very important dogs in the menagerie. And today, I thought I'd introduce them to those new readers who don't know about how cute and special these critters can be.

First up: Liam. He's a 9yo pug that has lived with me since he was a tiny puglet of 8 weeks old. I brought him home when my first dog (a fabulous Boston terrier) developed significant separation anxiety and was spending most of his free time wailing and drooling. Liam was a wonderful helper who soothed my old dog's fears and kept him company.

Liam the pug signing

Liam continues that tradition of helpfulness as an adult. He's wonderfully calm and patient with tiny foster kittens, even when they annoy him or awaken him when he's sleeping. And he is a patient and kind guide dog for blind cat Lucy, who is his biggest fan.

Liam is getting a little older, and he has some aches and pains due to a bad back. But he remains cheerful and calm through most of the challenges that come his way. He's truly a wonderful dog.

Next up: Sinead. She is a 4yo Boston terrier, and she might be familiar to those of you who go to BlogPaws each year. She's the teeny-tiny Boston terrier parading around the conference.

Sinead the Boston terrier

Sinead came to the menagerie when she was 6 months old. I had been in contact with rescue groups in Oregon and Washington for years, but I couldn't find a Boston that was right for my family. This type of dog is very rare in the Pacific Northwest, and they tend to get snapped up fast when they show up in shelters and in the rescue rosters. In time, I connected with a local lady who helped to coordinate the Oregon rescue. She also bred these dogs, and she told me about tiny Sinead. She had been born freakishly small (albeit very healthy), and the breeder was a little worried that someone would adopt her and try to develop very small Bostons. Breeding Sinead with a full-grown Boston could put her life at risk. We were worried. So we took her home.

Sinead may be very small, but she is very sassy and she keeps me laughing with her oversized personality.

Sinead the Boston terrier and the stink eye

She is very sensitive to voice commands and she is (hands down) the most obedient dog I've ever known. But she finds ways to express her displeasure when she doesn't quite want to do something I want her to do. The stink eye and a well-placed sigh are great methods of communication for this little sassy thing.

So these are the menagerie dogs! I hope you enjoyed reading about them. Do leave me a comment so I'll know you were here.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in the BlogPaws blog hop! You'll be glad you did.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Little kittens grow so fast!

Fergus the kitten in his basket

Fergus is still very much a kitten at 9 months old. He is an incredibly curious and rambunctious little guy who always wants to be a part of anything and everything I happen to be doing on any given day. And often, he's the craziest and most rambunctious at the end of the day.

I work from home, but I work in a little outbuilding that isn't connected to the main house. I come in from time to time to grab a snack, visit the restroom or otherwise take advantage of indoor plumbing, but I am otherwise in the other building for most of the day.

And that means Fergus often misses me. And he shows me he misses me by getting crazy when I come in the door in the evening.

Last week, he hopped inside this little basket I use to transport things from the home to the home office. It's small and wicker, and it's the perfect size for keys and cups and papers and charging cords. It goes with me when I head out and it comes in when I come in.

I think Fergus was trying to tell me he should be transported to the office, too.

Fergus the kitten in a basket

At one point, he was. When Fergus was a little foster kitten at 4 weeks old, he needed around-the-clock supervision. So he came into the home office for big chunks of time. I could work, and he could run around this room with his brother and sister. They learned how to handle themselves in big spaces, without having litter box accidents, and I could keep an eye on them.

And Fergus had a soft spot for this basket during that time.

Fergus the kitten in a basket with his sister

See that little fluffy face? That's Fergus at about 5 weeks old. He's covered in food as he'd just eaten and didn't quite know how to keep his little body clean. And he's snuggled up to his sister for warmth and companionship, before they both woke up and began to wrestle.

So adorable, right?

It's hard to believe that Fergus was ever this small and this messy. But I raised him and I have the photos to prove it!

I suppose that's the real joy of foster failure. You know your cats from the time they're tiny, and you have helped to shape the way they look at the world and the people they share the world with. I hope my guidance has helped Fergus to be the very best cat he can be. I know he's made my life much richer during his time here.

Have you raised little kittens of your own? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know, won't you?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Sunday cat selfie: Meet the menagerie

Fergus the kitten at the window

The cats and I had planned to take a blogging break for today. We have movies to watch, presents to unwrap, snacks to consume and snuggling to get done. It's a busy day! But the more I thought about missing out on the Sunday Selfie series, the more I realized I would miss it.

And, I've met so many new people this week due to a posts about shelter cats King Dude and Static (both of whom have STILL not been adopted). I though it might be worthwhile to introduce new readers to the menagerie cats, so you'll know a little more about how crowded this little family is (and why I can't manage to take Static or KD home myself).

So, we're kicking things off with Fergus the Siamese guy, checking out the birdies on the feeder in the back yard. He's 9 months old now, and his color is starting to come in. Every day, he looks a little less white and a little more buff. And every day he gets bigger. I can't wait to see what he'll look like at the 2 or 3 year mark.

Next up: Lucy. She's doing her impersonation of a human smile.

Lucy the blind cat in her house

Lucy is still deeply in love with this little house from Target, and she spends most of her time lounging around inside on the cardboard bed. Most photos of Lucy look much the same as a result, because she likes this bed and I don't like to move her in order to get a good photo. So she poses here. And that's okay with me.

Lucy is slowly but surely getting used to Fergus. He comes down into her basement lair from time to time, and he tries to engage her in play. Since Lucy can't see, she is leery of getting too involved in play sessions with cats she doesn't know well, but Fergus is a loud walker and a grunty player, so she seems to track him well. I hope they'll get along better and better with each passing day.

Next up: Maggie. In just a few days, this sweet girl will turn 13yo.

Maggie the senior cat

Maggie is the only cat in the menagerie who can handle living with rambunctious Fergus full time. He can get on her nerves from time to time, but she's been standing up to him and pushing him around a little bit this month, and that's been great for their relationship.

Maggie has also discovered a love for toys and play sessions with the humans, which is totally new. She was always a very serious cat, but something about crossing into her seniorhood has helped her love for silliness to blossom. We play together several times each day, and late at night, I can hear her playing with toys on her own.

Speaking of play, here's grumpy Popoki. She's upset because I interrupted her while at play.

Popoki the grumpy cat

Don't tell her, but Popoki is getting something special for her 3rd birthday (which happened a few months ago). In a few weeks, I'll be installing a set of cat stairs in my studio, which will allow her to access a landing with a window, high up off the floor. I can't wait to add some height to her life and provide her with more opportunities for exercise.

And finally: Jasper. He was waiting impatiently for his lunch here, so the photo is a touch on the blurry side.

Senior cat Jasper

In a month or so, Jasper will be a whopping 16yo. And he's been showing some signs of slowing down during this cold winter. He's been a little reluctant to hop up on top of the hot tub, and he's been sore in his shoulders on more than a few nights. Massage and heat helps to ease his discomfort. And I still think he looks great.

So that's the cat crew! Come back on Wednesday and meet the dogs. And do leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here.

And be sure to visit the hosts of this wonderful blog hop: The Cat On My Head.

Spin through the other linked blogs and meet new families and new cats, too. It's so much fun. Trust me.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Remembering the dog and cat wins of 2016

Sinead the Boston terrier with presents

As the year draws to a close, I'm looking forward to spending more time with my dogs and cats. The company I work for closes up shop in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, and I've purposefully scheduled few activities for that week. I should have a lot of time for reading and sitting and cuddling.

And I've been thinking.

On this Thankful Thursday (which marks my first time participating in the Thankful Thursday blog hop), I have a lot to be grateful for this year. All told, my little menagerie has faced several challenges. But we've come through it all together.

Consider this little face. In May, he came into the menagerie as an extraordinarily tiny little creature that needed food and warmth and a lot of coaxing. He was the most timid and the least developed of a litter of bottle babies I took in, and it was love at first sight. Now, he's a member of our family.

Fergus the Siamese kitten posing for the camera

Bonus happy point: His two siblings also found homes. And one of the new families sends me photo updates on a regular basis, and the cat home provided seems ideal.

Another thing to be happy for concerns Sinead. This time last year, I was just growing concerned about a lump on her head, and I was pressing her doctor for more testing. As it turned out, that little lump was a form of cancer. And Sinead had a surgery and a chemotherapy treatment for that cancer in the late part of winter.

Sinead the Boston terrier in closeup

It's been nearly a year, and that cancer shows no signs of returning. Sinead may face more cancerous tumors in the future, but for now, we can celebrate her ability to kick cancer's butt. If it comes back, we'll fight back again.

And finally: pug Liam. In the middle of the summer, when I was hip deep with kittens and work and travel, he hurt his back and spent a weekend screaming with each move he made. I was terrified he'd need surgery, and I was even more concerned that he would lose his ability to walk or run. A few visits to specialists and quite a bit of time on crate rest were our starting treatment points, and that was what he needed to recover.

Liam the pug with his presents

Liam still has moments of stiffness, especially in the morning, and he can be grumbly about being moved or jostled. We're still working on finding a pain-management approach that will keep him fully comfortable. But he's still walking and eating and playing with his beloved toys. And he still works up the enthusiasm for a few episodes of crazy pug per week. That's more than I could have hoped for when this all started.

So we have a lot to be thankful for in the menagerie. What about you? Have something wonderful to share? Head to Brian's blog and tell us more.

But before you go, share a note in the comments! Love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Dogs in snow: The white stuff makes them grumpy

Sinead the Boston terrier in snow

I've seen countless videos of dogs enjoying the snow. Goofy dogs rolling on their backs, big dogs sliding down hills covered with ice and little dogs eating mouthfuls of snow thrown to them by happy people--I've seen all these and more. And, this week, many of those videos were made my friends of mine.

We were hit with an unusual amount of snow last week in my Oregon neighborhood. We don't often get snow, and we certainly don't get snow that both accumulates and sticks around for days. As a result, neither of my dogs know all that much about snow. And clearly, Sinead isn't a fan.

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier in the snow

She's giving me some serious stink eye in my opening photo, and since that didn't work, now she's scowling at Liam here.

To be honest, I'm a little surprised at her reaction. The day the snow hit, a package from Dog Gone Smart Pet Products arrived just for her, and it contained the snappy little red coat she is wearing here. In a previous blog post, I reviewed the coat Liam is wearing here, also from DGS. The company sent me Sinead's coat as a thank you for Liam's post, and this red wrapper should make Sinead as happy as anything in cold temperatures. In fact, the coat she's wearing is rated for minus 30 degree weather, and it's not even close to that temperature now.

But even while suited, Sinead puts on the brakes during the walk. Even cookies can't persuade her to pick up the pace. So she's been staying home, and this guy and I have been doing our walks solo. 

Liam the pug ready for a walk

I think he likes the alone time with mom. And he does look darn handsome in the coat, don't you think?

What do your dogs think of the snow? Leave me a note in the comments, won't you?

And consider joining this blog hop from BlogPaws. You'll meet up with plenty of other dog and cat bloggers and make some new friends. It's fun!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

BarkBox review: December 2016 shipment

Liam the pug with his BarkBox

Every month, the dogs wait patiently for the mailman to stop and ring the bell. They know that the special little jingle that comes near the end of the month is due to their shipment from BarkBox. And they know that shipment contains two things they want more than anything: Dog treats and dog toys.

Some people make their dogs wait until Christmas day before they're allowed to dig into the December shipment. I don't have that kind of impulse control. And neither does kitten Fergus. If I tried to keep the box back, he'd simply break into it and eat all of the goodies and play with all the toys while the rest of us slept peacefully. No one wants that.

So I let the dogs (and Fergus) have their fun a little early. Here's what we thought.

Disclaimer: There is an affiliate link at the end of this blog post. If you click it, you'll be taken to a purchase page. If you make a purchase, I'll get a small token from the proceeds of the sale.

Liam the pug with a dog toy

Most months, there's one specific dog toy that Liam and Sinead like more than anything else in the shipment. This month, the favored toy is this little mug. It's made of a soft exterior with a crinkle interior, so it makes a lot of noise when the dogs chew it or shake it. They always love that.

In addition, the inside of the mug contains two little marshmallows with squeakers. My dogs absolutely adore puzzle toys like this. They like to put the ball-type toys inside the receptacle and then shake the ball toys free. And they also like to chew on the small toys without the holder.

Sinead the Boston terrier with her toy

I imagine that this set of toys will keep the dogs very busy this month. That's excellent.

Our shipment also contained three different treats, all of which I will be saving for Christmas. Those treats include:
  • Country Oven "Bisquits" from Grandma Bowsers. These pumpkin pie cookies seem firm, almost like a granola bar, so they should make good treats for times in which I want the dogs to stay busy and out of the way.
  • Hickory-Smoked Dynamo from Butcher's Block Bones. We get one or two of these treats every year, and while they're a little too big for Sinead, Liam loves them deeply. He'll enjoy a good chew on these bones on Christmas day.
  • Jerky Bites from And I Love You. These treats are chewy and soft, and they're easy to break apart. We'll be able to use them on walks for concentration treats. 
We also have one more toy to share with you, but I didn't get a photo of the dogs playing with it. For some reason, this toy made the dogs feel like playing a little vigorously, so all the photos I tried to take were blurry. So we'll let Fergus do the honors.

Fergus the cat with a dog toy

This is a wonderfully plush bunny on a set of tiny skiis. Both dogs felt like this little guy should be shaken with great force, but Fergus seemed content to snuggle with it. I might set it aside for sweet cat play. Why should the dogs have all the fun, right?

That's it for this month's shipment! If you'd like to see reviews of prior boxes, click here or here or here or here. And if you want to try your own BarkBox, use my code for a discount. And leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here!

Disclosure: Some product links in this post are “affiliate links.” If you click on them and make a purchase, I'll get a commission. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

Shelter cat stories: Meet King Dude

King Dude the tuxedo cat looking for a home

In my Shelter Cat Stories series, I tell you a little about the long-term residents of the shelter that have been overlooked or underappreciated for some reason. Last week, I told you about a cat named Static that has been waiting for a home for far too long, considering that he's 18yo. He's still waiting for that forever fit, and I am still hoping this week will be his lucky week.

I want the same for this guy. His name is King Dude, and in some ways, his story is a little sadder than Static's. I'm hoping someone can step in and help me network him into the perfect home.

KD was found as a stray cat in a neighborhood in Salem. Some cats are very successful as stray cats, and they come to the shelter in relatively decent shape. My sister's new cat, who was on his own for several months before he came to the shelter, was one such cat. He was matted and flea-bitten, but otherwise good.

KD, on the other hand, was extraordinarily thin when he was found. He seemed both weak and a little terrified. I've heard the team tell me stories about how worried they were about his demeanor and whether or not he would adjust to life at the shelter. They seemed to think he'd been on his own for just ages, and perhaps he didn't have good experiences with the humans he met.

But they wanted him to succeed and get a chance at finding the right home. So onto the adoption floor he went. That was in September. Here we are in December, and no one has chosen KD yet. He has been at the shelter longer than any other animal currently in the shelter. It's not a distinction he likes.

King dude the cat in closeup

KD seems to have settled into shelter life in some ways. I spent quite a bit of time with KD a few weeks ago, and I found him to be alert, curious and deeply affectionate. But he is also a very self-possessed kitty. When I needed to stop petting him in order to deal with my notes and my camera, he was content to leave me in peace. But when I was ready to interact again, so was he.

Pushy cats can be hard to live with, but they tend to thrive in the shelter. People like to feel as though the cats they meet "need" them, and pushiness is often interpreted as need. Since KD isn't pushy, he can come across as perfectly happy in the shelter and unwilling to give. That's just not the case.

Due to his very long wait, KD has grown depressed. He isn't eating as well as he once did, and since he has early renal disease, this isn't a good choice for him to make. The staff is incorporating more playtime and laptime into his interactions, hoping to help him feel loved. But what he really needs is a home.

KD's adoption fees are waived in the month of December. That means he can go home for no cost. KD is FIV/FELV negative, up to date on his shots and comes with a microchip. He gets along nicely with other cats.

He's waiting at Willamette Humane Society in Salem. This is his profile page.

Can you help him? Can you network him? KD needs our cat community.

UPDATE: 20161221. Due to the incredible generosity of the human King Dude (who happens to be a mighty fine musician with a big heart), this post about KD has gone viral. Who know what a few little shares can do? Tomorrow (Thursday), the shelter will be open for the first time since this post took flight in cyberspace. I hope that means KD will go home tomorrow. And human King Dude is offering some pretty amazing gifts to the person who adopts. Visit his Facebook page to find out more, and be sure to thank him. All cats deserve a caring celebrity with huge reach. It helps! It really helps. 

UPDATE: 20161230. I'm thrilled to report that sweet King Dude went home with a loving family today. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to every single person out there who read about him, shared his story and otherwise helped him on his way. You were a part of this success story! 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Wintertime fun: Cat presents, cat grass, hummingbirds and a little more

Although I'm pretty sure cats have no idea what Christmas is, I am quite sure that they feel the approach of the holiday. As we get closer and closer to Christmas, I have more and more that I need to get done. And, I also have more and more social obligations to fulfill. So that means less lap time and more observation time.

For example, last weekend, I had to leave the little menagerie for much of the day, so I could zip out of town to do some holiday shopping and visit with my sister. She gave me this cute little sack cloth towel Popoki is posing with. That cat sure looks like Popoki, don't you think?

Sweet Popoki spends a great deal of time in this little cat tee pee we got from Uncommon Goods awhile back (if you missed the post, it's here) when I'm busy or gone. That means she's been in this spot quite a bit for the last 2 weeks or so. But she got a break from my distraction this week, due to an early Christmas gift of snow.

We live in a community that doesn't have many (if any) functional snow plows, and we don't use salt to defrost the roads for environmental reasons. That means any snow can bring the city to its knees. And this week, we had a lot.

Snowy backyard

My entire backyard is a winter wonderland with 3-4 inches of snow, and about an inch of ice beneath that snow. Any out-of-home obligations I had were canceled, as were those my hubby had planned. And neither dog was thrilled about walking, so we skipped a few evening strolls. We stayed home instead.

And we had plenty of visitors, including this little Anna's hummingbird. I've mentioned this before, but these little birds don't migrate from Oregon in the wintertime. They go into a semi-hibernation each night (torpor), and they're back up and ready to go in the mornings. And often, they're starved when they wake up.

Tiny hummingbird on a feeder

We've been working hard to rotate feeders, so there's always a set full of thawed water for these hungry birds. But it isn't easy, especially early in the mornings. That's when they want food, and that's when temperatures are the lowest!

We also put out food for the squirrels, jays, doves, woodpeckers, juncos and other little friends that visit the yard. And we set out pans of water for everyone to drink. Popoki and I also spent a few minutes each day in her catio. It's too cold for long-time lounging, but we both enjoy watching the cat grass grow. 

Popoki the cat in her catio

Our temperatures are likely to be back up in the mid-40s by Monday, which means all that white stuff will be gone in a flash. And with it gone, I'll be back to out-of-the-home holiday hustle for a few more days. It's been a blessing to have a few days of enforced calm before that final push to complete the holiday of it all. I'm reminded of the wonders right here around me. Maybe that's the only Christmas gift anyone needs.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to leave me a comment, so I'll know you were here.

Also, consider joining the gang at The Cat On My Head for this wonderful Sunday Selfie blog hop.

You'll be working with a wonderful team of dedicated cat and dog bloggers, and you'll have a ton of fun. Check it out!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Kitten gingivitis: What it is and how to help

Fergus the kitten sitting on the couch

Like many young Siamese-type cats, Fergus is vocal. He likes nothing more than to sing the song of his people as you prepare his dinner. And he really likes to chirp and cheep while he sits on the laps of the people he loves. That means Fergus often has a wide-open mouth when I'm spending time with him. And that made me notice something.

This kitten has epic bad breath. This isn't breath that is mildly bad due to a recent meal or a sudden burp. This is breath that is consistently and overwhelmingly foul.

Since Fergus was a bottle baby, and since I was the human handling the bottle, he lets me do almost anything to him. That comes in handy when there's a medical problem afoot. I don't need to get help to examine him or restrain him. I can just do it myself.

So when I noticed this problem, I propped open the little cat's mouth, and I saw this.

Fergus the cat with swollen gums

His teeth are perfectly white and clean, but his gums are swollen and bright red.

Typically, a cat's gums get like this due to plaque accumulation on the teeth. It's something I've seen in very old cats in the shelter. But Fergus is just a kitten and he has no plaque. I couldn't figure it out, so off to the veterinarian we went.

The official diagnosis is "juvenile periodontal disease," which means Fergus has a case of kitty gingivitis. He may not have plaque, but his gums are reacting as though there is plaque on his teeth.

Apparently, this isn't all that uncommon in young kittens. Researchers like this one aren't exactly sure why it happens, but it's likely due to a combination of bacteria, genetics and stress.

Tiny Fergus kitten in his bag

Fergus has a moderate case of gingivitis, and for now, the treatment is conservative. Every night, I brush his teeth before he heads to bed. And every morning, I use a dental spray to kill any bacteria on his teeth. The bottle baby thing continues to work in my favor, as he really doesn't mind either of these steps. And he doesn't seem to be in any sort of pain.

If his gums don't get better, we may have to resort to a tooth cleaning and some kind of antibacterial treatment, but we're all hoping it won't come to that. Fergus isn't quite a year old, and any kind of anesthesia isn't easy on a cat's body. We'd like to stick with conservative if we can.

But I'm reminded of the importance of checking on the dental health of your cats. At one point, I recommended looking inside the mouths of older cats to check for illness or disease. But with this happening, it looks like I'll have to expand that recommendation and suggest that cats of all ages need mouth checks regularly.

And if you haven't been brushing your cat's teeth, it's never too early to start. I wish I had brushed Fergus's teeth months ago. If I had, things may not have progressed to this state. Even seniors can come to love a daily toothbrushing, as I found out a few years back.

In the interim, I'm sure Fergus would love some well wishes for his sore gums. Leave me a note in the comments, won't you?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wordless Wednesday: Boston terrier birthday!

Sinead the Boston terrier on her chair

Sinead the Boston terrier looks like a puppy. She's small overall, and she has dainty little feet and perfect little ears. But this girl is no puppy. In fact, she just turned 4 years old this week.

Normally, when we celebrate dog birthdays, we head out for something like frozen yogurt. But the weather here has been absolutely awful, and we've all felt like sticking close to home and snacking on something somewhat warm. So we thought we'd try something a little different for the Menagerie celebration.

When I told Liam there would be no frozen yogurt, he had one question:

Liam the pug asking a question
"Will there be food?"

Of course there will be food, Liam. But this year's food will be for humans and dogs alike.

I made a set of tiny chocolate cakes for the humans. These are tiny cakes made for just one person, and they're perfect for this kind of celebration. Why? Because they call for an extra egg yolk. This means dogs can have an extra little smattering of egg white while the cakes cook. Score!

And, I like to serve these cakes with a little dab of whipped cream. The cream helps to counteract the chocolate in the cake, and if I make it myself, it has fewer calories than something like ice cream. If I make it myself, it can also be a little snack for the dogs to try.

So the humans had chocolate cake, and Liam and Sinead had egg whites topped with whipped cream and a cookie. Pretty good, right?

Cakes and egg whites ready to eat

I'm sorry to report that I don't have photos of anyone eating this bounty. At the menagerie, we take our eating very seriously. If there's food to be devoured, we don't have time for chit-chat. But I can say that everyone enjoyed their little snacks. And when all was said and done, many of us needed naps. Including Sinead.

Sinead the Boston terrier asleep

Thanks for stopping by and checking out our post. Do be sure to leave a message for Sinead before you go. I read all of your comments to her out loud, and she enjoys them all.

And if you love posts like this, check out the Wordless Wednesday blog hop from BlogPaws. Good stuff to see, for sure!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

3 reasons blankets make great small dog holiday presents

Sinead the Boston terrier in her blanket

As dogs become accepted members of human families, tons of people who have no dog experience whatsoever are being asked to bring presents for dogs to their holiday parties. It can be very stressful. What's the right thing to give a dog, when you don't know anything about dogs? And how are little dogs different than big dogs? What's the best gift to give a little dog, that won't kill that little creature?

I understand, and I'm here to help.

If you've been asked to pick out a present for a small dog, there's only one thing you need to do. Head over to your nearest craft market and pick up fleece. Small blankets make great presents for small dogs. And here are three reasons why that's the case.

1. Small dogs are often cold. 

Many breeds of small dog (chihuahua, dachshund, Boston terrier, whippet, Italian greyhound, min pin) don't have a great deal of hair. That means these dogs are also very susceptible to chills, especially in the wintertime. That's why these little dogs shiver and quiver, and it's also why they like to spend time in the laps of humans they trust. They need to stay warm.

A blanket is a perfect target for a small dog that can't find a lap to sleep in. A dog can completely wrap up in a blanket like a burrito, or a dog could just go under the blanket and stretch out. The cloth traps the heat in, keeping the pup warm. It's perfect.

2. Blankets are one-size-fits-all for small dogs. 

If you choose to target a small dog's chill with a coat, you must get that dog's exact measurements. And that isn't always easy. Some little dogs have deep chests, but very small necks. Some small dogs have slender chests but big necks. And some small dogs have very long backs. If you guess and get it wrong, you'll give a gift the pet can't use.

A blanket causes no such sizing anxiety. If you know about how big a dog is while sleeping, you know what size blanket to get. And if you're not sure, go big! Dogs can make use of extra cloth very easily.

Sinead the Boston terrier in her blanket

3. Blankets for dogs are rarely expensive. 

The product market for small dogs has exploded, and many things you can get for little dogs can be incredibly expensive. Toys and treats and collars and things can run you into quite a bit of money, and that's money you could be donating to the good your local shelter does.

A blanket from a craft store is remarkably inexpensive. And if you want to go luxe, you can spend up on a baby blanket from a high-price store. But at the end of the day, the dog is unlikely to know the difference between the luxe item and the bargain-basement bin. To the dog, a blanket that's soft is a blanket that's perfect. No matter what you paid. That's a good holiday lesson for anyone, right?

Do you have little dogs on your holiday gift list this year? Leave me a note about what you're considering. Love to hear your plans!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Shelter cat stories: 18yo senior needs help

Static the cat in his kennel

Yesterday, I told you a little about my foster kitten who went to a new home just hours after going on the adoption floor at my local animal shelter. She's all black and a little shy, and I was worried that adopters will pass her by in favor of the other cats in the shelter that are prettier, friskier and just a little more enticing. I worried for nothing, it seems. That's a good thing!

(Did you miss that post? Find it here.)

Today, I'd like to tell you a little about another black cat that might get passed by in the very same shelter. He also faces some adoption challenges, and he needs the help of a cat community.

This is Static, and he is a whopping 18 years old. He lived with the same family for more than 15 years, but his original family had a serious illness and Static was given to a family friend as a result. Now, that family friend is also facing a serious illness. So Static came to the shelter for help.

Many people assume that families that give up older cats are somehow mean or deficient or uncaring. We wonder how they could part with family members they've had for so long. And we're quick to judge. I know I am.

But often, families face circumstances they never could have predicted. They love their cats and want what's best for them. But things changed or things happened. And they tried to do what was right. That's clearly what happened here. Static is wonderfully attuned to all people. He has clearly been adored for all of his life, and he reflects that love back onto everyone he meets.

But it's hard for families to think about bringing an 18yo cat home with them. And it's complicated yet more by the fact that Static has FIV. This is a very misunderstood illness, which I have written about before. Yes, cats with FIV can go into home with other cats as long as everyone gets along. That is new research, and a lot of people don't know about it. They think they can't introduce cats with FIV to other cats. Just not true.

In addition to his age and his FIV, Static is all black. We all know that black cats face very real challenges in the shelter system. They do get adopted, but it often takes a lot longer for them to move.

Static the cat in closeup

Static has been waiting for a home since October 28th. That long wait just breaks my heart. He should be ending his life in a home with someone who will love him and cherish him for however long he has left.

And he might very well have quite a bit of life left. His bloodwork is clear. His teeth are good. He has no behavioral problems. He loves other cats AND dogs AND kids. He shouldn't lose any time due to fights or behavior-related sickness.

He just needs someone to take a chance on him.

His adoption fee has been waived for the month of December. That means he can go home--right now--for free.

Find out more about Static on the Willamette Humane Society website. Please share his story. Please consider taking him home. He needs us.

20161226: Happiest of updates! This little guy went home with a loving family. I'm beyond thrilled that he has a new family of his own to love. Thanks to everyone who helped to share his story!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Foster kitten Sunday selfie: Eartha heads to a new home

Eartha the kitten in her foster home

Fostering kittens is incredibly rewarding work. But it's work that is, by its very nature, temporary. Take little Eartha Kitt here. She's been an important part of my kitty family for the last month or so. And this week, we're saying goodbye.

I thought sharing some selfies and snaps would be a good tribute to a little spirit I will miss so much.

Eartha kitten sleeping on my lap

Since Eartha came from a feral cat colony, she needed a great deal of socialization and handling work. She didn't know how to trust humans at all, and she needed to learn that we big people could be both loving and caring.

At first, Eartha was too worried to do anything but sleep. It takes a lot of energy to sit in one's kennel and worry about what will happen to you next, and Eartha spent most of her days worried. When I picked her up and put her on my lap, she'd fall asleep almost immediately. I wasn't sure she trusted me so much as she was just exhausted from the fear.

In time, she started to grow more comfortable in our household, and she started sleeping on her own in the kennel. When I took her on my lap, she'd still sleep. But she started sleeping in these positions of vulnerability I found absolutely charming.

Eartha the kitten sleeping on her back

Over the last 2 weeks or so, Eartha finally started feeling comfortable enough to engage in a little play. The long naps on my lap were cut short due to her need to bat ball toys, chase feather toys and claw scratching posts. She would hop and run and hiss and spit as she played. And often, she'd look at me enticingly to encourage me to play along.

Once she started doing that, I knew I'd done good work. Kittens that play and flirt are kittens that get adopted.

Kitten in my lap

Eartha went to Willamette Humane Society on Friday for her spay surgery, and she was available to meet visitors for about 2 hours on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, at 2pm, she was adopted. That means she was on the adoption floor, open for viewing, for only about 6 hours total before she found a forever family to love.

And her new family sounds perfect. Eartha will live in a quiet home with a mother and a 6yo girl who has been dying for her own quiet, gentle kitten to love. This little family adores Eartha, and I'm told the feeling is mutual. Purrs all around.

So today, let's all celebrate the joys of fostering kittens. The work we do is painful and short. But we make families whole. And that's worthwhile.

If you love selfies like this, be sure to visit the blog hop hosted by The Cat On My Head. You'll see plenty of photos just like this from wonderful websites you may have missed in the past.

And it's been sad for the Kitties Blue lately. I'm sure a packed hop full of beautiful faces would do the family a world of good. Join in!