Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cats and the cold shoulder: What happens when you're gone too long

Popoki the cat giving me the cold shoulder

Cats should, in theory, come running to greet us when we return home after being away. But it doesn't always work out that way. For example, this is the greeting Popoki gave me when I came home today and hoped to get some photos of her for the Sunday Selfie series, as hosted by The Cat On My Head.

I suppose she has a point. I was out of town for a week for work recently, and Popoki was here with my husband. She loves him, but she spends most of her time with me. I think she felt that he wasn't quite the partner she was looking for.

Then, when things settled a bit, I left for a quick overnight trip. This time, she's had enough.

Popoki the cat in profile in the sun

Shy cats like Popoki are sensitive to changes in their environments, and they tend to form strong bonds with just one person. When that person is away for a little too long, it's hard for these cats to feel secure about anything, really. Cats like this can sink into a depression, stop eating and face a variety of very serious health challenges. It's no exaggeration to say that cats like this can die if they don't see their people enough (especially if they're picky eaters already).

I think about this when people say that cats are more independent than dogs, and can be left alone more frequently than dogs. That might be true for some cats, but it's certainly not true for all of them. People who think they can get a cat in order to ignore it might be better off with a fish or a plant instead, right?

Popoki cat selfie

Popoki will be pleased to know that I have no more trips scheduled for the near future, so I'll be right here where she wants me. And I'll be certain to spend quite a bit of time with her, helping her to feel a little more secure. Ideally, I'd like her to understand that I always come back when I go away. But that's a lesson that might take time to sink in.

So where did I go, you might be wondering? Let me give you a sneak peek of the photos I'll be sharing on Wednesday.

Sinead the Boston terrier at the beach

Yup, it's the Oregon coast! We took a quick trip up and back--and we made a stop in Seaside to see the infamous seals. You'll want to come back for my video of the hilarious tricks they do in order to get fish snacks.

But before you leave for the day, leave me a comment, okay? And be sure to check out the rest of the awesome blogs in this hop.

You'll be glad you did!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Dogs at the beach: A great Oregon trip (with seals!)

Liam and Sinead at the beach

If these dogs could write, the first thing they'd do is tap out a love letter to the Oregon coast. At least twice each year, these guys hop into the car with me and we head somewhere over to some seaside destination. They've loved every trip we've taken, but this particular trip had a few special moments I'm sure the dogs (well, maybe me more than the dogs) will always remember.

This week, we started our trip in Gearhart. It's a smaller-sized town known for golfing, and while it has a lovely beach, it's not terribly popular with vacationers. As a result, walks on this beach are amazing for dogs, as there's simply no one else around to bother them.

Liam and Sinead at the beach

This photo was taken at about 11am, and you'll notice that there's only one person in the background of this entire shot. The weather was gorgeous, without a lot of either wind nor rain, but there were just no other people around. That meant both these guys got some off-leash running time in. They just loved that part of the trip.

In our room at the very dog-friendly Gearhart Hotel, we discovered this little gem in the windowsill (I took it outside for a better photo).

This hand-painted beauty is part of the Linn County Rocks program, in which artists in Linn county create rocks and then hide them all over town. Finders can keep the rocks, or they can re-hide them in another location. Since I have business trips to Seattle, Orlando and Austin coming up this fall, I'll have plenty of opportunities to send this guy to a new home. But in the interim, I'll keep it around and enjoy the artistry.

On the way home, we stopped in Seaside to check out the Seaside Aquarium. I've been going to this aquarium since I was a kid, and the main attraction is a group of harbor seals. These guys were *not* formally trained, but they've learned that people who come to the aquarium often buy tiny fish they'll throw to the seals. So each seal has developed a specific set of tricks to use to entice people to throw those fish.

Using a camera in this environment is a little risky, as these seals like to splash people who take too long to hand out the goods. It took me a minute to set the camera up right on a protected window. But the footage is worth the wait.

Going back to the aquarium on subsequent years is really interesting, because the seals seem to change their approaches all the time, depending on what's getting them the most attention and the most fish!

Before we headed for home, we stopped for a few snacks.

Sinead the boston terrier at the bar

And now we're all dreaming of the day that we can go back! On the next trip, we might hit one of our old favorite spots, like Newport or Cannon Beach. Or maybe we'll find a new spot to explore. We'll keep you posted!

Before you go, leave me a comment, okay? And do be sure to check out the other posts in this blog hop. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Dog treat review: Caru broth

Liam the pug with chicken broth

Most dog treats are bite sized. They're designed to pop in our pockets for a quick treat when we (and our dogs) are on the go and/or working on training. But some of the best dog treats just can't fit into a pocket. Sometimes, the best treats come in unusual formats.

Take this delectable broth the team at Caru Pet Food sent me last week to sample for this blog. I certainly can't fit this into a baggie to take with me on my walks with my dogs. But this is something my dogs are sure to love as an intermittent treat.

This broth from Caru is sourced from free-range chickens raised on farms in the United States. Chicken bones are cooked with carrots, celery, parsley, apple cider vinegar, peppercorns, bay leaves and thyme until a rich, thick broth is produced. And that broth is boxed up and ready to serve to dogs (or cats).

Dog broth with dog food

I've used this broth to make the lunchtime kibble meal more appetizing for Liam and Sinead. And I've used it to help reconstitute the raw food they eat for their breakfast and lunchtime meals. The broth is very fragrant, and the dogs do seem pretty excited about it. They spend a little more time licking their bowls when there's a broth component involved, when compared to meals with no broth.

I had been worried that the broth would be a little fatty, as chicken soup for humans sometimes is. But I didn't see any fat globules on the surface of the broth when I opened the box. That makes me happy. But even so, this is a product that's designed for intermittent use only (likely because it's pretty rich and rather high in calories), so you'll need to treat it like a treat.

Liam the pug with his snack

I can see using a product like this to tempt a picky pet to eat after a dental procedure or at some other point when eating becomes less pleasant. I can also see using it as a special-occasion treat for a pet on a birthday or a gotcha day. And I would think that using this broth as a base for special pup treats like biscuits or cakes would be especially smart.

The one drawback involves shelf life. This product comes in a 1-pound box, which contains many servings for a small-sized dog. But the product will only last for a week in the refrigerator. If you don't have other pets who might like a sip, you could have spoiled product in your fridge.

But, for people with larger animals (pr people who think ahead), this could be an awesome product and a way to help ensure that pets get the liquids they need. I recommend it.

Do you give your pets unusual treats like this? Drop me a line in the comments and let me know!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Springtime dog walks: Stop to smell the flowers

Sinead with daisy flowers

Let's face it: Springtime is an ideal time for dog walks. The weather is warm but not too hot. The sun is bright but not blazing. The flowers are blooming. The grass is green. And everything seems fresh and new.

My neighborhood seems especially colorful this week, as the April rains are giving way to temperatures of 70 degrees or higher. If plants can bloom, they are blooming. And Sinead is more than happy to pose with them (with one exception).

Sinead the Boston terrier with her flower

Since I broke my leg, Sinead has been my exclusive walking partner. She doesn't mind the slow and steady pace at which I walk, and she can find ways to entertain herself when I need to stop and stretch. Sometimes, she finds a leaf or a flower to toss around in the air. Sometimes she finds an intoxicating scent to investigate. Sometimes she just rests and scans the horizon.

We're walking for about a mile a day now, and we tend to go along the same route each day, so I can scan it for uneven ground and other tripping hazards. There's one spot on our route at which we always stop for a minute or two.

Sinead the Boston terrier on a walk

Sinead is sitting right where I fell back in January. See that creeping puddle? It comes from sump pumps that drain into the gutter, and those are likely responsible for the ice that made me fall.

Walking past that spot reminds me of how far I've come in just a few short months. And seeing that neighborhood transformed from icy and white to green and lush makes me feel like the whole community is healing up too. Sinead and I take a few moments to breathe in the positivity before we keep on moving.

Sinead the Boston terrier with flowers

I often take my camera when we walk, and I like to snap shots of the pretty flowers with the pretty dog. But sometimes, the sun is a little bright for this dog. Despite my best attempts to get her to open her eyes, she won't always comply. No matter. I think she looks pretty cute even with closed peepers.

Thanks for looking! Do share a comment before you go, okay? Love to hear your thoughts. And join in the blog hop, as hosted by BlogPaws! You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Shelter cat stories: Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin Spice the cat in her kennel

There are some shelter cats that touch the staff and the volunteers in unique and lasting ways. These are the cats we keep talking about, long after they've left the shelter behind. This is Pumpkin Spice, and she's one of these cats.

Unlike a lot of memorable cats, Pumpkin Spice has no real medical issues. In fact, she's a very young kitty at just 2yo, and she's a slim-and-trim 8 pounds. She's a touch unique in that she's a girl and an orange tabby, but we have another kitty like that in the shelter right now. It's not her physical being that sets this cat apart.

What makes her special is her ability to connect with the people she meets. Everyone I talked to about this cat today told me some version of this sentence: "Well, Pumpkin Spice really likes me more than anyone else."

Somehow, Pumpkin Spice manages to make everyone who meets her feel special. It might be due to how overwhelmingly affectionate she is. Pumpkin not only purrs, but she kneads and climbs and hugs. She tries to put as much of her body in contact with your body as possible.

And when you walk away, this girl tries to reach out with her little paws to pull you back in for a longer visit. That's a sure-fire selling technique that makes her memorable.

Pumpkin Spice looking at another kitty in the background

In the past, I wouldn't have spent a lot of time with Pumpkin, because she's one of those cats that's destined to leave the shelter quickly. But as I mentioned last week, I'm in re-entry mode in the shelter. I'm trying to find ways to make the volunteering experience devastatingly fun, so I'll want to come back to it again and again. Spending time with Pumpkin Spice and cats like her should help. Just being with cats like this lifts the mood.

Pumpkin has been at the shelter for about a month, but she's been in and out of the infirmary with a cold and then a spay surgery. This might be her first week on the adoption floor, and I expect her to go fast. But if you know of someone who is willing to come and get her in at Willamette Humane Society in Oregon, shoot them over! The sooner she goes home the better.

And if Pumpkin isn't right for you, a former week's shelter cat story focus (Pacman) is still waiting for help. Let's get him moving, too!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Is your cat judging you?

Popoki the cat looking sleepy

Popoki has one of those perennially grumpy cat faces. No matter if she's happy or sad, she always looks just a little bit upset about what's going on around her. I think the downturned mouth has something to do with it. And when she's a little tired, her expressions move from grumpy to downright judgemental.

Need proof? Here are a few of the expressions I got when I woke Popoki up for her Sunday Selfie photo shoot to share with The Cat On My Head this morning.

Popoki the cat sneering

This is what I call the cat sneer. She tilts her head up and looks down her nose at me, while closing her eyes just a little bit. At this point in the shoot, I was waving a toy around in the air, trying to get her to open her eyes a little bit, and she clearly though that move was beneath me.

So I swapped toys, and moved to one that makes sounds when it's swinging through the air. She seemed really shocked that I thought this would work.

Popokl the cat looks weary

Eeesh. This looks very much like a judgement, doesn't it? It's as though I've just pitched the silliest idea in the world to this cat and she can't believe that I'm still talking. The combination of the cocked head and the squinted eyes is pretty devastating.

So I tried to move to treats, thinking that would help.

Popoki the cat seems disgusted

Now she can't even bear to look at me, so it seems the treats were a no go.

We'll leave it at that, shall we? It seems like miss grumpy might need a little beauty sleep.

Do your cats flash you signs of exasperation? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

And be sure to join in on the blog hop!

You'll have fun and make new friends, too. Join in!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Kitty keeping you up at night? Try this tip

Fergus the cat is fast asleep

Nothing is sweeter than a sleeping kitty. And, some might say, nothing is more distressing than a wakeful kitty--especially if that cat is awake at 3am or 4am and wants the humans to be awake as well.

Sadly, this is pretty common. Cats are designed to be at their most active during dawn and dusk, when their preferred types of food are most active. Normally, a cat would do the most effective hunting during this time, so the cat's internal clock is set to start ringing the alarm at dawn and dusk.

Cats who are hungry at 3am become cats who meow or rattle the doors or pace or just jump up and down on the humans until they get up. And when mealtime is through, these cats settle right back down into a nap.

Fergus the cat waking up

Feeding the kitty a little snack at bedtime can help to stave off some hunger pangs, and that could allow the cat to delay the wakeup calls by an hour or two. But there's one more trick you can try with very persistent cats who continuously wake up super early.

Wake those cats up periodically throughout the day for sessions of active play.

Cats that sleep all day long without ceasing have a ton of energy to burn off, which often means they have plenty to spare when the wee hours of the morning come around. Meanwhile, cats who expend a bit more energy during the day tend to sleep in a little more at night.

Most cats sleep rather lightly when they do sleep, so it's easy to wake them up. And often, these cats are 100 percent ready to play when you do wake them up. Rattle the wand toy, pull out the laser pointer or toss the ball down the hall and the cat is 100 percent in the game.

Fergus is treated to a play session like this every time I walk by him, and since I work from home, I walk by him a lot. We have a little play time for 5 minutes or so, and then I go back to work and he goes back to sleep.

Popoki the cat

I should say that this technique doesn't work on all cats. Popoki here isn't half as interested in play as Fergus is, for example, and she simply won't get up and move because I think she should do so. She moves when she feels like moving, and that isn't really under my control.

But honestly, I've tried this wakey-wakey technique on quite a few cats over the years, and I can attest to its effectiveness. If you have an early-morning kitty, it might work for you, too!

Are your cats good alarm clocks? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Protect dogs and bees: Skip the weed killer

Sinead posing with flowers and weeds

Now that spring is here, many of us are heading outside with our dogs to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and bird calls. We're shaking off the confinement of winter, and we're remembering what it's like to be connected to all the wonders that nature has to offer. It's a great time to be alive.

But as we stretch and enjoy that spring, many of us are seeing a few things in our surroundings that are a little less than ideal. At least, I know I am.

Sinead here is posing next to a group of volunteer grape hyacinth, growing in a crack in the driveway. I love those little purple flowers, but look closely at what's growing around them.

Yup, those are dandelions.

Dandelions put down very deep roots, and they're very hard to completely eradicate in a sidewalk. And in most cases, people want to pull out those weeds, because they can grow and grow and make a tiny crack even wider as the years pass.

If you look for solutions in your local hardware store or neighborhood big box store, you'll see bottle after bottle of herbicides that are designed to kill things growing in cracks.

Please, please, please don't use these.

Here's why.

Sinead the Boston terrier with flowers

Bees are responsible for the vast majority of the food we eat. Their pollination work helps plants to produce. Without the work of bees, that pollination becomes difficult or impossible. And yet, the number of bees swarming the planet is declining.

Researchers are still investigating why this is happening, but some research suggests that herbicides like Roundup are playing a part in declining bee health. And that research suggests that Roundup can be remarkably persistent in the ground, so an application could harm bees for weeks.

Similarly, research suggests that dogs can be harmed by exposure to herbicides. And that research also suggests that dogs can pick up traces of herbicide for weeks after it's been applied.

Put that together, and it seems like these herbicides have the potential to do a great deal of damage to both dogs and bees. And that one little squirt could continue to cause damage for an extended period of time.

Does that mean you have to live with weeds in cracks? No.

Hubby and I use boiling water applications on persistent weeds in cracks. We take a bit of the water left over from the kettle we boil for tea, and we dump it on the plants we see in the cracks. Sometimes, one shot is enough to eradicate the weeds. Sometimes, it takes more than one.

Water harms neither bee nor dog. It's inexpensive. And it works.

There are all sorts of other things you can do to keep your dogs away from pesticides, including keeping your dogs on the sidewalk during walks. But those bees? They need more help. I talk to my neighbors about bees when I see them spraying Roundup. I talk to my friends about the water trick. I try to spread the word.

Would you consider doing the same? The bees need us.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reengaging with shelter life: How to avoid another burnout episode

A few months ago, I had to step away from shelter cat work. I wrote about it on this blog, and I tried to be very open and honest about the symptoms of compassion fatigue I was facing and what I thought might help me to feel better.

This week, a reader reminded me that I never did a followup post, even though I have returned to cat volunteer work. That reader wondered what had changed, and she asked for a followup. I think that's an excellent idea.

Here's what I know.

The work doesn't change

As much as we advocate for cats and plead on their behalf and try to help everyone understand that cats aren't nuisances that can be ignored or exterminated, some people just don't get it. And when they don't get it, the cats often end up in shelter situations in sad shape.

It broke my heart when I was volunteering last year. It was nearly too much to bear when I stopped volunteering. And it still happens now. The sweet face of the cat in this blog post is testament to that. Cats still need help, and shelters are the organizations that offer that help.

The key involves making sure that you--as a volunteer--find a way to change.

Setting boundaries and seeking success

Rather than heading into the shelter multiple times per week for shifts and donations and meetings and more, I come in just once every other week. That's a schedule I can handle. It allows me to do meaningful work, while also allowing me to do other things that feed my soul.

Also, reengaging in a meaningful way means allowing myself to spend time with some of the cats that don't necessarily need me. Cats like this one.

Black cat in the shelter

This is an amazingly open-hearted cat who absolutely loves and trusts all people. Spending time with her means being showered with head butts and nuzzles and purrs. She makes anyone who visits her feel so very special. And, not surprisingly, she was adopted about an hour after I met her.

In the past, I avoided spending time with cats I thought might get adopted really quickly. I figured these cats didn't need my help or my attention. I thought I should spend time with the truly tough cases.

As it turns out, I may not have needed to help these cats. But I certainly needed them to help me.

Spending time with the cats that will leave the shelter fast helps you feel like a part of the success story. You get to be on a winning team. Plus, cats like this are simply a joy to be around. They put the fun back in volunteering.

I should say that I always spend time with the tough cases. They call out to me. But as I reengage with volunteering, I'm making a point to spend time with the easy wins too. To me, that has so much benefit.

White shelter cat waiting for a home

Remaining mindful of the cost

Finally, I consider volunteer days to be high-risk days. I try not to pack days like this with a ton of other tasks, including meetings or lunch dates or deadlines. I try to give myself enough headspace to think about what happened at the shelter. And I try to give myself enough time on those days to process the happiness and the sadness I've seen.

It's clear I'm being pretty careful with my heart and my health as I return to this work. And that's smart. I don't want to take another break. These cats need me--now and in the future. By taking these steps, I hope I'm here for them.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Celebrating a kitty Easter (and advocating an adoption)

Jasper the cat with Easter props

Jasper the cat was, at one point, really hard to photograph with props. Whenever I got the shot all set up, he'd throw himself at the camera with the hopes of getting a few more pets and head bumps in. But now that he's well on his way to 17 years old, he's mellowed out quite a bit. Now, he's more than happy to just chill out with any props I might throw his way.

And as I photographed him for entry in the Sunday Cat Selfie series as hosted by The Cat On My Head, I started thinking.

Last week, I wrote up a post about a sweet kitty waiting for a home at Willamette Humane Society. This cat and Jasper have a lot in common. Both of them were swinging singles in big cat colonies. Both have a tendency to fight with other cats (see Jasper's ear?). And both of them have a history of poor litter box habits.

But they have two key differences.

The cat waiting for a home has FIV. Jasper does not.

And Jasper has a home. The other does not.

Jasper the cat sings about Easter

I know it's often hard to think about taking in a cat with a semi-rough past. Sometimes, when I talk about this, people seem to think cats with a tough past will never find a home or contribute to a home, so euthanasia is a kinder option.

I think Jasper would disagree. And my husband, who has lived with Jasper on Jasper's terms for more than a decade, would also disagree.

Cats with tough pasts can--and many of them do--acclimate to a different life with enough kindness, love and attention. Cats that can't 100 percent acclimate can--and many of them do--acclimate to a life partially in the house and partially in a catio, where they can be protected and still a little wild (this would be best for my FIV guy). And some healthy cats with a rough past can--and many of them do--acclimate to a sort of barn existence where they love people and have a protected space to sleep at night, but have the ability to roam during the day (this is what Jasper has).

They key is to remember that these lives have value. Jasper would be so happy if people remembered that on Easter.

Jasper the cat with his bunny

Doesn't he look handsome in his selfie? I think so. Do leave him a note in the comments. He loves compliments.

And remember to join in the fun with the blog hop!

You'll see so many awesome cats and make great friends.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Shelter cat stories: Meet Pacman

Meet shelter cat PacMan

Life for a stray cat isn't easy. Just ask Pacman here. Doesn't he look tired? He should. He's been through a lot in a few short months.

Pacman is about 5 years old, and he has lived most (if not all) of his life as a stray cat. He was living in a community with quite a few other strays, and his body bears a few scars from his street time. His ears have a few little nibbles in them, his fur is a little thinner than it should be and he has a few cuts and scrapes healing up on his nose and back.

Someone in his neighborhood decided to intervene, and that kind person started feeding Pacman and petting him. Eventually, she let him into her house.

As it turns out, Pacman wasn't quite ready to be a house kitty. He fought with the other resident cats, he peed in the house and otherwise made a great mess of things. He was still a slave to those darned hormones, and he made some bad choices.

So he came to Willamette Humane Society for a new start. (Here's his official bio, which I wrote.)

Pacman was neutered, and during the screening prior to the neuter, the team discovered that Pacman has FIV. I've talked about this on the blog before, but some cats with FIV can live with other cats. But they need to actually like other cats and not fight with them. That isn't the case for this particular kitty.

Pacman the cat sleeping

So Pacman will need to be the only cat in the household. And, he'll need to live indoors (so he doesn't fight with neighborhood cats). He will also need to find someone who appreciates cats with opinions. This guy is terribly sweet and kindhearted, but he likes to be in charge. He's not afraid to dole out the whaps (claws in) when things don't go his way. Cat people love communicators like this. But people who don't know or "get" cats may not.

I recognize that Pacman has a bit of a challenge ahead, in terms of finding a home. He needs to be an only, he has FIV and he can be a little sassy. That might explain why he's been in the shelter since March 2, with no families interested in him.

But I think he deserves a chance at a good home with someone who will love him. He's young and he has so much to give. Can you help? Share his story, and let's bust him out of the shelter soon!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Bunnies make bad gifts: An Easter reminder

Popoki the cat with her bunnies

Popoki the cat is helping me to a quick PSA this week about bunnies. Now that spring is right around the corner, I'm seeing tons of ads popping up in my local Craigslist about tiny bunnies that will be ready "just in time for Easter." Supposedly, these little creatures will be tucked into baskets for kids to enjoy.

And I just know, come May, I'll see many more ads in my local Craigslist about abandoned bunnies who have hopped into yards to eat growing vegetables.

This is a cycle that happens every year. And it really doesn't have to be this way.

Popoki the cat with her bunny

Bunnies do make wonderful pets. They're super smart, which means they can be trained to do all sorts of things, including using a designated place to pee and poop. They can come when called, they can do tricks and they can behave nicely for medical exams. In short, they're great options for people who want a furry creature that isn't a dog or a cat.

But bunnies are also a time commitment. They need socialization, and they need to spend time with the people they love. Many bunnies also prefer to spend time in the company of other bunnies. Families that take home one rabbit and think that animal will be happy as anything in a hutch in the yard all alone all day are bound to have an unhappy bunny that acts up. And that's a bunny that's likely to be abandoned.

Popoki the cat poses with her bunny

If you are ready to make a full commitment to the health, well-being and happiness of a rabbit, go ahead and bring one home for Easter. Love it and cuddle it and make it a member of your family. But if you're not quite ready for the responsibilities that come with a rabbit, take Popoki's advice. Get a stuffed bunny instead. They're just as cute and cuddly, and they require no maintenance.

Just sayin'.

Do you have a bunny? Have you ever lived with one? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know. I love a good bunny story.

And be sure to visit the other blogs in this BlogPaws hop. Good stuff this week!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Dog walks: The benefits of a pause

Pug and Boston terrier out on a walk

The first dog trainer I worked with thought that walks had a vital role to play in the health of a dog and the relationship between a dog and his/her person. Walks, in her mind, were an opportunity for people to practice basic obedience techniques, and that could help to exercise a dog's mind, as well as the dog's body.

People who follow this sort of thinking have very brisk, constructive walks with their dogs. These dogs march along with their people, occasionally stopping to work on something like a "sit" command or a "stay" command. But they don't veer off course or compel their people to stop. These are dogs doing the people's bidding.

I walked my dogs like this for years, and I do think there's some benefit to keeping a dog under strict control while strolling through neighborhoods populated by dogs that may not be under any kind of control.

But since I returned to walking after breaking my leg, I'm finding that a different approach also has merit. This is the dog-focused way of talking a walk.

Sinead the Boston terrier in her coat

When dogs get to choose how walks work, everything about the experience seems to change. Sinead here, for example, likes to start off her walks very slowly. She likes to sniff the perimeter of the front yard, to pick up messages other dogs may have left behind. And she likes to do quite a bit of stretching and bending to warm up her muscles before she gets into serious speed.

When we're in the middle of the walk, she likes to veer from one side of the sidewalk to the other, choosing the best surface on which to walk. She seems to prefer very spongy grass, and sometimes, that's in the parking strip and sometimes it's in the front yard. She likes to follow that.

When we're in the last third of the walk, Sinead likes to slow things down again. She prefers to take very long breaks so she can thoroughly investigate a new scent on the ground. Sometimes, she likes to plop down on the grass and take a good roll. Sometimes, she just likes to stand still and scan the horizon, sniffing the air.

Dog walks on a dog's terms take a bit longer to complete. Dogs have their own schedules, and sometimes, they're not very efficient. But giving them control from time to time seems to please them. I know Sinead appreciates a more leisurely pace, and she likes walks in which she can just do as she pleases. She's not any less obedient after a walk like this than she is on a structured walk. But she does seem a little more tired.

What method do you use when you walk your dogs? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cats celebrate spring in Oregon: The catio is open!

Popoki the cat sitting in her chair

Popoki is generally a very happy cat. Despite her sometimes grumpy appearance, she seems to welcome most days with an open heart and a willingness to find joy. But I have a hunch that she has more things to like in the spring than she does in the winter.

For example: In the winter, she is confined to the indoors. We can't go for leash walks when the ground is wet, as she finds that prospect unpleasant. And I have to close the door to the catio, so I don't get frozen out of my workspace. In addition, her bird watching duties are truncated, as our winter populations consist of simple finches. Not a lot of variety there.

So I imagine she was thrilled with what happened this week. Our temperatures climbed up into the high 60s, so the catio was open for business. She ran out when the door was open, and she immediately took up a prime position beneath her favorite bird feeder.

Popoki the cat watching birds

Lest you be alarmed, Popoki can't actually reach this feeder. It's on the outside of the catio, and the catio screens are firmly affixed to the building, so there's no possibility of a breakout. Even if she really wanted to touch those birds, she couldn't do so.

But she has a lot to look at, as the spring migration has begun. I have tons of bright-yellow goldfinches swarming the feeders these days, and we've attracted a few Steller's jays and blue jays to the yard too. Next door, a pair of starlings are setting up a nest. And high up in the cedars in the back yard, a pair of northern flickers has set up another nest. The yard is teeming with calls and splashes of color. Popoki can't wait to get into the catio to check it out.

Popoki the cat in her catio

She's also really enjoying the sunshine. A few times this week, I've seen her sprawled out on her back in her catio, letting that sunshine hit her in the belly. She looks so relaxed and comfortable. And that's wonderful to see.

Has spring arrived where you are? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

And be sure to visit my friends at The Cat On My Head.

They do such an awesome job of hosting this hop every week. Visit them and tell them you love it, okay?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Dog walks: A simple thing that brings humans and their dogs closer together

Sinead the Boston terrier on a walk

At first glance, this might seem like a really standard photo of a Boston terrier pausing on her walk with her human. In reality, this photo means a whole lot more. This is a photo about healing, about spring and about the wonderful things dogs do for their humans every day.

Let me explain.

In January, I fell while walking Liam the pug, and I broke my left leg in several places. At the time, I was thankful I was walking my very happy-go-lucky pug, as he accepted help from all of the strangers who rushed to the scene to assist, and he did so without any training. Sinead the Boston terrier wouldn't have been nearly so accommodating.

But, in the aftermath of my injury and the surgery and the long recovery, it's been Sinead who has helped me. She insisted on sleeping right next to me, in the human bed, when I got home from the hospital. She walked with me, licking my ankle, when I tried to get up on my feet again. She brought me her very favorite toy when the pain was too much and I dissolved into tears. She was my nursemaid.

So it was only fair that she should be the witness to this week's show of independence. This week, she and I took a walk together.

Sinead and I on a walk

Note that I am wearing two shoes. Not a cast. Not a brace. But shoes. And there's no one else in this photo. It's just my little dog and I, sharing this victory together.

I am using a cane these days, and I don't walk very fast. Sometimes, I need to stop and take a break. But Sinead remains very patient. She goes at my pace. She sits when I need to sit. She watches for danger and growls when she sees it. And sometimes, she licks my shoelaces to encourage me.

All of this work means a great deal to me. And it wears this little dog out. When we got home, she needed a nap. And I don't blame her. I needed one myself.

Sinead the Boston terrier in her bed

I had clean x-rays this week, which means my broken leg is knitted up around the hardware holding it in place. So these walks Sinead and I take will continue, and it's likely I'll move faster with time. I am expected to make a wonderful recovery, and should be able to walk with ease throughout the rest of my life. Running might not be possible, due to all the hardware. But walking should be a snap.

It's good news, and I know Sinead contributed to that. I will always be thankful for her support, kindness and cuteness. I just couldn't have done it without her, and on this Thankful Thursday, as hosted by Brian's Home, I honor her.

Head on over to visit Brian and share some other stories of thanks. But before you go, do leave me a comment, won't you? Love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Don't mess with a pug and his toys

Liam the pug with his toy

Like most pugs, Liam is pretty relaxed about most things. He doesn't care about loud noises, new people or unusual scents entering his space. He embraces most of the things he encounters with a happiness and grace that's really unusual and wonderful.

But there's one thing he takes very seriously: His toys.

Liam tends to fixate on one specific toy at a time, and when he's made his selection, he plays with that toy every day. Right now, his toy looks like this.

Liam the pug and his favorite toy

It's a scientist person wrapped up in a snake, with his head and feet sticking out. Liam thinks this is the best toy ever made. He throws it in the air, he buries it in blankets and shakes it out, he chews on it until it squeaks for hours and he runs after it endlessly in games of fetch. He loves this toy.

And he is very protective of this toy. He chases all other animals away from this thing, which is a problem, as he sometimes leaves it in the middle of the room. If the other animals walk by it, he runs over to scoot them away from what he considers precious.

Which means I've been getting a lot of looks from the Fun Police these days.

Sinead the Boston terrier as fun police

Sinead doesn't like this kind of chaos in the household, but she knows she's too small to fix it herself. So lately, she's been asking me to pick up the toy and move it. When I look down, I see this little stern face staring up at me.


Do your dogs take play very seriously? Leave me a note in the comments and tell me all about it. Love to hear your stories!

And don't forget to join the hop this week, as hosted by BlogPaws. Good stuff this week!