those crazy mutts

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I’m not sure* who had the bright idea to schedule a vet appointment at 9 a.m. on the Monday morning leading up to a short holiday week, but, I’m the first to admit that really, that’s just asking for trouble. Still, I woke up plenty early, giving myself and Rudi** plenty of time to get ready and out the door long before we were due at the vet’s office. I even managed to trick Hollie into staying in the bedroom with Jared so she wouldn’t bark when we left. Basically, I nailed it.

As I pulled out of the neighborhood, patting myself on the back because I’d even left myself enough time to stop and get coffee, I heard a weird thump thump thump noise coming from the back of the car***. I pulled over and put on my hazards and proceeded to look under the car. You know, like I would know if something was off.

(Here’s where I should say that, while I don’t consider myself particularly girly — I’m not afraid of spiders or big bugs and I don’t think anybody would call me a delicate flower when it comes to my workouts — I … don’t do car stuff. I mean, I HATE doing the whole throw-my-hands-in-the-air-and-call-for-a-big-strong-man thing, but cars intimidate me. There’s a lot of stuff that can go wrong and since I don’t understand it well, I generally prefer to let someone who knows what’s going on step in.)

So, I look under the car and don’t see anything, so I think, “Hey, maybe something was stuck under there, like a bottle from someone’s recycling or something, and it dislodged when I stopped.” And at this point, I was running out of time to stop for coffee, so I hopped back in my car and headed toward the vet’s office, bummed that I won’t have time to stop for coffee now but glad we’ll still be able to get there on time. Because, you think the idea of something being wrong with my car stresses me out? Not compared to the horror of being late. *shudder*

A few miles later, just on the other side of the halfway point, I hear the noise again — maybe even louder. THUMP THUMP THUMP. So I pull into a neighborhood, and, yes, call my big strong man.

Me: The car is making weird thumping noises.

Jared: Have you checked the tires?

Me: To … see if they’re still there? Um, they’re there, for sure …

Jared: *sigh*

Me: And also I don’t have a flat! Is that what you meant? That’s what you meant.

We decide I should keep driving, albeit slowly (I only heard the noise when I went over 35 mph) to the vet, and Jared would meet me there and see what he could figure out.

I arrived with no further incident (unless you call driving 35 mph down the road an incident, which I’m inclined to do), stopped the car and walked around to let Rudi out. And that’s when I saw the problem: A plastic bag on with some leftover veggie dogs in it, stuck underneath the roof rack.

Jared and I had gone to a pool party the day before, and we’d grabbed the leftover veggie dogs because, well, most people aren’t all that into them, and who am I to waste veggie dogs? I would be a fool to do so!

Not sure who tucked them up there coughJaredcough, but considering what I was CERTAIN I was going to have to spend to get my car fixed, you can imagine how happy I was to see that the only problem my car had was some leftover veggie dogs on the roof.

(Shame to waste them, still, but far better than what I would’ve had to pay to get something fixed. And far less embarrassing than taking it in and having them present me with a bill alongside my leftovers, right?)

Rudi dog

All was well at the vet, if you don’t count the fecal sample extraction. (Rudi totally counts it.)

And, for those of you wondering, Rudi was totally fine — just an annual appointment, and she was a very good girl who made everyone fall in love with her and give her treats.

*Fine, I know exactly who it was. Me. Damn you, Past Kristen.

**If taking one dog to the vet equals 1 unit of craziness, taking two dogs at the same time is some sort of equation with an exponential nature of the like that I can’t even fathom because I didn’t pay attention in algebra (except for FOIL — that, I remember), but let’s just say it’s waaaaaay more than 2x the crazy. So, unless I have an army to back me up, it’s one animal per visit.

***Yesterday — literally, yesterday – I was thinking about how happy I was that my car, even though it’s a few years old, was holding up fairly well. So basically this was all my fault.

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We have a new cat! Well, not new in the sense that she’s new (she’s 2 years old) or even particularly new to us (we adopted her around Thanksgiving last year). But, she’s new to Jeez-o-petes. Of course, considering I haven’t posted anything since October, I guess a lot of things are new to Jeez-o-petes. I mean, babies have been conceived and BORN since I last wrote anything here.

Whatever. I’m back. With a cat. (You know how I roll.)

So, sure, I could just tell you about her, but I figured, hey! I’m a journalist, right? Why not do an interview? Happily, she agreed to participate for a small fee (wet food for dinner instead of kibble), and so, let me present our newest addition: Trixie.

Me: Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Trix!

Trixie: How long until dinner?

Me: Hahaha, that’s funny. So, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Trixie: I wasn’t actually joking, but fine. Um, hi, I’m Trixie. I started out on the street and still totally have all my moves, so you best not cross me, woman.

Me: Noted.

Trixie: And those dogs? Tell them, too.

Me: Will do. Now, how do you feel about your roommates, Rudi and Hollie? What’s your relationship like? I’ve noticed that you’ve actually rubbed up on Rudi a time or two recently.

So close, yet so far ...

Trixie: The black one, Rudi … she’s okay. But Hollie? *mumbles under breath* Where did you find her? She’s … got a lot of energy. And good grief, is she loud.

Me: This is true. But, it must be said, Trixie, you’re quite the talker. Why do you have so much to say?

Trixie: Why is my bowl empty so much? And why do you get to eat all the cheese? LIFE IS UNFAIR.

Me: Umm, your bowl is empty because you throw half to the ground while eating it. What’s up with that?

Trixie: Lady, I’ve watched you eat pizza. I don’t really think you have any room to talk.

Me: Hey, let’s change topics! Trixie, what’s your stance on laps?

Trixie: I don’t trust them.

Me: So, the other night when you actually laid on my lap for a minute …?

Trixie: It was a mistake. Let’s never speak of this again. Now, seriously, woman, where is my tuna? And could I get a nibble of that cheese, you think?

 

Trixie was adopted from Puppy Hill Farm Animal Rescue, an organization for which I’m a volunteer and a board member. Trixie was found behind an apartment building with a litter of kittens and was available for adoption for months before Jared and I found her and brought her home. She has a few quirks, but she’s been a great addition to the family. She loves hanging out in the kitchen and chatting us up when we’re making dinner. She bats at Hollie every chance she gets, and I give it another six months before I find her cuddled right up against Rudi. It might be another six months before she’s totally comfortable cuddling up with Jared and me, but that’s okay. We’re not going anywhere. And Rudi is the best snuggler in the family, anyway.

 

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This weekend, we had to say goodbye to our cat, Meeko. She was, as Jared put it, “the best foot-warmer, sink drinker, and bathroom buddy ever.” She was all those things and so many more.

Jared already had Meeko when I met him, and his obvious love of her was one of the things I immediately dug about him. It took a long time before I ranked anywhere near him in her eyes — I could be petting her, feeding her treats, but if he got up and walked away, she’d jump off my lap and trot on after him. Nothing personal, I know, he was just her world.

Little by little, she came to love me — not as much as Jared, of course, but I think I became a very close second. In the last few years, after he started traveling more for work, she started falling asleep over on my side of the bed. A purring cat is better than a warm glass of milk when it comes to facilitating relaxation and sleep, let me tell you.

In addition to loving those of us who fed her and scooped her poop, she also loved sunbeams, balls of paper, chewing on plastic bags, running water, and curling up on available laps.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might remember that we almost lost Meeko a year ago. Her kidneys were failing, which is pretty common in older cats, and she was having some crazy thyroid problems. We got her stabilized (although she continued needing a pill twice a day and fluids injected a couple of times a week), and, well, we got an extra year. We knew it was borrowed time, but that doesn’t make it much easier when you see the end coming.

We spent her last morning petting her, feeding her tuna, and memorizing her sweet little face. She died very peacefully in the arms of the person she loved most in the world. For that, I’m thankful. I’m also a little surprised at the different ways she made herself part of my day, and all the ways I’m missing her.

I knew it would be weird to work without having her lay on my desk, batting pens off the side and drinking out of my water glass. I assumed it would make  me sad to look over at where her cat tree and litter box were. I didn’t realize I’d tear up every time I went into the bathroom and didn’t have to wait for her, or how I’d turn the sink faucet on — just a trickle — for her to drink and then realize she wasn’t there.

She was pretty talkative, too, and every time I hear a strange noise, I look around to see what she needs. The kitchen is sad because she’s not standing in the middle of it, staring at us and willing us to give her food or a new water bowl or attention or who even knows what she wanted. When I let the dogs out in the back yard, I realized I could leave the door to the screened-in back porch (which we got for Meeko) open, because we didn’t have to worry about her getting outside.

The first night I slept in our bed without her, I kept thinking I felt her jump up on the bed. Jared found himself being careful when he moved so as not to kick her.

The dogs know something is up — I don’t know that they really realize she’s gone, or, if they do, if they, like, miss her, but they definitely had their own little dynamic. Mainly, Meeko was in charge. They could come up and sniff her, and even put their noses right on her, as long as she wasn’t looking at them. If they approached her head on, forget about it — she’d let them know who was boss and encourage them to find another route. They always listened.

This is going to take some time to get used to. And even though it hurts, I’d rather have the pain that goes along with the memories than forget about her easily. She was just a tiny little thing, but the hole she left behind is bigger than I can explain.

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I might, on occasion, be guilty of anthropomorphizing my dogs to some extent — I mean, they are the recipients of most of my witty commentary during the day, and, you know, they don’t laugh, per se, but they seem to get the joke more often than not (and give me a better reaction than some of the humans I’ve met to boot) — but there’s no doubt in my mind that they really do smile.

I just got back from a run with them (well, with them each separately. They’re not bad on leash these days on their own, but put them together? And may god have mercy on your soul), and without a doubt, Hollie was beaming.


Read the rest of this entry »

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So, it was a crazy summer, and I don’t think I actually documented some of the craziness that went down here. You might recall that we had a real scare with Rudi, who spent a week in the University of Florida Small Animal ICU — she’s fine now, and back to normal. But, apparently, her temporary absence (and maybe some behavior changes that were imperceptible to us) created a bit of a change in the relationship between the dogs. Which we learned when we went up to New York for a wedding in July and got a call from my friend Fitz, who was watching them, saying that they’d gotten into a fight. Like, a real, serious fight. One that left Rudi with a pretty big gash, and, as it turned out, a broken tooth.

Gratuitious Rudi picture from last summer.

Fitz and her family took care of the dogs, getting Rudi back to the UF emergency room for stitches and treatment. (Hollie had just a few small nicks and was basically fine.) We were home a couple of days later, and figured we’d have a trainer come out to work with them, but it was just so hard to believe — they were just like normal, sleeping on top of one another, playing together, being cute and cuddly and snuggly. We kind of assumed it was a fluke, as did anyone who’s ever seen them together. They’re besties, and so lovey! Nobody believed it could repeat.

Until it happened again, this time, when I was there. And, you know how all the experts say NOT to jump in the middle of a dog fight? Yeah. Listen to them. When they’re in the middle of a fight, they just see red. They don’t hear your voice, they don’t see you, they don’t know that you’ve stupidly put your arm in between their mouths because OF COURSE they won’t bite you. (They will.) At the end of it, everybody was bleeding and two of us needed a trip to the doctor.

(Needless to say, immediately afterward, the dogs were back to snuggling with each other. Weird.)

But I’ll tell you, the emotional toll far outweighed the physical for me. Not so much because I got in the middle of the fight — I know dog owners have a hard time dealing with that, but I honestly did understand that they weren’t going after me. I mean, I’m the moron who stuck my arm in their mouths. But I was terrified that the situation wasn’t rectifiable. I was worried that I had created an environment that wasn’t safe for the dogs I’d taken in and promised to care for. I was worried I’d created a situation that wasn’t safe for people to be around.

See? Only best friends share a water bucket.

We called in a local dog behaviorist right away to assess the situation, and were fully prepared to hear that we’d need to find a new home for Hollie. At that point, I was ready to do whatever was best for the dogs and whoever they were around. Happily, he determined that there were no real aggression issues — it was really a case of misplaced anxiety (apparently this is quite common). Basically, it comes down to this — Hollie is a spaz. This is not news. Rudi lets her go only so far before stepping in to let her know that enough is enough. Prior to Rudi’s hospitalization, Hollie always listened to her, but afterward, she started putting up more of a fight, which meant that, in order to get her point across, Rudi escalated her message. And then they tried to eat each other.

The solution? We now keep a closer eye on their play, and when it’s clear that Rudi is done and Hollie is still trying to play, we step in. We’re also doing obedience class. Hollie has passed the beginner class and is more than halfway through advanced beginner. We’re doing all the same training at home with Rudi, and, as a matter of fact, I’m planning to take Rudi to the class in Hollie’s place tonight to see how that goes. If it goes reasonably well, I’m seriously considering enrolling both dogs in the top level class, which deals with working off-leash and in public.

I have to say, I never understood the importance of obedience training before. I mean, sure, I saw why it was helpful and important to have them sit, stay, come, and all that on command, but I had no idea how it would change my relationship with them. I can take either dog for a walk without them pulling (although I’m not quite up to walking both of them together — that’s, like, advanced, man). I’ve learned that a lot of Hollie’s loudmouthing is done out of fear, and while she’s still loud as hell, she’s getting better about realizing that, if I’m saying it’s okay, it really is okay.

I won’t lie — I’m completely nervous about taking Rudi to class tonight. She’s a little unpredictable around other dogs, and she’s got Hollie by 20 pounds, so when she wants to do something, it’s harder to correct her. But I know it’s the right thing, and I’m so excited to see where we are in another couple of months.

Wish me luck! I think we’re all going to need some special treats tonight.

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In case you didn’t already hear all about it on Facebook or Twitter, we had a bit of a scare last week when Rudi got into some people meds and went into renal failure.

I’m not going to make you wait for the outcome — she’s doing great and has a real chance at a full recovery. You know, after a week in the UF Small Animal ICU. A week in which she made every doctor and student working with her fall madly, deeply in love with her, of course, but a week in the doggie hospital nonetheless.

Home and happy as a, well, a dog rolling in the grass on a sunny day, I guess.

She had maybe a 50/50 shot going in, and when we walked in with her, I did my best to accept the fact that we very well might not get her back. I believe this acceptance may have come out as me yelling at the doctors, “This SUCKS! This super, super SUCKS!” in between my hysterical sobbing and nose blowing and crying into my sick dog’s coat, but, you know, we do the best we can do in those situations, right?

Fortunately, her numbers began improving fairly quickly after admitting her, and though it took days before I allowed myself even a glimmer of hope that she’d be able to come home, let alone have the possibility of leading a normal doggie life, I did a lot of thinking. I mean, I really am a believer in many things happening for a reason, and considering how this was extra painful for us because Yuki’s death still feels so recent (even though, yes, it’s been close to three years now), and I just can’t believe that this would happen without the universe having some reason.

Don’t ask me why, but I really felt like I was supposed to learn some lesson (other than “if it’s not 6 feet in the air and locked behind a steel wall, dogs, even if they’re well-behaved and never get into anything anymore, can get to it”). And somewhere between her bloodwork showing numbers that were frighteningly high and showing numbers that were sparkling with promise, it hit me — I’ve completely taken her for granted.

I’ve taken her presence for granted. Hollie’s too, for that matter. And I’ve definitely taken for granted the effect she has on people. I mean you should have seen the way the veterinarians and students and staff lit up when they saw her. And if she can do that while fighting for her life in a place where people are rushing from one emergency to the next, what else could she do? She’s always had a way of making people smile — she’s a silly, floppity, sweet girl, and people take to her instantly. Why am I keeping that all to myself?

So, now that things are looking up — she’s home, her numbers are practically back to normal (and likely will be within the next week) — I’ve decided that I’m going to work hard to share her. I’m going to really focus on training both dogs well so that we can take them more places. Jared and I used to take Yuki everywhere; it was easy because we just had her and she was so sweet to everyone, but once we got Rudi, we backed off because, well, I was lazy and it was more difficult. No more. We’re going to have two dogs who walk well on leash and politely sniff other dogs without going batshit crazy. That’s the first order of business.

Second? Once she’s properly trained, I’m getting Rudi, and maybe Hollie, too, certified as a therapy dog. I want to take her into nursing homes and hospitals, and take her to schools and libraries so she can help children learn to read aloud. If I’m getting a second chance at having her in my life, you can be damn sure I’m going to use that second chance to make a difference.

And I won’t lie — I’m also giving myself permission to take a break during the day to just sit with the dogs and get in some snuggles. I swear it’s good for the soul, and I know they enjoy it. And you know what? I’m giving you permission, too. To snuggle with your own pets, I mean, not mine. Although, I mean, if you really want to, I guess you could cuddle my dogs, too. See? I’m a sharer!

Final thought, for my Gainesville and surrounding area folks — I cannot recommend UF’s emergency animal care enough. The doctors we worked with were absolutely incredible, the facility is amazing, and, in the case of an animal facing renal issues, there’s the ability to do dialysis plus one of the best kidney specialists in the country. Rudi loved everyone there to the point of being excited when we returned for her check up. While she always wanted to go with us at first when we visited her during her stay, she was also happy to go with the doctor or student who took her back, which let me know that she was being loved and treated well when I wasn’t around. And we were treated well, also — everyone was so kind and informative and understanding. Special shout outs to Dr. Bandt, Dr. Genovese and Katie, who made this terrifically difficult time a little easier on all  of us (and earned a friend for life in one special black dog).

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In addition to not understanding basic concepts like moving, dogs do not understand pacing. Yesterday we were graced with perfect, sunny, 65 degree weather. Jared was home and, while we’re both still recovering from the plague, we got lots of sleep and were highly motivated to spend some time outdoors. So, off to the dog park we went.

Within seconds of pulling into the parking lot, the dogs turned into whimpering, whizzing little fuzzballs, fur on end with excitement. “Oh my god, mom! Dad! MOOOOOM! There’s another dog! He’s peeing! PEEING!!! Let me out let me out let me out let me oooouuuuuut!”

So we let them out, and WHOOSH! They were off. And to think that, once upon a time, we thought Hollie might not be able to run.

Who's a gimp? Not this dog.

More than one paw on the ground is obviously overkill.

We got their attention again, however, with the Chuckit, which is definitely one of the best dog toys we own.

Rudi's running ability was never in question. ZOOM!

There was running and jumping and barking and panting and playing … for about half an hour.

Oh, Hollie. You'll never catch up, but it's cute that you try.

And then, they both crashed in a nice, cool, shady patch of dirt. You know, like dogs do. It would’ve been swell to hang out for a couple more hours, but shoot, I had almost 100 photos to edit just from the time we did spend there (I blame the fancy new zoom lens Jared got me for Christmas), so maybe the shorter visit was for the best.

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It’s been a tough month or so around here for Meeko as many of you know from Facebook (if we’re not FB friends and you’d like to be, just shoot me a message on there telling me how we know each other and I’ll accept). Between thyroid issues, kidney problems, bad potassium numbers, refusing to eat and serious dehydration, we were scared. She spent a partial and a full day at the vet getting fluids, came home with a catheter for us to flush, was force fed more times than any of us care to remember, but … she’s better. Not perfect, not totally out of the woods, but she’s eating and drinking and knocking shit off my desk again.

I couldn’t be happier about that, to be honest. But, to get her (and keep her) there, we’re having to do some doctoring. We’re giving her subq fluids, which, let me tell you, is no treat for anybody — in fact, while Jared’s out of town, I’m having someone come over to help me, but we only need to do it once every other day, so no biggie. And she’s got meds to take, which isn’t a big deal when she eats them in pill pockets (which, YOU GUYS — this is the most genius thing EVER). She was refusing for a while, but she ate one tonight and I’m hopeful (SO hopeful) that this continues, because have you ever forced a cat to take a pill? Yeah.

All along, we’ve made a point to keep reminding ourselves that we don’t want to put her through anything more than is necessary — her quality of life is the biggest concern, and she is 14, after all. But man, now that her eyes have a little sparkle back in them and she’s yowling at me for food, I’m beyond relieved that she seems to be pulling through.

Squeamish as I was when I was a kid, who would’ve ever thought I’d be able to put a needle in my cat and give her fluids (although J has done it far more than I have)? It’s amazing what you can do when you need to, you know? And it’s been quite the education, which is nice since the only other education I’ve really been getting lately is learning about real estate in other countries by watching House Hunters International. Which is also important.

Anyway, Jared and I (and Meeko, too) are really thankful for all the kind words and messages we’ve gotten regarding our kitty’s health. Now, if y’all could start praying for fewer vet visits, Meeko and my bank account will be really, really grateful. Like, really.

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I had some help when I went to wrap my presents this year.

cat christmas wrapping paper

Meeko, the Christmas kitty

Are you done shopping for and wrapping gifts? If you are, could you come lend me a hand? Meeko is actually a terrible (but adorable) little helper.

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For those of you who are interested, there are still some quotes that haven’t been identified on this post. And I’ll give you some hints. In no particular order, we have a Miracle, Holiday, Life, Scrooge, and Muppets. If you’ve already guessed, now is your chance to come in and pick up another one!

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Items currently on the floor surrounding my desk:

Notepad

Sunglasses (these, in purple, which I just got and are almost impossible to find and oh god I love them SO VERY MUCH and I blame Megan Pura for getting me hooked)

Digital recorder

Scissors

Several sports bras (that I’m reviewing, not that I need to wash or anything)

Phone

3 books

1 DVD

Items currently on my desk:

Laptop

Water glass

Empty Coke Zero can

Cat who is zonked out from knocking everything she could reach off my desk onto the floor.

The culprit, Meeko

Fine, cat, you win this round. But let’s just see whether you get your seared salmon tomorrow morning.

(Alright, alright, I admit it — she totally will, but cut me some slack. It’s the only bargaining chip I have.)

 

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