Animals of the Homestead- Boo Kitty

 

Boo Kitty appeared in our yard a few months ago.  I first spotted her across the street in the neighbors yard.  She was trying to come across the street into our yard, but our “guard” kitty kept chasing her back across the street.  The week following, our neighbor asked if we were missing a cat.  I asked if it was a black cat and she said yes and I told her I thought it was a stray.  She said she was going to feed it.  I thought that was a grand idea.  A week or so later she was lounging in our yard.  The dog ran up to her and she just laid there in the yard.  Sadie nudged her and pranced a little then nudged her again.  The cat stayed where she was.  The dog looked up at me with a goofy grin that said “We have a new kitty?”  and that’s how we ended up with Boo.

Boo was nothing but skin and bones when she appeared in our house.  My thought was, “I’m going to have to fatten this kitty up before I take her to get her spayed.”  In the mean time, she has endured much torture by the child, has been bullied by our outside kitties, she’s also done a bit of bullying, at one point claiming the back porch and not letting the boys on it.  She’s left us presents of lizards and finally found her way inside.   Her confidence in the presence of the dog and her lovey, cuddliness in the house led me to believe that she had at one point in time been someone’s pet.

This past week we final made an appointment to get Boo spayed and this is where the story gets interesting.  The vet tech called me in the afternoon after we had dropped her off and told me that when they had shaved her down in preparation for her spay they noticed she already had a spay scar.  When we picked her up they hadn’t microchipped her either because she already had a microchip.  Why I didn’t think to take her to get her scanned for a microchip I don’t know.  I sucked it up and called the microchip company, because if it was my cat I’d want her back and I wanted to do the right thing.  They said there was an owner listed and they would get back to me shortly.  Not 5 minutes later my phone rang.  It was my friend I’ve done rescue with for years.  “Do you have my cat?” she asked me.  We both laughed.  What are the odds that this cat that showed up at my home was one from her rescue?  “Do you want her back?” I asked.  “No, you can keep her.” she told me.

So, Boo Kitty is ours.  She is incredibly sweet but the addition of 2 cats over the past few months has upset the balance of the house.  Smudge and Rocky try to chase Boo out of “their” yard if she goes outside, and inside she has to endure the torture of the baby kitty and the dog who barks at her if Boo fusses at the baby kitty because she thinks it is her baby kitty.  We’ve been thinking about trying to make arrangements to either find Boo a new home or the baby kitty a new home, but the boy loves all his kitties and it is a rather hard decision to have to make.  We are hoping maybe Grammy will take Boo to her house that way we can still see her on a regular basis.  We will see how it goes. . . until then. . . Boo makes the decision harder because she does give the most awesome hugs.

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Animals of the Homestead-Smudge

Smudge holds a special place in my heart.  He came to us after two of my cats passed within months of each other.  (one was 21 and the other 10 but diabetic). When I felt  I was ready, I contacted my friend who does rescue.  I went over to her house to see who she had available for adoption.  No one jumped out at me or seemed to want to come home with me.  She insisted I come up to the clinic and meet one of the kittens that she currently had housed up there.  She told me he would be perfect for me, and she has this certain knack for matching people and cats, so I went for it.  My husband and I went to the clinic and met this handsome, fluffy brown tabby.  He wrapped his little paws around my neck and purred.  He was perfect and I immediately feel in love.

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Smudge is the type of cat that everyone (even people who don’t like cats) loves.  He has a huge heart for such a small creature.  He loves his animal friends.  He immediately took to Bella, whom I was hoping would take to him as I didn’t want her to be lonely after her longtime housemate passed.  In fact, Smudge is the only cat Bella loves on.  You can often find the two of them curled up together, and if it wasn’t for her I’m not sure he would venture back into the house as often as he does.  I tried to keep him an indoor cat, but when he discovered there were other cats outside he was fascinated.  He wanted to make new friends, so he became and indoor outdoor cat and immediately tried making friends with the outdoor kitties.  It took them a little while, but Smudge finally won them over.  Sadie loves all her kitties and Smudge took to her soon after his arrival.  Smudge is probably Sadie’s favorite of the kitties.  He runs to greet her, twines in between her legs and even chest bumps her.  Smudge even played with the rabbit we had for the short while he was a residence in our household.

Smudge has lovingly tolerated the love of  a baby and toddler, not once reacting in a mean way, even when the boy was being quite rough with him.  If his tolerance level had reached its peak he would run to the door and meow with a look asking to PLEASE be let outside for a break.  The Babe calls him “UM” a nickname lovingly given as he couldn’t pronounce Smudge, but he kind of stuck and I often find myself calling for “UM’ kitty with the babe.

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Smudge also likes to greet our friends and family.  He has been known to try to climb up your legs for a little attention or jump in your lap to head butt you in the chin.  He is a big love bug.  He is also a hunter.  As much as I didn’t want him to be an outside cat he has flourished.  He is an avid climber, explorer, and hunter of all small creatures.  As much as I try not to have favorites I have to admit if I did, Smudge might be at the top of the list.

Animals of the Homestead- Sadie

Sadie is our one and only dog.  A Catahoula mixed with who knows what and  I couldn’t have asked for a better dog.  She has the sweetest disposition and loves other animals.  She loves playing with other dogs at the dog park and even tries (annoyingly so) to make friends with the shy dogs or the nervous dogs at the park.  She follows them around trying to help them relax or if they are being extra feisty she will herd them away from the larger pack of dogs at the park.  She loves and protects all her cats, even if they don’t necessarily love her back.

The cats, as well as my husband, child and myself, are part of her pack and she takes care of her pack.  She is extra gentle with my parent’s 15-year-old dog when she comes over when my parents are out of town.  She even did fairly well with the rabbit for the short while we had him.  She was surprisingly wonderful with our son.  When he was a baby she growled at me when I blew raspberries on his tummy because she thought I was growling at him and she didn’t like it.  She kept close to him when new people came over to make sure she trusted them with her newest pack member.  She puts up with his often rough man-handling (because he also shares his food with her) and is almost always a part of our frequent park adventures.  She wants to make friends with everyone, child, adult or animal.  She has a gentle soul, and old soul, and is so incredibly wise for a dog.

So how did we get so lucky as to obtain this dog you might ask?  It went something like this. . . I was at the vet with my diabetic cat and I ran into someone I had worked with during my rescue days.  Her rescue worked with both dogs and cats whereas the one I had worked with was cats only so I asked her if she had any Border Collies or Aussie Shepherds available for adoption.  She did not, but had received an email from a woman needing help placing what she thought was an Aussie Shepherd, so she forwarded the women’s information to me.

The women was a park ranger and the dog in question whom she called Sadie was abandoned in one of her parks.  After she had been at the park for about a week and it started to flood the women couldn’t take it any longer and brought the dog home.  She already had a German Shephard puppy in an apartment and didn’t feel it was fair to have two large dogs in such a small space so she was looking to find a home for Sadie.  When we met with Sadie she was sweet and happy so we decided to bring her home.

After we had Sadie for about a month I could totally understand why someone might have abandoned her in a park.  She was very high energy and needed a LOT of exercise and stimulation, a far cry from the low maintenance Pit Bulls that I had owned previously.  She also couldn’t be trusted home alone not to find something to amuse herself with while we were gone, she had a fondness for nibbling things like my books and my favorite shoes. . . After Crate training, finding the dog park, and my husband being able to take her to work either to ride along with him or play with his bosses dog all day, she settled down enough to where we no longer wanted to abandon her at a park.  She got along great with the cats inside the house and she was a great exercise companion for me.  All in all, after we learned how to handle a smart working dog, we feel in love with our Catahoula Mix and I’m so glad we have had the pleasure of owning her.

I Live with a Serial Killer (or two)

When you live on a 1/2 acre lot that is plentiful in plant life and that backs up to undisturbed wooded lots you cannot be faint of heart.  With all this glorious nature come critters.

We have critters of our own that roam among the splendor.  We have Sadie the Catahoula mix.  We obtained her from a park ranger who had found her abandoned in one of her parks.  After we had her a month I understood why someone might abandoned her.  She is a lively and energetic dog who needs lots of exercise and because of her we have made the dog park one of our favorite places.  Sadie loves her home.  She protects us, all of us, her herd and alerts us to things that are out of place.  She always keeps a watchful eye when she’s not playing.

We have Rocky, the cat that came with the house.  A massive creature that has the heart of a lion.  He is our guard cat. Whenever our gate is open and we are away he makes it his duty to hang out and guard the gate.  He is unafraid of large dogs and before they decided they could tolerate each other he would torture our poor dog.  I clearly remember one incident not long after we had brought Sadie home where Rocky pounced on her and rolled her down the porch steps because in his eyes she was an uninvited guest invading his turf.  In reality, though, he is a large baby of a cat who just wants to come in the house and sleep on big fluffy pillows (he especially likes to displace Sadie from her dog bed).

We have Smudge, a rescue from Texas Litter Control.  My friend Deana who works there knew he was the cat for me and prodded me to come meet him.  I feel in love and brought him home.  I intended for him to be an inside cat, but when he learned there were other cats outside, he was most insistent that he must be let outside to play with them.  Over time he grew to stay outside more than inside.  He is one of the most cat-like cats I have ever owned.  He climbs, chases, hides.  He is fearless and above all, he is a hunter.

The other evening as I called him to come in for bed, he just sat in the yard staring at me. He had been cleaning himself before I called for him, a grooming like that after a meal and I suspected that he may have brought me a present that he wanted me to come acknowledge before he would join us inside.  I went out into the yard to collect him.  It was dark and my eyeglasses were in the house, but even in the dim I could tell there was a dead rodent nearby.  I complimented Smudge on his prowess and brought him inside.

In the morning we got a better look at the kill, it was probably the biggest rats Smudge has ever brought home.   Life with a serial killer can be unpleasant.  What he views as gifts, I find as unpleasant pieces I have to clean up before the child lays eyes upon them.  I can no longer keep track of how many gifts we have been brought by our outside hunters, squirrels, cardinals, a mole, mice, rats, unidentifiable birds, maybe even a snake.

As much as it grosses me out to find the remains of such gifts I understand it is part of the circle of life.  It is part of life on a small homestead.  It is getting to experience nature up close and personal, even if it is not the most pleasant part of nature.  It reminds you of how nature works and when you love nature you do not get to choose to love just the beautiful parts.  You must love and appreciate all nature.

 

 

DIY Dog Halter

I swear that one of the best inventions that I have ever used with my dog is a dog halter (aka Halti or Gentle Leader).  For those of you that aren’t familiar with a dog halter, it’s kind of like a horse halter, but for dogs.  The halter goes around the dogs muzzle and behind it’s ears and the leash attaches at the bottom of the halter.  It doesn’t go around the neck so you don’t have to worry about choking your dog, especially if you have a dog that pulls.

We use the halter with our dog because she’s a herder and she tries to chase squirrels every chance she gets. If you put Sadie on a normal leash she pulls and pulls and pulls which makes taking walks or going anywhere kind of unpleasant. When she puts her halter on (as much as she hates it) she is a perfect little lady.

This weekend my husband took my vehicle and left me his to take the kiddo and dog to the park, totally fine, except that Sadie’s leash and halter were still in my car when he left.  I had already told both child and dog we were going to the park and they were both running around the house excited, so backing out wasn’t an option.  I grabbed some medium weight rope from the yard and decided to fashion my own halter for the dog before we headed out.  It was really fairly simple.  I made a loop around her nose, then crossed the rope and pulled it up around her head behind her ears and tied my knot.  I pulled it off her and threw it in the car with us and went to the park.  It worked like a charm.

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I often see people with large dogs that are literally being dragged by their dogs.  I used to be one of those people.  I dogsat for some people who trained service dogs and was introduced to the Gentle Leader.  I tried it on our dog and after the initial breaking in period I became a huge fan and decided to never go back to another type of leash method.   I will warn you if you are going to use the head halter on your dog there is a breaking in period.  The first time we took our dog out in public with the halter on she kept trying to get it off.  She put both of her paws in the halter and flipped a few somersaults in an attempt to get “the thing” off her face.  It was quite entertaining to the passerbyers while I stood wide-eyed and mortified watching.  She eventually figured out she couldn’t get it off and is now okay with it for the most part.  She will still occasionally try to rub it off on your leg if you stop to pet her while she has it on, but for the most part, she is fine with it.

One other thing I will warn you about if you decided to give a halter a try is that uneducated people you run into on your outings will think it’s a muzzle.  I’ve exchanged more than a few heated words with people who have screamed at their children “No don’t pet that dog, it’s wearing a muzzle!” Because you know I’d take my dog that needs to be muzzled to a public park filled with people, small children, and other dogs while I also am toting around my own small child.  (Ok, there are some idiots who might try that, but I am not one of them.)  I just try to educate the people that it’s a training tool, like a horse halter and that the only thing you have to worry about with Sadie if your a small child is getting licked in the face.

God Never Gives You More Than You Can Handle

When we first moved into our home we went looking for a dog.  I had always had dogs growing up but for the past few years during apartment living we decided it was better to wait for a house with a yard before tackling finding a canine companion.  I happened to run into a lady at the vet’s office that I had worked with doing animal rescue.  While the group I worked with strictly dealt with cats, her group focused on cats and dogs.  I inquired whether or not her group had any Australian Shepherds or the like currently in the program.  She said they did not, but she had a lady contact her about help placing an Aussie and she would forward me the lady’s information.

I contacted the women and we arranged for a meeting with a dog named Sadie.  The lady we met with was a park ranger and had found Sadie abandon in one of her parks.  She said Sadie was probably there about a week before the park flooded and she felt guilty and brought Sadie home with her.  She lived in an apartment with a German Shephard puppy and even though she said she would love to keep Sadie, she really didn’t think it was fair to have her in an apartment.  We took Sadie home with us that afternoon.

After we had Sadie for about a month I could totally understand why someone might have abandoned her somewhere.  She was about 9 months old and a super high energy Catahoula mix, which was a world of difference for me having had two low energy Pitties as my last dogs.  After a half dozen pair of shoes and a few shirts were eaten we kennel trained, figured out busy toys and discovered dog parks. Later on Sadie was able to start going to work with my husband for a while and all these things helped tremendously in taming down the hyper and mischievous behavior she would display if left to her own devices for too long.

Fast forward a few years and we were blessed with a little boy.  A non-sleeping, stubborn, very high energy little boy.  I’ve heard more than a few times people use the turn of phrase “God never gives you more than you can handle.”  Sometimes I have really questioned that phrase.  When my teeny tiny baby would only nap an half an hour at a time making it near impossible to get any task completed and when it would take 2 hours to get him to go to sleep at night I really thought that line was a load of bull.  Some days I really struggled.  Some days I still struggle.  Sometimes I wonder if I really can handle everything that’s been thrown my way.  Sometimes I wonder if I have been given more than I can handle.  Sometimes the thought of running away cross my mind (I don’t but sometimes the thoughts still flicker.) Why does my child seem so much more difficult than other children?

Then, I read a horror story about something a parent that has done to a child and I think maybe that phrase means something else.*  Maybe I was blessed with this bouncy little high energy child because I would never do one of those things that you read about on the news or see in the paper.  Maybe that’s really what that phrase means.  I was sent this child because I have the temperament to deal with all the crazies.  I have learned the tools that are required to deal with a child of this temperament.  Maybe I was sent a crazy Catahoula mix dog as a test run and when I passed that test I was then sent a child with a similar personality.  Maybe.  And even if not, it helps me have a little more patience when I think about things using that mindset.  Whatever the answer is I love my dog and my child and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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*In all honesty sometimes I can’t even read the stories I don’t make it past the titles before my eyes start tearing up and I get so incredibly angry.

5 Ways Pets Prepared Me for Motherhood

For years I worked in animal rescue and when I finally took the plunge from fur babies to human babies I quickly learned that those years in animal rescue helped prepare me for the adventures of motherhood (or did they?)

Grooming

You would think clipping hundreds of tiny little cat claws and dog nails would help prepare you for the task of trying to clip tiny little human nails. I’ll take trimming a critter’s nails over those of a squirmy little babe any day. At least with the critters you can wrap them in a towel or lie on top of them and accomplish the job in one sitting. (I don’t think CPS would take too kindly if you tried these methods with your mini human). When trimming the nails of a toddler I am lucky to get one hand’s worth of nails total in one sitting, it takes all week to get all 20 little fingers and toes trimmed and by the time you do accomplish this feat, it’s time to start over.

Rise and Shine

I had a diabetic cat for a period of time that required insulin shots in the morning and evening with his morning and evening meal. This cat would wake me up every morning by sitting on the pillow and meowing next to my head. If I would shoo him away he would sit in the hallway (just outside of sock throwing range) and continue his serenade until I would get my lazy butt out of bed to give him his shot and his breakfast. This helped prepare me for a toddler who bounces awake first thing in the morning, pulls all my covers off, grabs my hand and tugs me out of bed.  (In all honestly both ways are more effective than the alarm clock that has a snooze button.)

Rules Boundaries and Limitations

According to expert dog trainer, Cesar Milan when training dogs you need to give them rules, boundaries, and limitations.  His same theory can be applied to training; um, I mean teaching, your toddlers and small children. You must be the pack leader. You set the rules for the child and if they do not follow the rules they can go to time out (although I don’t suggest using the dog kennel for the child’s time out, again CPS might frown upon this practice). Repetition will be required. When your child masters following commands, um, I mean behaving properly, a trip to the park is a great reward. Unlike with pups I do not recommend using food as a reward during training with children (unless it’s broccoli and mini carrots).

Poo

If you have pets you are already somewhat of an expert at poo, or so you think. Let me warn you cleaning cat boxes and picking up poo in the yard is nothing compared to the bowels of a baby. Hand me the litter scoop and doggie bags any day because I’d much rather clean up that mess than the one in my child’s diaper. I did quickly learn, though, the doggie poo bags are excellent for bagging dirty, smelly diapers.  I promise you one of the best tricks I ever learned was keeping a roll of doggie poo bags in the diaper bag, you never know when they will come in handy.

Unconditional Love

One thing that’s great about our pets is that they shower us with unconditional love. Dogs are super happy to see us when we get home every day, drowning us in slobbery kisses and cats will rub against your legs and purr (especially if you’re near the food bowl to show us they at least tolerate our presence in their house). A child’s response to us is even more heartwarming. Their little eyes light up when we pick them up from daycare and they run uncontrollably around the room screaming and expressing their joy at our return. They throw their little arms around us and smile and laugh. It is in those little smiles and laughs and the almost bursting fullness you feel in your heart that will lead you to realize that this is a love that your pets never even came close to preparing you for.

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