Saturday, March 13, 2010

Snake alert

The hot weather has brought the rattlesnakes out, earlier that expected. Out on our dog walk the other day, we inadvertently disturbed a giant snake that was taking the sun coiled up under the shade of a low branch. I got the shock of my life when it started to rattle vehemently, just a metre away from me. Louis had already gone past and was halfway up the hill, while Daisy, Louis and Bertie were a few metres behind me. So there we were, me, then the snake, then the dogs. Luckily the training paid off when we most needed it and they obeyed my command to 'wait'. Roxy curiously started to edge towards the rattling snake, but stopped instantly when I told her to. What a relief! But what a dilemma. Should I try to get past the snake and back to the dogs so I could take them round another way, or should I try to get them past the snake without the snake touching them? How was that even possible? Fortunately, the snake saved me from my dithering and slowly slunk off into the brush. I later read that leaving them space to retreat is the best thing to do. I was shaking like a leaf, and think of that snake every time we go past that bush now. In the meantime, the dogs are booked in at the local vet for rattlesnake bite vaccinations. They behaved beautifully but we can't take any risks, and I can't always control where they go or what they might find when they are sniffing around in long grass. They, of course, were completely unfazed by the entire episode and normal service was resumed instantly.

Always something...

So happy that Jeffrey is feeling fit and strong enough to start harassing the other cats again, but not so thrilled that he and Curtis had major physical contact this evening. Last time that happened (a bite from Spencer leading to fever and an abcess, and consequently a refusal to eat), Jeffrey ended up at the vet for three days with acute kidney failure. On the other hand, it's so great to have him running around the house again, constantly announcing his presence with his trademark, ear splitting trumpet-style miaowing.

Big George

Can't believe it's been a year since we lost our fabulous George so suddenly and unexpectedly. His loss has left a huge gap in our furry family and we still miss him dreadfully. Still flying the mantra flags for him too...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Happy birthday Loulou!

A special mention has to go to our beautiful Loulou who turned 16 on 18th January. She's as sweet and gentle as ever, and is finally finding her feet in her new environment, getting bolder by the day. Happy birthday sweet Loulou!

Pix (clockwise from top left) show Loulou at five weeks old, at 10 weeks old (both with brother George and sister Stripey), at 14 years old, and at 3 years old (with brother George, RIP 8.3.09, still missed dreadfully)

Kitty smörgåsbord

For weeks on end we held our breath every time Jeffrey sniffed at a dish of food. Many times he would look like he wanted to eat, but then would not. We suspect that was because he felt nauseous. Seems CRF cats suffer from acid in the stomach as the kidneys are less efficient at removing toxins. The vet prescribed famotidine which helped to an extent, but what really seemed to work was us, trailing Jeffrey around the house with a zillion dishes of different food all day long. When he finally started to lick some gravy, we stood stock still and kept the other cats away to ensure that absolutely nothing distracted him.
When he later
actually started eating solids, we were jubilant. Even now, every time he eats, it feels like a major victory. Now he eats little and often. He even has his very own open buffet, which sometimes the other cats (and dogs, when we're not looking) like to visit (Curtis in this case, see pic left). In addition, we still present different types of food to him all day long, and he usually eats at least some of it. It's so much more than we ever could have hoped for. Long may it continue.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kitty ups and downs

The cats have taken much longer to settle down than the dogs, but finally now they have all found their territory within the house, and are enjoying long naps in the afternoon sun. They have also taken possession of their new 'kitty kondos', which are keeping them active till we can build them a proper, 'coyote-proof outdoor' enclosure.

Unfortunately we've had more ups and downs with Jeffrey. After a battle with Spencer, who seems to be trying to become 'topcat', with somewhat limited
success (i.e. none of the others are really that interested), he got an ear
abcess. As a result he started to feel ill and stopped eating, which brought on a second episode of acute renal failure on top of his already chronic renal failure (CRF). Another three days of IV fluids at the vet then. The vet was initially not at all optimistic, implying that the kidneys had stopped working altogether and that the bones were starting to weaken. We however knew that Jeffrey was not done yet, so requested another round of fluids. The vet was "game" to give it a go, but it was obvious he was not particularly optimistic. Lo and behold though, three days later, Jeffrey's recovery was "remarkable", according to the vet, "about the best" he's "ever seen". Elated though we were, we were not really surprised. Like I said, we knew he wasn't done yet.

Having said that, it was an uphill struggle again once we got him home. 18 hours after his return from the vet he started to crash again, having stopped eating and drinking and just sitting stock still in the 'meatloaf' position. It seemed like it could be the end after all, I was in despair. Our wonderful vet tech Vo saved the day and came round to administer a dose of sub-cutaneous fluids. Within minutes Jeffrey was up and about again, running around, demanding food. Enormous sighs of relief all round, as the reality of the rollercoaster ride that is looking after a kidney cat began to set in.

And so we began our struggle to encourage Jeffrey to start eating again. We bought just about every type of food in the shop and every flavour. Eventually we settled on two or three that he actually like, but he would only lick the gravy. He was so painfully thin by this stage, just a bag of bones. We went to the supermarket deli and bought fresh roast chicken and turkey, and were astonished to discover that he liked the turkey and would devour large quantities of it. One might argue that this type of high protein is not ideal for a cat with CRF. However, we were just thankful that he was showing an interest in food again. Gradually his weight and strength started to increase again, as did his interest in life. Now, two months later, he is looking the best he has done in a long while, and is showing increased energy by the day.

Pilling him twice a day and doing the subQ fluids is not a walk in the park by any means, but we are all getting better at it and refining our techniques with the minimum stress to all concerned. Jeffrey does not enjoy these sessions but the pilling takes less than half a minute and the fluids just a few minutes. So not too bad in the grand scheme of things. What amazes me most of all is that he never holds it against us. He still trusts us and never bears a grudge. Once it's done it's done and we are all back to a clean slate again. I hope he knows we're trying to help him.
(Pix from top: Loulou, Mini Me, Jeffrey, Curtis, Spencer & Finlay)

Jeffrey and Curtis wonder why they make these things so small

Dogs on the rocks

Time has been flying and everyone is well and truly settled in now. We have taken the dogs to the dogpark several more times, and also out on the trails a lot more where they meet other dogs and people. Roxy, Bertie and Daisy all take it in their stride now, but Louis, as ever, is still the problem child. Since he got jumped on by the neighbour's dog he has started to behave aggressively when other dogs approach him. So we do not take him into the dogpark yet, just walk him round the outside where he can see the other dogs and get used to them without having to worry that they will attack him. It's a long process, and an issue we really could do without.

He chased a deer up onto the ridge the other day and was having so much fun did not bother to respond to my calls to come back. So eventually, fearing he would repeat his disappearing act from a few days prior (where he ran off into the brush for an hour and could/would not be found), I scrambled through the trees, rocks and bushes to get him, with the other three obediently in tow. When we finally made it to the ridge, there was so sign of Louis. We trolled down several deer paths with no luck, then suddenly there he was, leaping around obliviously about 20 metres in front of me. Astonishingly he obeyed my frantic screeching to stop and wait and I was able to get him back on a lead. Moral of the story? Louis still cannot be trusted offlead.

In other news, the dogs were mightily unimpressed with the tornado that ripped through southern California two weeks ago. Trying to get them to go out in the pounding rain was quite the challenge, although they always seemed to enjoy it once they got going. Although they did not appreciate the hailstorm that rained down on us at one point...

Wet weather seems to have brought out the ticks and Daisy especially is covered in them, Frontline or no Frontline. The first one I ever found, on the back of her neck, took an hour to get out, simply because she could not quite bring herself to trust me not to hurt her, based on past experience with whoever hurt her before. Eventually, with the aid of some nice treats, I was able to persuade her that removing it was in her best interest. Since then, tick check has been a daily pleasure for her. She loves to roll over and let me pick them off her and will allow me to do so for as long as is necessary. Sometimes she even comes back for more. It's an amazing turnaround. Wish I could say the same for Louis, but he still gets snappy. The trick is to wait till he's up on his rock, overlooking the canyon. Then, when he's totally distracted, he'll let you pick off as many ticks as you like and will barely even notice. Bertie and Roxy, it goes without saying, are no trouble at all.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

One big long whinge about Americans and dog behaviour

I have to admit, I am finding the American approach to dog behaviour a little confusing. First of all, one of the neighbours tells me that another of the neighbours puts her dog in an "alpha roll" to 'show' her who's boss. Words fail me, I mean, how utterly draconian. Don't these people know anything about inter-species communication?

Secondly, when I had Roxy up on the trail one morning and she approached one of the neighbour's dogs a little bit nervously and therefore not coming across as uber-friendly, the woman had a fit, grabbed her dog and told she'd "appreciate it" if I would put Roxy on a lead because she didn't want to take her dog to the vet with a dog bite. Dog bite? Erm, hello!!! For goodness sake, all they were doing was sounding each other out. Said woman with her skittish behaviour made the situation much worse than it needed to be for everyone. I have refused to walk our dogs anywhere near her ever since.

Thirdly, a group of three boxers and a fourth dog, all belonging to the same owners, chased and terrorised a little Airedale in the dogpark the other day, causing him to screech in terror. Other dogs joined in and people (not the owners) started chasing the dogs to try to stop them. Eventually one of the owners dragged himself over there and called the dogs off and the other owner yelled over from her seat to ask if the little one was okay. But did they go over to check, or, dare I say it, apologise? Of course not. I went over and so did one other lady and luckily the dog was fine, but I thought the attitude of the owners was just appalling.

Fourthly, we walk our dogs (two at a time) on a trail at the end of our road sometimes. This involves walking past the house at the end of the lane which is home to a large dog who barks like crazy as we go past and continues as she sees us go up on the trail. We have walked the dogs with this neighbour and this dog sometimes, with no issues. But just lately, because they leave their front gate open, she has started rushing out, lips up, teeth bared, growling, and jumped on one of our dogs (whom we keep on leads to go past to avoid them going anywhere near the driveway). So far she's got Louis twice (he's now so scared he doesn't want to walk down the road and especially not past this house) Daisy once, and Roxy once.

The first time I was not prepared at all, but luckily the neighbour heard the dogs barking and me shouting and came out and lifted their dog off Louis, who slipped out of his collar and ran straight home. He could've gone anywhere. Later we found two bite marks on him. The second and third times we weren't totally prepared either and it was a similar scenario. Today, the fourth time, I was totally prepared as I had heard the dog barking at us as we came down from the trail. I had Bertie and Roxy on their leads on the other side of the road and was marching past, yet still she came charging out at us, teeth bared, growling and snarling. It was really scary. I yelled at her before she even got to us but there was nothing I could do to stop it. Roxy had the brunt of the attack, but luckily was not hurt as far as we can tell, although she was covered in the other dog's saliva.

I was furious, and also very scared. The neighbours heard me screaming at their dog and came out to call her off, and I made off quickly up the road. They yelled something after me which I couldn't make out but I shouted back that maybe they could keep their gate shut, to which they said "it's her (i.e. the dog's) home". In other words, why should they. How goddamn arrogant. So it's okay that their dog can run out and attack any random dog that walks past their gate? I don't think so. Thankfully our dogs do not fight back. Not yet anyway.

The first two times it happened they didn't even have the courtesy to apologise or ask if our dogs were all right. Yesterday and today at least they said sorry. The fact is, the trail on which we walk the dogs is on their land, but everyone who lives locally uses it to walk their dogs. That portion of land is actually up for sale. Nowhere does it say that the land is private. Fact is also that our dogs have been attacked when being walked, on leads, on the other side of the road to this house, before the beginning of the trail. Surely the road is a public right of way for all, and therefore one should expect to be able to walk ones dogs there, on leads, without the fear of a big dog rushing out every time and attacking them. We are doing all we can to avoid this situation and manage the problem, and they are not even prepared to meet us halfway. I mean really, how hard would it be to keep the gate shut? Would it really make that much difference to the dog's quality of life? She shouldn't be running loose anyway, especially if there's a chance she could hurt another dog. So it looks like our only option is to try to find another trail that avoids walking past that house. They could see how scared and upset I was but, needless to say, they didn't bother themselves to come up later and apologise or see if Roxy was okay. I get the impression they think it's our fault because we haven't spent loads of time socialising our dogs with theirs. Well sorry guys if our schedules do not fit in with when you walk your dog. And regardless of socialisation, this seems to be more of a territorial issue. I don't really think it would make much of a difference. The arrogance is simply staggering.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hitting the dog park

After some more not very successful encounters on the canyon trails this weekend (i.e. barking at strangers and snarling at other dogs), we decided to step up the socialisation process a notch and hit the dogpark today. We were apprehensive, and yet everyone behaved impeccably, just as we know they can. So why don't they? Largely the lead issue probably, and the feeling that they are not in control, combined with a need to 'protect' us. So we went to the dogpark twice, once with problem pair Louis and Daisy and then again with 'easy' pair Bertie and Roxy. The results were amazing. Four happy dogs either ignoring other dogs and people, or socialising appropriately with other dogs and people. Louis let the side down a bit with a couple of snarls at other dogs, but dogs, being the smart creatures that they are, read his signals a mile off, accepted them, and left him alone. No problem. The owners were all very cool as well, and there were at least 40 dogs in the park and probably as many people. When we went to leave and put the dogs back on their leads, hot and tired, they even walked past other dogs and people without batting an eyelid (unheard of). This is our ultimate goal! Suddenly it seems a lot more manageable, and relief is one of the most powerful reinforcers of all.

Friday, November 6, 2009


The boxes start stacking up and Jeffrey starts to explore.

Bertie and Daisy are thrilled to be reunited with their beds.

Spencer loves all the paper, while Curtis is happy to curl up with a Chinese porcelain cat.

The cats seem to be bonding amidst all the excitement: Loulou with Spencer; Curtis with Finlay...

...Jeffrey with Curtis; Spencer with Finlay, as always.

Mini Me is so happy to see the sofa she peed on it within minutes of it being unpacked. Welcome home sofa! Spencer tries out the dog bed and likes it.

Not for long though, Louis and Roxy have waited far too long for this moment. And so the unpacking continues...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Normal service resumed

Our furniture etc is finally being delivered tomorrow after six weeks at sea and two weeks in the port, being cleared. The dogs will be thrilled to have their beds again and the cats will be delighted to have stuff to climb all over and scratch again. No more lying on cold, hard concrete floors and cramming onto narrow window ledges!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween dogs

The dogs put on their special zombie look last night before they went out trick or treating.