Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Back to square one

Just as we were doing so well with the dogs' socialisation training! I had got them into a nice little routine, Daisy and Louis first for an hour, then Roxy and Bertie for an hour. Sometimes I'd hike the uphill trail with them, sometimes I'd walk or run the flatter, narrower, leafier trail with them. It was all going great. Most of the people and dogs we met were very cool and they socialised pretty well, given that they were not restrained on the lead and were on neutral territory. Except for Louis of course who was snarly, growly and lungy the first few times but even he was starting to improve.

But yesterday we suddenly came across kids and adults on bikes and Louis and Daisy were scared to death. Louis freaked out and put the brakes on in the middle of the trail and wouldn't move, yet the bikers just kept on coming at them. Erm, hello, I thought the rules of the trails were that bikers give way to pedestrians and horses? And yet they had the cheek to look pissed when I asked them to wait a moment as the dogs were terrified and I needed to get them under control. The kids were great of course, but one of the two guys with them looked very put out. I mean, come on! So that was that, and we all got over it.

But then today for some reason Louis and Daisy took a dislike to a couple who were walking their dog. I didn't see them in time to rein Louis in fully on the long line and Daisy, offlead, barked at them, quite close up. Louis started snarling at them even though he was a way away. The couple started acting nervy which I don't blame them for, but it did make things worse. All you have to do folks is just ignore and walk right on. That is what works. You freak out, the dogs freak out, that's how it goes. As I calmly moved Louis and Daisy away I heard the woman exclaim "oh my goodness!" as if they were the worst, out of control monsters on the planet. I was unimpressed. Although I was disappointed with the dogs for not handling the situation better, I was more disappointed with myself for not pre-empting it better. And yet, when they have met other people and those people have been calm and relaxed, the issue has not arisen.
We've even made some friends out on the trails, believe it or not!

Bertie and Roxy, usually the better pairing, also barked right in the faces of a couple of runners yesterday. Thankfully the runners were just awesome, stood still, ignored them and calmly waited till I moved the dogs on. The way people respond makes such a difference and it was all over in a flash. But you can't expect everyone to react the right way.

So I decided we'd better all go back a step. We'll go back to the one on one training on the canyon trail. The weather seems to be getting cooler which means more people seem to be out and about, and one dog alone is firstly a lot easier to control and secondly, behaves a lot differently. They are a lot more confident in a pair.
And it just means I'll get even fitter which can't be a bad thing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


All this fresh air and exercise is taking its toll on the furry ones...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trial and error

Patience is a virtue. Methods we've tried so far to get Jeffrey to take his meds:
  1. Epakitin powder stuffed into empty pill capsule, azodyl already in capsule form, then loaded into pill popper - Fail (capsule breaks/major biting or scratching/vomits immediately/powder goes everywhere)
  2. Mixed in food - Fail (won't eat it)
  3. Mixed with tuna water and syringed down throat - Fail (major biting or scratching/goes everywhere except down his neck/makes him gag/vomit)
  4. Mixed with dry food and enclosed in a ziplock bag all night so the food absorbs the powder - Fail (won't touch it)
  5. Mixed with veal flavour babyfood to make a paste and spread on fur when he's calm and not really aware of what you're doing - SUCCESS! (sometimes goes all over the place but usually he licks it off - at least he's getting most of it)
It's taken us about a week to get to this point after much anguish, distress, frustration and stress for everyone. It also took several days to find a couple of foods that he really loves, so now he is eating without the anti-nausea meds or the appetite stimulant. This is much more than we could have hoped for just over a week ago when he was so thin and refusing to eat. He's a tough boy from the street though, we wouldn't have expected him to give up so easily. Great to see him up and about again. Go Jeffrey! And a huge thank you to all our friends on Twitter who provided the most incredible support network at a time when we'd just all arrived in a new country and barely knew anyone. You made it all so much easier to bear, and we got there in the end!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


The dogs have been doing great with their training out on the trails. Daisy, Bertie and Roxy are already offlead, but Louis is still on the long line as I'm not sure we'll ever trust him again after he bolted last year and we lost him for 48 hours. But he's doing well nonetheless, although he hasn't been too keen on the other dogs we've met. The other three have been nervous around other dogs, but behaved well, and the owners have all been great, very friendly and supportive, and fascinated by the story of The Barmy Army (with one notable exception who seemed to think the alpha roll was still an acceptable dog training 'method'. Note - just because Cesar does it does not mean it is okay! It's immoral, aversive, unethical and belongs firmly in the dark ages, from where it originates).

How to medicate a cat. Or not

It's been a rollercoaster week with Jeffrey. But finally we have found a food that he will eat and treats that he loves. Had all sorts of dramas giving him his meds, some of which resulted in total failure, others which were moderately successful, and some that were in between. At the moment we are trying to get him to take it in food as he kept vomiting if we forced capsules down his neck. Other options might be getting a pharmacy to compound it into a fishy paste, putting it in butter and spreading it on his fur so he'll lick it off, putting it in tuna water and syringing it down his throat... We need to find the most effective and least stressful. We're about 20% of the way there at the moment. The good news is he's putting on weight, is eating without the anti nausea and appetite stimulant meds, and is up and about, so obviously feels better. He's been getting reacquainted with the other cats (pictured here with Finlay) and enjoying the view. Mini Me, Spencer, Finlay, Curtis meanwhile are just chillin'. Loulou is still lying on the suitcase in the cupboard. Hope she doesn't want to go back to Dubai.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fussy felines

Just spent a fortune on different wet and dry food in the hope that Jeffrey (left, still feeling a little sorry for himself) will like at least some of them. He likes four out of eight of the dry/treats (result!) but none out of one (so far) of the wet (Hills a/d, which everyone said he'd love). Also got two lots of powdered meds from the vet for kidney support so we have got to figure out a way to get his meds down him without him getting majorly distressed and, worse, gagging/vomiting as he did yesterday.

Meantime, the other cats think the dogs have had too much exposure here, so here they are in all their glory, enjoying life in their new home (clockwise from top left: Mini Me, Loulou, Finlay, Spencer, Curtis)

Off-roading II

Let the dogs out early this morning while I went for a run and they barked almost the whole time because they could see me up on the trail. I knew the neighbours would be annoyed and one was lying in wait for me when I got back to tell me "we can't have this". Had to grovel quite a bit. Oops!!

A bit later I took Bertie out for his first solo walk down the canyon and he was fine, except he barked at one guy who I hadn't seen. The guy stopped and Bertie stopped (luckily) so I just told Bertie to wait, which he did, clipped the lead on and apologised to the guy. I'm sure he must be someone famous, I think I recognised him. Anyway, he looked annoyed, but said it was okay. God this is stressful. Other than that Bertie was great, didn't run off or anything. We didn't meet any other dogs.

Next was Louis who I kept on a long line. We met a couple with three dogs on the way in and their friendly big black dog came up to Louis, who snarled at him and got a bit aggressive. I told them he was very nervous and they were fine about it, telling their dog he needed to learn to read signals and understand if someone didn't want to be friends. We didn't meet anyone else with Louis which is a shame really. Early days though. Usually he doesn't really react to other people or dogs and, if anything, enjoys their company. Maybe he's still a bit stressed.

Next was Daisy. We met a very nice older couple with two Labs. I asked if I could let her off the lead which they were fine with, and told them her story. They were really nice about it, and Daisy coped well with the other dogs, if a bit scared. We met another woman with two dogs
and Daisy was offlead and fine with her dogs too.

Finally Roxy. Surprisingly, she has been the best! We met a guy on a bike with a dog, and also the same woman who we'd seen with Daisy was still there with her two dogs, and Roxy was great. She ignored the dogs mostly although she snarled when one came too close, and the dog backed off so it was fine. I told the woman about the situation and she was very happy to bear with us while we do the training. So we have had quite good success.

The girl dogs have now had two individual outings each, the boys only one so far. Bertie will go on the morning walk with the neighbours and their dogs tomorrow, and I'll probably take Louis back down the canyon in the evening. The chronic lack of socialisation they have as a hangover from Dubai can certainly be painful, but the only way is to work through it.

Jeffrey meanwhile is doing good. He's eating and drinking well, though still sleeping a lot. Today he was really feisty and would not let me give him his pills so I had to give up but will have to try later. Can't wait. At least he likes his new drinking fountain which is good seeing as it cost $54. I spoke to the vet today who is going to prescribe two more lots of meds for him. What joy!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Daisy and Roxy have both had their first solo trail walking training sessions now. Both excelled, surprisingly. When all four are together they behave very badly when they see other dogs/people, but individually they are model dogs. Roxy stuck close to me almost the whole time and, whenever she dawdled for a sniff, came running as soon as I called her. Even when faced with two people and their two dogs she did nothing, just stayed close to me. Very proud of her!

Daisy was a bit more adventurous and went off-trail a few times, so I started using the clicker to keep her closer which seemed to work. She also had a lesson in socialisation from two very nice dogs and their three people, and did really well. She was a little scared and overwhelmed but behaved beautifully with the dogs, and totally ignored the people. So two out of two so far. Tomorrow it'll be Louis and Bertie's turns.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Breakfast in America

The dogs are settling in great and have had their first off-leash trail walk already. Bertie and Roxy followed closely and obediently as expected, while Daisy followed but on her own terms, in a roundabout kind of way. We didn’t want to risk Louis yet as he’s prone to run off. They’ve also done a few walks in the canyons and have behaved reasonably well when confronted with other dogs and people, which they did not get much experience of in Dubai.

And they love having breakfast served on the ocean view ‘terrace’.

Cautiously optimistic

Brought Jeffrey home a couple of days ago, fully rehydrated. He proceeded to spend the next 24 hours under the duvet, refusing to eat and drink. We were worried sick. However, a call to the vet confirmed that his recent blood test results had shown a 50% improvement in kidney values to what they were three days ago, which the vet was extremely happy with. What a relief. All we had to do now was get him to eat. Amazingly, later the day after he got home, he started to show an interest in eating and drinking miniscule amounts, even before I gave him the anti-nausea meds and appetite stimulants prescribed by the vet. So very happy!!

Aside from that, Jeffrey is back to his usual self, loud, chatty, demanding and affectionate, and has been out and about exploring his new house, which he didn’t really get a chance to see before. He is bony and skinny, but gradually showing more interest in food and water and eating small amounts, especially if we hand deliver them to him.

So, so far so good. We just need him to hang in there, eat more and more, get strong, stay hydrated and start to enjoy his new life in California. Have to give the vet a call on Sunday to give him an update. Let’s hope we can keep Jeffrey fit, healthy and strong for a long time to come yet.

Meantime, the other cats are leaving him alone which is great as we don’t want him to have any extra stress at the moment. They are all getting to know each other a little better!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First vet visit

After three days in California everyone was doing great, except Jeffrey and Finlay who had still shown no signs of improvement. Jeffrey had not eaten since he arrived, and Finlay was still hiding in a cupboard. When he did venture out, could not walk properly. So it was time to try to locate a vet on Labor Day weekend. The local one was closed of course, but we managed to locate the SoCal Vet Hospital in Woodland Hills who were just amazing.

It appears that Finlay was so stressed out by the journey that he’d licked his leg red raw and it had got infected. Antibiotics, a cortisone shot and some cream have sorted him out a treat and he’s back to his normal self now.

Jeffrey has not fared so well. He had got so dehydrated on the flight that his kidney values were sky high. The vet muttered something about kidney failure, which was rather terrifying. We tried to give him IV fluids at home but he was having none of it, so we had no option but to take him back to the vet the next day so they could sedate him to do it. He’s been there ever since.

Poor Jeffrey, he looked so sad when I went to visit him there yesterday and he was pretty cranky too. He’s had a go at the staff quite a few times and has got himself a bit of a reputation. At least he still has that fighting spirit! He’s looking a lot better now he’s rehydrated. A few days ago you could see all his bones sticking out. Tonight they are going to redo his bloods so we’ll know if there’s any kidney damage and, if so, how severe. Meantime, he hasn’t eaten for a week, although he did eat one mouthful of tuna yesterday when I went to visit him. If he doesn’t eat then we have a big problem, irrespective of what his renal function is like. Desperately hoping for the best right now.

Jeffrey at the vet (left) and Finlay's leg

Journey’s End

Once we arrived at LAX, we managed to get over to the KLM cargo warehouse just in time to see KL601 from Amsterdam touch down. The relief that it had arrived safely was overwhelming, but of course, we still did not know at that stage how everyone had coped with the journey.

We then had an agonising wait of an hour and 45 minutes before the animals arrived all shackled together on a cargo pallet. We had hired the fantastic Michael Foley from Global Animal Transport to clear them for us, so he’d done all the vet stuff and customs clearance before they even landed. So when they finally arrived at the KLM warehouse on their pallet (transported by a forklift no less!) we were able to unshackle them immediately, load them into the van we’d rented, and head for home. The dogs were thrilled to see us but the cats were very distressed. You could hear them miaowing a mile off. They all looked very bemused to be manoeuvred around by a forklift! But thankfully they all made it, I was very worried that someone would die of shock or something.

It took about 45 minutes to get up to the house and we released the cats first. They were all in quite a state, sort of shell shocked and soaking wet, not in pee, but probably where their water had spilt and they’d just had to sit in it for hours. Once we let them out they all rushed off and hid somewhere. A couple of them came to eat and they were all quite disoriented. Curtis seemed to handle it best. He just started exploring as if nothing had ever happened. Spencer and Finlay found a quiet shelf in the wardrobe and curled up and went to sleep there. Mini Me hid in a box for hours on end, Jeffrey found his way onto the kitchen counter and started dozing there in a corner, and Loulou found another wardrobe shelf to hide on. Quite a few of them headed straight for the litter tray, poor things.

Once we’d sorted all them out, we got the dogs out one by one. We let them straight into the house as their run was not quite ready. They were a bit disoriented too but were quite bouncy. Two of them ate and they all drank gallons. We took them straight out for a little walk so they could stretch their legs and go to the loo.

We are quite worried about Jeffrey and Finlay, they didn’t cope at all well with the journey. Finlay has hurt his back leg and has been limping around, and also seemed to have some sort of nosebleed on the plane. Jeffrey seems a bit traumatised and hasn’t eaten since we arrived. They’re just hiding themselves away so we take them water every now and again and they’re both drinking, and Finlay ate for the first time this morning. just giving them a bit of time in the hope that they’ll get back to normal eventually.

The biggest change is that the braver cats – Mini Me, Spencer and Curtis - have all been coming into the kitchen and living room and the dogs have been taking any notice of them whatsoever (except Louis of course) so everyone is kind of wandering around together. Maybe they bonded on the flight! I’m sure Jeffrey and Finlay will join them once they feel better, but Loulou will probably stay away.

We’ve already taken the dogs on a couple of short hikes now up some of the trails and they love it. They don’t even seem to have noticed they are on a totally different continent with trees and hills!