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Posts Tagged ‘pets’

Dear Boris

As I was standing in the pet store today, staring at the 72 different types of fish bowl water purifiers, I’m thinking how MUCH I hate my beta fish Boris.

He has to be the worst pet ever.

And please don’t give that whole “oh, fish are so beautiful”or  “it’s so relaxing to watch them swim” baloney.

Boris is neither beautiful nor relaxing.

Boris is stained with oddly placed birthmarks in a lovely oatmeal color.  They do not make him “dramatic”.  They make him ugly.

And watching Boris swim is either boring or disconcerting.

If left to his own devices, Boris spends most of his time pretending to be dead or, as my husband assures me, “resting” in various parts of his bowl.  He lies on the rocks on the bottom for hours.  Or if he’s feeling particularly spiteful, he floats at the top.

For the first few weeks I owned him, both of these activities would send me into a tizzy.  The laying on the rocks I worried was Boris actually dragging his body on the bottom, which the helpful “You Now Own a Beta Fish” pamphlet had warned was a sign of imminent death (ok, maybe the authors didn’t quite word it like that).  The floating at the top, I took to mean Boris was dying or actually dead.

To make myself feel better, I’ve taken to occasionally nudging Boris’ bowl to jolt him back to life (I doubt this is very healthy for Boris, but it’s good for my mental health).

Since Boris is lazy most of the day, he’s not much fun to watch.  If I do watch him, Boris chooses a very different type of behavior: attack mode!

When my face approaches his little bowl, Boris flares his fins and begins darting towards the glass closest to me.  He does this over and over, with quite a bit of ferocity for an animal no bigger than my pinkie.  My beta obviously would like to do bodily harm to me!

So you know what, Boris? Even though I feed you disgusting blood worms every day (because you won’t eat fish food flakes), change your water once a week, scrub your gross bowl, use water purifiers for you, add herbal drops to your water for your lasting health, I still don’t like you. My life would pretty much be easier if you died. You are a constant source of anxiety to me And YOU ARE A FISH!

However, if you did die, I would be plagued by guilt.  I would always wonder if it was something I did that caused your death.  It would be awful!

So, dear Boris, I hate you, but please don’t die.

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Do you ever feel like you just can’t please anyone, let alone everyone?

When you’re juggling a small family on your own, someone is generally mad at you, which is even better when none of your family members can communicate verbally.  Yes, all three of my children have their own means of getting things across to me; sometimes it’s very clear what want, sometimes it’s a bit of a guessing game.

And sometimes, the way my little darlings choose to communicate with me, is the problem.

Take, for instance, my son’s most favorite means of verbal communication: the scream. Ear piercing, glass shaking, dogs running screaming.

One would assume for such a scream to emerge from my lovely little boy, that something is wrong, very wrong.  One would be wrong.

Typically the scream is reserved horribly frustrating instructions, such as “no more kitty videos” or “stop eating dog food”.  We also get screams for closed doors that can’t be opened, food that doesn’t come fast enough, nap times.  Less frequently, we get the same screams for moments of joy: playing ball with Dodger, getting chased by Mama, finding Mama in the water closet (my personal favorite).

The dogs are not quite as vocal as my son.  That doesn’t mean they don’t bark (boy do they bark!), it just means they don’t bark at me.  No, my dogs choose to communicate with me mostly telepathically, with some facial movements thrown in.

Penny’s second surgery has made my pretty girl even more depressed, especially being penned nearly 100% of the time.  Currently, her favorite means of communication is just staring at me with her big doe eyes and arching her eyebrows up and down.  I ask her if she needs to go potty and her eyebrows go up.  I pat her on the head, scratch her tummy and her eyebrows go up.  I offer her food and her eyebrows go up.  It’s awesome.

Dodger is no better.  Because he’s also dealing with various health issues (an ear infection and allergies) he can’t decide if my approach means affection or medication.  My poor guy spends most of his day with his head half bent towards me, ears almost all the way back, and tail wagging but very close to his body.  He is so confused! I try to communicate to him my love by giving him kisses and ear scratches, but all my efforts are ruined when I administer ear drops and he looks at me as if I have broken his heart.

Oh, I’m a mean, mean mommy.

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Parenthood is a very long lesson in practicing patience, but apparently it’s a lesson for everyone in the house, including the dogs.

From the day Baby C came home, Dodger has lived in a near constant state of duality: intense curiosity spiked with nervousness.

Dodger loves to follow C around the house, watching as the chaos grows around them.  Dodger happily sits beneath C’s high chair waiting for “accidents” over the side of the tray.  He appears to love nothing more than licking every available square inch of C’s baby skin (and, sometimes, clothes, though that’s more for the food than the love).

Yet, under this obvious curiosity and adoration, Dodger has always been nervous around C, especially should that little baby’s attention suddenly become focused on his furry brother.  Dodger has spent the last 13 months scurrying away from pinching, sticky fingers; “dodging” C’s attempts to hug or pet should the affection turn painful.

Penny, despite her every day nervous personality, has been the soul of patience and motherly indulgence since Baby C arrived.  She has let her little brother climb all over her, use her as a step stool, and allowed her tail, paws, ears, lips, and fur to be pulled.  Penny sits patiently as C pulls chew bones from her mouth and then watches as he waves it in front of her.  She patiently, painstakingly attempts to take it back as C shoves it into her nose.

Penny even plays games with C, patiently waiting about 10 months until he was able to join in the fun.  She chases him up and down the hallways, nipping his diaper or socks.  Should C stumble and fall, Penny quickly rounds on him, licking his hands or cheeks until he can get up and resume the game, all amid squeals of delight.

Or at least Penny did all this, until she had her first surgery about a month ago.  Since then she’s been laid up either in pain, or forced isolation (as she is desperate to run and jump with her brothers).  In her absence, Dodger has taken up the patience mantle.

Suddenly, my nervous Nellie is practicing the patience Penny made look easy.  Yes, Dodger’s sloppy kisses are a little more ferocious than Penny’s gentle licks.  Yes, if Dodger tires of C’s pulls and pinches, Dodger quickly resorts to forceful licking to get C away from him.

But none of this wipes out the fact that just a few days ago, I rounded the corner into the kitchen to find my boys sitting on the rug, C lightly biting Dodger’s tail and Dodger just staring up at me with sad, patient eyes.

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There are many differences between my babies, the most obvious being their different species, but no less important is Baby C’s thumbs.  Of all the gifts humanity has bestowed on C, the dogs most envy his moving digits which can lead the way to the dogs’ dearest wish: freedom!

Now C’s ability to grip can be a source of pain for the dogs, often literally.  C alternately tortures them with his kung fu grip on their ears and tails or by chasing them with hard, but brightly colored plastic objects in his hands.

Recently this behavior has escalated to include an object in each hand, which C clanks together in an adorable and somewhat menacing manner.  He sometimes laughs manically while doing this, which honestly scares the crap out of Dodger. Poor Dodger can be spotted running away from C several times a day as C charges the poor dog with various toys and Dodger scampers out of the way in a panic as if C had a gun or a metal wrench instead of a bumblebee maraca.

Yet, C’s opposable thumbs do have an upside for the dogs.  Penny is fond of the fact that C can hold food in his hands, which she is happy to relieve him of (though she is less pleased that he can take food from their bowls).

Both dogs are intrigued by C’s grip on tennis balls.  His hands are large enough to grip and throw the balls now, though he seems to prefer chasing Dodger with the ball held in one hand while the other hand is held out to fend off unwanted licking.  If he is close enough to one of the dogs, C holds the ball out near dog’s mouth.

Actually, C attempts to force the ball into dog’s mouth, most often Dodger’s mouth.  Poor Dodger isn’t exactly sure how to react.  Every instinct he has is telling him to grab the ball from C and run, but that means putting teeth on bare baby skin, something Dodger does not want to do.  So Dodger turns his head this way and that, trying to find the best position to take the ball from C’s vulnerable little hand, all the while trying to avoid getting a tennis ball in the eye or being punched in the nose by it.  He bites one way, then releases, then bites a different way and releases, maybe tugging the ball a little so it’s not quite surrounded by flesh.  You can see the eagerness in his eyes grow with each attempt.  He is trying so hard not to bite the baby, but he really REALLY WANTS THAT BALL!  Finally, Dodger works the ball out of C’s hand, immediately backing away, tossing his head in triumph.  Mission accomplished!

But the dogs’ favorite trick C performs with his magic thumbs is opening doors.  C, usually running, rushes up to the door and grabs the long silver handle in his hand.  Penny doesn’t move yet, but you can see her eyebrows arch up, ears twitching.  Dodger eagerly rushes up to stand just behind C.  With each of C’s attempts, you can watch the hope rise and fall on his little black furry face.  Finally, C turns the handle enough, the latch pulls back audibly.  Suddenly Penny is shoulder to shoulder with Dodger as they urge C to open the door.  You can almost hear them chanting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”  and at last the door opens.  And as C pulls the door back, all my babies rush out, the joy palpable in the air they leave behind.

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To borrow a phrase from one of my new favorite movies, Up, Dodger has been put into the “cone of shame”.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s a picture:

The comfy cone "of shame"

It’s a heck of a lot better than those hard plastic ones that the vet’s office makes dogs wear.  Or at least I think it’s better.  I’m not sure what Dodger thinks.  I don’t think he’s very happy with any kind of cone.

As a result of his unhappiness with the cone situation, Dodger has spent most of the day pouting.  I tried to tell him this comfy cone “of shame” is better than the plastic one, but he just looks at me with big sad eyes and flops back down on the landing.

After hemming and hawing for the last week and a half about getting Dodger a cone, I finally sent my husband out to get one (in the few minutes my husband was home I sent him away to the pet store–I am an awesome wife).  I did so in a huff; not that I was annoyed with my husband, no.  I was annoyed with Dodger for forcing me to put him in the cone.

Why would this annoy me?  Well, because every time I look at him I feel guilty.  Ooooooh sooo guilty!  Dodger looks at me with his big black eyes and his poor little ears pushed forward under the cone, and I just feel terrible.  It doesn’t help that he keeps running into everything.

My already somewhat clumsy, but very lovable, pittbull has lost his peripheral vision and now catches his cone on everything from my legs to the wall to the baby gate.  Dodger even managed to catch his cone on the garden light when he went potty this morning (meaning I had to go outside at 7am in my nightshirt, picking my way through the dirt and dew, to release him from the mud pile he chose to stand on).  To his credit, Dodger just stood in the mud looking forlorn, making my guilt even worse than if he had been trying to escape.

Because my guilt overwhelms me at times, I remove Dodger’s comfy cone “of shame”, allowing him a few moments of respite, to shake his shame off.  Yet every time I do this, the result is the same: Dodger starts licking his sore paw again (it had healed but he licked all the scabs off until it was raw and sore again, thus the cone).  So once again, I have to sadly fasten the cone around his fat little neck, worrying about it being too tight, too loose, too high, too low, all the time trying to avoid those big sad eyes.

The only upside of this cone situation is that it reinforces Dodger’s diet, as he can only eat when I take the cone off.  However, the treats I keep giving him all day due to my guilt are probably not helping.

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They’re like my kids. I don’t have any children yet, so my dogs get all that maternal love and obsession. As time goes by they become less like dogs and more like children in their mannerisms, their little personalities, and their interactions with each other.

Penny Lane, my oldest, is two and a beautiful copper colored lab/pit/shepherd mix. She ways about 50 lb and is the fast dog at the park, aside from the gray hounds. We adopted Penny from the pound about a year and half ago. She had been abused and neglected when we got her, so she was a wreck when we got her home. Penny was so malnourished, that the skin hung between her ribs. She resembled Santa’s Little Helper from the Simpsons. She was so scared of everything, including stairs, brooms, toys that squeaked, and even me. When we brought her home the first day, Penny was medicated and scared out of her mind. She ran in the door and promptly tried to hide the downstairs bathroom (where she then pottied and threw up). We got her out of the bathroom and into the backyard so she could finish pottying and she tried to find the quickest route to escape, running around the perimeter, finally hiding behind some bushes. She tried to sleep out there in the flower bed, since she was so tired from her surgery that day, but my husband picked her up, carried her up the stairs, and put her in her little bed at the foot of our own bed. I spent that whole first night lying on the edge of the bed stroking her so she’d go to sleep.

It took Penny several weeks before she would climb the stairs on her own, several more weeks before she would bark, and several more weeks after that before she would snuggle with either me or my husband. She’s a thousand times better today, thanks to her new home with us and also thanks to her brother, Dodger, who we got about 6 months ago.

Where Penny is shy and skittish, Dodger is friendly and excited. For example, when my husband’s friends come over the house, Penny barks and barks and barks, trying to force them out of the houses with just the sound of her voice!! She circles the downstairs, making a very exact path through all the rooms, making sure to keep at least 2 feet away from any visitors. She does this for at least 20 minutes until she’ll get close enough to sniff a hand or a shoe. However, any sudden movements and we start the cycle all over again!

Meanwhile, Dodger is desperately trying to kiss the visitors on the mouth! That’s right! My Dodger wants to love everyone who comes through the door so much, that he wants to lick them all over, especially their faces. People are always confused when he starts licking their shoes, but there’s not any real explanation to that other than his love for licking. Dodger runs around them trying to get everyone to pet him and scratch behind his ears. He jumps in the air, nearly doing flips, he’s so excited to see anyone come over!!

There’s so much more to tell, but this blog will be 5 pages long if I talk too much about their little personalities. So for today, suffice to say, Penny and Dodger are perfect together!

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