Category Archives: pets

Canis Populi

If you take your dogs to Thacher Park, it’s best to go early. More often than not, you’ll have the place to yourself and they can race up and down the trails without bothering anyone.

One recent morning was different. Instead of the usual empty parking lot, we found three school busses — and the hiking paths were far from empty. We were barely out of the car when college kids started approaching us and asking to take pictures of the dogs.

Pictures of the dogs? Of course you can — but why?

Dogs

It turns out that this was a biology class from Siena College who were out learning about the forest by conducting a scavenger hunt, and among the things they needed to find was a mammal. As we walked along, we continued to be approached by mammal hunters, petting the dogs, shooting pictures and checking off an item on their list.

At one point, we encountered their instructor, who looked on sourly as the students discovered our dogs. I’m sure he had squirrels, chipmunks or other woodland critters in mind — not dogs — when coming up with the activity.

But hey, you take what you can get, right? And the dogs loved being queens of the forest for a day.

The Cats Must Be Fed

There are three things that will send me to Price Chopper at 5am: cat food, coffee and toilet paper. I’ve been in the store at that hour buying those items — or some combination of those items — on many occasions. Sometimes all three of those items.

Not such a big deal; Price Chopper is just five minutes away and open all night.

There’s a guy who’s worked there forever on the third shift who I think of as “The Russian.” He could be from any number of places, but to my American ear he sounds Russian — and at 5am that’s close enough.

He looked down at my bag of pet food and said, “The cats must be fed.”

Now, I want you to say that out loud in your best faux Russian accent and hear how cool it sounds. Pretty deep, huh? Now say it in your American voice. Yes, ridiculous.

I don’t know anything about The Russian, but chances are he is not some sort of exiled philosopher or poet making ends meet on the supermarket’s overnight crew, but he sure sounds that way. Gotta go. The cats must be fed.

The Kingdom of Dog

While comforting a boy on the loss of his beloved dog, Pope Francis said “One day, we will see our animals again in the eternity of Christ. Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.”

Well, if the Pope says that dogs go to heaven, that’s pretty exciting news.

This has sparked a lively discussion, not just among theologians, but in the animal rights community, as well.

Belief in heaven is where faith is truly tested and it’s something I think about all the time. It’s hard for the rational mind have it all make sense, to completely accept that our souls will go on after death. The lack of proof is what makes it faith, not fact.

But what’s the harm in believing? There’s nothing wrong with that boy expecting to see his dog in heaven. And if after death there is nothing, he’ll never know the difference.

It would really be something to spend eternity with my dogs. The cats too, as long as I don’t have to change the litter boxes. That’s more like Hell.

A Brief Conversation with the Dogs

Scarlett and Maddy

Scarlett: Hey, you see that Cesar Millan is dead?

Rob: No, that was an internet hoax…

Maddy: I hate that jerk! He’s so mean. What’s a hoax?

Scarlett: Yeah, I read about it on Twitter and posted it to Facebook.

Rob: Well, it’s not true. Wait… you have Twitter and Facebook?

Scarlett: No, of course not, I’m a dog, silly. I used your account. You don’t mind, do you?

Rob: Well, actually…

Scarlett: It said he had a heart attack. Serves him right.

Maddy: Jerk!

Rob: Hold up… you really should check things like that before sharing them on Facebook…

Scarlett: Oh, whatever. So he’s not dead?

Rob: Not dead.

Maddy: Booo!

Rob: And don’t post things to my Facebook account when I’m at work.

Scarlett: Well, try logging off for a change. Sheesh… let’s go for a walk.

So, You Want to Rent a Cat?

Here’s something that turned up in my inbox:

I saw your post online about renting one of your cats?  Is this actually a reality.  My roommates and I would love to rent a cat for the spring.  If the offer is no longer on the table do you have any idea where we could get a cat for 2 months but then give it back.

It’s been four years since I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about renting my cats out as rodent control contractors, yet I still get occasional comments and emails from people who are interested in the make-believe service.

It’s hard to tell if people are just pulling my leg. Seriously, I don’t know how much stupider I could have made the blog post. For example: “Maeve can be baited to make her more attractive to mice by rubbing cheese or peanut butter on her head. Rodents find these scents irresistible and will walk right into her clutches.”

I find that people sometimes don’t know when I’m kidding. Do you ever get that dead eyed stare at a meeting when you say something you think is funny and it doesn’t seem to register? It could just be people don’t have a sense of humor. Or they think you’re an idiot. Or maybe a little of both.

It’s hard not to think that there may have been something to the cat rental concept. Maybe if I were just a bit more ambitious I could have been the cat rental king, providing a service the public needs, making a nice living and putting some cats to work doing something useful.

Dogs of the Fall

On a recent ambulance call, we took care of a man who tumbled down a few steps after tripping over his dog. He dinged up his shoulder pretty well, but it could have been much worse. I resisted the temptation to ask, “Do you want us to have a look at the dog?” See, I’m getting better!

60% of my household’s pet contingent.

We’ve all read how pet ownership is good for your health, but according to a study by the CDC a few years ago, tripping over your pets poses a significant hazard — and all their toys and crap are trouble, too.

The biggest culprits? Dogs. From the report:

“Nearly 7.5 times as many injuries involved dogs (76,223 [88.0%]) compared with cats (10,130 [11.7%]).”

Also:

“The most frequent circumstances were falling or tripping over a dog (31.3%) and being pushed or pulled by a dog (21.2%).”

I’m no stranger to the dangers posed by household pests pets; living in a house teeming with furry animals who scurry about underfoot is risky business.  It’s so bad at our house that when I get out of bed in the middle of the night, I sweep the floor with my foot to check for the presence of animals or sharp-edged bones and toys.

What I’d really like to see is a study of the relationship between stepping on cats and cardiac arrests. There’s nothing more startling than that — and speaking of cats, the study contains this odd tidbit:

“Most falls involving cats occurred at home (85.7%). Approximately 11.7% of injuries occurred while persons were chasing cats.”

To recap, a few safety tips: sweep the floor with your foot, limit the number of animals in your house, and never chase cats.

Al Gore Was Right

There was an inexplicable surge of interest in a 2010 blog post I wrote about renting my cats. By “surge” I mean three comments — in my world, that’s a surge of interest. The tongue-in-cheek piece suggested that I was offering my three cats to people who need to get rid of rodents.

Then on top of that, somebody sent me this email:

Just stumbled across your blog researching how to get rid of mice. I know your post was written in 2010, but are you by any chance still doing the rent-a-cat thing? My roommates and i live in Brooklyn, and the traps don’t seem to be working. I would hate to make them suffer with poison or sticky traps, and I’m not sure we can keep a cat long term. Let me know if you’re still doing this, or if you know of anyone who is!

I wrote back, explaining that no, I’m not still renting cats and that I was just kidding. I also suggested the reader try peanut butter as mouse bait for the traps.

So what the heck is going on? My theory is that climate change may be influencing rodents. It’s possible that there are more mice running around — or some environmental factor is forcing them into residences in greater numbers. What do I know, I’m no scientist!

Anyway, maybe it’s time to rethink this whole cat rental idea?

Catabetes

Advances in veterinary treatments for household pets have raised an ethical question for their owners: how much are you willing to spend to keep your dog or cat healthy?

I went to the vet’s office recently to learn how to give my cat insulin shots. Like Wilford Brimley, Maeve’s got the dye-a-beet-iss — and it looks like she’ll be getting two shots a day, every day, for the rest of her life. This is not as complicated as it sounds. I had images of her wailing in pain and avoiding us like the plague for the rest of her days, coming out only when we were away from the house.

On the contrary, she barely notices when you stick her. It’s not expensive, either. One store gave us a huge box of syringes for free, and at Walmart the insulin cost a third of what CVS charges.

So that’s the new normal, and doing shots has taken on a new meaning. There was a time, not very long ago, that your pet with diabetes would just continue to have diabetes without any treatment. They would start having the side effects that come with the disease, and the downward spiral would begin.

Today pets get orthopedic surgery, cancer treatments, dental work — all sorts of fixes and therapies once reserved for humans. But like everything there is a price, and a decision to make about value, and the stark reality that some pets are blessed with deep pocketed owners, and others are not.

Honestly, I don’t know what my budget is for the pets. Is is the same for the dogs and the cats? There are no easy choices.

Why I Could Not Shave Today