Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Rehabilitation of Lola

A Picture of Lola In Her Early More Innocent Days Before Tramping

I don't think you "own" cats as much as cats deign to be in your life. One of those forwarded posts that goes in fits and starts around the internet seems to be recirculating as I have had it forwarded to me twice in the past few days..you know, the one called Dogs Vs. Cats and is as follows (this time with that Canadian or England English spellings!):

"Excerpts from a Dog's Diary......

8:00 am - Dog food! My favourite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favourite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favourite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favourite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favourite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favourite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favourite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favourite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favourite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favourite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favourite thing!

Excerpts from a Cat's Daily Diary. ..

Day 983 of my captivity.
My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength.

The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However,they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. B*stards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow - but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now................

In my own belief about cats, one I'm well aware not all people share, I look at quality of life versus quantity and have cats in my life that are vetted (immunizations and spay or neuter) and fed a great food, but have the freedom to come and go. The three current cats -- Grace, Lola and Byrne -- are all rescues. They all have their own stories. Lola is the middle child these days. She presents as a muscled and well toned beautiful gray DSH cat, about 8 lbs. and very healthy. She was called Fuzzy Lola as a kitten because her hair was longer, but it is a deep and thick fur which when petted feels good on your hands. That is if you can pet her without her taking offense and trying to bite.

In the past year Lola developed an increasingly tramplike or hobo existence. She would disappear for days at a time and then almost stagger home, eat heartily and then sleep a heavy sleep on the top bunk of my daughters' bunk bed for a day before leaving again for her sojourns. We'd see her often a block away, and I was well aware there was a cranky older woman there who had had her arrested once; releasing her from "cat jail" cost $125 and I told Lola I would not free her again. She'd have to be wiser about what company she kepts. She seems to get that...very quick learning curve on this feline. She usually always went east in her travels. Not sure if she aspired to hit Broadway, but she has not acquired a modeling job!

After posting her bail I collared her and acquired a groovy name tag that had both my cell phone number and the tag line: "On A Mission". I periodically get calls to learn about her whereabouts and actions. I know she visits an elderly and very kind widow a block away and entertains her a lot. The woman has thanked me for letting this cat into her life. When I had asked this woman if the cat would try to bite if you petted too long, she laughed and said "oh yes, isn't it dear?" That made me like this previously unknown neighbor a lot! Sometimes people called who mildly complained or seemed very concerned, but I asked them to just let her be and she'd come home again. I knew she never went too far away.

Late last week she did return home. She was cranky, hissy, pissy, annoyed and annoying and was absolutely rude to all - the dogs, the cats, the kids, and ME! The Keeper Of Things That Are Good and The Giver of Freedom. Like my teenage daughter who is mostly incredibly responsible, this cat needed a wee bit of reigning in.

Thus began the Rehab of Lola.

Since I couldn't take away her cell phone, I did the next best thing. I kept her from her social life! First, I locked her in my sunroom which had recently been reorganized but closed off for encroaching winter (IT SNOWED YESTERDAY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!). The room had food, water, a litter box and plenty of soft surfaces to curl up in and under should it get crisp. There were nine windows to look out of with different interesting views of the backyard and 'hood. I went in to visit her several times a day. Each time she got more affectionate, appropriate and sweet, but if she so much as made an inappropriate noise (as I defined it..sometime hard to ascertain as she's a very vocal cat) I would just up and leave the room. Lola had her basics but she got the attention and affection ONLY when she was well behaved AS I DEFINED IT which meant no hissing, growling, biting, swiping, scratching or other bothersome feline behaviors.

I sequestered Lola in the sunroom for 5 days and 4 nights. I don't think there's any biblical corallary to this choice of time frame, but I felt that by the end of this extra long weekend she was back to her nicer, less cranky self. I think she needed a really long sleep and some nicer quality food than that of the kind widow (beggars can't be choosers).

Finally on Sunday I let her out and she was given access to the whole house for the rest of the day. She was still a bit noisy with Grace and immature and very adolescent Byrne, but the dogs just ignored her and she them. Late Sunday afternoon I let her out and wished her well. I wondered how long it would be before I saw her again.

Monday morning I walked my daughter Sophie to school with the three dogs. On our way, we saw Lola. She came running up meowing a greeting. We ignored her and hurried on. I took my morning walk with the dogs and upon returning home an hour later, there she was on the front steps of my house waiting to go in. She's been in and out several times since, has slept on the top bunk all day, and when she wakes up to stretch when I walk in delivering clean laundry, she has a calm air and a contented vibe.

Dare I say she's been rehabilitated? Usually when I get to where I take away my teenager's freedom to her friends when she gets a little too...er...oppositional, she becomes quite a bit compliant and pleasant for at least another month. So we'll see how Lola does by Thanksgiving!

Don't Forget To Vote

Friday, October 24, 2008

Today on Today

I usually don't have the time to lollygag in the morning but today I did. I usually don't put on television in the morning but today I did. And today on Today, as it happened, there came upon my screen a story about"Medicating Your Animals."(click on pets link to see the video - it's called "Prozac for your Pets".) Apparently a lot of dog owners don't have the time to actually develop a relationship with their dogs that, gasp, takes time! Would that they did! According to a statistic Matt Lauer posited, no credit given so I'm not sure about the validity of those stats, but, he said: "Americans spend $15 million on mood altering drugs like Prozac and Zoloft, not for themselves, but for their pets."

The story included both Drs. Nicholas Dodman and Ian Dunbar -- both widely respected veterinarians, authors and revered by pet enthusiasts the world over. Both are originally from across the pond by birth, but practice their craft on either side of the U.S.; Dr. Nicholas Dodman in Masssachusttes, and Dr. Dunbar in Northern California.

Both are greatly respected by many including myself and certainly know their stuff. And they clearly share a passion for helping enhance the relationship between people and their canines. But I have to say, having worked with hundreds if not thousands of dogs, including dogs who might have behaviors like Ice in the video clip from previous neglect and/or abuse, I think Dr. Dunbar makes a stronger case for applying behavior modification methods FIRST and then, failing that or needing another boost to reduce symptoms to allow the dog to respond to behavior mod, a brief foray into mood altering drugs.

I was, however, disappointed no mention was made, by anyone reporting in the story, the benefit of tools such as no pull harnesses (worn by Ice in the video but not discussed nor fitted properly IMO), my very own Har-Vest, Trish King's Calming Caps or Susan Sharpe's Anxiety Wraps that can help reduce symptoms without administering meds. Now that could be a very good supplemental clip to Jill Rappapport's focus on animal stories for The Today Show or any other nationally aired public information/news type show!

I'm here if anyone out there wants me for their show!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What is a Treat? What Isn't?

Playing Tug With A Sock Is A Big Treat!

In my ongoing quest to help people think out of the box, at least with respect to interacting with their dog, I have put together a list of some treats. First, the definition:

A Treat Is Something Your Dog Likes.

You Need To Be Honest About That! If you say "good dog" thinking it's a treat, think again. You can certainly TRAIN your dog to think "good dog" is a treat, but without actually doing that, the probability that "good dog" has the same cachet as say, liver, is doubtful. The dictionary states treat (noun) as "an event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure." If you can keep that in mind, it helps.

Treats can fall into TWO categories. FOOD and NOT FOOD.
Within the food category (samples below), you want to think of the treat ranging from the ordinary, ho hum, yes I'll do that if nothing else is happening such as dog kibble or Cheerios, to the canine equivalent of a hot fudge sundae (which a lot of the other examples might fall into for your dog. Remember MODERATION is key, especially on the less healthy forms, and the size given is SMALL).
All forms of liver - Baked, dried, sauted, etc.
Cat food kibble
Cheddar Goldfish
All forms of cheese (including Cheese In A Can) -- can be messy in warmer weather
Cooked meats -- e.g., chicken, steak, pork, turkey or duck
Mock meat - "fake" meat for the vegetarians
Peanut or almond butter (other nut butters can be good too) on a spoon
Burger King or McDonalds (or other fast food type place) hamburger/cheeseburger
Hot dogs
Fruit - Bananas, All Melons
Vegetables - carrots, broccoli,cauliflower, potato, yams, etc.(the earlier you start your dog on fruits and vegetables the wider the palate will be).
String Beans
Carrots - in pieces, baby carrots, big carrots, cooked or raw
Various crackers
bagels/pita bread (I had one dog client who was mad for stale pita..go figure!)
liver brownies
Etc., etc., etc.

Soft tug toys
Small squeaky toy
Rope tug toy
Crinkly paper
Ball that bounces oddly and makes various noises
Sport balls of all sizes and shapes and textures -- soccer, tennis, football, basketball, lacross, croquet, etc.
Stuffed Kong or Biscuit Ball
Tennis ball
Plastic bottles
Jolly Ball
big knotted scrap of fleece fabric
retrieving dumbbell
chase 'n pull toy
stuffed animals that make the animal sound
Toys that make noise other than squeak
Raw or marrow bones
Bully sticks
Yogurt containers (clean up the yogurt first, then play with)
CAREFULLY used laser light
cow hooves
deer antlers
Etc. etc. etc.
What Your Dog Likes That Isn't Above


Getting scratched at the base of his tail
Scritching, belly rubs, gentle touching
car/vehicle rides
Going for a walk
Hike in the woods
Rubbing your dog's ears
Clapping and cheering him on
Playing a favorite game
Tug and ball retrieve
quiet praise w/soft eye contact
big 'whoo hoo' praise with jumping up
a good game of chase
Alone and focus time with your dog
Cuddling on couch
verbal praise with pats on his sides
scratching/rubbing between his eyes and on top of his muzzled
clicker training
Butt scritches
ear rubs
chest scratches
jaw massage
permission to jump up on usually forbidden objects (couch, bed)
time with other people your dog loves
Swimming Together
Training Classes w/ lots of other good looking dogs
on the floor snuggles
being brushed
Other Things Your Dog Enjoys Interacting With That Isn't Above.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Bark In The Park

Fall is in the air. Cooler temps, changing colors, and that definite change in the slant of the sun, not to mention the very noticeable change in daylight hours. It can only mean one thing. Bark In the Park is back. Bigger. Badder. Better. New location -- Beachwood Park East (on Shaker Blvd. between Richmond and Brainard in Beachwood, OH.

Great opportunity to socialize your dog, make some interesting observations, and experience a dog friendly event. I'll be there. Hope to see you there! NOTE: THERE IS A $5 FEE PER FAMILY FOR THIS EVENT.