Wednesday, April 2, 2014

From Pet-Free to Pet-Full

The house was just too quiet. Too empty.

I started by hitting the local Humane Society shelter. Lots of cats (tell Paul they have a sale until the end of the month) and large dogs, several too-small dogs, not much in-between. And just as I was heading in their driveway they switched the sign from open to closed. They talked to me, but that's all.

I hit the Ramsey County shelter as well. I've gotten wonderful pets from them over the years. Nothing appealed.

Finally I hit the internet, hunting for shih tzus and blends. The shih tzu rescue organization made it sound like there was more red tape than a baby adoption. There was one puppy seller way out in Eden Valley which had some, including shih poos and other interestingly named combinations, but the prices were high and the drive would be 2 1/2 hours each way. Plus... a puppy? A whole lot of work I wasn't particularly looking forward to, not to mention having time for.

Still, they had one that caught my eye as a possible. I filed it away in my mind, and talked to Paul about taking a trip Saturday, starting at the local shelter again, where he should at least be able to get a cat to suit, and I'd see what was new in dogs. Then we'd head out to Eden Valley if there was nothing local.

When I said "small dog", they showed me two chihuahuas and a yorkie. I declined, figuring if the chain link fence lets rabbits in, any dog that small would just as easily get out.  The main dog room had the usual amount of labs and huge unidentifiable mixes, though its population was reduced by two great danes who were being walked out by their new owners as we drove up. But a papillon looked possible, though I know nothing about their temperament. Before I reached the end of the row, however, my attention was caught by a shis tzu mix! Exactly what I was looking for!

She's mostly honey colored, with dark brown near and on her tail. A very short trim right now reveals a couple odd grey spots on each flank. A bit of darker fur on her face gives it more expression, along with the slightly longer fur on her perky/floppy ears .

But would she be THE dog? Her name is Ellie, 8 years old, surrendered by folks who stated her living conditions were an outside crate and while "whole", they also claimed she'd also never had puppies.They had resorted to using a no-bark collar on her. I put that all together in my mind and translated it to "breeders" and "liars". I added "cruel" as well. But she was the only dog who didn't bark at me while I walked down the rows, and I decided she needed a chance at a better home. They were her 3rd set of owners. Stability would count. And on the form where it asked if she had any nicknames, they stated "none that we can print here."

It was time to get acquainted.

The two rooms set aside for that purpose were busy. Paul was in one getting acquainted with a white cat which had caught his eye, Yuki. She'd been previously adopted and returned to the shelter due to her inability to get along with other cats. She was also supposed to not be a lap cat. She was 8 and fairly mellow, though hating to be picked up. She stayed in the corner of the room while Paul got acquainted with her. He informed me later that she purred a lot and rubbed against his legs while he was alone with her.

I was in the hallway with Ellie, who was much more interested in everybody passing by and all the activity in the cat room than she was with whoever was on the other end of her leash, i.e., me. I petted her whenever she came within reach, and eventually she closed in on me while still maintaining her complete distraction by all the activity. I was glad to see that, as I had wondered if we might not bond.

It was time to limit her distractions, as well as seeing if the cat and dog would get along. Keeping tight hold on her leash, we allowed the two to "meet", which actually meant only getting close but not touching. The cat didn't seem too alarmed, and the dog was tail-wagging rather than trying to pounce or growl. At any rate, the shelter helper said these were good signs, and these two animals were cleared to go home together.

Paul stopped at WalMart and picked up a few things for Yuki, including a whole new cat box. Since she didn't get along with other cats, removing that much of Midnight's smell seemed a good idea. This time the box was one designed for clumping litter, with a grid insert and two trays. I had always wondered how they worked. The cleanlitter falls through the holes, waste gets dumped out, and the now empty grid goes in the bottom of the clean tray with the remaining clean litter plus whatever more is needed poured in. Once he was done with her set-up, she was left in the basement to get comfortable with her hew home and locations of her stuff. He visited her a few times, and the next morning the door was left open. We have a tie on it that fastens to the handrail and doorknob, just wide enough for a cat but not a dog. It keeps the basement a cat sanctuary.

I spent the weekend getting bonded to Ellie. She is a cuddler, but has definite quirks. I have to remember to take her - not send her - outside, as she shown no obvious signs of needing to go. There have been accidents. Due to her history, she has strong abandonment issues. I have to go out with her or she won't leave the top step. I think she needs to know I haven't abandoned her.

Once comfortable, she starts exploring the yard. That's a bit of a challenge for an 18-lb. dog. Saturday there was still over a foot of snow covering everything. While starting to melt away, it just made footing trickier. Each foot would sink a couple inches, sometimes breading through the snow completely, leaving her on her belly struggling to climb out. She hasn't wandered far. Yesterday morning the 8" of remaining snow after the big weekend melt had refrozen, giving her the first firm footing she's had in the yard. Once she trusted her footing, she went dashing around.

With her issues, we don't trust leaving her alone in the house for a workday. Monday I tried her in her portable kennel in the back seat. That was a disaster. She hates the confinement. Barking was constant except for a few too-short naps and letting her out on leash for exercise and potty/food/water stops when I had a few minutes. I could bribe her to return to the kennel by showing her a MilkBone and tossing it in, but she instantly wanted out again. Eventually she tried digging her way out to the point where I saw a spot of blood on one toe. As soon as the work part of the day was over, I gave her free run of the back of the car. She was content with that, though tried a couple times to join me up front.

We were both happy to be home.

Yesterday I tried leaving her home and having a friend let her out in the middle of the day. There were no accidents, but she has become so bonded to me that Jessica was afraid at first Ellie was going to bite her. Luckily Jessica has two dogs at home so she both smells like them and knows how to handle them. Still, not the ideal situation.

Did I mention bonded? If I sit, Ellie is on my lap. Makes using the laptop interesting. At night she's down on the corner of my bed. And now that Yuki is wandering the house freely, she joins Ellie both on my lap and on the bed. She's the heavier one. She loves to snuggle close, so I can tell which critter is her even if I can't hear her little jingle bell. Once the night owls have come back to the house, i.e., Rich and Steve, I will be more free to shut my door and sleep critter-free. Meanwhile the allergies are not bugging me, fingers crossed.

But with them still gone, the workday still needs a solution. Yesterday I hit the local pet supply chain and picked up a harness and new leash for Ellie. The leash will function as her seat belt - I have a plan how to fix it up - allowing and restricting her access to the front passenger seat. She can stand, look out the window, get petted by me, and snooze on a blanket. No kennel to dig out of, no wires to cut her toes. She'll still bark when I leave the car, but tough. Freight will stay in the back, out of her reach. MilkBones will be secured in the glove box. This car has a nice deep one with plenty of room.

Friday Paul takes both pets to the vet for their post-adoption checkups. I'll get Ellie chipped and her rabies shop updated. The shelter has no one who can do that, though they do have someone for neutering and taking care of other issues. but my vet gets to do the rabies shot. I'm not sure about the logic of that, but....

At any rate, we are pet-full again. For the moment, just a bit over-full. We'll all adapt and things will settle down.

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