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Archive for January, 2010

Standing in the parking lot at the grocery store in Phillipsburg my wife announced that she was ready for a kitten (see Fate Or Circumstance, Part 1) and I rebutted that I wanted a dog. Who knew it was a magical parking lot? 

August of Nine years ago we were still trying to find a home for Husky when the Trouble began!

We were just about to take our exit off the highway when my wife yelled, KITTEN! I pointed the car to the shoulder of the road, hit the brakes then checked the rearview mirror. “Where is the kitten?” I asked as we got out of the car.

“Over in the bushes on the other side of the road”

 “sigh”

Just as home is always up hill, everything else seems to be on the other side of the highway.  Sure enough I looked at where she was pointing and there the kitten sat meowing bloody murder.  Our experience has been that when you approach cats on the side of the road they tend to turn and run, so the plan was simple, I would head around on the diagonal and try to loop around behind while my wife took the direct approach.  I went my way, my wife waited a beat and went her way.  The kitten had plans of its own and made a direct charge across the road into my wife’s arms and promptly bit her on the wrist.  If cats could talk this one would have been telling us. ‘What the hell took you so freakin’ long!’ We made sure none of his litter mates were hanging around and then headed home.

From day one the cat was trouble and was so named.  He didn’t get along well with others,  he was strong, he was ornery and he was not afraid to use his teeth and claws.  This one we were definitely adopting out.  When adopting out an animal our first priority of course is to find a good home.  There is no use placing an animal in an environment that isn’t better than the previous situation.  We were starting to realize Trouble was going to be a difficult case.  There is no doubt that he would take one bite out of somebody and he would find himself back on the wrong side of the door.  It made sense that this was how he first wound up on the side of the road.  We took him to our trusty vet Lee and there were no parasites, no worms, not a tick or flea to be found.  Somebody probably decided that he was just too much to handle and had recently dumped him.

Trouble was a pain in the ass, because of that he spent most of his nights locked in the bathroom, otherwise around two in the morning we would all pay the price.  The other ‘problem’ was he could charm the pants off the devil.  Didn’t matter how scared our arms and hands were from his scratching or how sleep deprived we were from his night time antics,  it didn’t matter how he would torment the other cats all he had to do was turn on his charm and your heart melted. 

At four months old Trouble weighed in at five pounds and to the relief of all our vet agreed to have him neutered.  Nine years later Trouble weighs in at 18 pounds of solid muscle.

I admit we didn’t look too hard to find Trouble a home.  First because of his disposition most sane people would have booted him out the door.  Second, Trouble just has that certain charm. While he has calmed down some he can still raise a little hell.  Not long ago we added Gumdrop (our latest cat) into the mix and for months Trouble would simply not let Gumdrop on the floor!

Obviously it all worked out and some might accuse me of anthropomorphism but I think Trouble appreciates the fact that we love him for who he is and on his terms.  Every night after my wife and I settle into bed Trouble runs up between us for his nightly hug and then heads to the foot of the bed where he sleeps curled up behind my knees.

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It was a difficult week at work, and it doesn’t look like it is going to change in the near future.  But it is Sunday and I’m not worrying about it, just enjoying a lazy day.  I am sitting with my feet up reclining under a blanket on my recliner. We are catching up on some tv watching and I’m wondering what the next post on my blog will be about. A cat is lying down in the crook of my arm, my wife is beside me working on her cross-stitch, dinner is in the crockpot smelling wonderful, dog is lazing on the deck. It is a Norman Rockwell moment.

Suddenly the house explodes in pandemonium.  The dog is on her feet thundering down the deck snarling and growling, hitting the end of the zipline so hard that her paws came out from under her bringing to a sudden stop on her back. Inside the cats are on full alert, hair standing on edge, tails fluffed twice their normal size.  I’m already half way out of my chair untangling myself from my blanket, my wife is on my heels.  Something is going down outside and it’s not pleasant.  I’m expecting to see a full-blown dog fight.  Husky doesn’t like other dogs and its even worse when they are on her territory and very little else causes this kind of reaction.  I step out the door and there is Husky at the end of the porch, while there is no sign of another animal she is clearly agitated and looking down the driveway.

At the end of the porch I grab husky as I look in the direction she is looking, keeping just out of her reach are 3 soaking wet, half-grown english bulldogs.  I grabbed husky and brought her into the house while my wife checked on the three stooges.  With a little food my wife manged to coax the stooges into Husky’s kennel where we could keep them contained and safe. Now, it just so happens that at the end of our street there is a guy who breeds old english bulldogs.

We hop in the car, minus the dogs as there is no way I’m letting three soaking wet muddy dogs into our vehicle, and no, we don’t have his number. It turns out the family had just gotten home from a shopping trip.  He knew the dogs had escaped but he decided the dogs would probably find their own way home and if not he would look for them once he got back. I’m not sure how going shopping would be more important than looking for three of your lost dogs but a lot of things I don’t understand. Luckily, everything worked out in the end, as it usually does.  Eventually the adrenalin stopped pumping (except for Husky who is still agitated)  and we were able to settle down and enjoy the rest of the afternoon. 

This serves as another example of how one moment you are happily relaxing secure in your life enjoying your time when bam, suddenly even if only for a short time your life can be tossed into sudden upheaval.

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Number 20

Twentieth post and what have I learned? 

It amazes me just how much I cut out of a story.  Sometimes I find a really good line and I am reluctant to let it go but no matter how much I try to make it fit, it just won’t work, so no matter how much it pains me, out it goes!  Can there be parallels between the clutter in my posts and the clutter in our house?  Possibly, but as I look around, it is a thought I would rather not dig into too deeply at the moment.

I also find I am starting to look ahead to future posts as I write the current ones.  An example would be the reference to the husky puppy Zag in Fate Or Circumstance part 3.  Zag has a very interesting story on his own which one day I plan to tell.   Zag illustrates just how intermingled life is in a small town.  It is my ambition to eventually link all the posts in the blog together.  While Zag had nothing to do with the current story he plays a role in the theme of the entire blog, just as the parking lot at the grocery store in Fate Or Circumstance Part 1 Shadow will also make a future appearance.

Finally, I have found that I am not able to write anything I’m not ready to part with even though those are the posts I should be writing.  I have tried to write them but instead I find a hundred other things to do.  So I have made up my mind not to dwell on those and hope that in time those stories will allow me to write them.

One such post did manage to sneak through, Fate Or Circumstance Part 1 Shadow! It is the one post I cannot go back and read.  That darn dog Shadow is going to haunt me the rest of my life.  I only started the story at that point because that is when I decided I actually wanted a dog. I could have easily started with Part two.  Once again the story decided how the story was going to be told and I all I could do was go for the ride.   When I read the Shadow post to my wife I realized I was not going to be able to finish reading.  Half way through I started to feel the lump welling in my throat, the threat of tears in my eyes.  When I was actually writing I felt a pull at the old heart-strings, but nothing like I was feeling when I was reading, two sentences later my wife interrupts me and with tears in her eyes says to me, “We should have adopted Shadow”   We both know we made the right decision but that doesn’t make it any easier or any less painful.  I was surprised I was able to write and publish the post.  I can only surmise that Shadow would not be denied again.

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Some loose ends (for Fate Or Circumstance) I wanted to touch on regarding Sequoia (aka Husky).  I mentioned that her coat was a yellowish colour.  With a good diet and proper care Sequoia’s coat turned into a really thick red/copper and white.

This story took place 7 yrs ago when Sequoia was 2 yrs old. To this day she is still very aggressive towards other dogs.  For the first few years just the sight of another dog would set her off (except for her good buddy Maya who at the time was a puppy). Now I can walk down the street with her or bring her places with other dogs and she is not constantly growling or lunging, that only happens if other dogs get in her face or attempt to ‘touch her stuff” (anything she claims as her own).  Unfortunately Sequoia now gets temperamental with Maya, mostly because Maya is now past puppyhood and will stand up for herself, (Sequoia loves husky puppies).  But when I think about Sequoia then and now, she certainly has come a long way.  A lot of which we attribute to patience, understanding, a really good dog and Cesar Millan the Dog Whisperer, watching his shows has changed our lives for the better. For those of you who don’t own a dog, Cesar’s methods work on people as well.  

Sequoia still challenges us everyday, she is incredibly smart and she can be very sneaky in her challenges.  Spend a day with Sequoia and you will no longer think animals are dumb.

If you ever want to walk a dog in peace, don’t get a husky. Anyone who is not afraid of dogs wants to pet them.  Recently we went to the Grand Canyon, I can’t even begin to tell you how many people stopped us to pet the dog, take pictures of the dog, or tell stories about their dogs, ask questions about our dog, tell us about the movie ‘Snow Dogs’ and does our dog act like that? or how badly they want a husky.  It is always an ego boost but it can get trying.

I can’t tell you exactly when these pictures were taken,  the inside ones must have been pretty early on as her leash is on while she is in the house.  I couldn’t tell you why as the cats were sequestered in another room. And I did not pose her with the duck.

Again thanks for reading and for commenting both here and in private.

Sequoia on her chairSequoia and her duckToes UpSequoia on alert

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Fate Or Circumstance, Part 3

Once at  Sandra’s we found the kennel, made sure Husky had food and water, we promised her that Sandra would be home soon and that we would visit during the week, and with great reluctance we walked away.

Husky screamed!  She didn’t bark, growl or howl, she screamed.  Never had I heard such a noise, it sounded like somebody had taken an old rusty spoon and used it to carve out her heart.  We couldn’t take her with us and we couldn’t wait all night.  Husky was safe, she had water and Sandra would soon be there to take her inside.  Being the cruel heartless people we are we walked away with heavy hearts and tears in our eyes and the most horrific sound echoing in our heads.  The neighbour promised us he would check in on Husky once Husky had settled down.   As we drove home with that god awful noise still reverberating in our heads we started thinking up ways we could keep her with us until we found a suitable home.  Logically we knew husky was fine, emotionally we were drained.  Some would argue that this was when we decided to keep Husky, and again they would be wrong. 

We made a vet appointment with Lee (the best vet ever) who gave us a lecture on dog ownership and given our situation and the temperment of our cats, how owning a dog was probably not the smartest idea.   Lee also forced us to see the obvious, if Husky did  kill one of the cats, how would that make us feel? then what would become of Husky?   Lee did admit that this husky was not a typical husky.   Husky took all her shots, gave blood and submitted to the exam without all the usual husky drama.  For the most part she lay on her back paws in the air waiting for somebody to rub her belly.  Lee who is not only the best vet, is also a friend who cares about her patients and despite her lecture informed us that she would support our decision and help us any way she could both as a friend and a vet.  Did our vet just open the door a tiny crack?  There were a lot of issues and the potential for deadly disaster, I was still focused on finding Husky a suitable home but maybe there was a way to share the household, maybe we could find a way to separate the cats from the dog when we were all in the house at the same time, maybe…just maybe…

During this time we took Husky everywhere getting her as much exposure as possible figuring the more people who saw her the better the chance we had at finding her a good home.   My wife was busy being a detective and with only Husky’s rabies tags she managed to uncover  a lot of  information.  The previous owner owed the vets money, making them reluctant to give us any information, but with a little explaining on our part each vet we talked to agreed to release Husky’s records our vet.  We found out that Husky was a mom but the dog law officer realized this guy was unable or unwilling to look after Husky never mind husky puppies and forced him to have Husky fixed.  He did comply but once again never paid the vet.  From there my wife was able to track down the breeder.  Husky was a purebred and we got all the information we needed to get her papers from the American Kennel Club.  We had no interest in getting her papers but it was a good ‘selling’ point to tempt a possible owner. 

Finding Husky an owner was a difficult task,  we were not about to ‘dump’ her on just anybody, how would that help her?  how would that put her in a better situation?  Most people want a dog that they can throw out the door on a cold day and then give a whistle and the dog will come running back, unfortunately with most huskies you can’t do that, once they are outside and unrestrained, they are gone.  Training a  husky is not as easy as training a lab.  Before a husky will do anything they ask themselves “whats in it for me?” and there better be something as they are certainly not out to please you.  Huskies are not always good with children or other dogs and other dogs don’t always like huskies.  In our studies we learned that huskies have their own language which other dogs don’t understand.  A husky owner in northern Canada who has working huskies warned us that huskies play a lot harder than most dogs and the difference between husky play and a husky fight is the amount of blood spilled.  To make matters worse our husky is very dominant and doesn’t play well with others.  If another dog doesn’t respond the way Husky wants them too she goes on the attack. 

One Sunday we went to Sandra’s to drop Husky off, (thankfully we could now do this without the screaming)  there was a pen set up in the yard with all the husky puppies playing inside.  We brought Husky into the pen and she immediately went into mothering mode.  She played with them, let them crawl all over her but when they crossed the line (as huskies are prone to do) she would roll them on their backs and hold them there until they calmed down.  We stayed for a while, playing with the puppies (we really liked zag and Sandra actually tried to get us to adopt zag) and really enjoyed watching Husky play with the pups.  Once again that dreaded time came when we had to leave we said goodbye to Sandra and the woman helping her, said goodbye to Husky who was only paying attention to the puppies but just before I got into the car I happened to look back and noticed Husky had stopped paying attention to the puppies, all her attention was on us. Later when my wife mentioned that particular behaviour to Sandra she told us that Husky always watched us leave and looked for us once we were gone and on Saturdays she would wait by the door for us to pick her up.  I though back to when we first met Husky, she didn’t look at her previous owner, she never looked back.  Some would say it was at that point we decided adopt Husky the truth of the matter is Husky had already adopted us.

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This is the second part of Fate or Circumstance?

This post like all the others has taken on a life of its own. Many forgotten details are floating to the surface as I write.  All of which means it will be broken up into more than the two parts I had planned.  I hope you continue to enjoy.

One Friday not long after the Shadow incident one of my wife’s co-workers asked my wife if we would be able to help out a dog that was in a bad situation.  A relative of this co-worker lived next to this guy who would leave his husky tied up for days outside without food, water or shelter.  It is believed that the dog, out of hunger killed and ate a cat. The landlord had enough and gave the guy an ultimatum, he had to get rid of the dog or leave. 

We had four cats certainly we couldn’t keep a dog that eats cats.  Besides, a husky would never be happy spending most of the day indoors and they always have to be contained which meant not only a dog house but a dog kennel.  Huskies are very active and we live a pretty sedate lifestyle.  When huskies get bored they chew everything and they get bored easily.  Huskies have no guarding tendencies and huskies shed and shed and then shed some more.  However they are big enough, they don’t drool often and are not known for barking, howling is another story.  We needed a plan!

I made a call to Sandra the customer at the bank who, two years earlier had shown me the picture of her husky puppies. It turned out that Sandra was raising yet another litter of huskies, she did have an available kennel and would take in the dog in while we found it a home, (or as she put it, until we decided to keep the dog).  The next morning we would make the 48 mile drive to Avis Pa to rescue the dog, if we got back into town early enough we would bring the dog around to Sandra’s work so she could get a look at her new charge.  Indeed, we had our plan!

Upon meeting the dogs owner it was clear that this guy was not exactly the pillar of society but he signed husky over to us without incident.  What my wife and I found interesting was husky never looked at him and when we drove away husky never looked back.  We had been driving for just a few minutes, us in the front seat, husky in the back when husky put her head on my shoulder and licked my ear.  Some would tell you it was at this point that we knew we would be keeping husky, but let me set the record straight, it was not.  That day was still over a month away.  We did shed a tear or two knowing that this was a great dog and we were not going to be able to keep her.  She eats cats for crying out loud.

We had seen many huskies in our day.  In fact when I was young we owned one for a while (to spare my mother from tears I won’t go into that story) but we had not seen the likes of this one.  She had obviously never seen  a brush, there were tufts of fur popping off her body, it was sad that she had been so neglected but funny as heck to look at.  She was a pale yellowish colour and her coat was/is incredibly thick and soft despite all the tufts.  We got back into town earlier then expected and decided we would run her by the bank and show her off a little, perhaps somebody there would want her, (nobody was in a position to adopt her)  but husky was an immediate hit she rolled over on her back and let everyone rub her belly and of course left a pile of fur on the carpet which remained there for a week or two.  We brought her to Sandra’s work as planned.  You know you have an impressive husky when the husky breeders are in awe.  The plan was for Sandra to come over after work stay for a bonfire and take husky home from there.  In turn we would pick up husky on Sunday and take her to a local pet place and start trying to find her a home. 

Sandra came over that evening and we had fun talking about huskies, roasting marshmallows and eating smores.  We decided that we would keep husky on the weekends,  Sandra assured us that husky would be fine in our laundry room with the cats sequestered in the bed room.  Monday we had to go back to work and we couldn’t leave her locked in the laundry room all day so the new plan was to drop husky off at Sandra’s sometime Sunday night.   Sandra was going to be working the late shift so she told us where the kennel was located and we should just put husky in the kennel.  If we wanted we could let her neighbour know that we were dropping husky off, being husky owners themselves they would be sure and look in on her until Sandra got in that night.

Stay tuned for part 3

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In the early 2000’s I was standing at my teller window when one of our regulars came in to make a deposit. She showed me a picture of the cutest little Siberian Husky puppies one could ever imagine.  Except for the fact that they were adorable and that for once somebody wasn’t showing me baby pictures,  I didn’t think too much about it.  Time passed, another litter of puppies came and went and life continued on its merry way as it tends to do.

Two years later my wife and I are standing in the parking lot of a grocery store in the tiny town of Phillipsburg when my wife tells me she is ready for a kitten, we already had four cats.  “I’m ready for a dog” came my reply.  She told me to start building a dog house.  Building a dog house sounded like fun so why not?  We thought about what kind of dog we would like, we both agreed it had to be big, no drooling, no barking, good both indoors and out, had to like cats and have some guarding instincts.   The doghouse had just gotten underway so we were not quite ready for a dog but we decided to check out the SPCA,  upon entering the dog room the first thing that struck me was the unimaginable amount of noise, it was truly an assault on my ears.  I made my announcement in the middle of the chaos.  “The first one of you who is not barking has a shot at coming home with me.” In a corner kennel was a massive black dog.  It wasn’t barking, it wasn’t paying the least bit of attention to me, the dogs or anything really just lost in his own world.   My wife and I looked at his information.  Shadow was the dog’s name, he was surrendered by the owner with no explanation and it came from our little town.  We asked if Shadow had any issues with cats.  Shadow was then taken to the cat room where a staff member shoved a cat right up into Shadows face.  Shadow could have swallowed the cat whole but he didn’t so much as bat an eyelash, the cat was too stunned to do anything, so far so good.  We put Shadow on a leash and took him outside. The minute he hit the fresh air he came alive and took me for a drag.  He probably knew his name but certainly didn’t care.  He didn’t stop, he didn’t sit, he didn’t even acknowledge our existence and he was amazingly strong, stopping him was quite the issue. My wife would not have been able to walk this dog. There was a mountain of issues involved with adopting Shadow, he had no manners making him difficult to control, he had some health issues as he was loosing hair, but there was something about him that touched both my wife and I so he became a possibility but we were not about to rush into anything, the responsible thing to do was wait, we were not at the point of dog ownership and Shadow was a large handful.

At the end of our road across the highway there is a travel trailer and a dog house which was home to a large black dog.  (At this point we have to travel back about a year from the above story) while driving to work one day we noticed that the travel trailer had disappeared but the dog  was still there, worried that somebody had abandoned the dog we knocked on the closest door we could find.  Turns out the people who owned the house also owned the dog.  That dog was Shadow. (Another jump in time, to our current story) Earlier in the week my wife had commented that we don’t see the dog anymore and we figured the owners schedule had changed (he was a security officer for Penn State) and we didn’t give it another thought until driving home from the SPCA when my wife put it all together.  Once again life in a small town rears its head.

We never saw Shadow again but I think about Shadow often, I feel I let him down. I know Shadow was never meant to be ours, life has a way of telling us what is and what isn’t, all you have to do is listen and in this case there were just too many obstacles being thrown between us and Shadow.  In the end we wound up with the right dog.  Still when I think of Shadow I can’t help but feel a little heaviness in my heart.  I can only hope he found a good home.

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