Now I Am Ready
This is a post I have been meaning to write for approximately a month now.
When I first began to plan this post, Shadow was alive, but ill, and I was pondering the validity of writing a post about caring for your aging pet. Since R and I frequently joked about the dog we would get to replace Shadow once he passed, I also pondered writing a post about picking out a new puppy, or a new pet.
It’s also about the time we were waiting for our bunnies to be old enough to come home to us, so, again, the picking out a new pet theme seemed a good idea.
But Shadow was sick. I do have a post I could not publish, still cannot publish, a post that wandered through the intricacies of how do you know when to let go of your pet, when is it the right time to say good-bye and put your friend and family member to sleep. I strongly believe in euthanasia, for animals and for humans. I have worked w the elderly and the infirm too long, doing in-home care and working in nursing homes, to not believe in it for humans. Deciding where that right point is, however, is a huge decision, no matter what species you look at for this event.
Honestly, I cannot tell you where this post is going this morning. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss Shadow here. I know he is in a much better place. I know he is happier and free from pain. I know the poor old guy finally has his dignity back. I can still wake up in the morning w the urgency that I have to get up and let him outside, since he was too infirm to walk up and down the basement stairs to the dog door, much less able to climb up the stairs to outside.
I still drive up to the house, when we take both Kendall and Princess to my house for the day, expecting to hear him bark, or expecting to try to open the front door and being unable to do so until he moves his great big fluffy butt since he spent the day sleeping in front of the door until we came back. I keep worrying about did he take his meds, did he eat enough…things the poor guy no longer needs to worry about these days.
I look at Princess, who is ten, eleven years old. I know her issues, just as I knew Shadow’s. These dogs have been in my life for ten years plus now. They’ve been friends and protectors and guardians and test subjects. I took a canine/feline massage therapy course just for Shadow during the year I was in massage therapy school. During my confinement while I was pregnant w N, when I was unable and unwilling to go to school to perform hands on massages on people, so my instructor let me practice at home…on the dogs. These dogs are the reason, for the most part, that I was able to graduate from massage school. If I hadn’t finished before I had N, I never would have.
So, since I started out here, let’s look at Kendall and Princess after Shadow’s passing.
Poor R was very upset that once Shadow did pass Princess would not go near the body. I cannot say that I blame her. Princess’s job for so long was to watch after and take care of the old man. As soon as he passed, a huge burden lifted off of her shoulders. You could see it in her whole body. She had been released. A year earlier, R’s ex-girlfriend had taken away the third dog in what had been a consistent live-in arrangement. Princess had been crushed. She had mourned. She had sat at the door, or at the window, staring out, waiting for her third pack mate to return. There are a great many internal human issues at work here…most revolve around the lack of communication from the ex, and her inability to think of anyone other than herself. She did not take the dog when they broke up. She waited a few weeks, then burst into the house, screaming about wanting to take back everything that belonged to her. The dog was among these items; there had never been any conversation during the years the dog had lived w R about specifics as to whom Taylor belonged, despite the fact that he was listed as R’s at the vet, his collar had R’s information, and his ID chip had R’s information. That passing Princess mourned. Princess did not mourn for Shadow. She rejoiced. Not only was she free from her guilt about being unable to do anything for him, she knew he was better off and was happier. Her attitude is the one I prefer to emulate.
Princess spent the three days after Shadow’s passing grinning like a maniac, as happy as a puppy, getting used to her role as queen of the domain again. She even took over some of Shadow’s old duties. Like walking behind my son and hoovering up anything he dropped, or slightly knocking N’s tv tray to see if she could knock some more food off the edges.
How Princess got over Taylor’s leaving was w Kendall. Princess and Kendall really hit it off, much more than R or I could have foreseen actually. Princess was always a bit disgruntled and miffed about Kendall. Ken turns two next month. She is a big fluffy goofy Pest, capital P. She thinks everyone in the world is here to pet her and to play w her. Princess has been Ken’s hero since the moment they met. Ken has practiced her Princess bark from the moment Ken first heard it. Ken is a border collie mix. Princess is a German shepherd/chow mix. Ken has a high pitched yippy yuppie bark. Princess has a deep full-throated growly I will eat you alive bark. Ken pretends to have Princess’s bark…she’s finally starting to get good at it. Ken is one of the creatures that honestly cannot and will not take no for an answer, until she gets rolled across the yard. It took a bit, but now she and Princess will play like puppies, romping and wrestling through the grass, playing chase, finding icky stinky things to roll in together.
Ken is the one who was visibly upset when Shadow passed. In the weeks before he passed, Ken had been helping Princess take care of him. She would lie next to him. She would keep an eye on him. She would try to get him to play. She would do her I’m the puppy here suck up thing that she does. When Kendall starting to lay down close enough to Shadow to touch him, I knew the end was coming. Ken is a fruit loop, but she is a very sensitive fruit loop. Kendall has hopes of being a familiar one day; she is that sensitive. She’s too fruit loopy though. She is not keyed onto humans, the way Princess is. Kendall is keyed onto dogs. She came that way. We come home and both dogs are outside, rest assured Princess will make a beeline for her humans to love on them. Kendall may not even notice anyone is home if she’s playing tag w the dog next door. Although once she notices humans are home, she is all over them to get petted and to be loved. It’s not the same thing.
Kendall didn’t know what to do w herself the night Shadow passed. She walked the house, lost, for a couple days afterwards. She wasn’t really sure what was happening. You could tell by the look on her face. She would sit and whine, then run outside and walk all over the place, sniffing and wandering. She’d come back in, pace the house. She was looking for Shadow. She’d sit at the window and stare out, whimpering in her annoyingly subsonic way that drives me to the brink of wanting a good stiff drink or three. After about three days, she started to do what Princess was doing. That first week after his passing, those dogs rough-housed and wrestled and rolled more than they had in the months before his passing. No small feat w Kendall the energizer bunny dog as a partner.
Now, it’s business as usual here w the dogs. They were off their feed for a couple days. Then, no issues there. Although I think everyone is waiting for that time when the last of the food bought w Shadow’s infirmities in mind is all done…and we can go on to the low protein diet that Princess and her aging liver now require.
Now here we are. Two dogs living in one house. Two rabbits living in another house. Not to mention a fish tank full of fish, most of whom I do not really think ought to be living together.
We’ll discuss the rabbits first.
I do not think I shall ever have angora rabbits again. If it were just Simon, my silver grey bun, I would be saying something completely different. He’s beautiful. I could show this guy in rabbit shows and have no issues or worries about him not winning. He is gorgeous. But my reddish-brown guy, Charley, I swear he can sit still and become matted somehow. I know I need to be able to get to his chest and groom him more…for some reason he has taken to loving to mat up his chest fur of late. That’s not good since he hates to have his chest messed w, not that I blame him for that.
I love rabbits. Rabbits are like…fairies. It really is the best analogy I can come up w. They are so not anything like dogs. They are very mildly like cats. Rabbits are like rabbits. They like to get into things, just because they can. They like to take things apart, just because they can. They do not immediately run over and try the new bit of lettuce I hold out to them -- for the first time, I did this yesterday…neither bun was impressed…although hold out a piece of Hawaiian bread, and they may both take off your hand getting to it. I will definitely have rabbits again, once these ones pass on, but I don’t think I want angoras again.
Now, I did know angoras require grooming, as well as a slightly different diet than other non-wool producing buns, well before I got them. Talk about a strange way to decide you want a pet. I got a spinning wheel for my birthday…and sheep or goats…well, they are not backyard in the city friendly. The animals themselves are fine with it…it’s the city that has problems. A rabbit seemed a nice middle ground. Something I can keep in the house, something that will be a pet, and something that will shed out a magnificent fur that can be spun into the warmest fluffiest of yarns. Never mind that I knew going in that spinning angora is not a good experience for a beginning spinner. Once I started going, I was more interested in rabbits as pets.
The majority of the literature available is not necessarily for house rabbits. The majority of literature is about keeping rabbits to show and/or to eat. Although I can see how this is a good idea, that is not where I am at the moment. Later on, maybe, but not right now. Finding information about actual angoras also proved difficult. I am lucky. I have a breeder locally that will answer all my questions. Right now, my question is…are my bunnies insane, defective, or brain damaged? Seriously. I am good on checking for wet poop. I am good on cage cleaning. Rabbits are messy messy messy…but I am not as upset over dumb bunnies throwing food and poop all over the place, although I am perturbed by the peeing over the edge of the cage now and then…but it’s not a big thing, since it is infrequent. I thought rabbits were supposed to be cleaner than these guys…or rather, cleaner than Charley. He’s the usual suspect. I am good on their diet and on treating them like newborn human babies when introducing new foods. To date, new foods include the tiny bits of red lettuce yesterday that immediately were knocked aside and ignored and Hawaiian sweet rolls, which were an amazingly big hit the moment either bun first smelled what I held between my fingers for them. I am lucky to still have all my fingers after that. Grooming them is still touch and go, only because I am still trying to make them realize I am going to be brushing and combing them whether they like it or not and one of these days clipping their god awful toenails that are like little kitten claws in their razor sharpness. We are getting there though. Simon is still easier to groom though. If he were a female, I’d say Simon were the Queen. Even though Charley crawls all over him all the time. They both do it to one another.
Bonded rabbits, like our boys, spoon together. They play chase. The boys have discovered the toys we have for them. They especially like the plastic balls. These are hard plastic baseballs, the kind that are hollow and full of holes. The rabbits love picking them up and tossing them, then chasing after them and doing it again. I am waiting to figure out how to toss the ball to one another and start playing catch. Rabbits are very intelligent and snobby too. They are not afraid to crawl all over you, yank your hair, yank you jeans, nip your neck, curl up and sit on your lap and clean themselves a bit, then dive off as if cliff diving before streaking up into their cage to try to climb over the top edge of the cage when the upper door is open, and just as suddenly turn and race back down to hide from you as if you poked them w a cattle prod.
Rabbits are strange. I like that. I am joking when I say they are crazy, or brain damaged or defective. They are sweet and loving and utterly bonkers. I continue to maintain that had I known how very cool rabbits were, I would not have had cats for the past twenty plus years.
Which brings us to cats. I used to love cats. I’ve had cats all my life. Then I had a male that sprayed, even after he was fixed. In a tiny apartment. We lived w two cats at first, then three. I spent more time cleaning out the litter boxes, in an apartment that barely had room for one litter box, than I did cooking for my child. I think that was when it started, the whole, I am so sick and tired of cats thing. We had two other cats before I took the sprayer, who happened to be my favorite and beloved lap warmer, to a new home. Those two cats we brought w us when we moved, across country. From WV to IL. Yeah, my tolerance was fast evaporating. Both cats were climbers. I lost one too many Mother Mary statues to kitty cat high jinks. They were very much my daughter’s cats though. I was already starting to let the cats go in and out of the house, trying to convince them they could live outside and I’d still take care of them. I just would not keep a litter box in the house. Then we got Kendall. She was an extremely sick puppy, we came to find out very quickly. We adopted her from a local shelter during one of their adoption events at the local Petsmart. It was love at first sight so badly that N and I saw her first, but I couldn’t get her w N, because he was still in cling mode back then. I took him back to his dad’s, picked up E, and went back. She made a beeline for Ken, so it was sort of destiny that we got her, even though I still like to tease I wanted the German shepherd mix in the pen w Ken. It was always Kenny, from the moment I first saw her. She was twelve pounds and she should have been closer to twenty-five or thirty. The shelter woman told me she ‘might have a slight cough’ since all the dogs at the shelter had just been given their bordetella vaccines. What Ken actually had was a major infection that nearly killed her. I still tease her and say the fever she had caused brain damage.
Once Kendall was feeling good enough to run around, the cats, who were nearly her size at first, made good friends for her in her mind, or rather made good chew toys. Kendall can be a bit of a bully. She has no issues using her size to her advantage. As she rapidly put on weight and more than doubled her original twelve pounds, the cats were not thrilled. Spooky did his best to stay out of her way. She’d come towards him, he would not run, always. Usually he’d get up, saunter away, then jump onto something too high for Ken to reach. Pumpkin was not so smart. Pumpkin, the cat that nearly took out Ken’s eye when she was still sick because she was trying to sniff him and figure out what he was. Pumpkin liked to play. If Ken hadn’t been so rough, they might have actually gotten along and been really good friends. As it was, Pumpkin began to develop really nasty sores on his neck from Ken grabbing him and dragging him around. She wasn’t being mean. She was only playing. I put the cats outside for good after that, after doctoring Pumpkin’s neck as well as we could. I made sure they were fed, had a warm dry place to sleep. I know what happened to them. We could have been happy w that arrangement for years, if we hadn’t lived near such nasty people.
Of course, we did inherit a conure parrot, after the cats were outside. I know we did well by the bird, but we are not bird people. I might have to spray things down daily w the rabbits, but at least I am not scraping poop off the wall…and their poop, to date, does not strip paint off of anything. Birds are very messy. Birds can be very loud. Birds can learn to speak and when they are around, uhm, not quite gentile people, they can develop the kind of vocabulary that makes sailors not just blush, but wince and duck their heads. That’s the bird we inherited. That bird now has a really good and very interactive home w some friends of ours. We get to visit her whenever we want. She’s doing quite well. I am happy for her.
We have fish. I am a fish person. I don’t know why. Oh, now that is just a blatant lie there. I remember being very young and my dad and I keeping a tank full of black mollies in my room … they were my fish. My dad has always kept fish. My grandfather literally had a full wall covered by ten gallon tanks full of fish. Dad says that was his scaled down version of his guppy enterprises. Pappap raised guppies. Dad prefers to raise mollies. My thing is angel fish…and for awhile tiger barbs, but not in the same tank.
I found a great deal on a forty gallon tank, top and stand. It is a tall tank, as opposed to a long tank. Tall tanks are good for angels. I still do not have any angel fish. I probably won’t be getting them for awhile. My dad has a forty, forty five gallon tall tank. He also got a very good deal on his tank long ago. It is not a good tank to keep mollies in. He always has trouble keeping his mollies alive. I am beginning to think it has more to do with his collection of bottom dwellers than w the tank itself. Mollies prefer a long tank. He warned me our mollies would not do well in a tall tank. Mollies like to swim at the top to middle range of the water, so a longer tank is more beneficial for them. If I had a forty gallon long tank, theoretically the fish would have more room to swim and would be happier.
Technically, I have very few mollies left in the tank. I do, however, have an overabundance of swordtails. Swords are like mollies, but different. Swords also like to jump out of the tank when they get the chance. To date, none of our swords have done that. Yet. Knock on wood. We bought two pregnant swordtails. They gave birth and died. Now we have about a hundred little swords swimming around. One molly left, our little Dalmatian girl. She keeps getting pregnant. Sometimes her babies even survive. We have about two of them that I can tell are hers right now. I am interested in who the father of this last batch could be..since all the male mollies are history.
Now, we also have guppies. Four females and two males. All the girls are pregnant. The mollies do not mess with the guppies. I was certain they would. I guess Wendy (short for Wendell), our crown tail betta, seems to have everyone trained. No nipping the slow pretty fish. Wendy happens to be the biggest, fattest betta I have ever seen or kept. Once we dropped him into the forty gallon tank, he took on the persona of Jaws. He slides through that water like a tank. No one messes w him. No one even looks at him. When he comes up to eat, no one bothers him. I thought for sure he was going to be a goner.
The swords and mollies used to be in a ten gallon tank together. Wendy was in the five gallon tank, w a couple albino corey cats. Wendy was never that big nor that active in his five gallon tank.
We also have two botia, to keep the snails at bay. They are doing a great job at that, but I worry about what will happen once there are no more snails for them to attack. Botia eat other fish. We have two types of live bearers. We may have kissed our new babies good-bye in order to get rid of the snail problem. We used to have botia in another tank, before we left WV. It didn’t matter what sort of fish we put into that tank. They ‘mysteriously’ disappeared. It took us awhile to figure out the botia were hunting and stalking the other fish. That’s why we only have two botia right now. Less to catch to return to the pet shop later.
We have six albino corey cats, because I love them. You can always see where they are. They are friendly and happy industrious little workers. Plus, they are also quite hardy.
And, of course, the plecto, George. The hidden cleaner who appears as if a ghost at the oddest of moments, striking us blatantly with his ever growing size. I know he is a necessary cleaner fish, but I hate when plectos get too big. I buy them as small as I can find them. I rarely keep them more than a year, before I take them back to the pet store and trade them in for something…smaller. I usually start with a plecto anywhere from one to three inches long…and end up with an eight to twelve inch long behemoth not even a year later.
I have a need to keep fish. For awhile there, while we were in MD and in WV, I didn’t want any fish. I didn’t want any added responsibility. Plus, we could only have a small tank. I sold my 55 gallon tank when we left for MD in 2006. Every time I looked at that tank, I thought of the farce that had been the marriage. I didn’t want to deal w it. I let it go. I am actually much happier w my forty gallon now. It is closer to what I have been wanting, a hexagonal tank that is not actually healthy for fish, although I wanted to do a coral tank, not a fish tank. The smaller the tank, the more often you need to clean it, and the more thorough a cleaning you need to do. With the 55 gallon, I could do a 10% water change every week or every other week and be fine. With the 5 gallon, I was scrubbing algae, changing 20-25% of the water weekly, plus having to change out the filters at least weekly. We had a betta and some corey cats in the 5 gallon. It wasn’t as if I had goldfish or something – goldfish are horribly nasty creatures when it comes to cleaning up after them. I don’t do goldfish. I don’t like them. I never have.
With my forty gallon, I do a 5-10% water change every couple weeks. Since I changed up the filtration system, I rinse one part of it every week, so that after three weeks, everything has been rinsed and it’s time to start over again. Plus, we have guppies and mollies. You don’t want the water pristinely clear since these fish tend to prefer slightly murky mucky waters. I refuse to let it get too nasty, but I don’t get upset when the water is a little cloudy. Live bearers also need a bit of salt in the water to help them carry and release the young. Right now, we have mostly plastic plants, but I prefer natural plants. When we moved, it was winter. The chill killed off most of our plants, aquatic and otherwise. We have a few plants still thriving in the forty gallon tank. They are really starting to make a come-back these past few weeks. When we first got the tank, however, there wasn’t enough cover for everyone. Especially not with so many pregnant females. I caved and bought plastic plants to ensure the babies and the mothers had plenty of places to hide. It seems to have worked. We have brooded youngsters swimming around healthy and alive these days. I’m waiting to see how the guppies do.
Since my dad told me mollies don’t do well in tall tanks, I’ve been waiting for the mollies to die out. It’s not happening. My fish are happy and healthy. When I bought the guppies for my daughter, who has wanted guppies for years because her Auntie loves guppies and she wants to be like her Auntie, I was admitting my defeat…and accepting the knowledge that at some point I will have to buy myself a second tank … not for the first time in my life either… so that I can have a certain type of fish in one tank and a certain type of other fish in another tank. I keep my eyes open for another tall tank on sale whenever we go out.
Which brings me here…we are all waiting for the day when we buy the bigger house, when we have the farm land, when we can have live stock, and a bellows in a shed, and a potting wheel in another shed…when we can have a flock of egg layers, a herd of milk producers and fiber givers, when we can really start to let our hair down and explore breeding options with a variety of species, including keeping and stocking our own pond. I am quite looking forward to that.