Sunday, November 28, 2010

Foster kitteh

What have I done??
Approx six-week-old kitten
Yeah, I fell for that little face. Well, Byrd fell for it first.

I was out on the town on Black Friday when I got a text message from Byrd: we have kittens. I called him right then and there. Sometimes it's better to convey one's thoughts directly. Mine were: "WTF do you mean, 'we have kittens'?!?" (My sister and mom, two cat lovers who were in the car with me, squealed in unison.)

The truth was that we had one kitten, and it was hiding in the pipe that went under our driveway, and was unwilling to come out without a fight. Rather than leave it there overnight with the first freeze of the year upon us, I put the live trap at one end of the pipe, and slowly shoved a PVC pipe through the other end. Into the live trap it went, hissing and spitting like a tiny evil demon.

She's significantly tamed down after a bit of food and quiet. And now she's my newest foster.

"Chibi," aka "Tiny" for the U.S. crowd
I gave her a bath on the first day. I was not prepared for the fleas. Do you know what a fire ant mound looks like when you step on it? The fleas swarmed similarly as I rinsed the baby kitten with Dawn. The water ran bloody red. I spent several hours picking off fleas, but she still has tons. (Currently working on securing a better flea treatment.)

My tasks this week are getting her vetted and scheduled for spay. These costs are coming out of my pocket for this kitten because we're doing the foster independent from any rescue group.

Although I prefer to foster for rescue groups, because they cover medical costs, this is not an option for Tiny. The local rescue/foster groups pull directly from kill shelters--they don't take animals from the community. So I cannot "surrender" Tiny to a no-kill group and let them rehome her. I would have to drop Tiny off at the local open-intake (kill) shelter, and hope that a rescue group pulled her or someone adopted her before she was euthed. There's always the chance that Tiny might be killed by the shelter in such a scenario.

So I'm doing the foster, the vetting, the spay, and the rehoming legwork myself this time. Merry Christmas, kitteh. Your vet bills are going to eat up a good chunk of the money I was going to spend on Christmas gifts this year. :P

Oh well. It's a good learning experience for Star, whose only previous experience with cats went like this:

Me: What a nice garden center. Look at all these plants, Star!
Star: Oh yes, what nice plants. I shall smell this big one here. Sniff sniff.
Cat leaps from behind plant and claws Star across the face.
Me: Dear God, the plant is trying to kill us!! No... wait...
Cat: Nyaaah! Stoopid dog! (runs off)
Star: MY FACE!! I will DESTROY YOU!!! ...Where'd it go?
Me: Too late. You got whupped by a cat. (mops up cat-inflicted wounds)

Star hasn't been too keen on cats since the day her face got shredded by one. I don't really blame her. But I've been looking for an opportunity to desensitize her to cats in a controlled environment. This is a baby step.
"It's one of those evil THINGS! In MY HOUSE!"

"Gee, you sure have a lot of toys in there."

"When am I going to get that many toys?"
Actually, the toys are on loan from my sister's cat.

Okay, I promised a foster puppy update. I've gotten pics from a few of the adoptive families, and I got to see King Louie on Friday. The pups are a little over four months old now. If they're anything like Louie, they must all be total dolls. Louie was a class act.

Momma Nancy was a Boston Terrier x Beagle. Daddy was a mystery. Puppy Louie looks a bit like a Saint Bernard, Chow, Cocker Spaniel, or Dachshund. He's got thick fur, but his body is long and his legs are short. He's the most adorable, friendly, playful little furball... and surprisingly quiet, considering he was the leader of the Scream Team when he was born. 
King Louie, now King Louis
Bowser, now Maverick
Princess Daisy, now Sister
That's all for now... I'm hoping to get more updates when they are six months old!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What a computer virus taught me about feeds

So my desktop computer caught a virus last week. I don't know how that happened, considering we have three different virus scanners running on that thing, and they all scream at me every time I try to do anything on that machine. But it happened. And my desktop stopped booting.

I lost neither files nor time. The desktop files were able to be retrieved and saved to an external hard drive.
And I have a very nice laptop where I do most of my real work. So the desktop can go off to the computer repair center to be fixed up.

The only thing I never set up on my laptop was email. I used webmail to check email from the laptop as needed, and I used Outlook on my desktop to download the emails and store them offline.

With the desktop dead, I suddenly lost the email organization once provided by Outlook. I now had to keep up with six different email addresses somehow. So I caved in to peer pressure (my sister), and started using Microsoft Live Mail to check and sort through all the email.

And boy am I glad I did. I won't say it's a perfect system by any means, BUT I immediately noticed an interesting feature up at the top: Unread Feeds.

Here's where the story gets embarrassing.

My old-school Outlook hadn't had this feature. I observed that I had approximately 1300 unread feeds. What feeds were these, anyway? I clicked on the Unread Feeds box and found myself reading new and old posts from several blogs that I enjoyed.

I was, I admit, floored by this technological miracle. Previous to this discovery, in order to read blogs, I'd made it a habit to personally click on the link to each and every blog I wanted to follow. Once there, I had to figure out where I'd left off and whether there were any new posts. Doing this for the 40+ blogs I wanted to read required a minimum 1-hr chunk of quiet time to click and look—and even longer if there were new posts. It became almost unmanageable to find that hour of time, much less to comment.

I felt sure that there was a better way to do it, likely using these mysterious feeds that everyone subscribed to. But figuring it out would have taken some time I just didn't have.

And then the virus made me upgrade my email program, and the new posts started magically appearing in my mailbox. How easy, how relaxing, to see the new posts and comment on them as they arrived, rather than forging through 40 or more in one sitting!

I have one puzzle left, which is--how does my email program know which blogs I want to follow? For some reason, Windows Live Mail has some, but not all, of my favorite blogs in the feed list. How it came up with this list, I can't figure out. How to add the rest of the blogs, I also can't determine.

It might take me a while to get around to fixing the settings.

I can't believe it took a virus to shove me into the 21st century. I feel so out of touch.

Next time: I gots me some foster puppy updated pics!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Fetch Incident

What happens when one dog runs face-first into another dog at full speed?

Dozer, post-collision
The story, as I was told it, went like this: Poor Star was just sitting in the yard, minding her own business, when the frisbee toy came sailing down and landed softly beside her. She leaned over to pick it up, and SURPRISE! she got a mouthful of Dozer's face instead.

Dozer lives to fetch. He is a retriever in a pit bull body. Unfortunately, out in the yard, he becomes a mindless fetch zombie, and is well known for his indiscriminate, unstoppable battering-ram fetch style. The fact that he's 90 lbs does not make this a safe exercise for anything in his way. Frisbee throwers are instructed to make sure his path is clear of any object larger than a golf ball.

Over the years, fetch has resulted in broken teeth, ACL tear, bloody paws (carpet burn effect), bloody cuts, missing fur, and a kinked tail.

Considering these effects, I have forbidden the game. My husband, on the other hand, is a sucker. He plays fetch with Dozer when I'm not home to stop him.

Which is why the first question out of my mouth when I came home on this particular day was, "Ohmigod, why does my dog look like he's been in a bar fight?!?"

Star still loves her best buddy Dozer, even though he crashed into her with such force that she did two complete backward somersaults. I appreciate the tolerance that Star has. I'm not sure how a lesser dog would have reacted, but Star apparently brushed the whole incident off as just-another-thing-that-happened-to-me-today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pit bull ownership: a felony?

Texas is about to start the 2011 legislative session. Already, East Texas legislators have been presented with a proposal to ban pit bulls.

The proposal would make a felon out of anyone who is found in possession of a "pit bull" (currently defined in the proposal as APBT, AST, SBT, AB, mixes, and any dog that resembles one).

Probably aware that a ban is a longshot, the group has a fallback proposal: force "pit bull" owners to follow a variety of special restrictions, e.g. muzzles, special containment, special license, liability insurance, etc.

Being a Texan "pit bull" owner myself, I'm deeply concerned not only about the proposal, but about the logic driving it.

East Texas has a dog problem. A large number of abusive, neglectful, irresponsible dog owners reside there--and their unfortunate dogs happen to be "pit bulls" (the most common type of dog, because the definition is so vague and generic). Because much of East Texas is rural and impoverished, many of those areas have pathetic dog laws--not even a leash law in many areas--and they are lacking in animal control officers, dog owner resources (spay/neuter clinics, training classes, etc.), and humane societies.

But while East Texas wants to deal with their dog problems by getting rid of "pit bulls," the rest of the state doesn't seem to need such regulations. In my area, for instance, we have three nearby low-cost spay/neuter clinics; regular vaccination clinics; more humane societies, rescue groups, and shelters than I can count on one hand; training classes galore; a highly responsive animal control department; and decent dog laws that let AC do their job before there's a real problem.

We still have a "pit bull" problem, in that there are tons of "pit bulls" in our local shelters. Again, that's due to the extremely vague definition of the term "pit bull," resulting in almost any medium-sized, short-haired dog being labeled as such. (I suppose what we really have is a shelter glut of short-haired dogs.)

But around here, "pit bull" isn't such a dirty word as in East Texas. We have several active groups in the animal community that stick up for pit bulls, educate about them, and work hard to rescue, train, and rehome them. The normalization of pit bulls--that is, the framing of pit bulls as pets and family dogs--has reduced their desirability with thugs and idiots.

Love-A-Bull, in particular, has been boldly pushing responsible ownership values, and their large group of responsible, upstanding, pit bull-owning supporters has demonstrated to the less-responsible crowd, as well as the general public, that "pit bulls" are not necessarily status symbols or badass dawgs. These dogs can don pink tutus and glittery bunny ears, and parade amongst hundreds of other "pit bulls," and not have a mentionable incident. The theme of spay/neuter was prominent at Love-A-Bull's heavily-attended Pit Bull Awareness event last week--much to the crowd's pleasure.

A pit bull ban would only infect the rest of Texas with the pit bull problems experienced by East Texas. The attitude of the general populace toward a particular breed ultimately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. When you portray a particular breed as dangerous, scary, evil, or threatening--as they have done in East Texas, and as breed-specific laws do--you will find that that breed becomes used almost exclusively in a negative manner.

Just ask Ohio about the results of their breed-specific state law:
Shawn Webster, a Butler County [Ohio] veterinarian and former state representative . . . believes Ohio’s singling out of the breed has helped foster the vicious stereotype, and led gang members and drug dealers to seek them as status symbols and for protection.

“From that point on, the population of pit bulls exploded,” he said. “I think it’s put a stereotype on this breed that’s been harmful to everyone involved.”
Only through social normalization of the breed, and intolerance for irresponsible human behaviors--as is being worked toward in Austin and other areas--can you reduce the number of thugs and irresponsible jerks who acquire the dogs for inappropriate purposes.

Get with the program, East Texas.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Hives and staph and allergies, oh my!

Dozer has allergies. (If you follow this blog, this is not new.)

They were once seasonal and a simple cortisone shot could get him through the worst of it, but for the last couple years, the allergies have been year-round.

Dozer's third and most recent bout of staph sent us to a specialist. Who knew there were canine dermatologists? And that there was a good one just around the corner from my house?

So off we went to the dermatologist. Her office was fancy. I think the level of office fanciness is a big clue that you're now in Specialist Land, because Dozer's orthopedic specialist had a similarly swanky pad. We're talking polished concrete floors, vaulted ceilings with cedar beams, a plethora of looming tropical indoor plants, huge windows gazing out into greenbelt. Nothing resembling the cheap white tile and plain white walls of the regular vet.

The new strategy is a food allergy trial, meaning a restricted diet. Dozer eats nothing but a special rabbit-and-potato kibble for the next six weeks or more. He can't eat anything with artificial flavors, meaning he has to have ivermectin instead of the standard beef-flavored heartworm medicine. A few natural vegetables, like carrots and pumpkin, are okay.

Dozer HATES his special food. I think it smells awful, so I sympathize. I mix canned pumpkin into the food and it becomes magically delicious. Go figure.

Dozer also got a four-week course of cephalexin to treat the staph infection. Those pills go into a spoonful of pumpkin twice a day.

Just when I thought, hey, we might get this stuff under control after all... HIVES. The worst case of hives he's ever had.

I have no idea what set him off, but when he came up to me on Monday morning looking unhappy, I noticed the raised red weals all over his stomach. Blotchy, but not horrible. Yet.

Day 1
When they didn't disappear in a few hours, I called the dermatologist. The dermatologist advised giving him four Benadryl every eight hours. Now, I know Benadryl is the popular solution for many histamine reactions like hives, and it does work well for some dogs, but for whatever reason, Dozer has never really responded to Benadryl. But then again, four Benadryl sounded like a mega-dose that nothing could stand up to, so I decided to try it.

Hello? Benadryl? You working?
By the next morning, Dozer was one giant hive. His stomach was red as a tomato (and turning purple and even brown in places), his feet were puffy like marshmallows, and the hives had moved into the areas where the staph was already a problem, so he basically looked horribly diseased. Through another phone consultation, the dermatologist agreed I should take him to our regular vet for some serious intervention.

At the regular vet (who said, without batting an eye, "Wow, his skin is really inflamed"), Dozer got a cortisone shot, and some take-home prednisone pills for the next week.

Day 2

The dark spots aren't freckles--they are uber-hives.
Dozer's stomach is usually uniformly pale.
 It took another 24 hours for the swelling to go down. Dozer gets two cephalexin and a prednisone pill twice a day. Here we are four days after the initial event, and he still has blotches and scabby spots.

Sure wish I knew what happened so I could get rid of whatever it is/was.

Anyway, I'm still hopeful we can get a handle on his allergies, despite this ridiculous setback. We may resume allergy shots if the food trial turns up negative for food allergies.

Here is a totally off-topic closing quip for your enjoyment.

Text message exchange between me and my sister:

Me: i wanna put my recycling in your receptacle

Sister: dirty