Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Christmas that Almost Wasn't


Tuesday, December 20, 2011 almost ended any happiness that would have been this Christmas.
I had to go to Sherman, Texas for some last minute grocery shopping needs before Christmas. Mom stayed home with the critters. It should have been an easy task, as it usually is. Not this time.
Shasta was in the yard when I left. She watched me through the gate as I pulled away. Like the other dogs, she bolted to the other side of the yard to watch me as I pulled out of the driveway and headed towards Sherman.
After I got to Sherman, I made 2 stops... the Catholic church to deliver a couple of Christmas presents and the post office.
I, then, headed to PetSmart to pick up another dog bed and some cat beds they had on sale still, as well as some litter and food. While there, I got some toys for the cats and a few more for the dogs.

As I got in line at the check out, I got a call from Mom. I listened to her still calming down from a frightful experience...

Shasta got out of the yard.

I asked if she wanted me to come home. She said no; she had managed to catch her, as she called to her and she came.

She put her back in the yard, but she got out again. This time she saw her do it. She squeezed between the house and the fence post. She didn't know how she was fitting, as the space looked too thin.

I told her I would try to hurry, but I had to go to Sam's, Kroger & Walmart, which I dreaded. Things moved along, but seemed to me to be taking forever. As the time passed and more and more people seemed to be out Christmas shopping, I felt like I was getting nowhere, and was nervous as to how things were going at home.

Then, the worst call came while I was at Walmart picking out a birthday card for Mom...

Mom called... Shasta was out of the yard again. She had gone out with her this time to watch her, but she was faster than Mom. She squeezed out and started running. The land is 2 acres, which doesn't seem too large until you are chasing a dog or walking it when you are in pain. Mom walks with a cane and a walker. She was smart this time and took her cane and a coat with her to watch her. She had no treats to entice her with, though, and no leash. Her collar was not on her, as this was the first time she had ever gotten out of the yard.

Sherman is 20 minutes from home doing 70 mph. I told her I would leave and come home. She told me no, just finish; she'd do the best she could.

She was crying. I felt helpless.

Here's my near 68 year old mother, who has been told she needs knee replacements, but refuses to get them because she's afraid, out chasing my 9 month old puppy across 2 acres of land... barb wire barricades 2 sides and horse fence barricades the 3rd side. Wild berry vine bushes with thorns, prickly pear cactus and briar vines with large thorns is everywhere. In some places, there are thickets of trees & poison oak. Mom followed her back as far as she could go. Shasta kept going... through the barb wire fence and through a pasture and to the other side of a line of trees out of sight. That's when Mom called me while I was at Walmart. She was so upset because she thought she lost my puppy. I was upset because I knew Mom couldn't walk that well and to know she was traipsing all over chasing her. I wasn't there to help and Shasta was out of her sight. I was afraid for Mom getting hurt, and I was afraid of losing Shasta.

I called our neighbor. He was still at work, but his girlfriend and his son were home. He asked them to go over to help.
Mom managed to get Shasta to start heading back to her, but Shasta was distracted by a pond... in she went... belly deep!

My neighbors made it back to Mom and tried to help catch Shasta. They all chased her back up to the house. When they got back to the house, Shasta was back in the yard, as my neighbors saw her escape again as they approached. Luckily the three of them were able to corral her at the spot where she got out, and she squeezed back in. None of them could figure how she got out.

I got a call from my neighbor as I got to the truck after checking out at Walmart. I was so panicked I was shaking. He calmly asked, "did you here?" I thought he was going to say Mom fell and got hurt or Shasta ran out in the street and got hit by a car... the street is a 70 mph highway, which was extremely busy just before Christmas and at 4-5pm. No. Shasta was back in the yard. Whew!

After loading the groceries in the truck, I got a call from Mom. I told her I heard from our neighbor already. I asked how she was. She was still shaken and now, she realized, terribly scratched from all the thorns of the berry vine bushes. I told her to wash her legs well and put antibiotics on them because I always get infections from them dadgum thorns. She has problems with her legs with cellulitis, diabetes, as well as she has to watch infections since they removed lymph nodes when she had breast cancer.

When I got home, I looked at the fence. I figured out how she was getting out. The house is a mobile home. The skirting or under pinning is flexible. She was able to push against it, pushing it in, to fit her body between it and the fence post. I tried the best I could to block it off. I, then, took her out on a long training leash I have every time she needed to go out until my brother could do something more permanent with the area.

Both, Mom and I, learned something the Tuesday before Christmas...

After Maverick died this past June, we didn't expect to get another dog. We still had the three we had with Maverick and Copper before they died plus the one that wandered up after Copper died. So, we still had 4 dogs. The only reason we got Shasta 3 days after Maverick died was because we didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to, once again, have a wolf hybrid.

Here we are 6 months later, and we realized we love her... hook, line & sinker! We realized we would have been devastated if something happened to her or if we lost her. We realized, with Christmas presents waiting for her and a new video camera just dying to film it, it would not have been a very merry or happy Christmas without her.

The fence has been modified, but my trust in Shasta is still shaken. I don't leave her outside for long periods of time without checking on her. OK, I am neurotic; I check on her often!

Shasta's first Christmas was a good one. I think I got a little bit of video, but I have to go through it. I hope to be able to sit down with her and write her blog recounting her first Christmas for next week.

Shasta jumping on the "scaredy hole" to play with Cody.
The "scaredy hole" is the underground tornado shelter.

Shasta & Cody playing on top of the "scaredy hole".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pets at Christmas: Tips Pt 2

Christmas trees, Christmas lights & cords, tinsel, ornaments, mistletoe, poinsettias, Christmas presents, ribbons, bows, paper, food, hot ovens/stoves, lots of people, laughter and loud noise… these are all parts of the Christmas celebration. These all present issues for pets at Christmas time, regardless of whether the pet is new or been around a while.

Adopting a Pet for Christmas
A lot of children ask for pets for Christmas. Be it a puppy, a kitten, a bunny or a pony, its part of childhood. Parents have many times satisfied these cries for a Christmas pet by actually following through. In some cases, people also feel the urge to get Christmas pets for people other than children… girlfriends, boyfriends, parents or other loved ones. What people do not take into consideration is whether the recipient of the Christmas pet can care for the pet or even wants the pet. Sometimes people say they want, but do they, really?

People advertise Christmas litters of puppies or kittens… ready in time for Christmas. Should you visit these people?

Even shelters and rescues bump up their advertising for Christmas hoping to find the perfect home for strays knowing full well a lot of these pets will be back. Should you take these organizations up on their offers?

I will answer these questions later.

Apache, a Catahoula Leopard Dog,
at Red River SPCA in Cooke County, Texas

Here are some tips regarding giving pets at Christmastime.

  1. Consult the recipient of your gift. Be it children or adults. Pets should never be a surprise. If the recipient is another adult who does not live with you, ALWAYS discuss the gift of a pet with them. They may not be able to care for it or want it as much as you think they would.
  2. Make sure the recipient is capable of caring for a pet. Financially, mentally & physically. Pets are like a member of the family. They are not throwaways. Just as you would not discard your child or parent, you should not discard a pet. They have needs… food, toys, grooming, medical, etc. and your time. Be sure the monetary cost is in your budget, as well as having the time to spend with the pet.
  3. If the recipient is a child, REMEMBER the child is NOT ultimately responsible for the pet. The parents are! If the child loses interest and no longer takes care of the pet, the adult(s) is/are responsible for the pet.
  4. Do your research! These tips are great even if it is not Christmas.
    1. What is the best type of pet for your family? Dog? Cat? Maybe something else?
    2. Research dog breeds, sizes, etc. If you live in an apartment, a Dalmatian is NOT the right choice. They are large high energy dogs who do not do well in small places. If you have small children, some small breeds like Italian Greyhounds are very fragile and can be injured easily.
    3. Again research cat breeds. Siamese are very active cats. Maine Coons are very laid back. Persians need a lot of grooming.
    4. Research the medical problems prone to individual breeds. Be aware of what may be in the future. It doesn’t mean the pet you choose will get a specific medical problem, but you need to be aware.
    5. Outside animals: horses/ponies, goats, etc. also have specific needs.
    6. The Internet has a vast wealth of information. When doing your research, be sure your Internet research is from reliable sources.
  5. Check into vet clinics to choose the vet best for you and your new pet.
  6. Bring the recipient with you to pick out the pet. Allow them to hold/touch the pet. Allow them to choose their new pet. Pets bond with their owners. Give them a head start by allowing the bonding to start at selection time.
If the pet is for your immediate family and you wish the pet to be a surprise, you can surprise the recipient(s) without actually putting the pet under the tree. All adults (parents) should be involved in the decision. Some tips to surprise your family…
  1. Purchase items needed: food/water bowls, toys, bed, collar, leash, cage (for animals needing such)
  2. Buy a book that teaches the recipient to care for the pet.
  3. Wrap the items and place them under the tree.
  4. Wrap a picture of a dog, cat or other animal you have decided to give as the gift and place it under the tree.
When the recipient unwraps the gift you have placed under the tree, they will know they are getting a pet. You can then let them know when they can go to choose their pet.
If you are purchasing from someone advertising Christmas puppies or adopting from a shelter/rescue, ask them to hold the puppy until after Christmas. Some shelters do not have the space to hold animals; so, they may not be able to hold them.
Be careful of any pet, newly adopted or been around a while, near doors, gates, etc. The constant opening of doors, gates, etc. with guests coming and going allows pets to slip out without anyone noticing. If possible, assign pet duty to one or two people. Their job will be to watch the doors, gates, etc. when people come and go to make sure all entries & exits are closed. Christmas festivities will come to an end quick if the beloved pet is found in the road. If you must have the pets in the house, another choice would be to place pets in a separate room at the farthest end of the house away from the noise to keep them safe and help ease their fears.
Keeping Your Pet Safe at Christmas
These tips will help to ensure you get the right pet. Never purchase a pet, place it in a box with a lid and set it beneath the tree. It may cause the pet to be fearful. There will never be enough holes in a lid or box for the pet to breathe properly.
Remember the list at the beginning of this blog? Bringing a pet into a home with all the goings on that happens on Christmas Day, can be very stressful for any animal. Puppies/dogs, kittens/cats, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, etc. can become very scared with the crowds and hustle & bustle of the day.
Also, be careful of pets who play with or eat tinsel, garland and ribbons. Glass ornaments can cause injury. Food left out can cause illness. Loud noises can cause fear in pets and cause them to run or hide. If you haven’t seen the pet in while, be sure you know they are hiding and did not bolt out a door. Boxes and ribbons can have metal staples that can be choked on. Mistletoe & poinsettias are poisonous to animals. Christmas lights & cords pose electrocution issues if chewed. Christmas trees can be climbed, knocked down or urinated on… all causing potential electrical problems or injury problems. If you have a fireplace, be sure you have a fireplace screen keeping children & pets out. Large dogs can jump on counter and stove tops, as can cats. Be sure they are either kept out of the kitchen or monitored closely. Be sure to keep handles to pots and pans turned inward; so, they can not be knocked down. Do not leave food unattended. Pets have strong food drives. Small bones like turkey and chicken can cause a pet to choke to death.

Please also be careful with candles. A lot of people use candles at Christmastime, as well as year round. Animals and candles do not mix. Keep lit candles out of the reach of pets. Remember cats can jump most anywhere. It is probably better to refrain from using candles at all with pets.
When dealing with pets at Christmastime or any time, always approach each situation with this in mind…
  1. How can this situation become a potential problem for my pet?
  2. Can the pet reach it?
  3. Can it cause harm to my pet?
  4. Can the pet escape, get lost or injured?
  5. Always have the safety of your pet at the forefront of everything you do. Just as you would for your own child or loved ones.
Whether you are adopting a new pet for Christmas or you already have one, remember to take precautions to ensure their safety!

Fran, a Chow Chow/GSD mix,
at Red River SPCA in Cooke County, Texas
And remember to… always paws for critters with 4 paws!
Thanks for reading.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Shasta on Black Friday

Shasta at PetSmart on Black Friday 2011

Shasta in her new bed she got at PetSmart on Black Friday 2011