Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Feline Challenge

Satya — how could a creature so lovely suddenly metamorphose into a hissing, growling spitfire? Her family tells me she is really very sweet. I’m sure she is, with them.

She is my charge for ten days. Along with “the boys” Spock & Socks, and, I must not forget – the fish. They are upstaged by Satya’s medical needs. She is alert, active at times like any other kitty, and her coat and eyes look healthy, even with hyperthyroidism and diabetes. Another case of deception by appearance.

The first visit was pretty much routine, so it did not prepare me for what was to come. The next time I showed up, though, Satya made it quite evident that my presence was not welcomed. (After all, I am NF: Not Family.) Call me optimistic but I assuredly decided to wait her out. Several hours passed; she remained vigilant. She let me know it would not be pretty if I stepped an inch closer to touch her.

Evening arrived, and I had not made progress getting the second medicine into her, though she gladly ate the first medicine, disguised in (yummy!)baby food. Reluctant to use the towel method (which would only further antagonize her), I realized I had been outsmarted by a cat. Dispirited, I finally left, hoping for better luck the next day.

Sunday morning dawned, and apprehensive about the visit, I said a prayer to Mother/Father God and St. Francis. I’m not sure if I believe in an intercessory God, yet I do believe in miracles. It does seem, at times, that prayers are indeed answered. And I may not be Catholic, but I feel a connection to the simple man of Assisi.

Luck was with me. Maybe my prayer was answered. Or maybe it was the element of surprise and my no nonsense attitude. A quick dab, a few scratches behind her ears, and the medicine was in her. A second later, though, Satya became fully alert. Hissing and growling, she lashed out. Even for an experienced professional, it can be intimidating encountering a frightened or angry animal.

Satya reminds me of another kitty. Henri tolerated, maybe even loved my Mom, but she loathed everyone else. When my Mom was no longer able to care for her,I thought there was no choice but to put Henri to sleep. My then-boyfriend intervened and took her in, even though he decidedly was not a cat person. Amazingly, within a few weeks, Henri’s more lovable side became apparent. When I asked how he did it, he responded, “I let her know who was boss.” (For those of us who know cats, we know how bizarre that answer is.)

You may have rightly gathered by now that this profession is a lot more than hanging out with the cute and cuddly. With our companion animals, pulling rank (the superior human) really doesn’t work in the long run. It’s more a matter of respecting the animal’s inherent nature, and its place, along with ours, in the great web of life.

My confidence and capability allows a small window of time where I can get close enough to medicate Satya. She has an equal right to be unhappy. She is ill, and her family is away. I respect her right to feel grumpy, particularly under these circumstances. On some level, she may sense my respect, my empathy. That’s my hope, and my prayer.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A couple of great products

1) Pet Walker-Plus leash/lead
Introduced by my wonderful clients, Sue & Gary. Walking their two Westies with it makes my job easier (it's "no tangle"), it leaves me with one free hand, and we all have more fun.

The two, long separate leads "allow each dog individualism and separate mobility needed to perform natural duties." Leads have snaps at both ends, so they can be used dual or single. "Large leashes are designed with a safety release allowing (owners) to control the release. Large and small dogs can be walked together."
Both dogs have as wide of a stretch to sniff around as they would have on separate leads.

Three sizes: Small (1/2 inch wide) up to 15 lbs. each. Medium (3/4 inch wide) for up to 59 lbs. each. Large (1 inch wide) for up to 60 lbs. each. By ordering it from the company, I paid $25 - $35, plus shipping.

Pet-Walker Plus (Carlsbad, CA), 760-930-9888, or Internet search. You may find it at your local pet supply store.

2)Zoom Groom Brush.
My long haired Main Coon used to have a low tolerance threshold when I used a conventional brush. Now he welcomes daily brushing with the massaging, rubber tips.
Inexpensive, virtually indestructible, and easy to find. I have groomed dogs, cats, rabbits,and guinea pigs with it. Easy to clean, and because it's rubber, you won't accidentally hurt your companion animal.

Both products get A+ recommendation from The Pet Professional.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Defensive Dog Walking & Mindfulness

Defensive Dog Walking. It's what I practice as a Pet Professional, and if you are a defensive driver, you'll get the concept pretty quickly.

It's a typical morning, and you are out walking your dog, one hand gripping the leash (or lead), and the other your morning cup of java. Rounding the corner, you are paying little attention, since your mind is scattered in several directions, planning the day ahead.

Your dog is on an expandable lead, way out of your reach, zigzagging down the street. You are caught off guard since you haven't noticed the person or dog approaching, until they are both too close for comfort. Aggressive Fido is staring down at your dog - not a good sign. An altercation, or worse, could ensue between dogs or their guardians. That would not be a pretty picture.

How do you practice defensive dog walking? Let's begin with what you know, and what you don't. You know your dog and feel you can pretty much predict his or her behavior. (But are you really sure what your dog will do 100% of the time?) You don't know the dog coming towards you. You don't know if the dog is well trained or aggressive. And it's possible that the person with the other dog isn't a responsible pet guardian. Here are my suggestions:

If you have any concerns about who is approaching, cross the street, or turn around and walk in the direction you just came from.

Use a non-expandable lead. With the expandable, your dog may be too far out of reach and at a safety risk. Dogs on expandable leashes can frequently be seen walking their people. The person has relinquished the leader role, and it's no wonder that the dog believes he or she is in charge.

Keep one hand free in case both are needed to grab control of the lead. No beverage sipping, no idle chatting on your cell.

The Buddhist concept of mindfulness has sifted into our every day parlance. A simple word, yet challenging to put into practice. It has to do with presence. Being fully present, fully aware, in the moment. Focusing on one thing, at one time. Like walking your dog.

So try being more present, more mindfully aware of your surroundings. Be the leader, so your dog isn't walking you. You know what happens if children think they are in charge. Dogs aren't any different in that respect. Both need boundaries for their own safety, for co-existing in a society. That's where responsible dog guardianship comes in.

This is not a warning about your neighbors or friends, or even the benevolent stranger with well behaved dogs. Just friendly advice to practice some mindfulness when dog walking on Portland's busy streets. Stay safe.