Dances with Kittens

May 31, 2017

Have you ever looked closely at a veterinarian’s hands and arms? If you have, you would see tiny lines of scars on them, a memory of the cats that have scratched them. I myself have plenty.

I have two scars that I actually cherish. When Cowboy Joe was coming out of anesthesia, he was a little goofy, and raked the back of my wrist with his back claws. There are two long, thin scars, memories of a strung-out kitten. It’s a memory from a cat I dearly love, so I am happy to look at them. At the time it happened, 2004, I was not amused. Since my cat was loopy, I understood.

The other scar I treasure was put in place by Pruney, the cat of my life. While living at home with my mom after college, I decided that Pruney, an inside/outside cat, should wear a collar. Many cats wear collars just fine. Pruney-not so much. She managed to get the collar stuck in her open mouth, and when I got her off the window screen where she hung onto dear life, she raked the same wrist with her two canine teeth. After over 40 years, I can still see the reminder that not all cats can wear collars. The last cat I tried a collar on was Kitty Alexander, our 20-pound tuxedo, who promptly got hung up on a door hinge. I had to unhook him. Now, I know how collars should fit on animals. No mistakes there. It’s part of what I teach my clients. These were just two freak accidents, and since Pruney was my last outdoor cat, there really is no need for collars on my cats. And a heads up to our humane society, I don’t license them, either, when they get their rabies vaccinations. Bad Mary.

In practice, my favorite part of well kitten visits is to educate people about how to care for their cats properly. The most important part of this lesson is, “How Not to be Killed by Your Kitten.” You see, people like to have Kitty chase their fingers across the room, or wave their hand back and forth on the carpet. It’s so much fun to see him get so riled up he can’t think, and runs around the room like he’s possessed. Bad idea. Kitty gets the idea that, 1. It’s OK to bite the finger when he catches it, which is instinctual, and 2. It’s OK that human body parts make great chew toys. They are not. NEVER use hands to play with your cat or kitten. Instead, have a toy or string that they cat catch and play with. For strings and similar items, be sure to put them away when you are finished playing, as the strings could be swallowed by an unsupervised cat and wind up stuck in his intestines and will have to be surgically removed.

The same play rules are true with human feet, except Kitty will add hiding for pouncing on and biting the feet. If you like being attacked by an unseen ball of fur, by all means, go for the foot fetish. It can, however, be very painful in the sensitive area of the top of the foot. Picture Tiger lying in wait until you come home from work, looking at the mail when, WHAM! You are attacked from below-a direct hit to the ankle.

Also be that cats like to climb things, like the drapes. Bad Kitty. This behavior is reinforced by thinking it’s cute for Kitty to climb up your pants with his razor sharp claws.

So what to do if your cat is the Kamikaze who actually gets to you even after you stop playing with hands and feet? First, don’t physically discipline an animal, ever. The cat is only acting on its instinct of preditory behavior. Second, you have only three seconds to react until the devious act is out of Kitty’s mind. Fill an empty soda can with small rocks, and have it ready to shake at Kitty when he is bad. Making a hissing noise is cat talk for “Look out, I’m going to get YOU”! You can also turn and walk away, play time is over, period. Be strong, even if he wants to start playing with you again. Nope-game over.

What’s more fun than playing with a kitten? Nothing! But be aware of safe ways to play with your little furball so no one, you or Kitty develop bad behaviors and gets hurt.


Hey Lady! It’s a DOG Park

May 16, 2017

I am wary about dog parks. They are great business for veterinarians. This mean that dogs can get hurt at a dog park. Yet I serve on the Parks and Recreation board (16 years total so far,) and when we build a new community or large park, we include a dog park. That’s what the people ask for in a park.

I cringe whenever I see a dog off leash. I live next to a dedicated prairie, the Cathy Fromme Prairie, dog laws strictly enforced. But still, every time I walk Ivy on the paved trail, some yahoo has his or her dog off leash.

One dude on a bike was running his mutt off leash while he pedaled in comfort. I asked him to please leash his dog. His reply, “Oh get over it.” Oh well, there are only so many park rangers, and they are usually elsewhere.

On the prairie, there are an uncountable number of rattlesnakes in the grass. Want to see one in the heat of the day? Surprise one. It doesn’t want to eat you, you are too big. So is your dog. However, the coil and strike maneuver is the snake’s defense mechanism. I’m teaching Ivy the word, “sidewalk,” so she knows not to yaw off the trail. If you want to go and look at a snake, go in the early morning, when they are basking in the warmth of the pavement after a cool night. When it warms up, the snakes retreat to the cooler underbrush.

The dumbest thing I’ve seen on the prairie was a grown woman with a black Lab, and a tennis ball launcher. She actually was going to have her dog chase balls through snake-infested grass. Oy.

In my old neighborhood made up largely of college students, I asked dog walkers to please put Fido on a leash. Their retort: “This dog is on voice command.” Sorry, dudes and dudettes, there is no such thing. Sure, your dog may come with you and be good for regular  or boring things, but if it sees something exciting like a racing bunny rabbit, pause for mental image of a racing bunny, voice command is no more.

So today I took Ivy to the dog park. It’s on the east side of town. I live on the west side. I go to this park because it is not frequented by students and their largely untrained dogs, who prefer the west side dog park at the very end of Horsetooth Road. We people know each other, and our dogs know each other as well. A lady came in with her doodle-it’s fun to see an adult version of my Ivy-and promptly yelled at a man with what she called an aggressive dog. He wasn’t aggressive. He met dogs with a bark, and maybe a chest bump. Then he settles in to play. She took her dog to the end of the park. She stayed there. Her “dood” came back to the other dogs to play.

Just as there is no voice command, at the dog park, there is not much obedience. The dogs are there to run and play. If we leave them alone, they work it out. Once, I was there with just a few people. Two women came in with a truly aggressive dog, the women oblivious to the sign prohibiting them. The dog went after our little cadre of mutts. We nicely said that her dog was aggressive and should be removed. Totally different behavior than the man’s dog who settled down. This dog didn’t, and attacked again. The ladies got the message and left.

Ivy loves the dog park, and she is a popular figure to see. It’s kind of like the TV show, “Cheers” where everyone shouts, “NORM” when he enters the bar. She knows how to play appropriately and socialize, which will serve her well.

Go to the dog park, don’t go to the dog park. It’s entirely up to you. But before you go, read up a little on canine behavior, OK?


Mother’s little drama queen

June 19, 2009

Yesterday I took the horses to the veterinary teaching hospital. Everyone greeted me and gave me hugs, as they all had an email from the dean about Earl’s death. I chatted with the hospital director, an equine practitioner who helped with Marcie on her last day, and he said, “Anything you need, Mary.”

Scooter had been extending his neck while eating his grain. Given his history of strangles, albeit not in the usual place, I wanted him checked out. We’ve had enough horror here without another equine disaster.

Hannah went with to provide comfort and support for Scoot-translate-so he wouldn’t go ballistic. Scoot is a wonderful, mellow guy who loves people. However, whenever he has work done one him, the dark side shows up.

There was no major problem, just some points on his teeth, which the residents filed off. Since she was there also, Hannah had hers done as well. A big thumbs up to IV sedation.

While the Baby was having her teeth done, our farrier, who was there for the morning, took Scoot to get his shoes on. It has been really muddy of late, so Shawn was going to do them both at the VTH as well as worm them. This is what Earl wanted done, but we had to cancel at home twice due to the storms and sloppy conditions.

I was with Hannah, but came around to where Shawn had Scoot just in time to see Scoot flip around and fall down not once, but twice. Shawn had tied him with no one watching. Can’t do this on my black and white buddy. I always untie him even when I cinch his saddle. At the hospital, he is a true drama queen. He fell down when released from the hospital after his abdominal surgery last year; when he had his dental last August-even his horseshoes made sparks when he scrabbled to get up; and he flipped out yesterday. He’s a lucky guy that he has never broken a bone.

My boy ended up with scraped lower gums, a small cut on his fetlock, a soaking wet, nasty coat, and a look of insult. Both horses got their shoes as well as worming medicine. An IV shot of pain medicine, and Scoot was good to go home. He went into the trailer at the speed of light. For now, the ponies are up to date on medical care.

While we were gone, Alex from the feed store came over to clean out wet hay from the sudden, violent storm Monday right before Earl’s service, and put in a few bales of gorgeous Elk Mountain hay. Scoot and Hannah had no problem cleaning up what was left on the floor. End of drama.


More wind-whipped fires. One hits close to my heart.

February 21, 2009

My friend, Nancy emailed me a website of a fire north of town and wondered if that was our dog’s boarding kennel. It was. I recognized it immediately and called Mary, the owner, to offer any help she needed. The kennel was fine, but the house was burned so badly that it had to be leveled. Check it out.

I felt so bad for Mary, who has taken such loving care of Tipper, the Wonder Husky, when we travel. Tipper loves her “Auntie Mary,” and doesn’t even look back when we try to say good-bye to her. Mary has several show Huskies that look just like Tipper, and she treats our pup as one of her own. She sends Tipper home with a major grooming that makes her look like a show dog.

We have had strong winds here the last few days. There is a fire up near the Bobcat Ridge area, the same place that burned in 2000, a year of terrible wildfires. The City of Fort Collins bought that land, and created a wonderful mountain park with riding trails, and handicapped accessibility. The park has been closed for a while because golden eagles are nesting.

A rancher took out a burning permit to burn off areas of his land. This is  a common practice out West. Ditches are burned off so water can flow. He failed, however, to ensure that the fire was totally extinguished, contrary to the terms of the permit. He’s in some deep trouble now. The winds picked up just a few embers and the fire exploded. It is close to Barb’s place, where Scooter recovered last year after his surgery.

Most fires are either due to lightning (not this time of year,) or carelessness of people. No one knows yet the cause of the fire that left Mary homeless. Mary was heroic in safely evacuating all animals boarding at her facility, which was untouched by the fire, but five people were left homeless, including Mary.

 


Wildfire!

January 8, 2009

Hurricane-force winds helped a brush fire become a raging inferno yesterday in northern Boulder County. The local news was entirely devoted to video coverage. Viewers could literally see the flames jump across the road and tear up a ridge. Homes there are in a semi-rural area where there are many barns.

One disturbing scene was of a woman trying to lead a beautiful Arabian horse to be loaded into a trailer for evacuation. The horse would not cooperate. The woman told the reporter that it and several other horses would have to be released to outrun the wildfire.

This decision was not irresponsible. The woman could have been seriously injured trying to force a frightened horse into a situation where it did not want to be. Horses possess an uncanny knack for survival under extreme circumstances. Likely, the horses will be just fine, and eventually be found and returned to their owners.

Do you have a plan in case you are called and told to evacuate your home in ten minutes, as happened to those residents? One resident was shown with her dog in her arms and said, “We’ve got the kids and our animals. The house can be replaced.” What would you take? Do you have a plan?

Perhaps this is the time to formulate an evacuation plan for your family and your animal friends.