Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Long Lasting Pets (like Malcom)

Yes, pets are a responsibility.  But some are more of an investment than others.  Investment of years, that is.  Consider the difference between a Betta Fish and an African Grey Parrot.  Well cared for, the Betta may live a year and a half, the Grey seventy years.

Many people make provisions in their wills for the care of their pets.  Laws vary from state to state in the US but usually a trust fund can be set up to provide for the pet's needs.  In addition to the monetary provision, a guardian is named to manage the pet's care.

The topic of pets to grow old with gives me an excuse to talk about Malcom.  In the summer of 1975, I was thirteen.  Macomb Pet Shop was about a mile away and a frequent destination for my family.  My brother was an avid tropical fish hobbiest and I often came along to look at the Mynah Bird that apparently lived there in the store.  And there were the turtles.  I had enjoyed terrapins as pets.  Then I found out about tortoises. Very cool critters and less dirty water to clean!   A shallow pan of water is all they require for drinking and occasional soaking.  Tortoises need to be keep warm, so a light and/or undertank heating unit is necessary.  

Red Footed Tortoise
Malcom was about the size of half  a shoebox when I bought him. These days, when you buy a Red Footed Tortoise from a pet shop he'll be a baby, slightly smaller than a baseball and captive bred.  Malcom was probably caught in the wild and shipped to the pet shop.  This likelihood has always led me to believe that Malcom harbors not a small amount of animosity towards me.  (This may be more my hang up then his, however.) Still, there is no denying that Malcom is a prisoner.  But then, arguably, most pets are prisoners.  As Warden, you try to make it a nice prison. 

The day Malcom came home with us was hot and sunny.  So, by Red Footed Tortoise standards, quite comfortable.  Under my giddy and watchful eye, Malcom strolled around on the grass in the backyard.  He was magnificent- elephantine hind legs, dark brown shell decorated with three tidy rows of yellow squares.  His head was sprinkled with yellow and orange polka dots.  Dark orange circles accented his feet.  Malcom's front feet looked like standard turtle feet (though thicker) shaped at an angle with nails suitable for digging.  Of course, tortoises tend to be thicker all around than terrapins.  It is no doubt by design.  Terrapins need to be more stream-lined for swimming.  Tortoises need to be heavy and sturdy to handle the challenges and perils found on the ground. On this lovely summer day, Malcom ate his first meal in Lynn's Prison yard:  a perfectly ripe strawberry.

My relationship with Malcom has spanned some three decades.  Stay tuned, more excuses to talk about Malcom are forthcoming.


Image: from the book, Turtles by John M. Mehrtens
Recommended reading:  Turtles by Hartmut Wilke and Exotic Pets by Arthur Rosenfeld

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

She's not even Embarrassed

Is there such a thing as Doggy Pride?  Do dogs feel a strong sense of duty and fidelity to dogdom the way Americans do to their country?  Or is Doggy Pride more like loyalty to a team?  Could it be that dogs just sort of hang out, possessing only a vague notion of self respect like a forty year old who has never done anything his entire life other than be a student? Or is the dog thing all unthinking instinct?

Like most seemingly inscrutable questions, the answer is probably a combination of things.  Inscrutable things, probably.

A close friend of mine is a sheepdog.  (Please see Hairballs- not just a cat thing, May 24, 2010).  She has had a problem with hairballs for some time now.  Today we visited the veterinarian and left with a tube of "Cat Lax".  The label reads: a palatable formula for the elimination and prevention of hairballs in cats".  And as of today- Cats and Lois.

I gave her a dose just now.  She's not even embarrassed.

Why the heck am I so embarrassed?  It's not like she's using a litterbox.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

That's a Lot to Ask

My dog, Lester was due for his Rabies booster.  During the check up the veterinarian noted that Lester had a slight fever.  Obviously, since his body was busy dealing with something important enough to cause a fever, we delayed the vaccination. A few weeks later, Lester was fine and bravely received the injection.

Lester's dog license renewal was also due.  Visiting City Hall is one of those things that invites procrastination  so it was a couple weeks later when I appeared at the City Clerk's window with proof of Rabies Vaccination in hand and some cash in my purse.  A bland woman slipped me an official City of Royal Oak form and instructed me to fill it out.  She did not make eye contact with me.  On top of the fee for the license was a ten dollar fine for lateness.  I did not bother to explain to Ms. Bland why my beloved dog's rabies vaccination and license application failed to meet her timeline.

For some time, I've been flirting with the idea of helping out a local rescue group by fostering dogs until permanent homes can be found for them.  This would mean additional dogs would be living in my home for periods anywhere from two days to two years. I wondered if the city rules would permit me to do this good deed.  Ms. Bland didn't know or seem to care what the dog limit per household was.  She turned to a large woman wearing a smirk.  While not making eye contact with me, Ms. Smirk said three animals was all you are allowed.  Animals.  She stressed the word animals.  Not just dogs but animals.  I asked what can you do if you wish to have more than three animals.  Ms. Smirk said they don't answer questions like that.  This is the City Clerk.  I'd have to go upstairs to Zoning.

I climbed the stairs to the second floor and found court rooms.  I was pleased to find a bathroom on the second floor too.  It is always good to know where the bathrooms are. The theme on this floor was courtly not zoney. Determined to find and query Zoning, I headed up to the third floor. 

There were signs on the walls on the third floor but none for Zoning.  Walking through several twisting interconnected narrow hallways did a thorough job of getting me turned around.  It is troubling not to know which way North is, even when you don't really need to know it.  Eventually, I found a man in the Engineering Section.  Not only did he make eye contact with me, he smiled too!  Zoning isn't a real destination,  he told me.  What I wanted was Planning- go right then left then through a curving hallway and Planning is on the right.  It was. 

At the Planning window, an elderly woman wearing thick glasses greeted me with indifference. She told me she couldn't answer my question and called to someone behind a cubicle wall.  A nerdy looking fellow of indeterminate age appeared. When I asked my question he reached for a reference book and quickly found the page he was looking for.  Yes, three animals is the limit.  If you want to have more you can request a hearing.  He paused and looked at me with sheepish sympathy.  He could give me an application.  There is a fee.  The process is not inexpensive, Mr. Nerd added, a remarkable understatement that would reveal itself shortly.  

I'd been intending to get this information for months.  There I was in City Hall.  So, of course, I asked- how much does it cost?  In a soft voice, Mr. Nerd answered.  Seven hundred dollars.  Seven hundred dollars to ask for a hearing.  Seven hundred dollars to ask some bureaucrats whose salary I pay, if is OK with them for me to have more than three dogs in my house.  Seven hundred dollars to ask for permission to do something in my own home.

I thanked the nice nerd and walked out to my car.  Incredibly, I did not cry. I rather thought I would.  But by the time I reached the privacy of my car the tears had gone.

It turns out- I am too angry to cry.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Worse than Skunk

In the pantheon of bad odors, skunk spray ranks pretty high.  But there is a far worse stink than skunk oil.  Skunk poop or suspected skunk poop- at any rate, confirmed wild critter poop- is just about the worst thing I have ever inhaled. 

Naturally, because this smell is so awful, some dogs feel irresistibly inclined to roll in it.  This morning, one of my dogs did just that.  For reasons that we humans will never fathom, this dog opted to become one with the stench. So she rubbed her head on it, leaving a path of hellish rankness from her cheek down her neck all the way to her shoulder.

One of my other dogs pointedly sniffed at her neck, tattle tale syle.  This alerted me.  There was a dark smudge visible on her hair at the side of her neck.  I leaned in to sniff the smudge and almost threw up. The dog who committed this heinous roll will henceforth be referred to as Stinky.  We'll call her Stinky too.  That is, when we start speaking to her again.

The only, and I mean ONLY bright spot in this wretched episode is the fact that excrement washes out more readily than does the oily stuff that skunks spray.  Yes, for the horrific dung- lather rinse repeat x 3 did the trick.

By the way, for skunk spray clean up you'll need:  White vinegar or 3 % hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and dish detergent.  (The ratios are roughtly: 1 liter, 1/4 cup, 1 teaspoon.) Repeat lots of times.  Or call a professional.  Some companies have portable grooming stations inside a van which they'll park in your driveway while they deskunk your dog for you.

But if you're like me, you wash your own.  Therefore, I have a stash of assorted doggy shampoos always at the ready. To eradicate Stinky's impromptu putrid adventure, I went with a deodorant version offering a pleasing Cucumber Melon bouquet.

 I was framed!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mud Sling

                The ground is thawing.  The earth becomes mushy.  It rains.

Mush becomes muddy slush- mulush? slud?

This calls for a change of routine for my dogs.  Those with muddy paws must cue up to a bucket before entry into the house is permitted. You know those little slivers of bar soap that are too small for shower duty?  I've got a mesh bag full of 'em!  Swish that bag in a bucket of warm water and... instant foot bath!

After the muddy paw is immersed in water I use either my fingers or a washcloth to rub out all the offending mud.  Follow up with a big fluffy towel and we have paws fit for indoor use.

What mud busting methods have you tried, and which do you recommend?