Feel “Free” To Go Aww

, , , , , | Hopeless | September 17, 2019

(I train seeing-eye dogs and service animals for a living and have for the past ten years. The number of people who ignore a vest on a dog ceased to surprise me many years ago. On this day, I have three six-month-old golden retriever pups with me who are being trained as therapy companion animals — not seeing-eye dogs — so their training is a little different, and it’s not as strict as it is for dogs who need to be alert animals or guide dogs. I’ve taken them down to the dog park for socialising in their little vests that state they’re in training. When we get there, the dog park is mostly empty, save for a young couple in their 20s and their four- or five-year-old daughter. They’re throwing a ball for a chocolate lab puppy around the same age as my trio of loveable idiots, and mine are whining at me because they want to be “freed” to chase the ball. Sticking to their training, they’re sitting at my feet practically vibrating with excitement. The little girl tosses the ball and it rolls within three feet of my pups, who all amp up their whining. The other family’s dog seems to get spooked by mine, so it hangs back, and the little girl comes to retrieve the ball.)

Little Girl: “Oh! Mummy! Puppies!”

(I’m already impressed that she hasn’t barrelled forward to grab at the pups like most kids her age would do; even adults tend to think that because they’re small and cute they are up for grabs. While they all frantically wag their tails at the thought of a new friend, they stay seated. The little girl cocks her head to the side and starts sounding out the letters on their vests.)

Little Girl: “T… tr… tra… Train! Excuse me, are these train dogs?”

(Her parents have come over and we all giggle at her saying “train dogs.”)

Dad: “They say, ‘dog in training,’ sweetie. What does it mean when a doggy has a vest on with words on it?”

Little Girl: *sadly* “To leave them alone because they’re doing a job. I just wanted to look at them; they’re cute.”

(Her own puppy has sidled forward to sniff at mine, who are all ready to explode by this point but are still seated, waiting for the all-clear. The mum calls her dog back and holds his collar, apologising.)

Me: “That’s fantastic! You’re very clever. But guess what? These puppies are learning to be good friends to kids who need to feel safe and loved, so they can play. You ready guys? FREE!”

(The three balls of golden fluff EXPLODED from at my feet. They started running in circles, pawing at the other puppy, yipping excitedly, and licking the little girls’ shoes. Her face was something I’ll remember forever; a kid getting to play in a pile of puppies is something truly magical. She asked lots of questions about different kinds of helper dogs, and promised me she wouldn’t bother any dogs in vests unless their human said it was okay. Her parents thanked me, but I thanked them, as well, as learning to behave around kids is something very important to support dogs and we got in some great practice that day. That kiddo was so great for already knowing what a service animal was. I hope I can meet more like her in the future.)

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The Cats Demand You Pork The Butt

, , , , , , | Related | September 17, 2019

(We’re the family from The Cats Demand You Spill The Beans. This time, my husband is in the kitchen grinding pork butt and mixing it with spices to make sausages. I overhear the following exchange between him and one of our cats.)

Cat: *whiny meow*

Husband: “This is pork butt. You don’t want this.” 

Cat: *whiny meow*

Husband: “This is raw pork. Does the word ‘trichinosis’ mean anything to you?”

Cat: *whiny meow*

Husband: “Even your wildest ancestors could not have taken down a pig. Why would you even want raw pork? It doesn’t taste like ham. This is ham before it’s ham. It doesn’t even smell like ham.”

Cat: *whiny meow*

Husband: “We already discussed this, remember? You told me you wanted it, and I told you no, because it would make you very sick? Now stop it.” 

(The cat whined once more and apparently accepted defeat because she wandered off to sit in the hallway, staring wistfully into the kitchen. Life is hard when you’re a cat whose humans love you.)

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This Should Ruffle A Few Feathers

, , , , , , | Friendly | September 16, 2019

(I’m cleaning up after a cat incident, letting out harsh, barking coughs every few seconds. After a few minutes of this, my housemate sticks her head out her door in concern.)

Housemate: “You okay? What happened?”

Me: “[Cat] caught a bird. It wasn’t hurt, so I let it go outside, but it lost a lot of feathers.”

Housemate: “Aren’t you allergic to feathers?”

Me: “EXTREMELY.”

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Breathe Easy: This One Has A Happy Ending

, , , , | Healthy | September 16, 2019

(My dog has developed a swollen face, is vomiting, and is not her usual, rambunctious self, but not lethargic. Although I’ve had dogs most of my life, I’ve never had a dog with such symptoms. It’s late in the day, just before they are due to close, but I call my veterinarian’s office for advice. She had a Bordetella vaccine just a few days ago so I think it might be related and mention that. After I explained the symptoms and asked about any relation to the vaccine:)

Receptionist: “I don’t think it’s related to the vaccine, but let me check.” *a few moments of silence* “No, the vet doesn’t think such an allergic reaction would happen at this point. It’s been three days and any adverse effects generally are seen with the first few hours, not longer than 48. Besides, the Bordetella vaccine doesn’t cause anything like what you’re describing. If you’re concerned, I can fit you in at the next available appointment. How about Tuesday at 10:00 am?”

(I’m calling on a Thursday.)

Me: “Um, did you say allergic reaction? Do you really think I should wait almost a week to have something like that checked? By then, I’m sure she would be already recovered or dead! Maybe I should take her to the emergency vet?”

Receptionist: “Well, the face swelling usually means the pet is on the way to recovery from whatever set it off, but yes, possibly an allergic reaction. If it makes you feel better, we can see her at 8:00 am tomorrow, but leave us a voicemail to let us know tonight or first thing in the morning if you won’t be coming. She should be fine.”

Me: “And if it gets worse, I’ll take her to the emergency vet; either way, I’ll let the office know if I don’t need that appointment.”

(My dog did appear to be improving, with the swelling decreasing. She stopped vomiting and started acting more energetic, but I didn’t call to cancel that appointment. Close to midnight, she started almost frantically pacing, madly shaking her head every couple of minutes — maybe something in her ear? — and couldn’t get comfortable to sleep. She generally sleeps on her own blanket at my feet on the bed but finally, about two am, she settled down wrapped around my head, laying on my pillow with her head on mine, her nose next to my ear. Soon, her breathing became soft and her usual light snoring started, and I dozed off myself. I was suddenly jolted awake a few minutes after four am and I quickly realized that, even though her nose was next to my ear, I couldn’t hear her breathing! I quickly sat up and turned to check on her. She was not only not breathing, but she was totally limp like a rag, no muscle tone at all, and she felt somewhat cold to the touch. I quickly moved her to an accessible position and started chest compressions, with no response, and I started bawling, calling her name, and berating myself for not taking her to the emergency vet. That woke my husband up and he, too, acknowledged that she appeared to be gone. He reached out to touch and caress her limp body and pretty much instinctively, I think, also squeezed her chest. And her head moved, very slightly. Imagination? Wishful thinking? No, it moved again and she started breathing again! It took several minutes but she recovered enough to pull herself to her blanket and she almost immediately fell asleep, gently snoring. She slept; we didn’t. I kept that appointment, but by then she was not showing any remaining symptoms at all, except for a bit of residual swelling. After questioning why we hadn’t given her any Benadryl –I wasn’t instructed to and didn’t know to do so — the vet explained that the head shaking was because the swelling makes the ears “not feel right,” that her ears were then perfectly clear and her temperature and color normal. I’m not sure the vet believed what had happened earlier, but he noted it all in her file. My pup was given injections of Benadryl and steroids to fight off any remaining toxins, but didn’t have any further issues. We still have no idea what caused such a dramatic allergic reaction, but it’s suspected to be a bug or spider bite from the back yard. Now, we keep Benadryl in the medicine cabinet and have instructions that if she begins to show any similar symptoms, no matter how slight, we are to give her half of a tablet and take her to the emergency vet immediately. And one veterinary receptionist is probably in a heap of trouble for his casual reaction to my very real concerns.)

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Not Too Chicken To Defend Themselves

, , , , , | Hopeless | September 14, 2019

As a kid, I had a flock of chickens that we tried to keep at 20 to 30 birds. We raised the birds for the eggs and for fun, so we took care of our sick and injured birds.

We bought two silkies — little puffball chickens — and they stuck together. One of the silkies, later named Frankenmonk — or Monk for short — ended up getting an eye infection and lost her eye around when she got a neck injury, so we put the two silkies in the garage while the one healed, and then returned them to the flock.

We didn’t know if Monk and Puff, the other silkie, were males or females as they are notoriously difficult to determine the gender on, but we knew that Puff took care of Monk. Wherever one was, the other was, too.

One day, one of our Rhode Island Red roosters — about four times the size of the silkies at the time — decided to breed with Monk, and as soon as he tried, Puff flung her body into the rooster, knocking him down. Puff and Monk then continued on their way as if nothing had happened.

In my six years of owning chickens, this is still one of my favorite memories.

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