Sunday, February 22, 2015

In Doggy Heaven

Some of you have been asking for an update on Zeus. I'm sorry I've been remiss....

Despite my mild aversion to dogs, I decided to foster Zeus when my friend Elizabeth moved just before Christmas. They are renting a house, and they couldn't take him along. Since I'd been pet-sitting for them for several years, I knew and loved Zeus. He was just too good of a dog to go to the shelter. 

Still, he is a dog, and he does things that dogs do, like shedding all over the floors despite my (almost) daily brushing, and like eating a box of chocolates and puking it up on Ethan's carpet

For a week or so, he stayed with my friend Nicole, whose kids loved him passionately and took him for walks and brushed him several times a day. Yay!!!

We took Zeus back for the second half of Christmas break, while Nicole took her kids to visit family. Ethan and Allyson were thrilled to have him back, but the cats weren't so happy about it. For one thing, he immediately took possession of Arwen's bed.



Isn't that ridiculous? We all got a good laugh out of it, but Arwen was not amused.

Zeus readily relinquished the cat bed after I bought a 7 foot by 10 foot, fluffy dog bed at Ikea (what an amazing store!!). Okay, it was actually a gray shag area rug, but to Zeus it looked like a nice, comfy place to nap.

I tried and tried to teach him to stay off of it, like he (mostly) stayed out of the kitchen. But he honestly couldn't understand. When I pointed at his own bed and said "Go!", he obediently trotted over. "Lay," I ordered, tapping the little brown bed with my index finger. He curled up and lay down.

But the minute I walked away, he returned to the rug. We repeated this over and over, at least 20 times a day. He was happy to follow my orders, but he always returned to the much bigger, much fluffier dog bed in the middle of the living room.

"Why can't he just lay on the rug?" Ethan asked.

"Because I can't sweep the hair up off of shag carpet like I can the hard floor."

"So? You can't see the hair on it anyway," Allyson said.

I shuddered. "Eww. I still know it's there."

The invisible dog hairs on my shag rug were a minor concern compared to Zeus's next habit.

When we'd first taken him in, Elizabeth had warned me to keep him away from the litter box because he had a fascination with cat poop.

"Why??" I asked in horror.

She laughed. "Because he's a dog."

Up until this point, the litter had not been an issue. Arwen's box was in the garage, and Zeus couldn't squeeze himself through the cat door even if he could squeeze into the cat bed. CiCi's box was in the tub in my master bathroom, mostly out of sight and out of mind. I'm sure Zeus could've climbed into the tub if he'd wanted to, but at his age (13) clambering over the high side of the garden tub was probably too much effort.

But then I got CiCi spayed. What does that have to do with Zeus? I'm getting there.

The post-operative instructions included keeping CiCi from jumping for the next ten days. Ha, ha. They obviously didn't know this feisty little kitten very well.

They also advised me to keep her in this Elizabethan collar for ten days to keep her from licking or biting her sutures:

See Her Glazed Eyes? Poor Baby.



Our poor little kitty was still pretty high on pain killers when I picked her up. She seemed skittish, yet too tired to do anything about it. She hissed at Zeus and even at Arwen, who's usually her best buddy. The oddest thing she did was walking backward and bumping into things. Probably she was trying to walk out of her collar, but of course it went with her.

To protect her from harm, I locked her in her carrier, but within three minutes in that confined space, she had found the leverage to slip out of her collar.

I gently restrained her and tied it back on, but when I set her down, it made a scary crackling sound and she shot across the room, running and leaping--straight out of her e-collar. Allyson and I tried one more time, this time tying the collar tighter, but then the cheaply made thing ripped. Since the collar was obviously no match for our determined kitty, Allyson and I simply prayed that God would tell her not to bother her sutures. That was a much more effective strategy, apparently. And cheaper, too. Over the next week or so, the scar healed beautifully.

But I also had to keep CiCi from jumping, so I moved her litter box out of the tub and onto the bathroom floor. I had to keep the door open so that she could have access to the box, which of course also gave Zeus access.

It started with little piles of kitty litter on my bedroom carpet. That was pretty odd because there was no trail leading from the box, just the litter on my floor, 20 feet away. I growled as I vacuumed it up once, twice, three times. I couldn't prove that Zeus was the culprit, but this had never happened when just the cats lived here, so I was pretty suspicious.

I finally caught Zeus red-handed (or nosed, ugh). "Go!" I shouted, pointing at the door. "Get out of here."

From that point, I tried to keep a watch on the bathroom door, but of course I had to leave my bedroom sometimes, and Zeus took advantage of every opportunity.

Vacuuming up kitty litter was one thing, but the day I had to clean puked-up kitty litter off my living room floor was just about the last straw.

"God," I growled, "I don't know if I can do this any longer. You've got to help me out, here. I just can't handle puke."

I called my friend Nicole, but her son was still recovering from an injury he'd sustained over Christmas break, and she couldn't manage a dog just then.

Clippers and a Cat Swatter
Meanwhile, CiCi, too, was wearing on my nerves. She'd recently gotten big enough to jump onto the kitchen table and the counters, and spraying her with vinegar water hardly fazed her even though that punishment had been fairly effective with her big sister.

If CiCi saw a tasty morsel on the table, such as Allyson's rejected bread crust, nothing would induce her to leave it. When she saw me coming with the spray bottle, she hunkered down and flinched against the smelly spray that she knew was coming, yet she held onto her treat doggedly, growling deep in her throat.

On the same Sunday when Zeus puked up kitty litter, CiCi scratched Allyson's friend Ellie and drew blood. It was an accident, a natural consequence of her wild nature, but it was too much. I couldn't keep a cat who would injure the neighborhood kids.

I actually cried over my pet woes. Getting rid of CiCi was not an option, nor was taking Zeus to a shelter. "Please, God," I prayed. I wasn't sure what to ask for, so I just kept saying, "Please. Please."

The next day, January 5th, two things happened. One was that my very new friend Pam, whom I'd shared cat stories with at a New Year's Eve party across the street, sent me a text.

"Hi Sarah! I am reading your blog about CiCi (every day is a kitten day). Have you trimmed her claws yet? :-) "

I admitted that I had been putting that task off because I was scared.

"I will be happy to come over and show you how to do it," she said.

"That would be awesome!" I replied. I told her as soon as I could get to Petsmart to buy clippers, I'd invite her over.

Pam said not to buy clippers; I could have the ones she'd used for her cat Oreo, who passed away two years ago.

Within just a few minutes, we sat side by side on my couch as I watched her in awe. At first, CiCi struggled mightily, but Pam was stronger. "You just have to show them who's boss," she said.

When CiCi got too wild, she set her down on the couch cushion and held her firmly by the scruff for a couple of minutes while we talked. Then she put her back on her lap and said, "We're going to do this, cat."

And they did. A couple of minutes later, all CiCi's claws had been blunted, even the ones on her forelegs.

After all that struggling, I figured CiCi would hate Pam; she'd probably run off and hide under my bed. But that's not what happened. Instead, CiCi curled up contentedly on Pam's lap for a catnap!

"They want you to be the master," Pam said. Before she left, she also told me how to stop CiCi from jumping on the table and the countertops. Water bottles might work for compliant cats, but a fly swatter is what you need for a willful kitty like CiCi, she explained.

"When you catch her on the counter, yell like a wild animal and slap her with the swatter," Pam advised. "Scare the crap out of her. Show her you mean business."

Over the next few days, I saw a major change in CiCi's attitude. First, she started keeping her claws in when we held her. I guess she realized that they were blunt, so there wasn't much point using them on us. Even as they began to grow back out, she stopped clawing us.

The fly swatter did the trick, mostly. CiCi does fear it. It doesn't keep her off the counters entirely, but at least she runs now when she sees me coming. I have to keep the swatter out, though; she seems to know when it's put away (or lost). It's rather embarrassing to explain to company that the unsightly orange fly swatter on the counter is actually a cat swatter. Oh well. That's not the weirdest thing about our house, by a long shot.

I've managed to trim CiCi's claws myself twice now, and it's surprisingly not that big of a deal. She does seem to respect me more now that I've made it clear who's boss, and she seems even more cuddly than before. It reminds me of how my kids often respond to discipline with extra affection.

The next amazing thing that happened after my fervent prayer for help was that God provided a home for Zeus. Ethan's best friend Bryce, who'd been wanting to take him home for weeks, told me his parents had said they could take the dog on a trial basis. No way!! Yes way!

A few days later, Bryce came to collect Zeus, his neglected dog bed, his giant bin of food, and the fancy de-shedding brush I'd bought at Wal-Mart. For a moment, Zeus looked uncertainly from me to Bryce, but then the lure of his red leash won out.

"Come on, boy!" Bryce called, and Zeus followed him out the front door, with one backward glance at me.

Despite my intense relief, my heart felt oddly pinched as I watched him go.

"Goodbye, Zeus," I said, swallowing hard.

Doggy Heaven
It's a good thing that Zeus is so winsome because the first few days at his new home were touch and go. Luckily, Bryce's parents had already fallen in love by the time he hiked his leg and peed on their couch! And then on their carpet.

I thought surely they must have been mistaken; on all two of our walks, I'd never seen Zeus so much as pee on a fire hydrant. And I'd noticed that in our backyard, he squatted to pee.

But no, they'd caught him red... whatevered. He was guilty. We theorized that he was reacting to having another dog in the house, which I think was a first for him.

In any case, they loved him so much that they decided to give him a few more days. Thankfully, there were no further incidents, and he is now well established as a member of Bryce's family.

At first, he slept with Bryce, but then he got promoted to the master bedroom.



"He thinks he owns my parents' bed," Bryce said in the text that he sent with this picture:


Looks like he does!

So that is how Zeus ended up in Doggy Heaven, right here on earth.

God is good to all of us, whether we have four legs or two. 
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