Vacation Housesitters

RangerSir and I have returned from vacation and now I feel like I can blog here out in the world of everyone knowing because it is all in the past.  I think the hardest part of planning a vacation was making arrangements for our livestock.  It was much harder than I had imagined, as I had remembered as a young adult, I loved getting away from roommates.  Getting paid was a bonus because it was like having a part-time job that didn’t cramp my lifestyle. We finally make a connection for a house/pet sitter before we left.   It worked out well but oh the journey was an adventure.

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Cora is an easy pet to care for.  She sleeps and wants just a little bit of attention. 

We started by putting out the word to friends and family that we were looking for a house/pet sitter.   We have a small college in town and I was sure that someone would know of a person who was interested in the job.  We got no bites.   We were unsure if it was because we lived out-of-town or it was our menagerie but no one wanted the job.   We were offering to pay the sitter what kenneling would cost.

After a couple of weeks, we got worried and started to make kennel arrangements for the cat and dog.   We watched our neighbor’s horses and barn cats, so we knew that they would open the door for the chickens in the morning and close them up at night.   It was a workable solution, but it wasn’t the best solution because we did not want our house empty for ten days.

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Zip is a people dog and after a day alone needs some serious play time.   He also is a true terrier and can’t be trusted off leash, so walks require a human.   All that said he is still a loveable character. 

We started to tap into websites offering house/pet sitters, talking to folks, trying to figure out our liabilities, and what could go wrong if we were two days away from rescue.  There were so many pros, cons, and unknowns.  You asked everyone you knew if they knew this person on the net wanting to sit for you.

Finally, we made a connection with a young woman who would be in her last two weeks of high school the time we needed her.    Lots of people vouched for her maturity and reliability.   It was unnerving after all she was in high school.  I met her mother and knew her step-father and grandmother.   They were all comfortable with this and supportive of her doing this.  She had an afterschool job but would be home the same hours as we were when working.    We met with her and talked with her and in the end, she would be our house sitter.   RangerSir reminded me in a couple of weeks she could call herself a college freshman, so if she had such good references we should go with it.

In the midst of all of this one late afternoon, three of our chickens flew over the fence in their run attached to their coop.   They came to their favorite dust bath location by the back door at the edge of the foundation of the house and they were prone to do.  Unfortunately, Mr. Fox came right up to our back door and got our girls.    It was unnerving and devastating because this happened just a few feet from our back door that we use as our main entry.  RangerSir and I had decided just this year that we were not going to do baby chicks and the hens we had were likely our last hens.  In retirement we would be in town and chickens would not be part of our lives.  When we were gone so were these hens.    It seemed that fate was telling us that our train was moving much faster than we had thought it was.   We had one chicken left after this unfortunate incident and we called a girlfriend with a flock to see if she would take our last hen.  She took the hen with all the food and supplies we had for our backyard flock. Housesitting at our place just got easier for our young housesitter.

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All that was left of our chickens was a pile of feathers outside the back door.

The first night we were gone and out of cell phone connection most of the day and early evening.   We got back into service at 8pm Montana time to have a message from our housesitter who came home to find that we had no electricity (no water/well either).  When we finally connected up that night she just wanted to know if there was something special she needed to do as she had tried the breakers and no luck; the power company in town couldn’t help her.  I placed calls to her and made sure she knew where the oil lamps and flashlights were (things we had not covered in the walk through before we had left).  We are the next to last house on an electric run connected to a local electric co-op.  We placed calls to the co-op linemen in charge of our area and electricity came back on at 9pm her time.    She was so calm and collected and told us no worries, she was ok and it would be ok.  It was an immediate demonstration to us that we had left our house and critters in good hands and that this young woman may be in high school, but she was ready for heading out into the next step of life and working her way through the what life was going to throw at her.

When we got home our dogs and cats were happy to see us, but a little put out with us as well.  Life had been good for them while we were gone.  The house was clean, the sheets and towels were pulled and washed, though we had not asked her to do so.  We could not tell that she had been there.  The neighbors were impressed with what they had observed she was home with our pets as we had wanted and no crazy visitors.  I’d love to have her again, but she is ready for the world.  She and friend will be visiting NYC before she heads off to Seattle for school.   So as great as this was, if we go on holiday we will once again be looking for a house sitter.

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Zip is the Bottom of the Pack

In September we adopted/rescued Zip our dog.  Based on past experience with the pets we have had over the years, we knew it would be awhile as he and the cat sorted out their relationship.  We have watched at times unsure where this relationship was going.   This week it became clear how it was going to work.

Our cat was a ten-year-old rescue when we got her.   She had been in the shelter for six months and had no front claws. Corabelle was not a fountain of self confidence or assertiveness.   Her relationship with Harley, our previous dog, had been one of an quiet truce.   Neither acknowledged one another more than necessary and when they did it was usually with a snarky look.   CoraBelle did not have much use for dogs, and would prefer that they not be there, but would tolerate them if we insisted on one.

Zip had lived with a senior woman and two senior dogs before she passed away.   He had not lived with cats and by all accounts had a sedentary indoor lifestyle.    After living with us, he has decided that there should be some times of intense play and zipping around the house.   He has also shown interest in playing with the cat and  sleeping with the cat. Up to this point the cat is unsure why she should allow either of these.  To Zip the cat was his friend, who cared that she was a cat, she was an animal that was good enough for him.   We were not sure how this was all going to fit in with CoraBelle’s idea of life at home.

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But….but….but…that is my toy

This last week CoraBelle decided she was the top of the pecking order.   She decided  to hog the dog toys and making the dog watch as she slept on his toy stash.   Zip is fast enough he could have made his way and stole his toy back but instead he deferred to her.    I am guessing that she thought enough of this running around and she was going to a stop to it. Zip, though he had nothing to fear from a older clawless cat, gets it and has recognized her as the top of the pecking order in this house.  It appears that the cat has chosen to interact with this dog and by controlling the dog toys control the dog.    I can’t wait to see where else this takes them.

Joy of Pets

blog-04-13I just spent the better part of the week on the road for work.   I am home again and reminded the joy of owning pets.  Each of them brings something different to the the household.   My dog brings a sense of spunkiness and a challenge of a stubborn personality.    My cat brings that that quiet acceptance.  All of it so enjoyable after a week away from it.

New Cat – New Name!!

 

intro-corabelleAs I write this we have now had the shelter cat just over two weeks.   During this time we have tried out all sorts of names trying to find one that she gives us the nod on.    Most shelters change their animal name on the records to protect everyone.   We were unsure if the name  used at the shelter was her name for the last 11 years or just the last five months.   No matter how often we used the shelter name she never responded.   We were not crazy about the shelter name either,  so we decided new home, new name.  Now naming a  pet sounds easy but it never is for us.   We pick names we think sound grand and perfect but somehow the animal has always let us know their name.   All this week our new cat has become more interested in us and being around us. Today  she came up and laid on me while I read.   She whispered in my ear you can call me Corabelle.   My brand-new 11-year-old shelter cat has been named. Everyone is pleased.

Adopted Adult Cat Adjustments – Week One

Our new cat observes the world.

Our new cat observes the world.

Our new 11 year-old cat is adjusting to our house.    We have allowed her time on whatever terms she chooses and most of the time it  was sitting up high in a closet watching the world.  We reminded ourselves she was deserving of time to adjust.   Imagine if you were 40 years old  and had lived in the same place since your childhood, then suddenly you went to prison, and when you were finally released you did not go home, but went to a foreign land.  This is the human equivalent of what happened to our cat.     She had spent half of her expected lifespan  in one home, with one set of people.    She had spent the last five months in a shelter, where the routine was likely very consistent, the noises likely very routine but nothing like living in a house.      Now she was living again in a house with the sounds of appliances, toilets, showers, a dog, stairs, people, the howling wind,  and so much more that we take as normal, but nothing like she remembered.

Now that the first week is gone and we are starting to ask more of her.   We pick her up from  her safe zone and take her with us upstairs, to the office(which is in the home); in general we take her with us where we go.    Once you  pull her out of her spot of observation and hold her she is full of purrs seeking attention.   She is calm and cuddly.   Sometimes she will sit in the living room with us for several hours and other times she only stays a few minutes.    She has become less wary of our dog who seems to sense her feelings of not being sure of what is all going on.   It is a slow process,  but I try to imagine what my life would be like completely uprooted at this point.   It would be hard.

What we have discovered with about her:

  • She likes to sleep.  Lots more than any of our prior cats.  At least that is how we remember that.
  • She eats very little.   Not since our first two cats has that been the case.
  • Declawed cats like the most sand like litter possible. (We had never had a declawed cat before)
  • She loves to purr at the drop of a hat.
  • She loves to look out the windows
  • Despite what the owner claimed, that she lived with dogs and was ok with them. So far she is VERY wary of the dog.
  • She likes human companionship but hasn’t figures how to do that comfortably.
  • She isn’t  clingy.
  • She has confirmed that the ideas we have for a cat name work for her.

We really believe she was a great choice for us .  Eleven is a great age for a cat.   They know the score and know what they like.   And we are pretty sure she likes us, but isn’t going to show us her cards until she is sure is staying.

Death by Chocolate

Abby cat with a hint of evil in her face.

Abby cat with a hint of evil in her face.

Our cat has no use for our dog and this morning  she tried to do away with him…death by chocolate.   I am sure that she has long wanted to do away with this rug rat she has to share her human space with since the day  she stepped foot in our door.   There is no doubt that she has mulled numerous ideas in her mind before settling on this one.

My husband is my cat’s favorite human. Dear husband and Abby Cat have a bond  that makes nothing else matter.    I am sure the fact that he has a habitual sweet tooth never crossed her mind when she discovered he had  bought a package of Hershey’s Kisses home yesterday.     Abby believed that her person had bought these to aid in her plan, not to feed his addiction.     Now things were set in motion Abby just needed to wait for the perfect moment. It happened this morning.

DH got up an fed the animals as  part of his normal early morning  ritual.      Like so many Sunday mornings he came back to bed.   The next thing we hear is lots of scurrying outside the bedroom door. .

DH nudges me knowing I am reading and not trying to sleep, asking me what the cat is doing now, with a hint of frustration in his voice.   He knows that despite the fact I am the number one cat person in our house, this cat has done nothing in the two years she has been here to endear herself to me.   It is highly unlikely I am going to leave my novel and warm bed to go see what happening.   Hearing just a continued shuffle, he can no longer stay in bed.

He makes his way to the kitchen to see Abby grabbing Kisses by the tail and throwing them on the floor.   There on the floor is the dog, with great anticipation receiving the umpteenth Kiss that she has been thrown him.   Now everyone knows, including cats, that chocolate can be deadly to dogs.   Everyone also knows that most dogs, including ours are garbage hounds.   They like to eat food if it is good for them or not.  I can almost imagine Abby smiling with glee as she watch the idiot dog eating the forbidden treat wrapper and all.

Fortunately for our dog, my husband’s sweet tooth left only a few Kisses left in the dish, and the amount of chocolate in a Hershey’s Kiss doesn’t amount to squat.   Much to Abby’s chagrin her plan was foiled.   The little black and gray rug rat is here to stay.

Life of a Cat

We have always gotten our cats from a rescue organizations.   They have come from whatever life of distress that put them in a shelter to our home, which not to brag, but is a life extraordinaire.  The kind of life that I want to come back and live.

My cats all have had a story to tell because I don’t like kittens.   I love adult cats.   I am shelter’s dream because I am not attracted for even a few minutes of entertainment.  I all hear is screaming curtain climbers.

I had a calico cat that was five-years-old when I got her.   My “pseudo sister” who lived me at the time always told me that when she left she was taking my cat with her.   She was a masterful lover who quickly became entangled in your heart strings.     She was everyone’s friend and such a looker.

Joseph and Fred came within six months of each other.   Joseph was a big tough British Shorthair, who was savvy and smart.   He loved deep men’s voices and when the men would gather at our place to play cards.   Even the guys who claimed not to like cats could be found with a hand on his head while betting on a good hand.   What made them special is Fred was slow, not physically, but mentally he just didn’t get it.  (Pick your favorite saying about knives, elevators, or light bulbs).  Joseph was his protector, helper, and provided a lifetime of guidance.    Joseph always made sure Fred was properly groomed, pulling his head down and checking his ears.  The slept together and were best friends.

Mocha, a Maine Coon,  was a child’s pet for five years.   She endured the unconditional love of dress up, tea parties and being the playmate of a little girl.   Unfortunately a blended family brought a highly asthmatic boy and the cat had to go.  It broke the family’s heart and I hope that the boy became the wonderful friend, and protector an older brother can be.   Mocha became our  girl, moving with us across the country and back two times to five homes, never missing a beat.   She always preferred being petting on her stomach  and the perfect relaxing mode was laying on  her back with her arms straight out, leftovers from years of accepting love little girl style.    Mocha was a cat who never used her nails on anything in play, another life lesson she came to us with.  It was only in her twilight years that she would lay on her stomach, I think her bones were starting to protest.

Our current cat was 9 months old when we took her home from the shelter.   She had spent six of the coldest weeks of the winter on the streets of Butte America fending for herself.   Her owner turned her out to the elements when she was sent to the big house.   One look of at her young face told me she had years of hardship under her belt and she should come home with me.   Abby  loves my husband and will go out of her way to avoid me.   She has not forgiven women for her hardship.   She loves to watch birds through the window, but an open door holds NO attraction for her.     She lives in a house with toys bought just for her, though her preference is for the dog’s toys.   She is a groupie of my husband, hanging on him, following him, never getting enough attention from him, but never afraid to let him know she wants more. Her meals no longer require her young wits, but are provided twice a day. Her life is so good that we buy drugs (catnip) for her pleasure.

I think any cat person and many others who claim not to be cat people would agree. I am not sure I want to live the life my cats have lived before they found their way to our home, but once they got there they live a carefree, healthy life. Life is good.