Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturdays with Nathan Alan Willoughby - Rescued from the Rescue

Nathan Alan Willoughby was tired.

He was tired from a week of being a dog's chew toy. He was tired of his favorite catnip mouse being stuck under a dress with no one retrieving it in a timely manner. He was tired of having his naps interrupted by the hissing of the other cats in the Red Room. He was tired of the same view out the window of the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats.

Mostly, he was tired of having no one to stroke his fur and hold him. When was the last time he had purred?

It was time to get serious. It was time to formulate a plan to somehow be in a place other than where he was. Where he was was good. But he knew there was something more. If he longed for something better, surely it existed.

The key seemed to be in the Visitors. When the Visitors came, he needed to act interested in them. Nathan Alan Willoughby got to grooming. He licked even the hard to reach areas in an effort to clean up his fur and look good.

So far, it had not worked. In the spring month of April, with the trees beginning to flower, a dozen people had entered the Red Room and paid little attention to him. Nathan Alan Willoughby was confused. Didn't he look nice? Wasn't he behaving in a most becoming manner?

One day, a young woman visited. When she walked into the Red Room, Nathan Alan Willoughby immediately perked up. She was looking right at him. Perhaps it was the floppy hat that got his attention. Perhaps it was her flowing skirt. Most likely, though, it was the kindness in her eyes, which were red from crying.

He sat up immediately and locked eyes with her. The young woman's mouth gaped and she asked the volunteer something.

"That's Nathan Alan Willoughby. He's been here since last Fall. He's not very appealing, I'm afraid, what with his chubby belly and laziness. Maybe he's not very adoptable."

The young woman shook her head. "I like his chubby belly. I don't mind that he's laziness." She sat down on the bed. The other four cats in the room hopped up next to her, pushing Nathan Alan Willoughby aside.

He pushed back. He nosed her hand and pushed it gently with his head, coaxing her to pet him. She scratched his ears. His tail twitched. He began to purr.

She looked at the volunteer, "It seems everyone missed the best cat in here. Today is my lucky day. I'm taking Nathan Alan Willoughby home."

Nathan Alan Willoughby didn't understand the words that were being exchanged, but he did understand one thing. This woman had just met him and loved him just as he was.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Law of Diminishing Returns

The above picture was taken shortly after I adopted Matilda (aka Tilly) from a local humane society. Very quickly, I realized that she likes very soft things and curling up in a little ball. This is how she fit into the cat bed. Note how Olive feels about Tilly absconding her cat bed. While Olive can only sleep in one at a time, she doesn't like that Tilly has one at any time.

Isn't that just like our nature as well? We have something that is perfectly good and acceptable. We can only handle so much of it. Yet, we find we want more. This could pertain to anything like money, food, etc. I personally feel that way about ice cream.

Just this morning, I read this from C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it's letters from a demon (Uncle Screwtape) advising another demon how to seduce a person away from God. In this chapter (nine), Uncle is discussing how God (referred to as "the Enemy") created all good and pleasurable things. However, evil has managed to make these things into bad by their excess and abuse.

Here is a telling passage, "Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula."

Oh, that last part really gets me. Because - it is true of ice cream! The more you eat, the less you notice the flavor and texture. Our tongues become so cold from an "ever increasing craving" that we have an "ever diminishing pleasure."

Olive has learned to share her cat beds with Tilly. Tilly has learned not to chase Olive around the house. I, on the other hand, am still learning portion control of ice cream.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dogs and Dead Things

This is Spanky (hi Spanky!).

Spanky lives down the road from me, and sometimes when the dogs and I are walking, he joins us. On more than one occasion, Spanky has found treasures such as this dead squirrel. I won't tell you what he did with it. I was grossed out. My dogs were intrigued.

Why do dogs like dead things? They aren't food and they aren't even fun. What's the attraction? Spanky gets plenty of food at home, and I suspect he's got real dog toys there as well.

Dogs seem to have a different standard than us humans. A dead squirrel smells terrific to a dog. He may eat it, he may roll in it. But why? Oh why? Some dog behaviorist believe dogs roll in dead things to mask their own odors, so any fierce animal that may be on the hunt for our dear dog will be thrown off.

Frankly, it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but after twelve years of watching dogs and observing dog behaviors, there just is no explaining certain scenarios. Dogs will just always surprise me.

Spanky got me wondering if there are some "dead things" I hold on to in my life. What poor quality food do I partake, when there is much better food at home? There are even those bad habits that I will "roll around in" that really serve no good purpose but to make me stink.

God wants so much better for you and for me than what we may find on the road.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday Training Tip

This is Tilly (hi Tilly!)

Tilly is not allowed on the couch (get off the couch, Tilly!).

It's important to be a little smarter than your dog. I'm a little smarter than Foster. However, I think Tilly is a little smarter than me.

A sad admission.

It begins when I go outside, the two dogs enthusiastically following. After all, exciting things happen Outside! While trying to dig a hole to plant a new perennial, the dogs bring their plastic ball dog toys for me to kick. I try to ignore them. Foster accepts this.

Tilly does not.

She places the ball a little closer to me. Surely I must not see the ball or of course I'd kick it for her. I ignore her. She moves the ball to the exact place where I am digging. I can't ignore her any longer. She knows I must now make a choice - kick it or move it (which can also be exciting). I calmly moved it out of my way. She has my attention - she wins! But since I am not kicking it, she might run off and do something like eat cat scat or roll in something dead. This results in me shrieking at her. Again, she has my attention - she wins! Usually, I'll kick the ball since I don't want her to eat or roll in repulsive items.

If she doesn't run off, she will start chewing at the plastic ball dog toy. This also makes me shriek as these are expensive! She has my attention - she wins! I kick the ball so she will stop chewing at it.

Like I said, she has figured out a way to control and manipulate me. It's embarrassing. I should be smarter than her. Or maybe I just need to stop shrieking.

Fortunately, this is the only area in which I let Tilly win. Ultimately, I could not let her win by keeping her in the house and eliminating the game altogether.

One must choose one's battles.

It's a good idea to examine where your dog may be getting one over on you.

It's a good idea to consider where you might be getting one over on someone else. Or, is someone getting one over on you?

One must choose one's battles. However, if you can reduce the shrieking in your life, do so!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Some people really hate Mondays. It makes them grumble and get a bit testy with others. They don't want anyone invading their space - they'd rather be left alone.

Dogs can be this way with their "space" as well. For example, the dog pictured above is a really wonderful dog. No, really. He's just "cage protective." As soon as I open the kennel run door, this snarling and teeth-baring ends. After he comes in from outside, he runs to his kennel cage and starts the fierce behavior all over again.

Yes, it's unsettling to have such ferocity directed at me, but I know he doesn't intend to bite. He just doesn't want anyone messing with him.

Some times when we meet people who are in bad moods, Monday or not, we assume they want to do us some damage. This is normally not true. The other person is just consumed with protecting themselves - their feelings, what they believe to be true, etc.

It gives me a lot of peace to realize I don't have to change the person's behavior or talk them out of their bad moods. I can step back and remember that when they are out of their "cage," they are most likely a person deserving of love and kindness. Maybe if enough people treat the grouchy person this way, they will experience that love. Maybe then they won't snarl so much.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby - Marketability at a cat rescue

"All he does is lay around."

"Maybe he's depressed."

"Wouldn't you be depressed if you were in a cat rescue for five months?"

Nathan Alan Willoughby opened one eye to look at the volunteers. His dream about the anchovy pizza in the bottom of the dumpster had been interrupted by the two women. He knew they were talking about him because they were staring at him.

And it was true.

While it was quite nice to be out of the cold Fall and Winter, now it was Spring and he wanted to get out and stretch. Many of the cats who lived in the Red Room when he was brought in were now gone. He suspected their disappearance had something to do with the nice visitors who made their way into the old Victorian home-turned cat rescue.

Nathan Alan Willoughby ate and slept. He'd lost all interest in the catnip mouse and little ball with the bell in it. He had put on more than a few pounds.

"Let's put him with Marvin for a few days. That'll make his life more interesting. Plus, he can get more exercise."

With that, the woman with the floppy hat picked him up and carried him out of the room. "He must weigh close to twenty pounds," she grunted to the other woman.

Nathan Alan Willoughby purred. He loved to be picked up and held. While his feet dangled precariously as the woman in the floppy descended the stairs, he thought how nice it was to get any attention at all. It had been so long...

"Here you go Marvin!" Nathan Alan Willoughby was dropped unceremoniously into the kitchen. The door shut. He looked around, uncertain where he should hide. Hiding was always the first thing a cat should do upon entering a new environment. It was at this moment that Nathan Alan Willoughby realized that his rescuers, while well intentioned, knew nothing of animal behavior.

The second thing he realized was this thing called "Marvin" was a weird looking dog.

Nathan Alan Willoughby knew a dog when he saw one. They chased him on the streets. Now, five pounds more on his frame and in a strange place, where would he hide? The trash can would work for now, so he dashed behind it. His rear hung out, though he didn't know this.

Marvin did.

The dog approached and sniffed his back in, causing Nathan Alan Willoughby to mew his unexpectedly high pitched mew. This caused Marvin to wag his tail and prick up his ears. He turned to face Marvin, a paw at the ready if he had to fight. He hoped he didn't have to fight. He was very tired. Why oh why had they taken him from the comfort of the Red Room and the chenille bed spread? The kitchen floor was cold and a weird dog was staring at him.

Clearly, Marvin was not one of the aggressive dogs he'd met on the street. Marvin bowed down on his front paws, while his back end was in the air, his tail wagging. Nathan Alan Willoughby looked at the tail. To him, it looked like a white flag waving. He suddenly wanted to swat the white waving flag. Before he could take a swat, Marvin had grabbed him around the neck and started growling.

This is it, Nathan Alan Willoughby thought. All those months here with nothing happening and I'm going to get eaten by a dog. But it was not to be. Marvin was only playing and did not bite down. He only jostled him from side to side, sort of like a rag doll. Nathan Alan jumped on the kitchen counter, turned as quickly as his large frame would allow, and hissed and swatted at the dog, whose white tipped tail continued to wag.

It was going to be a long day. In addition to realizing that the volunteers at the rescue knew little about animal behavior, it occurred to Nathan Alan that their weight loss plan was horribly misguided.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Can a Dog Stay Cool?

Wear sunglasses. Like Fonzie.

Okay, that wouldn't work. Fonzie didn't wear sunglasses all the time. That was the 80's thing.

Back to the kennel. The Midwest has been experiencing an impressive heat wave. What makes our heat waves extra special is the pressing humidity. Gasp. It can be a dangerous time for people and their pets.

Ample water - don't exercise in the middle of the day - tips you probably know. But how do the dog stay cool at the kennel?

Easy. Air conditioning! On more than a few occasions, it's been more comfortable in the kennel than in my home.

That's Roxie. Roxie got to hang out here for about a week. She's a very active 8 month old and needed more stimulation and exercise than most dogs in my care. So Roxie and I took lots and lots of walks. Then, she'd get in the pond to cool off. This did the trick! She was much happier. Of course she was - look at her!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Puppy Prison or Camp Canine?

No one likes to think of their dog being in a cage. This is Patches (hi Patches!) and it's clear he wants to be on the other side of the barrier.

We, as humans, see a cage. We think of cages as bad - like being in prison or being trapped. To the dog, however, it is only a separation. It's not too much different in their view as being inside the house while you're watering the flowers outside. Okay, it is different. But a cage doesn't carry the same emotional charge for a dog that it does for us owners. While at the kennel, the cage is the dog's safe area.

Patches is a happy dog with a winning personality. While he's at the kennel, he's pretty fixated on his leash. He knows his leash leads to getting out of the kennel, outside, and likely back to his owners.

Yet a leash is still a restraint. But to Patches, it means freedom. Perhaps we sometimes feel trapped or "caged" in our circumstances. It is a barrier that separates us from what we truly want. Could it be that at this moment in our lives, it is for our safety? Will a simple leash lead us to freedom? Maybe it will, depending on what is on the other side.

Patches knows that whether in his cage or on the leash, he can still wag his tail. His function of freedom is in his attitude.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Togetherness at the Kennel

So, I'm still a little rusty at taking pictures...bare with me...

From left to right, meet Sadie, Twinkie and Gizmo. These little characters all live together in the same home. When they come to the kennel, they all huddle up in their crate, pouring out like a wave when it's time to go outside.

Some kennels do not permit dogs with the same owner to stay together. There are reasons for this that I understand - no fights over food, no fights in general. However, that has happened very rarely here and in nearly every case, dogs who can stay together (as they do at home), handle the kenneling experience very well.

In general, we've become a highly individualistic society. I understand this. Completely. I love to have alone time. Being in relationships with others is complicated and things can get messy. But, we are called to live in community. It's for our benefit, and the benefit of others, that we build and maintain relationships, even if we don't want to do so. It makes bearing our life experience a little better!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Your Dog's Diet at the Kennel

At Good Shepherd Boarding Kennel, the owners are required to bring their dog's regular food. Many kennels do not allow this (unless it is vet prescribed) as it creates more work for the staff as well as many bags of food to keep straight.

However, feeding the dog its regular food has many benefits. For one, it's familiar and therefore comforting for your dog. It's weird enough being in the kennel, why add one more change? Speaking of which, sudden changes in diet for the dogs almost always leads to stomach upset on the part of the dog. This is no fun for the dog, no fun for me to clean up, and no fun for the owner when the dog returns home and has to adjust to their regular food again.

Yes, it's more work for me to keep track of those bags, bins and containers of food, remembering what each dog is getting fed. Surprisingly, my memory works well in this arena, even when I can't remember what I had for breakfast yesterday (even though it's almost always oatmeal).

While it's healthy and a good mental challenge for us to make changes in our lives, not all changes are beneficial. It requires a careful approach to discern where changes are needed, and what changes may make us sick to our stomachs.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby-Time Passes at the Rescue

Seven months had passed since Nathan Alan Willoughby arrived at the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats as an unnamed cat living in a dumpster. His current dwelling was the "Red Room" of the old Victorian Home the rescue group used to adopt or "re-home" cats.

Nathan Alan Willoughby was happy enough with his new home. After all, how could he complain about food available at all times, a good window for watching the traffic on the street, and catnip mice? From the window, he watched the leaves fall off the trees, the winds blow them away, then the rain, the snow, the ice, and now more rain.

He was grateful that he had avoided the coldest part of the year. Now the buds on the trees and the warming of the window panes showed that spring was coming. All the other cats in the Red Room could feel the change in their bones. One day, a volunteer was in the room caring for the cats when a bird had hit the window. As it flailed on the windowsill, all seven cats in the room raced to window. The meowing and jockeying for position was awkward, and Nathan Alan Willoughby ended up behind the smaller, quicker cats. The volunteer stood and shooed each of them away and opened the window, carefully setting the bird on its feet. It flew away before any cat could make a calculated move.

Easily, this was the most exciting moment Nathan Alan Willoughby and the other cats experienced for months. The fragrance that entered the room from the opened window was heaven. He remembered that smell of new grass and sweet air. There also was a tinge of oregano, reminding him of his days in the dumpster outside the pizza parlor.

The food was boring, the window had lost its luster, and the catnip mice all ended up under the dressers before he had a chance to play with them. Food was his only solace. He suspected this was a bad thing from the way the volunteers and staffed knitted their brows at him. "He'll never get adopted looking like that," one said. "How can we put him on a diet with all these other cats?"

Every now and then, a new person would enter the Red Room and coo over each of them. It didn't happen often enough. Even rarer, a person might spend a lot of time with one cat in particular and then the cat would be gone. Nathan Alan Willoughby didn't understand what happened, but the people always seemed happy. Even the calico, Tau Tau, had gone away. A new cat came in a couple of weeks ago, a white cat with blue eyes. The next day, a couple saw her and made a fuss and the cat went with them.

Nathan Alan Willoughby thought of this as he groomed his back legs, exposing his white underbelly, which contrasted nicely with the black fur on his back. It was nice to have something as dependable as food, to be safe from the weather. But the place where the other cats went...where could that be? It seemed pretty good. He was afraid to imagine what it might be like. Hope for something better seemed indecent. He should be grateful to be safe and have food and water. On the inside, he knew there was more to life.

He looked at the large unusual lamp that sat on the desk near the window. Nathan Alan Willoughby had grown fond of the lamp and its large orbs. Sometimes it was the friendliest object in the room. He jumped up clumsily next to it and curled into a ball. With one eye out the window, he thought what it would be like to have a person who lived in this room all the time and not just show up to pet their heads for a minute and leave. A strong breeze blew hard enough to move some scent through the cracks in the old windows. He sniffed the air. Change was coming, he knew this now.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Called by Name

After an owner leaves their dog in my care, the dog looks at me questioningly. Since explanations are beyond a dog's grasp, I revert to diversions instead. This begins by calling the dog by its name.

Many dogs look at me with some degree of surprise that I know their name. After all, they don't know me, how do I know them? I know much about them - how old they are, their quirks, the many other things owners tell me. Yet to them I am a stranger.

Knowing the dog's name is the first step in establishing trust and comfort while in my care. It's an important aspect of kenneling, in my opinion. A dog needs to feel as safe and secure as possible while away from their owners. I call their name. They take that little bit of knowledge and dare to trust me. Eventually, we get to know each other rather well. Mutual trust grows, their security lets them relax. When the dog returns for its next stay, we have a relationship.

Studies show that using a person's name improves relationships and makes the person feel positive about themselves and the person calling them by name. I've noticed that when I get an email that addresses me by my first name, I like it better. Now I'm more likely to send emails to people using their names.

At some point in our lives, we become aware of God. We may not know Him by name, but He knows us. He knows everything about us. If we take the first step of faith in getting to know our God, our faith and trust will increase. A thriving relationship can be ours, if we are willing to act on the little we know. And it all begins by God calling us by name.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Homemade Dog Treats

At Good Shepherd Boarding Kennel, owners bring their dog's own food. Though this is more work for me, keeping all the food straight, etc., it's easier on the digestive tract of the dog (less clean-up for me and the owner when they return home), and also more familiar for the dog. Some owners also bring treats for their dog for me to give them.

When it's not too blazing hot and humid, sometimes the dogs get homemade dog treats. Here's the winner of the recipe, loved by every dog in the kennel:

2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. powdered dry milk
1/2 t. garlic powder
1 t. brown sugar
6 T. meat drippings (bbq is a real hit)
1 beaten egg
1/2 c. (or more) iced water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a cookie sheet. Combine blour, dry milk, garlic powder and sugar. Cut in meat drippings until it looks like corn meal. Mix in egg. Add enough water to make ball. Roll out and cut in shapes with cookie cutter, if desired. Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Or, if you're like me, you just pick off pieces and slap in the pan. Smaller treats work better in the kennel.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday Training Tip - "That's Not Food"

When your dog has found something tasty or smelly, and you don't want your dog to eat it or roll in it, what do you do?

My personal temptation is to shriek and run with my arms flailing - away. Far far away.

However, my dog, Foster, knows "leave it" and when I say it sternly, he responds. Matilda, when she hears "leave it," looks at me funny. If I'm unable to physically remove her from the source, she ignores me ("we're kind of working on this still"). After I say "leave it," I often follow with "that's not food." As a result, I can tell Foster, "that's not food," and he walks away from the offending object.

Some people think Foster can understand English, but it is actually a result of training. Words used to train dogs and other animals do not matter. You can use any word for "sit." If you want to say "cantalope" ("I cantalope, I'm already married", nyuk nyuk), the dog will respond by sitting if you taught the dog the action with that word. The words are strictly for our benefit.

Using a suitable and logical word is a good idea. If the dog comes to me and I ask it to "sit," and its trained with "cantalope," we won't be able to effectively communicate.

Isn't this like people? If I drive to Atlanta and order iced tea, I'm going to get iced tea with a load of sugar in it (not like that's a bad thing, I'm fond of sugar). Who knows what might happen if I asked for a cantalope.

Listening and clear communication have become more of a challenge, despite the technology of our "age." While I won't go into that, I'd mention that prayer, though it's own form of mystery, has never changed. God can hear the intention of our hearts, much beyond our words.

And he knows what a cantalope is.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Adjusting at the Kennel

From couch to concrete, the kennel adjustment for dogs can be quick, or it can take some time. After twelve years of watching dogs, I'm amazed that "quicker" is the more likely scenario. Simply put, if the dog feels secure, has food, water, and attention, they are happy, couch or no couch.

What does it take to make you feel secure? Is it your car? Television? Facebook page? How enduring are those?

Perhaps if you are away, you take out your phone and look at a picture of the people you care about (or dog). One thing I recommend to owners leaving their dog at the kennel for the first time is to bring something familiar with home. The familiar smell comforts a nervous dog.

I wish I could make adjustments to stark changes as easily. Living a simple life, even little changes seem to jar me on occasion. Perhaps I need to take a lesson from the dogs. There's still food on the table and love abounding. What more do I need?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby-Life at the Rescue

Nathan Alan Willoughby stretched on the red chenille bedspread. He just finished his mid-afternoon nap. It followed his early afternoon nap, which preceeded his noon nap, his late morning nap, his mid-morning nap, and his early morning nap.

Before his late afternoon nap, Nathan Alan Willoughby thought he'd play with the catnip mouse. The mouse was always easier to find than the ball with the bell in it. He liked the ball better, but he'd gotten lazy and often settled for the mouse instead.

He yawned and jumped off the bed, waking two of the four cats still napping. The yellow tabby opened one eye for a brief moment as Nathan Alan Willoughby landed with a solid thud on the wooden floor.

As Nathan Alan Willoughby lapped at the cool water in the bowl, he noticed the rough texture of it. It was hand made pottery. Perhaps it was worth a grade in art class, but now it was providing him with refreshing water. It did give the room a more homey feel, though Nathan Alan Willoughby knew only one home, for a brief time, when the little girl had taken him home for a night.

Looking up, the calico was hissing. Tau-tau was her name, and she seemed perpetually cranky. Nathan Alan Willoughby didn't know why any cat should complain when there was always food sitting around, and fresh water. He noticed that Tau-tau was hissing at the catnip mouse. She took it in her paws and tossed it in the air. When it landed, she pounced on it, then gave it a powerful swat with her tiny paws.

Nathan Alan Willoughby was impressed. She was small and lithe, but she managed to bat the mouse clear under the dresser of the Red Room. Tau-tau reached under the dresser but couldn't reach the catnip mouse. Great, if she couldn't reach it, then there was no chance he could. Nathan Alan Willoughby was, after all, a very large cat with very large paws. He looked around. All the balls were out of sight, probably with the other toys under one of the two dressers.

While it was nice to have a room like a home, it wasn't so nice to have the toys constantly getting lost. Was that what it was like in a real home? The best amusements enjoyed for a fleeting moment til knocked away, becoming unreachable? Certainly there was more to a home than that.

Nathan Alan Willoughby licked his paw and rubbed behind his ear. All that sleeping had made him dusty and his fur felt distinctly unkempt. He groomed for a while and wondered what he'd do next. As he turned to lick the hair on his back near his tail, he noticed he couldn't quite reach the center. He turned and tried to angle from the other side. Still, there was a small patch that remained elusive. What was the problem here? He looked down. His belly had grown after a month at the Westwood Rescue for Good Cats.

Going to the window, Nathan Alan Willoughby noticed that some of the other cats were also a bit flabby. As he watched the activity on the sidewalk below, he longed to be among them. While he was glad to have a warm room and plenty of food, he found the lack of activity very trying. Surely life included activity as attested to the people walking, carrying bags, and even jogging with those other four-legged pets, the dogs.

He stretched and looked back at the bed. Soon, he would settle down for another nap. But Nathan Alan Willoughby was not satisfied. He remembered the interesting things he found in dumpsters, running from people as they yelled at him, and chasing real mice at night. Mostly, though, he remembered the little girl who scratched him on the head, and sometimes pulled a string for him to chase. That's what he missed most. Surely he was not meant to just sit in a room and eat and sleep. However, solving that dilemma was too much for today. He'd have to sleep on it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

All the Comforts of a Kennel?

This is Millie. This picture was not taken at the kennel, but in the comfort of her own home (hi Beth!). Millie is a constant surprise to me. When she arrives, she looks at her owner with "are you kidding me?" in her eyes. She refuses to make eye contact with me for the first day. This improves the next day to a look of disdain.

It's sort of like Martha Stewart Goes to Prison. She just can't accept that she's here...with....dogs (shudder!).

But, by the end of her stay, Millie is bringing me toys to play, acting coy and wagging her tail. Of course, once her owners return (hi Beth!), I'm chopped liver - it's back to disdain and ignoring me.

And that is how it should be.

Home and your people - there's not substitute for the real thing. I can do my best, but really I'm just a stand in. I'm okay with that. When I long for a real and tangible love, I don't want a disappointing substitute - I want what's real.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thresholds, Part Two

Meet Dooley.

Too bad Dooley doesn't want to meet you. It's nothing personal, he's just, you know, one of "those" cats.

Dooley's past is somewhat unknown, but what is known is rather sad, so give him a break. He was a stray in the little town of Ada and a couple fed him, though kept their distance due to his constant hissing. Apparently Dooley didn't get the memo about not biting the hand that feeds you (or hiss). A friend of the couple called me and asked if I'd "remove" the cat (the couple had a poor grasp of English).

Expecting a fearsome cat, I was surprised to find instead a three month old orange cat, who was terrified but curious of people. Since he wouldn't let me near him, I put some canned food in the back of a crate. When he cautiously entered it, I quickly shut the door and locked it. Of course, Dooley was indignant. Though I planned to ship the kitten to the local shelter, he eventually changed his attitude toward me and I was charmed.

It's been seven years and Dooley still has not forgiven me. After a full day of sniffing around the pond for frogs or stalking grasshoppers, Dooley waits at the door to come in for the night. However, crossing the threshold into the house, even with the guarantee of food and a comfy place to sleep for the night, is extremely difficult for him.

Perhaps I should be impressed that Dooley has always remembered that important lesson of "once bitten, twice shy." After all, isn't it good to be discerning? Yet after seven years of nothing but doting on him (except for that minor incident of dental work at the vet's office), it seems that forgiveness is in order.

It made me wonder if there are people and situations in my life I need to recognize and forgive. If Jesus keeps no record of wrongs against me, why should I keep it against others? What about you? What keeps you from entering a safe home, where you can be fed and loved? What will it take for you to get past it?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"This is Not a Buffet!"

Every now and then when I open the run for a dog to go outside, the dog makes a bit of a detour. He may decide to run into another dog's run and sample any uneaten food. Or, he may stick his head in a bag of food that does not belong to said dog.

I give them a lecture on this not being okay.

They don't seem to care.

Sure, it's good to be curious, to try new things. However, sometimes, "things" are just not our business, and we need to focus on the task at hand, which does not involve what goes on in someone else's backyard.

While we must be concerned and caring about our friends and neighbors, being overly involved in their details is not our business. "It is not a buffet."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Upon arrival at the kennel, a peculiar thing sometimes happens. The dog doesn't want to go through the doorway. Perhaps it's not so strange. When that door opens, the sights, sounds and smells certainly overwhelm me, not to mention the hypersensitive senses of a dog (as mentioned in a previous post).

Yet, it is the door itself that seems to cause hesitancy. Once the dog goes through the doorway, they are fine. This same thing happens as the dog walks into an outside run from the hallway - a hesitancy to cross the threshold.

Why is it difficult to make that next step?

Fear of the unknown. It is common to man and beast. One of my high school teachers would question us, "What is the fear of the unknown?" "Something we don't know." "So it is nothing?" "yes" "Then why be afraid of nothing."

Simple - maybe overly simple - but that always helped me - why be afraid of something that is nothing?

Making the "next step" of our lives is hard, since we often don't know what will happen. Yet, it is necessary to experience change and the refining and blessing that awaits us.

What thresholds are you afraid to cross? What keeps you from making the next step? How can you overcome the unknown fears you have?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Nathan Alan Willoughby - The Westwood Rescue for Good Cats

Once Nathan and Alan had left the large black and white cat at the rescue, he got comfortable. The people who volunteered at the old Victorian home-turned cat rescue were friendly and patted the cat soothingly.

"Let's take him to the Red Room," said Cornelius, the rescue coordinator. "He's a regal looking fellow, don't you think? With a name like his, he deserves royal treatment."

The Red Room, though Nathan Alan Willoughby could not tell colors, was an upstairs bedroom that housed five other cats. There was a queen sized bed with a red chenille coverlet. Two cats slept on it. Another cat looked out the window from the back of a plush chair. One cat stopped batting a catnip mouse about when the door opened. The fifth cat....well, he was using the litterbox, much to his embarrassment.

"Here you go, kits, another friend for you," Cornelius put Nathan Alan Willoughby in a small wire cage, then he left. Each cat came up and spent a little time sniffing at him, then hissing. Nathan Alan Willoughby decided he too would sniff, then hiss. It didn't seem like a friendly way of making new friends, but what did he know of it? He'd never met any cats that hadn't immediately run from him. At least these cats looked at him.

By the end of the day, Nathan Alan Willoughby was released into the rest of the room. A few of the other cats growled and hissed, but mostly they just continued what they were doing, which was mostly sleeping or looking out the window. Nathan Alan Willoughby walked about the room, sniffing at the different toys on the floor, and most of the furniture, which he suspected was also in the theme of red for the Red Room.

Next to the bed, there was a nightstand with a clock, book, and lamp. This seemed peculiar, since cats aren't big readers, can see quite well in the dark, and really have no use for time, unless it is time to eat. However, the homey look made the cats look like they'd fit in to the homes of the potential adopters. To the cats it didn't matter - a soft bed is a soft bed.

Nathan Alan Willoughby surveyed the room carefully. This was a far cry from the dumpster. There was food in a bowl, with water next to it. He wouldn't have to look for it in the smelly trash or fight off rats for a morsel of pizza dough. Here he could have what he needed.

He curled into a ball on the bed and looked at the two other cats sleeping nearby. They seemed content enough. He glanced out the window and could see rain hitting it, beginning to freeze as it drizzled down. The room was warm. As Nathan Alan Willoughby drifted off to a deep, relaxing sleep, he couldn't help but think he'd been rescued just in time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dogs and July Fourth

It's a summer holiday. Plans include friends, family, food. What about Fido? (by the way, I've never watched a dog named Fido, but I'm still waiting)

Even if you try to ignore the holiday, chances are very good that firecrackers are being set off by your neighbors days, if not weeks, before and after July 4th. Likely, they send your dog hiding under the bed, behind the sofa, or perched on your shoulders.

It's good to have a strategy to deal with the boomers that drive your dog bonkers. When the days approach, you may set up a room that is away from windows where you can set up your dog's bed, toys, and a radio. While your dog may not have a preference of rap, rock or talk radio, turn the volume UP! If your dog will not tolerate being confined, at least put on the radio.

Some dog owners bring their dog to the kennel for the specific reason they will be away from fireworks. Here at Good Shepherd Boarding Kennel, there are few people setting off fireworks. Yet, I plan to let dogs out a little earlier than normal so I can get them back inside before the blasts begin. Then, the radio volume goes UP! Over the years, I've not found dogs cowering in the corner from the sounds.

As you stir the potato salad, don't forget a strategy for your dog this July 4th!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Making adjustments

Sometimes when a dog comes to the kennel for its first visit, it may cower in the back of its kennel run. Until it adjusts from the comforts of home to the sights, sounds, and smells of kennel life, their fear determines their behavior.

How do they overcome this fear? Most often, the calmness of the other dogs shows them that there is nothing to fear. Once they experience a routine similar to that of their home life, get pats on the head and yummy treats, they realize it isn't so bad after all! Pack mentality and experiencing familiarity break down the fear barriers!

Dogs seem more adaptable than humans some times. When I am faced with a new situation, it takes me a period of time to stop and realize that while it may be strange and unfamiliar, it doesn't have to overwhelm me. Mostly, I need to remember that what is immediate is not eternal. In other words, it's not going to last forever.

What about you? What fears do you need to overcome? How will you do so? Do you need to see others experiencing and succeeding that which seems overwhelming to you? Will your fears disappear once you jump in and experience it for yourself?