Editor’s Note: The Pet Pro has over 20 years professional experience in dog training and pet care, as well as in caring for sick animals.
By The Pet Pro
I once had a client who had a debilitating chronic illness that had eluded diagnosis for years. She experienced fatigue and muscle weakness, terrible joint pain, skin rashes and breakouts, stomach upset, headaches, dizziness the list goes on. She came from a wealthy family who lived nearby, and had a very involved mother who continually jumped in to help ferrying her to one specialist after another, and stepping in to take over running her life at a moment’s notice.
Suggested but unconfirmed diagnoses included chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus and Crohn’s disease, among others. Over the few years that I knew her, her dog, and then her cat, developed chronic illnesses as well also mysterious and difficult to diagnose. She began looking into environmental toxins, allergies, and nutritional deficiencies for an explanation. As I got to know her better, I learned that she was involved in a relationship with a controlling and verbally abusive man and, as I watched her interaction with her mother, it seemed to me that her relationship with her family had left her feeling helpless, dependent and infantile feelings that were perpetuated by her romantic partnership.
Ham I AM
By The Pet Pro
When our beautiful big kitty Tommy was still alive, he got used to an occasional canine visitor, as we board dogs in our home sometimes. We would always set up a barrier in the house, just past the kitchen, so the dogs would stay in one part of the house, but the cat could come and go as he wished. Tommy had lived with our dog T-Bone for six years until T-Bone passed away, and had formed a comfortable bond, so he wasn’t afraid of dogs, but he usually stayed on his side of the barrier while strange dogs were in the house.
One of the dogs I walk regularly, Hamlet, boards with us several times each year. Hamlet is one of my favorite dogs. He’s a large, handsome German shepherd/black lab mix who reminds us of our T-Bone. He has the same long, elegant paws, big intelligent brown eyes, and gentlemanly ways.
Tommy seemed to agree that Hamlet was familiar in some way. The very first time Hamlet stayed with us, Tommy snuck over the barrier when the dog was sleeping and sniffed his paws and tail, which he had never done before with our other canine guests. During the visit, he would sit on the dining table, just past the barrier, rolling around and flirting with Hamlet, but he never came closer.
No Means No
by The Pet Pro
This week I had charge of a middle-aged Macaw named Gatsby. Every morning I would let him out of his cage while I walked the dog and got food and water for both. Gatsby would be hanging out on top of his cage, or walking around on the floor (a pretty funny sight). Then would come the daily adventure of getting him to go back into his cage.
Gatsby knew what he was supposed to do, but being bright and a wise guy, he would make things as hard as possible. Sometimes I could offer him my arm, and he would eventually step on and allow me to put him in the cage. Sometimes he would play hard to get until I finally got fed up, and using the large umbrella from the stand by the door, I would gently push against his feet until he stepped on, and I could transfer him into the cage. Things went more smoothly if I sang to him, and gave him pets and praise, and showed him a little attention and respect before insisting on compliance. A few treats didn’t hurt either.
Birds and Bodyguards
by The Pet Pro
One of my favorite stories of animal intelligence is the one I read recently about the barn cat who got herself some canine bodyguards. There was a large group of mostly feral ‘outdoor’ cats living on a farm in a loose society as they sometimes do. Their job was to keep down the ever-present rodent population, and they did it well. One of the smaller kitties was having a hard time because the other cats didn’t like her for some reason and were constantly ganging up on her and beating her up.
In a large enclosure right next to the barn lived a small pack of wolf-dog hybrids that were employed to keep larger predators away from the livestock. Over a period of some months, the cat who was being tormented was seen taking a bird or mouse she had caught and dropping it over the fence for the dogs. She continued bringing daily gifts to her fearsome neighbors until they began to consider her a friend. Then one day when another cat was chasing her, she popped over the fence and took refuge among the big dogs, safe in a place where the other cats would never dare follow. Her feline torturers stopped picking on her once they realized who her new friends were.