Monday, May 24, 2010


Well, we tried. I’d hoped that the time in the crates would show Parm and Per’la the error of their ways. And for a few brief, shining moments, I thought it had. Saturday night, though, I went into my bedroom and discovered that a Certain Someone had engaged in Unacceptable Behavior. ON MY BED. BESIDE. MY. PILLOW. Parm was hiding from me, most likely due to his guilty conscience. Today, I gave Parm one last chance and took him to the vet, just to rule out any type of health problem that might be causing the Unacceptable Behavior. His 18.5 lb butt is perfectly healthy. And so, after we came home, I relocated that butt to the catiary. Since I can’t keep him out of the house while letting the others come and go, Parm is once again residing in a dog crate. This time, though, he’ll be able to have feline company. Per’la is still allowed in the house, but that’s strictly dependent on me not finding any other messes. If I find any sign that she is engaging in the same Unacceptable Behavior, she’ll be sharing the crate with Parm. Forever.

On a side note, I put four perches in the catiary yesterday. Two in the front, one along the back wall (to encourage Loki to come out), and one on the side wall over the ramp. Khar’pern in particular likes the perches, and Mikey has used the two in the front. Mikey has also played with the toy I have hanging from one of the perches. It’s good to see the cats using the catiary.


I’m not sure what’s happened, but Reyna has recently developed a strong urge to lean whenever the weather gets bad. She used to be completely undisturbed by storms, but that seems to have changed. Now, when the thunder rumbles or the heavy rain comes down, she becomes...concerned (and she's been concerned a lot the last week or so). She’s not agitated in the sense of pacing or whining. Instead, she finds me wherever I am, and leans. After a while, she’ll lie down, but she positions herself so that some part of us is in contact. She’s also a lot more tolerant of petting during storms. After the weather passes, she bounces back to her normal self. It’s all very odd.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Double The Fun

Duncan got to go herding twice this week. Wednesday morning was a regular lesson at Claire’s, and Thursday evening was a group lesson at Meredith’s. Wednesday, we worked Duncan in the arena. I’d like to enter a trial in July, which means we have to get better with obstacles and free-standing pens. Duncan did a lovely job, once he backed off. The poor boy is so sensitive, though, that at times he backed off so far that my sheep wandered off. And after fussing at him to get him to move away from me, he didn’t always respond quickly when I would call him closer. We definitely need to reach a happy balance. The most exciting part of the lesson was when Duncan caused his first ever sheep faint. Apparently, when sheep feel too stressed, they’ll just fall over. Sort of a preemptive “eat me now and put me out of my misery” thing. Duncan immediately backed away, looking extremely upset and confused (Reyna probably would have been excited that she didn’t have to chase her dinner any farther). We had to take the flock over to the sheep before it would get back up.

Thursday evening went really well. We were at a new location with new sheep watching other dogs work, so there was always a chance that Duncan would be a complete spaz (as much as he can be, anyway). Instead, he was nice and calm. We had our first ever run on something closely resembling an A Course set-up and we managed to get through it with only a few mistakes. Then we got to work on putting sheep in a free-standing pen – the first time we’ve ever tried that. It didn’t go as well, mostly because Duncan had no idea what I was asking, and I had no idea what I was doing. But we did succeed, eventually. After that, we had another go at the A Course. It didn’t go as smoothly as the first, but went well enough that I could declare the evening a success.

Reintegration Is Hard

Yesterday, I moved Parm and Per’la from the dog crates to the catiary. It didn’t go quite as I expected. The other cats refused to enter the catiary, and when I put Khar’pern on the ground, she started hissing at Parm and Per’la. It took Per’la a few hours to figure out the ramp, and Parm didn’t make it into the bedroom until sometime during the night. No one else entered the catiary while they were in there. So far, I haven’t seen any signs of Inappropriate Behaviors, so maybe Parm and Per’la learned their lesson. If not, they’ll end up back in the dog crates. The odd thing is that the other cats all act like Parm and Per’la are total strangers. They’re all hissing and spitting at the other two. Even Mikey, who was practically dating Per’la, is hissing at them both. Now that Parm and Per’la are out of the catiary, the others have decided its acceptable to use again. Khar and Mikey are using it the most, although Mikey runs back into the house when he sees the pups. As far as I know, Belle hasn’t been in it since the first day, and Loki hasn’t been in it at all. With time, maybe. And perches.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Good To Go

Reyna’s hip replacement surgery was just a little over a year ago. We’ve had some ups and downs since then, with the significant downs being the soft tissue damage during the initial recovery and the setback that happened during the winter. Our biggest up happened today. Reyna had her follow-up at VetHab, and she has been declared fit. She’s at a healthy weight, she’s moving very nicely, she’s carrying her weight properly, and she has good, solid muscle in both hips. We’re to keep walking as much as possible and do cavalettis at least twice a week, but she’s allowed to chase her ball and start her tracking training (which we’re planning to do Monday). A significant indication that she’s doing really well is that she no longer fights to walk on the grass – she’ll walk on the road without fussing, and she hasn’t done that since well before the surgery. Another big indication is that, during today’s exam, she not only didn’t try to bite the vet, she barely even noticed what he was doing (she was much more interested in the Pupperoni treat). She’s doing so well, in fact, that she’s even off of all of her pain meds, taking the Rimadyl only when she’s having a rough day. Its absolutely amazing to see how different she is now, compared to a year ago. Or even two years ago.

Here’s to many more THR anniversaries.

Another Save

Monday evening, I discovered a leak in my roof - a small area of the ceiling popcorn in my bathroom fell off, exposing wet sheet rock. John came over Tuesday evening to take a look at it and discovered that the seal around the vent pipe was useless, but the damage to the sheet rock appears to be minimal. He applied a bunch of goop around the pipe and must have done an excellent job, because the sheet rock was no wetter after Tuesday night's rain than it was before.

Poor Duncan seemed rather concerned about John climbing around on the roof.

Reyna just wondered when he was going to come down and throw her ball.

Thanks again to my cutie pie farmer neighbor friend for fixing the problem!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cats In The House

I'm pleased to announce that the cats started using the catiary today. Mikey was the first to venture out. And by "venture out" I mean that I picked him up, put him on the ramp, and pushed. He didn't seem too traumatized by the experience and spent a few minutes looking around. Naturally, I didn't have my camera handy, and by the time I made it back to the bedroom, he was headed inside.

Khar'pern was the second "volunteer." She was sitting on the windowsill, so I went into the catiary and assisted her to the ground. She wasn't too bothered by having Reyna's interest, but then, she is the most dog-tolerant of the clowder.

Belle's checking things out, and making sure she doesn't let me close enough to snag her.

This is as far as Loki has ventured. I'm a little concerned that he keeps looking to the side like he's going to make a leap for it, rather than go down the ramp.

Khar says she's not positive, but she thinks someone is watching her...

Both pups were really excited about having the cats outside. They absolutely love watching them - and occasionally trying to steal a lick through the screen.

Here's Belle on her first foray into the wild. Much like Mikey, she was assisted by a gentle nudge from Mom.

And of course, she found a way to walk around without getting her feet dirty.

Since Mikey was on the platform (and Belle hates to share space), Belle took an alternate route to the ramp.

Leave the exploring to Khar'pern and Mikey.

I've checked the catiary several times today, and the cats have been in there more often than not. I think they'll really get excited about it when the sun comes out and it warms up again.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Its Useable!

The catiary has finally reached the point where it can actually be used by the cats! John came over Saturday afternoon to put on the roof panels and help me with the chicken wire and screen that I couldn’t do alone (the back wall and the top layer). He also added the decorative strips to the door (I put chicken wire along the bottom half) and re-hung it. All of that took a lot more effort than it sounds.

I still have quite a bit to do, but nothing that would prevent the cats from using the space. I do realize that as long as I’m puttering around with the drill, they won’t go near it, the bums. I need to put the strips along the screen edges (and then paint them), do a few minor things inside and out, put carpet on the ramps and add perches. I started working on that yesterday afternoon, but the storm got in the way. Today’s weather wasn’t good for anything but curling up on the couch with a book and a dog. Hopefully tomorrow’s weather will be better. Especially since my roof has apparently developed a leak over my bathroom…

Here's John attaching the roof panels. John's developed a hate-hate relationship with my poor rosebush, which has done nothing but try to defend itself.

Reyna says she's happy with her new playhouse, and she appreciates all the work we've done on her behalf. Little does she know just how much entertainment this will provide...

John trimming the excess length off the roof panels. I realized after yesterday's storm that we should have left a few more inches on that side to help the rain drain off properly. John says he can fix that.

Poor John had to climb up on the roof in order to attached the back portions of chicken wire and screen. He was not a happy camper. I would like point out, though, that this picture was his idea.

Here is the catiary as of Sunday morning. I think the cats will really like it, once they realize the dogs can't get to them. And if they don't use it by choice, I'll dump them all in there and close the window.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Yesterday morning, Duncan and I headed off to Pittsboro for some quality sheep time. We worked on tending, as that lets Duncan decide how much he needs to move, and how fast. It also allows him to sit and rest when he feels like it. Duncan did a lovely job of tending the flock. He would check in with me, but he was obviously watching the sheep, as well. He did lose a couple in the woods, but I think that was due more to him moving slowly rather than poor tending. Duncan was a little hesitant when we were fetching the sheep out of the woods, but that was clearly because he couldn’t find easy paths around them. He had to push his way through some brush, and that’s just not something he likes to do.

Duncan seems to be having more trouble moving as days pass. He’s much better on a soft surface than on the road, no question about that. But if he moves for several minutes, even on grass, he gets a hitch in his gait. Poor boy. The very tentative diagnosis from two surgeons and a PT, based on the video taken by my neighbor Wednesday, is ACL tears in both knees. Our vet isn’t convinced about that, because he didn’t feel the usual ACL tear indications. He did say that it could be partial tears or a chronic injury. John came over Thursday, and while he was here we took another video of Duncan moving. This one was much clearer and zoomed in on Duncan, so I think the vets will be able to get more information from it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why I Like My Vet

After Friday’s appointment with the new vet, I emailed our old vet with my concerns and a copy of Duncan’s spine x-ray. We talked back and forth for a couple of days and decided it would be more productive if the vet could actually see Duncan and do a physical exam. This morning, we trotted off to Durham.

The vet found the offending vertebra with no trouble and noticed that Duncan didn’t seem too concerned about being poked and prodded. He also checked Duncan’s hips, knees and ankles. Duncan has good extension and flexion and solid muscle. Unfortunately, he also has a stiff right ankle and a popping right knee. The vet said it feels and sounds like a meniscus click (which is bad), but Duncan doesn’t seem bothered by that, either (which is good). We took Duncan outside for a road test, and the vet commented that Duncan is consistently dropping his right hip and his general swishiness seems worse than before. The vet thinks its possible that Duncan’s protruding vertebra is a result of Duncan shifting his weight forward to compensate for a problem with his leg. The current plan is for me to take some video of Duncan walking and trotting and send that to the vet. He’s going to then send it to a couple of ortho/rehab vets to get their take on Duncan’s gait. At this point, there doesn’t seem to be a huge issue, but its definitely better to find this early rather than late. This gives us more time to fix it before it does become a major problem. Until this is resolved, Duncan isn’t allowed to do any carting, but he is still allowed to herd sheep.

See, this is why I really like my old vet. He doesn’t just look at the current concern – he actually looks for the underlying cause. And with our 6 years of history, I trust him if he says there’s a problem (or a potential problem). I also trust him to tell me if I’m just being an over-protective worry-wart (he’s done that before). He never pushes for a test or procedure that he doesn’t truly think is necessary, and he’s willing to look at multiple solutions. Despite the drive, I’m going to transfer the dogs records to his new facility and stick with him rather than try to find a new vet. We’ve also worked out how to handle Reyna’s monthly meds, so that’s no longer a problem.

Now I just have to find someone to work the video camera....

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


We’re definitely making progress. Sunday, John came over to work on the roof. As usual, we were outside until well past my bedtime. John made some structural changes to the roof frame and cut the roof sheets. He also built the ramp and a platform/box where the cats can rest and I can put food and water bowls. Of course, all of this meant more painting for me. I got the first coat done Monday morning, and then second coat done this morning. This afternoon, I got the roof screened, which means John can come back over and attach the panels. I also got part of the first section of chicken wire attached before I got tired. So, after the roof, the chicken wire, and the screen, the cats can start using the catiary. I’ll still have a few things to do after that (perches, carpet on the ramp, trim boards), but nothing that would prevent the use of the space.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

Yes, I'm a bit late on this. And yes, some of this actually happened to me with cats before dogs, but the sentiment is true regardless of the species.

Before I Was A Dog Mom

Before I was a Dog Mom:
I made and ate hot meals without being watched every second.
I had unstained, unfurred clothes.
I had quiet conversations on the phone,
even if the doorbell rang.

Before I was a Dog Mom:
I slept as late as I wanted
And never worried about how late I got to bed
or if I could get into my bed.

Before I was a Dog Mom:
I never stepped on or tripped over body parts.
I didn't know what a bully stick was and never touched an esophagus.

Before I was a Dog Mom:
I had never been peed on
Pooped on
Drooled on
Chewed on
Or pinched by puppy teeth.

Before I was a Dog Mom:
I slept all night without sharing
the covers or pillow.

Before I was a Dog Mom:
I never looked into big, soulful eyes and cried.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces
when I couldn't stop a hurt.
I never knew something so furry and four-legged
could affect my heart so deeply.

Before I was a Dog Mom:
I had never held a sleeping puppy
just because I couldn't put it down.
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night
every 10 minutes to make sure all was well.
I didn't know how warm it feels inside
to feed a hungry puppy.
I didn't know that something so small
could make me feel so important.

Before I was a Dog Mom:
I had never known the warmth,
the joy,
the love,
the heartache,
the wonderment
or the satisfaction of being
A Dog Mom

Author Unknown

Friday, May 07, 2010

Not 100% Satisfied

Last night, Duncan was resting on the couch, taking a quick nap before bed. I started petting his back, and I discovered a hard lump on his spine. I could feel it very easily while he was on the couch, but it wasn’t as noticeable when he was standing. I could also feel it easily when he was lying on the floor with his back straight. Now that I know where I’m looking, of course, I can feel it with no trouble at all. This morning I called our vet and got the first available appointment.

The vet took an x-ray of Duncan’s spine, with the focus on the specific area of the lump. She said the x-ray looked clean, with no bony growths on the vertebrae and nice spacing between the discs. The problem is that one vertebra is actually much higher than all the rest and that protuberance is what I felt. According to the vet, this isn’t really a problem, just a bit odd. And that’s great, except that she had no explanation for A) how this was missed for so long, assuming its always been this way (never mind the regular exams, this certainly wasn’t the first time in nearly 5 years that I’ve rubbed Duncan’s back while he was resting) or B) what might have caused this to suddenly occur. She mentioned the possibility of a shift in the muscle mass along his spine due to atrophy, but if anything he’s become more muscular over the last several months, not less.

So, its good that it doesn’t appear to be a problem, although the vet did suggest I keep an eye on it and call them if it starts to feel different. But I’m concerned about why the vertebra is like this. I think I’ll send an email to our old vet and see if he has any theories about this. And yes, I realize that I’m a worrier. I can’t help it – its just what I do.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bright White

So, the painting has actually been done for a couple of days; I've just not gotten around to posting. I got the first coat on Sunday, second coat Monday, and finished up the storm door yesterday.

Next on the list is the chicken wire and some adjustments to the roof. Then the screen and the roof, the ramp, and a few other odds and ends. With luck, the cats will be able to use this in a couple of weeks, depending on John's schedule and his Honey Do list from Michele.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Getting Closer

This past Wednesday, John came over to trim the catiary posts and build the roof frame. Once again, we worked until after dark. Yes, there is a slight gap on the right, but that is to slope the roof and cause the rain to run off to the left.

Yesterday morning, John and I went to a landscape supply company and got 2 cubic yards of topsoil. Mary came over mid-morning to crop, so I didn’t start moving dirt until about 7:45pm - please note thats “I” not “we” – John wasn’t here. And speaking of John...he bet that I wouldn't have the dirt moved before 7:00pm tonight. Silly man. I had all of the necessary dirt moved by 9:00pm last night.

This morning, after a 5:15am wake up shriek from Tiger, I leveled out the dirt in the catiary to make sure I’d moved enough. I also filled in some gaps along the sides. There’s still some dirt left, and I’ll most likely use that to build the ground up a little more around the catiary. However, that’s not something I need to get done in order to move forward with construction.

Today, if the weather holds and it doesn’t rain, I’m going to paint the frame. Fingers crossed I’ll have pictures of that tonight…