Monday, December 1, 2008

Here comes trouble

We all knew it was only a matter of time until this happened. I had been wanting a dog for YEARS, but my parents kept discouraging me (wisely) saying that it was too great a responsibility to undertake. Growing up with German Shepherds (GSDs) my whole life, it seemed only natural that i bring that breed home. My dad had all the right connections, but since he said "no way," I decided to get a dog from a breeder in San Diego despite his warnings that I was not ready. After all, I knew I was ready so thats all there was to it.

After poring through ads online detailing all sorts of different puppies for sale, I came across an ad for: "Golden Labradors" 10 weeks old, UTD on shots. $350. Hmm, the price isn't bad, I guess I'll just go look at them and see what I think. OK, so at this point in the game, you would think that I KNEW there was no chance of me "going to look" at an animal, especially a 10 week old puppy and come home empty handed. I even brought the $350 in cash "just in case." Who was I kidding?

I drove out to the barn that Google Maps led me to. The "breeder" ( i use that term loosely) led me to the pen where the puppies were kept. As we walked over he explained to me what a "Golden Labrador" was. He told me that the mother was an AKC Golden Retriever and that the father was an AKC Labrador Retreiver. Mix them together and you get a cool new designer dog known as a Golden Labrador. I was so naive at this point, that I ate that up with a spoon. He also added that by crossing breeds, you eliminate many of the issues you see in purebred dogs such as hip dysplasia. I thought" wow, cool!" I guess it goes without saying that anyone who knows much about dogs and breeding, that the above statement is a load of crap, but at the time it all made perfect sense to me, and I didn't care enough at the time to question it. I took him fully at his word. Very smart, eh? As I was learning all about my "designer dog" we came up on the pen housing the puppies. There were 5-6 pups left in the litter. 5 of them had distinct golden retriever features including the longer, feathered coat I was used to seeing in that breed. They were a bit smaller and lighter than the other dog in the pen, a sturdy, boxy looking dog with all the lab features. Yep, I knew right then that I wanted the "biggun." I climbed in to play with him and he sauntered sweetly over and plopped down on my lap. It was a hot San Diego day so these pups were all a bit sleepy in the heat. Truly, I had no idea what I was in for later. I looked up at him and said, " Ok, this is my dog. Tell me what I need to know and we'll be on our way." He was almost shocked at how few questions I asked, and I should have been curious as to why he answered with " really? oh... that was easy then." I followed him into the barn, he handed me the pups shot records, gave me some food, collected the $350 and sent us on our way. With 15lbs of yellow fur on my lap, I happily waved goodbye to this breeder and drove my new dog home to meet his new family.

Enter the MoeCat

It had been a few weeks since Webber had died, and I I knew Gidget was getting far too happy being an only kitty so I knew I had to bring home another little brother to torture her. So off I went to the Animal Shelter again to find a new "playmate." Once again, I didn't have to go far to find my buddy. A litter of black and white tuxedo kittens were on display in the front case of the main lobby. 7 weeks old and cuter than holy heck. Once back in the handling area, there was one guy who I immediately gravitated to and picked him up to cuddle him. He purred, and walked across my neck. As I was falling in love with the little devil, the shelter worker let me know that he was already spoken for. Damn. So was the one female, and two of the other males. That left two of the other males. One was a gangly little thing with ugly kitten hair that went every which way with a black spot on his pink nose. The other was a bit bigger, and was more black than white. I started playing with the gangly one, and watched him claw the heck out of the scratching post. He was scrappy, I liked that about him. The other kitten lost interest in me and went back to his littermates. Gangly, ugly kitten sat on the scratching post and looked at me as if to say " well, are we doing this or what?" I looked at the shelter worker and told her to draw up the paperwork and that once he was neutered, I would take this little rodent looking cat home. I had to wait 4-5 days and then I went back to pick him up. THey had me sign the papers, and handed me a little cardboard carrier with my new kitten. I opened it up to peek in on him and thats when I noticed it was NOT ugly, gangly kitten but the handsome, perfect kitten I had first played with. As I stared into the box, I debated my next move... Do I play dumb and bring home the cat that I had initially wanted, or do the right thing and let them know that they gave me the wrong cat? I couldn't in good conscience leave the fate of ugly, gangly kitten to chance so of course, I let them know they had brought out the wrong guy, and after they apologized they went back and brought out ol' numbnuts and I brought him to his new home. After some debate, we named him "Mowgli" after the jungle book character because of the way he climbed everything he could grip his little claws on.

The first two weeks were not as enjoyable as when I had brought Gidget home. Mowgli was an asshole who refused to use the litterbox. Which I could have dealt with better if he hadn't decided that instead of the litter box, he would use my bedding to poop on and pee on multiple times a day. No sooner would I get the linens out of the dryer and onto the bed would he hop up there and pee all over them. I spent nights crying on the phone to my friend saying that I missed Webber and that the new cat was awful, and he was causing me to lose my mind. I didn't know how much more of the bed squatting I could take. The thought of taking him back started looking very appealing, until one day as I sat on the couch watching TV, I heard the familiar sound of sand being scratched at. I looked over and saw Gidget laying on the patio in the sun. I peeked around the corner to the laundry room where I kept the litterbox and saw mini Moecat doing his business in the appropriate area. AMEN!

Thankfully, he got much cuter with age. That kitten fur turned into a gorgeous coat of shiny black and white fur. The ugly, gangly kitten was indeed turning into a handsome cat. Gidget was naturally less than thrilled that there was yet again another furry creature in her domain, but seemed to be content in knowing that she was bigger and could boss him around a bit. Poor little Gidget had no idea that this little fluffball would grow to be a large 17lb cat that would live to chase her throughout the house. Poor girl just can't win.

Over the years, Moe's name went from "Mowgli" to "Moesers" to "Moe" to "Moses" and has stuck finally (I think!) on MoeCat. Of the two cats, he is the obsessive cuddler. This cat loves nothing more than to be on one of us at all times. He is also surprisingly smart, and together with the Yellow Demon dog, they get into all kinds of trouble. But we'll get into that later.

Some hard lessons

The cats were always allowed inside/outside privileges. I knew that there were dangers in letting them roam the neighborhood, but for some reason, it didn't deter me from letting them do as they pleased. Besides, they loved going out trampin around, playing in the bushes, stalking mice, etc. Then one day, the outside world became a more dangerous place. I came home from work to find Gidget cowering in the bushes in front of our house. She was cut to hell and obviously disoriented. I called the vet who instructed me to keep her calm and to bring her in fist thing in the morning. Judging from her cuts, the vet suggested that she either got her ass kicked by another larger cat, or it could have even been a run in with a raccoon which was common in our area. They patched her up, hooked her little butt up to an IV for a few hours , gave her some booster shots and sent me on my way with a lovely $700 bill for my troubles. Great. But at least she lived to tell the tale! Now, had I taken that experience as a sign that the kitties should be kept inside the next part of this story may never have happened. I have a tough time telling it, but it's an important part of my life as a pet owner.

I decided to move away from the Ocean Beach area I had lived in for a few years, and to settle down in a nice apartment by myself out in the posh Mission Valley community. It cost an arm and a leg, and I actually rather hated the apartment, but wanted to live in that area so badly at the time that I convinced myself the exorbitant rent was worth it. I packed up my stuff, loaded the kitties into their crate and moved in. After a few weeks of letting them get aquainted with their new digs, I decided it was OK to let them out to explore their new surroundings. Webber loved to run into the nearby canyon and chase the wild rabbits. Gidget just laid in the sun and never went too far. Each night as I would leave to go to work, Webber would follow me to my car, and sit in the grass as I drove off. When I came home later that evening, he was always right there waiting to greet me and follow me up the stairs to get some food.

One night I came home, and he wasn't there. I knew instantly that something was wrong. I called him, clinked a can of cat food with a fork, and checked the canyon to no avail. Webber was nowhere to be found. The next day my friend, Tiffany, and I posted signs all over my complex offering a reward for Webber's safe return. I spent 3 nights agonizing over where he was when I got a voicemail that knocked the life out of me. A man out jogging called to let me know that he had seen my signs, and was really sorry to tell me that while he was jogging he happened across a cat of that description who had been hit by a car and sadly did not make it. I hung up the phone, but my head down and just cried for hours. I felt pain, sadness, and an overwhelming guilt for allowing this to happen to my buddy. Had i just kept him inside, he wouldn't have strayed out into that busy street. I saved him from the pound and felt like such a failure for not keeping him safe from harm. As I write this, my eyes still burn as the guilt has never truly left me. He was a GREAT cat. One of those cats that everyone likes, even those people who swear they hate cats. When he died, I felt such a void not having him around anymore. Gidget was the queen, but Webber was the clown. And with that, Gidget was deigned an inside cat from then on. I didn't want to deal with that kind of guilt again, and knew that it was safer for her in the house. As sad as I was to lose Webber, Gidget was notably happy being the only animal in the house. She was literally prancing around the apartment, purring and cuddling with me every time I sat down. Unfortunately for the Gidge, one animal just didn't seem to be enough for me.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gidget needs a buddy.

Life with Gidget was going deceivingly easy. Other than routine vet visits such as shots, spaying, and yearly checkups she very little trouble. She had one UTI, which after a minor freakout, I realized was minor and easily treated with some antibiotics. Around 3 years after i brought Gidget home, I was driving aimlessly around San Diego one day, just killing some time before heading home to get ready for work. One left turn led to another and I found myself in front of the San Diego Animal Shelter. I figured that I could just go in and look around. No harm in that right?

Well, the helpful staff told that if I saw an animal I wanted to meet to let them know. I hadn't even walked 15 feet into the cat ward when I saw him: 18 lbs of sleek black fur with the brightest Amber yellow eyes staring right at me. Even though I swore I was "just looking" I wrote down this guys cell number and went to find the staff member who had steered me over to the cats. She brought me inside the little enclosure, removed the mini jaguar from his cage and handed him over to me. Immediately he grabbed on to both of my shoulders and began to purr and headbutt me with his black velvet face. There was no "sleep on it" or time to decide. This little lovebug was coming home with me. After all, Gidget certainly need a buddy to play with when we were gone, right? The shelter worked explained that he was around 1-2 years old and had been turned in by his previous family for playing too much with the kids. Wow, what an awesome excuse to dump your pet at the pound... I had to wait a few days to bring him home since he needed to be neutered, but the paperwork was all signed. I decided to name him "Webber" after Chris Webber who was one of my favorite basketball players at the time (Go Kings!). I waited 3 loooong days than I rushed back to the shelter to being my new buddy home.

Gidget was not impressed. The queen bee seemed to look at us with seething hatred for bringing this rough housing rapscallion into her domain. It was the first time I heard her now all too familiar "Gidget growl." It's reminiscent of a grumpy old man who grumbles about the neighbor's kids blasting their music too loud. Bless his heart, Webber loved to hide and pounce on Gidget when she was walking across the living room. At 18lbs, he outweighed the Gidge by a cool 10-11lbs. He never hurt her, but he certainly got on her nerves. We dubbed the attacks "Webber death roles" as it reminded us of the term used to describe how a crocodile wrestles down its prey. Webber would jump on her back and then role 2 or 3 times with Gidget wrapped underneath him. I began to question whether or not Gidget truly "needed" a playmate. Like me, she may have been just peachy being an only child.

Despite the "death roles" and "Gidget growls" Webber and the Gidge got along rather well after 6 months or so. They would leave the house together and come back later in the evening usually within a few minutes of each other. Gidget would then retire to my room for the night, and Webber would typically stay out with me and the roommates entertaining us with his antics. His favorite thing to do was to pull out stacks of DVD's on our TV stand, lay down in the vacant spot for no longer than 45 seconds, and then go about his merry way. If we dared to re-stack the movies, they were promptly removed for another 45 second hiding spot. His other trick was "climb the tree." For this, we would stick out our sweatshirt clad arm at a 45 degree angle from our body and say "Webber kitty, climb the tree!" and he would twitch his tail, jump up and wrap his entire body around the arm. It was certainly our house's fun little parlor trick to show guests when they came over. And of course, anyone who knew me back then knew that the cats would follow us to our favorite watering hole, The Catalina lounge. I lost count of how many times I would have to snatch up both cats, hike back up the hill carrying two furry bodies with flailing legs. After awhile, the novelty of it wore off and it just got annoying. We would think they were nowhere to be seen, and then right as we are at the base of the hill we hear two jingling bells and see two pairs of eyes making their way down the hill to join us. One evening I thought, "oh what the hell, I wonder if the bartender will notice if they are here." She did, and she didn't even bat an eye. Turns out, she lives on our street and my whorish cats would spend some days hanging out with her on her patio while she watered her plants. She was tickled to have them in the bar on the slow nights. Man I miss that bar.

How it all began

I always had pets growing up so I guess you could say it was my dad's fault that I ended up as the "animal person" amongst my friends. It was only a matter of time once I was out on my own that I would bring home something that sheds and requires constant attention. I was 20 when temptation finally got the best of me.

My roommate and I had plans to go out to the bars in Pacific Beach, and decided that nothing we had in our closets was wearable. No doubt about it, we needed to go out to Grossmont Center to find the perfect "boob shirts" to go bar hop in. After snatching up our must-have shirts, we happened to pass by the mall pet store. This was naturally LONG before I knew of puppy mills, and all the other unsavory practices supported by pet stores. Back then, it was just a store that happened to carry animals. And damn, were they ever cute. It was impossible for me to pass by and not oo and aw over the little fluffballs. But today, my window shopping was about to end up with an impulse buy that is currently curled up on the bed almost 8 years later.

Ok, so all kittens are cute. But Gidget was the cutest kitten I have ever seen. In the cage were about 5-6 kittens, all black and white mewing sweetly at onlookers. As my roommate and I cooed at the little buggers, my gaze found the queen b, sprawled on her back at the bottom of the cage with one arm dramatically draped over her face as if to say " these accommodations are far too meager for someone so beautiful." I knew right then that this drama queen was coming home with me, no matter what the cost, which was $129.99 for the kitten and another $100 or so on the litter box ,kitty litter and other accessories. She weighed a whopping 1.7lbs. As we walked out the car with our new buddy, reality set in. Our other roommate was very clear on something which we chose to ignore 15 minutes earlier: she HATES cats. As we drove home, we started brainstorming ideas as to how to get away with this without our roommate murdering us in our sleep. The solution? Hide the cat until she left to go out of town for the weekend. It wasn't hard to convince our neighbors to be accomplices in our plan to sneak Gidget into their house and let her hide out there while our roommate packed up and left. We had the whole weekend to come up with a good excuse for this grey purrball's presence in our house, but came up empty. We had to just decided to hope against all odds that her overwhelming cuteness would win our roommate over and her lifelong hatred of cats would be erased in one fell swoop of those velvety paws.

The fateful night came fast. We had anticipated her coming home a day or two later, but we were wrong. Instead, we were out on the town and our roommate came home to a dark house and something furry rubbing against her legs. It wasn't how we planned on their first meeting. As I braced for her telling us that either we got rid of the cat or moved out, she surprised us both. She told us that while she was definitely pissed off that we went behind her back knowing that she hated cats, she also couldn't deny that Gidget was entirely too cute for words, and that as long as we kept the litter box clean, and picked up the slack and vacuumed more often, we could keep the little gray diva. Within weeks, Gidget and the cat hater, were best buddies and I was beginning to learn all about the responsibilities of pet ownership.


Ok, so really, this is my second attempt at blogging and hopefully this time I can stick with it, and produce something actually worth reading. So in thinking about what subject I could write about frequently, my gaze found the yellow shedding machine sleeping peacefully on the other side of the couch. I figured that since he, and his small fluffy feline minions provide me with endless stories, I could certainly get the ball rolling with a few of those and see where this takes me. If anything, some bad dog/bad cat stories are easy for some of you to identify with.