Daily walk

I take my mutt for a walk every day. I've had him for almost a year and we've gone for a walk every day except for a few days when we traveled and also during the two-week road trip I took without my mutt.

I live in Fargo, N.D. There is currently a windchill advisory predicting temperatures of -45 degrees. Officials are recommending no driving. When I walked my mutt this morning it was easily below 0. My point is, although I don't think it's safe to walk when it's -45 degrees, I normally don't use the cold as an excuse not to walk my mutt. In the summer we walked when it was 90 degrees and humid, and in the spring and fall we walked when it was windy and rainy. In the winter we walk no matter how cold it is.

Our walk is important to both of us. For my mutt, it's a time to run and explore and let out excess energy. For me, it's a time to relax and reflect on my day and week. It's a much-needed mental break for me. When we don't get our walk in, neither of us are very fun to be around. Just ask my boyfriend. Without his daily walk, my mutt is anxious, following us around and more likely to get into trouble. And if I don't go for a walk, I am also anxious, worrying that I won't get things done because I haven't given myself time to relax and plan my day. I don't buy my mutt many toys or spend enough time with him. He thinks I don't feed him enough and that I'm pretty bossy. But, I always make sure he gets his daily walk.

Stupid owners

I want to comment on what one woman did a while back at the dog park. In the fall, my mutt and I visited the dog park often on Sunday afternoons. It was fairly busy at this time, with nice weather and a variety of people and dogs.

I am always amazed at how careless dog owners can be. One woman showed up with her dog while pushing a baby stroller. This alone might not have been so bad, but the woman actually pushed the stroller through the gate in front of herself and her dog. Then, ten or more large dogs inside the park rushed to the baby, smelling and pushing their faces in the baby's face. They pushed each other out of the way, rambunctious and eager to see the small person. Some licked the baby in the face. Let me add that I also see plenty of dogs eating their own poop while at the park, among other gross things.

The woman showed no concern, and did not push the dogs away or tell them no. Not only that, but my friend and I were the only dog owners who did anything to restrain our dogs. My friend owns a 120-pound great dane and even though her dog is gentle, she is perfectly capable of knocking a stroller over by accident. Like my mutt, she is pretty much a klutz.

My mutt was interested in the baby, too. Like him, most of the dogs had probably never seen a baby before. Luckily, none of the dogs bit the baby or knocked the stroller over, but imagine what could've happened with a pack of dogs romping around, chasing, crashing into things and just being dogs. You never know how a dog will react, especially a strange dog. Trusting them around a baby is just plain stupid.

Foster update

Foster dog – Ginger!

I decided to foster a senior dog in November. I wanted an older dog, one that wouldn't require too much exercise and could be left alone when I went to work. I chose an 8-year-old Staffordshire terrier (pitbull) named Ginger. She was sweet, got along fine with my mutt and tolerated my cat.

She seemed like the perfect foster dog at first. I drove her home from the shelter and she sat calmly in the back seat of my car. She was calm in the apartment and walked just fine on a leash. I took her and my mutt on a long walk together to tire them both out and so they could get to know each other a little. We had a nice walk and even passed some other dogs with no problems.

All was well until I came home and put Ginger in a large, plastic VariKennel while I took a five-minute shower. I couldn't believe it. When I came out, she was running around loose in my apartment, and the kennel appeared to be untouched. I put her back in the kennel and took my mutt outside for literally two minutes. When I came back, she had busted out again. It appeared she had literally bent the kennel door by pulling it in towards her and then slipped through, because the door remained shut and locked with Ginger on the outside!

I own two kennels, the VariKennel and also a wire one with bars. So I tried her in the other kennel and left for work. Bad idea. When I came home, she had busted out of the kennel by bending the bars and sliding through. The strength of this dog was impressive. Then she proceeded to scratch at my bedroom door, stripping the wood panel off the side. The poor dog had gone into panic mode and I realized she could not be left alone. When kenneled again, she freaked out, threw herself against the bars, and frantically tried to dig and push her way out. I had to stay home from work just so I could be home with her and save my apartment from being destroyed.

Needless to say, poor Ginger went back to the shelter the next day. Within two hours of staying in a Varikennel at the shelter, Ginger ripped the door off the kennel, chewed on the door to the room she was in and cut her own mouth.

Poor thing. She had simply never been kept in a kennel before and was under high stress from being at the shelter in a new, confusing environment. She could not escape out of the concrete-and-bars cage at the shelter (think jail cell), so that is where she had to stay. This is where dogs stay until they find a foster home or forever home. Lucky for Ginger, a family adopted her within days.

I felt bad that my first attempt to foster a dog failed. But it made me realize a few things. First of all, it made me appreciate my own mutt and his good behavior. It made me realize that all my training and time spent with him had paid off. I learned that I can't put any dog before myself. Having Ginger required me to stay home from work and put off other daily routine tasks like going to the gym, buying groceries and even doing laundry because I simply could not leave her alone. Having two dogs is three times the responsibility of one and before I ever get another dog of my own or a foster dog, I will have to do more research to make sure I find the right match. I also know now that I do not have the time to offer a good home to a second dog.

For now, it will just be my cat, my mutt and I. I'm sure we'll eventually adopt or foster another animal, but for now it's just us.

My cat Scout

It is possible for a dog lover to become a cat lover. I did not know this until I adopted a cat. At the time, I was transitioning between dogs, and the apartment I lived in did not allow dogs anyway. I was lonely. I needed a pet to cuddle with, to come home to after a stressful day at work. A cat fit my lifestyle better than a dog. Along came Scout.

It happened this way: A friend of mine said she was taking care of some kittens, an “accidental litter” from a neighbor's cat. She was trying to find homes for all of them. I told her not to bring them near me or I would want one. An hour later she plopped a gray, striped, green-eyed tabby in my arms. Then I was a cat owner.

Honestly, when Scout and I started off, I didn't know much about cats. I thought kittens had to be trained to use a litter box. I thought an unsupervised kitten would destroy my apartment at night. I thought I could train my cat to walk on a leash, to love water, to stay off the counters, the couch.

Two years later, like any cat, Scout does what he wants. He walks on all the furniture, counters and kitchen table included. And he sleeps in my bed. Or, according to him, I sleep in his bed. He pretty much has me trained to do whatever he wants. Cats are smarter than dogs. If he wants attention, he goes into the kitchen and slams the cupboards over and over until I'm so annoyed I have to acknowledge him.

Scout has some very dog-like qualities, too. He actually does like the water, as long as he's not in it. He retrieves better than some dogs. He is kennel trained; in fact, he voluntarily goes in his cat carrier. And perhaps the best thing about Scout is he tolerates dogs. He might even like my mutt, Ace.

Scout and Ace are like siblings. They love each other but will not admit it. Ace is the annoying little brother who likes to agonize his (slightly) more mature brother. And Scout is pretty patient with him. I even caught them both on the couch together, one on each end so they didn't have to touch. But my boyfriend is convinced they cuddle when we're not looking.

Anyone without a dog in their home is lacking something. But a home is not a home without a cat.

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