A Stinky Day in Paradise: Literally

I’m reposting a pet story from the two months my daughter was studying abroad. I’m enjoying looking back at what I’ve written about our pets while we are in “shelter in place” for the Coronavirus. Pets make our lives better and it’s easier to cope in these strange times with a cuddling creature. A neighbor I chat with on my morning walks just adopted two Irish Setter pups and I can’t wait to meet them. I also read that the animal shelters are having record numbers of adoptions. I think that is a wonderful consequence to COVID-19.

Here’s the story when I was in charge of Waffles over the summer of 2018 and loved most of it — except the day we lost him camping — and the day that really stunk! Here’s what happened on that stinky day:

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Waffles the Pug this morning after all the action was over.

Literally. It stinks. My day began at 2:20 a.m. when my daughter texted me from Paris, France. She’s over there and wanted to ask me a question. Yes, at 2:20 a.m. because she’s nine hours ahead. I explained that I was sleeping! Then my husband woke up and we were wide awake for the next hour. She explained that she rarely has WiFi and has to text or call when she gets the chance. Lovely.

My husband got up at 4 a.m. He let Waffles the pug puppy we’re babysitting (for our daughter who is galavanting around Europe) out of his crate and they walked into the kitchen. Waffles bolted out the French doors to the backyard. Of course, I’m not back asleep yet, because they are noisy.

I heard “Waffles, Waffles! Where are you?” and then the jingle of Waffles name tag as he scampered back into the house. Next, I heard “Oh My GOD! He’s foaming at the mouth!”

I gave up trying to sleep and bolted into the kitchen, where my husband was holding Waffles and yes, he was foaming at the mouth! I grabbed paper towels and wiped out inside his mouth and tongue. Then, the odor hit me. It was like nothing I’ve smelled before. It burned my eyes and nose. I turned on the flashlight on my iPhone and ventured outside to find out what Waffles got into.

My husband locked Waffles in the guest bath and met me outside. We tried to trace where Waffles might have gone by flashlight.

“What’s that smell?” I asked.

“It smells like burning chemicals.”

“Maybe Waffles got poisoned,” I said. I ran back to the bathroom and discovered that other than foaming at the mouth and running in circles, Waffles appeared to be okay.

We returned outside and found that some parts really smelled worse than others but we couldn’t tell what it was. It permeated the air, this strong industrial, chemical burning that we tasted and smelled. Eventually, we gave up on the dark yard, and I put Waffles in his crate next to our bed. I decided to try and sleep. But, first I googled “dog foaming at the mouth bad odor” and got SKUNK! It honestly didn’t smell a thing like skunk to me, but maybe that’s because I haven’t had such a close encounter before.

I also found a recipe from the Humane Society of one-quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda and one teaspoon dishwashing liquid. I jumped out of bed and mixed up a batch, grabbed Waffles out of the crate and did my best to wash him in the dark on the patio. I used up all the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda we had and then hosed him off. Then I heard the shower running in our bathroom, so I tossed Waffles in the shower with my husband to shampoo once again.

I fell back asleep after all of this, but I missed my morning Masters swim practice because of the timing and exhaustion. And that really stinks. Also, the house doesn’t smell too great either, because the number one rule I learned on the internet when your dog gets skunked—leave them outside. Do NOT let them inside the house.

After I woke up again, I went back to the store and restocked on the de-skunking supplies and applied another batch of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap on Waffles and his crate.

Fortunately, or maybe, unfortunately, I have a dear friend in Carpinteria whose Rottie had several engagements with skunks. She said to simmer orange peel, cinnamon sticks and water on the stovetop all day, and place bowls of distilled vinegar around the house. The house is smelling citrusy-cinnamony now, and this stinky day will be a thing of the past.

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Waffles and his crate in the backyard, both soaking in hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda.

Has one of your pets been skunked before? How did you handle it?

Warning: Adorable Pug Puppy Pics

It’s Day 10 of Shelter in Place and I’m posting my pet stories this week because our wonderful cats and dogs relieve stress, make us smile, and add generally to our health. Here’s the story of Waffles the Pug and how he’s added to our lives.

Three years ago, my husband and I drove up to the high desert and adopted this adorable creature our daughter named Waffles. At the time, she was going through anxiety and we felt this puppy’s unconditional love and enjoyment would benefit her. Some questioned whether a college student could handle a pup, but we did our best to train him for a few months before she took him to school. We did our research and learned that pugs are the perfect “apartment dogs” because they sleep all day when their owners are gone at work or school. 

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Waffles at 12-weeks old.

I think we bit off more than we can chew! We thought it would be nice for our daughter to have a companion in the form of an animal. She’s out of state in college and busy with academics plus D1 swimming, and we thought a puppy would bring a lot of joy and fun into her daily life.

She asked permission of her landlord, and even though her lease says “no pets,” he agreed to a small dog. We decided the puppy would be a present for Christmas.

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Waffles turned into a pancake when I tried to walk him.

Our daughter wanted a pug and thinks they are so cute. They are. I’ll agree to that. We looked into suitable breeds, and besides the two negatives of snoring and shedding, pugs appear to be an easy-going breed requiring very little care.

But the puppy thing. I’m on day five and I think puppy is winning the battle. It’s like having an infant again. I have to watch him constantly. He doesn’t sleep through the night, and when he’s crawling on his belly through the yard, I never know what is going to end up in his mouth. I knew we were in for trouble when we drove Waffles home for an hour and a half drive. He was squirming all the way, nipping and licking my neck and fingers. Finally, as we drove into town he fell asleep. That’s what my son would do in his car seat during long drives.

I’m crate training, potty training and my daily life suddenly got very busy and tiring. Why we think our daughter can handle this is beyond me. Of course, she does have youth on her side. And Waffles is so darn cute!

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Olive the cat is not sure about any of this. What did we do???

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Waffles was famous for a day on “We Rate Dogs” Twitter account in his doggles.

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Graduation from College!

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Waffles was enjoyed by the university marketing department.

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I’m thrilled to say that prior to the shelter in place mandate in California, Waffles and my daughter drove eight hours from the Bay Area to home. Waffles is helping us all during these stressful times. I walk with him for two to three miles before I sit down to work each morning. He’s giving us all sorts of love and fun. I wish my daughter and Waff would stay forever, but they do need to get on with their lives….at some point.

Who Makes Us Happier? Cats or Dogs?

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Olive

I’m a cat owner. My cat is Olive and she’s going on eight years. We got her when my son left for college. He’s allergic to cats so we waited until he was out of the house. Olive is really my daughter’s kitty, but she didn’t take Olive to the snow in Salt Lake City during college, even though Olive would do well with all her fur and polydactyl paws. We figured Olive likes her life here and I don’t think she’d do well to move to a new house. So, Olive remains my only pet now. I like it that way.

In an article by Christopher Ingraham called “Dog owners are much happier than cat owners, survey finds” published in the Washington Post, he quotes lots of statistics that basically say that there’s little difference between pet owners and non-pet owners, but a huge difference in happiness between dog and cat lovers.

The well-respected survey that’s been a barometer of American politics, culture and behavior for more than four decades finally got around to the question that has bedeviled many a household.

Dog or cat?

In 2018, the General Social Survey for the first time included a battery of questions on pet ownership. The findings not only quantified the nation’s pet population — nearly 6 in 10 households have at least one —they made it possible to see how pet ownership overlaps with all sorts of factors of interest to social scientists.

Like happiness.

For starters, there is little difference between pet owners and non-owners when it comes to happiness, the survey shows. The two groups are statistically indistinguishable on the likelihood of identifying as “very happy” (a little over 30 percent) or “not too happy” (in the mid-teens).

But when you break the data down by pet type — cats, dogs or both — a stunning divide emerges: Dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy, with people owning both falling somewhere in between.

Dog people, in other words, are slightly happier than those without any pets. Those in the cat camp, on the other hand, are significantly less happy than the pet-less. And having both appears to cancel each other out happiness-wise. (Since someone’s bound to ask, it isn’t possible to do this same type of analysis for say, rabbit owners or lizard owners or fish owners, since there aren’t enough of those folks in the survey to make a statistically valid sample).

These differences are quite large: The happiness divide between dog and cat owners is bigger than the one between people who identify as middle and upper class, and nearly as large as the gap between those who say they’re in “fair” versus “good or excellent” health.

However, correlation doesn’t equal causation, and there are probably a number of other differences between dog and cat owners that account for some of the differences. The General Social Survey data show that dog owners, for instance, are more likely to be married and own their own homes than cat owners, both factors known to affect happiness and life satisfaction.

Previous research on this topic yielded mixed results. In 2006, the Pew Research Center found no significant differences in happiness between pet owners and non-pet owners, or cat and dog owners. However, that survey did not distinguish between people who owned “only” a dog or a cat, and those who owned “either” a dog or a cat, potentially muddying the distinctions between exclusive dog and cat owners.

2016 study of dog and cat owners, on the other hand, yielded greater happiness ratings for dog owners relative to cat people. It attributed the contrast, at least in part, to differences in personality: Dog owners tended to be more agreeable, more extroverted and less neurotic than cat owners. And a 2015 studylinked the presence of a cat in the home to fewer negative emotions, but not necessarily an increase in positive ones.

We’ve always had dogs, too, but currently are empty-nesters as far as the pups go. My daughter has Waffles the pug, who I get to babysit occasionally. I raised him from puppyhood for several months until she was able to come home and take him.  It’s kind of what I think grand-parenting will be like. I love having Waffles around and then I miss him when he’s gone. But, I don’t miss the daily responsibility.

Growing up we had big dogs. Golden retrievers, a doberman, German shorthair pointers and a yellow lab. As adults, my husband and I got Natasha as a gift from good friends. She was a rottie and a housewarming gift for our first home. That was before kids and she did make us happy. She was our baby.

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Natasha and my kids

Next pet was when someone found a kitten in their car engine on their way to work, and I ended up taking the poor sweet kitty home. That was Peabody, our second pet named for the cartoon series Rocky and Bullwinkle. Next came Sherman, who was a black cat that lived with us from kitten-hood to 17 years old when she wandered out of our yard and got attacked by the neighbor’s dog. Ugh. After we said good-bye to Natasha, we got Angus from Guide Dogs of the Desert. (I wrote about Angus here.) Angus lived until the ripe old age of 15.

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Angus and Sherman

It’s so hard to say good-bye. It’s not fair that our pets live such short lives. I have two friends that lost their best friends in the past few weeks. One lost Beckham, her Aussie, and another lost her glorious golden last week at eight years old. My heart grieves for them both.

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Lola (RIP) center, with Waffles and Gracie.

What is your opinion on dogs versus cats? Do you have either or both and do they make you happy?

 

Silly Cat: Olive Bear and Her Misadventures

During this crazy time of COVID 19 and “shelter in place” there’s nothing but doomsday on the news. I’m revisiting my favorite stories of cats and dogs written in years’ past. For some reason, kittens and puppies can brighten people’s moods, so I’m trying to do my fair share. Here’s the story of Olive Bear our cat along with her baby pic.

Baby Olive Bear

Baby Olive

Yesterday evening, when it was dark outside, my husband said he needed some nutrition bars to take to work. I got in the car to go to the store. I heard a faint scratching noise in the back seat. I wasn’t sure what it was.

The noise made me slightly uncomfortable as I backed out of the garage.

It sounded like the speaker had a little rasping noise. I turned off the radio. The scratching noise continued. Maybe it was a mouse or a rat? It definitely sounded like an animal of some kind!

I put the car in park, opened the door, and jumped out. I threw open the door to the back seat. I saw something gray dart around. It moved so fast it was a blur.

The creature moved to the front passenger seat and began scratching at the window to get out. It was Olive the cat.

kittens-in-carThe car is a hybrid so it had been silent, but at that moment the engine roared on. The poor cat was terrified. After she scrambled around, I managed to shoo her out the driver’s side door.

I called for her, but she was gone. She stayed out all night after that adventure. My guess is she was hiding in our hedge. Fortunately, this morning she returned home, safe and sound. She’s been clinging to my side ever since.

This was the second time she got into the car. I wonder what her fascination is with cars?

I also wonder how and when she gets in?

Our dog Angus used to love to ride in cars. He’d jump in anyone’s car if the door was open. Even the neighbor’s car. But, I’ve never known a cat to like to cars before. Have you?

Olive, the last time I found her in the car.

Olive, the last time I found her in the car.

Please share your cat or dog photos or amazing animal stories in the comments below. We’d all like to see them!

Good News: A Birthday for the 🐕


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It’s my son’s birthday on Thursday. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. 

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m posting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

Good News: Good Dog Saves the Day!

After the anxiety, stress and downright awful news this week, I looked back on what I was experiencing around the same time in 2018 and 2019. What a difference a year can make.  Here’s a good dog story I wrote in 2018 that may bring a smile to those who need it today.

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The kids celebrating a birthday with our good dog Natasha.

I read a heartwarming story Sunday morning about a missing three-year-old girl who wandered away from home–and yes, it has a happy ending. The location was Australia and when you think of how many missing children stories end badly, this was a relief—thanks to a loyal old blue heeler named Max.

In “Loyal blue heeler stays with three-year-old lost in bush overnight” by Gail Burke and Matt Eaton, they describe how the little girl Aurora wandered away, spent the night in the cold and rain in treacherous terrain, but had Max by her side:

“An old blue heeler named Max remained by the side of a three-year-old girl and led searchers to her after she spent more than 15 hours lost in rugged bushland on Queensland’s Southern Downs overnight.

Aurora was reported missing about 3 p.m. on Friday after she wandered off on her own, but a search of woodlands and hills on the rural property in wet weather on Friday night found no trace of her.

On Saturday morning, more than 100 State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers, police and members of the public resumed the search and found the girl safe and well with Max the dog at 8 a.m.

For his good work in keeping the little girl safe, Max has now been declared an honorary police dog.

Kelly Benston, the partner of Leisa Bennett, who is Aurora’s grandmother, said Ms. Bennett and other searchers heard the little girl faintly from the top of a mountain on Saturday morning.

“She found the dog first. Max led her to Aurora,” Mr Benston said.

“Max is 17 years old, deaf and partially blind.”

SES area controller Ian Phipps confirmed a family member spotted Aurora and Max about two kilometres from the house, still on the family property at Cherry Gulley, 30 kilometres south of Warwick.

“The area around the house is quite mountainous and is very inhospitable terrain to go walking in, so she’d travelled quite a distance with her dog that was quite loyal to her,” he said.

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 11.16.36 AMI didn’t know what a blue heeler was, so I looked it up and found a description on Dogster.com:

“Blue Heeler History
Mixing native Dingoes with Collies and other herding dogs, Australian George Elliott developed the Blue Heeler in 1840. Australian cattlemen and ranchers loved the breed’s toughness and work ethic, and the dogs quickly became popular as cattle herders. They are also called Australian Heelers, Queensland Heelers and Australian Cattle Dogs.”

I enjoy a good dog story. Dogs are amazing. I told my husband about Max and Aurora and he said, “See I told you we didn’t need to worry about Robert when he was with Natasha!” Natasha was our first dog, a Rottie.

It was May 1996, when our three-year-old son wandered away from home. I had taken “The Baby”—which was what I called our four-month-old daughter–with me to help set up a database and create a roster for a charity I was involved with. Of course, one hour turned into several, and when I returned home, well something was wrong. My husband was supposed to be in charge of our son.

First, our garage door was wide open as was the archway gate to our backyard. The kitchen door was open, the French doors to the backyard were open, too.

I had “The Baby” in an over-the-shoulder-baby-holder as I walked into the house wondering what was going on. My husband was in his chair, remote control in hand. I asked, “Where’s Robert?” I went from the living room to his bedroom. No Robert. Into the baby’s room, guest room, our bedroom. A sense of panic was rising from deep down in my stomach to my throat. Pretty soon I think I was screaming for him.

I spotted a pile of his clothes by the pool—by the open gate to the pool. With dread, I searched the bottom of the pool with my eyes. With relief, there was nothing but few small wet footprints on the patio next to his clothes.

We ran out into the street yelling and calling for our son. My husband found him across the street and empty lot on Indian Canyon, walking the dog, stark naked.

My husband said at the time, and reminded me today, “You see, he was safe because he had a Rottweiler with him. Nobody was going to touch him.”

“I just sat down for a minute,” is the other thing my husband said. Right. Just long enough for our son to open up doors, gates, get undressed and go for a swim and walk the dog a block away—naked!

At least we had a good ending to another child wandering away from home story–thanks to a good dog.

 

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My kids with Natasha. She was a good dog.

Have your kids ever wandered away? Do you have any good dog stories to share?

 

 

How to Keep Calm in a Topsy Turvy World

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Our cool as a cucumber cat is helping to keep me calm.

I was doing okay, but yesterday when my kids called me and said they were under mandatory “shelter in place,” I started to panic. I’m wondering if the world will ever get back to normal? They were working remotely in my son’s house in the Bay Area.

The mandatory shelter in place started today. Yesterday they were told to prepare to be home for at least two weeks. My daughter is working remotely and decided to get out of the city and drove home last night. It’s so nice to have her home! I wonder how long she will be here?

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Waffles the pug came home, too.

My dad agreed to let me grocery shop for him and I found everything he needed except for toilet paper, of course! While I was driving from his home, my daughter called and Waffles, her pug, ate something and was trying to throw up, but nothing was coming up. I told her to call a vet and I got really stressed out again! She called back in tears and said that the vets she called would NOT take new patients in their practice due to the Coronavirus! I was in the car and while she was talking to me and I noticed a big white pick up truck on my tail! Then he swerved in the lane next to me, and started yelling and screaming, giving me the finger. He threw a milkshake at me! It hit my windshield and the car was covered. I’m still shaking.

What in the h*ck is going on, folks? Is this really the time to become completely unhinged?

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This is the guy in a white pick up truck with a Home Depot trailer that threw a milkshake at me.

Let’s take a moment to breathe some fresh air, calm down, take a walk an enjoy your families. And love up our dogs and cats, too!