Tag Archives: St. Thomas Dog Blog

Lab Mysteries

Click for Amazon link Lab mysteries
Click for Amazon link

If you like dogs and mystery novels, or even just one or the other, have a look at J. F. Englert’s Bull Moose Dog Run series.  There are three so far; A Dog About Town (2007), A Dog Among Diplomats (2008) and A Dog At Sea (2009). The ‘sleuth’ who tells the story is Randolph, a middle-aged black Labrador Retriever.

A sucker for animal stories, I’ve read some of the other dog- and cat-perspective mystery series.  I’ve liked them, found them kind of cute, kind of funny. One of the Midnight Louie books by Carole Nelson Douglas made me think about feral cat life and TNR (trap, neuter, release) from the cats’ point of view.  Not as straightforwardly beneficial as people may think it to be. While I’ve enjoyed the animal-detective books I’ve read, I haven’t felt a pressing need to immediately get the next one.

As soon as I finished A Dog About Town, I went back to the library and took out the second, A Dog Among Diplomats.  Now I want to read the third.  I want to know what happens next. Randolph’s take on being an intelligent dog in a human world made me think about many dog behaviours, and people’s behaviour in relating to dogs.  You learn a lot (Randolph is a very literate dog), you are given lots of little doggy asides to think about, and the mysteries at the heart of the books are interesting and well-presented. As with all novels featuring non-human protagonists, disbelief has to be suspended.  But it wasn’t a lot of work doing that with Randolph.  This is despite him being able to read (a skill learned while being papertrained in puppyhood), and not just reading the cereal box.  He reads Dante’s Inferno, Proust, Kierkegaard and, for light reading, Dickens.  He teaches himself how to use the internet and succeeds in setting up a hotmail account for himself faster than I’ve ever been able to do. But these improbabilities do not get in the way  – I found myself quickly accepting Randolph’s extraordinary skills and just got on with the story.

His observations on human-dog interaction are shrewd, even cringe-making sometimes when you recognize yourself.  He also observes the child-dog relationship in a refreshing way, especially coming from a Lab, the perceived ‘kids’ dog’ Randolph takes you into his Manhattan – the streets, Central Park and the dog parks.  He gives you the dog perspective on dog park politics of dogs and people.  He notes the types of dog behaviours in meeting each other and even in their toilet habits.  After you read his descriptions of dog habits, you find yourself watching dogs to see if they fit Randolph’s classification system.  By and large, they do.

Englert is an astute observer of dogs and people, or he has been taught a lot by his own Lab.  I’ve never been a big Lab person – they’re too boisterous and single-minded (usually involving a tennis ball) for me.  But I look at them a bit differently now, after ‘meeting’ Randolph.  He reminds me of Labs I have known and liked, nice old sensible ones.  I also look at my dogs a bit differently, wondering if there’s more going on in their heads than what I have thought.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Apr. 24, 2010.

Cat People

“A Cat Digression” from my St. Thomas Dog Blog Mar. 23, 2010

There are unsung heroes among us.  Almost everyone knows one or two, or at least hasReneClose encountered them.  They’re usually not thought of as heroic or civic-minded.  Instead they’re a code word for loneliness with a bit of looniness thrown in.  In cautionary tales of self-help articles and advice from well-intentioned relatives, you might hear something like, “and if you keep on acting like this, you’ll end up being one of those cat ladies”.

Almost every community has at least one – the person who quietly feeds and shelters stray and feral cats.  They use their own resources, even paying for neutering and medical treatment out of their own pocket.  If you want to get a cat, they’re often your closest resource.  They’re happy to find homes for the cats that want homes.  They may be your most relied upon resource if you want to solve your problem with an unwanted cat or a stray that’s hanging around your house.  But to people neither acquiring nor getting rid of cats, they’re probably just seen as eccentric at best, a hoarder or crazy person at worst.

Years ago, I was seen as the cat lady of the village I then lived in.  I suppose it all fit.  I lived alone in an old ramshackle house, I wasn’t from there, I had no visible means of support and kept odd hours.  And I kept chickens and had three cats.  I realized this one fall when children began coming to my door with kittens or adult cats.  It seemed there had been a lot of cats dumped off in our town that summer.  The kids, looking scared out of their minds, would hold up a tiny kitten or bedraggled old moggy and say “Mam said you’d be able to help with this cat.  We can’t keep her and Mam said you’d know what to do.”  I tried taking the cats in, at least until I could figure out what to do with them.  But my cats wouldn’t let me become a real cat lady.  My mother and son cats loathed other cats.  The third cat was a stray that had simply refused to leave despite their best efforts to drive him off.  When new cats began coming in the house, the three bonded and became a tag team of terror toward any new arrival.  After fearing for the lives of the new strays until I could get them safely to the SPCA shelter, I had to refuse to take any more.  And so ended my career as a cat lady.

One of the best known “cat ladies” in Canada is a man.  For 21 years, René Chartrand looked after the feral cat colony at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.  If you go behind the Parliamentary Library and walk along the river, you’ll see a wrought iron fence.  Inside there, on the hill, is the cats’ headquarters. Mr. Chartrand built a condominium of shelter boxes for them.  The roofs are of the same style as the Parliament Buildings. There are verandahs running along the sides with food and water bowls.  There are donation boxes on the fence to help with the costs.

It’s a long-standing colony of cats, from long-ago Parliamentary mousers, cats from vessels on the Ottawa River and ones that have been dumped or strays that found their way there.  For many years they have been helped by the kindness of strangers.  The first long-term caretaker was Irene Desormeaux in the 1970s.  She fed them, got veterinary care for them and began neuter and release efforts.  Mr. Chartrand took over responsibility for them after her death in 1987.  He retired in 2008 and a small group of his helpers continues to care for the cats.  You can read about the cats and see pictures of them on their blog.  There’s lots of articles and information on them on the web.

Most feral cat colonies and cat ladies aren’t as well known as Ottawa’s.  But every city and village has them.  Without the efforts of the cat ladies, the feral cat population would be a much greater problem than it is.  So, if you notice someone buying cat food by the case, try to find out why.  If they’re feeding strays, buy a couple more cans of food or treats and put them in their shopping bag.  They’ll appreciate the help.

Mr. Chartrand died Dec. 7, 2014 at the age of 92.  After the last Parliament Hill cat, Bugsy, was adopted in January 2013, the cat colony was officially closed and the Cat Parliament Buildings demolished.  Thank you, Mr. Chartrand.

Pawlooza: Rescue me!

Pawlooza last Saturday in London Ont was great.  So many people and dogs!  Other pug having a rest at STDOA booth on rescue rowthan a bit of a walk-around, I hardly saw anything of it other than our St. Thomas Dog Owners booth in Rescue Row.  But the world comes by one’s booth, I found.

We didn’t take Leo and Charlie.  Charlie likes a party, but gets bored and cranky quickly.  Leo gets very enthusiastic at parties!  While I felt a bit ‘odd man out’ without dogs, I found our booth provided a haven for dogs who wanted a little quiet time.

Next to us was the Chinese Crested Rescue.  They had several of these dogs with hairless bodies and long plumes on head and tail.  I Chinese Crested from Crest Care rescueoverheard them telling stories of their dogs to people flipping through photo albums.  Horrific stories.  One dog was left in the house, locked in, after the people moved away.  Fortunately, someone suspected that she was in there, and she was saved.

Why, I thought, would someone leave a dog like that?  Any dog, but one of these?  These aren’t dogs you see notices tacked up for, saying “free puppies.”  You have to go to a lot of trouble and expense to get one.  So why would you then just walk away?

A magnificent black Standard Poodle across the aisle.  A St. John’s Ambulance therapy dog now, he’d been taken from what sounds like an unbalanced hoarder.  The man who rescued him had been looking for a Giant Schnauzer.  He’d had them for years, but this Poodles at Pawloozatime he wound up with a giant Poodle.

He said Giant Schnauzers end up in rescue care because people get them as puppies and then are surprised at how big they get, how much care their coats take and don’t want to be bothered.  How can that happen?  Doesn’t the “Giant” in their name give you the tip off that this is going to be a big dog?  They too are expensive pups.  He said it’s easy to pay $4000 for one.  You would lay out money like that and not realize that it’s going to be a big dog and that rough beautiful coat requires a lot of brushing and clipping?

I passed by Friendly Giants Rescue on my one tour.  A St. Bernard was lolling around, hoping for a home I guess.  Sure, there are legitimate, even heartbreaking, stories of why someone has to give up their dog.  But so many of them?

Do people get them as status symbols?  Be the first on your block to have a hairless dog.  Then you realize there is upkeep and expense particular to that breed and it’s too much bother?  Or you saw the movie Beethoven and thought how much fun it would be having him living with you? And you forgot you’re already cramped in your tiny apartment?

Yorkies trying on coats at STDOA boothI am so glad the rescue people are around, both for specific breeds and just for regular old dogs.  Without them, I don’t know what would happen to these poor creatures.  A woman at Boston Terrier Rescue told me a lady had made an 8-hour drive to Pawlooza, just to look for a dog at their booth.  I hope she found one.

 

Dear Cat Dumper

To the person who dumped a grey tiger and white male neutered cat at Waterworks Parks on or before July 4, 2011:

cat dumper - Poster for found catHe’s doing well, considering.  He misses you and his own bed and routine.  He spends a lot of time in the garage.  It’s where he feels safest, I guess.  It was where he stayed that first night with us, a place to let him adjust.

At the time, I thought it would be only a day or two of strangeness for him.  I thought you’d contact us as soon as you saw the ads and posters.  A well-looked-after cat like him must have people missing him, I thought.  A couple people did call, hoping he was their lost cat.  But he wasn’t.

He’s been dewormed and vaccinated.  He probably already was, but we couldn’t risk it.  His vet bill is $191 and he needs booster shots.  Thank heavens you had him neutered.

Wally on chair in kitchenHe’s a funny cat, loves to bat cat toys around.  Loves catnip. He has no fear of dogs or of people he doesn’t know. He’s very well adjusted, pretty much the perfect cat.

He prefers canned food.  When we found him at the park, he happily chowed down the cat kibble we had with us.  Then, belly full, he went “mmpff” to kibble and demanded canned food.  So that’s what he gets.

The vet thinks he lost a lot of weight fast.  His skin is loose, as if it used to cover a larger body.  And he’s terrified of the sound of rain.  Those things make me think he was wandering on his own for longer than I’d thought.

Wally lying on stairsHis name is Wally now and he answers to it.  Maybe you or your kids called him Tigger or Sox for his white feet.  He loves to sprawl across laps and hug up close in your arms – but I guess you already know that.

So he’s ours now.  Just one request:  please don’t replace him with another kitten or puppy until you’re prepared to make a commitment that lasts as long as that animal’s life.  I can’t take another of your pets when you don’t want them anymore.

The next one I find will make a quick trip to the vet to be euthanized if I can’t find another home quickly.  I won’t take him or her to the pound or shelters.  Why?  There aren’t enough homes for all the cats Wally on couch in front of laptopand kittens, dogs and puppies dumped and produced by irresponsible people.

Caring for your pet in the pound costs a lot of money.  City employees get good wages and benefits to scoop litter boxes and put out kibble.  Rescue volunteers do it for free.  But how much labour and money are they expected to give to look after pets that people like you can’t be bothered with anymore?

I too do it for free.  But I’ve reached my limit so, remember, the next dumped animal I find gets a one-way trip to the vet.  It’s a kinder death than the starvation you consigned Wally to.

If you think he is your missing cat, please accept my apologies and contact me!

(From my St. Thomas Dog Blog. See Waterworks Cat for his backstory.)