31 July, 2007

On sleeping in the carport in Tucson

Just since it seems to be the subject of some comment - sleeping outdoors at this time is very pleasant, temperature-wise. Cooling breezes, and post-monsoonal temperature decreases, as well as a nearly full moon, made that part lovely. However, Patep is correct that one worries about the creepy crawlies (ants, mostly) a bit, less so than the snakes (since snakes will be snoozing at night, and too cool to really slither around much looking for a bite). The carport is perhaps not as pleasant as other outdoor locales would be - but it's not too bad, especially if there's a puppy nearby.

Also, John Ivens offered repeatedly to take carport duty, but I declined. Just for the record...

Dottie's Home from the Vet

We picked up Dot at the vet's this morning - and deposited Dash. Dot did fine - she's got a collar on now, and she's got to be awfully hungry, but she seems OK. She got her spay, her vaccinations, and her first round of treatment for sarcopic mange, a parasitic skin infection that is, unfortunately, highly contagious. But it is also, fortunately, readily curable. Treatment requires a set of three injections, two weeks apart, and this will be required for at least Dot and Dash, and probably Roxie and the puppies too, since they're in contact with Dottie now that she's back from the vet. And maybe Sally, Zero and Gator. Potentially, the little bugs can also get on people, but apparently if they do they don't last long, and just make one a bit itchy. They prefer to live on dogs.

The hitch with that whole plan is that we may not be able to actually manage D&D well enough to bring them to the vet for these follow-up injections, or maybe not even to catch them in the yard (though we will be working on that dutifully in the coming weeks). The lovely Rose from Animals' Crusaders has already volunteered to come out to the house to give them their injections, if needed. She's very cool.

It was quite the deal to see her handling Dottie - she had to take Dot out of the trap, carry her over to her kennel and put her in. This is not as simple as it sounds when you consider that the dog you're trying to move has never actually been touched by humans before, and is going to turn into a kind of canine Tasmanian devil on you as soon as she feels really cornered. So there was a thick blanket, lots of patience and some tugging/flipping out before it all came together. When Dot realized that she was going to get carried no matter what, she went totally limp - just like what they tell protesters to do so it'll take more cops to drag you into the paddy wagon. Her head seemed to weigh 100lbs, and she was a complete rag doll.

Poor baby. But she got her necessary medical care, a life free from unwanted pregnancy, some absorbable sutures, and no bucket head...so it's not all bad. Hopefully she'll rest and heal without additional complications. And she got to come back and be with her little brothers and her mommy - and I think that's really good for her. She surprised me this morning by actually approaching me a couple of times as I sat out in the yard with her for a while to see that she could get settled in. I figured she'd be thinking of me as satan after this whole ordeal.

Now, will she stay in the yard, or will she escape again? What will happen with her brother at the vet's today? Who can tell? Who can predict? Not I.

30 July, 2007

Dash, Dot and Dog Traps

The last three days have involved a lot of interaction with dog traps, as it turns out.

We hired a local company to help us trap Dot, and the only way they would do it was to come on Saturday morning and set the trap. They did so, and she walked in and tripped the gate mechanism within about 20 minutes. So, she was trapped. And stuck in that trap until Monday morning when we could take her to the vet for her spay.

Meanwhile, Dash was enjoying himself in the yard with his mom and little brothers. They all get along very well, and are very cute together. But he's not at all willing to let humans touch him, so we had been worried about how we were going to be able to catch him and get him to the vet on Monday with his sister.

So, this weekend was spent mostly out in the carport with Dottie in her trap, sitting with her, talking to her, and sleeping with her so that she wouldn't panic. She seemed to be most afraid of being alone, and having someone out there with her calmed her right down. We gave her treats, which she mostly ignored, and ice cubes - which she loved. The first thing she had done when she was caught was to destroy the two plastic bowls that were in the trap - and we couldn't get anything as big as a bowl in to her without risking her escape. So, it was a mess. I slept out there with her both nights - sleeping on the driveway is uncomfortable, even with the little mats I had to sleep on, but it was better than having Dottie crying all night long and even more traumatized.

At long last, Monday morning arrived. I tried to think positive, happy thoughts of success in terms of catching Dash, but that was to no avail. So, we had to take Dottie in and tell them that we weren't able to get our hands on Dash.

Luckily, the lady at the vet who has been helping us (she's a volunteer for Animals' Crusaders in Tucson, the only rescue group who cares about feral dogs, I think), once again came through. She had a trap she loaned us, so that we could set it out in the back yard for Dash, and she moved his appointment to Tuesday morning.

John and I set the trap with bait=hot dogs (argh - had to buy hot dogs at the supermarket! ugh!), and then left Dash alone in the yard with it. Since we had tried to catch him in various ways earlier this morning, he wasn't going to have anything to do with us - and he wasn't going to come near any weird trap-looking thing, at least as long as we were around. So, John left and I went inside and waited.

Two hours later, I heard the 'clunk' of the gate closing in the trap, and went out to the yard to find Dash sitting in there, wondering what the heck he'd gotten himself into. John was able to come home over the lunch hour so we could move Dash in his trap to the carport, where it's cooler and sheltered from any rain we might have.

So, we again have a dog in a box in the carport, one more night. It's good, but I was so looking forward to being done with this whole trapped, panicky, puppy gig! And it turns out that Dot has sarcoptic mange - which is curable with treatment, but is infectious...so we'll see how Dash and everyone else does. We may have to end up treating a lot of dogs for mange, since we don't have a way to separate Dot away from everyone else, given that Roxie and her pups are already segregated from Zero, Sally and Gator. We've maxed out on our ability to segregate dogs.

The big question that neither John nor I know how to answer is this: what happens to Dash and Dot in the long run? We haven't been able to come close to finding homes for the eminently adoptable Roxie, Pan and Iorek - and D&D are not at all close to being adoptable in any reasonable sense. They may never be. There is no room at the Animals' Crusaders shelter, and no other shelter takes ferals; several animal rescue types have told us that they'd recommend killing D&D, because they're not going to be placeable. We've taken that option off the table - but we don't have a workable option to substitute it with. Yet.

27 July, 2007

Dash and Dot Saga

Yesterday morning, something surprising happened. I was (as I had been doing every morning) walking Roxie out to where Haku, Dash and Dot were hanging out, in order to try to lure them back into the yard with us. Well, this time Dash followed us back into the yard, and found a tug toy there that he liked. He picked it up, and took it out to share with Dot. Before I knew it, he had tugged Dot into the yard with the tug toy! So I simply closed the gate behind them, and, voila! Two more dogs safely in our custody. Or so I hoped.

I had been talking with a representative of the group Animal Crusaders (the ONLY group in Tucson who will do ANYTHING to help feral dogs...which will be the subject of some later rant, I think) about trapping Dash and Dot; we'd made the appointment with the only Vet in town who'll work on feral dogs to have Dash and Dot neutered/spayed, get their shots, and get them a general health check. That appointment is Monday morning - D & D tugged each other into our yard on the preceding Thursday. So, I called up my contact with AC and said 'no need for traps, as it turns out'. They did loan me a giant dog carrier which we are supposed to use to transport D&D to the vet Monday morning. They are very very very good people.

Poor Haku was left alone out there, which broke my heart. I've told him repeatedly that he can come in any time he wants - and I hope he understands what's going on. I think he keeps bringing us dogs because he knows we'll help them - and he's always got his paws full trying to look after the neighborhood strays. He's been doing that for years, apparently. I spoke to a neighbor who walks his dog past our house each morning, and he said he can't recall when Haku first showed up, but it's been a very long time that he's been around.

Anyway, we got through the day on Thursday all right - Dash and Dot and Roxie love each other dearly, and Roxie was so happy to have her big pups with her in the yard. They also did just fine with little Pan and Iorek - who are now exploring the yard freely during the day. D&D still won't let us touch them, but in every other way they're very companionable.

The problem came this morning. I went out to check on Haku, and Dot was with him. She had dug her way out under the fence sometime during the night. So, now we're back to a trap plan for Monday - if I can get a hold of my AC contact. Else, we may have to call a commercial firm (there are a couple) who humanely trap & remove 'nuisance' animals. In the meanwhile, Dash *seems* to have decided to stay in the yard with us. But if he decides he wants to go, I'm sure he'll find his own way out.

At this point, I'm philosophical about all this. I figure that Dash and Dot and Haku will have to decide what they want - and, as with all dogs, if they want to escape badly enough, we won't be able to keep them. Our door is open to them, and we'll always do our best to help. But we can't control everything, and that's probably right and proper that we can't.

I also got some words of wisdom from my friends Itchy and Diane. Itchy, who is dissertating in clinical psychology advised that in times of stress one should 'try to breathe fully and calmly, and stay in the moment'. Diane, who has been getting more positive coaching from song lyrics than I had (yet another life skill that I admire in Diane but don't have much of myself) told me about a lyric that said something like 'you are where you are supposed to be'...well, it was better than that, but I don't remember it exactly.

Staying in the moment, breathing fully and calmly, and appreciating where I am right now...that is my stratagem at this time.

25 July, 2007

Mini-psychoses? Or just maudlin?

One danger of being an emotional basketcase due to this whole dog-fostering thing is that a person might just be having kind of mini-psychotic breaks in which she feels that various things out there in the world are talking to her. In particular, iTunes. In particular particular, song lyrics.

As I'm listening to my iTunes 'five star' playlist of my current favorite tunes, my attention keeps being caught by song lyrics that seem to be directed at me and my feelings toward Roxie and the puppies. For example:

Willie Nelson, from the song 'Will you remember mine':
I have sat 'neath the trees while the cool summer breeze
blew away the sands of time
and thought of days when you were there,
remembering when you were mine.'
Gone are the times that I held you,
held your hand in mine
now when you hold another's hand,
will you remember mine?

(NOTE: I do realize that puppies don't have hands. But 'paws' doesn't work so well in a song lyric, I think. )

The Reindeer Section, from the song 'Budapest':
His little hand round my thumb
Makes me warm and numb
I hold my breath and smile
and hope it stays for a while

The Field Mice, from the song 'Willow':
Don't you
Go thinking
I never did
Love you

There are more. But I shouldn't obsess about this - right?

23 July, 2007

The other part of fostering ...

One of the reasons I feel so drained after today is that today is the day that I sent out the 'adoptable puppies' message to as many listservs and friends as I could think of. And we've had two people so far express an interest in adopting a puppy.

Which makes real to me the fact that we're going to have to give these puppies up. Which is the right thing to do, and what we both agree we HAVE to do. But it's going to be so hard. We are just not emotionally equipped to give dogs up - it goes against everything we feel we want to do. So, the next few weeks are going to be full of tears as well as delights.


Notes on puppy fostering during monsoons

So, today has been quite a day. Since the last post, the puppies have been growing cuter and bigger and more playful and interactive by the hour, it seems. This is good - but it also brings the possibility of trouble, because they can get into things they shouldn't, and get out of things they should stay in. Like as of today, both Pan and Iorek know how to get out of the dog door. But neither knows how to get back in.

For a long time, Iorek has had this ability - and we've had to keep the pups shut up in their puppy pen at night to make sure he doesn't get out and get stuck. There are owls and hawks who might be able to take a puppy his size, and there's cactus and various other scary stuff out there.

Well, with the monsoons it's nicer during the days - especially mornings and evenings - and these puppies are starting to want to explore more. So we may have to just start shutting them in the pen unless we're there to monitor them. Which will be hard, because they still want to nurse sometimes, and we're not going to lock Roxie in the pen with them. That wouldn't be fair to her. On the other hand, it might help them to figure out that they can stop nursing, and they'll be fine. They're awfully toothy for poor Roxie at this point. But we don't want them to be traumatized by being forced to stop nursing before they, and Roxie, are ready for that.

And the other exciting thing about monsoons is that they have winds, and winds can sometimes knock down the barrier that we put up to keep Roxie from climbing out of the yard. This afternoon we had quite a strong monsoon. Lots of rain, even some hail, and strong winds. Tonight, as John left to go climbing, and I went up for my first post-workday puppy snuggle, I found that Roxie was not in the yard at all. I went out in front of the house, and she came running up to me having been somewhere up the street with Dash and Dot. She came right back into the yard with me just fine, luckily. She's such a good girl about coming when she's called!

As you would expect on a rainy day, she was MUDDY and WET. But what you might not expect is that she smelled like she'd been rolling around in more than one dead thing. Very, very, very, very stinky. And if you touched her, YOU were that stinky.

So, I decided that we needed an emergency bath. I found a recipe for de-stinkifying dog shampoo on the web (hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and a little bit of liquid soap, recommended for skunk stink removal), whipped it up, and set things up for a dog bath.

This meant putting our other dogs outside, filling the bathtub a few inches with warm water, getting a bucket and some towels ready, and then seeing how things would go. Luckily, Roxie is so agreeable you can even lift her up into a tub of water and scrub her down, and she won't even try that hard to get out. There was a HUGE amount of stinky dirt that came off that dog, but I don't know that she'd been 100% de-stinkified. And I'm worried that she might be itchy as a result of the bath - she was already having a fair amount of itchiness before all this.

But, the bath went fine. And hopefully, we'll be able to continue heading off any disasters as the pups, and Roxie, test us more and more.

11 July, 2007

Puppy Video 6 - We Still Need Mom

This is evidence that even though the puppies can eat their solid food, nothing's quite as good as good old Mom!

Puppy Video 5 - Four Weeks Old

The puppies turned 4 weeks old today - and they are doing great. They've started eating solid food, which is made by soaking dry puppy chow with water and warming it all in the microwave. We call it 'puppy gruel', and it seems disgusting to me - but they love it.

In this video, Iorek and Pan are getting snuggles from me, and wrestling each other.

05 July, 2007

Puppy Video 4 - Puppy Tussle!

The puppies are doing a lot more wrestling and playing with each other as they grow - here's a typical puppy tussle from the 3 week old phase of puppyhood.

Puppy Video 3 - Pan and Iorek and Roxie

The puppies are three weeks old, and are getting more and more coordinated and interested in playing and being social. They are changing so quickly now, and just getting cuter and cuter!