Month: October 2014

Who’s sleeping in my bed?

When Kodi first came to live with us I wrote an article about how dogs had never been allowed to sleep in bed. The last line of the article was “Not only is he sleeping in the bed, he’s on my side.”

I haven’t really minded the little Corgi fluff butt pressing up against the small of my back at night. In fact it is rather comforting. He is now expected to sleep on the bed (thankfully we have a King size) and the frame has recently been removed so his jump to the floor isn’t as far.

Last night I couldn’t sleep. You may have experienced these bouts of insomnia. Thoughts rattle around your head and push you out of bed. For me it’s a time to get up, make the “to do” list for the next day (that really does seem to get these nagging thoughts out of my head) and maybe do a little writing.

After being up for about an hour, I return to bed, press the button on my cell phone and what does the screen glow fall upon? Kodi, stretched out across an impressive amount of the bed.

So my question to readers this morning is, “What do you do when you find your pet oh so comfortable in your spot?”

1. Crawl over him trying not to disturb him in an attempt to carve out a small section to sleep;

2. Gently try to move him to another section of the bed;

3. Wake him and scoot him off the bed;

4. Sleep on the couch.

Just so you know, I chose the first option.

Sharp cat

Good Morning! My name is Samantha and I am the cat of the house and I have something to say about declawing – Don’t!

Samantha and a few of her favorite things, a floor scratching post and some knitted "toys."
Samantha and a few of her favorite things, a floor scratching post and some knitted “toys.”

Cat nails grow, long and sharp. To file them cats do what people do, they  file them. Not with an emery board,  but with your furniture or carpet.

Scratching Posts:

The best way to deter this is to offer them self-serve manicure stations. Otherwise known as scratching posts. For the longest time scratching posts were 2 by 4 pieces of wood covered in carpet and attached vertically to a base.These would wobble and cats wouldn’t use them. Then someone designed the simplest, most effective “post,” corrugated cardboard that lays flat on the floor.

There are different styles. Rectangles that fit in a cardboard frame. The nice thing about these is when they begin to wear you can take the insert out, flip it and replace it in the frame. There are others, usually a bit more expensive, that have a “wave” to them like the picture above. They come with a little bag of catnip to rub into the cardboard to entice your cat.

I will often find Samantha napping on this. It doesn’t look comfortable to me but she likes it and that’s what it is all about. As you can see from the picture, Samantha’s is quite worn and shreds of cardboard are on the floor. So I sweep up a couple of times a day. Not a big deal.

Replacing favorite items:

I need to replace Samantha’s curvy scratching post. This has become a favorite so I will add the new one without taking the old one away. When she is using the new one the other one will be removed.

Pedicures Please:

Keeping your cat’s nails trimmed is important, for the well-being of your cat and your furniture. On most cats this isn’t hard to do.

In our house it is a two person job. One of us wraps Samantha in a towel releasing one paw at a time while the other clips the tips of the nails with a regular nail clipper. Buy a new clipper, or one designed for cats so you get nice clean clips.

Clipping cat nails is much easier than dog nails because they are not nearly as thick. The earlier you get your cat used to this part of their grooming routine the easier it will be. It takes patience.

Declawing:

Declawing is painful and cruel and not the way to stop your cat from scratching. Cats that are declawed are more likely to ignore their litter box and bite. Cats need to scratch to remove the dead husk from their claws, stretch, play and mark their territory. Is there any doubt from the pictures that this is Samantha’s?

Declawing generally requires the amputation of the last bone of each toe. If it was being done to you, it would be equivalent cutting off each finger at the last knuckle. Did you just involuntarily curl up your fingers in a fist to protect them? I do every time someone  mentions declawing.

Thankfully it seems declawing has become less popular in the past few years. I work at a humane society and the number of declawed cats coming in seems to have declined. Obviously if your cat has a medical condition and the claw is removed with a tumor or other issue that may be  your only option and in the cat’s best interest. This is something you and your vet decide.

Options:

1. Regular nail trimming. Make time for it, don’t wait until they are too long. If you can make time to clip the tips every couple of weeks you and your cat will be happy. It should take no longer than 5 minutes. If your cat is resistant do it in two sittings always trimming the front paws first.

2. Have a groomer or vet do the trimming or show you how. My daughter adopted a cat, Robbie, from an animal shelter in Cambridge, Mass. She had to call a vet (they make house calls!) to trim his nails. It took the vet and the vet tech to accomplish this.

3. Have a variety of scratching posts around the house. I place these in corners for a little more support. Sometimes Samantha goes to town and shoots them across the room. Sturdy cat condos with a combination of carpet and sisal are also excellent options to offer your cat.

4. Soft Paws® are soft nail covers that are glued to the cat’s nails. These can be applied at home or by a groomer or veterinarian. They need to be replaced on a regular basis and the nails still need to be trimmed.

I have not used these myself but found a step-by-step video on applying them.

http://www.softpaws.com/application-instructions-for-cats/

The main website is:

http://www.softpaws.com/about-soft-paws-for-cats/

5. If you must have a declawed cat please visit your local animal shelter  or rescue to adopt. Adoption is always the best answer for all animals.

Samantha's things 2

Trip Home

Kodi bed close

Kodi – back in his “own” bed

Packing up and saying “good-bye”

Time for the two-day return trip. The back seat is “slip-covered” with a fitted sheet, his pillow is in place in hopes of encouraging naps, crate and luggage packed. We say good-bye to the staff at checkout and we are off.

One more stop at Buc-ee’s

We stopped in Wharton. Our son got a new job in another part of the state so I doubt we will be this way again.

I look for items to take home to friends. If you can’t find something to take home here you can just give up because you aren’t going to find anything.

While I have been in the store Mark has been exercising Kodi in an expansive grassy area designated for doggies. You know this because there is a doggie “poop” station with bags available.

I ask the cashier if I may leave my basket of items on the counter for my husband to pay for after he shops, explaining he’s outside with the dog. “Of course.”

Mark goes in and Kodi and I do some more walking, have some water and treats, greet people and more people, pretty much everyone in that part of Texas and Mark is still inside. This is a man who has perfected the 60-second rest stop.

We walk past the sliding doors so they slide open and we can get a look inside hoping to catch a glimpse of our driver. My shopping basket is on the counter, hmm. Just as I am wondering if he is ok and trying to decide how I will be able to check on him with pup in tow I see him, red Buc-ee’s T-shirt in one hand as he searches the gourmet jerky. Like a child at the beach he is not looking toward the door. He doesn’t want to make eye contact and be told it’s time to go.

Just as Kodi and I have confirmed one more time, that “yes he is like the Queen’s dogs,” Mark emerges from the store laughing. At the checkout he picked up my basket to pay and was asked, “Are you traveling with a Corgi?” Asking if that were the password the cashier explained he had seen us walking outside. Friendly, helpful and observant can’t beat that.

The Back Seat Driver

Dogs are funny. When Mark is driving Kodi is on full alert. He tries to wiggle his way into my lap and watches Mark. He has always done this. When I get behind the wheel he curls up and relaxes more.

Last night 

The trip home is long, lots of traffic but we make it to Daphne, Alabama for our first stop. La Quinta has a lovely hotel here and we have stayed before. We are on a travel kind of schedule now. We settle in and while Mark goes to Cracker Barrel across the street to pick up our carry-out order I feed Kodi. Tomorrow night we will be back home and back to our routine. We are all ready.

We chill out, loving up Kodi and preparing ourselves for the final lap of the trip. Florida is a very long states and I-10 is a tedious stretch of highway. Much like children playing the old license plate game we will play “Spot the cop.” We don’t speed but on this trip home we have seen dozens of officers in each state demonstrating their radar detection techniques.

Home sweet home, our own beds. We pick up Samantha and Rosie and enjoy our quiet reunion.

What’s a vacation for your dog?

Being with us is a vacation for our dogs and it doesn’t have to involve travel. Days we are both home, weekends, are vacation days for Kodi. Dogs are happy just to be with us.

Traveling with an animal does involve more preparation, before, on the road, and at the final destination.

Doggie Luggage:

They will have “luggage.” A sturdy crate, bedding for that crate, a couple of toys, water and food bowls, jug of water for the road, treats, poop bags, collar, leash, extra leash and absolutely — current medical records showing vaccination dates and any medications they use or may need.

I took Kodi for his checkup and annual vaccinations. The vet insisted his rabies vaccine was up to date. Two nights before we are scheduled to leave I start packing his handled tote bag and find a copy of his records from our last trip. I was right — His rabies vaccine recently expired. The next day we scramble to get him vaccinated.

Would there have been an issue if we had waited until we got back to fix this? Probably not, but I would have worried the entire trip and what if someone even suggested he had bitten them while we were on the road? It would have involved an unknown municipality animal control, their procedures, possible quarantine– it just isn’t worth it.

Identification:

Make sure your dog’s identification is current. All of our animals are micro chipped. Ask the vet to scan the dog to make sure the chip is still detected before you leave.

Collar tags are also important for quick reunion of you and your dog. Add a travel chip with the phone number of people you are visiting  or your cell number. The object is to make it as easy as possible for someone to let you know they have found your dog.

I also suggest the number of a friend or relative that could take care of your pet if you were unable.

Before you leave home do a little research on the animal control offices and humane societies where you are going and enter them into your cell phone. This will save precious time if you and your dog are separated.

Al Fresco Dining:

Traveling with an animal means you are not stopping for lunch in a restaurant. No leaving the dog in the car — period. ‘

When we stop for bathroom breaks we take turns staying with the dog. We pack lunches and stop at a picnic area. There are always fast food restaurants at nearly every exit off the highway. Hamburgers, deli, tacos, chicken….

We take advantage of restaurants that offer carry out for dinner, and most do. When we get to our final destination and the staff knows Kodi I will leave him in the room alone, but when we are on the road I prefer to have one of us with him.

Dog Friendly Restaurants:

More areas are offering outside areas for people to  dine with their dogs. Ask the front desk if they know of any dog friendly restaurants in the area. Some with look at you befuddled as this idea is not in the mainstream, but it is becoming more popular. We live on the east coast of Florida and there are many restaurants that welcome well-behaved pets on their patio areas.

Dog Activities:

This is Kodi’s vacation too and he sniffed his way through Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. We take a lot of walks. He is not a Frisbee dog, nor does he play catch, but if he did — we would.

Check activities in the area. There may be an organized dog walk for the local humane society or another special event like ‘Yappy Hour’ for you and your pet to enjoy an evening with other dog owners. Yappy Hours are generally drinks and light snacks and the entrance fee often benefits a local animal group.

Kennel Time:

There’s  a tug  at the heart when we have to leave him in his crate in the hotel to go out to dinner or do things that cannot include him. But I remind myself of the other option, left behind. He could have stayed with the same friend Samantha is with, but she works and he would be alone during the day. Still better than a strange, noisy kennel. On trips where flying is the only option he does stay with her, but most times he’s with us.

BREAKS FOR YOU AND YOUR DOG:

Traveling with pets means scheduling events around the animal, including stopping back at the hotel to let him out during the day. This actually can be a good excuse for you to take breaks between activities and visits as well!

NEXT:  We say goodbye Corpus Christi and hey! Isn’t that Buc-ee’s

Samantha the cat and traveling

There are those cats who don’t mind traveling. Our Samantha is not one of them. Thankfully we have someone who welcomes our non traveling animals, Samantha and our African gray, Rosie.

Samantha

The perfect trip for Samantha is no trip at all. Even the half hour drive to her “hotel” consists of nonstop meow, every two seconds, sounding more like, “no,no, no, no…..”

She, like Kodi, has a wire crate. Hers is much smaller and is only used for transport. The interior is padded with a faux lamb fabric. Prior to leaving I set the crate up in the house leaving the door open. It is not uncommon to find her curled up inside. Once we arrive at her destination the crate is placed out of the way, but again with the door open. A temporary bedroom from home for her to retreat to if she desires.

So Samantha and her luggage were packed up, food and water dishes, litter and litter box, food, treats, a couple of items I have knitted and she laid claim to as hers, and two very well-worn scratching posts.

She likes the corrugated scratchers that lay flat on the floor. They have a stability the free-standing styles do not offer. One has a curve to it, that one she likes to curl up on, and the other is a simple rectangle.  New ones were not purchased so she had items with familiar scents. Traveling is not the time to buy all new items for your pet. They need the security of well-worn and loved items with scents of home.

 

Samantha at homeShe was fine while we were gone. Took charge, slept where she wanted, and may have converted her caretaker into becoming a cat owner.

Kodi meets the hotel staff

Kodi bone 2The Best Western Marina Grand  Hotel in Corpus Christi is our final destination. Kodi has stayed here before.

After Kodi has done what he has to do outside we all check in together.  I find it very beneficial for the staff to meet my pup. Most are dog lovers and having the staff like your dog can be a big help. I also make a point to say hello to every staff member I meet when he and I are out of the room.

The staff gets to know us as we walk through the lobby on our way to the grassy area. This is my opportunity to show them what a great dog he is. I do this by keeping him on a short lead as we walk past the front desk and by always carrying doggie bags whether tied to the handle of my leash or in one of those containers that holds a roll of poop bags.

If left to himself Kodi would greet everyone. Since he is shorter than everyone this requires jumping, something many people do not appreciate. It is common for us to hear “oh a Corgi” followed by “can I pet him?” We always oblige but I stay in control even if they say they don’t mind if he jumps. I hold his leash down by his collar so petting can begin.

Pick up after your dog. It’s the right thing to do and a way to show the hotel that you appreciate being able to have your pup with you. Yes, some do charge extra, Best Western is $20 a day, plus tax, but that’s for the room not for cleaning up after your dog. The charge is still less than what you would have paid to board the dog. A good staff is not going to say anything if you don’t pick up the dog poop but they notice and appreciate it when you do, believe me.

So why make sure the staff knows your dog? Because even though it is a pet friendly hotel, and there are plenty of hotels that do not allow pets, there will be that one person who checks in and complains because your dog barks. The first night we came back to the hotel to let Kodi out before we went out to dinner. He was quiet until he saw the leash and then let out a couple happy barks. It was 5:45 pm. We leashed him up, walked him, put him back in his crate, turned on the tv for background noise for him and went to dinner. I always pause a few feet down the hallway from the room just to make sure he is settled.

Upon our return I was told a woman checked in and immediately complained about incessant barking and had to be moved to another floor. Excellent, I certainly didn’t want to be defending my dog the entire week. To satisfy the woman the desk called our room but of course we were gone by then. What they didn’t know is that Kodi often barks when the phone rings at home. Whether he does this when we aren’t there I don’t know but I unplugged the phone just to be on the safe side. They have my cell phone number if they really needed to call me.

This was the first night so the front desk staff had met Kodi but hadn’t seen whether we were responsible owners. The best way to deal with these people who don’t like dogs but insist on staying in hotels that allow them is to be a responsible dog owner. Kodi never barked early in the morning or at night and was a friendly hotel guest. We never heard of another complaint during our stay.

Kodi crate

CRATES:

Crates are a must when traveling. When Kodi is left alone in the room he is in his crate. We travel with a large wire crate that folds flat. It is three feet long, two feet wide and about three feet high. Plenty of room for him to move around in and the stretch out with his toys. Crates are important for your pet’s safety, to ensure he doesn’t get out of the room, and to allow the staff to come into your room to clean.

Knowing the triggers that cause your dog to bark is important. For Kodi it is phones and door knocking. What does the cleaning staff do before they come into your room, they knock. And Kodi will respond. Because of this I let the housekeepers know early on that Kodi would always be in a crate if we were not in the room.

CRATE PLACEMENT:

Some dogs live in condos or apartments and are used to people in hallways. We live in a single family home so I place Kodi’s crate as far from the door to the hallway as possible. On this trip I moved a chair so I could position his crate between the bed and the outside wall, an area that provided the most buffering from the hallway. If we expected to be out after dark I closed the shades and turned on a light.

NO UNWANTED GUESTS:

Never, ever try to sneak your dog into a hotel that doesn’t allow them. It just isn’t worth it and there are so many that do allow pets it isn’t necessary. We like to stay at Best Westerns (fantastic breakfasts included) but not all Best Westerns allow pets. As I understand it, all La Quinta do and at no extra charge.

Even if the person at the front desk says no pets ask if they know of a nice hotel in the area where you can stay. This happened in Lake Charles, LA. After checking out a couple of hotels we took a chance at a Comfort Inn right off I-10. The lady was sweet, her hotel policy was no pets except for service animals (remember she didn’t make the policy but if she wants to keep her job she needs to enforce it). We both knew of a hotel across the highway that allowed pets but it was a bit run down. She checked Sulpher, LA, about half an hour further, and found a La Quinta. She looked up the phone number and even showed me photos of the hotel online. Now that’s service. I wish I had gotten her name.

By the way, don’t try to pass your dog off as a service animal unless you have the documentation. Different areas have different fines and do you really want to spend your vacation money and time with this?

Next:

How to make sure your pup is enjoying his vacation too.

Travels with Kodi, Day 2 continued – Buc-ee’s

An hour southwest of Houston off US 59 is the town of Wharton, Texas the home of what has become a favorite stopping point for us — Buc-ee’s. There are many of Buc-ee’s throughout Texas and this one is “ours.”

I am at a loss to describe Buc-ee’s. The Wall Street Journal wrote a piece saying it was an oversized convenience store but that’s not accurate. Buc-ee’s  is a truck stop, but without the trucks. There are signs “no 18-wheelers please.” No dodging big rigs at the rows of gas pumps.

The residents of Wharton must shop there, how else can one explain the mulch bags for sale outside the entrance? I have never purchased mulch on vacation.

Automatic doors slide open and the rush of cool air sucks you in from the Texas heat. Here is where you must be careful as first timers will come to a halt as their brains process the site before them. You don’t want a “rear end” collision.

Two registers with smiling greeters are strategically placed beyond where the doors open leaving the entrance open. I don’t know if this was an intentional design but I noticed.

The first time I went into this Buc-ee’s I was looking for a restroom, a mission I nearly forgot as I took in the sites of a department store, deli, candy counter and more. The place is huge, but then again we are in Texas.

The restrooms alone are worth the stop. They are not an afterthought or a way to meet code requirements. They are incredible. I know, who goes on about bathrooms? These bathrooms have won “America’s Cleanest Bathroom” awards beating out posh hotels.

A hallway, decorated, not stacked or shelved with home decor products that are for sale, splits into a “T” – Men to the left, Women to the right.

Be prepared once again for sudden stopping.

My first reaction “I’ve taken a wrong turn, I am in the administration section or a dressing room.” Before me is a room the size of most convenience stores, a sparkling clean room, sinks off to the side with granite tops and glistening faucets. High ceilings and lots of light. Wooden doors line the walls, behind these are the toilets, no metal three-quarter walls between them, individual rooms. A bit of privacy. Restroom in the true definition.

There must be Buc-ee bathroom fairies that keep everything so clean but I never saw them. My one regret?  I didn’t take a picture!

We probably would have stayed longer but we are anxious to see our grandson (um, and his parents) so we say goodbye to Buc-ee the Beaver knowing full well we will stop on our way home.

Daytona Beach to Corpus Christi – Day 2

After additional walks to sniff, explore and relieve, we settled down for the night. Traveling is hard on everyone. This is an odd  event for Kodi. There is no way to explain why we are spending all day in the car and sleeping in places that are not our home.

Except any place we are together is home so all is good.

Kodi selfie

Day 2:

We have overslept but not stressing. Keeping our stress levels down definitely rubs off on Kodi. We are on no schedule, just anxious to be at our final destination.

Kodi gets his breakfast as we head down to our own breakfast provided by LaQuinta. I have packed the food and water bowls he uses at home. He has enough unexplained changes so having simple things like his bowls, favorite treats and a couple favorite toys does help.

The car is repacked and we are on the road. This means someone has to relearn that he sits in the back seat.

When we stop at rest areas I make sure he gets a brisk walk. I have found that I too benefit from this. Before traveling with Kodi we would jump out of the car, use the facilities, jump back in the car and drive. I like this way much better. It stretches my legs, gives me a work out and makes sitting in the car easier. I also give him a little water in his bowl using water we have brought with us. Water is different from place to place and I want to keep his digestive system as regular and calm as possible.

We cross from Louisiana into The Republic of Texas and we are welcomed in so many entertaining ways.

We have stretched a few miles back so Kodi and I wait in the car while my husband gets maps, a mandatory “Don’t Mess With Texas” litter bag (ok that is clever) and a travel magazine.

Kodi has joined me in the front seat to watch an impromptu parking lot parade. Most every man is wearing a Stetson. Did they have these in the trunks of their cars or are they available inside the Welcome Center? Cowboy boots  are also the footwear of choice for all.

A tour bus provides the most entertainment as people re-board the bus, each with their litter bag and interestingly enough — road maps. They have a bus driver but we can see a fair number of people studying open maps as though they will be responsible for navigating the route.

Up and down the bus aisle one woman practices line dancing. Dressed in a white outfit with tassels, she side steps to the left and then to the right, “shoots” with her fingers and twirls. Another woman smiles out the window at this performance. At least that’s what I think. She is the only one who has not dressed for Texas. Maybe she’s on the wrong bus.

Kodi  and I are mesmerized and watch as this animated group of travelers take their seats to continue their journey. Our driver (my husband Mark) returns, Kodi is relegated to the back seat and we are off again.

Next Stop – Buc- ees in Wharton, Texas.