Sunday, September 6, 2009

An Introduction

Before we get into the foster dogs, we thought it was only appropriate that you meet our resident pets first. It has been a long and interesting journey together, and each time we've added a pet they've become an important part of our lives.

First is our cat Kayla. She is the cat in the profile picture, and the cat shown below. At 11 years old, she is our oldest pet but still sometimes acts like a kitten. I rescued her my third year of college, after struggling to cope with the simultaneous deaths of my remaining pets from my childhood home (first one cat, then the rabbit, then the other cat and the dog, all within two months). She was a FAT girl at the time, and 6 years old. I was drawn to her almost immediately, and the shelter staff was very willing to let me spend time with her. When one staff member mentioned that if Kayla didn't get adopted soon, she'd be put down, I knew I had to adopt her. Now she is literally half the weight, and twice as happy!
Next came Rocco. It wasn't my intention to have more than one cat while finishing college. But then one day I was eating my lunch and catching the local news when they ran a story on a recent raid in which they had found 148 cats in a resident's 11 by 14 basement!! Not only that, but the "owners" (if you can call them that) had originally only started with FOUR! Many had to be put down, and the rest were being offered up for FREE by the local humane society, along with a free cat carrier and some food, if you signed a waiver stating you understood that they were not very healthy and that you would absorb all medical costs. Any cats not adopted by the end of the weekend would be put down since there were just too many of them. Of course, I couldn't let that happen, so I went out to get one. Rocco was the first I saw, even though the cages in the room were full. I asked to take him out, and though he was just a tiny, poop-covered pile of skin and bones, he had these big blue eyes and he just looked at me, butted his head against my hand, and let me know I was his person.
I filled out the paperwork, took him over to Petco (where they proceeded to give him a free bath due to his pathetic state, and then threw in some free food for good measure when they saw just how bony he was), and then took him home. Kayla didn't much care for him at first, probably because he reeked of many many other cats. And he really didn't look like much of a cat at first. But after I took him to his first vet appointment a few days later, then had to leave him there for a week while he underwent several procedures, she decided maybe he wasn't so bad. He arrived home, he got out of the carrier, Kayla went right up, gave him a lick on the head, and they never had a problem again!
He never developed properly - when I got him, he was an estimated two years old but only two pounds. He was able to gain weight and become more healthy, but he kinda grew longer as opposed to taller. To this day, at 7 years old, he is only the height of a 4-5 month old kitten, but about as long as a "normal" cat. This is why, when both of our "girls" play with him, they are much more gentle with him than they are with each other!
He also still has many little "quirks". He has to go a certain way to his food, a certain way to his litter box, pretty much everywhere! He rotates three times before laying down. He must be pet before he will eat. The list goes on. But at least now he isn't quite as frightened of everything as when I first got him. It took him two months to get used to the tv (he'd hide in the corner or another room if it was on), about a year to even go near windows (and if you took him out in the sun, he'd get very upset, as that basement he grew up in was so dark that he just didn't know what to do), and funny enough, but a good two years to accept my husband into his life. ;)

Gypsy was our last cat addition. She is the only one we adopted as a kitten. Chris had just finished his Army career, and we had decided to move to Wichita, KS which we felt was along the way "home" to Omaha but still far enough away to be a little different. We were having a VERY difficult time there - we had settled for a very inexpensive, but also very dilapadated, apartment that was surrounded by literally PILES of unhealthy pigeon poop (we were on the upper level of a transformed home, so outside every window was tons and tons of poop!), and neither of us was able to get a job for over a month (actually, it took me two). We were barely making ends meet, but then we both were finally able to get jobs and get back on our feet! Around that time, Rocco began coming so much out of his shell that he had developed a "stairs game". It was his first time being somewhere with indoor stairs, and he decided he very much liked to hop up and down them. He was constantly howling for Kayla to join him, but she really wasn't interested at all. So, we decided to celebrate both of us getting jobs, and because Chris hadn't had a chance to pick one of our pets yet, that we would go get a third cat.
Our intention was to get an adult cat, and we literally spent time with every adult cat they had. We really liked one, who happened to be Gypy's mom, but she just wasn't people friendly and hissed every time another animal walked by. In the course of walking around to go from cage to cage meeting with the adult cats, we kept passing by a cage with two small kittens in it. One of them, (the one we later adopted and named Gypsy) kept reaching out her paws and meowing piteously at us each time we passed. And each time, we slowed a little more to look at her, until finally Chris said "I really want to meet with that one." I was very much against it- I knew a kitten would have a better chance of getting a home, plus they were a ton of work - but I couldn't resist his "puppy eyes" anymore and finally caved.
She immediately claimed Chris, climbing onto his lap between bouts of playing with the toys in the room. I still wasn't convinced, and asked if we could meet with at least one more cat. But as we went to put her back in the cage, she began making this terrible sad crying noise, and I knew I'd never win this one. So we took her home, where she promptly laid on top of Kayla and fell asleep. And surprisingly, Kayla didn't do a thing! Rocco came up and gave her a little kiss, so we knew she would be ok. Of course, it was a nightmare how many things she shredded in her youth, and she was very expensive between spaying and declawing, but overall a fun addition to our home. Rocco had a playmate (who, after only living with us for a month, already became taller than Rocco), and Kayla didn't mind having another cat around to jump onto the kitchen counters with. ;)

Finally, there's Finley, our Border Collie. At various points throughout our marriage, we had discussed getting a dog. And each time one or the other of us was against it while the other was for it. We traded sides every time, and never had the right timing. Finally, I told him once we got a house, we could get a dog. That seemed fair, but then sooner than we thought we had our own house! Then the back and forth began happening again, with each of us flip-flopping back and forth on the issue. Meanwhile, my health had been getting steadily worse, and I found myself at a point where it seemed that working outside of the home may not be a great option anymore. I was able to get a job from home, albeit a very crummy inbound telemarketing job.
And the more time I spent there, alone, the more I thought about how nice it would be to have a canine companion. The cats couldn't be in the office while I worked, as they all were very "talkative". Plus, it couldn't be just any dog, for it wouldn't do to get fired because my dog started barking.
I had previously owned a husky as a child, but as much as I loved her, I knew a husky wouldn't work. I was always enamored by Australian Shepherds, and while checking every shelter website to see if anyone had one (I always maintain that a shelter pet is much better than a pet store pet), I found a similar looking dog at the humane society called a Border Collie. My mother in law mentioned that Border Collies were a similar breed and she had found a site that was a local Border Collie rescue. I checked it out, and his was the first profile I was drawn to! There was something about his eyes that drew me in, and I knew I had to meet them. Then I also picked out a few as "backups", just in case he was already spoken for. I called and set up an appointment to meet him, and despite his shyness and standoffishness, we could tell that he was something special, and different than other dogs. We then went through the rather nerveracking experience of adopting from the rescue (it is truly a wonderful system that involves background checks, background history, foster visits and home visits before you are completely accepted - but hard for two impatient people like my husband and I) before he came home with us! It was only a week, but it felt like so much longer!
Kayla was his best friend from the beginning, a far cry from being an only cat to start with! Gypsy took about two weeks to stop puffing up and hissing before she decided he was ok, and that his tail was fun to play with. Rocco is still taking his special Rocco time to warm up to him. He has discovered, however, that even with his tiny pint sized self, if he walks up to Fin and hisses at him, he meets absolutely no resistance and Fin even backs down! So we're sure that soon enough, they'll be friends.
Finley had his own hurdles to get through, like not wanting to go potty in our yard at first (it took three weeks - otherwise, he just pooped on his morning and evening walks!), and not wanting to eat unless it was junk food or had gravy all over it. He would only stay out in the completely fenced yard if we tied him out at first, though now he is a yard pro! He loves to run and play by jumping over sticks in the yard or weaving through our bushes (we're still trying to get him to stop that, as he gets covered in cockleburrs!). He is also sweet to any other dog or cat he meets, though he has decided squirrels have no right in our yard. He graduated from basic obedience training, though he is still stubborn about being consistent at this point.
And those are our pets! They are all truly individual and fun to have around. Next up, I'll introduce you to our fosters!

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