In Loving Memory of Coach

Image 39Such sad news. I just found out today that one of the dogs close to my heart, Coach, has passed away. He was one of Sam’s best friends and could always bring a smile to anyone’s face. He was battling many health problems and it was a tough fight, but he was always happy and still loved to play ball until the very end. I am so sad to hear of his passing, and I know that nothing I can say will ease the pain that his family is feeling right now, but Coach was a special guy and he will be sorely missed. Not only will Sam miss him, but the neighborhood pack will miss him, and I will too.

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Coach was a big character. As you already know he was the biggest fan of fetch. If his mom let him, he would play ball from morning until night, and he was good at it too. He also had a crazy love of carpet. That sounds like a weird thing, but it was totally cute. When he would come over to our house he would roll around on the carpet like a puppy and rub his face in it, he just couldn’t get enough of it. Coach loved swimming too. He would swim and swim, and if you combined swimming with a ball? Man, he was in heaven.

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Coach is up in the sky now, playing ball for as long as he wants, and eating all the steak he can handle. I know he is happy now. He had a long and happy life with a wonderful family who loved him dearly. I have honestly never seen such a genuinely happy dog. There will be an empty spot on the pack walks, and we will all hold you in our hearts. We will miss you, Coach! Please send good thoughts and energy to Coach’s family to help them through this hard time.

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Pet Profile: Sam

Name: Sam (Sammy, Sam Wise, Sammy Butt, Stinky Boy, Dog)

Age: 10 years

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Chillin in the sun, working on his tan

Breed: Goldendoodle (1st Generation). He was supposed to be 45 pounds with no shedding… He is 80 pounds and sheds more than any other dog I’ve met, but he is just so cute.

 

Favorite Toy: His stuffed hedgehog, it is his baby and he carries it everywhere. He killed it once, but was so upset he wouldn’t leave us alone until we performed emergency toy surgery to save the hedgehog.

Favorite Food: Sam LOVES steak and scrambled eggs, and will really go for anything spicy, what a sophisticated palate. But keep the booze away! After an unfortunate experience with scotch, just the smell of booze will send Sam skulking away.

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Ah, youth! Charlie (my brother) and Sammy before they grew up and stopped being so cute… just kidding…

Favorite Habit: When Sam was  puppy he contracted Valley Fever, he actually got very sick and had trouble breathing (he would wheeze), he started medication and eventually recovered.  While he was sick it was so obvious how sick he felt that we couldn’t help but lavish him with attention. When he was better, the amount of attention died off a bit, and he wasn’t really into that, so he would make this wheezing sound; which, of course, worried us and we would give him more attention. Eventually when we took him to the vet she told us that he was perfectly healthy and was just pretending to have trouble breathing just to get more attention. That little stinker was so tricky. He still does it, whenever he wants something or is trying to be particularly cute he will start wheezing hoping to gain sympathy points.

Got a free doggy Glamour Shot one year. Isn’t he just a little cheese ball?

Favorite Hangout Spot: Sam has several. Allow me to list them for you

  • His chaise. Yes, Sam has a reclining sofa all to himself, it is his throne.
  • Under my grandmother’s desk. That is where he gets foot massages (meaning she uses her feet to massage him).
  • Under the dinner table. No lap is safe from the flood of drool that is brought on by meal times.
  • The back door. You can often see Sam lounging by the back door, but this isn’t because he likes the view, but because he sometimes forgets what a doggy door is and how it works. We don’t know why this happens, but he will literally sit in front of his doggy door and refuse to go out until we open the door for him, what a spoiled prince.
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Baby me with baby Sam. What a cute tummy.

Least Favorite Habit: Sam is bad at walking, and when I say bad at walking I don’t mean he has a waddle (which he does) I mean he refuses to go on walks. There has to be very particular circumstances in order for Sam to go for a walk. Here is another lovely Sam list:

  1. My grandma has to be the one to walk him, he WILL NOT walk for anyone else.
  2. He will not go on a walk alone. There are several other dogs in the neighborhood, and they usually all walk at the same time. If no other dogs are there to join him, he will just plop his little butt down and refuse to go on.
  3. There is one spot in my neighborhood that even my grandma can’t get him to walk past, we have spent many an hour trying to coax him to continue.
  4. He has gotten it into his head that a leash is the ultimate hindrance on a walk, and will walk like a weirdo until you take it off
  5. Then! Once it is off, he won’t walk on the side of the road like all the other well trained dogs. Nooo, he struts right down the middle of the street ready to face off against the oncoming traffic.
Burrito-Sam. At a doggy pool party.

Burrito-Sam. At a doggy pool party.

Personality: I am sure that you have gathered a lot about Sammy-Butt’s personality, but I am going to lay it out a little more clearly for you, because he really is an amazing guy. Yes, he is a total wierdo with a selective memory, but he is also one of the sweetest animals around. He loves people and is just as happy as can be when there is a party (mostly because he gets more scratches and food slipped to him). He loves the rest of his “pack” that includes us humans, yes, but the other dogs in the neighborhood are just as much a part of his family and he will wait in front of each of their houses and wait for them to come out and join him on their walks. One of his best friends, Coach, is very ill and Sam always stops to wait for him and will probably be inconsolable when Coach moves on to play fetch in the sky (I’m not being a Smart Alec, Coach is the biggest fan of fetch I have ever seen, and if he is playing fetch up there I know he will be happy).

Speaking of fetch, Sam may be a retriever, but don’t expect him to retrieve anything for you, he is much too smart, he will often look at you and you can just see him thinking, “Well you threw it, so you can go get it.” He has developed a taste for crispy dead rats, and will poke you with his nose until you pet him. But most of all, he always knows when someone feels down and is happy to just sit with you until you feel better, I can’t count all the times Sam-sam has helped me (and though he failed therapy dog class, he loves food too much) I know he has helped others as well. He would never hurt anything (he is even scared of tiny little dogs).  Now, let’s just see if he can handle a bald cat in his old age.

Sam and Coach. Best Friends For Forever. Plus, they both obviously want the treat that's off camera, such foodies!

Sam and Coach. Best Friends Forever. Plus, they both obviously want the treat that’s off camera, such foodies!

I hope you all liked meeting my Stinky-Boy Sam. You’ll definitely be seeing more of him. I am just waiting for an Oliver update to give you, but know that May 13th is when our pet family grows!

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This Little Piggy Went to Market, This Little Piggy was….. CUT OFF!

Photo Cred: Lindsey Turner

Photo Cred: Lindsey Turner

For some people declawing seems like a good option, you get the cat without the worry of scratched and tattered furniture. What could possibly be wrong with that? Well, a lot is wrong with that. Now I am going to tell you what is wrong with declawing and the problems it can lead to. That doesn’t mean that I think you are a bad person if you have gotten your cat declawed, there is obviously a good reason that you did it, or you didn’t know how extreme the surgery actually is.

Now, when most people think of declawing they think that the nail is just being removed from the cat. On humans if our nails were taken off it would hurt, yes, but we would eventually heal and our fingers would  be fully functional. Well that is not the case with declawing cats. This isn’t a matter of removing their nails from the nail beds. Declawing is a form of amputation. That is right. A doctor takes a knife and chops part of the cat’s paw off. Now, it is more technical than all that. And I will explain it all in a second. But first, let us learn a bit about how a cat works.

Cats are digitigrade, which means that they do not walk on the soles or pads of their feet, but instead walk on their toes. The whole structure of their legs, from shoulders to toes, is geared toward distributing their weight properly for this mode of walking. Now, as we all know, a cat’s claws are part of their toes. And their claws are not just for scratching you up or ripping up the furniture. Their claws are used for balancing, exercising, stretching muscles, climbing, and of course protection.

Declawing is the removal of the the last joint of the toe. This is because removing a cat’s claw is not at all the same as removing a human fingernail. A cat’s claw is part of their bone, so to remove the claw, that whole bone has to go. So just to be clear, in order to remove the claw, the bone, the nerves, the joint capsule, the collateral ligaments, and the extensor and flexor tendons must all be removed. Some vet’s will say, “No, no, no it’s just the claw I will be removing.” But the claw and the bone are so rigidly fused that there is no way to remove the claw without the bone. A good vet will inform you of this, and most will try to dissuade you from declawing your cat.

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So let’s go back to what I mentioned earlier about cat’s walking on their toes… think how difficult that must be if part of their toe is CUT OFF! That would be like us trying to walking without the balls of our feet. Pretty difficult. So, after being  declawed, the cat literally has to relearn how to walk. It was biologically designed to walk a certain way, but because of the missing bones it can no longer move that way so it has to compensate and create a new way to walk. This puts strain on joints that are being used in a way that they are not supposed to be. Beyond that a cat can no longer stretch certain muscles, it can’t climb as it normally would, and it can no longer protect itself. So if a declawed cat gets out of the house and meets a feral cat, it is out of luck. It can’t climb a tree and it can’t fight back to the same degree it would have been able to before.

Declawing is like any other surgery and it carries risks, it is always risky to put your pet (of any kind) under sedation, but there is also the risk of infection as well, which can lead to all sorts of problems that could be fatal to your cat. Declawing can actually lead to cats being more aggressive. As they become more aware of the fact that they can’t defend themselves with their claws they begin to feel helpless, which is never a good situation for a cat to be in, and they can start acting out. But (though it shouldn’t be) this is one thing that I think bothers people the most. Declawing can make your cat go potty OUTSIDE the litter box. This isn’t revenge, it simply comes down to the fact that for a lot of declawed cats, litter hurts their feet.  Declawing can leave chronic pain in a cat’s paws and the rough litter can really irritate that, they can’t dig into the litter and so rather than risk the pain they will go outside the litter box instead. Now, there are finer litter formulas that can be used if your cat is experiencing this, but wouldn’t you just rather spare them the pain and not get them declawed at all?

Now there are alternatives to declawing!

1. Soft Paws-  https://www.softpaws.com/

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Soft Paws are a good alternative to declawing, your cat gets to keep its toes and your furniture is safe. these are not toxic and you just use the adhesive to stick them right one. Some cats will chew on these, but most will ignore them. And how long they last depends on wear and tear, how often your cat scratches.

2. Nail Clippers

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These clippers can really do wonders. Give your cats nails a trim every 10 days to 2 weeks, and a lot of scratching grief can be avoided.

3. Scratching Posts!

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There are so many different styles of scratching posts, and there are really cute affordable cardboard ones now! Put these where your cat likes to scratch and redirect their attention to it, and they will learn to scratch the post instead and will feel happy warm feelings towards you for giving them a place to scratch.

There are so many different ways that you can redirect scratching behavior and not have to resort to declawing. If your cat has to be declawed for a medical reason, that is one thing, but if you care more about the appearance of your furniture than the health of your cat, then maybe you need to rethink being a cat owner.

For more information you can go to: http://www.declawing.com

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Catnip, the Kitty Gateway Drug?

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Oliver is the first cat that I have owned, though I have also worked with cats at the humane society, and I will be the first to admit that the journey through cat supplies has been a confusing and difficult one. But one of the questions that kept popping up for me was “Is catnip safe for my baldy baby”?

I remember one of my coworkers coming to work and talking about her new kitten and flashing the mandatory Instagram pics of her cat, in the picture he was playing with a toy and I naively asked her if the toy had catnip in it. It didn’t go over well. According to her catnip was the greatest of all kitty evils and she didn’t want to expose her cat to it, she seemed offended that I would even ask about it. Coming off that experience I was a little wary where catnip was concerned. Was I crazy in thinking that catnip was just a way for a cat to have some feel good time? If I gave Oliver catnip would he soon start sinking deeper into the world of kitty drugs, missing curfew, and getting tatted? I bypassed many a cute toy on Etsy because I didn’t want to send Oliver into this downward spiral. But eventually I realized I was being a little crazy and decided to look into the catnip thing myself. This is what I found.

Catnip comes from the mint family and the variety that drives cats crazy is called nepeta cataria which contains an oil called nepetalactone that just makes cats crazy. When exposed to catnip cats can start rolling on the floor, rubbing their faces into the catnip, and drooling (cute, but surely no worse than my dog does when exposed to steak). It is said that catnip can cause hallucinogenic effects, many compare it to a mix between LSD and marijuana. It also might mimic kitty “feel good” pheromones. Cats love the smell of catnip and really that is all it takes to make your kitty happy, but they often try to eat it as well. It is thought that by eating it the cats seem to “mellow down,” but who knows, as with everything in life, this is an individual experience, every cat is different and so may have different results. Though, if your cat likes catnip then they will probably act the same as the other cats who like catnip.

Now here is an interesting fact: not all cats respond to catnip. It is thought to be an inherited trait so if your cat didn’t get it, he is out of luck. It is estimate that 50% of cats don’t respond at all to catnip, so sad for them. Kittens don’t respond to catnip right away either. It is something that they grow into. If your cat is prone to liking catnip they will develop this love somewhere between the ages of 3 to 6 months, if exposed to it earlier they will likely have no response to the herb at all.

So that being said, will exposing my cat to catnip cause him to become a kitty drug addict? No, it won’t. In actuality if you cat is overexposed to catnip they will start to build a resistance, or an immunity, to its effects. There is a reset time of 10 minutes to 1 hour in most cats before they will react to the catnip again, but if exposed often it will take longer and longer for them to respond to the catnip, and may even seem to lose interest in the catnip entirely because it no longer seems to have the same effect on them. It is recommended that you have catnip time no more than 2 times a week to optimize on kitty enjoyment. Because of this you probably shouldn’t leave catnip toys laying around, not just because of the cat losing interest in them, but because catnip needs to be kept “fresh”. I read somewhere that this woman keeps all her catnip toys in a Tupperware with loose catnip with the lid sealing it all in, so when she gives the toys to her cat the toy is much more potent because it hasn’t been “aired out”. I thought that was a good idea.

So catnip is okay in small doses, and even large doses won’t send your cat into the kitty underworld looking for a fix, which is good news. So buy those catnip toys!

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Haha. Get it? the cat looks like a Jedi!

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The Sphynx Cat

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“Hairless” cats can occur in any breed just by chance and genetic mutation, but the Sphynx cat is a breed that has cultivated these hairless genes in order to get a naked cat. And thus an entire breed of hairless cats was created.

Now, the Sphynx cats are not actually bald, most of them have a soft fuz on their bodies (leading them to be described as feeling like suede), and depending on the season and the individual cat, some might even grow fur on their tails and ears. They can also grow and shed fur throughout different times in their lives. Some are particularly hairless, and these are called “sticky” bald, but even they can grow fur on their faces, ears, and tails. Because of this lack of traditional fur, the cat has no hair to absorb the oils that its skin produces and so must be bathed more frequently than most cats or the furniture could end up with oil marks. As for colors, these kitties can be pretty much every color and pattern under the sun, except instead of it showing up on fur it shows up on their skin, makes you wonder what your tabby would look like if you shaved him, huh? And the wrinkles! The Sphynx wrinkles are one of their stand out features and are an extremely prized characteristic for a cat of this breed to have.

As for personality, as with every animal, they will all have individual personalities, but the breed over all is known for being extremely outgoing and friendly. They are often referred to as being a very “dog-like” cat who are very playful and usually not very graceful. They love the people in their lives, and thrive on the attention of their owners and are extremely affectionate, which can lead to anxiety if they have to be separated from their owners for long periods of time. But they are considered a breed of cat that forms a strong bond with their family.

In the beginning there was a lot of inbreeding just to make sure that the hairless gene was passed on, but this created health problems, especially heart problems, within the breed and so now responsible breeders use something called out crossing, which means that they will breed a Sphynx with a furry cat (usually a short haired cat) and then breed any hairless babies that come from that litter to another Sphynx with no genetic relation. They do this to bring diverse genes into the breeds gene pool.

Personally, I think that they are crazy cute. Obviously, I mean, Oliver is one, but some people think they are ugly, or look like aliens, and so on. But does it really matter what he looks like as long as I love him and he loves me and is happy and healthy?

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Photo cred: Vidar Skauen, Animal Photography