Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finding homes for the puppies

We worry a bit (OK, a lot) about finding good homes for all these puppies. We'll put up signs at area animal hospitals and we'll offer them in the Wal-Mart parking lot (where many kittens and puppies are given away), but 11 is a lot of puppies. Our local animal shelter is always embroiled in (negative) controversy, but I suppose the leftovers could go there.

Part of the challenge is that the yellow pages of our small-town phone directory are so unhelpful. When we first moved here and I was having trouble finding the necessities in our new community (anything from takeout pizza to dry cleaners), I asked a coworker how to find merchants and services when they're not listed in the yellow pages. She explained, "Most people around here don't bother with the yellow pages. Customers already know where to go for pizza or whatever, and if they don't know the phone number, they look it up in the white pages. So just ask me if you need something; I'll tell you the best place to find it."

That's worked out OK for the most part, but while this person knows a lot, she doesn't know everything. Since living this area, I have discovered that when you need something, you must tell everyone you meet about it. They don't mind at all: they love knowing your business, and they love sharing their own intimate knowledge of this small southern town. Of course, you sacrifice your privacy, but I'm getting over that.

So, in addition to publishing this blog and telling all my friends (local and out-of-town), coworkers (local) and relatives (out-of-town) about the puppies, I have also told casual acquaintances and perfect strangers. I've told the barristas at the coffee shop, the support staff at my dentist's & chiropractor's offices, my acupuncturist, my massage therapist, my aerobics instructor, my hairdresser's mother, most of the physical therapists at Baptist Rehab, and more, and this strategy may eventually pay off.

Last week one of my coworkers told me about a local woman (I think she went to school with this girl's sister, or something like that) who is very involved in animal rescue and takes animals to a no-kill shelter in Clarksville, TN (nowhere near us, but it's good to know about). And I actually know this animal rescue woman. Well, not exactly, but close enough. She is married to my dentist's son (also a dentist), so I know exactly where to go for her contact information.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yummy Worm Medicine

Here I am with the recent arrival, called Butterball by me and Tugboat by Mr. P. He has decided to stick around despite the rigorous diet, exercise, and medication program at the 9 Dogs Howling Resort.

We wormed 10 of the 11 puppies today (1 of them was MIA, but showed up later for supper), with an audience of Blackie, Goldie, Smoky and Miss Kitty. Thankfully, none of the Little Puppies screamed when the medicine dropper went in their mouth, the way the Big Puppies did when they were teeny (the Big Puppies made such a fuss about the worm medicine that ever since then, when they eat or chew on something they're not supposed to, I tell them, "No, no! Ick! Tastes just like worm medicine!"). But it was a chore nonetheless. Here is the procedure:

1. Collect worm medicine and a bathroom scale.

2. Enter garage and shake the puppies out of the crate by tipping it on end.

3. Grab a puppy before it gets away.

4. Remember that you need to weigh yourself without the puppy. Hand the puppy to your partner, who says, "Are we ready yet?"

5. Weigh yourself and, while groaning about the weight, search for a pencil and paper (should have thought of that before).

6. Grab the puppy and weigh again. Calculate the difference between your joint weight and your single weight. "Um, 1XX.6 minus 1XX.8 is, dang, why didn't I bring a calculator out here? Well, about 6 pounds."

7. Stick your finger in the side of the puppy's mouth to pop open its jaw and clamp its mouth shut again after the medicine goes in. While waiting for the puppy to swallow (it's amazing how long they can go without swallowing), tell it how smart and adorable it is.

8. Put the puppy in the empty crate and shut the door.

9. Grab another puppy and repeat steps 6-8. Grabbing the next puppy gets tougher and tougher as the little devils retreat under the tractor, behind the rakes, and out into the asparagus patch.

10. Tell the imprisoned puppies, who are howling, to get over it.

11. Scratch your head. Was that 11 puppies we just dosed, or only 10? "I think the girl is missing."

12. Fruitlessly search the asparagus patch, under the shed, by the cow fence, down the driveway.

13. Take the (howling) puppies out of the crate one by one, checking their sex, while your partner counts.

14. Ten puppies, including the girl, got dosed. All we know about number 11 is that he's black. The black puppies look pretty much the same, so who knows if the missing one will ever get dosed? Better luck next time!

15. Take the scale back inside and disinfect it while your unlucky partner wipes worm medicine off his shirt.

Nobody Loves Me

Polly: Georgie, are you awake?
Georgie: Zzzzzzzz.
Polly: Wake up. We need to talk.
(Editor: Four words guaranteed to put any man to sleep.)
Georgie: Arfrmmp.
Polly: Don't you think Patch is getting kind of stuck on herself since she started sleeping indoors? I mean, it's all about Patch now. Isn't Patch darling cuddled up in my purple blankie? Isn't Patch a good girl? Does Patch want a biscuit in bed? Shhh, Patch is sleeping.
Georgie: Who's Patch?
Polly: It's just not fair.
Georgie: Zzzzzz.
Polly: Nobody loves me any more.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Jean & V. Plus 21

Who needs reality TV (I've never watched it anyway)? Jon & Kate Plus Eight? Octo-Mom? They got nothin' on us. We are Jean & V. Plus 21 now.

When I went to work at 8:30 this morning, we had the 4 adult dogs, 1 adult cat, 1 kitten, 4 big puppies, and 10 little puppies (although some of them were MIA - out exploring in our neighbor's pasture). When I came home at 5:30 p.m., V. (Mr. P.) announced that another puppy arrived this afternoon. He heard someone crying out by the vegetable garden, went to investigate, and thought it was our Little Brown Puppy (as opposed to our Big Brown Puppies, Meg and Teddy). He called out to it, and as the puppy ran towards him, Mr. P. realized that it was too big and fluffy to be our L.B.P. This little guy is maybe a week older than our Little Puppies, and bears a strong resemblance to (yet another) neighborhood stray, a golden retriever we call Goldie (hey, when you have this many animals, naming them ain't easy) whose prominent teats suggest that she's nursing a litter of her own somewhere.

So I had to go out the garage and investigate. Sure enough, an extra puppy, who I instantly named Butterball for reasons that should be evident in this photo. Butterball was skittish at first, but he helped himself to puppy kibble and water and is now settled in with the L.B.P.'s and the cats after a milk nightcap courtesy of Blackie. The L.B.P.'s have to chase Blackie quite aggressively to get her to nurse now. She probably saw Butterball, shrugged, and said, "Oh, hell, let's get it over with."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hi, Honey, I'm Home!

After hiding under the front porch for several days, Miss Kitty has lived in a cosy little blanket-lined-and-draped box on the porch for 2 weeks, with her own water bowl nearby, and meals served to her in a hamster feeding dish. She would venture about 3' from the porch into the yard, then go racing back to her familiar little world. But while comfortable there, she has been very lonely. She attracted Jinx's undying devotion (and the other dogs' undying appetite) by frequently hopping up on a table and putting her tiny paws on the living room window. She clearly wanted to come inside, but Mr. P. will not tolerate indoor cats (dirty paws on the kitchen counter), and I could not tolerate the thought of even one (never mind 7) dog chasing a cat indoors. It's crazy enough in here as it is just with the dogs chasing each other. What to do, what to do?

Well, today Miss Kitty found her own answer to that question. When Mr. P. was fiddling around in the garage, she got brave enough to tiptoe through the asparagus patch, across the driveway (which is mined with puppy poops), and into Puppy Playland. Was she afraid? Not a bit. She was absolutely delighted to discover 10 new playmates, and moved right in with them.

Blackie was a bit disconcerted at first, but Miss Kitty exerted her considerable charm and prevailed. So after a few hours of watching her play and nap with the puppies and Blackie, Mr. P. moved her sleeping box into the garage, where he set it on top of Smoky's crate. I'm not so sure Smoky approves of that arrangement, but I think he'll get over it. I mean, who could resist cuddling with this little girl?

Box-Hab for Dogs

Meg at the marvelous often posts photos of kitties who need rehab for their box addiction, but it's not just cats who need box-hab. Blackie needs it too, really bad. We tried giving her a bigger box to sleep in, but she prefers this one, possibly because she stole it from Smoky.
To the left of Blackie's box, you can see a slightly-chewed dog crate (which occasionally houses Blackie's puppies), and to the rear, you can see the truly awesome chaos of Mr. P.'s garage, which is so full of stuff that he might need one day that we cannot fit even a Mini Cooper in there. But the garage is not my territory. If I gave him my opinion about it, I would have to contribute to its upkeep, and that would involve cleaning up more puppy poop than I can handle right now.

Puppies, puppies, everywhere

This photo shows some of Blackie's puppies, just waking up from a nap. It's virtually impossible to photograph them when they're awake. Walking into the garage is like walking into a roiling sea of puppies. It's cute but dangerous, because there are puppy poops everywhere (and picking them up is not my job). They are very, very busy: exploring the garage, driveway, and the garden area next to the driveway; wrestling and growling; wagging their little tails; howling pitiful little puppy howls when they're hungry; pooping; piddling.
Our project for this weekend is to give them their first (overdue) dose of worm medicine. That promises to be a challenge and a half. It's hard enough giving the other dogs their monthly heart worm and flea medication doses (we do it in this order: black dogs, brown dogs, blonde dogs). I don't know how we're going to manage the new puppies. There are 6 black ones, 2 black & brown ones, one brown one. Let me see, did this black puppy get his dose already? Or was it that black one?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Can Jinx come out and play?

This photo is dark for reasons unknown to me (I am a terrible photographer), but I love it because of the contrast between the three doggy heads in the dark indoors and the one little kitty head in the bright outdoors.

Miss Kitty is saying, "Can Jinx come out and play?"

Miss Kitty, Miss Kitty, wherefore art thou Miss Kitty?

I first learned Juliet's query of Romeo (from Shakespeare's play, Romeo & Juliet) when I was in junior high school:

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

At the time, I thought she was peering out off her balcony, couldn't see Romeo in the dark, and wanted to know where he was. It wasn't until I took a graduate course in Shakespeare in college that I discovered that she was actually asking, for what purpose are you Romeo? Because Romeo was a Montague, Juliet a Capulet, and the Montagues and Capulets feuded unto death, so Juliet was agonizing over her bad luck at loving a Montague. Should she hate him just because he was a Montague, or beg him to "deny his name" so she could love him and be with him?

Something similar is going on at our house these days. Jinx spends hours at the window waiting for Miss Kitty to appear, Unlike the other dogs (who seem to think she's their next snack), he doesn't growl at her. He whines piteously, as if lovesick. But Miss Kitty is a Capulet (or should I say Catulet?), and Jinx a Montague. Is it only her name that is the enemy? What's in a name, anyway? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet...
(Note: in the upper lefthand corner of this photo, you can see the batik picture of three dogs howling that I bought in Malaysia years ago, which could be considered the Original Howling Dogs of 9 Dogs Howling.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A few words from Miss Kitty

And now for a few words from Miss Kitty:

Well, I think I'm here to stay. Yesterday Daddy took me to the vet and I got examined and shots and I met a very fat French bulldog who was much friendlier than Georgie. After Daddy brought me home, he went to Lowe's and bought all kinds of stuff so he can put insulation in the big puppies' house so they won't freeze to death this winter. But I have to sleep in a lousy cardboard box with an old blanket draped over it. I ask you, is that fair?

Mommy says it's better than living in a ditch and having to catch mice to eat. She tries to sound gruff but she gives me a bowl of milk every day and pets me and talks baby-talk to me. So I guess I'll be OK, once I get rid of these danged fleas.

It's official

It's official: Miss Kitty is indeed a girl, about 6-7 weeks old, which means she was only 4-5 weeks old when she was abandoned out here, and she weighs 1.2 pounds.

Mr. P. took her to the vet yesterday. Unless you insist on seeing a particular vet at this place, it's luck of the draw. We like some of the vets more than others (Dr. Betsy is our favorite), but they're all good. Mr. P. and Miss Kitty got to see Dr. Buckles, the vet who started this animal hospital (who we thought had retired). He is the quintessential kindly country animal doc. Dr. Buckles was astonished that Miss Kitty had survived at all because she probably wasn't even weaned when she was abandoned (I hope there is a place in hell where animal abandoners starve to death for all eternity). She is too young to be medicated for her fleas, so she'll just have to scratch for now.

Mr. P. mentioned the 10 new puppies, and Dr. Buckles said that it will be OK to give them away at 6 weeks old because mothers usually wean big litters early (Blackie is certainly doing her best to wean them already). But Mr. P. thinks 6 weeks is too young and wants to keep them until they're 8 weeks old. We'll see how he feels about that after another week or so of cleaning up ever-increasing piles of puppy poop.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Blackie reports:

Motherhood is making me crazy - just look at my eyes! I can't seem to get these danged puppies weaned. They're 3 weeks old already, what's their problem?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dogs on guard duty

On our front porch are two rustic (wood with the bark left on it) chairs and table. Miss Kitty's favorite place to perch is on one of those chairs, which makes her easily visible from the window next to my chair. Note that there is no cushion in the chair because of numerous pee and chewing incidents. Also note that someone has peed against one corner of the ottoman. Finally, note that five dogs are on guard duty, while Georgie sits on the ottomon saying, "What's all fuss about?"

You're the one who established this militia, Georgie. Aren't you going to take up your weapons (such as they are) and march into battle with your soldiers?

Just another piece of furniture

Poor Fritz. One day he was a prince of the castle. The next day, he was just another piece of furniture.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kitty Alert

To: The World

From: Georgie

Re: Kitty Alert

It has come to my attention that yet another cat has taken up residence in MY YARD. This cannot be allowed. Every member of my staff will report to my office at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow for a briefing meeting. Yes, I know that's Sunday, but this is an extreme threat. The well-being and safety of every citizen is at risk.

Effective immediately, you are under orders to shoot (or bite) to kill any unauthorized felines who venture into MY YARD.

Minus one puppy, plus one kitten

Yesterday morning we had 11 new puppies. Yesterday afternoon we had 10. We suspect that one of the puppies died (we hope it wasn't in the mouth of a coyote) and that Blackie disposed of it. It's sad, but somehow not surprising. Blackie doesn't have enough teats to feed them all, and a few of them are really scrawny.

And while I was at work last night, Mr. P. encountered a new arrival - a tiny black and white kitten who was crying somewhere in our asparagus patch. He put out water and kibble for it. We are hoping this kitten is a girl, so our resident male cat (Smoky, a.k.a. Cat Cat) won't kill it out of a territorial imperative, and are calling her/it Miss Kitty (until gender is proven otherwise). When I got home from work today, Mr. P., Blackie, Smoky and I went out looking for Miss Kitty and found her lurking under the front steps. With some coaxing, she ventured out to inspect a bumblebee that was doing the backstroke in her water dish and to sniff Blackie (who is about 1000 times bigger). Smoky just squatted in the distance and monitored everything.
Miss Kitty is much tinier than, and just as brave, as Smoky was when he arrived. Based on the way Mr. P. acts with her, we now have another mouth to feed. Outdoors.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A lick and a promise

My mom has always hated housework. She belonged to the "lick and a promise" school of housekeeping. If the entire house was coated with a 1"thick layer of dust, she would give it a lick (a few swipes with a Kleenex) and a promise ("I'll do a better job later").

Blackie seems to be taking the same approach with her latest litter of puppies. She nurses them and she protects them if you get close to them, but basically she's doing the bare minimum to get by. It's hard not to compare her mothering skills to Patch's, but Patch only had 4 babies to nurture and keep clean, while Blackie has 11. So Blackie's pups tend to be wet with urine and sticky with poop, and abandoned for hours while Blackie roams the neighborhood (she gets into terrible mischief when we try to confine her). We change their bedding once a day and towel off the pups as best we can, and keep Blackie supplied with food and water. It may not be as great a start in life as Patch's pups got, but it's still a heck of a lot better than living in a ditch.

Most of the pups' eyes are open now, though I don't think their vision is very clear yet.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Welcome, Lionel

Our West Coast correspondents, Fritz and Ziggy, have a new baby brother. He is a miniature dachsund: a lot of dog packed into a very small body. In this photo you see Fritz reluctantly sharing his pillow with Lionel.

Here's what Lionel had to say to our interviewer:

What's your full name? Lionel "Choo Choo" O'Leary
How old are you? 3 months
Who's your best friend? Everybody's my best friend. I'm a friendly guy!
Who's your worst enemy? My enemies are "whats". Stairs are really challenging for me because I'm so long and my legs are so short. I get stuck on each riser going up and down. And furniture. I can't jump on anything! It's not fair because Fritz and Ziggy are jumping dogs and they can go anywhere!
What's your favorite food? I like "big dog" food. I'm supposed to eat puppy food but I like whatever Fritz and Ziggy eat...and I like frogs!
What's your favorite toy? I have a stuffed doggie named "Big Boy and a lot of new toys that Fritz and Ziggy share with me. I'm partial to the green stuffed frog that crackles and the real green froggies in the back yard are really fun too. Did you know that frog legs taste just like chicken?
(Editorial comment: Here in Tennessee, frogs' legs are called "swamp chicken". You're not the only one who claims they taste just like chicken, but in my opinion they taste like swamp. Not that I've ever actually eaten or drunk a swamp)
What's your favorite time of day? Play time! Fritz and Ziggy are kind of old and need to sleep a lot so any time I can get them to play with me is my favorite time of day or night!
Can you do tricks? I can barely do stairs and you want tricks? Geez! Well, I can kind of sit when I'm told to but I still need practice. I can also run at the end of the long string my mom hooks to my collar. I don't know why they call it "going for a walk" when I have torun the entire way to keep up!
What's your motto in life? Put everything in your mouth before you judge whether you like it or not.
How do you feel about baths? No comment.
How many hours a day do you sleep? Not nearly enough for my mom and dad!
What are you afraid of? Me? Afraid? Well, I am kind of afraid of going down the long flight of stairs and when my mom claps her hands when she catches me peeing on the floor. That's scary!
Who do you love the most? I'm new here. I can't pick favorites!