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Pets (12 posts)
In October, you were delighted by the story of Mr. T, and many of you shared that you gained a new perspective on having a rat as a pet. But before you decide to bring one home, rat expert and director of adoptions at the San Francisco SPCA Laura Routhier says there are a few things you should know.
"People tend to think rats are dirty, but they can easily be trained to use a litter box," she says. "In fact, they groom themselves almost as much as a cat." Routhier recommends getting your rat neutered or spayed, to help avoid tumors—or an unexpected litter.
She also suggests giving a rat in need a home by adopting from an animal shelter or rescue group (find one near you at adoptapet.com). "And you might want to consider which gender is better for you," Routhier says. "Females are on the go and full of energy, while males are mellow and love to be cuddled."
Finally I discovered the locus of these zany strollers: the no-kill animal shelter nearby, which uses volunteer dog walkers to exercise animals awaiting adoption. Of course! No wonder the people were so psyched. There was the whiff of infatuation about them; the pure satisfaction of doing a good thing. The volunteers, in the simplest way, were being a blessing to those dogs, and it was lending them a glow that transcended the orneriness of their assigned mutts.
Today, another one: a 20-something guy with a rowdy lab mix. The dog spotted something -- a squirrel, or a rabbit, or a Ghost of Milkbone Past -- and took off sprinting. The guy struggled to hold the dog back and I thought, "I hear that, brother, I know what you're going through." I've had dog walks like that, but I've also had life moments like that -- when it's all zooming away and you're trying desperately to hold it back. Then the guy gave the dog a big, goofy grin, and did what we should probably all do more more often: he took off running. Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like the man and the dog shared a knowing look, and then, barking and laughing, they raced down the street.
Insanely Nice Things You Can Say to Anybody
Making Joy a Goal
When Mack opened her suitcase 10 hours later, in Florida, there was Bob-bob, "a little shaken but still purring," according to The Orlando Sentinel. You have to love a happy ending like that. But you also have to love the video on the Sentinel's site, where Ethel and her daughter discuss Bob-bob's adventure, adding that he was never the smartest cat. Well, who needs common sense when you have such good luck? After all, Bob-bob made it through the airline's security checks, X-rays and all. Think about that the next time you get stopped by security for having a slightly-not-teensy-enough bottle of hand sanitizer in your bag.
A Fashion Show With a True Cat Walk
Why We Love our Cats (And Dogs)
The Airport Adventures of Jack the Cat
As an animal lover, I like to tell my dog about the interesting pet-related stories I come across on the Internet. "Look at this hard-working, life-saving, diabetes-sniffing Golden Retriever," I'll tell the snoring mound on the floor. Or else, "Wow, check out Faith, the amazing two-legged dog who learned to walk upright!" as my mutt diligently licks leftover applesauce off the baby's high chair. I just think she might be interested to know that dogs have amazing potential, and not just as farting foot-warmers. (Although I will say she excels at that.) But Lemon Pie is one dog I couldn't even tell my own under-acheiving pup about without getting choked up.
Lemon Pie lost his front paws in a uniquely horrifying way -- according to the BBC, they were chopped off by a Mexican gang as (brace yourself) practice. But thanks to some kind souls, Lemon Pie was rescued by an animal shelter and fitted with, amazingly, two prosthetic legs. You just have to watch the video, and see Lemon Pie galloping along on his new legs, to believe it. This dog is the picture of a survivor, and the people who rescued him, who saw fit to raise the $8000 for his artificial paws, portraits of what is right with the world.
Helping Victims of Domestic Abuse By Saving Their Pets
Saying Goodbye to a Furry Best Friend
Amazing Animal Updates
Then I learned about the Brooklyn parrots. Yes, they are really parrots: bright green birds occupying the scrappy trees and power lines of Brooklyn. Part of me wants to leave the story there, imagining that the tropical poultry packed up one day and immigrated to the big city out of some birdy mix of courage, ambition, and confusion.
Turns out, there are also colonies of Monk Parakeets (most likely escaped pet birds) in Chicago, Florida, and elsewhere -- this site even tracks new sightings of feral Monk Parakeets. Opinion is divided on the hearty ex-pats: some call them invasive species (think "weeds of the bird world") and believe we should eradicate these non-native fowl. Others, like the aspiring ornithologist behind BrooklynParrots.com, celebrate the injection of tropical wildlife in our, let's face it, largely unnatural setting. (Visit this Brooklyn parrots blog for some theories on how they arrived in the city -- no, they didn't take the train, clutching suitcases, hoping to make it on Broadway.)
The thing is, I think that many of us are in our hearts Brooklyn parrots. We find ourselves ostensibly all grown up, in a place, doing a thing, living a life. And sometimes we are up all night, squawking into the darkness, wondering how we have come to be here. (It's so much colder than we imagined! Or -- so much hotter!) With any luck we find other refugees like ourselves and set up a colony, populating our nests with newfound family members whose lime-colored feathers remind us of a distant, half-remembered home. As the strange menu of my local diner plaintively asks, "Where else would you go?"
So sing on, Brooklyn parrots, you wonderful oddballs!
A Guide to Love in Any Species
Using Home As a Way to Connect
How to Reach Out of Loneliness
Finn was rescued by Harnden 14 years ago, and since had become the journalist's go-to friend and companion; accompanying him on road trips and jobs, watching him write his articles and books from the cozy dog bed in the corner of Harnden's office. Finn provided cover when Harnden was traveling and didn't want to be recognized as a journalist, helping him to blend in at bomb scenes and marches, waiting outside while Harnden interviewed, for example, an IRA godfather. Harnden writes, "We had travelled a long way together, from Belfast to Washington to Israel to London and ultimately to the suburbs of northern Virginia but it was clear his journey was over."
Lately the dog had been sick, transformed from his energetic, adventurous self; Harnden writes heartbreakingly of carrying Finn up and down stairs and listening to him yelp with pain. When the time came, Harnden had his vet put Finn to sleep, as he held him in his arms: "I had anticipated the day Finn died being one of the worst of my life. What I hadn't anticipated was the utter grimness of the next day, the first one without him."
Today, June 22 is, as I'm sure I don't need to remind anyone, Take Your Dog To Work Day. Please don't tell my dog, Quimby. She is, if you squint, a lovable mutt, but her proclivity for face-licking renders her palatable to extreme-dog-lovers only. Should your canine companion be of a mellower disposition, you might want to learn more about Take Your Dog To Work Day at the official site, which includes tips for TYDTWD success and, obviously, the official TYDTWD song. (Warning: There are totally dog barks involved. And it's pretty catchy.)
This may seem like a newfangled phenomenon, but dogs have actually been getting involved in people's toils for decades. For example, did you know that dogs helped the Allied Forces during World War II? Whether you are a pet-owner who regularly scoops piles of animal-hair off your floor and jokes, originally, "We could make sweaters out of this stuff!" or just a connoisseur of adorable fluffy animals, please enjoy this vintage reel from the awesome British Pathé:
So there you have it. Dogs don't have to be useless couch-warming face-lickers (ahem, Quimby). This Friday, let your dog feel useful, whether you're taking her to work, enlisting her in a cause, or letting her do her best job of all: being your buddy.
Dog-Inspired Rules to Life By
Why Raising a Dog Changes You
Life Lessons from Pet Dogs
But what happens to these dog-babies when the young couples don't marry and have actual-babies? What happens when the couples break up? Marisa Meltzer and her boyfriend found themselves in this predicament when they split up, and decided to share custody of their dog, Chauncey. Meltzer writes for GOOD about how at first it worked out perfectly -- they lived across the street from one another and shared the dog. The dog was well-cared-for and happy, and Meltzer could sneakily keep tabs on her ex. Then her ex-boyfriend moved in with his new girlfriend, across town. Meltzer writes, "Only when Kevin stopped turning up in my apartment each afternoon was I able to understand that putting someone else’s needs first—the dog’s—required me to more closely monitor my own needs, too." Sharing the dog kept the two linked, which as anyone who's ever had an ex knows is part-nice and part-exhausting. But in the end, it was the dog's needs that allowed Meltzer to move on. She couldn't moon over her ex's new life. After all, she had a dog to take care of.
What a lucky dog-baby, first of all, to have people who love him so much. And also: how lucky we pet-owners are, to have these sweet animals around, teaching us lessons in forgiveness and moving on, helping us to practice varying emotional states, and being gracious enough, even after they've gone from being dog-babies to just plain dogs, to snuggle our feet on chilly evenings.
Loving Our Pets
Every time I talk to her I make some very awkward reference to it; yesterday we were chatting about weekend playdates, and I was saying, "Ugh, my husband is WORKING this weekend, so the kids need stuff to do, and I'm so TIRED," and then I immediately corrected myself, "But jeez, sorry, I shouldn't complain to you of all people!" and launched into a rousing round of I-don't-know-how-you-do-its. She smiled and said, very calmly, very magnanimously, "Oh, everyone has something." [something! A husband in Bahrain is "something!"] "And anyway I don't like when people don't complain -- it takes away my right to complain when I need to." I could have sworn the sunlight formed a halo around her hair.
I maintain that I don't know how these army wives do it, since I am pretty convinced the world has ended when the dishwasher stops working and my husband isn't around to make the call to fix it. But they do, and some of them, like Jessie Knadler, even find the time, energy, and humor to blog about it. Jessie Knadler's great blog, Rurally Screwed, shares stories of how she (a former New York City magazine editor) has been raising her baby daughter alone on a farm in Virginia, while her husband has been deployed in Afghanistan for the past year. This blog is seriously addictive reading -- as is, I'm guessing, her new memoir. Most recently, Knadler has been sharing the story of her husband's homecoming (yay!) and the unexpected new family member he brought with him: Solha, the dog he rescued from Afghanistan. I can't imagine what Knadler has gone through this past year, or how it is to reunite with a husband after a year, but this dog I can wrap my mind around. Because she is crazy. Crazy dogs I get.
Those clever people at the Huffington Post have discovered 15 other life lessons you can learn from your dog. There is some really good advice tucked in here. Napping, which dogs so excel at, is good for everyone. Gathering information about a new colleague before beginning a relationship is also a good idea, provided you eschew the canine behind-sniffing aspect. Find something you love and do it as much as possible. Even if that something is playing Frisbee, or watching squirrels out the window. Hey, dogs don't judge, and neither do we.
Check out the slide show for more good advice and, perhaps more importantly, pictures of the cutest dogs in the world.
How Dogs Became Man's Best Friend
Fight Stress With Puppies