We’ve finally found our niche, Part II … From Urban to Rural with dogs

If you haven’t already, check out Part I before continuing. Or not.

As we turned down our little Neck that would lead us to our new home, my eyes widened and my jaw may have dropped a little bit.  It looked like heaven.  A house here, a field there and there and there, another house here, a thick grove of trees on both sides of the road, a little house there, another field, and then we came upon our little bungalow.  It was, and still is, the cutest little place on a property that is magnificent!  I could hardly wait to let the dogs out to run in this wide open area!  They already had some of that at my parents’ house, but this was home!  They would get to run here every day.  But…

…crap!  There are deer all over the place.  Foxes.  Raccoons, opossums, muskrats (all things my dogs would love to chase!)…and TICKS.  I already knew there’d be fleas and was prepared for them.  But the ticks.  Yikes.

I arrived, with the dogs and cats, to our new home in early December.  The weather was cool here, with highs in the 50s & 60s and lows in the 40s and 30s.  It was really pretty nice considering what it was like when we left Northern Illinois.  There were deer everywhere.  In the midwest we contend with deer all year long.  In California, we didn’t have to deal with deer, or many other wild mammals for that matter, at all.  Those critters stayed in the mountains and foothills near the area we lived.  When we’d go hiking in the foothills we’d come across a jack rabbit here and there, maybe evidence of a coyote, but otherwise all of the wildlife we’d happen upon was avian, arachnid or reptilian.

Neither ticks nor fleas, or mosquitoes for that matter, were an issue for us in the desert.  Probably one of only 4 good things about living in the desert, in my opinion.  We didn’t have to worry about flea and tick prevention, and heartworm prevention was not a top priority either.  I would keep some Frontline Plus on hand to use if I knew we’d be making a trek up the mountains or to the East.  I’d have Heartgard Plus on hand to use if we would be traveling to the midwest.

After being on the Eastern Shore of Virginia for one entire week I learned that I had trained my dogs well in terms of their recall.  Nearly every single time we would let them out to eliminate or explore, there would be some critter worth investigating.  All it took was a “EH!” and they’d stop dead in their tracks.  So the wildlife issue was not an issue at all.  But the tick issue?  We were not only finding ticks on our dogs, but we were picking them of off ourselves every day.  Yikes!  Thank goodness I stocked up on some Frontline Plus before I left California.  It worked well.  I’d find a few well-fed ticks on Chompers and C.J. every now and again, but mostly they were dead or dying.  But they’re still just freaking gross.  Chris found one on him one day in a place that you would’t go searching for one.  It freaked him out so much that he had me shave his head shortly afterward, worried that there might be ticks hiding in his mane.  He had long hair for the majority of our time in CA, got a decent hair cut just prior to his interview here in VA, but he had never ever had a complete buzz cut.  Welcome to the boonies city boy!

Chris already had a job lined up prior to our relocation.  I had sent out resumes to all of the local veterinary clinics once I learned we’d be moving.  I had gotten a response from only one of 5 veterinary clinics on the Eastern Shore before I left CA.  They wanted me to fill out an application.  Chris went and picked one up for me, as I was still in CA and wouldn’t be leaving for a few weeks.  He filled it out to the best of his ability.  When I finally arrived on the Eastern Shore, I called and scheduled an interview at the animal hospital.

Just a few days after I arrived I visited the animal hospital that I had been in contact with.  I had a nice tour of the facility, met all the staff and then sat and chatted with the practice owner for a few minutes.  It all seemed promising, then I was told they didn’t have any positions open at that time but they would keep my application on file for 6 months.  I was a bit bummed, but I still had plenty of unpacking to do to keep me busy for a little while.    It really was a shame because the practice was less than 3 miles from where we were renting.  It would have been an ideal place for me to work!  Alas, I had to keep searching.

A month had gone by and, though I wasn’t desperately in need of employment, I was ready for a job.  I had settled into the house, unpacked what was unpackable for the short term that we’d be living there, learned to navigate my way from home to all of the important places:  DMV, grocery story, post office, hardware store, etc.  I figured out right away that I’d be spending a LOT of time shopping on Amazon.  I continued to look for work that I might be able to tolerate.  My heart and soul wanted to continue to work in the animal care field, but after having been ignored or denied employment at every veterinary facility and animal care facility (SPCA & Animal Control) I started to pick up applications for factory work and retail work. Then I received a call from the animal hospital that seemed interested in me from the beginning.

There was a recent and unexpected opening at the animal hospital and they hit me up because of my experience (ie:  I wouldn’t require much training).  I hadn’t had any other offers at that point so I took the position…as a Receptionist.  Did I want to be a receptionist?  No, because I’m a technical person, not a people-person.  But I did know how to field phone calls and triage patients at the front desk quite well, and I really needed a job so I took it.  The pay was okay, and it was more than the nothing I had been making, so I was all in!

Something was meant to be, because I was a receptionist there for maybe 6 months until I got repositioned as a veterinary assistant.  I double-dutied for the longest time, but now am able to keep to the technical stuff more, which makes me happy-er.  I am still willing to fill in on occasion when needed as a customer service specialist.  Truth is, whether you’re a receptionist, a vet assistant, a licensed vet tech, or a veterinarian…you’re still a customer service specialist!  I just prefer that title to be lower on my list of responsibilities, if you get my drift.  I went into animal science for the animals.

Again, I digress.  So I got a job!  And it was something that made me happy.  I am still there, if that tells you anything.

To be continued…

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HOT TOPIC: Pets in Cars

Over the past 10+ years pet owners have been spending more time traveling with their pets, especially those with dogs.  There are numerous explanations for this, with the primary reasons being that 1) pets are becoming more a part of the family and 2) communities are becoming more pet friendly (to accommodate for reason 1).  Many restaurants now allow leashed, well-behaved canines in their outdoor areas (as allowable by law).  More and more hotels are becoming pet friendly which makes it easier to travel long distances with pet companions.  Many neighborhoods have Dogipot Stations available to make clean up easy and convenient (though I personally do not find carrying around a small thing of doggie doo doo bags to be cumbersome).  It’s easier than ever to let Fido jump in the backseat of the car for a ride-along!

We must always remember to be mindful of our surroundings at all times when we have our pets with us.  Are there other animals in the area that might not be friendly, or that my pet might like to chase?  Is there something dangerous along our walking path (broken glass, chemicals, delicious trash)?  Is the temperature suitable for my pet?  There are several things to take into consideration, just as there are when you travel with your children.  For this post we are going to focus on the temperature factor.

It’s that time of year when the sun rises high in the sky and sets well into the late evening hours. With increased sunlight hours comes increased outdoor temperatures. We have all kinds of options for keeping cool such dressing loosely, turning on a fan, going for a swim, or relaxing in the air conditioning.  More daylight hours also tends to lead to increased activity outdoors.

I don’t know about all of you, but when the weather’s nice I enjoy outdoor activities with my dog.  We enjoy running, frisbee fetching, spending time at the beach or the neighbor’s pool, visiting with friends, boating, kayaking, or just hanging out and relaxing at the park.  Sometimes when we are traveling with our pets we need to make a pit-stop.  The gas tank might be getting low, you realized you forgot to pack water for the adventure that lies ahead, we need ice to fill up the coolers, or we just need to run into the grocery store and grab a bag of chips to go with the sandwiches that we packed for the picnic.

In the event that you need to leave your pet in the car for a short period of time, be aware that the temperature within your vehicle will increase over time.  The following is a chart that shows how the temperature of the interior of an enclosed vehicle in the sun changes over time.

How the interior temperature of an enclosed vehicle increases in the sun over time

Once again, this is the temperature increase of an enclosed vehicle in the sun.  If you must leave your pet in the car to run into the store, please keep the following safety tips in mind:

  • Park in a well shaded area.
  • Keep the windows down at a level that is safe for your pet.  If you have a dog that is likely to jump out of an open window, don’t leave the window down all the way!  If you have a cat that can squeeze through a cracked window, just crack it to a point at which your cat can’t escape.
  • Keep your vehicle running with the air conditioning on.
  • If your pet is in a carrier, or if you have a pet that is well-behaved on a leash, you can likely get by with taking your pet with you into the store.
  • Keep your pit-stops brief.
  • If you have a tendency to get side-tracked, have diarrhea of the mouth when you meet people in the store that you know (or are just meeting), or if your quest for 2 or 3 items often turns into a cart-full, I recommend you never make a pit-stop while your pet is with you.

It is safe for you to travel with your pet, even in the summer months.  Just be mindful and keep any time away from your pet to an absolute minimum.  After all, you wanted to spend time with your pet, didn’t you?  Then do just that!

A message to everyone; pet owners, pet lovers, PETA, HSUS, Animal Welfare Institutions, Animal Rescue Organizations, Animal Control Officers, etc.  I understand that there is a concern for pets that are left alone in vehicles, especially in the extreme temperature months.  Should they be left in vehicles unattended?  Probably not.  Can they be left unattended in vehicles safely?  Absolutely.

If you happen upon an unattended animal in a vehicle, look at the time on your watch/smartphone/car clock.  If the animal appears to be in distress, contact the local animal authorities ASAP!  NEVER take it upon yourself to break a car window or break into a vehicle with an animal in it.  For one, you don’t know that the animal inside isn’t dangerous toward strangers!  Also, you may have just pulled up beside the vehicle as the owner was just entering the store.  A barking, whining or panting dog does NOT indicate distress (at least in terms of temperature).  Perhaps that dog suffers from separation anxiety and it acts out whenever the owner is out of sight (hence why the owner takes it with her regularly).

Be aware of your pet’s comfort level.  If you have a bracheocephalic breed (bulldog, pug, boxer, shih tzu) or an obese pet that struggles to breathe in 70 degree temps at 60% humidity, don’t travel with it if you have to leave it alone in a car for even 5 minutes.  If you have a puppy under 4 months of age or a senior pet over 10 years of age, don’t travel with it if you have to leave it alone in a vehicle for more than 10 minutes.  If you have a dog with severe separation anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to manage the behavior.

Once again, this is a topic open for discussion.  Please leave your constructive criticism or comments below.  It’s impossible to hit upon every possible scenario when it comes to pets in vehicles, so lets discuss it!

RIP Sweet Little Penelope

In early 2000 my significant other and I moved to the desert of Southern California. He was fresh out of Grad School and scored a pretty cool gig at Edwards AFB. I was working on getting some experience in the Animal Care field and got a job as a Veterinary Assistant at a nearby animal hospital.

After several months at my new job one of my coworkers, Jamie, had taken on two foster cats.  The owner of the cats was moving and couldn’t take them along so her friend, Jamie, said she’d take them and find homes for them.  Jamie asked me if I’d be interested and I emphatically declined.  I was NOT a “cat person” and had absolutely NO desire to bring even ONE cat into my home!  So I said I’d take one and foster it till it could be placed.  Call me a pushover.

When I let this cat out in our apartment, she acclimated quite rapidly.  Then Chris came home and she just thought he was the best thing in the world!  She loved all over him and told him how wonderful she thought he was.  Then he named her.  Penelope.  And she took her place in our home…our first pet!

Young Penelope, circa 2004

Young Penelope, circa 2004

For 14 years she shed hair on our lives.  Purred in our laps.  Gave us sandpaper kisses.  Tickled us with her whiskers.  She did whatever she wanted to do and allowed us to be a part of her life.  She was a very personable cat and loved people (as long as it was in HER own home).  She was not fond of other animals but tolerated her housemates, including me.  Chris was always her favorite!

Over the course of the last 2 years of her life, Penelope was losing weight and slowing down.  But she was still happy and full of life!  By May of this year however, she went downhill rapidly and we had to make the most difficult decision any pet owner ever has to make.  It was time and she let us know that she was ready.

Pets are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  I don’t remember who coined that but it is 110% true.  And as difficult as it is to make such decisions for our beloved pets, it will never discourage me from bringing another into our home.

We miss you sweet little princess Penelopeeperpie.  She is the reason I am a “cat person” today.

Penelope 2015

Penelope 2015