30 March 2011

Chapter 6. Be a good dog

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The first day in the tall creatures' home was full of rustle and new events. I sniffed around and eventually found a nice spot to sleep, where the floor was a little softer. The Woman gave me some food. It smelled very good and I ate it quickly. I had never eaten anything so delicious and I kept following her for a while, hoping she would give me more.

I talked to the Cat again, who knew everything about the place I was in. He told me I was in a house, that the creatures were humans, or people, and that the one who had brought me there was the Man and the other one the Woman. They also had a Boy, who was always away and only came home at night.

The Cat's name was Ferdinand and he wasn't very friendly. He did talk to me though, because he said I needed to learn how to behave. "I will take you under my wing, if you will." He made a strange rolling noise in the back of his throat. "Remember not to get in trouble, you will make me look bad too." So I did my best to behave.
 
He also told me I might stay there for a long time and that I might not be able to see Mother any time soon. The thought made me incredibly sad, but I willed myself not to whimper and stay strong.

24 March 2011

Cuddling

She comes and pushes the edge of the blanket with her nose. It's like she is saying "let me in, it's cold". I lift the blanket and she sneaks underneath, rolling into a warm doggie pretzel.

She presses tightly against my belly, so close that sometimes I feel I can't breathe properly. She then swallows a few times and sighs. Shifts a little until she feels that she is in the perfect position for napping. Another sigh.

I don't know if Aschiuta comes to cuddle under the blanket with us because she is really cold or if she just enjoys the closeness. She is nevertheless welcome any time. Especially during the colder weather, we keep one another warm like that. A little sandwich. Call it a "hot dog" if you're feeling humorous.
 
Pretzel doggie, waiting for someone to cuddle with.
 
I take a small paw in my hand and dive my head under the covers to give her a small kiss on the head. She smells a bit like raspberries. She smells a lot like doggie. Her ears flutter in her sleep, tickled by the covers. She doesn't seem to mind burying her nose in there, without much air. I still leave the blanket raised a little.

I then fall asleep, hugging a pretzel doggie. Gnite. Sweet dreams.

20 March 2011

Bobita, our doggie neighbour

You might remember one of my first posts, On the streets. I talked about one of our friendliest stray dog neighbour, the dog from the other block. It's been a while and we've had time to get better acquainted with him.

Aschiuta and Bobita. The photo is a bit fuzzy.
 
A very smart doggie

He lives in front of the entrance to the block of flats next to ours. The people like him and take care of him. He has a nice little dog house and they also give him food and water. They even gave him a name, Bobita (the Romanian equivalent of Bobby), which seems to fit him quite nicely. I used to call him Don Juan, because of his advances to Aschiuta, but he has been a good boy lately.

Bobita in front of his home.
 
He has the best strategical position among the other strays: next door to the pet shop. A lot of people who buy dog food leave him some in the corner. I've even seen cat food around there, although there are almost no stray cats around.

Making friends

When we first met him, he was very curious about Aschiuta and tried to mate with her, but of course we didn't let him. For a while, he kept his distance, pretending he wasn't interested in her anymore. A few days ago, when we were out for a walk, he actually came after us all the way to the back of the parking lot. That was a very brave move, despite my "shoo"s and "go home"s. The whole pack in that area chased him away barking.

Even when we aren't with Aschiuta, he comes to greet us when we pass by. He's always sweet and lets us pet him on the head. He once came with me inside the pet shop, but the shopkeeper knew him and didn't make him leave. He was very well-mannered, sitting down and waiting for me to buy what I needed. He then followed me outside and I left some food for him in his usual spot.

The clearest photo Scorp could take for me. That is Aschiuta in the corner too.
 
Like brother and sister

Just imagine a black version of Aschiuta, with a big white patch on his chest and only the stub of the tail remaining. We always say they are like brother and sister, because they look alike (pointy ears and all), they act very much alike and get along really well. Aschiuta loves meeting him and always wants to play. Bobita will jump around her too, catching a sniff or two. I think they might even be around the same age.

This is a video Scorp took while on a walk with Aschiuta. Bobita and she are great friends and always play together.


That's the story of Bobita, our friendliest neighbourhood stray. I hope you'll get to hear more about him.

17 March 2011

Beauty is in the teeth of the beholder

Aschiuta most likely thinks I have great taste. Why else would she chew on my phones, my darts and my hair scrunchie? It's her way of telling me that she too shares my good taste in technology and accessories. And also that they taste good.

Phony excuses for chewing

I can't bring myself to understand why, all of a sudden, she grabbed my phones (first my nice expensive phone, then its cheaper replacement) and chewed them? My phone has always sat nicely on the nightstand or laptop table, happily unnoticed and unchewed.
 
"I can see the charger. Where did you hide that phone?"
 
Now, it seems she just can't part with it. I'm at the third phone now and I'm sure that if I left it within reach, she would devour it in the blink of an eye. That's why I keep it high out of her reach.

Duck à l'orange?

And my darts? They often stay on the laptop table, but today I went to feed the neighbour dog and when I was back, one of the shafts was chewed at the end and one of my new flights destroyed. I'd just changed the flights today, proud that the new ones worked a lot better (and were more stylish, with a duck on them). I even played a few games. Scorp did too and his darts were just a few centimeters away from mine on the table. What drove her to pick mine? Does she perhaps like duck?

All I can do now is keep a constant eye on her and keep any plastic item (with or without ducks) away from the little chewer. Especially if it's something of mine. I do have good taste, after all.

15 March 2011

Adopt the Internet Day. Open your eyes

Petfinder Adopt-the-Internet Day

Today, as most of the pet bloggers out there already know, is Petfinder's Adopt the Internet Day. For their 15th birthday, they are trying to get as many people to promote pet adoption on the Internet. On Facebook, Twitter, talking about an adoptable pet in particular or adopting in general.

Pet adoption sites in Romania

I haven't used Petfinder, since it's only for pets in the USA, but Romania has its own sites, Adoptii Caini and Adoptii Pisici and I recommend people to use these sites to find a new furry friend.

The situation of strays in Romania

I have already talked about the desperate situation in Romania. Our streets are full of stray dogs and the government has decided to euthanise them. There have been protests and you can read about this in my post Our strays in danger. We only hope for the best.

We are responsible

I want to make people think about this. Our streets are full of dogs, yet I see new breeder-bought dogs being pampered by their owners. We are killing our stray dogs by doing that. Overpopulation is not just "somebody else's problem". We can't just solve it by allowing other dogs to be killed when we take such good care of our beloved purebred Fido. Dogs here are often a fashion accessory and we often discriminate between "our dogs" and "street dogs".

Why don't people want to pick a dog off the street and take it home? Because it's too much trouble, it might have diseases, parasites. Well, that's what we have vets for. Our vet helped us a lot with Aschiuta's problems, even if we didn't have a lot of money.

Oh, and of course, it's a bit embarrassing to say "my dog is a mutt", rather than "my dog is a purebred [breed], we have a certificate and all". Honestly. Why should we discriminate like that? Dogs are dogs and they are all wonderful in their own way.
 
I won't even talk about the "puppy" and "cute" craze. It's bad enough to be known worldwide.

The vet that took care of Aschiuta at the dog hotel told us that people abandon their dogs there. They give false addresses and never return for their dogs. And at least they are considerate enough to send their dogs to a nice place, but others just leave them on the streets.

If you live in a place like that, think twice before buying a "ready-made" dog or cat. Pick one up off the streets or from a shelter. It might save a life or two.

Aschiuta's first boarding experience

We're back! And so is Aschiuta, of course. A couple of weeks ago I told you in the post Pooch away on holiday that we sent Aschiuta off to a boarding place for dogs. Thanks to everyone for your comments, we had fun, but so did pooch.
 
"What, home already? But I was having so much fun..."

Spoiled little doggie

You see, the place was nice and comfy and she had a huge space to run in. And she sure loves running. She also had a nice indoor space, the blankie and the food we brought for her. They even offered transportation and we were relieved that we didn't have to take her in a taxi again. She gets car sick and it's very troublesome taking her for a ride. We even prefer to walk most of the way.
 
The person who runs the place is actually a vet and was really nice to Asciuta. He walked her and played with her and I'm sure she was very spoiled. She didn't even miss us, just wanted to get more attention from her temporary caretaker.

And the happy owners (happy not to wonder what she chewed on)

Scorp called every day to check on her and we were happy she was having fun. Her first boarding experience was great and I only wish we could one day offer her even a small garden to play in.

I would recommend this place for other people who want to send their dogs boarding (although only available  in Bucharest, Romania), the site is Pensiune Canina Bucuresti - Aldo.

11 March 2011

Pooch away on holiday

We sent Aschiuta off to a dog hotel today. It was just on the spur of the moment, since we didn't think we'd have the money to go to a big darts competition. However, a couple of good friends offered to help us out, so here we are, about to go away for a couple of days... without Aschiuta.

Aschiuta... home alone

We have never been away from home for an entire day since we got Aschiuta and even a few hours alone would make her sad, anxious and bored. And what does Aschiuta do when she's bored? She chews on things. Lately, her newest obsession has been the headboard, which is made of wood and her teeth almost wouldn't want to part with it. Unfortunately, she also chews on wires sometimes and after she got a small shock from the TV cable, we were hoping she'd learned her lesson about not biting thin long plastic things. Yesterday though, she chewed on other, more dangerous cables connecting Scorp's monster sound system. We don't want to take any chances.
 
Even with the great new toy, wood is still yummier for Aschiuta. Hence her name.
 
Doggiesitting mom

I originally asked mom to doggiesit, but she was going out of town for the weekend too. After finally agreeing to take care of the crazy pooch, we had second thoughts. Yes, we can't trust mom with taking care of Aschiuta. She lives with us, but stays far away from her and has never walked her. She even insists on giving the doggie away to my grandpa, which we vehemently refuse.

Five star hotel? Does it have a jacuzzi?

We searched around on the internet and found a few dog hotels that offered nice accommodations, with a small indoor space for each dog that had heating through the floor. Which is in my opinion perfect for a dog (I'll tell you more about this later). They offered to walk her 2 or 3 times a day and I'm pretty sure Aschiuta will be comfortable there. We sent her the blanket on the bed, food, treats, her toys, even "how to" instructions in her medical dossier. She also loves meeting new people and dogs, so if the caretaker will become friends with her, I hope she won't miss us... too much.

Maybe the blankie will make her feel more like home.

Missing silly pooch already

However, waiting to hop in the car and leave, we can't help missing her already. Nobody to greet us at the door. Nobody to jump and run around my legs and sniff everything in sight. We can leave the door open without the blonde hurricane darting out.

Hope she'll be ok there. Take care Aschiuta!

9 March 2011

Our strays in danger

Often, too often, I feel sad about the cruelty and narrow-mindedness of my countrymen. Lately, they are planning to kill stray dogs in masses, because of the overpopulation. It has been done before and they are planning to do it again, only this time a lot of people have raised to protest against this atrocity.

A photo from one of the protests. From www.adoptiicaini.ro.

What the pro-euthanasia people have to say
 
There is a phobia (rational or not) of dogs, especially stray dogs. People mistakenly believe that these are savage beasts, intent on harming humans at any given chance. They often quote the case of a woman bitten by stray dogs who eventually died because of the wounds. They claim it should be a "survival of the fittest" and that for one person, they have to commit genocide.

Of course, stray dogs will leave a lot of dirt on the streets and it is unpleasant. Taking care of them in shelters costs quite a lot, so most of them are still out there, in packs, trying to survive. Every person who feeds these dogs is frowned upon (at least).

What the sensible minds respond to all this

I myself can say that the majority of stray dogs will not attack people unprovoked. None of the ones I've seen (and there are plenty in my neighbourhood) are violent. Most are frightful, which is understandable, and some are even friendly. The only problems we've had were a menacing bark at Aschiuta from dogs protecting their territory. They rarely get close and try to bite her and if I'm alone, they don't even flinch.

If we can accept having dogs on our streets, population control can be done through spaying and neutering stray dogs. It is actually cheaper than euthanising the dogs (sterilising costs 15 euros, euthanasia 62 euros). I'm sure readers from more civilised countries agree that is the best solution.

Moreover, the whole action is illegal, contradicting the animal rights here in Romania.

What can be done?

There have been two protests against the euthanasia law the past couple of weeks. There is also a petition addressed to the Parliament, asking for the law not to be passed. The petition can be signed online here.

Adoption is always a great solution. I cannot stress it enough. Our streets are full of stray dogs needing homes, still I see almost only breeder-bought dogs being walked by their owners. Aschiuta was once on the street too and if we had the means to, we'd adopt another dog too. What we did, others can do too.

I have heard about a lot of programs for free or low cost spaying/neutering. We talked to one of the shelters here about trying to get our neighbourhood dogs sterilised this spring. I do hope we'll still have what to spay and neuter...

6 March 2011

Bath time for doggie

Drowning buggers

When we first got Aschiuta off the streets, she was full of fleas and ticks. We had to give her a bath, but the poor pup was crying because of all the skin problems she had. She was clawing at us, desperately trying to get away from the water basin. Good thing I had Scorp and our flatmate to help me out.

The parasites didn't all die in the baths, but I'd say we decimated a good deal of them. Of course, the vet gave her the drops that killed the rest of the bugs. We were also warned that those bugs were quite dangerous and could carry disease. It's a good thing that almost none of the parasites jumped on us. I was carrying Aschiuta in my arms for hours to the vet and back and none wanted to climb on me. I guess they were used to doggie blood.

Skin care

Another problem we had was a bad allergy Aschiuta got from food (although we didn't know the cause of that at the time). The vet advised us to give her a bath using sulfur soap and rinse her using apple vinegar. Some of you might remember my older post, The Vet, where I talk about this problem and others Aschiuta had.

Wiping away muddy paw prints

Today, we still use the sulfur soap. We also have hot water all the time, so we wash her with lukewarm water, not too hot and not too cold. She also has her very own towel. In fact, I am the one who washes her, Scorp does so only from time to time.

Aschiuta is very calm when she's in the bath tub. She usually sits still, folds her ears back and looks very docile. I usually only wash her paws after going out and she has learned to raise each paw as I put the shower on it. I soap her paws well and then rinse the soap thoroughly. After that, it's towel drying and she will sit inside the room for a while. Drying is quite uncomfortable for her, but the blow drier is worse. She would lick the water off her paws and sit in bed for a while.

After that, she's her usual happy self.

Hopping away happily (the towel is just a tug toy).

I'm quite proud of how nice she is during bath time. It helps, since we usually walk in the mud and I have to wash her after each outing. Stay clean everyone!

1 March 2011

Happy 1st of March!

Today is the 1st of March, the first day of spring (at least according to the calendar). In Romania, we celebrate this day as Martisor (a diminutive for March). Women and girls receive flowers and little trinkets adorned with a red and white lace (this is also called martisor).

Our little symbol of spring.

It is a nice holiday and all of us wear our trinket(s) to school or work. I bought some from my mom, Scorp's mom and a couple of good friends.

Aschiuta seems to have been in style today. Her little winter coat is red with a white fur collar and padding. I managed to make her stay still for a few photos.

A very nice side-view.

Notice the "hugging" flaps.

The classic "give paw" pose.

Have a beautiful sunny spring everyone!

Taking care of the doggie economy-style

Scorp and I are getting by on one salary at the moment and Aschiuta is a third (albeit smaller) mouth to feed in our little room. We often have to cut down on costs as much as possible. And it's not hard to take care of a dog economically while also providing for all its needs.
 
Of course, some things can't be found at lower prices and good quality, such as some medicine or vaccines, but for the rest of the stuff, you don't have to spend a lot of money.

Food

The big issue for everyone. After trying a lot of options, we've realised a few important things:
  • Cooked food can be cheaper than commercial dog food, but doesn't last as long and it might not cover all the necessary nutrients. As a compromise, we also give Aschiuta other things, like chicken, raw bone, cheese or sour cream (the occasional milk is ok too, but can cause stomach problems) and some fruits and vegetables (carrots, peppers and apples are her favourites). We give her a little of the food we eat if it's something that will be ok for her. Rice, oven roast chicken and soup are quite ok. You can find good recipes for homemade dog food and treats all over the internet; I'll recommend Doggy Dessert Chef (the writer is very careful about what a dog shouldn't eat).
  • The cheapest dog food isn't always the best. There are some good cheap brands too though (our vet recommended a few brands to us) and we've found out that we can afford to buy relatively good quality food (stuff like Acana, Pro Pac etc.)
Bedding

We used to try and make a small bed for Aschiuta from a cardboard box and some old clothes. Aschiuta though had other plans. Once she grew old (and bold) enough, she started sleeping in bed with us or on the couch.
Very comfy.

A wooden crate and old clothes (you can even make a pillow out of them) can be a good solution, depending on the size of the dog. Aschiuta kept outgrowing her carton beds.

Bowls for food and water

Scorp bought a plastic food bowl from the pet store, which we used for water. Other than that, we used big plastic ice cream boxes. Talk about recycling, right? My mom keeps all of those boxes, so I thought I'd put them to good use.
 
Unfortunately, Aschiuta chews on plastic things, so after a few of the makeshift bowls and the pet store one being chewed to pieces, we decided to not leave them within her reach. She has learned to ask for water too.

Bath

I'm still using a sulfur soap for doggie baths, since the vet advised me to give Aschiuta baths with sulfur soap and apple vinegar rinse when she had her skin problems. We don't use the vinegar anymore, but the sulfur soap does its job well. It's not expensive and it doesn't smell appealing enough for her to try to eat any of it. In fact, Scorp claims it smells too bad and Aschiuta's docile manner during bath time might be because she also hates the smell.

Toys

Another hot topic. Well, here we've improvised a lot. We have the famous old socks that she loves to play with.
Aschiuta helping the sock do some stretching exercises.

The two things we bought were a rope toy and tennis balls. But if you can find a sturdy rope, you can make a toy for your dog too. I've also read a lot of interesting ideas for makeshift treat dispensers. All you have to do is use your imagination.
Ever since she was a puppy, she's always loved her tennis ball.

Clothes

Not all dogs need clothes, but for the short-haired ones, it is a good idea to have a jacket on during the winter. Aschiuta's jacket was made out of one of my old t-shirts.
 
Not quite in fashion, but still necessary (saved us from red spots all over the place).
 
There are a lot of ideas out there about reusing old clothes to make jackets (or other clothes) for your dog. At Sew DoggyStyle, you can find some interesting ideas about making doggie clothes and accessories.

And, Aschiuta was lucky and got a nice winter coat from Scorp's mom for Christmas. Bought, but we're planning on getting the design idea, buying material and making others ourselves.

Spaying or neutering

There are programs for free or low-price cat or dog spaying or neutering. All you need to do is get informed. Consult your vet too for the best possibilities. We are waiting until spring and will spay Aschiuta.

Well, these are the tips I can offer for keeping your dog healthy and happy without emptying your pocket.
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