Traveling Dog Lady: November 2016

Thursday, November 17, 2016

It's #NationalBlackCatDay

In celebration of #NationalBlackCatDay, I'm re-posting the story of my beloved black cat, Mr. Kitty.

Today, I have Tux who is black and white; and Cali who is a Tortie cat, (mostly black with brown and white). So, no black cats with me today, but Mr. Kitty has always been with us in spirit.

Mr. Kitty took a piece of my heart and never let go.  I think of him every single day.  His is the first story I wrote for the k2k9 blog.

Mr. Kitty

Mr. Kitty -- the Reincarnated Dog

In 1991, about 20-some-odd cats came to our care at the farm.   These 20-odd cats were promptly deposited into our barn, having been driven in a VW hatchback several hours from their New Jersey home where three times that many cats had been living in one house.

Of the 20-plus cats, one very young male cat made himself an immediate friend to us.  Much to the chagrin of many of the people living at the farm.  These folks could've been described as "anti-cat people."

At the time, I was a "cat person", having not yet adopted my two dogs Hobie and Hector, who would come to us many years later.  Oh sure, I had my faithful Timba, and we had Annie and a few others, but during the early 1990s, I most assuredly and most definitely loved cats more than dogs.  To have 20 cats deposited on my doorstep was a dream come true.  I was in love with every last one of them.

This one young male cat was very small, very skinny, and rather sickly.  Someone called him "Skinny Bops" -- I mean even people who hated cats couldn't help talk about this cat and give him a nickname!  That's how likable he was.  "Skinny Bops", later to be re-named "Mr. Kitty" by me, was originally mistaken to be a female.  He was so tiny and sprightly, and he just seemed rather feminine.

Many of the anti-cat people were not happy about the cats.  They wanted to have the cats destroyed, despite the well-known fact that their previous owner was promised these cats would be cared for for the rest of their lives, and despite the fact that the cats had been saved from certain destruction -- at great personal expense -- in the form of an old woman's broken heart.  The woman loved those cats as if they were her own flesh and blood.  She felt responsible for them.  She made us promise they would not be destroyed.  We promised.  They would not be.  They would not  be destroyed.

The first cat to be considered for euthanasia was "Skinny Bops".  He (she, at the time) was very sickly and had a giant bald spot on his (her) side which he (she) would lick for hours on end.  He (she) wouldn't eat, and seemed to be wasting away.  People talked about having this particular cat "put to sleep" at length.  We stood in the way.  This was our most favorite of all the cats that had been delivered to us that day.

We started noticing, when cars pulled in the driveway of the farm, the dogs Timba and Annie (and other visiting dogs) would run up and greet the people arriving.  Along with them, every time, was the little black cat.  I started declaring that he (she) was not just a cat.  He (she) was a very special cat who was really a reincarnated dog!  He (she) acted like a dog in many ways.  While many cats run away and hide from people, or at least sit in defiance, aloof off in a corner with one eye open, this cat was different.  He (she) would run up to people, greet them, meow at them, rub against them and hang around with the dogs, not with the other cats!  He (she) was part of the dog's pack!

We started allowing this cat to hang out in our living quarters at the farm.  We had a large painted wooden deck that overlooked the 150 or so acres of rolling farmland right outside our sliding glass door that the dog, Teaneck (also from New Jersey) knew how to open with his paw, even if it was locked!  The little black cat also learned how to open that sliding door, as well as an old-fashioned "half-screen" that held open the window in the summertime.  The cat would open the door, or the screen, and dart off in search of bats that lived in the cupola of the barn in great abundance.  This cat could catch a bat, in his mouth, every time.  He would bring them to our apartment as "gifts", and then we'd have to enlist his help in catching the flying critter again, so we could escort the little Count Draculas out of our apartment.

I started calling the cat "Missy" because she (he) was a bit mischievous.  I would say things like, "Hey, Missy! Don't open that window!"  The name "Missy" eventually evolved into "Miss Kitty" -- in spite of the character from the old Gunsmoke television show.

One day, Miss Kitty walked up to some inanimate object, I don't remember if it was indoors or out, backed into it, and sprayed a big long stream of urine onto the object.  That was the day it occurred to me that Miss Kitty was not a Missy at all.  She was a he!  We immediately renamed the cat Mr. Kitty, and that name stuck.

We never did allow anybody to kill Mr. Kitty.  He ended up living with us for years, and becoming elderly.  When we left the farm, Mr. Kitty was one of only seven cats we were able to rescue from certain death.  Mr. Kitty moved with us to our next house where we lived for about a year.  And then back to my little cottage on the pond where we all lived -- me, Gil, Timba, Mr. Kitty, Love Kitty, Filkin, Maggie, Charlie, Louise and two parakeets.  We picked up another cat, Pointy, at the cottage.  We lived in the little cottage, all eleven of us, for about three years, and then we moved across the street where we still live today, minus all of the cats except Maggie.  Mr. Kitty came along for all those moves.  When we moved across the street, he refused to be brought over in a cage like he had the previous two times.  Instead, he walked across to the new house with me and Timba.

Mr. Kitty remained Timba's companion, going with her on her morning walks every day, and her afternoon walks every day, for the next 5 years or so.  When Timba passed away, Mr. Kitty was as sad as the rest of us.  He became old himself.

In the end, we tried to provide medical cures for Mr. Kitty, but it was hopeless.  His kidneys had failed, and he, the former "Skinny Bops" was losing weight. The vet sent us home and told us he'd euthanize Mr. Kitty if and when we needed it to happen.  Mr. Kitty even lived several more months after that.  In October of 2002, Mr. Kitty hadn't been outside in about a year.  Never being a house cat, it was difficult for us, because he really didn't know how to use a litter box.  

One day in late October, it was one of those Indian-summer days when it's warm during the day, but cold at night.  Mr. Kitty "asked" to go outside.  We let him out.  He walked the neighborhood, on the same route as he had once done with Timba.  He went door-to-door, visiting all of his and Timba's old haunts.  He didn't come back in the house that night.  We left the garage open for him -- all our cats know to go to the garage if they have to stay outdoors overnight.

The next morning, my neighbor hollered over to me, "Are you missing a cat?"  I said yes.  She said she found a dead cat in her yard.  She put the cat in her trash barrel.  She asked me to come over and ID the body.  Sure enough, lying there curled up in a little ball was our beloved Mr. Kitty, dead as a doornail, and flat as a board.  She said, "He's flat as a board. Why is he like that?"  I explained that he had been very sick for many months. Poor lady thought her husband had run over the cat with his car!  No, Mr. Kitty was just that skinny.  Skinny as the day we met him in 1991.  No, skinnier.

We buried Mr. Kitty in the Timba Memorial Park, right beside his beloved canine pal, Timba.

Timba and Charlie the cat.  I don't have a picture of Timba with Mr. Kitty. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

18 Steps For A Successful Dog Birthday Party

Yesterday, November 11th, was my dogs' 5th birthday.  As you probably know from the last few years, we get together with their siblings every year on their birthday.  I'm so happy that we stay in touch with the other dogs and humans.

"Group photo" -- Simon, Cooper, Katie and Charlie get some treats
Their birthday just so happens to be on Veterans Day, and so most of us had the day off from work, which was convenient.  I offered to host the pawty, instead of us all getting together at the ocean like we normally do.  Everyone said yes, and I was thrilled to host everybody at the Pink House in central Massachusetts just west of Worcester.

This year, the pack had some changes.  Franklin moved far away with his human parents, and now actually lives closer to their other brother, Copper (not to be confused with Cooper!).  Maybe I'll get to see them the next time I go to the southern states for a visit.

Simon, who previously never attended any of the pawties, was adopted by "our" foster mom!  So, now the foster mom actually has one of the pups!!  It was so nice to finally meet Simon!

Charlie and Cooper's brother, Simon

The part that struck me was that Charlie, whom I call a member of the "huge" family, is actually smaller than his brother, Simon, and his sister, Molly!!  "Charlie, they are bigger than you!"

Molly was definitely the alpha female of the bunch.  She promptly took Charlie's spot at the top of the stairs (I call it "the power spot" -- all my alpha dogs have hung out there).  And Charlie let her have the power spot.  He didn't even try to challenge her.  Cooper, on the other hand, was not as nice.  He had to go into time-out over that one.

 Sister Molly at the top of the stairs!

Here are some steps for a successful dog birthday party:

  1. The first thing I did was email back and forth with individuals to see if they'd be interested in coming here, instead of going to the beach. 
  2. Once I had their tentative "yesses", I suggested dates and times.  We settled on November 11th, the actual birthday (yay!) because we all had the day off for Veterans Day.
  3. I went onto a e-card website, and created a dog-themed invitation.  This took me less then 5 minutes to create, and it was free because I already have an account on that site. After creating the invitation, I put everyone's email addresses into the platform and hit "send".  It's that easy!
  4. After they all responded, I grabbed my purse and headed to PetSmart to get doggy treats for the pawty.  I found three Happy Birthday-themed items and a bunch of smaller, grain-free treats.
  5. Next, at the mall, I went next door to the craft/party supply store, and got gift bags and stickers. The plan was to make a gift bag for every dog that attended, including those who were not celebrating a birthday (we had two non-birthday dogs on the guest list!). 
    The finished gift bags, as Tux looks on.
  6. The night before the party, I went to the grocery store and picked up bottles of water, cookies for humans, and a fruit platter.  No one ended up eating the cookies or the fruit, but that's ok.  
    Treats for the humans.
  7. Clean the house!  My only screw-up here was, I had envisioned that if we needed to go indoors, we would be in my basement.  I cleaned the basement from corner-to-corner, and set up the basement bathroom all nice with extra toilet paper, and everything.  Somehow, we ended up in the main part of my house, NOT the basement!  And folks used my main bathroom that is "under renovation".  That is embarrassing enough (you should see the place!), but I had inadvertently left it nearly devoid of toilet paper, towels and soap, thinking no one would be using that bathroom.  There was one teeny tiny roll of t.p., and a dirty towel on the rack!  I realized this after everyone had left.... to my horror!  Oops!  Not bad if that was my only oops, I suppose... but really embarrassing.  You only get one chance to make a first impression. 
  8. Give everyone your exact address and your cell phone number and land line number (if you still have one).  Two of my three guests did contact me using the cell phone when they were on their way.  Very important!  Almost everyone has GPS or Google Maps nowadays, but be willing to give directions if you have to. My house is very remote ("you can't get there, from here!") so it was important that they all knew the exact address.
  9. Put a time limit on the event.  I chose two hours.  This worked out well because my guests all arrived at different times.  So, it was more like an "open house" than a party. Dogs can only take so much socializing.  It can be overwhelming.  If you have a time limit, everyone knows their dog will have chill-out-in-the-back-seat time soon enough.   
    Charlie takes a breather, mid-party.
  10. Pick up all toys in the yard and the house.  Put away your regular dog bowls (I bought new bowls so the dogs could share water).  Dogs are territorial, and will fight over toys or another dog going near their bowl.  I picked up all the toys and bowls and put them out of sight, smell, and reach.
  11. Put your cats away in a safe place where they can't escape, and where the dogs can't get to them.   
    Kitty, Newman, safely locked in the upstairs bedroom.
  12. Upon arrival, try to walk the dogs together as a pack, if possible.  This didn't go exactly as I had hoped.  My guests all arrived at different times.  The first guest and I did walk our dogs up and down the road, to the lake and back.  We managed to introduce the rest of the dogs easily enough after all, but this part stresses me out because Cooper can sometimes be a little inhospitable.  Plan B was to isolate Cooper and bring him out after everyone else had arrived.  And that's what I ended up doing. It wasn't perfect, but it worked well enough.
  13. Take pictures!!  Take more pictures!  Take video.  I can't stress enough that you should document your event.  Just like any party for humans or children, document your event in photos. It turns out one of my guests' photos came out better than mine!  And that's ok! ** Make sure you share on Facebook and email directly to any attendees who don't have a Facebook account!
    Cooper & Charlie playing with their mother, Katie!
  14. Don't feed too many treats to the dogs during the party.  They could get over-excited and get an upset stomach; they could fight over the food; and you're going to send them all home with a gift bag anyway.
  15. If a dog fight does happen (and it very well may!) separate the dogs.  In my case, Cooper was the bad dog, and I had to send him into "time out" twice yesterday!  Naughty Cooper!
  16. Send everyone home with their gift bag and extra treats and water.  Check the house for belongings left behind.  Despite my doing that, and asking everyone to check to make sure they had all their stuff, someone did leave behind a pair of sunglasses!
  17. The next day, go back onto the e-card site and send a Thank-You card.
  18. Stay in touch with your guests so you can do it again next year!

Pawty guest, Gizmo, watches from the porch in disbelief!
"How did they multiply?!"

The closest thing to a group photo.  Two sets of twins!

Do you celebrate your pet's birthday?  How?  Tell us in the comments.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Celebrating Your Dog's Birthday

All original content, written by me (Kathleen S. Mueller).  This was originally posted on DoggyLoot's blog, "DoggyWoof" (now back in 2012.  

On Friday, my dogs and their siblings will turn five years old.  It went by so fast!  Everyone is coming to our house for a party, since it's Veterans Day and we have the day off from work.  Here's what I wrote about the pups in 2012:

My two puppies, Charlie Brown, and his brother, Mini-Cooper (the three-legged wonder), were born on 11/11/11. Pretty cool, right? Thanks to a remarkable woman who fostered these little babies along with their six brothers and sisters, and their mama, I’ve managed to stay in touch with all of the other adopters throughout this first year. We’re planning a tentative puppy reunion to celebrate their first birthday.
So far, we have two ideas: One, meet on the beach on Saturday, or Sunday, let the dogs romp, take some photos and have a good time. Weather permitting, of course. Two, everyone comes to my house to take advantage of my fenced-in yard. This option does present some issues such as parking, entertaining and refreshments, use of bathroom for humans, and putting the cats in a safe place (imagine the cats thinking “How did they multiply?” when they see all the look-alike dogs).
About a month ago, I sent out an email to all the adoptive parents asking if anyone would be interested in a first-birthday celebration. Only three of the seven adoptive pet parents seemed interested. One of the three interested pet parents has moved out of state, too far away to join us, but has become “friends” on Facebook, and we stay in touch quite frequently. Her pup looks exactly like Charlie Brown. The other two are ready to drive just about anywhere to make this happen (as am I). The others (including the adopter of the mama dog, Kate) have been silent. Former foster-mom is pretty much up for anything.

Look how little!!!

Most dog lovers probably don’t get the chance to remain in contact with the adopters of the original litter of puppies their dog came from, especially (as in our case) when they are mixed-breed “mutts.” But if you are so lucky, what a wonderful opportunity for some photos and a play date to burn off excess energy (assuming every one of the pups is as successfully socialized as mine, of course).
As long as your dog is well-socialized, and your family doesn’t mind putting up with a pack of dogs for a couple of hours, you, too can celebrate your dog’s birthday with a play date at your home. The easiest option is in your own back yard, and hopefully it is fenced in. Invite your dog’s favorite canine friends, have the guests bring presents (toys or treats are best), serve refreshments for both humans and dogs (no chocolate for dogs, please!) and break out the cameras. Let the dogs play in the yard before eating, and don’t over-feed, just a couple of small treats for each dog will suffice. Make sure plenty of tennis balls are available, as long as none of the dogs will fight or get possessive over the toys. Keep bowls of water freshly topped up. Keep the event short, one hour, two at the most.
Not up for hosting people at your house? As an alternative, get everyone together at a dog park or other safe location where the dogs can romp and play for a short time, and don’t bring any presents or worry about food or refreshments for anyone. Bring plenty of water to cool off the dogs, and make sure leashes are handy and dogs are fully identifiable with info tags on their collars.
If your dog does not play well with others, but you still want to celebrate his big day, don’t worry, you and your human pack can still have a great time commemorating your dog’s birthday. Grab a leash and take your pup on a nice walk either alone, or with the family. Take Puppy for a ride in the car (most dogs love this!) to nowhere special. Buy some new toys and a few special treats, put a birthday hat on his head, and take some photos.
Above all, be safe, have a great time, and take lots of pictures.  After your guests have gone home, snuggle with your dog while watching a dog-themed movie or TV show, or reading a dog-themed book.
Even if you skip commemorating your dog’s birthday, he won’t mind. Dogs don’t pay attention to the calendar!
K.S. Mueller is a travel executive living in Massachusetts who writes essays about dogs, cats and other topics in her spare time. Check out her web sites:; and Follow K.S.Mueller on Facebook and Twitter.

How do you celebrate your pet's birthday?  
Tell us about it in the comments!!

Stay tuned for a follow-up post with pics and video of the 5th Birthday Pawty!!