Saturday, August 6, 2016

End of a Journey

Our last little puppy was adopted today. Hammie, aka Alvin, was given a spot on the local news channel's "Pet of the Week" segment. We cleaned him up, trimmed his toenails, and dressed him in a bow tie. It was probably the bow tie that did it. When the family came to pick him up, their 11 year old dog was also wearing a bow tie.

It's quiet around here... at least for the moment. Bennie will have to get used to being an only dog. He has never slept alone in his kennel. There was about 5 minutes of whining and howling before he dropped off to sleep tonight.

His new family promised to keep in touch. We've been so lucky! All the adoptive families have kept in touch. The couple who adopted Bertie - now Cooper - have sent photos from their camping trip and filled us in on how he is doing. Franklin - now Leroy - comes to visit now and then.

The woman who adopted Hammie has a 9-year-old daughter who is very excited to meet her new puppy.

And what happens next? I'm helping out now and then, cleaning cat cages at Life is Better Rescue. I suspect we'll foster other dogs, too, though right now we'll let Bennie figure out he's the one who's going to stay put.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Dog Days of Summer - 2016

Two of the three puppies have been adopted. Hammie is still waiting for his forever home. I wanted to make a photo book as a birthday present to Emma to remember our journey. The link below is to the book. You can click to make it full screen.

Dog Days of Summer

It's much quieter around here! We had to pick up a couple of small dog dishes because it really didn't make sense to feed them with the larger communal dish anymore. And what happened? Neither puppy would touch his food last night. I forget, they don't like change.

Still, it seems Bertie and Franklin are adapting well to their new homes. Franklin (now called Leroy) is the one with the cleft paw, a major birth defect that doesn't seem to hamper his movements at all. In fact, when they visited yesterday, Leroy was running around the house so fast, Emma said she was waiting for him to stop suddenly and go "BEEP BEEP" before zooming off again. And while all the puppies sound rather ferocious when they play, add Leroy to the mix and all we can think of is the Tasmanian devil from the old cartoons - a force to be reckoned with.

Bertie (now called Cooper) is still new in his home, but from the photos, we know he's quite taken with the other two dogs in the household. His people are wonderful and we know he's got the best home we could possibly have wanted for him.

During the month the grandkids were away, Bennie suddenly turned into a dachshund, at least mostly. He's a chihuahua mix and now it's obvious what the mix is.

Hammie (aka Alvin) will be adopted before too long, I'm sure. Just in case you're looking for a great small dog, here he is on his adoption page:


Alvin is a 2.5 month old chihuahua mix puppy that was saved as a day old newborn after he had been found under a dumpster. He and his siblings were bottle fed and have been hand raised by a wonderful foster family. As such, they have experience with kids, rabbits, chickens, and are all the way around very outgoing and don't act or think like chihuahuas. Alvin is neutered, vaccinated, microchipped and has been dewormed. He is working on crate and house training, but has had pretty amazing start and has been loved so completely that he is ready to start a great forever with a family! Alvin is $300 to adopt.

Hammie (Alvin) looks more chihuahua than dachshund. He's curious and loves to explore. He's been working on making friends with our rabbits and the chickens. The latter don't quite know what to do about it, but he keeps on trying.

Then we'll be a one dog household and my job as the chihuahua mama will be officially over. Yeah, we'll still have Bennie. He'll just be our dog. This has been quite an adventure. Amazing, really. It wasn't easy, but compared to raising human children, it was a breeze. Three months and 5 days after they came into our care they're old enough to leave home.

I'm glad humans can take their time to grow up. Of course, the puppies aren't really grown up, they're more like 4-year-olds. This means it's time to teach some manners.

The best things in life are rescued. If you're looking for a wonderful addition to your family, pet-wise, check out your local rescue organizations. They do amazing work. You're also getting a bargain. I did a price comparison on the services which are provided for these puppies by the rescue group and found if you take your dog to a low-cost veterinary clinic, these services would have cost a minimum of $170. A more upscale clinic would run well over $300 for the spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, deworming, and microchip.

Definitely a win for everyone!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Getting ready for Forever Homes

It's what passes for a normal morning right now...

Chris is outside, watering the garden. I'm sleepily fixing my tea and getting breakfast ready for the pups. The four chihuahua puppies are running around the living room intent on eviscerating a small stuffed Winnie the Pooh.

They've come a long way since I brought home those tiny creatures that looked more like baby chipmunks than anything resembling a dog and moved like seals through the blankets in their laundry basket. They're around 11-12 weeks old now and, earlier this week, went through their neutering operation. We're supposed to keep them quiet. Right.

Okay, now they've given up on Winnie the Pooh and have cooperatively figured out how all four of them can chew on my good leather shoes at the same time. One also missed the "pee" pad by about two inches. As I pick up his offering (which was not pee), he looks up at me, waiting for praise. I can't help myself. I give him a belly rub and tell him what a good boy he was for, at least, getting in the vicinity.

Soon the puppies will go to their new forever homes, all except one. Bennie has already found his forever home. We've filled out the form to officially adopt him. One other has been approved for adoption. Photos will be up on the Life is Better Rescue website soon. We've had any number of people ask about them. These are such sweet little boys, I'm sure the other two will find homes quickly.

Some people have the strange idea that adopting from a rescue organization should be easy and cheap. One couple checked out the website and adoption forms and declared they would never have anything to do with this group. Okay, if they feel that way, the group probably doesn't want to have anything to do with them, either.

Why do they have so many questions on their adoption forms?

Adding an animal to your family isn't something to do on a whim. The questions are there, not to eliminate people from adopting, but to make us think. What would we do if we suddenly had to move and couldn't take a dog with us? Have we thought about the expense of feeding a dog and keeping him healthy? What will we do when we go out for an afternoon and can't take the puppy along? Where will the puppy stay when he's alone? Do you know how to take care of a dog or cat? If you're renting, is your landlord okay with pets? And so on. If you're not willing to consider all these questions, then you might not be ready for a pet.

Why can't you adopt a dog for $20 or $30? After all, you're taking the dog off their hands. (Yes, I've heard this.)

Rescue organizations not only take in dogs and cats (and often other animals), they also have these animals spayed or neutered, microchipped, and the animals will be up to date on their vaccinations. All of this costs. They buy formula for orphaned puppies and kittens. Sometimes they need to give fluid injections to these little orphans. It even costs the rescue organizations to pull the animals out of death row in an animal shelter. Sometimes there are health care issues, too, for which the organization pays vet fees. When you add everything up, you find you're really getting quite a bargain.

Outside, for a little while, the chihuahuas have attempted to kill a stuffed raccoon. They ate their lunch, did their business - outside this time - and now it's time for afternoon nap. If I get them to bed soon, they can watch the rest of Antiques Roadshow on TV. After a good rest, they'll be ready to go again.

Can I keep them quiet? Probably not. They've been trying to dig a hole to China on our front porch, right through the concrete.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Growing Chihuahuas

It's almost unbelievable how quickly puppies grow and change. Just three short weeks ago, we were still bottle feeding the pups and holding our breath, hoping they would all stay healthy. We made it through tummy troubles, constipation, breathing trouble, and getting the right temperature.

I'm no longer thrilled to see puppy poop.

I'm also no longer worried about whether they'll survive and thrive. The first two weeks were a wee bit stressful. If they did not nurse well, I was sure I had done something wrong and had killed them. If they didn't poop for days, I was sure I had fed them wrong and had killed them. One refused the formula and didn't eat for two days. I finally gave him a spoonful of yogurt, even though I was afraid it might kill him. He lapped it up and decided life was okay.

At five weeks, the puppies are sleeping through the night (HOORAY), eating from a dish (CHEERS), relieving themselves without my help (YES), wrestling with each other, following us around the kitchen, and snuggling into our laps. They have their own unique personalities.

In alphabetical order: (Photos by Emma Reinhart)

Benedick or Bennie for short - Emma says he's like Rolly from 101 Dalmatians. He's always hungry and will eat until he's circular, if we let him. He has a sensitive tummy at times, so we watch how much he eats. He's our gentlest giant, weighing in at 2 lbs 1 oz at 5 weeks. He is the lightest color of all the pups and there's something about him that makes him seem half chihuahua and half labrador.

Bertram or Bertie for short - Bertie has one ear up and one ear down. He's the strongest, most active, most attentive, and healthiest in the litter. No food bothers him. No person is too tall to try and climb. He comes when he's called, seems to know his name, and gives kisses on command. He is muscular already. 

Franklin - Franklin started out as the smallest, though he and Hamilton are about the same size now. Franklin has a cleft paw (front right) which sometimes give him kind of a prancing walk. He was the last to get his teeth, but the first to find his growl! He will put up with wrestling games with his brothers for only so long, then watch out. I suspect Franklin would not tolerate young children well... though he's been fine with our grandchildren.

Hamilton or Hammie for short - Hammie is the one who turned up his nose at the formula and lost ground for awhile. He's caught up and has probably overtaken Franklin as far as weight goes. Hammie is our explorer. All the pups follow us, but where's Hamilton? Off to another corner to see what's there and see if it's good to eat.

We've already had a number of people ask us about adopting the pups. They won't be ready for a few weeks yet, but if you want more information, the rescue organization is:

Life is Better Rescue*
PO Box 19159
Denver, CO 80219

There are many dogs and cats, puppies and kitten who need to find their forever homes. These four won't have any trouble! If you are looking to add a dog or cat to your family, be sure to go through a rescue organization.

*from the rescue contact page: Life is Better Rescue is a foster based rescue. All animal showings are done via appointment or at our Pet Smart adoption partner store when animals are ready to adopt. Our mailing address listed above is a post office box only; there are not any animals to view there.
As we are a rescue based solely on the work of volunteers, please be patient when trying to reach us. Email communication is preferred and usually warrants a faster reply, but in some cases it may take us up to 72 hours to respond. Thank you for understanding and your interest in rescue.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Yo, Chihuahua Mama!

If we'd had any idea of what we were getting into, would we have been so enthusiastic about being foster surrogate chihuahua mamas?

There were 4 puppies abandoned and then rescued by Life is Better Animal Rescue. They were newborns without a mama. Everyone who hears this says, "How could anyone abandon newborn puppies?" Giving whoever it was the benefit of the doubt, I wonder if the mama chihuahua died giving birth to these pups. Chihuahua mamas are more at risk than other dogs. Look up any info about caring for orphan pups and chihuahuas are sure to be mentioned somewhere. Maybe the owner panicked because they didn't know how to keep the pups alive.

Georgia Cameron, who started Life is Better, put the word out on Facebook. They needed someone to bottle feed the pups. Georgia does such amazing work, it's a privilege to be a small part of her endeavors.

As is my usual way, I jumped in feet first with my eyes closed. I didn't really know anything about bottle feeding puppies, not beyond the common sense rules of: keep them warm, feed them often, stimulate them to pee and poop. Emma immediately offered to help, so I figured, why not? It wouldn't be a big deal. Feed them every 3 hours. How long would it take, maybe 20 minutes? We could handle it. 

The good news is, the first two weeks are the hardest.  Here's the reality check:

The first week, it took 1 1/2 hours to feed, burp, and encourage them to poop - at each feeding. Yes, you do have to burp them. No, Mama dogs don't hold them on their shoulders and pat their backs. Mama dogs lick and lick and tumble them over and over. I'll pat their backs. Getting them to pee is easy. Pooping is not. Once they were all settled and asleep, I had 1 1/2 hrs before starting the process again. If you agree to nurse orphaned pups, be prepared to not sleep much and not get anything else done for the first two weeks.

It's easy for bottle fed puppies to aspirate the formula into their lungs. This can cause pneumonia and they can die quickly. It's also easy for them to snort it up their noses. This can make them so congested it's hard for them to suck and eat. Formula can be constipating. I never thought I'd be cheering and celebrating when puppies finally pooped. We also have to be careful to make sure they are not overfed or over heated. We check to make sure they don't get dehydrated. 

When the puppies wake up, they nose around trying to find a nipple to suck on. Without a Mama dog, the closest thing they find is their brother's penis. Left unchecked, this could cause permanent damage. Slurpy noises coming from their bed will wake me out of a deep sleep. All 4 pups are boys.

They had to have names. After some discussion, we settled on Hamilton, Benedick, Franklin, and Bertram. Chihuahuas might be small, but they have large personalities.

After trial and error (plenty of errors, though none fatal, thankfully), we have found what works well for these little ones. Sifting through all the internet info, here is what works:

Keeping warm:  Filled a large crockpot with water. Set it next to the bed with pups (our pups are in a portacrib) with the lid off. Turned it on high and placed a sheet over the bed and crockpot. This provides warmth and humidity. For inside the bed, I filled a tube sock with rice, tied it shut, and put another tube sock on top. Put in the microwave for 3 minutes on high, then placed UNDER the blankets in the bed (make sure it's not TOO hot), it creates a nice cozy place for the pups to cuddle up. Hot water bottle also works, but I find the rice socks easier.

Feeding: Using the syringe with the tiny nipple has worked well, but Hamilton managed to snort enough formula up his nose that he is having trouble eating now. On the suggestion of a local vet, we started feeding Hammie a different way. I picked up some cosmetic sponge wedges and cut them in half lengthwise. Soaked in the formula, Hamilton can suck on the sponge and get what he needs. It's much slower than the syringe feeding, but it seems closer to how they nurse naturally. He can take it as his own pace and fall asleep while nursing. 

We tried getting the others to eat this way, but they were already used to the quick stop at the filling station. I made the mistake of using a syringe to "load" the sponge with more formula. HA! The puppies can see now. They know where they get their fast food. They ditched the sponge and made for the syringe.

Food: We tried several things - commercial formula alternating with goat's milk, homemade formula, then back to commercial formula. The commercial formula caused constipation. They loved the homemade formula with goat's milk and yogurt, but Benedick couldn't handle it. It was wreaking havoc in his gut. A trip to the vet and we were back to commercial formula. Bennie responded by gaining two ounces in one day. We weigh them on a small postage scale.

We found we needed to add more water to the commercial formula than the instructions say. We also added a few drops of olive oil to get things moving. This worked, but it also had the wonderful effect of making everything slippery and the nipples would often shoot off the top of the syringe like a rocket. This was frustrating at any time, but at 3:00 am, it was too much. Puppy mama meltdown time. Adding corn syrup helps with constipation, but works by drawing fluid from their body to the gut. So, we had to watch for signs of dehydration. Also the corn syrup is sticky and can clog up the nipple. This results in a frustrated, hungry puppy who is sucking so hard the nipple falls off the syringe over and over. Again, at 3:00 am, it isn't funny.

In the last 2 1/2 weeks, we have learned how to burp a puppy, sat up nearly all night with a puppy with a tummy ache, and given subcutaneous fluid injections to rehydrate pups. I've watched my elderly parents holding the pups in their hands and seen how gentle and caring our young grandchildren can be with them. I've basically ignored our house and my husband has been fixing dinners simply because he knows it's probably the only way he'll get to eat.

They are 3 weeks old now. They've gone from between 4 and 5 ounces to between 11 ounces and 1 lb. The plugged puppy issue is finally resolving itself and we're looking to start some mashed solid food next week, just a little to see how they like it. If I feed them at 11:00 pm, they'll only wake me up once during the night. 

It's going to be quite lively around here when they start to wake up and play with each other. It'll be fun to see their personalities develop. The weeks are going to fly by, I know, and it won't be long before it's time for our little charges to find their forever homes. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Confessions of an Agnostic Catholic Feminist

There's an old joke about an elderly Italian woman who was praying in church when a workman saw her and decided to play a trick on her. He hid behind the statue of Jesus and called out in a deep voice, "I am Jesus and I hear your prayers." Nothing. The woman didn't react at all. He said it again, a little louder, "I am Jesus and I hear your prayers!" Nothing. The old woman shifted a little on the kneeler, but didn't take any notice of him. So he tried once more, even louder, "I AM JESUS AND I HEAR YOUR PRAYERS!" Finally, the woman looked up crossly and said, "Shutta your mouth, I'm talking to your mother!"

It's an old joke, but the spirit of this story is pretty close to some of the Italian and Hispanic women I worked with at a Catholic nursing home 30+ years ago. I wonder if this generation has died out by now. I was young when I worked there and still involved with the church. With my more reserved German Catholic heritage, I was somewhat shocked, listening to the women. There seemed to be so much superstition mixed in with their beliefs. Was this okay? I mean, they prayed to the saints, but if the saint didn't provide results quickly, their statue was turned to the wall, presumably in time out until they decided to behave.

The two stories have something in common. There is an intimacy in their connection with God, the saints, and especially, Mary. I often got the feeling that their talks to Mary were more like their conversations with each other. Granted, Mary didn't answer back - at least not out loud, so it may have been more of a monologue, but from what I had experienced of older women in groups, they tended to prefer simultaneous monologues and didn't seem to need anyone to provide answers.

At this point in my life, I do not go to church. I am not a religious Catholic. However, growing up in a very Catholic home, I can relate as a cultural Catholic. We still say a Catholic blessing before meals and I automatically make the sign of the cross after prayers or whenever I hear a siren.

When we left the church, we were tired of the hierarchy in Rome, tired of ambitious priests who became bishops and cardinals and went to Rome where they never had to associate with mere parishioners. We were tired of rules made by these men and appalled by the hurt caused by the priests who had molested young boys and how the church had protected the priests instead of the children.

Back to Mary - even though the church would vehemently deny this, it seems, according to their beliefs, she is right up there on the same level as God. Mary was born without original sin. The father of her son was the Holy Spirit, not an earthly man. And instead of dying, she was taken up into heaven in the Assumption. (I enjoy the choice of words: assumption. Did Mary just disappear one day and everyone just assumed she was in heaven?) These three events are things we would normally associate with gods. Mary is the closest there is to a female diety, a goddess, in a Christian church.

It's the one feminist part of the Catholic church and, like all things female, the male church seems to ignore this. The hierarchy reveres Mary while keeping her firmly in her place. The old women knew better. Mary was the Mother of God. Why go to God when you can talk to his Mother? Mary was much more approachable. She's one of them. Jesus was most important at Christmas because new babies were always exciting, especially baby God. Even as an adult, Jesus was still Mary's kid. After all, he was still single.

On Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It's all about the baby who was Christ who was God who performed miracles and who was killed and then rose from the dead. I think this year I'll think about Mary who gave birth in a stable filled with straw and farm animals and who nudged her son into turning water into wine (go Mom) and then had to watch her son pay the price of choosing an alternative career and rebelling against authority. 

Of course, we should also think of Joseph. Poor old Joseph doesn't get too much press, but he was rather important, too. 


Adam crunched contentedly, "Boys will be boys," he said.
Abraham sighed, beard in his soup, "Parenting is key."
And Joseph, Joseph shrugged over his ale. "Perhaps he'll be an engineer."

by John Reinhart, published in Black Heart Magazine.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

For Every Action

1. having or showing dogged determination not to change one's attitude or position on something, especially in spite of good reasons to do so.
2. difficult to move, remove, or cure
~from the Oxford English dictionary

Is it something about the American pioneering spirit, pullmeupbymyownbootstraps, rugged individualist that makes us so blasted stubborn? All these descriptions, stubborn included, are so often worn with pride in this country as though it's our straight A report card - but then, that's not right, either, because rugged pioneers aren't wimpy intellectuals so let's make that a straight B+ report card.

I'm stubborn, too. Why are we so proud of this? It usually doesn't serve me well. When I was co-teaching, the two of us teachers often disagreed. We couldn't work it out so we stubbornly disagreed. Digging in our heels was the least effective way to solve any issues because it meant we both became more extreme in our own opinions.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
~Newton's Third Law of Motion

And we've become a nation of extremists. We're either radically left or radically right, fundamentalists or atheists, pro-gun or anti-constitution, pro-life or baby killers, pro-marriage equality or homophobic, the ones who are right and the ones who are idiots, good guys and the enemy. Black, white, there's no middle ground on any issue. Many of our presidential candidates are exploiting this. I'm sure they think it'll win them more votes. 

At least this is what all our media, social media, and clever photos and quotes seem to say. I suspect that, when it comes to many important things, we're a lot closer than we think. There's just one little problem. WE DON'T TALK ABOUT ANYTHING, unless, of course, we're fairly certain we agree. If we don't agree, we don't talk. We unfriend them or hide their Facebook posts. We move out to the country and live near others who believe as we do or we move to the city where there are people from so many different backgrounds and we can blend in.

We've substituted cleverness for thoughtfulness. We can blast our opinions out as loud as we want as long as we're blasting to those who believe the way we do. Or we blast at others without listening. What we don't do is talk...together...and listen and learn.

The problem with this is there are no simple solutions to our issues. Nothing we are facing right now has a simple black/white - right/wrong answer.

Extremist rhetoric, whether it's coming from social media or political candidates or a religious radicals, does nothing to solve problems and instead, fosters fear, anger, suspicion, and can encourage violence. It tells us it's a good idea to dig in our heels, stubbornly disagree, and become even more divided. And there are too many people out there who will jump at the chance to act out against a perceived enemy.

"How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does what they're always going to have to do from the very beginning -- sit down and talk! Listen to me, listen. I just -- I just want you to think. Do you know what thinking is? 
It's just a fancy word for changing your mind.
The only way anyone can live in peace is if they're prepared to forgive. 
Why don't you break the cycle?"

~taken from the script written by Peter Harness and Steven Moffet for Dr. Who

I suspect most people who read this will automatically apply it to those who do not agree with them. If so, I have wasted my time and energy. And why do I quote science fiction writers? Those who write science fiction have the task to imagine worlds, complex worlds. Good science fiction helps us to reflect on our own world. 

                                                   "Why don't you break the cycle?" 

Moving away from our stubbornness will be hard work, but our lives may depend on it.