Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ambrosia And The Owl

Ambrosia has added drug addiction to her many sins. I don't know if you remember the children's toy that was in the news a while back. It was a set of beads that children could lay out in any shape they liked, spray with water and they stuck together creating a little sculpture made of plastic beads. As it was reported in the media if they were sucked hallucinations were often the result, and as little people tend to like to suck things this was a pretty drastic side effect. The company that sold them recalled all the bad beads and got to work to create a none hallucinogenic bead. When the original beads first came out my granddaughter Hannah was given a set as a gift. She made me a little bead owl for my owl collection. I duly thanked her and admired him as a true work of art. None of us knowing the potential this owl had for causing trouble. Hannah was so proud of herself when she made it for me. It was one of her first works of art with her new toy. She wanted me to keep it after all her other bead creations and the bead set itself had been thrown away. Hannah just gave me a lecture, complete with wagging finger, telling me never, never to suck the owl she'd made for me. I promised faithfully, but sadly Ambrosia has made no such promise.

Ambrosia went through a phase of stealing my owls. Every day I'd find another little owl removed from my collection and secreted somewhere around the house. I haven't found them all yet, but then again I haven't found all my thimbles or other sewing paraphernalia that Ambrosia finds so intriguing yet either. Then one day Ambrosia discovered the little bead owl. Since then she's devoted all her pilfering skills to getting hold of the owl. I've found it in all sorts of weird and wonderful places, usually with Ambrosia curled up asleep beside it. I've tried hiding it, putting it up high and covering it with other owls, but Ambrosia has always managed to find it. I suppose all those hallucinogenic drugs have a distinct smell for cats. Up until now Ambrosia hadn't done anything but pick up the owl and carry it around, just as she picks up my thimbles and carries them around or anything else that fits in her mouth, is portable and catches her eye. Last Monday the owl stealing took a darker turn.

When we arrived home from shopping last week Ambrosia was in the hall, lying down and taking it easy. I had hidden the owl in a tight fitting pot I (that's made to look like a tree trunk) earlier that day. It acts as a nest for Sad Owl, a soft toy and Hannah's favourite owl in my collection. Sad Owl was firmly placed on top of the bead owl. When I went in to investigate, after finding the soggy Beedo owl on the hall carpet with Madam lying prone beside it, Sad Owl had been lifted out and neatly put beside the now empty pot.

I retrieved the bead owl from the floor beside Ambrosia. She opened one eye to watch what I was doing, lifted a paw to stop me and decided that was too much effort. With a sigh Ambrosia resumed her slumber. She eventually recovered to some degree and rocketed around the house for a long while afterwards. No-one was safe. First she'd hurtle towards Nefertiti who was doing her best to keep a low profile and avoid all leopard type cats in the house. The trouble was the house seemed to be filled with leopard type cats. Ambrosia was everywhere at once! After Nefertiti moved to higher ground and pretended to be asleep Ambrosia turned her attention to Graeme and me. We spent quite a while sidestepping Ambrosia as she skidded across the kitchen floor in our general direction, with a startled look on her face. She seemed to have forgotten that if you try and stop on the kitchen vinyl after scooting across it at top speed, stopping is going to take a while to happen. I tried to catch her a few times to calm her down but she was having way too much fun. She'd wriggle out of my arms and race around the house as if it was full of frisky mice. Who knows, after her bead owl sucking, maybe she thought it was.

There were many comments from one member of the family (no names mentioned but you know who I mean) who kept mumbling that she should be put outside until she calmed down. Huh!! Catching her and holding on to her long enough to make it to a door would have been a fine thing. Not that I'd throw my little chemically confused cat outside in her hour of need. It was tempting at times - but no! I wouldn't do it. Eventually Ambrosia wound down. Then she came and cuddled up to me and went to sleep - exhausted after her busy day. I have now hidden the troublesome bead owl inside a cylindrical box with a tight fitting lid and a heavy owl sitting on top. I hope I've finally thwarted Ambrosia's access to drugs.

Now all I have to do is watch Ambrosia for withdrawal symptoms.

Isn't he beautiful? Who knew the problems he'd cause.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Worming Pets Can Be A Health Hazard

 Winter is here and the dogs are spending their days dozing in any sunny spot they can find, the cats are living in front of the heater and the ferrets have retired to their polar fleece sleeping bag.  This means not much blog worthy is happening at Spring Rock at the moment, so I've dug up a story I wrote back in March 2006.  

I'm feeling very sorry for myself at the moment. I fell down the back stairs yesterday and I'm now sporting the most interesting collection of bruises all over my body. Yesterday was worming the pets day – a day I really dislike. With the variety of livestock I have, the methods for getting the various chemicals down the correct throats are as diverse as they are ineffective.

I began my assault on the “Spring Rock” worm population by worming the cats. I used to be able to buy a tasty paste that you spread on each cat’s paw and then sat back and watched the cats get stuck into it. As they cleaned their paws you could hear them saying, “Yum, yum,” or the cat equivalent anyway. I can’t say that that was the resulting scenario around here, what with the squirming, twisting and turning, the paste ended up all over the cats, but once the stuff was distributed to each cat paw, face, back, tail or whatever, but they definitely cleaned it off their fur and rarely tried to spit it out afterwards.

The co-op where I buy the worming medications has had a change of policy. Farm cats don’t get wussy little paste tubes to deal with their worms any more. Farm cats are tough. Farm cats get a tablet and can like it or lump it. Well my cats lump it. The tablets come with a special little syringe type applicator. The instructions tell you to place the tablet in the holder, put the applicator in the side of the cat’s mouth and push on the plunger. Voila! The instructions don't actually say Voila! but they definitely imply it. One cat thoroughly wormed. Well, I don’t know how the cat test pilots reacted in the laboratories when they tried these new applicators out, but the reality in my kitchen is vastly different to the above scene.

My cats are very sneaky and will eat around a piece of cheese or meat with a tablet in it and leave the tablet.  I've tried crushing the tablet up and putting it in meat or cheese, but then the cats just refuse to eat the offering at all. So I thought, what the heck, I'll give this modern technology in cat tablet dispensing a go.

First I put the tablet in the applicator, then grabbed the nearest cat (in yesterday’s case it was Lancelot), while Guinevere looked on with deepening foreboding. After a small struggle, whereby I lost a few patches of skin on my left hand, I managed to get the applicator into the side of Lancelot’s mouth and pushed! More squirming and clawing on Lancelot’s behalf and then, phteww, one tablet on the kitchen floor. I repeated the tablet insertion process a number of times trying, to introduce a slightly different technique each time – put the applicator in the other side of the mouth, put the applicator in the front of the mouth, prize Lancelot’s jaws open and go straight to the back of the mouth, throw the dispenser against a wall and use my fingers to poke it down, but none of these resulted in a swallowed tablet. By now the tablet was looking very second hand. I had a little think and decided to give the “wrapping the cat like a mummy” technique another try. I usually end up trying this as a last resort. 

I have to admit that I’m not a dab hand at cat wrapping. There always seems to be more than the standard issue of cat legs and teeth while I’m frantically wrapping, and some of those extra legs always end up poking out with claws extended in my general direction. This time was much the same. After a couple of aborted attempts to get the tablet to its final destination and suffering more skin and blood loss, I ended up with the bits of Lancelot that were sticking out of the towel in a classic half nelson wrestling hold, while I tried to use my left hand to open his somewhat reluctant mouth while still keeping a firm grip on the bundle with that same hand. It wasn’t easy. By throwing my body over the towelled bit of cat, and holding him down that way, Lancelot finally had the worm tablet in his mouth. Various obscene cat threats were being issued through the jaws I was clamping shut, but he refused to swallow. I waited. Lancelot waited. I stoked his throat with my spare hand. He glared at me and issued more threats. Little bits of dissolved tablet dribbled out the side of his mouth. I scooped it up and smeared it on his paw (just like the paste of times gone by). This standoff went on for a while with both of us glaring at one another, until Lancelot finally gave in and swallowed the tablet. I gave him a drink of milk to show there were no hard feelings and Lancelot and I were friends once more. Lancelot has a milk addiction, and anyone (me that is) who supplies his habit is his best friend, no matter what personal insults have gone before.

Guinevere on the other hand, is a totally different kettle of cat. She had been sitting under the table, watching the proceedings and enjoying Lancelot’s discomfit. As soon as Lancelot was tucking into his milk, Guinevere realised that she was most probably going to be next and scooted out of the room as fast as her paws could carry her. I eventually located her under the bed in Justin’s room and from there chased her under various other pieces of furniture throughout the house. I managed to corral her by closing doors as we left each room and restricting her to the small hall we have, and after just as much trouble as I had with Lancelot, Guinevere too was wormed.

Great! The worst job done I figured.  I have a lot of experience with dogs that don't like tablets.  Years ago I inherited a Whippet named Buffy who took not taking tablets to an art form. 
Buffy had a hair lip and buck teeth, but I don't suppose that was the reason she wouldn't take tablets.   She could hold on the them as long as you were around and then spit them out later.  I took her to the vet's one day and he said she had Tracheitis or some such throat ailment.  He said that a course of antibiotic tablets were the cure.  

I said, "Buffy doesn't take tablets."  

His reply was along the lines of every dog will take tablets if dealt with forcefully enough.  I just repeated that Buffy didn't take tablets and I was sure I couldn't get a week's worth into her.  With a big sigh he popped the tablet in her mouth, held her mouth closed and covered her nose.  After she began to turn blue and appeared to swallow he let go.  Buffy popped out the tablet on the table.  I just looked at him without commenting.  He then heaved another sigh, wandered off and rummaged in his equipment drawer and returned with a long rubber hose with a spilt in one end and a syringe on the end.  In retrospect, this obviously  worked along the same lines as the cat tablet inserter I described earlier.  He put the tablet in the slit, pushed the rubber hose right to the back of Buffy's throat and depressed the syringe. Buffy's eyes popped out in surprise and he then once again held Buffy's mouth shut until she swallowed.  He let go and was just about to get rid of the syringe when Buffy gave a delicate cough and produced the tablet yet again. 

The vet looked at me as if I'd spat the tablet out.  I returned his look with a very innocent one of my own and said, "Buffy doesn't take tablets."

After suggesting we put the dog down and my negating that option he decided to give her a long lasting injection.  Happily Buffy survived the throat infection and lived for many, many non tablet taking years.

Back to the current worming episode.  The dog worming medication these days is in the form of meat flavoured chews and all but one dog love the taste. It hardly seems fair that the Co-op has no philosophical problems with farm dogs being pampered with meat flavoured worm tablets while farm cats are expected to do it tough, but I digress.  I gathered the chews and headed out the back to administer them to the canine population.

As I said, all except one, Shadow the Silky Terrier type, love them. This pro-worming chews attitude creates its own problems. I have to be very careful that each dog gets it correct dose and the others don’t to steal someone else’s dose, resulting in some very wormed dogs and some not at all wormed dogs.

Billy was first. His chews are the giant, economy size. He needs two huge chews and a medium sized chew. Billy is more than happy to take them, but finds that they are too small for his big, floppy mouth to hold onto. I have to stand over him and supervise his cleaning up all the dropped bits. Unfortunately this means, picking up the slimy morsels and poking them into Billy’s mouth. But in the scheme of things this is easy work, if very messy and I count my blessings. If Billy didn’t like them there would be no way I could keep a tablet in his mouth, with his acres of droopy mouth he’d be sure to find somewhere to spit it out.

So Billy was finally dosed. I then turned my attentions to Shadow. Shadow has a sixth sense about worming and even though she can no longer see or hear, her nose told her I was up to no good. She then retreated to the laundry and tried to blend in with the scenery. I grabbed as much Silky as I could manage, flipped her over and opened her mouth. While she grumbled about the indignity of it all, the chew was popped into her mouth. Shadow glared at me through cataract clouded eyes and swallowed. Well that was easier than I expected, but I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth, or a Silky for that matter, so I turned my attention to my two hyperactive Kelpies.

Juno is the lowest rung of the doggy social ladder. All other dogs keep her in her place, and she’s quite comfortable there. No amount of self esteem lessons on my part has convinced her she’s as good as the other dogs so she stays oppressed and seems quite comfortable with her lifestyle of being bullied by all and sundry. I therefore wormed her sister Dione first, with the intention of giving Juno her chew while Dione was occupied with hers. Billy was behind me, offering to take this chew off my hands and deal with it himself, but he knew if he tried to steal it, there would be trouble, so he waited patiently in case the chew became mysteriously up for grabs. Dione on the other hand, was watching carefully and planning her stealing the chew from Juno strategy as she munched on her own one. Just as Juno tentatively moved in to take her chew, Dione made a lunge for it too. I moved quickly to fend Dione off and stop her eating Juno's share. Almost immediately I knew I’d done the wrong thing. I found myself overbalancing on the edge of the back porch and then tumbling down the three concrete steps, hitting each step as I went. I lay at the bottom feeling very sorry for myself for a short while.

Billy was still standing at the top of the steps with no thought in his head except trying to will the chew to move in his direction through the power of positive thinking. When he saw me lying at the bottom of the steps, surrounded by anxious Kelpies, he took immediate action to remedy the situation. He assumed the Kelpies were responsible for my predicament and in fact on the verge of attacking me.  The fact that neither Kelpie has a nasty bone in its body didn't change Billy's mind.  I was in trouble and Billy is my protector so he
raced to defend me. 

There I was, lying prone and aching all over, while Billy stood protectively over me, drool and all and told the Kelpies a few home truths about their behaviour.   The Kelpies, were all too anxious to explain themselves and try to wriggle out of any responsibility for my difficulties, but Billy wasn't listening. He lives by the credo that if there is to be any knocking down of Mum, he'll be the one doing it, and woe betide any other creature that tries. Needless to say I had to stop feeling sorry for myself and get up before I found myself in the middle of an energetic doggy debate on exactly who was to blame. Thankfully through all this time the worm chew remained untouched by all contenders and I was able to pick it up and give it to Juno while Dione and Billy continued their discussion.

I then painfully climbed up the steps only to discover Shadows chew lying on the tiles in a soggy, discarded heap while Shadow stood by doing her best to radiate an aura of innocence. I had to go through the whole Silky worming technique again and again! I'm in too delicate a condition to recount that worming exercise, but just let me say, it wasn't pretty :)