As I look back on this week, I think of so many nights I have spent with a little dog whining in the background as I wrestle with sleep. Rest has seemed so far from reach. Questions swirl in my mind: Why is she whining? Does she have to go outside? She shouldn’t. Does she hurt? No. Does she want attention and to be coddled? Probably.
Most people look at the puppies and kittens in kennels at local shelters or on tv and think, “Oh, it’s so cute!” We forget that each one takes nurturing, time and a whole lot of energy. I wonder if what we truly equate them with is a breathing stuffed animal.
A companion animal is so much more! We fail to see that when we invite a companion into our lives, what we are really taking on is a life… and all of the responsibility that comes with it.
Out of the four animals I live with (Frisbee, Bella, Tamira, and Merlin), two have definitely been more challenging. Those two would be Merlin and Bella.
As a kitten, Merlin would urinate anywhere he wanted. We found urine spots on chairs, rugs, carpet…you name it. I became very frustrated that I couldnt discern the cause of this inappropriate urination. Urinalyses were done. Anything we could do to rule out any physical issues was tried. Finally, with a veterinarians help, we came to the conclusion that it was behavioral, so we put Merlin on amytriptyline. It took the maximum dosage and then he became a shell of the formerly lively kitten that we had brought into our home. After a while, you begin to wonder if the poor cat is even functioning or if he is walking around in a constant stupor. We were able to eventually wean him off the amytriptyline and realized from that point on we would have to have apartments with hardwood floors. Since the weaning, we have had no episodes in years and Merlin seems to be a happier cat. We do realize that others would not have been as patient or as diligent as we were in finding a solution. I have seen people put a cat to sleep for what is deemed “innapropriate urination.” I would be lying to you if I told you that the thought had not crossed my mind. This is something that I am not at all proud of. It is unfathomable where our minds will take us when we see the end of our limits are being reached.
Our next challenge is named Bella. Bella has been one issue after another since the day we brought her home. I knew I was in for a long haul the first night we had her with us at my mother’s home. She whined and cried all night long. She was inconsolable. I tried to comfort her, my mom tried to comfort her, and even my neices tried to comfort her. Nothing worked. My partner Jay walked into the room and the moment he touched her, she calmed down and went to sleep and there the trouble began.
First of all, Bella is a dachshund. This breed is known for being obstinant, demanding, and a bit high maintenance. I guess I knew from the beginning that I would be the responsible adult and disciplinarian. My duties include medicating, vet visits, and “No, Bella, no!” She probably often thinks her name is “Dammit Bella.” My partner would be her cuddle buddy and tv pillow. He is the love of her life.
Bella has had a couple of medical issues from early on that have always needed attention. She’s always had skin issues. When I say skin issues, I mean stinky, yeasty, with the tendency to smell like a Frito skin issues. She has been on rounds of medication for this, and I can count on dealing with a flare-up twice yearly. Another issue stems from her bladder and vulva. She has a recessed vulva which makes her prone to bacterial infections. I can count on at least two flare-ups of this a year. Typically, month long courses of antibiotics resolve it.
This year, however, brought a new challenge. Bella was diagnosed with bladder stones. The stones were small, but still difficult to deal with. She was put on a course of antibiotics, a special diet, increased water consumption and much more attention.
The increased attention resulted in her whining receiving more credence. When she whined, she was taken out. When she whined, she ate. The list goes on. So now we are dealing with a lot of unnecessary whining. So now I am in the process of trying to reprogram this behavior with extra walks, not responding to every little noise, etc.
Everything I do for my pets, I do out of love and commitment. When I agreed to take these little furballs into my house and life, I made a promise. I promised that they would receive everything they needed for a happy, healthy, and comfortable life. I am not willing to go back on that promise.
The two pets that aren’t as demanding get no less love and energy than the ones who have special needs. I respect them. I love them. I need them as much as they need me. No one, and I do mean no one loves me as unconditionally as one of these stubborn noisy little critters.