Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Thompson's True Nature

I've always worried a bit about Thompson's worrying nature. He rarely ever seems totally relaxed- and changes to his routine seem to cause quite a level of anxiety.

That's why it has surprised me that during the past month's upheaval from all things normal, Thompson has been such a calming influence around the house. He's been more patient with Theo; has paid a lot of attention to Diego; and when I'm around he and I have taken a lot of quality naps together. He really has reduced my own stress level measurably...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Working Man's Blues

Had to work late last night. Didn't get home until after 11 p.m. This of course riled up the boyz already riled up routine. Theo wanted to play. I just wanted to go to bed. We skipped Diego's combing. Thompson was low key not quite sure if I was staying or not. It was a restless night of sleep with Theo and Diego taking turns keeping me awake.

Monday, February 26, 2007

St. Paul Pioneer Press 2/25

Since I just got done house sitting two rat terriers, this story hit me harder than usual...

Deaf woman counts on dog, but he's gone
BY JOHN BREWER Pioneer Press

Rosana Plaza just wants her dog back.

Plaza, a Hammond resident, is deaf, and Fluke, the trained dog who acts as her ears, went missing two weeks ago while being cared for in St. Paul.

The unbearable part for Plaza is that Fluke was found the same day he ran off — and then turned over to an unidentified couple in North Minneapolis before he could be checked in to an animal shelter.

Now the dog, a white rat terrier with brown and black spots, could be anywhere.

"I guess basically my dog was given to a stranger," Plaza said through an interpreter.

Fluke was at her son's home in the North End neighborhood of St. Paul and ran off during a walk Feb. 5.

He had stayed at her son's home before, Plaza said. This was the first time the dog, who could respond to sign language, had bolted.

Plaza said she trained the 3½-year-old dog to hear what she couldn't, like a ringing phone, a running faucet or a knock at the door. Fluke once alerted Plaza that her daughter was violently ill in the bathroom. Without the dog, she wouldn't have known, she said.

"The dog went right up to the bathroom door and stayed there. He would not leave, whatsoever," she said.

He also has awakened her with licks when the light bulb on her alarm clock burned out.

Rania Armstrong didn't know any of that when she chased down the cute dog near her North End home.

"It was really cold that day," she said, explaining why she ran after Fluke.

She held onto Fluke for three days and even called the veterinarian listed on the dog's rabies vaccination tag to find out who owned him. Armstrong said the Baldwin, Wis., animal hospital gave her a phone number to call. When she did, the woman who answered said she had no idea what Armstrong was talking about.

"I didn't call that number back," she said.

It turns out the number would have reached Plaza — had Armstrong first called a toll-free number for an interpreting service. Instead, she reached another home in Hammond.
Armstrong decided the best thing to do was turn the dog over to an animal shelter. While visiting family in North Minneapolis on Feb. 7, she said, she stopped by the city's Animal Care and Control center.

Before she could turn Fluke over, an older couple approached her and offered to take him. They were looking for a present for their 8-year-old grandson, Armstrong recalled.

Fluke was still wearing his collar, according to Armstrong, when the couple drove off in their pickup truck. The unidentified pair didn't appear concerned that the dog might have an owner looking for him, she said.

"They were more happy to just get the dog," she said.

The next day, Armstrong saw an ad in the Pioneer Press: "LOST M tri-color rat terrier 2/5 @ Como/Front 'Fluke' Deaf-owner trained."

She called Plaza and told her what had happened.

"I really do pray to God that she finds her dog. I just lost my dog, too, so that stuff hurt me," she said.

Plaza is still baffled about the turn of events — the dog running off, the veterinary hospital giving out the incomplete phone number, the mystery couple taking the dog in Minneapolis — and hopes that news coverage will help to speed Fluke's return.

"I'm really frustrated because I don't understand what's going on. I'm a little concerned about how difficult it is to get in touch with me because I'm hearing-impaired," Plaza said. "I want my dog back. He's a good dog."

If you have any information about Fluke, please call Plaza at 1-866-327-8877; then give the interpreter the home number of 715-796-5422.

"Hopefully, this all works out," she said. "If not … I'd rather not think about that."

Welcomed Back

Diego-san has made it clear that if he didn't exactly miss me during my dog sitting absence, he certainly noticed I was gone. He's been ultra-cuddly and clingly since my return. He's been spending every night right by my side underneath the covers. He likes to get his face right into mine but this of course makes sleeping a little difficult. I'm surprised when I wake up in the morning that he's still there. He used to like to lie with me for a little bit before eventually moving to the end of the bed.

Diego has also been quite vocal about wanting to be combed right before bedtime. This has become our alone time and his loud purring makes it clear he missed that time when I was gone.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What is Work

We got around a foot of snow over the weekend. It was a prolonged storm so I ended up going out two or three times to plow and shovel the sidewalk and driveway. The boyz watched me intently from the living room windows. I think all three thought what I was doing looked like great fun when instead it was actually a lot of tiring work. I'm not exactly sure the boyz understand the concept of work.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Not Sure What's Going On

Theo's strange food time behavior took a turn for the worse. He refuses to eat his food from the dish that he has been using since moving in. He now wants to eat from Thompson's spot. The current arrangement has Diego and Thompson eating side by side in a two holder dish, with Theo having his own dish to the side.

The first time he tried to nudge Thompson away I picked him up and put him back in front of his dish. He would have none of that. I thought that perhaps the dish was dirty or something so I cleaned it out thoroughly. He still refused to eat food from that dish. I ended up waiting until Thompson was finished and then moved Theo's food into Thompson's dish. Whatever was the issue went away and Theo ate up all his own food.

This has continued for the past few meals. I have no idea what is going on- maybe Theo wants to join the big boyz- and eat at the big boyz dish instead of off on his own. Maybe he thinks I'm feeding Thompson something better than what he's getting. I hope this is just a phase.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I Speak Thompsonese

One of the things I really missed most about my boyz the past few weeks was the sound of Thompson's voice. He's such a vocal boy- and over the years I think I've learned what many of the variety of his meows and grunts mean.

This morning as I was getting dressed for work Thompson did his prolonged, semi-quiet but always pointed mrow- that indicates that it's about time to be fed. As I continued getting dressed I spoke to him- "Thompson I'll have your food in a moment..." to which he replied with an equally expressive mrow. This went on for a while- he looked at me anticipating my move towards the stairs that lead to the kitchen and more importantly his food dish. Every time I'd say something to him I'd get the same response- indicating that he didn't much care about what the discussion was about- his food dish was empty and it was time to do something about that.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

More Sitting

Now that my dog sitting duties are complete I am cat sitting my friend's A-'s cats for two days while she is away in Washington DC. These new duties are much simpler of course- all I'm required to do is go over and feed Marcel and Marabou and sit with them awhile. It also helps that A's house is ten minutes from mine so it isn't quite the hassle to get between my place and hers.

Marcel looks like Theo's brother. He's the same color and size. I even noticed when I fed Marcel last night that his meow is similar to Theo's. He also displayed a lot of energy bolting around A's living room as if I had unleashed him somehow. The major difference between Theo (pictured here) and Marcel (not pictured here) however is their eyes. Theo's are further apart and not as symmetrical as Marcel's. I think it gives Theo a more dopey look but A- has said she doesn't agree. It would be nice to get the two together sometime- I think they could get along just great but given all the other cats involved I don't think that's likely to happen.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

That Next Meal

I think my absence has had a bit of an effect on Theo. With the break in the normal routine I think he's developed concerns about being fed.

The way I handled meal times the past three weeks is that either a friend or I would go over every other day and leave out two days worth of food. I'm sure most if not all of the food was gone within hours given the boyz' appetites. And I'm sure Thompson and Diego weren't real conscientious about making sure Theo got his fair share.

Yesterday as soon as I was done feeding the boyz their lunch Theo seemed obsessed with being fed his dinner. He kept meowing and running toward the kitchen every time I moved. Hopefully the settling back to the old routine will alleviate some of his concerns.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Back Home

The boyz seemed glad to finally have their fourth roommate back home. Diego actually climbed up on me into my arms and wouldn't let me put him back down. Theo spent most of the evening racing back and forth in various parts of the house showing even more energy than he usually does (and a bit of paranoia too as if something was chasing him relentlessly). Thompson kept his distance until he finally decided it was time to come over and get his face rubbed. I'm glad to be back home.

Monday, February 19, 2007

So Long Torii

Today was my final day of housesitting Torii. His next caregiver came over to pick him up in the afternoon. This person has two other dogs and Torii was quite excited to be going for a ride.

I greatly enjoyed my time with him. His enthusiam toward life was contagious. And in our quiet moments we enjoyed each's others company even though I think we both have come to love the little routines that make up our normal lives.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Keen Observer

One of Torii's most remarkable talents is his ability to spot an animal on the TV. There were times when I was flipping cable stations when all of a sudden Torii would race up to the screen and jump up. Inevitably somewhere on the screen was an animal. Sometimes it was barely noticeable to me. Other times (like the Westminster Dog Show) it was quite obvious what was behind Torii's enthusiasm for seeing another animal.

Having such a discerning TV eye makes me wonder if Torii approves of my television viewing tastes.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sound of Music

Torii and I were watching a performance by Rickie Lee Jones on the TV when I saw his ears perk up and his voice begin to murmur. Since I knew from being an eyewitness that he has it in him to be a howling singer I started howling at the top of my lungs. He looked at me and took the cue and soon we were howling together.

I don't think he quite knows what to make of me but I think he enjoyed our duet as much as I did.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

State of the Union 2007 Style

So I spent Valentines Day this year with Torii watching the Timberwolves basketball game on TV. Man's best friend indeed.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

In Need of a Session

I got to spend last night at home with my own boyz. M- arranged for someone to go over and feed Torii this morning so I left him all by himself at around 8 p.m. last night feeling kinda bad that he would be kenneled up in the house all by himself all night long.

But I do have duties with my fellas too... My biggest worry in essentially leaving them on their own (with sporadic visits) for three weeks was that by the end of the ordeal they might require some mental therapy.

I may have been right in one case. Theo and Thompson seem to have adjusted to the change in arrangements (although Thompson was quite vocal last night about the lack of food). Diego-san on the other hand seems really lost. He woke me up at around four this morning and pretty much mugged me in bed. He got as close as he could, face to face, and kneaded his paws into my chest. I didn't mind so much being woken up but his kneading always involves claw digging so it was getting kinda painful. I kept moving his paws away and he would then nip at my hands. The boy was in need of some serious attention and he sat forlornly this morning as I prepared to go.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

One Step Forward, Two...

Torii was acting so sweet and appreciative yesterday that I was about to make the declaration that maybe Kurbie is the issue- egging his housemate into bad behavior.

Then I happened to see some scraps on the kitchen floor and noticed Torii happily chewing up the remains of something. It was the coffee card from my favorite neighborhood coffee place- where they keep track of every ten cups you buy so the eleventh one you get for free. I had nine cups bought so my next purchase was going to make me eligible for a free latte.

I guess Torii owes me a cup of coffee.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Sole Survivor

Torii and I had a quiet evening. He sat on my lap as I watched some television. I'm sure he doesn't quite know what to make of things at this point- with his usual houseperson gone and now Kurbie too.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The New Arrangement

Today was the day that I was to bring Kurbie to his new babysitter. I first took out his kennel to double check to make sure it actually fit inside my Mini-Cooper. As soon as I did, Torii got all excited, apparently thinking we were all about to go for a ride.

He jumped up at his person's jacket hanging up in the hallway. He eventually jumped up into my arms. That was when I had to break him the news that it was just Kurbie and I going for a ride. I kenneled Torii up and he started whimpering. I loaded Kurbie in his kennel and brought his kennel to my car. He started whimpering and didn't stop until we arrived at the dropoff location.

Torii seemed subdued when I got back.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


It's a sunny (and cold) Saturday morning. Torii, Kurbie and I are just lounging around doing nothing. In other words, life is good.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Three Minus One

Today and tomorrow are my final days with Kurbie. Per a prior arrangement he is going to stay with another colleague starting Sunday so it will then be just me and Torii for a week.

I'm gonna miss Kurbie. When Torii is going all crazy with energy Kurbie and I will eye each other in sympathy. I love how Kurbie's backside is constantly wiggling and how he does the thing on the carpet with his belly on the ground slithering towards me like a snake or as if he is swimming.

It's been an enjoyable couple of weeks.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Difference Between Cats and Dogs

This first hand experience I'm getting with canine and feline companionship is eye opening (meaning I'm getting even less sleep than usual).

With three cats around my own house- there usually is a cat around me no matter what I'm doing. But it's not like they are always looking for my attention. That isn't the case with Kurbie and Torii (especially Torii). Seems like no matter what they are doing, they expect me to be engaged with them. If I should happen to not be paying attention to them they will often go to the back door and ring the bell indicating they want to go outside. If I ignore that they'll tend to irritate each other causing me to break up the ruckus. I'm quite enjoying my time with them but I think they have confirmed that I am indeed a cat person.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Quality Time

One of the my specific instructions in dog-sitting is that when I get home in the evening I spend a few minutes with Kurbie.

He greets me at the door and I'm to squat down and let him rub up against me and then follow me out to go get the mail. On the way he gets part of a treat and when he returns back in he gets the rest of the treat.

I don't mind the routine whatsoever. It's smile inducing to see him wiggle his behind with a look in his eyes suggesting this is the best part of his day.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Torii is a very passionate dog. He does everything full speed and with great importance. If he wants to be underneath a blanket he rips it back with his front paws at a furious pace. If he wants to be let out of the house he'll jump up enthusiastically at the sliding glass door leading out to the backyard. He has been trained to ring a bell hanging on the wall by that door when he wants to be let out- and he'll do so persistently to make sure he's being understood.

I love that when I get home and let him out of his kennel he'll first reach up into my standing lap as if to let me know he's been energetically waiting for me all day. Then he'll tear around the house looking for that toy that he left aside when he was kenneled up hours before. His passion for life is contagious.

Monday, February 05, 2007

How 'Bout them Minnesotans?

Prince gave a lively and entertaining performance for the Super Bowl halftime show. My favorite part came when he did a verse of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" proving that some pretty talented folk have come out of this part of the country.

Back to the Other Boyz

I spent much of the weekend at my own house staying out of the extreme cold weather (wind chills from 25 to 40 below). When I returned to my dog sitting duties last night- Kurbie for one let it known he appreciated my company again. He kept hopping up on my lap and giving me kisses with his little tail wagging away.

It was nice to be wanted.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Not So Stupid Pet Trick

Theo and I played fetch- an activity that he loves to do anytime, anywhere. But this particular game ended as never before- he took the ball and returned it to the toy box. It was as if he was aware of my attempts to keep the house somewhat clean.

Alas a little while later he got the ball out of the box again to play another round and this time when he was done he left it in the middle of the living room. So it was a one time trick- albeit an impressive one.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Blair Witch Torii

Torii is a rambunctious dog. Because of some behavioral "issues" he gets kenneled up when no one is around to supervise him. Indeed he has so much energy that if he isn't in sight and you don't hear him, it's usually a sign to check on his activities because he'll often be doing something he really shouldn't (humping a pillow, chewing on something that isn't a chew toy- peeing in the house...).

Yet I find him irresistably sweet. His playful energy is just downright amusing- watching him prance from room to room circling from the living room through the dining room and kitchen. And when he does settle down and chews on some rawhide while sitting on your lap or napping with you underneath the covers- he is a fabulous companion.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Figuring Out the Great D

I think I'm beginning to understand the enigmatic Diego-san just a little bit better.

He is by far the most independent of the boyz. He'll sit on my lap but only for a short time. He is the one that spends more of his time alone than the others. He is the best example of showing the curiosity side that his species is famous for.

Yet with this independence streak he seems to be having the hardest time adjusting to my absence. I went home last night to spend the night with the boyz and Diego was right there as soon as I sat down, and by my side when I finally went to bed. I think I'm beginning to see that he likes his independence but that the flip side of that is that he craves attention too. In other words he wants to do things on his own terms but at the same time expects that his terms include getting lots and lots of attention.