Irrational reaction…

There’s a 5 week old bulldog puppy in Georgia I desperately want to put a deposit on and roadtrip south to pick up next month. To the social media friends I’ve spammed with pictures over the last five weeks, hey, sorry about that… but I mean have y’all seen her?!

The thing is, intellectually I know that adding another dog to the mix right now is stupid. Winston is going on eleven now, which for a Bulldog is ultra-geriatric. He already has enough trouble getting around without a pup nipping at his heels. After adding a cat to the mix last year, I feel like he’s probably endured enough new and different in the household. Then there are the inevitable geriatric bulldog expenses to consider. Still, all intellectual assessments aside, I’m having a profound irrational reaction to the litter this particular breeder is showing.

The $4000 price tag of a bulldog from a well-regarded breeder is also enough to give any sane person pause. Is GoFundMe a thing people can do when they want an adorable, but stupendously expensive dog? I mean I’m my own favorite charity already so holding a donation drive doesn’t feel too far fetched, right?

Yes, before someone brings it up, the ethically correct thing to do is wander over to the local animal shelter to find the next addition to the menagerie. I can’t argue that point… but there is something undeniably special about bulldog puppies. Ask anyone who’s been around one. I have absolutely no doubt they’ll back me up.

Worse than hot takes…

I was thrilled today to see much of the North Korea hot takes that filled my newsfeed over the last few days giving way to the funny animal posts and random memes that I’ve come to rely on social media to deliver.

Unfortunately, my feed was equally crammed with a third category of post that I could have really done without. Instead of making me laugh or teaching me something new, apparently the internet decided that today I needed to learn about every dog available for adoption between New Jersey and central Virginia. Believe me when I say it was 100% information I’d have been happy doing without.

On a typical day I wander through life with a generic sense of wanting all the animals. When the internet uses its communicative powers to give each of those animals form and substance, though, all rational arguments like, vet bills, food, training, and not turning into an animal hoarder flow directly out the window.

So it turns out I’m going to need a break from the internet because not because the news of the day is so upsetting, but because animals are just so damned amazing and I want to bring all of them home.

Nose job…

I interrupted a perfectly nice telework day today to take George over to the reptile and exotic pet veterinarian in the next county over. One of the most endearing qualities of your average small sized tortoise is that they are a remarkably low-maintenance animal to keep around. Keep their enclosure clean and stocked with things to push around or climb over, daily feeding and watering, and they almost take care of themselves. Except, of course, for the times when they don’t.

Despite my best efforts to provide sufficient rough surfaces to keep George’s beak in check, it was obviously growing too long and would eventually give him trouble eating. The tortoise nose job turned out to be a 5-minute exercise with a Dremel tool that people all over the internet say you can do yourself. Honestly for less than $50, it’s well worth letting the professionals handle carrying out the task and giving the old boy the once over.

Maybe I’m too use to dragging a bulldog to the vet, but a quick trip where everything was easy and there wasn’t a massive bill due at the end almost felt like a let down – like something too easy. Then again I wasn’t the member of the herd getting a nose job with a Dremel so it’s hard to say what “too easy” might actually look like. I should probably just be satisfied that for the moment all the creatures are in reasonably good health and not racking up new bills.

Ten…

IMG_0305.jpgWalk up to the average bulldog owner and tell them that you’re thinking about adding one to your pack. I’d be willing to bet that 4 out of every five of them will warn you off the breed. They’re sickly – prone to a list of illnesses as long as your leg. They’re rife with potential genetic abnormalities – their airways are too small, their joints are prone to problems, their skin, God help you, will demand seeming around the clock attention. The most common dog foods are apt to trigger a host of potential allergies for them. Bulldogs, despite their popularity, are a troubled breed and not for the faint of heart or thin of wallet.

Having a bulldog means spending a ridiculous amount of time tending to their needs – with medicated baths, lotions, ointments, sprays, and a cabinet full of medication in addition to their basic care and feeding needs. You will develop a closer relationship to your veterinarian and their staff than you ever imagined possible. If the dog itself is an outsized expense, your medical bills for his care are going to spiral quickly into the five figure range and easily keep climbing from there.

My bulldog turns ten today. He’s been my near constant companion for almost every day of those ten years and he’s been a burning hot mess for almost the entire time. I’d hate to calculate the dollar cost of our time together or the number of trips to the vet for everything from noshing an Atavair inhaler weeping skin sores that erupted overnight without warning to months long recuperation from leg surgery.

I know though, that Fortress Jeff wouldn’t be what it is without Winston’s inquisitive eyes, slobbering IMG_0304.jpgjowls, smiling under bite, and undiluted obstinacy. Reaching his tenth birthday today, I’m acutely aware that I’ve got far fewer days left with him than I’ve had with him already. It’s one of life’s great inequities that the time we get with these animals is so incredibly short.

Any conversation I have about bulldogs invariably starts with “I love Winston more than nearly any living creature on the planet, but there will never be another bulldog…” The truth is, I’d be hard pressed to think of what this house would be like without a bulldog in it. The thought itself feels unnatural. There may well be other bulldogs in the future, but Winston will always be my first and the yardstick against which any other would be measured.

Today, of course, isn’t a day to ponder the costs or the future. It’s a day to give him a few extra ear rubs and chin scratches and marvel at the fact I’ve had so long to enjoy the companionship of this incredible dog.

An update on the herd…

Editorial Note: I stumbled on a few “Ask Me Anything” questions I got a few months ago and had completely forgotten about. Over the next week or two, I’ll do my best to work them in to the schedule.

Tonight’s AMA question comes from someone I’ll Identify as LS. LS asks, “Update on the pet situation, please! Now that the intro period is over, how are Maggie and Winston and Hershel getting along? How have you and the dogs had to adjust your routines for the cat? Is there a pecking order? How can you tell?”

Maggie, although the youngest of the two dogs, is generally the pace setter. She’s the one who most often engages the cat – although it’s not so much an effort to play as an ongoing uncertainty and fascination with the creature that has access not just to the horizontal space in the house, but also operates on the vertical axis. Her main role seems to be one of investigating all the things that go “bump” when Hershel is up and moving. By contrast, Winston is his truly ambivalent self in their interactions.

I should say that Winston is ambivalent up to a point. He’s the grand old man of the house – with arthritic joints and plates and pins holding him together, he doesn’t generally appreciate the rough and tumble moments. That hasn’t stopped Hershel from wanting to pounce and play, but his efforts are usually met with a growl or with Winston’s best impression of a charging bull. I don’t expect that’s surprising from a very senior bulldog.

For all of his innate cat tendencies, Hershel has very much assumed the role of “third dog” in the household and is often found following along behind the other two. The best example probably comes each morning when I’m leaving for work. Maggie and Winston have always gotten a treat – a peanut butter Kong or other tasty morsel – when I leave. It became such a fixture of the schedule that they sit patiently at the laundry room door until it’s disbursed. It took a few months for Hershel to catch on to the program, but now he’s sitting right along with them waiting for his. I didn’t set out to turn him doggo, but at least in some respects that’s what’s become of him.

At best, they get along like all three have been together all their lives. At worst, they tolerate each other. Generally I’ve come to the conclusion that they’ve all more or less decided that they’re part of the same pack. Mercifully, there’s been minimal adjustment to the household routine – the only exception being the baby gate that keeps the litter box from becoming an open buffet for a particularly ill-disciplined chocolate lab. The gate is a nuisance, but what it prevents is undoubtedly worth the effort.

Is there a moral to the story? Hard to say, really. Dogs and cats can apparently live together just fine. I’m sure that has as much to do with the temperament of the individual animals as it does with anything else so I won’t take any credit there. The whole lot of them are badly trained and entirely spoiled – which is 100% my fault, of course. I find, though, that each one of them is completely endearing for their own particular set of reasons and take absolutely no steps to correct their behavior in any way.

Animal kingdom…

The homestead is something of an animal kingdom. The squirrels and birds get plied with all the nuts and seeds they can eat, the resident deer get the occasional handful of corn, and all manner of morsels from the kitchen feed whatever creatures will eat them. The critters inside pretty much have the run of the place. As often as not it feels like the whole household is designed around them. Given the amount of time I spent shifting furniture yesterday that’s not quite an understatement.
Until Hershel the cat came along, George the tortoise lived happily in his open topped enclosure in the office. With the addition of a cat, who wasn’t so IMG_6401.JPGmuch interested in the tortoise as he was in jumping into and out of the enclosure and spinning ground coconut onto every flat surface in the room with every leap in and out. Between the never-ending cycle of vacuuming up coconut shell and the threat of tipping over various heat lamps, the two had to be separated.

That was easy enough in the winter – close up the doors to the sunroom/office and go on about the day. With spring setting in and inability to satisfactorily control the ambient air temperature coming to a head, George had to move… Which is why I spent most of the day yesterday getting him installed in his own bedroom. Yes, I understand how perfectly ridiculous that sounds, but I suspect we’ll all be happier with this arrangement. Well, the cat may not be as pleased since I seem to have taken away one of his favorite toys. I supposed he’ll just have to satisfy himself with other less messy options for the foreseeable future.

I’m well satisfied with out new arrangement, but perhaps more satisfied that the furniture is all back in place and the hand carts and other implements of moving are back in the garage. Around here the biggest enemies to a happy life are chaos and disorder. Spending the better part of a day bringing those to heel feels like time awfully well spent.

Baby steps…

Until two and a half weeks ago, I’d lived for a little over eight years in a canine only household. I’m not counting the tortoise because mostly he’s just a sunlamp loving rock that
needs daily greens and fresh water. Being cat free wasn’t because I harbor instinctive ill will towards. There was always a cat around growing up and I had one myself in the past. Adding another mouth to the herd was just never all that FullSizeRender (27).jpgmuch a priority.

Since I haven’t given our new addition a proper introduction on the blog, it felt like something I needed to do. The nice folks at my vet’s office had been fostering Hershel since he was dropped off on their doorstep at about two weeks old. He ended up being the sole survivor of his litter-mates. They were looking for a permanent position for him so they could take on the next troubled animal… which of course paved the way for me to bring him home to Fortress Jeff.

I’ve never been particularly sympathetic to people, but animals, man, they seem to manage to find all my feels. I’m happy to report that he’s integrating even better than I had expected. I think what we’re all getting use to is having a youngling around the house again. With both the dogs well into advanced middle age and me being the youngest old man on the planet, the level of energy a kitten has is something to behold… even if it is occasionally troublesome for the rest of us.

Really, though, we’re all still getting to know one another and figure out where we all fit in. The dogs have been remarkably tolerant of this small creature that seems determined to pounce on them from every direction simultaneously. I’ve also learned just how many electrical cords I have strung around this house. Tonight’s project is coating as many of them as possible in soap, which he doesn’t seem to enjoy chewing on at all.

My initial assessment is that we’re going to enjoy having this little fuzzball around… especially once he decides there are better things to gnaw on than my fingers in the middle of the night. For now it’s all baby steps.