Lupus and owning pets.

I teared up while writing this, which is an understatement to how much my pets mean to me, and how much they pick me up on the bad days.

I have two cats, Finn and Zoey, both female. I also have a male dog named Fergus, who is a Rottweiler/chow chow mix (and possibly a bit shar pei, he has folds) who is about 7 years old. I take part in their care along with my family, even though my part is small at times, depending on how I feel.

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We adopted Zoey in 2007 as a kitten from the shelter. She had a feline virus and the shelter wanted to adopt her out faster because she would be healthier in a home, rather than stay at the shelter where she could develop something else. We were a little worried for her but we took her in along with her medicine, and set her up in the spare bathroom with a kitty bed, food, water, and litter. We kept the door shut to keep her in a little space, and to keep the dogs we had at the time  away from her. The night we brought her home we also had tickets to see a show, so we spent the evening away from her, but she was cozy asleep in the bathroom, so we weren’t worried. When we got home, I peeked in on her, and she of course had unraveled the toilet paper all over the bathroom. I knew she would be a healthy kitty from then on, and she’s been a ball of mischief ever since. I can’t explain to you how much I love this animal, and how instrumental she has been in helping me deal with all my health issues, I can only say that however much you love your animal, multiply that by ten billion, and that’s a fraction of how much I love my Zoey.

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Finn was sort of “a gift from the universe” you might say. My brother and I were taking college classes, and he found her one night while waiting for my class to get out. She was so tiny. She was hanging out by the sprinklers getting some water. I sneaked up behind her and grabbed her. I thought for a little while that she could have belonged to someone, but I was informed by the college staff that people dump kittens on the campus. She was emaciated, and definitely the runt. That night we brought her home was a scary one. She collapsed and wouldn’t stand up. We nursed her with an eye dropper full of sugar water. The area we found her was a very dry desert-like climate, and she was probably severely dehydrated. We were pretty lucky she responded well to the sugar water, because she could have died. But she didn’t, and soon we had her eating and drinking on her own, and she even took to the litter box immediately despite being a stray. She is now a healthy spunky playful kitty. She is still relatively kitten-sized since she was a runt but she is the strongest cat I’ve ever seen. There is no holding her if she doesn’t want to be held. She can hold her own in a wrestling match against Zoey despite being smaller. This is a rare photo of them “getting along”….in my laundry basket of course.

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My kitties aren’t friends. Zoey is very territorial and only tolerates Finn’s presence. The only thing they enjoy doing together is kicking each others’ ass.   

I unfortunately am very limited right now in the things I can do to help take care of them. Before the Lupus hit me hard, I took turns in cleaning up after them, like changing their litter and doing any laundry or otherwise any mess that they might create. My ability to do housework in general has dwindled over the past few years, but with the help of Benlysta I’m hoping I can change that.

I am, however, able to help in other ways. I can fill and freshen up their food and water dishes. When I have energy I spend a good amount of time playing with both of them. Zoey doesn’t much like it when I play with Finn, but she’ll just have to get over it. It is also my legs that Zoey chooses to sleep on all night, which is cute… and not cute at the same time, if your legs hurt. She keeps choosing to sleep on me no matter how much I toss and turn. She is a loyal kitty. Once in a while I’ll wake up and realize Finn is sleeping on me, but since I belong to Zoey, it doesn’t happen that often. It’s cute when it does, though.

When my elderly dogs went to dog heaven, and some time went by, my family agreed it was time to adopt again. We weren’t really looking for a puppy. I felt I didn’t have the energy to devote to a growing energetic dog, and it wouldn’t be fair. We instead decided to adopt a worthy adult dog (they’re all worthy, of course, which made it so hard to choose) and spent time  meeting a handful of dogs and walking laps around the shelter peeking into the dog runs. Social media was the eventual matchmaker in our adoption. A 6-year-old rottweiler mix had been surrendered by their owner, and had spent some time in a shelter in Ojai, and was moved to our shelter to see if he would be adopted by someone here. His name was Sparky then, although I am unsure if that was his given name or his shelter name. It most certainly didn’t fit him though. We wanted to keep the tradition of naming our dogs celtic names, and we settled on Fergus. His full registered name is Fergus Bear, which ironically we came up with long before the movie Brave was released. 

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Fergus’ adjustment to a new home has been both easy and difficult. It’s been a year since we adopted him (actually, tomorrow is our anniversary) and it’s been a learning experience for all of us. I’ve learned as much about Fergus as he has about us. I can tell that his previous owners had him trained on a bark collar because he never barks, he only whines, and the whining is something dogs on bark collars learn to do to get attention when they can’t bark. I am terribly against bark collars. My honest opinion is that if you don’t want your dog to bark then don’t get a dog. I’ve spent a year with him trying to break him of his bark collar training. It’s been an incredibly slow process but I’ve made progress. He went from no barking at all, to barking when he is rolling on the rug to itch his back. Whenever he does that I give him a lot of praise. I’m hoping if I can get him to bark like a normal dog he won’t whine. The other reason I want him to bark is I’d like him to bark when someone knocks on the door. It makes me feel safe.

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Fergus has some separation anxiety. You would too if your family dropped you off at the shelter and you got adopted by another family and never saw your first family again. If you start petting him, he’ll cry when you stop. He used to cry if he was in a room by himself, he doesn’t do that anymore now. He gets upset when we leave the house, too. He cries and rolls over to lay on our feet when we come home as if to say “I never thought I’d see you again.” He’s starting to get used to use leaving and coming back, though. He recognizes that we always come back. If the house is going to be completely empty for a couple hours we usually put the TV or the radio on, the white noise makes him less worried.

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The easy part of Fergus’ adjustment was that he is very house-trained. I live in a condo and do not have a backyard which must have been confusing for him at first because he wasn’t sure how to ask to go outside. He had a few accidents but after he realized that he would be walked every few hours to do his business, there hasn’t been an accident since. He probably gets more exercise than a dog who has a yard because he gets to go on lots of walks. He loves his walks, and I do too, when I am able to. I trade off with my family on walking him but lately I’ve been missing out because of my headaches and heart palpitations. My brothers have taken over and walk him for most of his walks now. I used to be able to go every day but now it’s a couple times a week, although I have walked him when I had a migraine before out of necessity. When you gotta wee wee, you gotta wee wee. 

I miss going on walks regularly with Fergus. I hope I can get back to going every day, and even squeezing some park time in that he so loves. The exercise is great for both of us. People don’t realize all the little things that illness can take away from you.

My pets make my day better. They keep me company on my bad days and constantly make me smile and remind me why I get out of bed everyday to keep fighting for Lupus remission. I am thankful to be able to have them, and for the help of my family in taking care of them since I am sometimes not able to. My family enables me to do and have things I couldn’t otherwise have/do myself and I am truly grateful because it helps me get through the bad days.

I can’t write this blog without mentioning my now Dog Angel, Reilly. He went to dog heaven in 2009 at the amazing age of 17. He was a Rottweiler mix like Fergus, but his other half was probably German Shepherd. Here’s an old-timey photo I had the privilege of taking, circa 2006: 

ImageReilly was funny. All animals are funny, but you know what I mean. I can’t eat fruity candy without thinking about him. He loved fruity candy. I would open a package of it and he would race down the hallway and beg for it. He would eat fruit loop cereal too. On hot days I could even get him to eat a popsicle. I’ve never heard of another dog that loved fruity flavored things. Miss you, waggles. ❤

 

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