Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Plot Thickens: In Which The Inevitable Turns Out Differently From Expected

As a dogsitter, it was inevitable that someone was going to ask me to watch their cat.

Last week, a friend got in touch. She would be away for a few days, she said, and could I do a couple of house visits for Oliver, the 5 year old ragdoll?

But... he's a cat, I protested.

Oliver the cat stands in the doorway. He has a grey face and ears, white fur and piercing blue eyes.
Hello human.

(Don't get me wrong, I like cats. They're pretty and they're clean. But do they want to go walkies? Do they need me to throw the ball endlessly? No? Then what do they need me for?)

Oliver's human assured me that cats are low-maintenance and that I would be up to the task.
I agreed, and listened to instructions about how to feed the cat and clean the litter box.

As it turned out, Oliver did have other uses for me.

Isn't he a total ham?

When I arrived he would come right up to me and rub against me, headbutt me and jump up practically into my lap when I sat on the couch.

He actually wanted to cuddle!

I was touched that this animal trusted me so implicitly -- it reminded me of Avapup. I guess animals are kind of amazing like that, whether canine, feline or otherwise.

Now -- a question for my readers who are cat people. Is sweet Oliver unusually friendly for a cat, or is the 'aloof' thing just a stereotype? Is your cat this physically affectionate?

And what is the universe trying to tell me by giving me a cat... that acts like a dog?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Guest Post: The Trouble With Walking Humans

Hi guys. Darcy here!

It's nice to be back on the blog.

But the thing is -- I have this problem.

See, my sister said that training humans can be hard. But then, she said that I could do a good job if I was con...sistent? Basically, I have to be responsible and keep doing the same thing over and over until they work out what they're meant to do. That doesn't sound too hard.

But no one told me how hard it is to walk a human!

First, you have to have them on a string, because otherwise they don't follow you.

If it weren't for the string, who knows where the human would end up!

But then once you're outside, they don't seem to know what to do. You know how it is, right? There are people to get pats from, birdies to chase, all kinds of tasty things to grab and sooo many smells to sniff!

Must. Catch. Birdies.


But the human just can't keep up. Like, whenever I leap for a birdie, she always stops before I can catch it! (I guess humans tire easily.) Sometimes she even turns around to go in the other direction... even though I'm all ready to meet the people coming towards us! Sigh.

And that's not all. Whenever there's the good smells, the ones that need a whole minute to appreciate (you know the ones), she can't seem to wait, and tries to hurry me along! Can you believe it? I guess patience is hard for humans.

My sister did tell me humans can be kind of slow, but I dunno how she managed to train them because we pups never go walking together anymore. I dunno why. Maybe because the humans are too clumsy to keep the strings from tangling up when I jump on Ava? They seem to get all flustered every time I tackle her!

Don't get me wrong, humans are fun and I know I have a big responsibility to teach them right. But man, it's hard work!

Help a pup out -- do you have any tips on walking humans?

Darcy xx

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Conflict Arises: In Which Scruffy Finds Himself in Bootcamp and Melon Thinks the Universe Knows More Than It Tells

Why do things never turn out like we expect?

I had Scruffy and Charlie booked in to stay with me for a couple of weeks around Easter. They last had a very smooth stay in January, so we assumed it would be pretty routine.

Left, a cream mini labradoodle stands on the grass. Right, a tricolour wire fox terrier stands on the pavers of the backyard.
Charlie (L) and Scruffy (R)

This was not to be. Just before their owner went away, I was told that I would be left with only Scruffy, as a trainer had advised that the dogs sleep separately. I was puzzled, but confirmed the boarding.

I've mentioned the issues between these two dogs before, and my hopes for some professional intervention. Due to personal reasons, I had made the decision last year to give their owner some referrals rather than take the job myself.

Then, less than a week before Scruffy and Charlie were to be dropped off, the dogs were at a different groomer from usual. While there, Scruffy attacked Charlie and left him with puncture wounds. The vet who treated Charlie referred their owner to a professional dog trainer.

Here's the cool part. The professional trainer, through a stroke of luck, turned out to be one of my teachers from technical college. So while I was thrilled to have Scruffy and Charlie in such good hands, he seemed pleased to hear that I was the dog-sitter who would be watching Scruffy while their human is away.

So while Charlie is resting up at home with a family member, I've got this dude with me.

Scruffy is scruffy looking with fur standing in all directions, one ear up and one ear down. His tongue is out in a relaxed expression, lead dangling out of frame.
Scruffy doing a Sit-Stay at the shops

As instructed by my teacher, Scruffy and I are working on basic obedience, crate training and treating some mild separation anxiety. He whines when left alone, presumably because he's never been truly alone before -- he and Charlie were always kept together.

A post shared by Melon (@melondious) on

It's not 'my job' to train Scruffy, but I am taking this opportunity to learn from my mentor. I'd also like to help out this owner, as long as she is dedicated to putting in the work to keep Scruffy. (If he is not safe around Charlie after this training, I believe Scruffy will be re-homed.)

Fingers crossed for good results!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Tiger and Cow: A Love Story

As a petsitter / dog trainer, I am in the unique position of having many dogs go through my home / care, rather than just one.

And we know that every dog is different, with their own likes and dislikes, and all sorts of fun personality quirks.

That’s why, in my household, this plant will forever be known as Gatsby’s Bush.

I just loved to look out my window and see her balancing like a sphinx on the round bush (top left).

And then -- there's Tiger’s Cow.

Allow me to present: Tiger and Cow: A Love Story.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Sadness and a Success Story: In Which You Win Some, You Lose Some

That's what I'm strongly feeling right now: In life... you win some, you lose some.

I've been keeping busy, which is satisfyingly productive. I'm improving my skills, I'm helping people, and just generally getting on with life.

But I still live with depression.

I suspect anyone with chronic illness who has been fortunate enough to experience recovery has discovered the same thing: 'recovery' presents its own challenges. You start having expectations (other people's and your own), you start having dreams (your own mostly - others probably never had to give theirs up), and it hurts when you realise your illness hasn't gone anywhere. You're allowed to dream, but you know that most of those are still just -- a dream.

* * * 

But this is a dog blog, so let's share a "win" from the dog side of things.


I was asked to visit Tiger, the 6 year old Pomeranian, twice a week for a month while his owners were away. He was being fed and visited by his neighbours, who are extended family, but they felt he needed more attention and weren't sure how to give it to him.

I was told he doesn't like strangers -- which was true. Although I was let in by a family member, Tiger continued to bark at me inside the house. I had arrived prepared and immediately started counterconditioning his view of me. I tossed treats away from me when he approached me, always letting him move away from me to get them. Soon he was coming toward me of his own accord. I never reached toward him, as it was obvious it would startle him.

It wasn't long before we got along much better. Tiger turned out to be a very alert, responsive little dog.

Tiger is lying on the grass in the sun, with his muzzle under a black-and-white cow toy.
Can you see me?

While toys were number one on his list, I used his love of food to teach him a few new tricks, too.

My dogsitting job is over as his family is home. I never walked him as part of the house visits as I was told he was both human and dog reactive, but the owners might contact me in future if they want to do a behavioural modification program.

Tiger proved to be very bright and extremely trainable, so I have high hopes for him if they choose to go down that path. In the meantime, this cute dude has a few new tricks to show his friends!