Dogs and cats

Downsizing with pets doesn’t have to be a problem.  It can be an issue when you have two of each, however.  Especially if your two dogs have a deep seated hatred of each other and cannot be allowed to share the same space without potentially dire consequences.  I know this, we have already paid a seriously large emergency room visit for the smaller of the two.  Don’t put too much sympathy on her part, however.  She’s the more likely of the two to be the aggressor in a situation, despite being smaller and younger, as well as the later addition to our family.

We cope.  Sissy (the smaller) has a crate on the lower bunk.  That’s her safe spot and she really does like her crate.  She can safely start fights from there and not have any painful consequences.  (Yes, she really does do that!)  It also has her cozy bed, her food dish, and a water dish…and its safe from potential thievery there too.

Red could be crated, I suppose.  If we took out the dinette and replaced it with the Fort Knox of crates.  She is an escape artist with a known history of crate destruction induced by her deep seated separation anxiety issues.  She’s a great dog, everyone tells us how much they wish they had a dog like her, but they don’t know how awful it is when she has to be left behind and alone.  We no longer have a screen on our screen door of the travel trailer.  She ate it.  I suppose I should be thankful that’s all she did–she has gone out windows on previous occasions.  It’s crazy, she will stay right by my side even if a deer runs out in front of us…she won’t touch a pork roast or fast food even if she’s left in the car with it for an hour, but Lord help me if I have to leave her home alone or leave her unsupervised with the trash can.  The trash can is her other weakness.  She knows she’s not supposed to, but she just can’t resist.  This morning, after the latest trash can violation, I got up and she was frantic at the door to go out, which is very unusual.  I’m getting dressed and getting shoes on,  and my glance falls on the “kitchen” floor.

All I had to say was “Who did that???” and she was cringing.  I pointed to the back of the trailer (there is no room near the door when Red Dog is dancing there) and told her to go lay down before the trash can got her, and she ran like she thought she was about to be beaten.  GM claims she is incredibly spoiled.  I think dogs, like children, are for spoiling as long as they also learn to behave. Unfortunately, Sissy has her mouth and Red cannot resist a trash can.  We have been working on it…for years.

Now, as midday approaches, both dogs are lounging in the yard on their tie outs, enjoying the late fall sunshine.  Sissy, of course, being a feist, is watching intently for signs of the invasion of the Evil Squirrel Kingdom.  The squirrels have developed a hobby of throwing sticks and acorns at her, and I swear as we watch it, the squirrels are laughing at her.  She is, of course, furious and trying to figure out how to climb a totally vertical tree to get at the evil squirrels.

The cats are showing signs of recovery of their Stockholm syndrome.  We had locked them in the bathroom during the initial phase of getting everyone moved in.  The end result? They wouldn’t leave the bathroom.  They are now finally working up to the stage of coming out and standing on their hind legs to meow at Sissy, I think it’s just to hear her start barking and whining.  The bathroom was going to remain their “safe spot” in the travel trailer, as RedDog has a low tolerance of cats and I don’t trust her without supervision.  At night, it’s safe enough, but hours alone in the travel trailer without someone to remind her of the peace treaty?  In the house, the cats had a very tall perch to escape to “just in case” that Red could not get at them at.  Nothing is very tall in a travel trailer, and we certainly had no room for a giant sized cat tower!  My sole concern as we help our cats recover from their neurotic attachment to the bathroom is that one of them would dart out the door.  Neither cat is an outdoor cat, and there are hazards that would quickly result in their demise.  In a truly mobile and traveling situation, I think I’d like to have a portable little frame to put over the door, just to have a method of preventing them from doing just that.  It wouldn’t have to be much, so maybe GM & I can come up with something out of PVC pipe that could be easily put together and then disassembled for transport.  It only has to be strong enough to keep a cat from darting away in a strange place, and allow us time to grab said escapee.

For travel trailers (or any micro-sized home) and pets, it takes a bit of ingenuity and a genuine love of your pet.  Our litter box fits perfectly right beside the toilet, and achieves my goal of maximum distance from food & sleeping spaces.  Food  dishes for the dogs are put down for meals and then picked up.  Water dishes are easy with Sissy-hers is in her crate.  RedDog, with her habit of walking away without swallowing that last quart of water, is a bit bigger and wetter problem.  When we are inside, I spend as much time giving her drinks as a two year old would occupy, as the dish has to be filled, put on the rug we use to absorb her dribbles, and then picked up to keep me from dumping it over.  When she is left here alone, obviously her water dish is simply left on the floor–away from the door where she will dance when we are coming home.

Storing food for full time life is a bigger issue.  I no longer buy 40-50 lb bags of food.  I prefer a 20 lb bag because it is easier to store and I can move it after the first day or two with one hand.  It typically lasts a week to ten days, which means I have to buy it more frequently than my previous once-a-month purchases previously.  The same is true with the cats-I don’t buy 20 lb bags of cat food or entire cases of canned food.  I usually buy about a week or two week supply of dry, and pick up their canned food weekly.  Budget constraints lately also means that neither dogs nor cats are enjoying ultra-premium foods though, so the foods I am purchasing are readily available at Walmart (the bane of small town life in America.)  Cat litter is another bulk purchase.  Buying it in rigid containers or even in the bucket means that at least it won’t get spilled.  We use scoopable litter and change out the entire box every couple of months or when it just keeps a residual odor.  I do have to admit, I can smell the litter box more than I like, since we can only have one litter box instead of the two that they were accustomed to.  I’m still trying out litter brands as my demands on odor control have changed in such small quarters.  One brand was offensive even before it was used, as the perfume used in it was awful in my opinion (Arm & Hammer, a brand I’d used for years.)  We have also tried several versions of Tidy Cat, and Walmart’s brand as well.  Nothing is quite what I want yet.  Using a covered sifting litter box is also a great aid–it makes the daily grind much faster!  Even so, because of dust, lack of space, odors, etc. we still take the entire box outside for the sifting duty and refilling, emptying the clumps into the trash, reassembling the litter box, and then carrying the heavy thing back inside.  GM has to carry it for me, but he is hopeless about sifting & reassembling it.  It’s weird–he can take a car engine apart but can’t manage a 3 piece sifting litter box system?  Go figure! (I suspect its a mental block!)  My air freshener of choice? Oust.  I hate the heavy perfumy aroma but it does fade after a few minutes.

Pets do mean that unnecessary clutter is quickly total chaos.  Tails knock stuff down.  Jumping pets knock stuff down.  They don’t realize that that pile of paperwork is IMPORTANT or that you just spent two hours stacking it there to get ready to file it.  They want to be with you and they want your attention.  So in another sense, pets can contribute to neat habits.  Either that, or frequent toe touches as you clean up the chaos again.

Would I have my crew if I was living in a travel trailer before I got them?  I will confess, I’m not a cat person and likely wouldn’t have acquired the cats (actually, they acquired me) if I was in a travel trailer.  I’d have also probably thought twice before Sissy with her tendency to yap yap yap continually too.  She’s severely restricting our options now about where we can live and can’t live.  RedDog LOOKS intimidating, can bark and growl, but she is much more well behaved and socially acceptable in close quarters.  We have tried about everything to try and get Sissy to behave instead of barking continuously.  She continues barking even when my hand is clamping her mouth shut and my hands have covered her eyes in an attempt to get her to pay attention to me instead of acting like an idiot.  I didn’t bother with an anti-bark collar–I don’t think it would get her attention short of electrocuting her to death.  We have talked about de-barking her surgically, but despite the myths that it leaves the dogs silent afterwards, that statement is not true.  On a number of occasions, the results afterwards were MORE annoying (at least to me) as they would have a high pitched squeaky and simultaneously raspy “bark” that reminds me all too much of fingernails on a chalkboard.  I’m really and truly leery of using a surgical approach and almost regard it as a potentially cruel operation.  Granted, the surgery is far less cruel than being put in situation of having to put her to sleep because we cannot find her an alternative home or keep her ourselves.

In one way, I can’t believe I even typed those words.  The thought of having to do something like that makes my stomach knot up, and yet, there are thousands of dogs each day that are in that exact situation.  Many people, upon losing their homes or jobs, are forced to move into apartments or rentals that don’t allow pets…and the family’s former darling is suddenly thrust into a pound where, if it is lucky, it is allowed a few days to find someone to adopt it before it is killed.  In many cases, owner-surrendered dogs are killed in less than 24 hours.

Each month, the friend where we are staying has 1-3 dogs show up that have been abandoned, and are then picked up by the country animal control officer.  This morning, it was a beagle mix with sores on its neck where someone had left a collar so tight that it had begun growing into the neck and then it had been removed.  My guess? Someone figured the dog had a better chance of a life dumped on a county road than it did where it was at, obviously neglected.  It had a sweet nature, and was very friendly with all of our dogs, and I felt bad as we left for the day, knowing that the gentle dog was going to the pound and the probable deadly results of that journey.

Mississippi seems to have a LOT of stray and abandoned dogs.  There’s a big difference between Fido found a way out and a dog that is homeless and abandoned.  GM & I have done a lot of volunteering in the past with animal rescue, and it is obvious that a lot of work needs to be done in terms of spays & neuters, vaccinations, owner education, and low-cost veterinary care.  As someone who has worked with unaltered dogs most of my life (show dogs cannot be altered) I don’t understand why so many unplanned litters are everywhere!  (Red has never been spayed, nor has she ever had a litter.  Sissy and Cali are spayed, and Smokey is neutered.)  I also do not understand why so many men oppose neutering their cats and dogs, crossing their own legs as they refuse to consider it.  I can guarantee that it will not affect their own masculinity!

Of course, having grown up in a cowboy family, my uncle would take care of neutering any and all tomcats in the family, just as he neutered bulls in his daily work.  With his pocket knife.  Unlike the bull calves being roped and hog tied, the cat was put into a stove pipe and the deed was done quickly and without anesthetic or antiseptics.  We never had a cat get sick or an infection, and they were all healed a few days after they were “cut” as we put it.  We thought nothing of it, but no one wanted a tomcat around because of their spraying their scent and marking their territory, which meant when there WAS a litter of kittens, the males were neutered as soon as their testicles dropped.  The only males, in terms of livestock, that were allowed to remain unaltered were those destined for breeding stock.  That was horses, cattle, goats, cats, dogs, or whatever.  With poultry, the excess males were simply slaughtered very young and cooked.

So, to me, neutering has a very practical aspect.  Neutered males are not in pursuit of mates, and therefore are less likely to wander.  Neutered males also tend to grow larger and remain somewhat babyish for some reason, making them more tractable and less prone to things like aggression and territorial behaviors.  With a spayed female, you simply don’t have to deal with the heat cycles.  On occasion, a “bossy” female may also exhibit very territorial and aggressive behavior and spaying her will often help alleviate the issue.

So, if you are considering using RV parks…and considering getting a dog…don’t get a breed known for its barking or aggression.  Some parks also won’t allow breeds such as German Shepherd Dogs, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Pit Bulls or Staffordshire Terriers, or American Bulldogs either.  If your dog RESEMBLES those breeds, whether or not they are actually that breed, you will also face discrimination against your pet.  Breeds known for being noisy include collies, huskies, terriers (especially smooth coated terriers for some reason,) beagles (and other hounds,) and shetland sheepdogs.  Toy breeds, because of their compact size and correspondingly small vocal cords, are an obvious good choice.  That doesn’t mean you can’t have a substantially sized dog–just make sure it is not going to be a problem in close quarters.

Often, an RV park allots no more outside space for a resident than the same space your trailer or RV will occupy, so in my case, it’s apt to be just 8’x30′.  Clean up after your pet is done doing his or her business is also important, and believe me, the poo bag size is vastly different when cleaning up behind an Irish Wolfhound or a Miniature Pinscher!  In addition, the cramped space means that pets cannot get their exercise at home in the yard–you have to walk them.  Fido can weigh in at  5 lbs and need a block of walking or Fido can weigh in at 150 lbs and need 5 miles of walking–it’s up to you!

Spaying or neutering your pet makes them much more socially acceptable too.  They are also then not going to surprise you with family additions or contracting a “venereal disease.”  Yes, dogs can get sexually transmitted diseases!  I’m not certain about cats, but it is probable that there is something sexually transmitted.  Living in close quarters such as RV parks, campgrounds, etc. also means your pet needs full sets of vaccinations, not just the minimum required by law.  Many diseases can be transmitted by insects or your dog simply walking the same path as a sick animal, then licking its paws…or by you walking home and carrying the disease in on your shoes.  Social environments are fun, but it does mean that extra precautions are wise.  Even diseases such as “kennel cough” can be alarming when your dog contracts it, even though it is non-fatal.   They wheeze and hack and sneeze, and sound like they are on death’s door for days, and it takes weeks for full recovery.  Kennel cough is also not a disease ONLY contracted in a kennel–it’s a highly contagious assortment of respiratory diseases all put under that label, not unlike “cold” or “flu” for humans.  The vaccine is not 100% effective, but does cover the worst of the batch, and it is frequently delivered as a nasal spray instead of an injection.  Your veterinarian can advise you on what shots you should have, but make sure you make him or her aware of your future (and past) travel plans.  Each region has its own hazards for pets.

Just like everything else, in a micro-housing situation, whether it is an RV or not, we have to take each family members’ needs into consideration.  We have to make adaptations to make them comfortable and safe.  It isn’t impossible, and there is certainly no reason to give up your beloved pet simply because of down sizing!  I’ve made a lot of jokes about acquiring an Irish Wolfhound now that we are living small, but in reality, I would not add a third dog to the family right now.  Additions at this point of time in our lives wouldn’t be wise because we are so unsettled.  We have enough to deal with already.

Getting a pet because you are downsizing might not be your best choice.  Change always brings stress and a period of adjustment.  Consider carefully before making that decision to add a 4 legged member to your household.  Can you provide long term care and food?  If you could no longer care for your pet, what would happen to it?  If you are traveling, what if you became sick or injured, how would your pet be cared for?

Pets add an incredible amount to our lives.  A dog can make a nervous and uncertain person feel much more secure.  Any pet can make a lonely person feel less lonely.  The demands of pet care add structure to someone’s life, as you are in a situation of needing to fill its needs on a regular schedule.  Pet owners live longer and healthier lives too.  At the same time, too many pets are acquired on a whim, and then disposed of at an animal shelter without a second thought.  Pets have emotions, even if they may be different from ours.  They should be treated with respect, consideration, and have basic care.  I’ve seen pets owned by homeless people that actually were better off than many middle class pets, because that pet was important to their owner, was cared for to the best of their ability, and received the attention the pet deserved.  Granted, the pet may be eating out of dumpsters and from leftover food at restaurants…but so was their owner.  How can  you slight an owner for their pet care when the pet shares the owner’s dinner?

You may not think you are going to have the space your pet needs, but in reality, all your pet will care about is being with you.  They won’t mind being told to move over 100 times a day (ask RedDog!) as long as they can share that micro-space with you.  Since they ask so little but for our attention and love, how can we even consider our space to be too small for them?

I’d hate to think of not having my pets with me, even though I may be entertaining regrets now as we search for a new location and Sissy’s yapping is suddenly a big problem.  At home in the yard, she was not a serious “yapper” because she could not see things that bothered her.  In an RV park or campground, she can always see strangers, strange dogs, strange vehicles, and other things her poor eyesight can’t identify, resulting in continual yap when outdoors, whether on leash or tied out.

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About giascott

Writer, blogger, cook, grandmother, mother, wife, radio personality, outdoor enthusiast, dog enthusiast, crafter, artist, and part-time nut~~I've earned a lot of t-shirts in my day! I'm one of those crazy independent women who can cut down a tree, build you a shed, sew you a dress, cook your dinner, make some soap, pitch a tent, build a fire, catch some fish, dig in the garden, chase a kid or two, write you a poem, paint you a picture, and a dozen other things...just don't ask me to sing! I'm also embarking on a relatively new portion of my life, one of being disabled. I'm learning some lessons along the way about a lot of things too.
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2 Responses to Dogs and cats

  1. Karen Rickers says:

    Re Sissy’s barking and your concerns with a shock collar, you might want to consider a collar that sprays citronella when they bark. I had great success using this with my first greyhound who had terrible separation anxiety, and no guilt on my part about shocking him. They hate the smell of citronella, so it’s an effective deterrent.

    Just a thought.

    • giascott says:

      Sissy is just so oblivious, I didn’t think a shock collar would get her attention. The citronella collar really MIGHT work. In her case, I wouldn’t mind occasional barking, but she will sit there and yap at absolutely nothing (that makes sense to us, anyhow) long after RedDog has quit fussing. I could probably tune her out, but the fact is that she annoys everyone with that continual yap yap yap followed with yap yap.

      I searched online for them, and Premier seems to be one of the more common brands, with it available from Amazon.com for $31.00 and eligible for free shipping. Ebay also had it…with a surprise in terms of price! Ebay’s price on the identical collar was consistently higher, whether it was a buy-it-now or auction. (Excellent reminder to always know the retail prices on items before searching Ebay!) So, thank you for your suggestion, Karen. I think we are going to take it up!

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