A How To: On Animals and Life

How to: Enjoy an indoor rabbit…

Hahaha. No. He stinks, will live up to 18 years, digs up the carpet in the corners and kicks out rabbit poo all over the floor from his cage.

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Red uses his ninja training to kick poo out all over the floor when night falls. Rabbits, like most rodents, are nocturnal.

Unfortunately, (for me anyway) it gets way too hot to cage a rabbit outdoors down here. (There are ways to do it, but it would take a lot of work.) He is a long term rodent investment!

How to: Own an Australian Shepherd and triumph over the hair…

Oh my God, no. My dog blows his coat every spring.

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This is my dog and his undercoat. There’s at least another dog his size worth of hair after this brushing. It’s not over at once, either. He will continue to shed heavily for weeks and then go back to medium shedding (like most dogs do in the spring) for the remainder of the year. His shedding is insane and never ending!!!!

Huge chunks of rabbit fine undercoat dropping off onto the carpet. Daily vacuuming cannot compete with these random blobs of dog hair. My dog is the ultimate champ in all shedding events! In case you wondered: Australian Shepherds are an American based breed. I have no idea why he isn’t called an American shepherd. Probably just didn’t sound as cool!

How to: Keep a cat out of your pots, flower beds and vegetable garden…

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Urg. My attempts have included laying chicken wire across the beds, plastic netting and high fences: he still manages to get into and poop on everything. Cat poop is like the nuclear waste of animal dung. Toxic, nasty, yuck that will last long after anything natural should! That stuff is deadly to my plants and it does not compost (even though he chooses to bury it.)

My animals each have their issues. So do my human friends. But they all have reasons to ignore the drawbacks:

In defense of the rabbit:
Our rabbit “Red” is a snuggle bunny. He was a gift to my kids for surviving a tough move, away from family, down to Texas. My then 5 year old thought naming a black and white rabbit “Red” was hilarious. I agree! I don’t have any babies in the house anymore. My boys are getting bigger. I still get kid snuggles, but our bunny is about the same size my boys were when they were born.

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Red getting some snuggles!

Our rabbit makes a great stand in for a mommy and a daddy who are nostalgic about the days when we had infants at home!

In defense of the dog:
My dog is incredibly smart. Like: “Are you sure you aren’t just a really hairy five year old kid?” smart. I got him on the first anniversary of 9-11. He has a patriotic registered name but we call him “Christmas”. I think I chose that nickname because Christmas is a holiday full of love, forgiveness and promise. Just what I needed on an anniversary of a horrible, emptyhearted tragedy that was created by a few bent souls.

He is great with my kids. He has endless love and forgiveness. He is great entertainment with his goofy quirks (He does flips, can out fetch anyone’s desire to continue to throw a ball for him and he actually kicks balls with his front feet. Dog soccer is awesome!) Plus, he was my family before I met my husband. I love my dog completely!

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In defense of the cat:

My cat is an antique. I rescued him as a kitten. He was up a tree at my mom’s. She was out of town at the time but offered this advice when I called her asking if I should rescue the kitten: “Leave him alone. He’ll come down. You never see cat bones up in a tree.” After three days I got out the ladder and brought him down. That’s when I noticed he had a puncture wound on his stomach (most likely from a coyote trying to eat him. That would make me stay up in a tree indefinitely, too!)

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He was scared, dehydrated and feral but he recognized I was trying to help him and he’s been a great buddy ever since. If I’d left him, I think he might have become the first set of cat bones in a tree!

His name is “Newman”. He was named after the Seinfeld character when that show was popular. He’s that old! 20+ years and counting. The dogs and other cats we had at the time are long gone, but Newman keeps plugging along! He was a barn cat that defied the odds. He is super friendly and one of those rare “great cats”. I’ve only owned a couple of those in my life.
Every relationship has troubles, even ones that are forged between species. But most long term love affairs happen because they have earned the right to happen. They are made through mutual respect, love and interdependence.

I love the relationships I have with my animals. They have helped me understand that my human connections are just as rewarding (and as challenging) because “perfect” doesn’t really exist. It’s not supposed to. Love is complex but it’s definitely worth the hassles and learning experiences that imperfections bring! Learning to love means dropping expectations and opening up to a direction you don’t control. Forgiveness is a habit. Respect is not optional. Control is not compatible. (And I take that stance: in defense of me.)

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Here’s to enjoying the imperfections and gifts that love and life bring our way!

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83 responses to “A How To: On Animals and Life

  1. Love your descriptions of your pets! We have rabbits and they are such characters.

  2. Great post! And the best thing of all about pets is they can’t talk back, they never judge you, and they’ll give you unconditional love so long as you keep the feed bowls full and the strokes coming.

  3. I know what you mean about a dog shedding. Our dog is a miniature border collie/australian shepherd mix and it is “crazy” all the fur we can comb out of her. Unfortunately we let her sleep on the beds and I am washing the top blankets at least once a week all spring. Still, she is too adorable to deny. Great Post!

    • It’s the Australian Shepherd in her. My mom had an AS/lab mix and he shed like crazy too. But they are so incredibly intelligent and interactive…I guess it’s the trade off!

  4. Annette Rochelle Aben

    a most enjoyable tale about friends with tails!

  5. I loved reading this post! Thanks so much for the like of my ‘just another day.’ Your bunny looks just like my little (LOL!) Teemu, doesn’t he? So great of you to rescue the feral; he knew you had a kind heart and he doesn’t want to leave you. 20+ years old! That’s love for you.

    • I don’t know how I ended up with two black and white animals. It looks like we did it on purpose but it was random! I wouldn’t trade them for anything! Thanks for coming by and commenting. I appreciate it!

  6. acraftymind2013

    “First set of cat bones up in the tree”! I laughed out loud on that one. Enjoyed this post.

  7. Hey crazy,
    Thanks for liking my post about the Family House. You cannot see it all but theres quite a large garden there. In the last five years of his life, my eighty-seven year old father won several prizes for his community gardening competition. He didn’t even enter it.
    What the garden needs however would be one large fat outdoor rabbit.

  8. This post really made me smile…we have one Jack Russell now (his brother passed away a couple of years ago) but whenever people say “Oh, like that dog from Seinfeld! They don’t shed, do they?!?” I want to simultaneously laugh hysterically and point to the Dyson that they managed to kill. Love your blog, btw!!!!!!!! -Kate
    (P.S. – As a spinner, I saw the pic of your Aussie and his undercoat and immediately thought “OMFG FIBERRRRRRRRRRR!” I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try spinning dog hair, but a friend of mine did with her Sheltie, to really amazing success!!!)

    • I read about someone spinning and knitting dog hair sweaters. You say: “dog hair sweater” and everyone says: “ewwww!” but it’s just an irrational bias. We’ll have to work to overcome that!

  9. This is fabulous. You have beautiful companions, and they are lucky to have you!

  10. It sounds like you have a wonderful animal family. The descriptions of them makes anyone understand why pets are so rewarding..They might be some work but they give so much in return.
    Honey

  11. We have a French Angora rabbit, and it has the greatest personality ever. If I could figure out how to litter train it, I might invite him in. πŸ™‚

  12. A wonderful and great post —- I love the format, the wording, the tone, the descriptions – all of it! Absolutely great!
    And of course, it is evident you have a generous heart – and love really is the key.
    As for Newman’s “nesting” problems —- try planting some Nepeta in a planter or some part of your garden.Cats adore it. It’s part of the Catmint family – but is a perennial that is lovely in itself. (I think it would grow well in Texas) but you’d have to check your local garden center. I’m sure Newman would be happy to hang about with it and stay relatively confined to smaller areas.

    • Thanks for the tip! Nepeta walker’s low is on my list of plants that I want to install in my garden. (I have a long list!) This year we are focusing on putting in new beds over our Bermuda. I am so happy you enjoyed my article! Thank you for coming by!

      • Well it was a real pleasure and I wish you great luck with your gardening season πŸ™‚

  13. I’ve fallen in love with your pets! What a great tribute. So well put. I too feel that my relationship with animals has helped me with my human relationships. Patience. Energy… Anyway–lovely.

  14. Your animals are adorable! Thanks so much for liking my post ‘water’. Glad you stopped by.

  15. I love this post! We don’t have any pets anymore but your post brought back good ((and bad!) memories. Thank-you for liking my recent posts

  16. Love this! I, too, have a bunny who rules my world.

    • I was surprised how social and loving rabbits are. Since they are a prey animal I thought we’d be dealing with a skittish less enjoyable pet, but he really loves to be held and loved on. He can hold his own with a 7 and 4 year old, which was also a pleasant surprise. It was a win/win for us and the kids! I’m glad you stopped by and commented! I appreciate it.

  17. Great post – a very entertaining read. I was particularly taken by your daughter’s naming of the rabbit. Red-headed guys in Australia often end up with the nickname “Blue,” for very similar reasons. πŸ™‚

  18. Oh my goodness, this was great. We have a “House Rabbit Society” here in my hometown, but I went the waterfowl route and have a sweet little indoor duck. Sampson is rather bad: chases feet, demands to sit on the couch, and won’t stay out of the cat food. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Now that sounds like an interesting indoor pet! I’m not sure I’d be up for the poo though. Are they litter trainable? Thank you so much for coming by! I appreciate it.

      • Unfortunately they aren’t, so there are special diaper harnesses (thanks to Etsy) to handle the mess. If you train them from ducklings to wear the harness, they respond like a dog does to a leash: Yay! it’s fun time!

  19. You have gorgeous animals!

  20. A wonderful read! Such lively portrayal of your animals! They have really strong characters. You could develop this into a book for children.
    As a child, we also had a shephard that lost a lot of fur. My mom collected the fur and brought it to her friend, who spun wool from it. Once there was enough wool, my mom knitted a grayish-brown jumper for my dad πŸ˜€

    • That’s awesome! There’s another spinner who was talking about doing that. I may have to find a way to learn to spin fiber…and knit…I may have to work slowly on that goal!

  21. I love reading about your animals πŸ™‚ BTW do you know a good way to keep dogs off a garden patch (apart from the obvious fencing, which I can’t do for this bed)? I love the neighbour’s labrador pup but his frolicking can be destructive. There must be some smell they’re averse to, right?

    • We use plastic fencing netting attached to rebar (driven into the ground vertically as posts) with zip ties (refer to my post on “simple inexpensive vine support” to see how I use zipties) I use the same netting by laying it flat across my beds. I lift it occasionally to keep larger plants from growing through it but you could easily cut openings for the plants to grow through. My cat and dog won’t walk on it. Like this: http://m.lowes.com/product?langId=-1&storeId=10702&catalogId=10051&productId=3457518&store=595&view=detail&nValue=SEARCH
      As far as smells.. I would bet that it is unreliable and dependent on the dog but I found this site that claims it can be done : http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/pests/keep-dog-out-of-garden.htm some of their ideas (specifically coffee grounds) raise soil pH. I have killed plants with coffee grounds. It depends on the plant and how much you use. You can try some of their suggestions but good physical barriers work every time. I’ve heard Irish spring soap bars cut up and distributed in panty hose around your garden will repell a lot of animals. Not sure it would work for dogs but it’s another idea. Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate it.

  22. I enjoyed this post – naming pets has always intrigued me and are often a conversation starter in our house when people meet our house rabbit and teo guinea pigs! Love the story about how you came across your cat, Newman and that he’s still going strong πŸ™‚

  23. Oh good grief, how I relate! especially to your antique feral cat, having one of my own. Let me only add that cat poop is not the ultimate toxic waste… urban raccoon poop holds that title. Cat turds are at least tidy. Raccoon on the other hand is, um, free-flowing. And chunky. And you cannot, repeat cannot, deter them, once they take a liking to your yard. Not even with wolf urine crystals, supposedly the ultimate weapon… Oh, also, thank you for the like on my latest post (first one from Guernsey)!

  24. This is such a lovely and honest post, I love what you’ve written. Animals have their faults just like people do but there is so much love and joy when you have a pet. I have a rescue bull terier from the pound (he lives with my parents and his name is Buddy) and a pig (Dracul, aka the devil). I love your rabbit and am thinking of getting one. Or a cat. Some animal friend to keep Dracul company:)

  25. I love the humor in this post and they way you highlight animal-human and human-human relationships. Beautiful animals/pets.

  26. Great post – suppose you’ve tried pepper for the cat – I empty out what’s in the spice cupboard on the beds when I clear out and it seems to do the trick with local cats.

    • I’m afraid I am not good at reapplying natural remedies. Garlic and peppers might work, but unfortunately, not for long in our heat and downpours. I end up choosing plastic fencing as a pretty permanent and simple fix, although putting it in the pots might work for me. I’m pretty proud that I can remember to keep up a spray schedule with neem and fertilizers so I can avoid harsher chemicals. I’m definitely absent minded! Maybe I’ll be more organized one day and I will use that. Thank you for adding the tip, though. It’s a great idea! I’m glad you stopped by!

  27. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I LOVE this!

  28. Thank you for this. It’s funny and I enjoyed it! I thought you were a guy and to my surprise you’re not! It means, you may have a guy’s funny wit πŸ™‚

    • Well I’ll take that as a compliment…I think… πŸ˜‰ Thank you for stopping by! That’s definitely given me a new perspective. I may take fewer photos with my husband in them now!

  29. Animals are wonderful … red wine is even better. πŸ˜‰

  30. Love it! Your animals are beautiful πŸ™‚ I have seven guinea pigs that are rescued rodents and I adore them. Animals make life so much sweeter and they remind me to to keep it simple. Your garden looks amazing too… loving your blog!

  31. It would take take a lot of wine to take care of so many people in the lawn! πŸ˜€

  32. I have a guinea pig too this is adorable. thanks for sharing this.

  33. House rabbits rock! Showjumping rabbits are even better…

    • I saw a video where one of the rabbits grabbed the rail off the support instead of jumping it! I think that’s what ours would do. Great fun to watch! Thanks for coming by. I appreciate it!

  34. I’m pressed for time at the moment, but based on this post alone I’m your newest follower! Being an animal lover myself, I smiled all the way through it!

    Cheers. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks for coming by! I appreciate it. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      • You’re welcome! I did indeed enjoy it. Immensely so!

        Oh, we have an “antique” cat too. She turned 20 on Mothers Day. Fortunately she has no dark past to haunt her dreams. I’ve had her for all but her first six weeks. (Don’t recall why the kittens were placed in their new homes but think it had something to do with Mamma cat being unable to care for them any longer. But Sheera – the birthday girl – came from a loving family who took very good care of Mamma Cat and the kittens. The whole litter was weaned, very independent and quite healthy. I normally would take a kitten under the recommended 10 to 12 weeks, but it worked beautifully this time.)

        Anyway, have a great Friday!

  35. I love the cat in a pot πŸ™‚

  36. A lovely post. I read it to my 12 year old and she commented “Aaaw, that is just so sweet”. She especially liked your use of the term ‘long time love affairs’. There is a month’s difference in age between her and our dog. We got him when she was three months old and they grew up together. In fact she used to use his tail as a teething ring (truly disgusting!). She also has two rabbits so enjoyed reading about Red! Thank you for sharing.

  37. samnjoeysgrama

    I think this is my favorite of your posts. Now you just need some chickens and you will be all set!

  38. Pingback: Beginner Gardeners: Walking You Through What You Need To Know | Crazy Green Thumbs

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