Freeform Friday: Meet the Critters!

In my bio, I mention having a calico ball of fluff and a slightly deranged husky mix. I decided today was the day to run some introductions and history about them. Mia is my cat. I didn’t bring her home for me, though. I brought her home because my other cat, Xander, was crying at his reflection after we moved out of a house where he had the company of another cat.

Xander got loose a couple of years ago and I saw him a few times afterward, but between his age at the time and the fact that he also had seizures and FIV, I have had to accept the sad likelihood that he’s not with us anymore. He was adopted from the local humane society, and they claimed he was an owner surrender. I think someone botched his paperwork because they didn’t show him with a positive FIV test and there’s no way he was an owner surrender. He was feral. We got along well, but if he could get out he wouldn’t come back until he was good and ready.

Well, I realized Xander needed a friend and had my eyes open for a likely playmate. When I went to a local pet supply store for litter, I saw one of the rescues had the most adorable kitten. She was super tiny, very fluffy, and a true calico. I’ve always had a weakness for black cats and calicoes. She had enough attitude when I met her, I knew she’d be a perfect friend for my bog guy.

Mia came home at six months old, and so small her head didn’t even reach power outlets on the wall when she sat near them. She’s still a very tiny lady, now six years old.

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Do you see those paws!??? My gosh, she’s got the biggest, fluffiest paws I’ve ever seen, and I used to foster animals! She’s all fur, too. Remember I said she’s tiny? That’s a blueray player next to her.

As odd as it’ll sound, she didn’t speak until she was almost two years old. She didn’t mew, purr, or make any sound. Her first meow was so faint and scratchy I thought I had knocked a stack of papers over. She does not have this problem anymore. She makes sure she’s heard when she wants to be!

After losing Xander, Mia and I had a rough stretch. I didn’t want Mia. I wanted Xander, and her not being Xander was painful enough that I seriously considered rehoming her several times. I wanted her to have someone who would love her for the wonderful, sweet girl she is.

Fortunately, I didn’t. I came down with an upper respiratory tract that absolutely leveled me. It took multiple rounds of steroids and antibiotics to kick it over, and I spent two weeks absolutely unable to function. Throughout that time, Mia stayed at my side. She followed me to the bathroom and kitchen, and when I got in bed, she laid against my back and purred. Ever since that time, when I wake up in the morning, she runs to lay down against me, her head on my arm, waiting for her morning pets. (It gives me such heart eyes when she does!)

Mia wandered the house looking for her big brother for a time after he left but now she seems very content to be the only feline member of the household. She also listens well. I have to snap my fingers when she decides (again) my curtains are great for playing with, but she’ll stop, for that day at least. Her favorite toys are stuffed mice, and a tennis ball. She wrestles with them and throws them around the room with such obvious delight, all I can do is giggle at her. She is confused about catnip though. She thinks she’s supposed to lay in it! She doesn’t get the zoomies, nor does she sniff/eat it and fall asleep. She just finds it, lays on it, and that’s where she’ll remain for hours.

The deranged husky mix was also a rescue. Daisy is going on eleven as I write this post, and I’ve had her for a year. My therapist had been after me to consider getting a dog for both companionship and to get me outside more often. I was hesitant because I hadn’t had a dog in about ten years. I never got over my previous dog, and just didn’t want another one. After a night with friends who have dogs, I decided to at least consider it.

I took my grandson with me because I didn’t want to get a dog that wouldn’t like him. (I have 4 grandkids, but only one lives nearby for now.) We went out to the pound with the names of a few possibilities I’d seen on their site. I was sad to find out none of them were recommended for houses with small children.

The volunteer who showed me around the kennels asked if I’d be willing to consider an older dog. I was hesitant, but open to the idea. The dog she brought out… let’s just say it was easy to see why no one took her. “Daisy” was filthy, uninterested in people, and she smelled absolutely awful. She was no sweet flower, despite the name she’d been given!

I wasn’t at all certain about taking her home to keep, but I couldn’t leave her like that, either. Her papers described a dog that liked to run off on her own, attacked cats, and refused to be leash trained… and she was ten years old already? The volunteer showed me that Daisy had at least some training on a leash so I decided to give her a chance. With a guarantee that I could take her back within 30 days if she wasn’t working out, Daisy came home.

The first thing I did was to get her a bath. Two rounds of shampoo later, she lost the stink and it turned out her fur wasn’t gross, only filthy and scraggly from lack of care. I also shouted at her when she let Mia get close and then snapped at her and learned she’d been abused.

People who beat an animal are on par with child abusers, in my book.

Daisy and I were still getting to know one another when I had a really terrible anxiety attack one afternoon. She came up to me, rested her head in my lap, pressing against my stomach, and put one of her paws over my legs. She didn’t move until I came out of the attack. For those who didn’t know, that’s a trained response to anxiety. Someone, at some time, had put in a great deal of effort and time with Daisy. I don’t know how anyone worked that much with her and then gave her up or let her be hurt, but the training was undeniable.

By the time the 30 day trial was over, I had already sent her to a groomer to get her coat sorted. She was also gaining weight. When I got her, you could count her ribs. (I don’t entirely blame the pound for this, but more on that in a moment.) When she came back from the groomer, she was transformed.

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Having Daisy hasn’t been without challenges. She’s willful, stubborn, and panics if I leave the house. How willful and stubborn? I’m about to buy a cat food dish with one of those collar tags for Mia because even after putting the cat food up high, behind things, Daisy still gets into it and eats it all! She knows, too. She knows she isn’t supposed to. If I walk by her after she’s done it, she cowers (signs of that abuse), and goes to her bed. It drives me nuts that she does it, but it drives me more nuts that she knows she isn’t supposed to do it. We have a similar struggle with her flinging her own food around if she’s having a tantrum. (Oh, yes, tantrums are real with this one. Tell her no when there’s food in her bowl and it’ll be all over!)

However, she is generally wonderful to walk. (I still don’t understand why her papers said anything otherwise.) She walks gorgeously on a loose leash, and we’ve been working on her manners for walking off-leash as well. She’s goofy as anything in the world, too. If we get to playing, she suddenly gets so excited that she drops to the ground and rolls over, all fours in the air, and wiggles on her back with her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth.

She has learned to get along with Mia, as well. Now, while they don’t sleep together, they’ll lay near one another in the floor and Mia can safely sniff at Daisy without fear of being bitten.

She’s also very sweet and gentle with my grandson. She has never even been grumpy with him. He can feed her training treats the size of a pea and we don’t have to worry about him being hurt. Sadly, he’s had a less than pleasant experience with dogs at his other grandma’s house, so he’s not quite ready to play with her, but I’m delighted that she’s giving him a better frame of reference.

In fact, the last time he was over, we were all out on my balcony. He wanted to get to the other side of her and stood over her with all the bossiness of a two year old child, and ordered her inside. She looked surprised and a bit confused, but got up, went inside and laid down! (I had to explain to him that Daisy is allowed to be with us on the balcony and not to make her go away or she might think she’s bad.) I’ve seen dogs avoid or ignore small children, and I’ve seen them get defensive if a child tries to make them do something. I’ve never seen them just go along with what the child says to do!

Despite the initial hesitation about bringing her home, I’m glad I did. She’s a sweetheart who has had a rough life and needed a safe place to live out the rest of her years without fear of abandonment or abuse. In return, she’s brought me some frustration, and enough comfort and companionship to make up for it.

And does Daisy get me out more, as was hoped?

Well, pre-spine issues and pre-Covid, yes, she absolutely did! I could take her anywhere. We visited the mall and she would lay under my legs when I stopped to rest or grab a snack. She didn’t bother other people, either. We had long walks at the park, and I took her to the dog park on one of my days off. (It’s a fair drive from my home, so once a week was all there was time for.) I’ve taken her with me when I went to therapy appointments and when I went to pick up prescriptions. She has a red harness and leash that announce her as an emotional support dog.

In all truthfulness, people who ignore the harness are a far larger behavioral issue than Daisy ever has been when we went out. I’ve even had people say such stupid things as, “It’s just an emotional support dog.”

Please, I know emotional support animals get a bad rap because of the vast numbers of people who have their untrained little monsters running around with them. I’ve almost been bitten by one, just for walking past its owner in a store. I absolutely get it.

Even so, respect the harness. You don’t need to know anything about the dog before you except that they’re wearing a work harness. What role they play, what their function is, nothing else even matters. Compliment the owner if you like, but don’t even ask about petting. No one wants to be the jerk who says “No, you’re not worthy of petting my dog even though I’m certain you’d both enjoy it.” Worse, if people repeatedly pet a dog in harness, the dog will start expecting that attention and will take up the bad behavior of approaching strangers. There are a host of reasons why service dogs and support animals are not supposed to approach people, and each one is important to ensuring the dog can perform its function properly and not be a nuisance to others. Just don’t do it.

Hope you enjoyed meeting the critters. I’d introduce the fish, but tetras are insanely hard to photograph!

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