Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pets - You Gotta Love 'Em

By now everyone knows that our house is run by our pets! My husband gets up in the morning to tend to their various needs; 26 lbs. of sugar a week for sugar water for the 150+ hummingbirds, 4 parrots to uncover and feed, 2 cats to feed and 4 dogs to let out and feed.

While the hummingbirds are an on-going daily routine of cleaning feeders, filling feeders, hanging feeders, refilling feeders, the cats require one meal a day and the parrots are fed twice a day with a few snacks tossed in and their cages cleaned, well, whenever Mike gets to it.

The dogs, well, they are another story. One of the dogs, CocoNut, sleeps in the house at night. The other 3 sleep on the porch and are kept within its confines by a gate. Lately, however, our oldest dog, Nod (who is 13) has been allowed to sleep in the house at night. Nod recently injured herself while we were gone to the Cay shopping for groceries. When we came home we found her laying in the backyard not willing to get up and come up onto the porch. When we checked her out, we found that she must have stumbled or somehow twisted her right front ankle as it was swollen and she could not want to walk on it. It took her several weeks to get back on her feet properly. I wrapped her ankle with an ice pack for a few days and put a bandage on it to support her weight when standing. She is better but now walks with a limp. She was never a real active dog and so she enjoys just laying around on the porch and taking little trips to the backyard to sniff around and do her duty.

Prior to this, about 6 months ago, I noticed her walking backwards in the yard. It seemed that she had lost the ability to go forward and was very confused. She would not come when called and continued walking in a confused manner. We went out and picked her up (no easy feat for she weighs 44 lbs.) and brought her in the house. She was panting and confused. She did not want to lay down and seemed determined to stand upright. Finally she just collapsed and rested. We made sure that she was comfortable and that she had water and kept an eye on her. After several hours she finally came around and seemed to be ok. We finally assumed that she had a mild stroke. She has been fine ever since until she hurt her ankle.

Lately, however, we have noticed that Nod is panting a lot. When she goes to get up she starts panting and it is a strain (because of her ankle) to walk any distance. All of our dogs get heart worm medication every month and so I felt it could not be heart worms but just could not imagine why, all of a sudden, she would start panting. I then Googled her symptom and one of the signs of a dog with an advanced case of heart worms is panting. I was stricken. How could this happen to my dog when she is receiving treatment? Then, the other day she had an accident in the house and I found worms in her stools. After writing Susan (our dog angel here on the island) and telling her I thought they were heart worms because of the panting, she reassured me that the dog probably had worms (I thought the heart worm medication would take care of most of the worms dogs can get) and we should stop by and get some medicine for her. Since Susan has just brought over the Vet from La Ceiba and a U.S. Vet, we will take her there Sunday for a check up. Susan does not think Nod has heart worms and that was a great relief for us.

Next, CocoNut, the dog we acquired 14 months ago. CocoNut was a smaller duplicate of Coco, her predecessor, who passed away in April of 2009 (see my blog of April 29, 2009). When I saw CocoNut it was on the other side of the island and she was owned by a Honduran over there. We offered to buy her and after a few months of back and forth, he finally relented to sell her to us as he could not afford to feed her. I was elated. CocoNut is quite the explorer and the wilder of the 4 dogs. She had to hunt and feed herself while younger and could not quite get the hange of sticking around our house and being content with just exploring our 3 1/2 acres. She is the Alpha female and convinces, somehow, the other two (Desi and Lucy) to go on "walk abouts" with her. They have been gone as long as 2 days. Coco use to take off too but after once being gone 3 days, she stopped the "overnighters" leaving now and then for brief excursions to who-knows-where for 2-3 hours.

Because we did not want the 3 dogs to either hurt themselves while out, get lost (yeah, right, they know where their food is), or get taken by someone else, we bought an electronic collar for CocoNut as all the training I did just did not sink into her head when it came to running off. The collar delivers a small jolt when she approaches the boundaries of her yard and I taught her where they were. Even so, when the mood takes her, she will still attempt to sneak off and did so recently with the other 2 dogs right behind her. They were gone for 14 hours. The collar does work but sometimes the battery is low and she manages to sneak off. She only wears it when she leaves the porch and when it is being charged she is allowed out without it. I keep an eye on them and a loud "NO" from me whenever any of them reach the boundaries of our property usually brings them back. I did put the collar on Desi and Lucy once and they got the idea immediately. Lucy is not much of a wanderer and if she goes off and the others are not with her, she comes back in a short time. Desi and CocoNut, either together or separate, can be gone for hours if they get away.

We had installed a gate on the porch, which CocoNut managed to jump over. My husband rigged up a barrier above it with netting and thought we had the problem solved. Well, she got through that so he put barbed wire across the base of the net and that stopped her jumping. Then she started to jump off one end of the porch - about a 10'+ leap to the ground. This was the same end of the porch where my beloved Sienna flew off to the ground and broke her neck on the rocks below. We did not want her to injure herself on the path so he strung barbed wire across the one end of the porch. Problem solved! Not - she started jumping off the other end - a shorter leap of about 4 feet. He put boards up across this opening and that stopped her from going off there. Then she went to the next opening (about 4 1/2 to 5 feet off the ground) and leaped from there. Same solution. Finally, she went to the opening at the end of the porch (a leap over some plants and of about 9 feet) so he strung barbed wire there. Fortunately for us she has not decided to leap off the front of the porch as there are many plants in front of that area and she cannot see the ground clearly enough to determine whether or not there is a safe landing.

The other two dogs; Desi (male and black) and Lucy (female and reddish brown), are bother and sister. About 3 years ago I saw them as puppies at Bo's place and fell in love with Lucy. I wanted to take her home but we already had 4 dogs and one more was out of the question. Later I found that the dogs had been born at the dump, were in terrible condition when Susan got them and nursed them back to health. She gave them to Bo but, unfortunately, Bo had two dogs and a resort to run and could not keep them. They went to a couple other places and ended up at Susan's again. It was about this same time that Coco had passed and Susan, who can be very persuasive, convinced us that we needed two more dogs! So, they have been with us ever since.

Lucy and Desi are great dogs; good looking and good learners - well, when they want to be. But they bark a lot - I mean, they don't just bark at strangers (sometimes they ignore them), but they bark at boats going by (day or night), coconuts dropping from trees (day or night), cows in the yard or next door (day or night), horses, crabs, vultures, each other, other dogs who pass by. Well, you get the picture. The barking started to become really bothersome, especially at 2 or 3 or 4 in the morning so we ordered bark collars for them! Problem solved! They bark less now and only wear the collars when they start barking late at night.

The latest activity of these 3 balls of energy is to wrestle on the porch. I am afraid they will fall off the ledge at the front where it is open and so I will put CocoNut's collar on her and let all of them tear off the porch to the backyard where they run and wrestle.

CocoNut is a sleek dog and loves to run and is the champion. Desi can keep up with her but he prefers to let her run from the back to the front, return and then chase her. Lucy just watches until she feels she can get into the game and play. They are full of spirit and a real show to watch. They sometimes decide that the cats need to be played with and have no fear of Mr. Leonard or Ivy. The cats generally just dash under the bird cage or leap onto the porch railing when the dogs decide it is play time. Most the time, however, they all get along. They ignore the parrots and hummingbirds looking for easier prey I guess. Of course they are all up to chasing iguanas which Mike is not at all happy about.

So, if things seem to get dull around her, we can just sit back and watch the dogs lip wrestle, chase each other, watch humming birds feed from our hand held cup, listen to the parrots jabber to one another or the cats doing whatever it is that cats love to do!

I have always had pets and can't imagine a home without one. I think people miss out on a lot when they don't share their love with an animal as they give so much in return for so little.

So, if you don't have a pet, consider getting one - you will get far more than you give!


  1. Your blog on your animals was very nice. You and Mike are angels to care for so many. I'm afraid that I don't have your patience.

  2. Have long wondered what you do when you need a veterinarian.
    Put our 12 yr old terrier down a few weeks ago after several operations for cancer. Now the 11 yr old Corgi (who has been in deep mourning) has to have a tumor removed in the am.
    Had a parrot that lost an eye in a fight with a raccoon and lived to be 60+, but they can't stay outside here.
    What do you feed your iguanas?


  3. Ahh, the iguanas! Fortunately they are wild here and manage to get their own meals. Same for the boa constrictors! It is just the "domesticated" animals and hummingbirds who have managed to tap our meal cart!