Pigs

Three weeks ago I finished my five-week general animal care internship. My last week was spent in Piggy Paradise with all of the amazingly smart and adorable pot-bellied pigs, their wonderful caregivers, and even some goats who were learning clicker training. I have never worked with pigs, nor have I ever really been around them outside of the petting zoo capacity from my childhood, so being able to spend a week learning about them was fascinating. I had no idea that there was even a market for pot-bellied pigs, let alone a completely made up brand/breed of “Teacup Pigs.” Many of the pigs at Best Friends were surrendered because they grew much larger than their owners expected them to, had a myriad of health problems due to their insufficient diet, or were too aggressive and destructive in large part to them being under socialized single pets.

There is no such thing as a Teacup, miniature, Juliana, micro mini, dandie, or pocket pig. These are all just terms for pigs that are likely still babies under one or two years old and have been starved to deter growth. All of these brands are sold under false pretenses, usually for thousands of dollars. Pigs can begin reproducing around three to six weeks of age – still just piglets – and don’t stop growing until they are around five years old. What people see when they go to purchase a teacup pig is a litter, or farrow, of itty bitty baby piglets next to two small, but ideally proportionate pigs that are advertised as the parents. The parents are used as the guidelines to which the babies will grow up (because only full-grown adults can reproduce, right?), and uneducated people with only one goal in mind will buy the schtick. Once the money is handed over, the new owners of the cutest piggy ever are told to feed it a limited diet to ensure it stays small, and sent on their way.

Then the piglet outgrows the teacup, and the sink, and the puppy bed, until it’s 60+ pounds. Being underfed and supremely intelligent, It is always hungry and bored with the cushy indoor life, and starts rooting under the fridge for those lost cheerios, ripping up the flooring and toppling appliances. It acts out with aggressive mood swings, biting for food and to establish dominance in a herd where there are no other pigs to challenge. It shatters underdeveloped bones just by walking, it has breathing problems from being inbred, its internal organs continue to grow normally while its skeletal system is stunted, resulting in an over-stressed, extremely painful existence. The life expectancy of a normal, healthy pot-bellied pig is 16-20 years. The life expectancy of a Teacup pig averages to about five years. Thus, they end up in shelters around the country that are unprepared to care for them, and they are euthanized. Thankfully, there are now many pig-specific sanctuaries that will pull them from kill-shelters and give them the life they deserve while educating the public about the scam that is Teacup pig marketing.

IMG_20150319_210939This is Kit, a smiley little one-year old who is kinda shy and skittish around people, but if you have a fig newton (or 15), she’ll follow you around like you’ve been best pals forever. Despite her hesitant nature, she’s tremendously curious and will try to sneak up to new situations before they notice she’s there. Many times I would catch her approaching out of the corner of my eye, and when I turned around, she’d trot away from me with her tail wagging happily. I was able to work on some training with her, getting her used to being pet by people, teaching her to touch my hand or sit for a treat, and I even had a splash party with her in a piggy pool on one of the warmer days.

Kit’s profile: http://goo.gl/SGhYB3

11049526_918762244810861_6973095903687295074_o
Training Kit to sit

Pigs are so remarkably smart, and love having lots to do – including rooting around in the dirt, playing with things that make noise, scratching on trees and cinderblocks, rolling around in puddles, and exploring new places. They are ranked right behind humans, apes, and dolphins in terms of their intelligence, and they can learn a wide variety of tricks and behaviors. Also, they are great walking companions if you have the right motivation (fig newtons, lots and lots of fig newtons).

IMG_20150319_210446
Cherry asking for more fig newtons

Not only is Best Friends home to a couple herds of pot-bellied pigs, but they have a five-acre plot set aside just for two very unique pigs named Nick and Holly. These siblings are part domestic Hampshire, part feral pigs that are over 400 pounds each and have legs for days. Holly has been trained in level one of Parelli horsemanship (which I’m still not convinced isn’t magic), and really enjoys hiking and washing rocks. Nick is a seasoned collector, and will dig up whole trees, fence posts, and any other artifacts he deems worthy to decorate his room with.

Here’s Holly enjoying a short mudbath:

And Nick:

Holly’s profile: http://goo.gl/gCbhPp

Nick’s profile: http://goo.gl/9oU48r

Some great articles to educate yourself on teacup pigs:

Best Friends – The Truth About Teacup Pigs

Modern Farmer – Never Buy a Teacup Pig

The Dodo – What’s Misleading About Teacup Pigs

Pause

Let’s go back to when I restarted my life for the umpteenth time. The most recent restart, which began when I applied for the five-week general animal care internship at Best Friends Animal Society. I’m still deeply entangled in the luxurious newness of it all, despite having existed in Kanab since mid-February, but I failed to document my arrival. Skipping over the lives I’ve lived previously – of which there are many, and will be many more – my application was sent out into the universe in early December, carrying with it the hope that I would even be considered despite my glaring lack of professional experience within any shelter-related field. I trudged through my days after that final email left my draft folder, waiting for something. Maybe a sign that it was the right time to think about myself finally, or anything to convince me I was worthy of this endeavor. Weeks passed. A month. I had been silently rejected many times before, ignored, and my doubt grew alongside my desperation, each one encouraging the other to stretch their roots deeper and to swallow more light from the sun. I was trying to plant a garden, but I didn’t have tools strong enough for the weeds, and they continued to slowly strangle each of my little aspirations.

I reached out and received a reply almost immediately. They were waiting on two more references to check out. I promptly got in touch with the people I had listed as authorities on my applicable skills, and begged them to just entertain the thought of filling out paperwork that might help me to follow my dreams. Two more weeks and my birthday had arrived; I was three years away from thirty, coming to terms with a broken marriage, living with my parents, and setting boundaries for all of the dysfunction that surrounded me. The last time I felt so wholly unprepared to simply exist as a person was for a labyrinthine period of time after my brother died.

Checking my email at work on my birthday, I saw this message:

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 9.11.41 PM

I ravenously shredded into the allegorical envelope and devoured what was inside. I was going to Utah. In three weeks. In an instant, I knew where I wanted to be and what I needed to do to get there. I gave my notice to my employers, who were also my family, and began sorting through all of the memories of a tragic fairytale life that I was no longer consumed by. I packed nine boxes into four and saved just enough room for myself in my car…and then I drove a snowmobile off of a hill.

I experienced the proverbial life flashing before my eyes in the three or four seconds it took for me to hit the ground from twenty feet in the air. I felt my lungs crumple and my spine compress, each vertebrate slamming into the one below it. I fell backwards off of the machine as it roared out from underneath me, and I opened my eyes to a monster-filled darkness. I wasn’t dead, but I wasn’t there. I had landed in the middle of the trail and my dad was still behind me. I subconsciously reminded myself that I shouldn’t move, but the part of my brain that was still struggling to remain sentient forced my clawing limbs to frantically clamber off to the side so I wouldn’t also be run over. Unable to physically express any emotions at this point, I wept mentally with gratitude that I was alive and – as far as I could tell – not paralyzed. My dad vaulted from his snowmobile and kneeled over me, ripping his helmet off and ordering me not to move. But I couldn’t listen. I couldn’t hear him over the fear that was thundering in my ears, that had replaced my blood. “I need to get up! I have to get up!” I was gasping. “Help me roll over! Please, I need to get up!” I was so afraid of lying there and being preyed on by sharp teeth and cold breath dripping with blackness of the winter night. “I’m ok, just help me roll over!” My dad’s face expressed panicked dread and extraneous remorse and I didn’t have the capacity to indulge either of those things. As he hesitantly aided my anguished, and completely illogical, petitions, I steadied myself on my hands and knees. “I’m ok…”

There was a gut-wrenching realization that I actually wasn’t paralyzed, but that something was out of place. There are no words for the immense elation I felt at the surge of pain that began to throb through my bones and at the muscles that trembled violently with adrenaline. I was alive, and I was there. I tried to stand and collapsed. I still hadn’t caught my breath and I was losing it all over again. My dad hoisted me up and my left ankle dangled, refusing to participate. We were ten minutes from the nearest shred of civilization – a backwoods bar in the middle of the northern Wisconsin woods – and we needed to get there now. I slowly drove his snowmobile over the remaining bumps and dips, sobbing and panting from the exertion. After reaching the bar, we had a beer and some dinner before we headed back home…a drive where I both argued that I didn’t need to see a doctor and pleaded to be put out of my misery. Two and a half hours later, I was in the emergency room getting x-rays and vomiting from the oxycodone. By three in the morning, almost eighteen hours after the beginning of the snowmobile excursion, I was finally laying in bed with a splint on my severely sprained ankle and an untreatable sprained back.

I emailed the intern coordinator at Best Friends when I woke up, terrified of what could happen to my internship opportunity, but not willing to entertain the possibility that I might not be able to participate. It was five days before I had to drive halfway across the country, my ankle wasn’t broken, and I was still capable. She responded almost immediately, saying she would make it work for me, and I fell back asleep to hold onto my dream.

Tuesday, the day before I started my journey west, I saw an orthopedic surgeon who gave me a boot and wished me godspeed. My family thought I should stay and heal, rather than risk further injury, but I had too much personally invested in this endeavor, in myself, and I left Wednesday morning. I arrived on Friday afternoon and settled in for what is now the most rewarding and challenging experience I’ve ever pursued. It’s been seven weeks since I arrived in Kanab, since I started living for myself. I don’t have my influential relationship, I left the dysfunction behind, I came alone and with nothing and with everything. “I’m ok.” I’m alive, and I’m here.

Dogtown

IMG_20150315_103456

Four weeks down, one to go, and this last week was one that has been hard to walk away from. While I’ve been able to connect with animals in each area, it’s interesting to see the different reactions each of the species gives when they see you approaching. This is also cut down into more micro-interactions based on individual animals, as all of them are unique in their personalities and behaviors. So for the past week, I interned at Deja’s in the Lodges area of Dogtown. Most of the dogs in this neighborhood are dog-aggressive, which means they are known to have a history of aggression with other dogs – whether it’s resource guarding, lack of manners, or a specific reactivity to something – so they reside in single runs. This doesn’t mean they wouldn’t get along with any other dogs, they just need to be introduced to the right dog at the right time. Also, many would be completely fine in a low-stress environment, like a stable home, rather than in a high-stress environment, like a noisy shelter. In any case, the interactions I was able to have with the pups were extremely valuable to my experience and understanding of their behaviors.

IMG_20150315_103456This is Pretty Girl – an American Staffordshire terrier from a dogfighting ring – and she did not appreciate me making her stop and sit on our walk, as is evidenced by her shut-eyed yawn. Pretty Girl was a lot of fun to work with, because she is a little bit of a slow learner. For feeding time, dogs are taught to find their “place,” sit, and wait for the cue (such as “free!” in a high-pitched voice) to begin eating. This ensures the safety of everyone involved, as food is exciting and a leaping, barking dog – as well as one that guards food, can be dangerous. This teaches the dog that once he is calm and listening, a reward will appear, and it will be worth it. Pretty Girl, along with all of the other dogs, go through this routine twice a day for meals, and before and after walks. For some dogs, they pick it up immediately and perform the ritual nearly flawlessly every time. Others take some time, but with enough patience from the human, will eventually sit and wait. Pretty Girl requires a few attempts, and is easily distracted – sometimes with a wall that just NEEDS to be licked, sometimes with a round of dancing and appeasing eye squints. Getting her to understand where she was expected to sit and that waiting for the release cue took more patience than I experienced with many of the other dogs, but once she got it, it was beautiful to see. I somehow even managed to get Pretty Girl to sit and wait patiently (without jumping up to lick my entire head) while I harnessed her for our walk a few times, and was able to practice clicker training with her.

Pretty Girl’s profile: http://goo.gl/1dvjGL

Can I express how much I love clicker training? It is just amazing to watch a dog process what I’m asking her to do with the obvious language barrier between us. The clicker is called a reinforcement signal, or bridging stimulus, and once the dog associates the “click” with a reward, it’s so much easier to reinforce the behavior someone might be trying to condition. It takes a lot of vigilance and a lot of treats, and figuring out how to generalize a cue to fit the context of the environment can be challenging, but it’s so much fun to figure it out with the dog – definitely a bonding and learning experience for everyone involved!

IMG_20150315_104900Yuma! This beautiful girl is a bull terrier/Staffordshire terrier mix and is extremely athletic. In her attempts to get attention, she would sometimes do flips off of the walls in her run – though we wouldn’t enforce this behavior, it was cool to see. I’m a sucker for that distinctive sloping bull terrier face, and while Yuma’s is less pronounced (and hard to see in the photo), I was drawn to her right away. She is reactive to other dogs, and during our walks I had to keep an eye on her body language when we were within 50 feet of any other dog, but when we had the trail to ourselves, she was just full of energy and paid attention to everything I asked of her. Yuma has “place, sit, wait” down so well that she actually lays in her crate before I even enter her run with the food and focuses intently on my face until I give the release. Going for a walk was a different story, but with enough ignoring of her rude behaviors (jumping, mouthing, demand barking), she would eventually calm and sit for leashing.

Yuma’s profile: http://goo.gl/X2kdlW 

IMG_20150315_103551

Best Friends not only provides a life-long safe haven for dogs, cats, birds, horses, pigs, and bunnies – they also let in this little hippo, Ebony. Ebony is a Shar Pei/American bulldog mix with the wiggliest hips you’ll ever see. When she’s happy, the whole back half of her body swings wildly from side to side and her mouth opens wide in a great big grin. She was a challenge to walk, as she has a ridiculously high prey drive and is constantly on the hunt for lizards, and she just doesn’t get along with other dogs (at least in high-stress settings). She’s also pretty hefty, and takes full advantage of her weight to try to get where she wants to go. Trying to redirect her attention on a walk can be futile, but I found that if I provided enough stimulation to at least equal all of the dogs yelling at us from their runs as we passed them, she would return to me about half of the times that I asked – which I praised with lots of treats and petting. Ebony is a leaner and loved to press into my legs as I stroked her stubbly fur and massaged her rock solid head (so much muscle!), occasionally looking up at me with a wide smile.

IMG_20150315_104141

Ebony’s profile: http://goo.gl/YwTxaZ

Being able to work with these dogs, and many more, during my week at Deja’s in Dogtown was so invaluable to my experience overall…I can’t wait to start my next internship with dog training in a few weeks to learn even more!

Opportunity

This week I was working in Parrot Garden and had a day at Wild Friends. Parrot Garden is full of, yes…lots and lots of parrots. Just under 100, in fact. Birds from cockatiels to macaws (with some budgies thrown in for good measure) with varying levels of health and linguistic capabilities. I knew parrots lived a long time, but had no idea that many of them can live up to 80 years in captivity – sometimes longer, and get passed through many different families as they outlive their people. I noticed that many of the birds were a little camera shy, and I never really had enough time to sit with any one bird to help them get comfortable with my hulking beast of a phone, so I only snapped some shots of the cockatiels in one of the aviaries…while we were MacGyvering a little bird rescue.

IMG_20150304_100839 (1)

Here’s some of the peanut gallery who cheered us on while we rescued an adorable little yellow budgie from her devious adventure. Basically, she found a tiny little hole between two planks of wood in the ceiling that led her to being stuck between the wire mesh and the underside of the roof. Using only a net, 2 screwdrivers (a flat head AND a phillips), a staple gun with too-short staples, a hatchet (not to be confused with an axe), a blunt pair of pliers, a bigger set of pliers, a butter knife, some screws, zip ties, a ladder, a stick, and a rock, we managed to open a small hole for her to crawl out of, and then closed it back up with reinforcements. The budgie bragged about her death-defying journey and the excitement died down. But there is this picture – please note the sexy boot:

budgie maintenance

I met a lot of great people with actual senses of humor (that’s a thing), and I learned a lot about the wonderful world of parrots. I’m hoping to return to sit with some of the birds (and caregivers) to learn even more throughout my time here in Kanab – because I’m definitely staying.

Also this week, I completed my first interview for a cat caregiver position – it went amazingly well, and I hope to be able to pursue that route once I finish all my interning. On that note, I have been feverishly reading through books on dog behavior and dog training and dog learning and just dogs (read all the dogs!). At first it was to prepare for an interview I had on Thursday afternoon for a brand spanking new internship opportunity. Now it’s to learn as much as I possibly can from reading before I start applying it within the internship. I was accepted into the first ever dog training internship offered at Best Friends! Despite my utter lack of experience in this particular field, I’ve been interested in dog behavior and training for as long as I can remember, and now I actually get to learn it, hands on, with some of the most knowledgeable and forward-thinking people in the business of saving animals. It feels so unbelievable to even be considered for this opportunity, but to be chosen and then accepted…I have no words. So instead of talking, I’m reading. A lot. I might post notes here and there, or quotes from resources that really resonate with me, but my time here is being extremely well-spent. It helps that there is’t much to do in Kanab, and that the Buckskin is so divey. Also I have virtually no income right now, so learning, learning, learning – FINALLY about something I’m passionate about AND where I have people around me who are also passionate about it (thus a fostering of passions is happening, it’s a beautiful thing).

Once I start that internship in mid-April, I’ll be able to talk more proficiently about it, but until then, here’s another photo of a few of the cockatiel onlookers:

IMG_20150304_105351As a final note, I’ll be taking 3 weeks off between the end of this first internship and the beginning of the dog training one. One of those weeks will be in Arizona to see friends and family. And to pick up beer. Because Utah is not only a desert, it is basically dry when it comes to alcohol…and I can’t keep driving to Fredonia for a Bud Light.

Don’t Stop Looking

I’m doing some in-depth reading and studying up on my animal behavior and dog training knowledge, because it’s always something I’ve wanted to have more awareness of and be able to put into practice. I’m only halfway through my first book – “Inside of A Dog” by Alexandra Horowitz, but I’ve made note of some of the items I’ve been learning about, which I may put into a post all their own. For now, I just came across this very interesting paragraph that talks about how dogs never lose their sense of observation, while naturally-awed children grow up into adults who fall out of the habit of noticing things in general.

Dogs don’t stop looking — at the gimpy walk, at a rush of leaves tumbling down the sidewalk, at our faces. The urban dog may be bereft of natural sights, but he is rich in the odd: the drunken man swerving through a crowd, the shouting sidewalk preacher, the lame and destitute. All get long stares from the dogs who pass them. What makes dogs good anthropologists is that they are so attuned to humans: they notice what is typical, and what is different. And, just as crucially, they don’t become inured to us, as we do — nor do they grow up to be us.

Leela
Leela – a one-eyed great dane I’m honored to call my niece, and who has amazing surveillance skills

Rescue Village

Day 1 of my second week at Best Friends was a little rough. The whole of Southern Utah woke up to about a foot of snow, with even more tumbling out of the sky as big, fat flakes. I, along with most of the other employees, trudged very slowly to the sanctuary to start a cold morning of work. No sooner had I arrived, I was promptly told it was a red snow day and that all non-essential personnel would be sent home. I had time to watch a safety video about rabbits, see the runs, and then I was shooed back into the snow. So I slowly trudged home and went grocery shopping instead. It might be the only long weekend I have ever had that I wasn’t really grateful for. I wanted to be with the animals. Nevertheless, Dragon Age got some much-needed play time.

snow1 snow3

By the end of the day, it was piled up almost 2 feet in places and lots of vehicles were in the ditch, including a jack knifed semi. Let’s just thank the mule deer that I got back to the house safely. By the way, it’s still gorgeous out here in the canyon, with snow lingering on the red dirt and hanging from the red rocks…maybe a photo later in the week.

Day 2, I showed back up and was finally able to work with some bunnies! Well, I was able to work around them, as bunnies are not so helpful (about as helpful as cats, and probably most animals) in the cleaning department. Working with any animal requires a lot of cleaning, a lot of patience, a lot of self-forgiveness – you will NOT get all the poop, you just won’t – a lot more cleaning, and some treat time. I didn’t get many photos on day 2, but today I got a whole bunch because my job was to supervise a bonding, and they did so well that I had time to observe the other bunnies.

What is bonding? With rabbits, they prefer being with a buddy, or companion, rather than living alone. They are just happier when they can share their life with another bunny that has the same ideals and goals and loves cilantro the same amount. Also they are great at grooming each other in those hard-to-reach places, so there’s a big health benefit there. Rabbits are fiercely territorial and will fight to the death (by biting each other’s genitals) if they aren’t familiarized. Basically, the rabbits are slowly introduced to each other every day in small increments until they can tolerate each other safely without micromanagement. This can take anywhere from 1-6 weeks, starting at 20 minutes together and leading up to 4 hours or more a day, depending on their temperaments. Today was day 21 of the bonding experience between Teddy and Courtney, both females. Yesterday, they were together for 40 minutes before Courtney started pulling fur out of Teddy and they had to be separated. Today, I watched them for two and a half hours with minimal aggression (some thumping of the feet and one or two chase scenes, but no guns were drawn and no cars were wrecked) and they were only separated because it was the end of the day. Success! Here’s Teddy, a very overweight bun with great markings who loves grooming Courtney even though she picks on her:

Teddy

Teddy’s profile: http://goo.gl/DRdU0b

I didn’t really get to hang out with the rest of the rabbits, but I kind of tried to watch them during the afternoon to see how they behaved. They’re all really cute, but they are pretty independent and don’t crave human interaction, unless you’re feeding them.

LyleAbove is Lyle, he lives with the adorable Netherland dwarf pictured below. It’s tough being roomies with someone so miniature, but Lyle handles it pretty well by being outgoing and quick. Lyle really likes romaine, but only the soft part of the leaf, not the hard stem. His head is a little blurry in this photo because rabbits move fast and randomly.

Lyle’s Profile: http://goo.gl/Gg0btP

Charlie

Charlie is a Netherland dwarf (thanks, Jade!) with an attitude. He knows how cute he is, and flashes his baby blues every chance he gets. He forms this fantastic little green moustache after eating his favorite treat – cilantro – which is what he’s chomping on in the photo above, and I’ve been told that if he eats raspberries, he sports a lovely grin full of lipstick!

Charlie’s profile: http://goo.gl/Bb3uP9

And this is Conley. I’m hoping to learn more about him tomorrow, but I did notice that when he moves, he drags his hips and rear legs around, rather than hopping – which I assume is from a back injury, arthritis, or something related to old age. He was slightly shy and would pull himself into his hide box when he was frightened, but I managed to sneak a video of him nomming on some delicious romaine. Something about the sound of a bunny chewing is reminiscent of a cat purring, and is actually quite relaxing to me. Maybe I am a rabbit person, after all.

Conley’s profile: http://goo.gl/qSEKh5

Squirt, Zinnia, & Annette

Yesterday was my last day in cats. I had a lot of conflicted feelings around working with cats in general, which kept my week interesting. Initially, I was stoked to be working with cats, I mean, I’ve had cats my whole life, so I knew that I liked them. Then I remembered that I absolutely abhorred cleaning out litter boxes, and wasn’t sold on the prospect that if I took a job as a cat caregiver, I’d have to do that every day. By day 3, I was finally learning many of the cats’ names and personalities, and litter boxes were fairly easy since they were being dumped and refilled every day, not scooped – plus the process was pretty much streamlined thanks to years of experience by past caregivers. By Friday, I was looking online for a job with the cats in Casa de CalMar (thanks to another intern who already applied and needs a roommate if this all works out, she’s also extremely cool and I’m really glad that our lives have crossed paths).

For week 2 of my internship here at Best Friends, I’ll be working with rabbits. I have only had bad experiences with rabbits in the past, but I’m determined to make this a better adventure and work my hardest (even with my sprain boot still on, which I’ll write about…eventually) to learn more about them. Until Monday though, here are a few more friends I made while working in Cat World, including some wild turkeys:

And then I couldn’t pick just one, so here’s Squirt, Zinnia, and Annette, the extraordinary lobby cats.

BFAS - Squirt, Zinna, Annette

Squirt is usually sleeping in the window and rarely leaves her perch. Whenever I walked past her room, she would raise her little head and say “hey!” in the squeakiest mew, squinting her blue eyes at the disturbance. It was really difficult not to shower her adorable innocence with affection.

Zinnia is a lovely little Russian Blue who loves full body rubs. Anytime I would sit in the room, she was on my lap and stretching out to the full length of my thighs. She kneaded my knees during a good petting, and left quite a few love pricks through my jeans.

Annette is a stoic, but temperamental tabby with the silkiest fur. She’d sleep in a bed that sat waist high in the narrow hallway. Sometimes she was so deep into her kitty dreams that she’d tolerate me loving on her; other times she would swat and hiss anyone that invaded her bubble (which ranged from the tips of her whiskers to the entire hallway). Annette also was a great supervisor during meal prep, and made sure to taste test everything before it went out. Quality control at its finest!

All of these cats are ‪‎FeLV‬+ and love the company of other felines.

Squirt’s profile: http://goo.gl/J1DFnC
Zinnia’s profile: http://goo.gl/xvzngD
Annette’s profile: http://goo.gl/Zhxgt0

Barney

After a long morning spent cleaning out rooms full of cats and all the messy things that come with that, the afternoon was a welcome respite. I returned to find a cat that wanted some alone time, and was told he really enjoyed walks. So we harnessed him up and took him outside. Mind you, I’m still only in the first week and a half of wearing my lovely tall sprain boot (for the sprained ankle I may have forgotten to mention…anyway, my left ankle is sprained), so getting around is slightly awkward and cumbersome – not to mention loud. Velcro. Velcro everywhere. Luckily, the cats seem to enjoy the sound, or at least they don’t mind it…look, they’re not complaining, ok? Barney actually liked my boot because it’s like a mobile chin scratcher, and since I followed him around, it was ever so convenient. Here’s a short teaser of what most of our walk looked like:

And here’s Barney from the front – note his happy claws digging into the sand (and his freckled nose!):

BFAS - Barney

I’ve tried walking cats before, and it’s always ended right as it began…because thecat turned into a sack of cement. Here at ‪Best Friends, they have many furry friends that enjoy strolls through the high desert landscape, including felines! The thing I had to remember was that I do not walk the cat, the cat walks me. Beautiful Barney (Bo’s brother) took me on a nice little jaunt around Cat World this afternoon and showed me his favorite spots. He talked a bit, occasionally rolled in the dirt, and stopped to snack on dry grass, but he was a great tour guide. He’s FeLV‬+ and always looking for a new adventure.

Barney’s Profile: http://goo.gl/ICBCJq

Murray

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve passed the halfway mark on my first week as an intern at Best Friends Animal Society. I feel like I’ve learned a ton, yet there’s so much more I don’t know. I’m trying to pay attention to everything and keep mental notes, but my internal filing system is overflowing. Thankfully, afternoon downtime means being able to sit with the cats and socialize with them in the sunny catios (patios for cats!). As soon as I find a chair in a sunbeam, the cats swarm around me – a couple will play king of the hill for my lap, one will wrestle with my shoelaces, and others will weave between the chair legs. It’s an intriguing dynamic, and it’s even more interesting when the turkeys show up to eat all the treats that have fallen outside of the gates. It was a long time volunteer’s birthday yesterday, and a piñata stuffed with kibble was hung in one of the catios for her to bash open. Treats went everywhere, and eventually there is too much of a good thing.

Once everyone calmed down, the turkeys showed up – a whole gang of big males – to help with the mess. As they silently picked their way closer and closer to the cages, the cats watched with serious determination. Then, one by one, they lunged at the turkeys, scaring them into a flapping frenzy. Yet the turkeys recovered and persevered, continuing on down the line of catteries until every last treat was pecked up. The lunging and scaring happened multiple times, but I think they knew there was nothing the little furballs could do; they were about 1/3 the size of these birds. After all of that excitement, it was time for the 5th nap of the day, and beds were filled with dozing purrs.

BFAS - Murray

I can’t walk into room 2 without Murray loudly proclaiming that he wants attention. He is quite the talker, and would probably type in all caps if he knew how to use a keyboard. As I move around his enclosure, he’ll find a perch to reach my shoulder and ride along, purring into my neck and hair (and he gives a not-so-professional-but-free massage…with claws). He’s FeLV‬+ and just about the happiest little orange ‪‎cat‬ one could hope to meet. Murray celebrated his first birthday this month, which can be a big milestone when they’re diagnosed with FeLV so young. Here’s to many more!

Murray’s profile: http://goo.gl/Mhlxhw