365 Days of Writing: Day 25 – Preparing for our Holiday Part 3

I’ve written 2 previous posts about our preparation to leave for our holiday in Romania while leaving our dogs behind here and here. Those previous posts dealt with us finding a dog sitter for our furbabies while we’re away.

This post is going to be about us preparing the dogs living area and adjusting their feeding schedule for when we’re away.

You see, whenever we have to leave the dogs behind while we go out for any reason, we keep them in the porch area (it’s quite a large area, is covered and offers protection from the elements). When we’re home of course, they have the run of the house – they even sleep with us at night, in our bedroom.

Now this arrangement has worked for short periods because they are allowed inside the house otherwise. But as the porch had quite a bit of clutter – plant pots, lawn chairs and even an unused bicycle – it’s not a very suitable arrangement for the long term. But we know we have to lock our doors when we leave, so the only thing to do was to de-clutter the porch.

And that’s what we did this afternoon.

We transplanted some of the plants from the plant pots into our garden. We also transferred the baby basil plants to the nursery area and the aloe veras to a bigger, rectangular planters and cleared the remaining debris off the floor. Plus we got rid of the older porch chairs – they were broken and practically falling apart.

And now we have a clutter-free porch! All I need to do is wash the area tomorrow, transfer the dog beds to the porch (they’re presently in our bedroom) and we’ll be all set 🙂

As for the dogs’ feeding, we have been working on getting them used to a once-a-day feeding schedule from their twice-a-day one. We’re also weaning them off their cooked food diet to a full dog kibble diet – just for the period of our absence of course! We’re doing that by slowly feeding them less in the morning and more at night; padding up the cooked food at night with kibble. Gradually, day by day they’re eating less cooked food per day and getting used to eating more at night. So by the time we leave, they’ll only be eating one meal per day at night. By the same process reversed, we’ll get them back to eating twice a day and only cooked food once we’re back. We’re doing it this way so that they have time to get used to a new routine. It’s less of a shock to their system if the routine is in place before we leave. Otherwise, it’s a bit much for them to start getting used to a new routine in our absence.

So far, it seems to be working fine 🙂

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365 Days of Writing: Day 24 – Being Anxious Parents of Dogs and Monitoring them via a Camera Phone

Yesterday, I wrote in my blog entry about an awesome app that we installed in our mobile phones that enables us to monitor our dogs remotely. We were quite impressed at the easy setup and quality of the videos. Turns out the app is even better than we first thought!

This app, which is called Alfred by the way (named after Batman’s trusty butler?) is a FREE download for any iOS or Android device. You can even download it via Google Play for your desktop. And the best part is, you can switch the view on your camera so it faces the other way! That means, depending on where we place the mobile phone, we can view either the porch or the interior of our house. So it’s like a pet monitoring plus an intruder alert device. How awesome! It also has motion detection sensors and night vision so you’re covered for night time monitoring as well.

Today we also discovered 2 other awesome features in the app – you can share the live footage with trusted people as long as you are the original owner. So my SO shared the access with me (you need a gmail account though, to activate the app. It doesn’t recognise other email accounts) so I was happily watching my furbabies en route to our meeting this morning 🙂

The other amazing feature in the app is something we discovered only when we returned home. Since it’s wifi enabled and the mobile phones are linked, it detected that we were in close proximity to the house. So it asked my SO if he wanted to turn off the motion detection sensor. Smart eh? It knew we were back home and may not need the the sensor on. Oh and it keeps the footage for some time so you can see previous recordings if you’re bored (or if you need evidence of a break-in or some such mishap).

Altogether a very user-friendly and useful app. Highly recommended by both my SO and myself.

Anyway, we decided to test run the app today while we were out for our meeting. And apart from some difficulty with the wifi the app worked just fine. But we on the other hand, turned out to be one of those parents who periodically check-in on their baby monitors just to see what the kids were up to. That’s what we were doing the whole time we were out (barring the actual meeting of course). Seriously. We could not help ourselves. I was staring at the screen like I was watching some sort of captivating movie and he had the screen on the whole time he was driving to the meeting. And every time we spotted one of our dogs, we made a noise somewhere between a coo and a gasp.

It was embarrassing.

And this is going to be our life from now on.

365 Days of Writing: Day 23 – Preparing for our Holiday Part 2

So I’d written a post earlier about our first meeting with the dog-sitter for our furbabies while we’re away. Today we met him again, and this time we went through the whole routine of walking and feeding the dogs as a dry run.

I’d say he passed the test with flying colours.

To be perfectly honest, we knew he was the right pick from the time he walked in to our porch – and we weren’t even there!

How? Let me explain.

He’d requested (and we agreed) that we leave the dogs alone and go out on an errand or something, so that he could get in through the gate without our supervision. He wanted to see how they’d react to him without our presence. Now, he’d obviously met the dogs before and spent some time with them, getting to know them and vice versa. But that was under our supervision. This time he wanted to be sure that they’d be ok with him even without us. We agreed with him that it was a practical idea. I mean, what if we went away, leaving the dogs to his care and they went berserk the first time he tried to get in without us?

Not a good scenario.

Anyway, we felt that we could trust him to take care of himself, but we also felt that we needed to keep an eye on the situation so we rigged up a makeshift cctv camera using my SO’s previous mobile phone. There’s an app you can download and that app acts as a camera and you can remotely control it using another mobile phone as long as you download the same app in the phone as well. Pretty cool huh? So we rigged up this makeshift camera to face the porch and left home. Of course we didn’t head too far away – just in case. We just parked at the nearby park and sat idly in the car watching the live feed from my SO’s mobile phone.

First off, it’s good that the dogs acted normally when passers-by and motorcyclists went by. They barked at them to warn them off our property. Next up, the dog-sitter.

What happened next was quite impressive.

We watched him walk slowly to the gate and I think Snowy and Cas recognised him. At least Snowy walked right up to him to sniff his hand, wagging her tail. Cas took awhile longer but was also wagging his tail and eventually sniffed his hand. Sasha on the other hand was quite suspicious of him – she’s suspicious by nature and it takes her awhile to warm up to strangers (although the dog-sitter wasn’t a stranger to them). But she didn’t attack him; she just stayed away.

It took him awhile but he managed to enter our porch. And the next thing we knew, he was seated on the porch chair, petting Snowy and feeding them treats. Success!

I’m not sure how we felt about that actually. Relieved, yes. Because he managed to gain their friendship without us there. But also chagrined – it shouldn’t have been that easy for him to gain entrance. I mean, yea… they’d met him before, and not that long ago; they knew we were ok with him because we let him in our house and he played with them and everything. Still.

Ah well, guess ours aren’t really guard dogs unless we’re home. I suppose to them we’re the most valuable property in the house anyway. Hence the barking at everything that moves while we’re home. What are they guarding in our absence? Right? Although to be fair, they did bark at the strangers and motorcyclists that went past our house while we weren’t around. So they’re still doing their job when it comes to strangers, but have no problem letting familiar faces in.

Something to note.

The main takeaway from today’s experiment was that this guy could be trusted with our dogs. So now we feel less anxious about leaving our furbabies behind. We’re going to miss them, that’s for sure. But at least we now know they’ll be in good hands. We know that not just because of how he gained their trust, but also how he handled walking them and feeding them today. Of course for both those activities, we were there supervising him. But he seemed to have things in control and only needed some prompting from us for the feeding.

It’s all good.

But we’re rigging up the camera all through our absence anyway. Just in case.

 

365 Days of Writing: Day 19 – Ginger Cats and Home Invasions Part 2

A week ago, I made a post about this badass, fearless ginger kitty that invaded our home for some food. Well, this week we had 2 more encounters with this kitty.

Don’t be worried. She’s still alive. And she didn’t exactly invade our house.

Just our porch.

Ok let me clarify.

This happened close to midnight just a few days ago, when we were cooking the next batch of dog food. So of course the scent of boiled meat was like a siren’s call to the kitty. And she attempted to steal from us once again.

But, it just so happened that while Cas (the killer) was upstairs, the other 2 were downstairs with us. It was raining, so we hadn’t gone for our usual walk yet. And Sasha (the one with the humongous satellite dishes for ears) heard the kitty. She immediately sprang up from her nap and ran outside, barking.

Lucky for the cat, it was Sasha and not Cas who’d heard her first. Otherwise she’d have been mauled. Sasha lacks the killer instinct so all she did was corner her and bark menacingly  at the poor frightened cat burglar. Gotta hand it to the kitty – she was quick enough to jump to the top of the wall separating our house and our neighbours. But I think the effort cost her, plus Cas and Snowy were out in the porch by then, adding to her terror. So she was petrified with fear and couldn’t jump away from the wall. Plus I think she was still starving and the scent of the meat was still too enticing.

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Look at the poor frightened kitty 😦  (p.s. excuse the poor quality of the photo. It was in the middle of the night and I didn’t want to use flash and frighten her even more)

My SO and I decided that he’d usher the guard dogs in and close the door while I went out to feed her some kibble and coax her away from the house. So that’s what I tried to do. It was very hard to convince her though – she was too terrified. Her pupils were fully dilated and her back was up. So I kept my eyes on her and spoke soothingly to her while I backed away from her outside the gates and away from our house. I then left a pile of kibble at the outer edge of the neighbour’s gate, far away from ours and meowed at her (yes, I meowed. Don’t judge me! How else was I supposed to call her??) She looked at the kibble and knew what it was (because of course I’d fed her the same stuff previously!) but she was still to afraid to climb down. So I left a trail of kibble from her perch, onto the neighbour’s gate and then along the walkway, leading to the pile of kibble.

And it worked!

She took awhile but the trail managed to get her moving. She followed the kibble all the way to the pile and then started munching on it. Happy at my success, I went back indoors and let the dogs out. They couldn’t see her anymore so they quietened.

Tonight, we saw her again. On our way back from the walk. She looked if possible even more starved. So we left the dogs back home and I came out to give her some kibble.

And you know what? This time she didn’t wait until I backed away before launching on the kibble! Either she’s getting used to me, or she’s too hungry to care.

Either way, I’m glad she’s still around.

365 Days of Writing: Day 18 – Dogs Are Children and they Love Snacks

This is Sasha.

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My baby!

Sasha has several quirks. She also happens to be very smart and behaves like a hyperactive 4 year old.

Tonight was no exception.

Being a hyperactive, smart dog, she tends to find ways to entertain herself. Sometimes that involves parking herself at the front gate and barking at anything that moves (whether imaginary or real). When that happens, either one of us – usually my SO – tells her to stop. And she does, well… most of the time anyway.

Tonight she didn’t.

My SO was hard at work so he found her barking very disruptive; more so than usual. So he used his “strict voice” to get her to calm down.

She didn’t listen.

So, he went outside to confront her. And using his strictest voice commanded her to come back into the house and then placed her under house arrest – he made her stay in the study with him. So she couldn’t even see outdoors.

Now, I did say she behaved like a 4 year old, didn’t I? What do 4 year olds do when they’re told to stop whatever they’re doing and punished? They sulk.

And that’s exactly what she did!

The entire time she was in the room, she refused to look at my SO or me. And she had the sulkiest face I’ve ever seen on a dog. She kept it up even later when he allowed her to leave the study – she went to her corner next to the sliding door and just lay there, refusing to look at either of us. I tried to coax her out of her sulk, but to no avail. Her head suddenly became very heavy when I tried to lift it up to kiss her.

My SO chuckled and said he had a sure-fire way to get her out of her sulk – treats!

But these weren’t any ordinary dog treats. These were milk biscuits (these ones )and our dogs go berserk for them. Really. All he has to do is say “Who wants some biscuits?” and there’ll be a mad scramble to reach him.

And that’s exactly what happened tonight as well. All the dogs ran to him, including her sulkiness – she just couldn’t resist those biscuits.

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Look at how well-behaved they are; giving their paws just so they can get those biscuits.

All the dogs get to have the biscuits as long as they sit and hand him their paws. And you know what? You’d never see a more well-behaved dog anywhere else. The only drawback to these biscuits is the amount of drool they leave on the floor, while waiting to be handed the much coveted snacks.

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Here’s another time they were waiting for those delicious biscuits. See that long tongue Sasha has sticking out? 

My SO uses the biscuits to train them to do stuff. That’s how he got them to give him their paws, lie down and behave. It’s a great way for us to bond with them, and for them to bond with one another – this way they don’t fight over the food.

Tonight, by the time he was done feeding them those treats, Sasha was his girl again 🙂

So, what methods do you use to train your dogs?

365 Days of Writing: Day 13 – Zinc Roofs and Childhood Memories

There’s a section in our porch that isn’t covered by a roof. It’s just a small section, but since it’s the area where we feed Snowy, it’s inconvenient to feed her when it rains. This being a tropical region, it rains often and it rains hard. So whenever it rains, we have to move her to another area in the porch to feed her.

Now, this isn’t that much of an inconvenience. So we didn’t really try to resolve the issue.

Recently though, a family moved in right next door – the house next door had been empty as far back as we could remember so this was a surprise for us all; especially the dogs.

Anyway, the first thing our new neighbours did was renovate their place. In the process of renovation, they removed the zinc partition between our back porch walls and replaced it with a brick wall.

My SO saw the discarded zinc plates and had an idea – why not use it to cover the exposed roof of our front porch?

So that’s what he did.

We carried the zinc plates upstairs to our bedroom – the porch roof extends from our bedroom balcony – and used some silicone glue to attach the zinc plates to our roof.

And it worked! Like a charm.

Now we don’t have to move Snowy to another area in the porch to feed her during a thunderstorm.

And bonus – the sound of the rain hitting the zinc roof!

Now I know what some of you may be thinking – rain on a zinc roof would raise a ruckus. How is that a good thing?

Well, it’s a good thing when it brings back memories of a childhood in a house with a zinc roof.

My childhood.

I have so many happy memories staying in that home with my grandparents in Joo Chiat Place! And hearing the sounds of the raindrops on the zinc roof brings back a flood of those wonderful memories 🙂

In fact, as I am sitting here typing my blog post, it’s raining outside…. and I can hear the sounds of my childhood again.

🙂

 

365 Days of Writing: Day 12 – Ginger Cats and Home Invasions

A couple of weeks ago, I walked into our kitchen to check on the dog food (we were cooking a new batch that day) and came face to face with a ginger cat. 

In the kitchen. On the counter. 

We have 3 dogs – 3 big dogs who hate the sight of cats. 

And this ginger kitty was sat right there on the kitchen counter, one paw on a pig ear, the other on the counter – looking straight at me; cool as a cucumber. It took me a couple of seconds to process this. I mean, living with 3 big dogs who hate cats, the last thing I’d expect would be a cat in the kitchen. 

That damn cat had been interrupted mid-meal by my arrival. 

The problem is, though both Sasha and Snowy were upstairs with my boyfriend in the bedroom, Cas was with me. He’d followed me downstairs to keep my company.

Now, it was a miracle none of the 3 dogs had caught the scent of the cat – probably because the smell of boiling pig heads was strong enough to mask the scent of the kitty. Moreover, Cas was not at eye-level with the cat so he couldn’t spot it even though the ginger was right in front of him. Damn lucky kitty. 

I finally snapped out of it, did an immediate turn around and walked casually upstairs, calling out for my SO in a jaunty, unflustered tone (I didn’t want the dogs to think anything was amiss). I also wanted Cas to follow me up so that the kitty would be out of danger. But my message was clear – 

“Darling! There’s a C-A-T in the kitchen!” – Our dogs understand the word cat so we always spell it out to prevent them from catching on.

Thankfully, my ruse worked and my SO caught on quickly. So he instructed me to lock all 3 dogs in the bedroom while we went down to investigate. Our kids were still none-the-wiser so they happily stayed put till I closed the door on them. 

We walked back down and into the kitchen. And lo and behold, she was still there! On the same spot! Looking just as unperturbed as before. 

You’ve gotta hand it to the kitty. She had courage.

Anyway, we managed to shoo her out of the house. But she did take her own sweet time to saunter out. Then we let the dogs loose and they ran out to bark at her – she sat just beyond the gate for awhile before leaving. I think she was making a point.

Now, we thought that would be the last we’ll see of her indoors. 

We were wrong. 

The next time it happened, I was staying over at my mum’s. 

My SO was lazing around on the couch, watching youtube videos, with Snowy beside him. The other 2 were upstairs. Then he heard a mouse squeek in terror. It sounded like it could’ve been either inside or outside the house, The dogs ran out to investigate first, but ran quickly back inside once they realised the sound came from inside the house – the kitchen to be exact. My SO followed them into the kitchen but no one spotted anything. 

Then, my SO looked down and saw the ginger. She was under the drinks table next to the fridge. The dogs had missed her because there was a pot between her and them. But they had honed in on her scent and were now hunting her. You’d think the kitty would be scared enough to make a break for it. 

Not this kitty.

No, she was not going to run out. What’s the point in breaking and entering a house full of dogs just so you can’t hunt a mouse, if you can’t exit in style?

So, that’s what she did – sauntering out like she had all the time in the world. 

And the best part? She still managed to escape before they found her. 

My SO and I were so impressed by this kitty we were ready to adopt her just for her sheer guts. And style. 

But we couldn’t.

Not outright anyway. 

But ever since then, we’ve been spotting her out and about around the perimeter of our house. And I’ve taken to feeding her kibble whenever I see her. 

So I guess she’s decided to adopt us?