Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mishka, My Mishka

A door is what a dog is perpetually on the wrong side of.
~Ogden Nash

Finally, after all the 90 degree days, there is a chill in the air! I love autumn. I do not like the shorter days and longer nights thing, but I do love the weather. Walking with my dog in the cooler air is far more appealing.

It has become quite clear to me why, over all the years of our marriage, my husband still tends to stay up late and I tend to get up early. It can be summed up in one word: dogs. Except for a few short months, we just have always had a dog.

Now having a puppy while my husband has been away through the week is more challenging because I am the only one who is making sure our little Mishka is getting out when he needs to do so. However, being that he just 11 weeks old, I am quite impressed that he sleeps about 5 to 6 hours straight at night now. I used to only sleep about that many hours a night for most of my life, but these days another hour does a bit better for me, however it is more doable than every two to three hours taking out a puppy.

I have gotten to know Mishka a bit better in the past three weeks. His favorite game is to grab a shoe, sandal, or sock and play keep away...and he would probably chew on them if we were not watching him. He likes to grab the shoes by the door a lot so we had been working on that bad behavior. He was sleeping on those very shoes when I got the idea for this picture. No, I was not shaming him, he just was opening his very sleepy eyes without moving.

Mishka's own toys are just not quite as fun in his eyes, but he loves balls and a particular squeaking snake toy I got him in the last week, with three separate large squeakers. When we squeak that one, he will drop what he is doing and try to pounce on it, but squeaking it too much makes him frustrated, which my teenager is learning the hard (teeth biting her) way.

Mishka still fights to stay up and can get rather nippy during that time. Determined to nip means time for a nap and if he will not lie down on one of the floor vents, which are his favorite places, then he gets placed in his pen. Since he is already 20 pounds, lifting him when squirmy is getting to be a challenge and he has not mastered going down the front steps, which are not carpeted like the ones inside...a few more weeks for that.

When I say nippy, I mean he really goes after us, especially the feet and ankles but also hands, arms, and clothing. German Shepherds have a herding instinct so we have to work with him so that he is not "herding" us, which is why he nips at the feet and lower legs. He has already ripped two of my lightweight jeans and I dare not wear a skirt! We have to be very wary walking in our house about what mood the Mishka is in. There is that Fenris side that comes out now and then.

However, for a puppy his age, he is actually on the calm side, I think. I mean, puppies are puppies with immediate needs and chewing is their life, but he is not hyper, which makes me thankful now that we decided on another German Shepherd rather than a Belgium Tervuran.

A nickname has not officially emerged yet. In our house, the nicknames are longer than the name. For now I find myself often saying, "Mishka, my mishka." It just seems to fit.

My Lord, thank you for this new member to our family. May he grow and learn to be a good companion and protective guard dog and...well, just everything we need him to be for our family.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Three Nights with No Midnight

The cat is the only animal which accepts the comforts but rejects the bondage of domesticity. ~Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffon

When you're used to hearing purring and suddenly it's gone, it's hard to silence the blaring sound of sadness. ~Terri Guillemets

Introducing a new member to the family always requires adjustments. Mishka, being young, adjusted easily to the new environment and schedules, but he has not been really introduced to our two cats. He has seen both cats from a distance, but we are allowing the cats to take their time to get acquainted in their own ways.

Sharii has been the bolder one, mostly because he has the stronger claim on the home territory and stays closer to home most of the time. He was a kitten being introduced to our Hanah about six years ago. He warmed up to her quickly. He always rubbed up against Hanah purring loudly and Hanah used to try to back away because eventually he would begin wrapping around her legs and biting her. Sharii loves just about everything that does not make loud or strange noises. That same Sharii has sat on the back deck watching Mishka through the glass door without any threat. He even was within a foot in the back yard with a fence between them. However, Mishka is a little too much puppy for Sharii to try his direct affections on him yet.

Now Midnight is quite different in her approach. For one, Midnight is not a dog lover, nor much of a cat lover either...she is a people lover, although I am her favorite human as far as I know. While Hanah was trying to get away from Sharii, she also just loved Midnight, but Midnight did not love her. Midnight would run away from Hanah and Hanah would chase her within our perimeter. Pretty much, Sharii would do the same, so Midnight often leaves the property to go to other places around the neighborhood or in the woods for much of the day. Being the smallest cat in the neighborhood has its disadvantages, but one thing she is very good at is finding places to hide and she is a very friendly to everyone. I often see her approach someone, plop down, and roll around in front of them...who cannot resist petting her or even picking her up? Most people think she a half-grown kitten but she is five years old.

So, Midnight was not even in the mindset to want to warm up to a new exuberant hunk of fluff that likes to chase and out weights her by more than double with paws about half the size of her head, but when she saw me picking up the, her protector from dogs and Sharii, me, who makes sure I spend at least 20 minutes almost every day giving her quality time and primming her. Well, her look said it all.

Midnight has stayed away overnight before, but not often. Unless she has food from a hunt, she usually comes home for dinner and when she is not here, we ring a bell. We have done this since the cats were kittens. We rang a bell when they were eating so that they would associate the bell to meals, knowing they were to be outside cats. I can ring it at anytime of the day and because it can be heard all over. They both usually show up within in few minutes even if they are not that nearby.

We came home on Tuesday from our errands and Midnight did not show up even to the bell. I was a little more concerned than usual because of the new puppy factor, but puppies need lots of attention so I was distracted most of the following days. I had not seen Midnight and my daughter failed to mention that she had not come to dinner the next day either, but I knew because even though Sharii is rough with her and does not mind her being out and about during the day, he sorely misses her when she does not come for dinner and he is all alone in the garage for the night. Sometimes he will not eat if she is not there...well, he will not eat right away. We heard his mournful howling for hours.

Thursday evening after ringing the bell and not seeing my Midnight, I began knocking on a few neighbors' doors showing a picture of Midnight on my smart phone. Yeah, that cat gets around but most said like us they had not seen her for two days. I have always had this concern about Midnight that someone would take her or at least take her inside their house so she could not get out. Midnight loves going inside houses, but also hates being forced to stay in. I often let her in on hot or cold days to take a nap on my lap or a chair. She paws at the glass door in the back when she wants to come in.

I went out the next morning calling her and meeting some of the parents at the bus stops. Still no Midnight. I was planning to go a different direction to knock on doors that evening, but a neighbor I had talked to stopped by and showed me a picture of Midnight saying his daughter was friends with a girl whose family had found the cat, although they would not be home for a couple more hours.

After dinner I went to get my cat. The father of four young children answered the door and I showed him the picture, He said he figured she belonged to someone and he was just holding her until they could locate the owner. I thought this family might be new to the neighborhood as we now have quite a few rentals here, but no, they have lived here for six years. He said Midnight just walked right up to him and was very friendly. I told the children that if Midnight comes around again that they can pet her but I asked that they do not take her inside the house because she cannot come home and that she has a "brother" that missed her so badly that he has been crying for her for the past two days.

They said good-bye and I asked if they would like the collars back because I do not put collars on outside cats that hunt and can get them caught, but the father said no. I carried Midnight home, who seemed happy to let me, but she was not herself...she was not purring as she usually does when being carried by me. One of the collars was a flea collar, which makes me ill and they do not stop fleas anyway. I think Midnight hated it too and it was making her sick as well. I took off both and began combing her out. Fleas are always a problem for the cats, but they are a bit happier after I comb them out.

Midnight seemed to just be tolerating the combing instead of fully relaxing. After her dinner and a night with Sharii, everything was back to normal the next day. Midnight even tried to approach me when I took Mishka out...she came within 18 inches of him. I picked her up, showing her again that I will not let the puppy pester her. Her willingness to approach me while with him proved to me that she was not staying away just because of Mishka. She was content up on her regular perch on my left shoulder...but she has not yet purred once for me since her return.

There is so much going on in our lives right now, but as I prayed about Midnight, God was telling me that she would be coming back...vague on the how and when, though. So I was not highly worried, I just wanted to get her back where she belongs. Midnight was out and about yesterday to come around at dinner time. I gave her lots of attention and combing out yesterday as she fully relaxed in the early evening, but still no purring. She is out napping in some cool spot right now, I would think, enjoying her freedom once again.

Thank you, my Lord, for all my pets, and for protecting and bringing Midnight back to me. Of all the pets I have ever owned, I have always felt she needs my protection the most.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Real Puppy Love Coming Very Soon

Happiness is a warm puppy. -Charles M. Schulz

After losing Hanah, we have been looking for a puppy. I love the look and smarts of Belgian Tervurens, but they can be rather demanding of exercise and attention. Hanah was a rather hyper German Shepherd (GSD) because she was originally from Czechoslovakia lines, which are working dogs a bit on the smaller side of the breed. We tossed it back and forth between a Terv and a GSD, but breeders are fewer for Tervs and I finally decided to it would be better if we had the calmer-temperamented GSD.

I was not in a big hurry to get another dog, because I still have not finished the master bathroom. I have been kind of under some emotional strain of late as you might understand from my previous post. However, it is also because of that emotional strain that we decided we need some REAL puppy love in this house hoping it would be therapy for all of us, but especially the Princess.

My husband found a wonderful breeder about three hours south of us. Yes, there are other breeders closer with available dogs, but my husband is quite particular about not just the dog, but from whom the dog comes. We wanted a male with the plush or rough coat, which has longer hair than the stock coat. Our first GSD, Sasha, was a rough coat. This breeder had two males left both with rough coats.

We drove three hours one way to see the two puppies about two weeks ago on a Sunday. They were about six weeks old. One had a teal ribbon on his collar and the other, green. They had been outside in a moveable pen so all six were let out. We watched them together and how they played with each other and the toys. One kept catching my eye more than the other. The teal one seemed to be just as happy playing with a toy by himself as being with the others. The green seemed to just like everything but not anything particular thing and was maybe a bit more cuddly. The sun's position made it time to take them inside. Being so young, then they mostly wanted to sleep. However, the teal one would try to stay up and play. I watched him struggle against his sleepiness three times, lying down and then going back to a toy, before he gave up completely and the green just succumbed as soon as he found a cozy spot in the whelping box. Guess which one we all picked?

I like cuddly but these males will be about 85 pounds full grown and we want a loving but well-trained, protective dog. So, after handing the breeder our money to hold the cute teal one with the stronger drive, we stopped to eat and started on names. For the AKC registration, we have to pick a name that began with "F," because he was in the F litter. (It's a breeder / records standard thing.) We could, of course, have a completely different call name.

For the papers, we decided on Fenris, a Norse mythological monster wolf. I just think he would be every canine's dream hero. We thought about using the same name for his call name but everyone had other ideas.

The breeder was anxious for the call name, knowing we did not like Frankie as she had been calling him for training. Oh, At six weeks, her puppies have learn the German commands, as done in Schutzhund training (now called IPO), for sit, lie down, come, and here. Our last two dogs were trained in Schutzhund commands well, but Hanah actually was formerly trained and passed Level 1 trials.

We discussed, laughed, got frustrated, and argued over names for a few days. Hanah was already named and at six years old and we actually liked the name, so we kept it. Sasha was just the perfect name that my husband and I both liked, and because it was so perfect it has been a greater challenge to find a another really good one. Sasha is a Russia male name derived from Alexander which means "friend and defender of men." I looked at all the other variations of Alexander but none really stood out. We found it funny that most Americans think of Sasha as a girl's name here, even my mother-in-law referred to him as "her" for the first few years.

So, our previous two GSDs were Sasha and Hanah...and I had in mind another foreign name and, although it was not that important, in the back of my mind I think I was also hoping for one that ended with an "a". Then I came across one that just hit me and the Princess just right. My husband was slower to warm up to it, but he is letting us go with it. So this is....

Mishka (MEESH ka)

Mishka is a Russian name deriving from Michael, meaning "Who is like God?" In Russia, it is used for both boys and girls...and something else: here we have the teddy bear, there they have the mishka. It is also a term of endearment in Russia. You may have heard in a movie "my little mishka." I knew it was not the top three picks for my husband but I thought he might get to like it more because we have pet names for each other and his is T.B. (for teddy bear).

There are a few other cultures that use Mishka as a name. In Hindu, it means "gift of love." In Arabic, it is "light of the candle" or "illuminator of knowledge."

We just cannot go wrong with this name!

We have been receiving pictures and updates every few days. One thing the breeder-trainer told us is that Mishka pays a LOT of attention when being given commands. We knew he was the one!

We made arrangements for picking up Mishka on Labor Day, but it worked out that Sunday was better for the breeder, although it is two days short of the eight week age, which she prefers. Yes, we will be skipping church, but we just cannot wait for our little Mishka!

Thank you, my Lord, for this young life that will grow to be our protector and our friend. We are looking forward to the years of companionship he will bring to our lives.