Meet Juniper: The Laziest Race Dog Ever

Meet Juniper: The Laziest Race Dog Ever

Juniper - our silly dog

Here it is – the official last Minion introduction! My poor fiance’ was forced to endure the Cat Test before I decided we could officially start dating. (After all, if they didn’t like him, he’d have to go) Those three and I came as a complete package. Juniper is unique because she entered the family after he and I were already dating and in the process of moving in together.

He’d had Greyhounds in the past, and I’d been a Greyhound fan for years. Why not? They’re basically cats in dog form. After years of cooing over them at Renaissance Faires (yes, I’m one of those people. Oh, don’t act surprised), and spending hours sitting with them in my Faire costumes, I knew I’d own one some day. Now that I had a house of my own with a yard (oh, yeah, and someone who already loved the breed), the time was right.

The adoption hunt was on!

Synchronicity was on our side. Florida’s now-infamous law had just passed, and the various rescues were seeing a higher than usual influx of dogs needing homes. My fiance’ wanted to use the same rescue he had before (he visited it on a regular basis), so we stopped by after Thanksgiving.

Fun Fact: The Greyhound chooses the family.

After several misses (on a short list since we needed a dog that was cat-friendly), they brought out a new arrival from Florida. She was on the small side, missing more than the usual amount of hair (Greyhounds have bald butts from rubbing in their crates), and shy as all get out. Her name was June, and the moment we called her name, she came right over. In fact, every time we called her name, she came. We took her for a short walk, and she stayed with us. You would have thought she’d been with us for years. It was fate.

That was when the rescue tipped us off that they were concerned she was hypothyroid. (The direct opposite of Firefly – her thyroid wasn’t producing enough) That explained her lower energy level and hair loss. That solution was easy enough: life-long supplementation. They were more than happy to place her with a family holding a veterinary background.

Oh, yeah – one more tiny detail.

Literally tiny: Florida dogs came with a resistant strain of hookworms. Treatment existed, but it usually took up to SIX MONTHS to clear them! I still wasn’t too daunted – I knew how to handle hookworms (er, NOT to handle them being the first step).

We set the date to pick her up (she still needed to be spayed and vaccinated). Then came the heavy conversation on the drive home: what to rename her. “June” was a terrible name. Neither of us liked the idea of standing outside and shouting for a 80-year-old grandmother. (No offense if your grandmother is named June)

There was a problem, though.

She was two-years-old. So we couldn’t completely change a name she was used to. That meant the new name needed to SOUND like her current name. After discarding the most obvious (Junebug, Juno), Juniper popped out. We’d be bringing her home just before Christmas, Juniper is an herb of protection (and while we didn’t expect that from her, we wanted it FOR her) – it was meant to be.

Juniper came home, and two out of three of her new siblings were NOT impressed. Firefly didn’t mind too much – until she barked at him, then he was having NONE of it. In fact, it took him MONTHS to forgive her. Tonks engaged in “scouting” missions, sneaking up under blankets and around furniture to spy on this new intruder. Squeak, oddly enough, accepted her right off the bat. He meeped a “hello,” butted her head, and decided she was family and belonged.

Of course, Tonks appropriated Juniper’s beds from the start. There is nothing funnier than watching a 70-pound dog avoid her bed because a tiny 7-pound kitten is parked in the middle of it. To this day, Juniper will surrender one of her beds if Tonks decides to sleep in it. The original animosity has dissipated, though, and all four of them get along. Tonks and Juniper will even play together, and they curl up in the same sunbeams.

Typical Juniper sleeping pattern.

It took Juniper’s personality months to surface. While she had toys available from the beginning, she didn’t start to play until about three months with us passed. Now she plays with her toys on her own. She still hasn’t figured out fetch, but she does get chase. She partakes in about four laps of “zoomies” around the yard once a day, and the rest of her time is devoted to napping – usually with most of her body OFF the bed.

With the exception of her trademark backend bald patches, the remainder of her hair has regrown BEAUTIFULLY. We have no idea where she learned it (it’s not a Greyhound trait), but she barks at the doorbell (and the Netflix tone). Of course, she then runs to the other end of the house, so she’s not the most efficient guard dog. She’s still shy around strangers, but once she learns she gets pets, she warms up. She’s come a long way from the terrified girl we saw at the rescue.

And she makes our little family complete. The cats think of her as that “really big cat who goes outside.” She sees the cats as “the little cats with the little toys.” It works perfectly.

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“I’m Sorry”

Tonks huddling on my lap.

Tonks hissed at Firefly this morning (he had surgery yesterday, and she doesn’t like that he A) smells like the vet and B) has a cone of shame on), and so she got yelled at for being mean to her brother. As punishment, I wouldn’t let her on the desk. She’s since compromised by curling on my lap, very sad and apologetic.

This might be a first for cat kind. It’s definitely a first for this little demon!

Meet Squeak: The Special One

Meet Squeak: The Special One

Squeak on the couch

Similar to Tonks, Squeak came into my life through my previous Vet Tech job. He was found trailing further and further behind his siblings and mother in a parking lot, so a Good Samaritan brought him in where the mystery was quickly solved: a horrific flea infestation. An emergency blood transfusion was called for, and Firefly was the closest match. I had no plans to bring another cat into my household at that time, though, so Firefly and I considered it nothing more than a job well-done. As usual, I was foolish.

About a month later, the little tyke had rebounded and was on the lookout for a new home – and his foster mom was determined to make that home mine. To this day I swear she trained the little goober to follow me around the treatment room, calling out that he knew I was destined to be his Mommy. I cautioned her that I had an older cat that might not accept him, and she pushed me to take him home, just on trial.

Famous last agreement.

Of course Squeak came home to stay. He earned his name when tiny little bird chirps were all he produced – and he pretty much only makes little squeaking sounds to this day (when any sound emerges at all). Not too long after the little ball of white and black fur came in, I realized that he had a condition called Cerebellar Hypoplasia or CH (I’d had previous cats with the same condition). This happens when the cerebellum doesn’t fully develop, and it causes issues with balance and can lead to tremors, head-bobbing, and similar symptoms, depending on severity. Squeak’s case is mild, though he does wobble and have trouble jumping. There’s no cure, but it also doesn’t worsen, so as long as the animal (dogs can have the same condition) is able to function normally, there’s no reason for alarm.

A few months down the road, I got my next surprise: he had a heart murmur. A heart murmur in a kitten just six-months-old isn’t a good thing, so we checked him with an echocardiogram to be certain. He had a tiny hole between two of the chambers of his heart – nothing major – but some things weren’t looking right, so a repeat was recommended once he was a year old.

Working in the vet field and owning animals is a roll of the dice.

That recheck came around, and the news wasn’t good: he had a condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The chambers of his heart were thicker than normal. Cats can develop HCM, but when they do so at a young age, it tends to progress faster than when they develop the murmur at an advanced age. True to form, within four years, Squeak’s heart murmur grew louder, and he went from HCM to HOCM: hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. Now those cardiac changes were affecting the blood flow through the valves of his heart. This meant starting a medication called Atenolol in an attempt to better support his heart and hopefully slow further progression – it also meant more frequent checks (every six months instead of every year). Thus far, his condition has stabilized.

He wasn’t done yet, though.

Last year, Squeak ended up with a true emergency: a life-threatening condition called urethral obstruction (he wasn’t able to urinate). Actually, he did it twice, both requiring hospitalization with urinary catheters (and VERY CAREFUL sedation to protect his heart). Now he has to have a prescription diet (and NOTHING else) in order to prevent this from happening again. Luckily, he likes it and it’s safe for Tonks and Firefly (who also love it). Never a dull moment in our household, huh?

Squeak sleeping

Squeak doesn’t hear 100% (we never know exactly what he’ll hear or not), and his memory only lasts about 5 minutes. We like to tell people he’s Dory. What’s funny is that he gets fixated on specific spots in the house, and no matter what, you can’t shift him until he decides he’s ready. Then he’ll wander to a new spot and stay there until he’s ready to mosey on. He does know where everything is, even if it’s been a while – kind of like the end of Finding Dory, I guess.

Where Firefly and Tonks are snugglers, he usually isn’t. He was the first one to accept Juniper in the house, and he puts up with her sniffing at him – though he will “meep” whenever she tries to swat him out of his seashell bed; a tenth her size he might be, but he isn’t afraid to tattle! His reset button makes him very easy-going and relaxed – nothing ever bothers him. However, he’s the messiest eater of the bunch and it constantly amazes us that he gets ANY food in his mouth (some of that’s his CH, some is just him).

Between his brain and his health concerns, he’s pretty special, but his little chirps and watching him decide where he wants to hang out each day keep our lives interesting. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a touch of special!

Meet Firefly: The Perfect Gentleman

Meet Firefly: The Perfect Gentleman

Firefly - the very handsome

Firefly is pretty much the polar opposite of Tonks: the oldest, refined, well-behaved at all times, and while we guessed at her birth date, I know his almost down to the hour. This dapper gentleman has been a part of my life since before he was born (true story!), through terrible boyfriends, through less-than-stellar dates, right through my engagement and current wedding plans. And if he prefers to sprawl across my fiance’s chest to snuggling beside me, I try not to take it personally (he still sleeps next to me – that’s all I’m going to say).

My handsome little man was born under my bed – literally. His mother was a tiny little foster, and he and his brother, Smoke (who lives with my parents) came into the world in the wee hours of the morning on July 10, 2008. Contrary to what EVERYONE thinks, he wasn’t named for the TV show (sorry to disappoint). He got his name for the white tip at the end of his tail. There was no plan for either of the tykes to stay – they were fosters, after all – but Firefly’s journey down the road of lemon-hood started early (it’s so easy to justify not wanting to foist a kitten with medical issues off on someone, isn’t it?). Almost twelve years later, I regret nothing.

(My bank account does not get an opinion)

Regal though our boy may be, his list of problems seems to compound on a yearly basis. Things were slow to start, though, and he easily out-stripped his tiny mom in size: both he and smoke topped 17 pounds – and they were just plain BIG cats! He could (and still can) stretch from one end of a queen-sized bed to the other! Courtesy of that size (and Firefly’s good temperament) both boys were blood donors, saving the lives of other cats on numerous occasions (in fact, Firefly saved Squeak’s life – but that’s a tale for another post). Which was when karma decided she wasn’t in the mood to return the favor.

The Universe has a sick sense of humor.

In 2014, Firefly was diagnosed with diabetes mellatus. That put an end to his donation career, and it set him up for a lifetime of insulin injections. He tolerates them very well, I have to admit, though I curse the pharmaceutical company on a regular basis. I would have been content to juggle that problem, but Firefly wasn’t quite done yet.

In 2018, my then-boyfriend (now fiance’) noticed he was missing a canine tooth. A trip to the dentist revealed feline oral resorptive lesions (FORL) AND, just for fun, his lab work showed hyperthyroidism. Now he needed another medication. Once his T4 returned to normal levels, he was able to undergo anesthesia for dental radiographs…which showed FORL on EVERY SINGLE TOOTH IN HIS LITTLE HEAD. The poor thing ended up having full-mouth extractions. It cured the problem, and he eats fine – he just looks funny when he hisses at you (think of a snake).

Good enough, right? WRONG!

His blood pressure started climbing, requiring not one but TWO more medications to get things under control. (Not having any teeth DOES make pilling him a breeze)

Apparently, the Universe was still bored.

Remember the hyperthyroidism? Well, his thyroid decided that the twice daily pills just weren’t cutting it…and upping the dose didn’t do the trick, either. Nope, it was time to break out the radioactive isotope. I-131 is an injection that targets the abnormal cells in the thyroid and destroys them, effectively curing hyperthyroidism. The end of October 2019, he received the therapy, and his T4 is now normal – one problem solved!

The Universe hates answered problems.

Through all this – I would like to point out – Firefly has been the best patient in the world. He is sweet as pie, and everyone who works with him loves him. So when we noticed the weird spot on his right eye, I wasn’t too worried. Well, turns out he has a sequestrum…and an ulcer on the left…and low tear production which is inhibiting healing in both. Fast forward five months, and we’re still battling all three.

**mindless sobbing goes here**

Firefly cuddling with his ostrich toy

Our poor little guy has a giant list of problems – no one questions that – but he also has a heart of gold. He snuggles with his sister (his brother, not so much), he loves his new Daddy, and he always comes up to me when he wants something. He is my favorite child, and I don’t care who knows that. Everyone who meets him falls in love with right away, and he thrives on the attention.

You couldn’t ask for more of a trooper. He’s been through a lot, but he continues to behave as good as gold. How Tonks has failed to learn from him, I’ll never know. He’s my darling little man, and I was never luckier than when I heard those tiny mews under my bed.

Meet Tonks: The 8-lb. Demon

Meet Tonks: The 8-lb. Demon

Tonks - pretty much in her natural state.

As I type this, Tonks has already climbed over my shoulders, parked herself in front of the keyboard and obscured my view of the keyboard and screen, rolled my pen off the desk, and jumped onto the lowest shelf to knock the tiny stuffed tiger off the end – which pretty much sums her up. This is how we spend our day: she plays with everything in the office and gets in the way, and I remind myself that cats are supposed to lower stress levels and blood pressure.

Almost two years ago, Tonks was brought into the vet office I worked at by a police officer who found her alone in a gutter. I walked in the next morning to hear a kitten proclaiming its unhappiness for the entire world. She ended up spending most of the morning in my scrub pocket while I worked (kept her quiet), which was my first mistake. My second mistake was announcing that she needed a new name.

All stray animals were given names upon arrival, and someone decided to name her Khaleesi. Now, I knew where they’d gotten the name – and her lung power might have supported it – but there’s an extremely dangerous cat virus out there called Calici which is pronounced the same way. When your cat receives the FVRCP vaccine, it’s the C, and I knew that was asking for trouble; names are always prophetic (NEVER name a pet Lucky! You are asking for massive vet bills and sadness!). This tiny black and white fuzzball needed to ditch the name of doom quick. Suddenly, a co-worker threw out “Tonks” (in hindsight, I should have known THAT was prophetic, too), and it stuck.

I had lost an older cat that January to renal failure, and I wasn’t sure about letting a new cat into my life yet, but I also knew that A) this little one would be taken to the shelter, and B) the shelters were overflowing with kittens. So I lifted her up, looked her in the eye, and I asked her if Tali had sent her (I’m spiritual, not religious, but I do think our companions have a hand in this kind of thing). She looked straight back and meowed as loud as her lungs would allow. She came home with me that afternoon. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

Tonks was – and is – an absolute nightmare. She was tiny, so I couldn’t leave her unsupervised to begin with, and she had to stay in the bathroom at night. Once she declared she wasn’t having that anymore (her lungs grew with her), all bets were off.

She climbs EVERYTHING. There is not a piece of furniture that child has not been on top of, including the refrigerator, my bookcase, AND the curtain rods (we still have no idea how she managed that one).

She got BEHIND and under the stove, to the point that we had to build a spice rack to cover the top of it and prevent her from doing so (it looks great, but now the replacement stove will have to fit under it).

She decided the back of the washing machine made a great clubhouse for a while, and she corrupted Squeak to join her.

She has ripped most of the faux fur off my dragon puppet and built herself a nest under the bookcase with it (and became highly offended when we discovered it and cleaned it out). She’s also torn off more of his tail. Ironically, my unicorn puppet which sits on the other side is still intact.

She chases and pounces on both of the other cats despite the fact that they are bigger than she is and outweigh her. Seniority means absolutely nothing to her; she’s convinced she runs the house.

She takes over the dog’s bed, leaving Juniper to sleep on the floor next to the bed. Now, to be fair, Juniper isn’t smart enough to realize she weighs 60 pounds more than the little fuzzball and could take the bed back, the hilarity is the kitten lolling around on the poofy dog bed like a princess.

She hates the sound of my alarm and is smart enough to know when it’s going to go off and will wake me up 5 minutes BEFORE. Her purr is not soothing – it sounds like a cement mixer – and she licks your lips with her sandpaper tongue to “kiss” you awake. Also, for only weighing 8 pounds, each foot somehow manages to feel like it weighs 80 pounds when she walks across you.

She is a demon in cat’s clothes, and we end up yelling her name at least 5 times a day – when she’s REALLY in trouble, she does get called “Nymphadora” (and she knows that means she’s in BIG trouble).

Tonks sitting in my work chair

But, when all is said done, she jumps straight onto my chair as soon as I walk into the office and switch on the computer in the morning (and then refuses to move over for me), and she comes over to check on the progress of my work throughout the day. She insures there’s never a dull moment in our lives, and she’s been part of both of our lives from the very beginning. Trouble through and through, but we’ll keep her.