The Pet Version of Sophie’s Choice

October 29, 2018 2:51 PM

It’s been a long, long month. Very long. As in l-o-n-g. Since the end of September, Dennis and I have not been able to leave the house at the same time. I wrote a blog at the end of September, Man Plans and God Laughs, where I shared the physical problems one of my cats, Frankie was having.

After four days of waiting for test results back from the vet, I found out that Frankie’s problem is physical, but it’s not caused by an infection or urinary crystals. It’s caused by stress. The vet said this is common and it’s very hard to diagnose what stresses a cat. But it wasn’t hard for me know. I’ve known that the incessant barking when we are not home by Sammy, my dog, was stressing Frankie out. I even blogged about it when I was forced to miss a Sheepshead card party earlier in the month because of it.  I Didn’t Sign Up for This!

So, what to do? Although there are anti-anxiety drugs that are supposed to help Frankie with stress, I really didn’t want to go that route. Frankie has an amazing personality and I didn’t want to mess with that. We needed to find another option, and until we did, we vowed that one of us would stay at home with the dogs at all times so there would be no long bouts of barking. When I say “all times” I mean ALL TIMES. Sammy barks even if we are both outside at the same time and he’s inside, so any outside work that Dennis needed to do meant I had to stay inside, on the first floor, to keep the dogs company. Even my being on the second floor, where my sewing room is, causes Sammy to bark if he’s left alone downstairs. He’s a little clingy.

For the past month, showers needed to be coordinated where either one of us stayed downstairs, or I took the dogs upstairs and locked them in the bathroom with me so there were no accidents when I wasn’t looking. (For some reason, Charlie feels his housebreaking training does not apply to the second floor.)

Dennis had a few business trips during this month, because, of course, those always come up at the worst possible time. I could not leave the house during those trips, unless I took the dogs with me. Which I didn’t, because they’re not that well-behaved in the car, and I only have one dog restraint. I ended up missing two events with my writing group that I really wanted to attended. I did find a Pizza Hut that will actually deliver to our house.

It’s not like Dennis and I go out a lot anyway, but when we couldn’t go out, we found that we really wanted to.  We did take the dogs to a couple of drive-thru’s for dinner this last month when we just had to get out of the house together for a little while.

We pondered our options during the first weekend Dennis was back from him trip. There weren’t many and none were good.

  1. Drug the cat and hope that helps. NOPE. That’s the last resort.
  2. Up Sammy’s Prozac. I did do this and I have done this before and it worked somewhat, but not completely. I knew I still wouldn’t be able to relax when were out because I’d be worrying that Sammy could be barking and stressing Frankie.
  3. Find Sammy a new home. This was a horrible option that wouldn’t really solve the problem. Charlie barks constantly when he is alone in the house without Sammy. So finding Sammy a new home also means finding Charlie a new home and this is basically a death sentence for Charlie. (No one is going to take a 14-year-old dog that requires a special diet that has to be prepared every day, not to mention the crazy expensive cost of his diet and his monthly medication.)

Basically, Dennis and I faced the Sophie’s Choice of loving pets. Which pet do we choose to save, the cat or the dogs?

On a Sunday morning over breakfast, after a very stressful, sad Saturday as we tried to figure out what to do, we remembered what one of our friends suggested earlier in the month. Build a separate room in the garage for the dogs.

Could we do this? The requirements were specific and not easy. It had to be comfortable, like a room in our house, not like a kennel. Charlie and Sammy are small dogs. They’re not going to survive well in an uncomfortable garage. That means the room needs to be heated and air-conditioned  and it needed a raised floor, so the dogs don’t have to sit on a cold, cement floor.

It needed to be furnished. At least a love seat near a window and probably a rug and some pillows, too.

And, this is a critical requirement, it needs to be sound-proof. Very sound-proof because based on my past experience of locking the dogs in our finished rec room in the basement, they both bark constantly when confined. Sammy would bark anyway even if he wasn’t confined, but locking both Sammy and Charlie in a room is going to mean both dogs bark constantly.

Dennis spent that Sunday researching and estimating. At the end, he was somewhat confident that he could build a room that would muffle the barking enough to work. We thought that the cats may still hear muffled barking from the first floor, but it would be likely they wouldn’t hear it on the second floor. Cats are smart. I figured that if Frankie had a place to go to get away from barking, he would use it.

The downside of the idea is it was very labor intensive. Dennis is very handy with projects and he turned our basement into a really cool rec room. But this was a different animal. It’s a full new room that not only needs a frame, it needs sound-proofing, insulation, and drywall, lighting, electrical and A/C. We decided to also put in a heating element under the raised floor so there’d be no chance of the cold seeping up through the floors come January.  This is going to be one hell of a nice kennel.

Did I mention the other downside is that it’s going to be expensive? I have a little money from my mom’s estate and I decided that putting it toward this room is a perfect use for it. She’d want me to do whatever I could to make sure all my animals can live in harmony in my house.

Thank goodness we decided not to get the pool! Dennis had the space cleared in the garage already where we could put the dog room. By Monday, he was placing his first order with Home Depot before he flew out-of-town again that week.

Construction ensued for the next three weekends. This meant that I could not leave the house, or even the downstairs for that matter, while he worked on the room.

This dog room has nicer amenities than my house! We bought a solid core wooden 6 panel door because it blocks sound better than hollow core doors do. I have white hollow core doors in my house. We bought wood laminate flooring instead of vinyl because the heated floors work better with laminate. I have a small amount of laminate in my house that I hate the color and style of. It’s not heated. I have vinyl in my kitchen, fourteen year old white carpeting in my family room and a year-long contract with Stanley Steemer for carpet cleaning every three months to try to keep it clean with five animals. The dog room got a nice new blind for the window. My blinds are ten years old. The dog room  even has a programmable thermostat, separate from our house, that we can control via wifi. If we’re away, and I see it’s getting too hot or too cold in the room, we can alter it from wherever we are. A lot of research and planning and work and time and money went into prepping this room.

Finally, this last Friday, Dennis finished the room to the point where the dogs could use it. There’s still some cosmetic stuff, like taping the drywall seams and painting, but it was functional to use.

We were so excited! We would actually get the leave the house together and go out. Where to go first? A nice leisurely dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants? A movie? The casino? All fine ideas, but I thought we should introduce the dogs to the room gradually, so we settled for a quick dinner at our local Culvers so we could be back home in under an hour. We were so excited to be out that we took pictures at Culvers when we were there.

dennis

While Dennis doesn’t exactly look excited, he does look happy. And exhausted from building the room in three weekends.

me

I’m not good with selfies, but I think you can tell I’m pretty damn happy to be out the house after a month!

Here is a picture from the video camera we have mounted in the dog’s room. You can see the floor, the love seat, the carpet and several dog beds. There is a window next the love seat that the dogs like to look out of. And look at that floor! I love the floor. It’s nice and toasty warm, and it warms the entire room with a cozy-feeling heat. It reminds of me of how warm air feels around a fireplace. It’s really nice!

room

This is what freedom looks like in our house. You can see a bit of Sammy in the bottom left corner and Charlie is on the sofa.

The first experiment with the room went awesome! The dogs only barked when we left and they heard the garage door close. They were quiet the entire time. Apparently, sound proofing works both ways. They’re not hearing the random sounds of the house, like the sump pump or the furnace or the cats galloping around upstairs, so they aren’t barking. When they did bark, the sound was barely noticeable in the house on the first floor. As a matter of fact, Frankie was sleeping in a clothes basket in the laundry room which is by the door to the garage when we left and he never moved while we were gone. If he heard any barking it didn’t bother him enough to move. The room is a success!

We further tested the room out this weekend by having a Chinese dinner in Brookfield where we were gone close to two hours (no barking) and another dinner out last night at one of our favorite supper clubs (still no barking, even after dark, which was unheard of in the house.) I’m not sure if the room is the full cause of the new non-barking world we’re living in now. It could also be partly caused by the higher dose of Prozac Sammy is getting.  Whatever the reason, we are very grateful!

There were two unexpected bonuses to this entire ordeal and one unexpected repercussion. The first bonus is that I didn’t expect the room to end up that nice or that comfortable to be in. I’ve been wanting a quiet place to write so I am moving a small desk into the dog’s room and I’m going to use it as my writing space. Hurray!

The second bonus is after spending a solid month with Frankie and watching him closely to make sure he isn’t having problems (he’s has had none at all) Frankie has finally become a lap-kitty. I’ve been waiting for this moment for six years! Okay, I did lure him up with a knitting project I’ve been working on, but once he’s there, he stays even when he’s done playing with the yarn.

lapcat

Frankie, my very un-stressed, healthy, happy buddy, sitting on my lap. Lucy, our Tortoise Shell cat is to the right and Herbie, Frankie’s brother, is in the upper right corner. Our cats all love to hang with people.

The one repercussion that’s not so great from this project, is that I now want laminate floors that are heated in my family room. And I want new laminate flooring in my entry way and Dennis’ office. And I want to replace the vinyl in my kitchen with laminate, too.

I see more construction in Dennis’ future.

10/29/18  3:47 PM

 

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