Have you ever wondered to yourself why there was a need for a specific invention like, say, a garbage can with a "pet lock" on it? Unfortunately, Justin and I quickly learned that answer the hard way.
For the most part, our animals live together in harmony. Our dog, Nya, a border collie mix, is a big loveable oaf, although she's too smart for her own good at times. Ziggy, our black and white cat, prefers his personal space away from the other animals, although he's very much a lap cat with me and Justin. Finally, our orange and white striped cat, Rohan, is an ornery little devil. He's a very active and playful cat, and he loves his sister Nya, as he tends to follow her around the house and cries loudly when we let her outside. Rohan also lives to torment his brother, Ziggy, and Ziggy wants none of it.
Three very distinct animal personalities live with us, making no moment dull.
Toward the end of last year, Justin and I noticed that Nya had some sores on her back. We decided to take her to the vet, who ended up shaving a long strip of fur off of her back - she looked like she had a reverse mohawk. While we were there, the vet made the comment that Nya was, ahem, more generously proportioned than she probably should be. In fact, she had gained about seven pounds since her previous visit.
I frowned, because during the fall, we'd managed to slim her down a bit. However, I knew I was partially to blame for her weight gain, as I'd given her a few extra "treats" or table scraps from our Thanksgiving and holiday feasts. OK, I realize I'm pretty much totally to blame, since Nya can't really serve herself.
"We'll just have to cut back on her food," Justin decided as we left the vet's office.
Poor Nya. I felt bad for her. It wasn't like we were over-feeding her, at least I didn't think so. We fed her a good brand of grain free dog food, which the vet even approved, and since she weighed more than 60 pounds, we had been giving her about four cups a day - two in the morning and two in the evening. Aside from a treat at night, that's all we gave her.
That evening, I cut Nya's food serving and gave her only one and a half cups. Cutting out one cup of food a day should be good to start. Plus, she was pretty playful, and she liked to chase her toys and Rohan around the house, so we felt confident that she'd end up losing some weight. Besides, it worked in the fall - why shouldn't it work now?
It became apparent rather quickly that three cups of food plus one cookie treat at night did not equal a full belly for Nya. She begged constantly for table scraps - not that she never begged before, but she was worse now. Justin had a tendency to leave packages of cookies or food on the coffee table, and the second we turned our backs, she had her nose in the food. She's even been known to scarf down a pizza when we had our backs turned.
Nya also has a way of looking extremely innocent. Once, when I came home from work, I noticed an empty styrofoam box on the floor in the living room. We ordered Bob Evans the night before and had some blueberry bread leftover in the container. Not anymore. The box was empty and free of any remnants. Nya, of course, ran immediately to her cage and sat down innocently, as if I shouldn't suspect a thing from her.
It wouldn't have been out of the question to suspect Rohan, who liked getting into things, but he was eliminated as a suspect the second I walked closer to Nya. She had a piece of blueberry bread still hanging from the side of her mouth. Real slick, that one.
This problem was manageable because we could just shoo her away from the table when we ate and put our things out of reach when we were away. One day, however, I arrived home from work only to notice garbage scattered across the kitchen. Nya sat inside her cage with a look in her eyes like, "I have no idea how all that trash got there!"
Of course Rohan was romping through the middle of it too. I swear Nya tipped her head toward her brother as if to say, "Yeah, yeah. It was the cat! Honest!"
Our garbage can was too tall for Rohan to get into, so it was obviously Nya sticking her nose through the swinging top and pulling out trash. I know I recently read that dogs don't feel guilt, but if you saw the look on Nya's face and her body language after each garbage can break-in, you wouldn't believe she didn't feel guilty about it. And we didn't even have to say anything. All we'd do is look at her and she hung her head in shame.
The garbage foraging continued, until one day we realized we needed a better garbage can. We ended up spending almost $50 on a garbage can with a "pet lock" - a lever you push in to lock the lid down. Technically, it was supposed to be impossible for a pet to open it without the pet lock engaged, but Nya was way too smart to be fooled by that. All she had to do was jab at the lid with her snout and she'd eventually get what she wanted. Therefore, we made a habit of remembering to lock the trash can any time we left the house.
Here's the thing about having a $50 trash can with a pet lock: it won't keep your pet out if you forget to lock it.
Justin and I left the house one Saturday morning and met some friends at the Tanger Outlets in Washington. We spent a better part of the day shopping and headed home later in the afternoon.
Justin beat me to the door, and as I followed him inside, I heard him blurt out something that I can't repeat in this column. That was immediately followed by a lectury-sounding, "Nya! What did you do?"
A sense of dread came over me as I walked into the kitchen. The garbage can was lying on its side, and pretty much everything that had been inside of it was now somewhere on our kitchen floor. Nya immediately retreated to her cage, trying to pass herself off as completely innocent. Too bad her cage was also full of garbage.
"I guess SOMEBODY forgot to lock the garbage," Justin said loudly at me.
"I wasn't the last person to use it!" I replied. Really, I have no clue if I was the last person or not. I just knew I wasn't going to foot the blame, even though it probably was me who used it last.
As we cleaned up the trashed kitchen, we decided to give lower calorie dog food a try for Nya. Maybe it would fill her up more and would keep her out of the trash. My mom was convinced the "poor dog was starving." Trust me. The dog is not starving, and she is far from being poor.
So far, the new food seems to be helping. She's not ravenous come breakfast or dinner time, and just the other day I noticed we'd accidentally forgotten to lock the garbage (again!) but she hadn't bothered it (whew!). Last Saturday, we took her for a short walk around the neighborhood, hoping to get her a bit more exercise.
All seems right in our little animal world once again. Here's hoping the peace lasts - at least until the deer and raccoons invade our yard!