Tag Archives: animals

Dunguaire and Ailwee Caves

Ireland 2007–Dunguaire & Ailwee Caves

After Carrowmore, on Wednesday Oct. 3, we headed toward the Burren. It was raining in Carrowmore but the weather was wonderfully clear and fairly warm once we hit the west coast. Here is where the maps screwed us up quite a bit. Dunguaire was shown as being on the other side of Kinvara, a small little fishing village. But instead it was right at the edge of the village. Nothing was really placed correctly so we had to ask as usual. Outside of Dunquaire castle was a cute little bird just singing his head off. It really set the joyful atmosphere of the place.

Dunguaire castle was closed, as of the day before, alas, but the water was beautiful, a deep azure and choppy. I would definitely go back to actually see Kinvara the next time around as we whizzed through it. It took meandering along very curvy roads and a few wrong turns to find the Ailwee Caves. These were carved by underground rivers millions of years ago. European brown bears were thought to be extinct in Ireland for the last 1200 years but they found bones in a hibernation spot that date back only 1000 years. Still it’s sad to think how many large species once populated Ireland and were wiped out in the past 5000 years.

The caves were quite large and there were deposits forming stalagmites and stalactites. White fossils graced the brown and black stone. But they really rushed you through straight out of and back into the gift store of course. There wasn’t really time even to take a proper picture and for the price they charged (not an OPW site) they could have given a few more minutes.

We drove through the Burren (or Burren), which looks like a volcanoe blorped out mud millions of years ago and then it solidified. There’s a picture in here of this and you can see the top of the hill is grey, just like the mud. Because of the stone the Burren was written about through the ages as being inhospitable with no land to grow on and yet people lived there. Rock and rock walls abounded.

Driving into this area reminded me a bit of the Okanagan in BC. It had a certain craggy austerity in parts but I loved this area. Tomorrow, more of the Burren and surrounding area.

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Filed under Culture, driving, environment, history, Ireland, memories, nature, travel, weather

The Ins and Outs of Cat Doors

I first wrote this forTechnocopia.com back in 1999.

If you’re in a flap about how your cat makes its entrance, here’s a few ideas.

My neighborhood is typical of combined renters and owners. We’re a cat neighborhood, with a few dogs. My neighbors to the left have one cat, to the right have two cats, above me have four, and I have one. As people move in and out of the rental places and the co-op housing there’s always a new cat or two plus the regulars on the block.

There are tabbies and black cats, tiger-stripped gingers and grays. There’s old cats, spry young ones, cats that are fixed and those that are toms. In the cat realm there are cat politics, alliances and wars. Figment, my outdoorsy cat, has some friends and a few territory scuffles.

He used to drive me crazy, squeaking dirty, wet paws across my bedroom window, late at night, before I had an acrylic door put into my house door for him. It’s a bit of a trick at first getting a cat to go through something so strange. It leaves them in a vulnerable position, half outside, half inside and anything could attack right then. I started by taping the see-through flap open to get him used to moving through the hole this creates. Cats tend to like this right away because there’s no waiting for that lazy human to come and open the door at her whim.

The next steps progress at what you think your cat can handle, and work best if you have juicy tidbits to entice him through the opening. You begin by taping the door open but with less and less open space. The cat may shy from this at first. Figment did, but you stand on one side saying encouraging things and hold up a delectable little snack. For Figment it was smoked salmon (a true yuppie cat). He’d hesitantly put a paw up to the door then push through with his head.

Continue lowering the flap more and more until it is completely closed. Then you still have to stand on one side and waft appealing aromas through the flap and tell your cat to come on in. You may have to encourage him the first few times. This process takes from one to two weeks. The flaps close as the cat exits or enters without slamming on their tails. One tail slam and the cats would abandon the entrance and the manufacturers would be out of business. And because there are no big motors, the noise doesn’t upset the sensitivity that cats show around vacuum cleaners and other motorized monsters. Once the cat is used to the door, he’ll come and go at will. No more noisy 3 a.m. yowls at the door or window.

Figment liked to lay on the carpet and watch the world go by his cat door. When an enemy walked by he’d barrel through to make his stance. Which comes to one of the weak spots in cat doors. The simple plastic hinges can break if hit hard enough. But Figment was fifteen pounds of pure cat muscle. They stand up to normal usage just fine and have an insulating nylon pile to help seal out drafts when the door is closed. Most doors can be left unlocked for in and out access, as well as locked in one direction or the other, and can be locked completely for times when the cat needs to stay home.

The one real problem with a cat door is the free access. Most cats won’t know how to use them. One of our neighborhood toms did. Fortunately Figment liked him but I still had a moocher and once in a while, that unpleasant smell of unneutered cat urine. I didn’t want to lock the cat door and keep Figment out so I looked into an electromagnetic cat door. The only difference between a manual cat door and the electromagnetic door is the magnet key that is hung from the cat’s collar.

The door has the electromagnetic switch, which is run by batteries, or as Mark at Mark’s Pet Stop told me, with an electrical cord (about $30 higher in cost). All the doors have locking switches. Mark told me people generally find they work well and have no problems except for one woman who wanted to keep her neighbor’s cat out of her house. She purchased the electromagnetic door and loved it so much she told her neighbor, who decided to get one for his cat. Same brand, same magnets, same switches. The neighbor’s cat had free reign of two houses once again.

The tom moved on and I never bought the door. I had reservations too because I’ve never managed to keep a collar on Figment for long, due to his territorial wrestling. All I’d need is an $80 door that my cat couldn’t get into because he lost his collar.

The only problem I had was that one of Figment’s little friends would come sit at the door. She didn’t know how to go through it but she would sit outside and bat the door so it swung back and forth.

The regular, manual cat door runs about $20-$30, with the electromagnetic ones starting at $80-$90. The English Pet Mate (Cat Mate in Canada) runs on the magnet key for the collar. The Staywell has a nonmagnetic collar key. The super deluxe Solo Motorized Door works by sensor on the collar and the door moves out of the way by the time your pet reaches it. It closes by gravity. These ritzy models begin at $360 and go up to the dog-sized door price of $800. Spare keys can be bought for all the electronic/electromagnetic door which do lock once the pet is through them.

Installation does involve having to cut a hole in your door (or in some cases, your wall), but a template of the correct size is supplied with Pet Mate. The frame is easily mounted with a screwdriver. Some of the electronic doors can be wired into the walls. All come with a warranty.

Addendum: Eventually I had problems with raccoons coming into the house, through the cat door. I did buy the electromagnetic door. I had to lock it to keep Figment in for a vet’s appointment. But Figment, always desperate to be outside, clawed at the door until he knocked the plate off where the wiring was. He shredded the copper wiring and lost the spring that actually opened and closed the door. And true to form, he lost his collar in a fight.

I wrote the company with my sad tale and it gave them a laugh. They sent the new piece but I never installed it. Figment just wasn’t good with collars. I locked the door so that nothing could come in but Figment could go out. This worked out well enough though I still had to let him in at nights.

Then Venus came along. I purposefully didn’t teach her how to use the door because she was very mean to Figment and at least he got the range of the outdoors without her bugging him. Figment passed on from cancer a year and a half ago. Venus has full range and although I never taught her how to use the door, she figured it out. This doesn’t stop her from meowing for me to go and open the door for her.

And Jasper, the big fluffy gray cat that used to be Figment’s buddy, waits outside the cat door peering in. It used to drive Figgy crazy because he wouldn’t go out with Jasper standing there. Venus just hisses.

PET DOORS

http://www.petdoor.com/elecdoor.html

http://www.petmate.com/

http://www.petdoors.com/just_cat_doors.htm

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Filed under consumer affairs, environment, humor, memories, people, pets

Petiquette

Off and on dogs end up in the news, usually when people are attacked in some way. Inevitably the media latches on and worries the question to death as to whether this breed or that should be banned, put down or punted to another planet.

Personally, the people in the baby poo yellow house a few doors from where I live should be punted. They have one of those little tufts of fur for a dog, barely bigger than palm sized but with a mouth on it that you can hear for blocks. Mr. Dog Owner (they got this critter when their daughter left home) thinks it’s cute to walk his mop and let it run after the cats and sniff them. Luckily the cats are smarter and faster, and leave. He also thinks it’s cute to let the thing yap for hours, getting all excited and probably jumping up and down like it’s spring loaded. I don’t know though, because I’m usually trying to sleep in at 9 on a Saturday morning, the inevitable time for the yapster to begin.

Sure, some dogs are more “talkative” than others, but just like kids, you can train your mutts not to bark (kids can be taught to be polite). It’s not cute to anyone but the englamored pet owner when their wee snookums does its noisy tricks over and over and over again. So, folks, take your dog to school. A bad dog usually has a bad owner.

I think it should be mandatory that every dog owner has taken lessons on how to train and discipline their dog. Taking a dog for a walk means respecting the space of other people and dogs around you, and being able to call your dog off should an altercation begin. Socializing animals is imperative and an off-leash park for dogs does not mean that your dog can intimidate other dogs and people.

Petiquette means that your dog will come when called, obey commands and won’t attack every moving thing it sees as a threat. I was with friends sitting on the grass in an off-leash park. A dog came up and pissed on my bag and then ran off happily. One of my friends went over to talk to the people about what their dog did. They were unrepentant, believing that since they were in a dog friendly park it meant that their dog could do anything it wanted. Hello, people, knock your head on a brick wall! Parks are for people first and foremost. I should have gone over and pissed on those people.

Don’t presume everyone likes dogs, or wants them in their vicinity. It’s not okay to tote your dog with you to anyone’s place, unless you ask first. Even if it’s an outside do, there are a myriad reasons why dogs might not be welcome. Space, other animals, delicate objects, cherished gardens, allergies, bratty children, are just some reasons to leave Fido at home. I have friends who have brought their dog to my place when we’re barbecuing. They haven’t asked and some day it’s going to be a problem. If this was last year when my other scaredy cat was still alive, it would emphatically have not been okay and they would have been told to take the dog to the car. I like the dog but there are times and places for dogs, and asking is just plain considerate.

Dogs aren’t children and do not get the same rights of accompanying a parent everywhere. They may be no more emotionally mature or intelligent than a two-year-old, which means you have to be in control, but they aren’t children. Oh, and they are not freakin’ fashion accessories. A co-worker once said that someone was a yappy as a Yaletown dog. An apt description because in Vancouver, Yaletown is the nouveau glitzy trendy place for condos and restaurants and people spending too much money on clothing just to say they spent too much money.

Putting a Gucci diamond/rhinestone studded collar on Boopsie and a nice little matching coat and booties to match, borders on vomitous. Dogs aren’t dolls. Tossing them into a matching carrying case doesn’t make you cool. Having a big, mean looking dog doesn’t make you tough. All living beings that we make ourselves responsible for, should be treated well. Leaving them in hot cars or cooped up in cute little cases and dumb outfits doesn’t serve them well. Oh and driving with your dog on your lap while talking on your cellphone goes beyond idiotic to downright dangerous. I’ve seen it often enough. If your dog can’t stay where it belongs while you’re driving (and that’s not your lap), then go and get some training.

If you’re driving a car or walking a dog, taking a course is a great idea. Like I said before, this isn’t limited to big dogs as the only dog to bite me was a dachshund. Every time I see a bad dog, I know that most of the time it’s because there’s a person who lacks discipline and politeness themselves. Be considerate, take care of your pets and control them.

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Filed under Culture, fashion, humor, life, pets