All About Pets

Doodle – a male Australian shepherd mix — Photo by Lorna Welch

Correction: The print version of this article, published September 11, incorrectly identified Cali, Josephine, Dakota, Rupert, and kittens as pets available at Martha’s Vineyard Helping Homeless Animals. They are available at The Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard. The animals available at Martha’s Vineyard Helping Homeless Animals are: Athena, Bear, Beau, Boo, Cedar, Denver, Doodle, Greta, King, Marshmallow, Mimi, Minnie, Monk, Mouse, Munchkin, and Sable.

There are three facilities on the Island that offer animals for adoption: the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard (ASMV) in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard Helping Homeless Animals (MVHHA) in Oak Bluffs, and Angels Helping Animals Worldwide. Angels Helping Animals Worldwide recently moved into a new facility behind the town barn on County Road in Oak Bluffs.

For more information about ASMV, call 508-627-8662 or search them on Facebook.

For more information about MVHHA, call 508-560-6046 or email kymcyr@comcast.net.

For more information about Angels Helping Animals Worldwide, call 508-274-2604 or email lhurd@hurdpublishing.com, or search them on Facebook.

The following cats and dogs are currently available for adoption, with descriptions courtesy of the respective organizations.

At Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard:

Cali.jpg

Cali – a 16-week-old female who is spayed and up-to-date on vaccinations.

Dakota.jpg

Dakota – a gorgeous tabby girl with striking markings and spectacular gold eyes. As a senior, her adoption fee is waived. She is shy but super affectionate and in excellent health.

kittens.jpg

Kittens – Currently, there are 8 tiny kittens who will become available over the next 2 months. Call the shelter to be put on the kitten list.

Rupert.jpg

Rupert is a 16-week-old male who is neutered and up to date on vaccinations.

Josephine.jpg

Josephine – a 16-week-old female who is spayed and up-to-date on vaccinations.

Cali – a 16-week-old female who is spayed and up-to-date on vaccinations

Josephine – a 16-week-old female who is spayed and up-to-date on vaccinations

Dakota – a gorgeous tabby girl with striking markings and spectacular gold eyes. As a senior, her adoption fee is waived. She is shy but super affectionate and in excellent health.

Rupert – a 16-week-old male who is neutered and up-to-date on vaccinations

Kittens – Currently, there are 8 tiny kittens who will become available over the next 2 months. Call the shelter to be put on the kitten list.

At Martha’s Vineyard Helping Homeless Animals:

Boo.jpg

Boo – an adorable grey male — Photo by Lorna Welch

Beau.jpg

Beau – a male grey tiger cat — Photo by Lorna Welch

Cedar.jpg

Cedar – a brown tiger male — Photo by Lorna Welch

Athena.jpg

Athena is a shiny, sleek female — Photo by Lorna Welch

Marshmallow.jpg

Marshmallow – a sweet orange male who loves other kittens and cats — Photo by Lorna Welch

Doodle.JPG

Doodle – a male Australian shepherd mix — Photo by Lorna Welch

Denver.jpg

Denver – a long-haired grey male — Photo by Lorna Welch

sable.jpg

Sable – a female boxer mix — Photo by Lorna Welch

Munchkin.jpg

Munchkin – a cute grey/brown tiger female — Photo by Lorna Welch

Mouse.jpg

Mouse – an orange tiger female — Photo by Lorna Welch

Monk.jpg

Monk – a grey/brown tiger male — Photo by Lorna Welch

minnie.jpg

Minnie – a female Feist mix — Photo by Lorna Welch

Mimi.jpg

Mimi – a cute grey/brown tiger female — Photo by Lorna Welch

Bear.jpg

Bear is a silky little female — Photo by Lorna Welch

King.jpg

King – a male beagle/chihuahua mix — Photo by Lorna Welch

Greta.jpg

Greta – a beautiful tortoise-shell tiger female — Photo by Lorna Welch

Athena – is a shiny, sleek female

Bear – a silky little female

Beau – a male grey tiger cat

Boo – an adorable grey male

Cedar – a brown tiger male

Denver – a long haired grey male

Doodle – a male Australian shepherd mix

Greta – a beautiful tortoise shell-tiger female

King – a male beagle/chihuahua mix

Marshmallow – a sweet orange male who loves other kittens and cats

Mimi – a cute grey/brown tiger female

Minnie – a female Feist mix

Monk – a grey/brown tiger male

Mouse – an orange tiger female

Munchkin – a cute grey/brown tiger female

Sable – a female boxer mix

At Angels Helping Animals Worldwide:

Animals unavailable at press time. Visit the group’s Facebook page.

Lena the greyhound takes retirement seriously. (Photo Courtesy of Mary-Jean Miner).

Before we moved to Martha’s Vineyard, in 1991, we often boarded our Doberman in Falmouth at River Bend Farm Kennels while visiting friends on the Cape. When we moved to the Island, we again boarded Hilde there for extended trips. On learning that we now lived on the Vineyard, the owners of the kennel asked us to take flyers from Greyhound Friends, a rescue agency, to our vet, as they thought the Island would be a wonderful place for retired greyhounds.

When our Hilde died of old age, we immediately thought about adopting one of those retired racers.

Tesse tests the tide. (Courtesy of Mary-Jean Miner).
Tesse tests the tide. (Courtesy of Mary-Jean Miner).

Tres Grande Vitesse, called Tesse for short, came to live in Oak Bluffs in 1992 soon after we returned from a vacation in France. Named for the high speed trains there, Tesse was a 45-mph couch potato. She indeed loved being on Island, along with several others, whom she met soon after coming here. People who adopt greyhounds tend to seek each other out. Nine or ten families kept in touch, worked to end greyhound racing in Massachusetts, and often rode with their dogs in the Fourth of July parades in Edgartown. Ace, Ginger, Tesse, Windy, Oliver, Mint, and Sneaker all served as ambassadors for adoption, riding on a flatbed truck, each with a soft bed and a dish of water. The owners of River Bend came to the Ag Fair, bringing adoptable dogs. Although this is no longer an event at the fair, and River Bend is no longer fostering greyhounds, the adoption process continues with several other agencies in southern Massachusetts.

As pets, greyhounds are sweet, even-tempered, and good natured. They adapt readily to home life, even though they have most likely spent all their previous years in crate-like kennels. Turned out for brief exercise and runs, they were undemanding and never really had the opportunity to be puppies.

Lena the Greyhound has slowed down some since retiring from racing. (Photo by Kristofer Rabasca)
Lena the Greyhound has slowed down some since retiring from racing. (Photo by Kristofer Rabasca)

They learn very quickly and forget very little. At first, they may be timid and shy, as they adapt to the entirely strange environment you call home. My dogs always remained suspicious of strangers at first, but warmed to visitors eventually. They arrive totally trained to the leash, so they are readily controlled. We used to say the person holding the leash is in charge, even if that person is a small child – a supervised child, of course. In spite of their breeding as runners, they need no more exercise than other dogs. Being retired, they really appreciate nap time. If you want to keep yours off the sofa, teach him early and consistently that couch time must be spent on the dog bed.

My most recent adoption, Lena, learned right away to “wait” when someone was coming or going, as well as leave it,” which serves as a friendly form of “No!”

Being sighthounds as well as runners, greyhounds must always be kept on leash or fenced in. An opening door is an invitation to flight; the dog leaves at about 40 mph, paying no heed to direction or distractions. Because of this, they are not able to find their way home once they slow down or stop. Many are unable to learn “recall,” that is to come back at a signal. It took me four dogs to learn that training myself. Lena will come when called. Usually.

A gaggle of greyhounds gather before the Fourth of July parade. (Courtesy Mary-Jean Miner).
A gaggle of greyhounds gather before the Fourth of July parade. (Courtesy Mary-Jean Miner).

The adoption process is done with great care to be certain the new family understands the unique needs and habits of these dogs. Greyhound Friends, founded in 1983 by Louise Coleman, is our area’s largest agency. Louise has great experience in matching dogs to families, considering the dog’s personalities and ability to adapt. Some can live happily with children or cats, and most other dogs. Early on, most greyhounds were not kept past their racing days. Now, with many active agencies around the world, they, and we, are most fortunate to share their retirement years.

If you think you might have room in your home for one of these forever friends, contact Greyhound Friends in Hopkinton or Greyhound Rescue of New England in Menden online or by phone. The application process is precise, all consideration is given to providing a safe and loving home for each dog, as well as a totally loving companion for the adopting family. My current companion, Lena, and I would be happy to discuss any questions you may have.

In between Tesse and Lena, Rhody and Annie were my companions. It seems that having greyhounds as pets can form as a habit. I can’t imagine life without at least one, providing another heartbeat in my home.

For more information, contact Mary-Jean Miner at mjminer7@yahoo.com; 508-696-8589; or email adopt@greyhoundsrescuene.org.

Jada and Magnum were born three weeks ago — on August 28. The third triplet did not survive, but these two are opening their eyes and on the move. (Photo by David Roberts)

Tom Shelby, who has trained dogs and their owners on Martha’s Vineyard and in New York City, answers readers’ questions about their problematic pooches. This week, the dogfather counsels the owners of a pregnant Vineyard Haven dog, eagerly awaiting triplets.

Dear Dogfather,

Our dog is going to have puppies soon. We are looking forward to the adorable pups, but not so much for all the cleaning up after them. How can we housebreak them as soon as possible?

Awaiting triplets in Vineyard Haven

Dear Awaiting Triplets in Vineyard Haven,

Congratulations on your (probably by the time you read this) enlarged family. One of the lines in my book is, “It’s amazing how much of my life revolves around feces and urine.” If you’re a dog trainer it’s true. I don’t care if the dog is so well-trained that it takes out the garbage and loads the dishwasher; if it poops or pees in the house it’s no good. Period.

Initially, most mothers will clean up after their pups. Dogs are strong creatures of habit, and what they’re standing on when they first become cognizant of the comfort of relieving themselves can be meaningful. That’s been my experience. If as soon as possible you can have them get accustomed to making pee and poop outdoors, instead of on floors and carpets, it speeds up the housebreaking process.

Dogs have a “den instinct.” They don’t like to make pee or poop where they eat and sleep. That’s where the expression “dirty dog” comes from. If the dog goes in its den, he’s considered dirty. Get a crate large enough for him to stretch out lying down plus a little, and get him to love it. This should start happening at about six to eight weeks of age. Feed him his three meals a day in the crate, crate door open. During the day toss special treats in the crate, praise him whenever he goes in, and put his bed in it, making sure that that is the most physically comfortable place for him to hang out.

As long as he’s too young to hold it all night, the crate, with crate door left open, needs to be boxed in by an x-pen (eight paneled metal gate with all panels jointed so it can be easily configured anyway you want). Next, put a pee pad that has a touch of the dog’s urine on it outside the crate at the back of the confinement area so that when pup wakes up to relieve itself it can leave its den, and pee or poop on the pad which he will be attracted to by the urine smell. The last thing you want is the dog going in his den. You know he can hold it all night when the time comes that you wake up and discover a clean pee pad. That’s when you close the crate door for the night.

If you don’t want a pee pad in the house, have the crate near your bed with the crate door closed and when you hear him crying or whimpering fly out of bed and get him outside immediately. Initially, always praise the puppy with voice and treat as soon as he’s finished going, except at night. No treat then. Keep praise low-key so he goes back to sleep. Most dogs have the ability to hold it all night when they are about 10 weeks old.

Try feeding on a structured basis, close to the same times every day. This way you’ll get a handle on when he has to go in relation to when he eats. I’d suggest he gets fed three times a day until about four months of age, then lose the middle meal and feed in the morning and evening at your convenience. Leave the food down for 20 minutes or so, then remove it and lose the guilt if he misses a meal. He’ll learn to eat when it’s available and you’ll both be better off if he’s on a schedule. (This is not the place for me to deal with the dogs who can’t afford to miss meals for one reason or another).

Also, a dog needs one cup of water for every 8 pounds of weight in a 24 hour period to be properly hydrated. Most vets will tell you to have water always available. That’s because they’ve had clients actually dehydrating their dogs by holding water back to eliminate the peeing mistakes. Cut the water off by 7 pm so pup has a better chance of holding it all night sooner.

During the day, assuming someone’s home, pup is confined within view of caretaker. (The x-pen can make this relatively easy). Enter the Dog God. What happens in most cases all over the world, when an owner sees their dog starting to relieve itself in the house, the person is charging at the dog arms flailing, yelling whatever they’re yelling to stop the dog from going. And what does the dog learn from this? Well, from his perspective, when you see him going,  you clearly lose your mind, charging at him yelling and flailing. That’s why dogs get very good at getting sneaky; they wait till you’re distracted and then step out of sight behind the couch and take a quick pee to avoid your insane reaction to their natural needs.

The Dog God is anything that startles the dog and it doesn’t come from you. Several empty soda or beer cans with a dozen pennies inside, strategically placed to be quickly picked up and shook or thrown near the dog (depending on the dog’s sensitivity) as the dog starts to go hopefully stops the process. Don’t let the dog see you shake or throw the can, and get him out, treats in pocket to reward the outside pee or poop.

Signs of a dog seriously thinking about making pee or poop are a sudden intense sniffing (looking for the right place to pee) or a kind of darting back and forth or circling (looking to poop). If you can’t watch him for whatever reason, he has to be confined in the crate/x-pen area with crate door open and pee pad available, or in the closed crate, depending on his progress. If he goes in the house and you didn’t catch him within 15 seconds, just clean up and deodorize. It is extremely important that the odor of any mistakes be removed, as dogs really do go where they smell it. White vinegar is as good as the odor neutralizers on the market and much cheaper. If the dog is basically housebroken but has a proclivity for going on occasion in a particular spot, feed him on that spot for a week. Dogs don’t like to relieve themselves where they eat anymore than you like to have meals in your bathroom.

In my experience most dogs are pretty reliably housebroken by about five months of age.

Good luck.

The Dogfather

When pets die suddenly owners may attribute it to a “heart attack,” but dogs and cats don’t really get heart attacks.

I got an unexpected crash course in a few aspects of human cardiology recently when I started experiencing tightness in my chest. At first I convinced myself it was asthma, but knowing my family history of heart disease, and knowing the signs of a heart attack can be very vague in women, and knowing too many folks who ignored those warning signs with dire consequences, I eventually went to the emergency room at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. Four hours later, my X-rays, ECG, and blood work showed no abnormalities and I felt better, but Dr. Zack was sternly adamant. I could go home now, but must go to Mass General ASAP for a nuclear stress test, an evaluation that involves injecting radioactive dye, then taking images of the heart before and after exercise. These pictures would allow cardiologists to see if any areas of my heart muscle weren’t getting adequate blood flow.

While making travel plans, I thought about cardiac disease in dogs and cats. It’s not uncommon when pets die suddenly for owners to attribute it to a “heart attack.” But dogs and cats don’t really get heart attacks, we tell them. Before we go further, a brief disclaimer.  Damn it, Jim, I’m a veterinarian, not a cardiologist. (Okay, please dismiss all Star Trek references as a side effect of my recent illness.)

Seriously. I’m not a cardiologist, but to the best of my understanding, in human medicine what people refer to as “heart attack,” is an acute myocardial infarction. Acute means it comes on suddenly. Myocardial means “of the heart muscle.” Infarction is tissue damage or death caused by lack of oxygen due to an obstruction of that tissue’s blood supply. So a human heart attack, a.k.a. acute myocardial infarction, is caused by sudden blockage of one or more of the coronary arteries leading to damage or death of part of the heart muscle.

Sudden death. It happens to pets now and then. One day your dog or cat, Valentine,  seems perfectly normal. The next, he keels over and dies. It can be devastating for owners, who urgently want explanations for such unexpected losses. Many people’s thoughts go immediately to poison, especially if Valentine goes outside unattended, but most toxins an animal is likely to encounter around here, such as rat poison and antifreeze, will typically cause clinical signs of illness before an animal dies. “He must have had a heart attack,” is another common conclusion. Wrong. Dogs and cats generally do not get coronary artery disease and thus do not get myocardial infarctions. Perhaps it’s their diet, lifestyle, or just genetics, but they appear to be resistant to this particular cardiac problem. That is not to say there aren’t other conditions that can lead to sudden death.

A sidebar on terminology. The term postmortem is short for postmortem examination, the dissection of a deceased body. It comes from the Latin post, meaning after, and mors, meaning death.  Another term for a postmortem on a human being is autopsy. This word comes from the Greek auto, meaning self, and opsis, meaning sight, or eyes. Thus autopsia meaning eyewitness, or seeing with one’s own eyes. The word autopsy was first used to describe the act of dissecting a cadaver to determine cause of death in around 1670 and is technically reserved for when this is done on human remains. For nonhuman animals, the proper term is necropsy, from the Greek nekros, meaning dead body. The point of all this being that if your pet, Valentine, bites the dust unexpectedly, your veterinarian is probably not going to be able to tell you why without performing a postmortem examination, correctly called a necropsy.

One cardiac condition often proposed to explain sudden death in dogs and cats is ruptured chordae tendineae, fibromuscular cords of tissue inside the heart that connect little mounds called the papillary muscles to the heart valves. They are sometimes poetically referred to as the “heart strings.”  If Valentine ruptures one of these heart strings, it can result in sudden death. Theoretically this occurs primarily when there is underlying disease of the heart valve, but we rarely get the opportunity to do a necropsy and/or postmortem laboratory diagnostics to get definitive answers. Perhaps Valentine died of a ruptured brain aneurysm. An aneurysm is a blood vessel with thinning walls that cause it to bulge abnormally. It can suddenly burst, leading to fatal hemorrhage. Even when we do perform necropsies, we rarely examine the brain, so this is another theory we seldom get to prove.

Other common fatal conditions are easier to demonstrate. Middle-aged large breed dogs are particularly prone to a form of cancer called hemgiosarcoma. There tumors affect the spleen or the heart and can often lead to sudden, fatal internal hemorrhage. Presumptive diagnosis can be made by simply tapping the abdomen, or pericardial sac, depending on the location of the tumor, with a needle and syringe and seeing if there is free blood in these places. Other causes of sudden death can include ruptured spleen from trauma such as being hit by a car, electrocution from biting electrical wires, acute conduction disturbances in the heart causing fatal arrhythmias, electrolytes imbalances from adrenal gland disease, and a variety of genetic problems Valentine might be born with but which don’t cause visible symptoms until he suddenly expires.

By the time I got to Boston, I had fairly constant angina. After an abnormal stress test, they quickly admitted me to the ER, then the cardiac ward. Three days later, I was given what they call “conscious sedation,” and cardiologists placed two stents via an artery in my arm into my coronary arteries, restoring adequate blood flow to the affected part of my heart. Amazing technology. The main thing I remember was the cardiologist yelling at me to stop asking so many questions. I guess I was curious. I know I was lucky. My heart gave me warning. No actual heart attack. No sudden death. Just gratitude.

Celia-cat.jpg
Celia, the shelter’s mascot and lobby cat, is very sweet and hypnotically beautiful.
Daisy-cat.jpg
Daisy is a large, loveable lady, who likes children.
Diva-cat.jpg
Diva is a female calico who was found near the State Police barracks in Oak Bluffs.
Penny-cat.jpg
Penny is an 18-year-old female who is very sweet and friendly. An easy keeper.
Steve-gerbil.jpg
Steve, a guinea pig, is looking for a nice family to take him home.
Tortellini-cat.jpg
Tortellini is a spayed female stray found in Vineyard Haven. A real cuddler, we think she is approximately 5 years old. She is very friendly.
Conrad.jpg
Conrad.
unnamed-cat

The following animals are currently available for adoption, with descriptions courtesy of the respective organizations.There are three facilities on the Island that offer animals for adoption: the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard (ASMV) in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard Helping Homeless Animals (MVHHA) in Oak Bluffs, and Angels Helping Animals Worldwide.

For more information about ASMV, call 508-627-8662 or search them on Facebook.

For more information about MVHHA, call 508-560-6046 or email kymcyr@comcast.net.

For more information about Angels Helping Animals Worldwide, search the group on Facebook.

At ASMV

With the exception of kittens, all animals have been spayed/neutered and are up-to-date on all vaccinations.

Celia, the shelter’s mascot and lobby cat, is very sweet and hypnotically beautiful.

Diva is a female calico who was found near the State Police barracks in Oak Bluffs.

Penny is an 18-year-old female who is very sweet and friendly. An easy keeper.

Tortellini is a spayed female stray found in Vineyard Haven. A real cuddler, we think she is approximately 5 years old. She is very friendly.

Daisy is a large, loveable lady, who likes children.

Steve, a guinea pig, is looking for a nice family to take him home.

At M.V. Helping Homeless Animals

Hannah’s owners moved so she has been on her own for three years. She’s at the Tisbury pound now but will soon be at MVHHA, and the veterinarian believes her to be 10 years old. Though she is missing a tail, she’s very sweet and would love a home to call her own.

At Angels Helping Animals Worldwide

Conrad

Jackson loves television commercials, especially one for Beggin' Strips. — Photo Courtesy of Cathy Walthers
Lily ritually tosses her Mr. Furry in the loo.
Lily ritually tosses her Mr. Furry in the loo.

My cat, Lily, has a couple of out-of-the-ordinary habits. The first is her extreme preference for drinking water from a running faucet. Sometimes, to the amusement of visitors who might be rinsing a plate in the kitchen sink, she’ll race over, leap to the counter, crawl beneath their arms, and start lapping away at the running stream. When she’s thirsty and no one is at the sink, she’ll plant herself at its edge and get mouthy at you until you come over and turn on the tap. Either that or just stare you down until you do same.

Cats drinking from running taps is not unheard of. (There is, for example, a popular YouTube video of a cat that sticks its entire head under the stream of water and drinks the droplets that run off its fur and into its mouth.) I figure it’s some kind of throwback to cats’ ancestors’ lives in the wild, where moving water in creeks and brooks was a likely thirst-quencher.

But Lily does something else that I’ve never heard of. It involves “Mr. Furry” – her stuffed mouse.  (Actually, there have been multiple Mr. Furrys over the years). Covered in real fur, Mr. Furry is as close as Lily – a West Tisbury indoor cat – can get to genuine prey. Whenever I break out a new Mr. Furry, Lily goes wild, tearing around the house with it for a good 10 minutes. But inevitably, and usually within a half an hour, I find it in the same place: the downstairs bathroom john. Her motives are a mystery. Perhaps she’s trying to drown it? Or wash it? Or perhaps she’s decided she’s killed it and wants to dispose of it neatly. Or maybe she’s figured out that this Mr. Furry, like all his predecessors, is a fake piece of crap, so she’s putting him in the crapper. Who knows?

I polled some other Islanders to see whether they had pets with quirky habits, and in most cases the answer was yes. Here is a sampling of what I learned.

April

April takes TV a little too seriously.
April takes TV a little too seriously.

April is a six-year-old toy poodle owned by long-time seasonal Vineyard Haven residents Tom and Melissa Rogers. Whenever a doorbell rings on the television, April races to the front door and barks like crazy, positioning herself on the staircase landing opposite the door so she’s at eye level with the handle. While this on its own is somewhat quirky but not unknown in the dog world, what makes April’s case exceptional is that April does not live, nor has she ever lived, in a house with a doorbell. The only doorbell April has ever heard has been on the television. What gives? Has knowing what the doorbell means become a genetic trait in dogs? Or has April learned what it means from paying close attention to TV shows?

Jackson

Jackson also has a TV habit.
Jackson also has a TV habit.

Another dog with a TV habit is Jackson, a five-year-old English Shepherd owned by Chilmark year-rounders Cathy Walthers, David Kelliher, and their son James Kelliher. Jackson especially enjoys commercials with animals in them. Any and all animals interest him, be they other dogs, cats, lions, or ducks, though he’s especially fond of an ad for the dog treats “Beggin Strips,” since that one features both dogs and treats.

“If Jackson is in another room and hears the jingle for one of the ads he likes, he runs into the TV room to watch it,” says Ms. Walthers. Also, she adds, he’s developed a new habit of running in circles whenever he hears clapping and cheering on the television. “During football games, he drives us all a bit crazy.”

Leuco

Leuco, practicing for her career in the circus.
Leuco, practicing for her career in the circus.

Leuco wants to be in the circus. A five-year-old Portuguese Water Dog owned by Nicole Galland of West Tisbury and her husband, Billy Meleady, Leuco never fails to obey the command “jump!” But such encouragement is unnecessary. Leuco hasn’t met a playground swing she didn’t want to bound over, or a tire swing she didn’t want to shoot through, “especially if there are people watching,” says Ms. Galland. Leuco adores jungle gyms, racing up the ramps or stairs, traversing their upper walkways and tunnels, and finally, taking the slide down, only to double back to the beginning to do it all over again. “And again, and again,” says Ms. Galland, “until I stop her.”

On walks, Leuco creates her own obstacle courses, leaping up onto high sea walls, climbing small ladders onto docks, jumping over anything and everything. One of her favorite found props is a discarded staircase lying on its side on one of her beach walks. Though there is plenty of space to walk around it in the sand, Leuco runs over it from one end to the other, lifting her legs high to clear the protruding steps like a football player training on the tires.

But Leuco isn’t all boundless enthusiasm. When she senses that her owners are about to leave for awhile, she goes on a hunger strike. If they give her dinner before leaving, she won’t eat it until they return home, even if it’s several hours later. It’s the same when they try to distract her with a treat. “She takes it in her mouth,” says Ms. Galland, “looks up at me with accusing eyes, and then drops it to the floor with a disgusted toss of her head. She won’t eat it until we get back. I think she believes that her refusal to eat is the magic that forces us to return.”

Gizmo

Unlike Leuco, a certain yearling guinea pig in Vineyard Haven never refuses to eat. The rodent, whose owners prefer to keep his identity secret, especially loves lettuce. An observant creature, he has figured out the sequence of events that lead up to his being given a snack. So now, every time someone in the house opens the refrigerator, he starts squealing – “Wee! Wee! Wee! Wee!” He can’t see the refrigerator, but he’s learned the sound it makes being opened, and he won’t stop squealing until he gets some greens. Evidently he also did this when he was at the Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard in Edgartown before he was adopted by his family. Refrigerators may not all sound exactly the same when they’re opened, but they must sound similar enough for a lettuce-loving rodent to make the connection.

Owl and Honey Bunny

Owl, a 14-year-old female cat belonging to Mark and Kim Baumhofer of West Tisbury, has recently taken a shine to the family’s 8-year-old female rabbit, Honey Bunny. The Baumhofers first noticed

Owl the cat and Honey Bunny often switch places.
Owl the cat and Honey Bunny often switch places.

this blossoming affection last Christmas when a guest was staying in the den, where Honey Bunny’s cage normally resides. When the rabbit was moved to a daughter’s bedroom for the holidays, Owl started hanging out on the bed in that room. After Christmas, when Honey Bunny moved back to the den, so did Owl. When the bunny is let out of his cage to stretch his legs, Owl often goes into the cage and curls up to sleep. At other times, the rabbit will hop up onto one of the den’s two armchairs, and Owl will hop up onto the other, “and they sit there like a couple of old grandmothers all evening,” says Kim Baumhofer. One has to wonder whether a cat named “Owl” might have something of an identity crisis; perhaps she’s decided that she’s neither – she’s a rabbit.

Carhartt

Carhartt, the Baumhofers’ eight-year-old Boxer, started out as Mark’s dog, going to work with him every day, following him around the house in the evenings. When Mark, a builder, first got a job to which he couldn’t bring Carhartt, the dog stayed home with Kim. When Mark came home at night, and both he and Kim were in the same room, Carhartt was

Carhatt the Boxer is torn between Baumhofers.
Carhatt the Boxer is torn between Baumhofers.

there with them. But when one member of the couple went upstairs and the other stayed downstairs, Carhartt was torn. He solved the problem by settling down on the landing half-way up the stairs, and remaining there until one member of the couple joined the other on either floor. Now, when Mark can take the dog to work, Carhartt becomes Mark’s dog again, but when Mark’s at a site where Carhartt can’t go, the dog “turns to the Kimmie side,” says Mark, dividing his loyalties equally by waiting on the landing until both Baumhofers are on the same floor, and also by spending some part of each at-home-with-Kim day sitting outside staring down the driveway, watching for Mark’s return.

Readers: Got a quirky pet story of your own for a future All About Pets? Write to Laura Roosevelt at ldroosevelt@gmail.com.