Saturday, March 3, 2012
Routine is a wonderful stabilizing factor in most of our lives. But I have recently been reminded that routines need to be re-examined and explored in order to ensure that they are still serving us. My dog Chauncey has been on a hypoallergenic diet for some time now (and since we all sink or swim together, so have the other two dogs, Poosa and Oliver). But lately Chauncey has become neurotic about getting to cat food bowls. Now dogs will always, in my experience, try for cat food, but not like this. Chauncey is a 13 yr. old cocker and he has learned to climb cat furniture in an amazing way to get himself up onto my dresser to find cat food. He was doing this last Wednesday when Dr. Nell, our vet was here, and she got to see first hand how neurotic he had become. It is true that he gets most concerned when others are here and he thinks I'm not watching, but even so, it was painful to listen to him. So Nell decided that maybe he needed a change in diet, especially since the vegan hypoallergenic diet hasn't really seemed to make a huge difference in his skin allergies. Maybe, just like me, his are not food allergies but something else. So yesterday we made the switch to a salmon/sweet potato limited ingredient diet and all three dogs think it is fantastic. I am still adding the green beans and pumpkin and they like those as well.
Dr. Nell then also raised the issue of the cats' diet as she had just finished an acupuncture/nutrition class and it turns out that cats should really be eating primarily if not exclusively canned cat food which is very low in carbs. Thankfully, the Wellness grain free flavors I had been supplementing with are on the approved list, so now the cats are switching to primarily canned food. At this point, since I will be washing more dishes each day, I decided to re-think the number and placement of my cat feeding stations. The one on the heavily protected washer/dryer would stay as that is now Sasha's world. But what about the one in my bedroom, the one Chauncey tries so hard to get to?
I realized then that I had set up a litter box and feeding station in my bedroom during my 3 year remodel, because my bedroom was the one area that was not being invaded, torn down, rebuilt, etc. I wanted the cats to have a safe spot where they wouldn't be disturbed. It became Sasha's favorite spot until a couple months ago, so it was definitely staying. But now was it necessary? My home is now wonderfully quiet and the remodel is basically over so I realized that it wasn't. There is no reason why Thackeray and Laoise can't eat in the kitchen at the kitchen bowls, and that would make it easier for me to check on the bowls and clean and refill them as needed. It would mean that Chauncey would have no chance to get to the food. And it would mean that I wouldn't have the smell of cat food in my bedroom.
It seems obvious now, but it didn't seem obvious until last night that my life and the situation in my home especially as it relates to the remodel had all changed dramatically and so there was no need now for a set up that had been a life-saver for three years. Life changes. Situations change. But all too often, I, at least, remain in the same routine doing things the same way even when that way no longer makes any sense.
I am also in the process of re-evaluating the litter box situation. I haven't moved the one in my bedroom, but I suspect in time I will. But also at Dr. Nell's suggestion, I added a very small (purple) litter box onto the washer/dryer for Sasha. She hasn't been using a traditional litter box for a long time, having decided during one or another of her bladder/kidney infections that flannel was better. So she had an open litter box which I lined with flannel and I did a lot of laundry. But I noticed that she liked that spot as a bed and I thought maybe she might be willing to go back to using a regular litter box and then have the flannel to sleep on. Well, she was very happy to have a litter box again and I also figured out that now that she is blind, she is not about to try moving off the washer/dryer, so that is probably why she was still using the flannel long after she really wanted to. So Sasha's safe world atop the washer/dryer now has two beds, a litter box, three food bowls and one water bowl and she seems to like it a lot!
These are just the most current examples in my life to demonstrate that something that was once true may not stay true for forever. Life is always changing. That is the only "constant" that there is. So we have to be ready to change with it. I've had people say that the knew just what I wanted and much of the time it may even be true, but my needs and preferences also change. All of that is good, but it does mean that we need to exercise constant vigilance, as Moody would say (J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series), or remind ourselves that as Socrates said, the unexamined life is not worth living.
As in all things, the trick is balance. Routine is good, and I for one couldn't get through my day without it. But routine done simply because that's the way I've always done it isn't good. All aspects of our lives need to be monitored to see if what worked before is still working and if it is fine, but if it isn't, change needs to happen. So we have new diets for all the pets and changes in the location of cat feeding stations and litter boxes and hopefully the result will be happier pets and hence a happier pet care giver! Have you looked at your routines lately? Have a super day!