Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Consequences are a - well, you know. . . .

Safety Guy had a rough week last week, which included trouble at school.  I won't go into the details, but it involved some kids being typical kids, and a misunderstanding and an overreaction on his part.  Because he wasn't honest about the sequence of events when we questioned him, we realized we'd have to discipline both his choices at school, and his decision to not be completely forthright about his part in the trouble when he came home and talked to us.  His punishment:  a Saturday of chores with his father.

He took it well, really.  We've had heaven only knows how many go-rounds from him of, "It's not my fault, they made me mad, they deserved it and I shouldn't be punished!"   Some days I feel like we'll never get the idea of personal responsibility drummed into his head and his heart.  If I had a dollar for every time I've told him, "YOU are responsible for YOU!  Your actions, your words, YOU have to own them, with no excuses!" - I'd be able to take a nice little vacation.  And boy, am I ready for it right about now.  So, I was actually quite pleased that he accepted that he needed consequences for what happened, and that he performed his penance without any attitude issues.  Maybe we are making progress?  I hope?

After that discipline-go-round, I decided to see if a little incentive might help him get past this latest problem with self-control (or lack thereof).  They say that incentive makes all the difference, and you need the right reinforcement for each person you're trying to motivate, so I pulled out something I'd squirreled a way for him for just such an occasion as this:  a 3-DVD set called "1001 Classic Commercials."

Yep, 16 hours of nothing but commercials.  Really.

And why, you ask, would this be motivating to the average 12 year old boy?  It wouldn't - but Safety Guy isn't your typical 12 year old, and he loves vintage commercials.  He was born 25-50 years too late to enjoy all this stuff the first time around, but he's not letting that stop him from enjoying it now.  What would we do without YouTube, or RetroJunk?  Anyhow, he was really psyched to see that DVD set, and we told him that to earn it he has to go for two full weeks without any incidents at school where he is at fault.  He has to watch his words and actions, be respectful to his teachers, and put his hands in his pockets when he's tempted to shove someone who's annoying him.  If he messes up, we'll reset the "clock" and start the two weeks over again.  The DVD set is his, he just has to earn the privilege of watching it.

The past two days he's come home and reported to me that he kept his temper and didn't have any trouble - he was quite pleased with himself.  Hopefully this will help break the cycle of reacting first and thinking it through later.  He's been motivated this way in the past; it's worth trying again.  And, he knows that if he gets suspended in school again, the chores will be much more unpleasant than cleaning out the garage, sweeping the driveway, emptying the water out of the tote of giant Tinkertoys out back and cleaning off the front porch.  Washing out the litter boxes, scrubbing the garbage cans, and doing his sister's laundry come to mind. . . .

For the Love of a Geriatric Cat

B.C. is almost 16 years old.  We've had him since he was 9 months old, a shelter kitty who got himself adopted by virtue of his friendliness.  Some soul with a marginal sense of humor had named him "Satan" at the animal shelter (simply because he's all black), but that name was totally wrong for him.  He's the most loving, friendly cat I've ever known - we call him "Puppy Cat" because of his friendliness, and habit of licking people he likes.  But, he's also the first cat I've owned for long enough for it to reach a ripe old age, and be going down the path to decline and passing.  My parents have been down this road several times with their cats in the past 10 years, and I remember going through it with both of our family dogs when I was younger.  It's the worst part of pet ownership, when a beloved animal family member loses their health and their faculties and has increasing difficulty with everyday things.

B.C. has developed kidney trouble, and behavior issues relating to that.  Long story short, it's not medically treatable, but he's not in any pain or discomfort.  But the behavior he's developed (marking in inappropriate places) has become a real issue.  We've tried repellent sprays, we've tried dietary changes, we've tried everything we can think of.  This week we decided to try keeping him in a large cage at night and while we had to be out of the house, to prevent him from leaving messes - he can be out while we're watching him.  Last night was his first night in the cage.  I fixed it up with a litter box, food and water, and some soft towels for him to sleep on.  I put him in last night right before I went to bed, and he seemed to be okay with the situation - puzzled, but not anxious our upset.  I came down this morning to find this:

He had destroyed the inside of the cage, and pulled over a container of soil I was sprouting seeds in (that I had thought was out of his reach).  He was crusted with what looked like damp cement, bedraggled and unhappy.  I let him out, and he ran off and left a trail of gray footprints all the way into the kitchen (time to mop again).  I caught up with him and washed off his paws, tail and legs with damp paper towels, a process he didn't seem to mind at all - it's not the first time he's walked through something and needed a washing (the most memorable occasion being when he walked through a paint can lid and left white paw prints all over the wood floor in the hallway of our old house - that time I just held him under the faucet to wash his paws, and he let me - remarkable).  Then, damp and spiky with half-dried ick in his fur, he marched back to one of his illicit marking spots (a spot protected by a plastic bag - we're not stupid), stared right at me, and marked again.  His displeasure and disdain for his treatement were glaringly obvious. 

So, I've cleaned up the floor, and vacuumed out the cage.  I'll wash out the cage with the hose later.  I have to wipe down the walls, which are a mess in spite of the protective plastic barrier I so carefully contrived to prevent "accidental" messes.  We don't have many options left.  Putting him down is not one of them (although a couple people have suggested it, I can't do it for behavioral reasons - I just can't).  We've decided that we'll have to create a bigger enclosure for him in the basement, using a small dog run cage, and that he'll have to spend most of his time there.  I find that so sad, but I don't know what else to do to give him a decent quality of life and still keep our house from being wrecked.  I feel guilty to realize that it would be easier overall if B.C. weren't here any more, even as my heart breaks to think that he's at the end of his life.  Love is hard, even when it's for an old pet instead of people.

There aren't any good solutions for the last decline of an older pet, but I'm open to ideas if you have them.