Whole Dog Journal's Blog May 23, 2011

Otto’s Next Challenge: Kitten Camp

Posted at 09:46AM - Comments: (10)

So, I’m fostering a cat and her five kittens. Poor Juno (I just named her, a teenaged mom) was abandoned by some former neighbors, who moved away about two months ago. I hadn’t known they didn’t take her with them when they moved out of the apartment building that’s two doors down from my home; I hadn’t seen her since they moved.

"Juno" the teenaged mom and (count them) five kittens.

But Otto found her  -- and her five new kittens – in the ivy that grows on the fence between our house and the empty (foreclosed) house next door.  Oh, the economy. Otto’s favorite job is chasing stray (feral or wandering) cats out of our yard, and since the house next door was foreclosed, his duties have expanded to include periodic sweeps of that yard, too. 

Attacked by two at once -- well, three if you count the one out of the photo, who is still playing with Otto's tail.

I didn’t think of this for fun; the vacuum created by the lack of a present homeowner led to nightly cat fights and cat sex scenes that had Otto waking us up several times a night – when the cat noises themselves didn’t wake us already. Otto loves the job, racing into the yard with his big bear-like roar, sending cats flying over fences at top speed. He comes back an inch taller every time.

The kitten snuggles in for a little break, and Otto pants. He holds his breath when looking at the kittens, so when he's not looking at them he has to get as much oxygen as he can!

He doesn’t chase our cat, Shadow, an ancient, bony, whiny cat who stays in our house and yard. In fact, while he doesn’t seem to like her one bit – I never see him regard her with anything like affection -- he tolerates her daily intrusions in his life.

He again averts his gaze. His tail is still wagging.

She sometimes sleeps in his crate on the back porch, she sometimes eats his food, she walks over when he’s napping on the deck and lies down right next to his tummy . . . In each case, he acts like she has cooties, and carefully extracts himself. But he never, never chases or snaps at her.

The kitten tries to climb aboard. OK, this is just too much.

Otto’s self-control with Shadow is one of the reasons I thought (correctly) that it would turn out just fine if I got some chickens, even though Otto came from the shelter three years ago with a chicken “murder” on his rap sheet. I brought home three hens, and five months later I still have three hens. He licks his lips a lot when they are close to him, but they can walk underneath him without harm, even if the tension does make him pant a little.

He stands up, carefully. Again, a nose lick (like a yawn) is a sign that Otto is tense or anxious. No wonder!

So now his self-control abilities are being tested with kittens, and I’m happy to report that this dog is a prince. I have the teenaged mom and the five kittens in a big crate on the back porch of our new house/office (didn’t want to stress Shadow with all this) and Otto visits every day. I keep him away from the mom, who is not quite ready to accept the dog who so recently chased her. But when she takes a stroll around the yard, I let him visit the babies. He’s fascinated with the now-four-week-old kittens, and they are fascinated with him: his tail, his fur, his big nose. I just love this dog.

Comments (10)

I love following Otto's life. He is a sweetheart. I'm sure you've had many offers of a new home for him. Bobbi Johnson

Posted by: bobbi J | July 1, 2011 9:55 AM    Report this comment

hi nancy, this kitten camp article prompted me to say something that I think with each WDJ I get, otto is fabulous! he is gorgeous and sweetnatured, I am a sucker for a dog with a beard anyway!! more otto stories please! wouldn't mind a signed 8x10 glossy either!! I have taken in a cat who was pregnant and had the same results with my standard poodles and miniature schnauzer crew, they love the kitties!! best regards, kathleen, vanityfairpoodles.com

Posted by: KATHLEEN R | May 30, 2011 6:00 AM    Report this comment

Hi Colleen: Our publisher, Belvoir Media Group, did publish a Whole Cat Journal at one point, for three or so years. Ultimately, they were not able to grow it to profitability. But maybe again someday. Maarife: Otto is a "very mixed dog." At least, that was the result of the DNA mixed-breed tests we used him as a "test dog" for. See "DNA Testing for Mixed Breed Dogs" in the June 2009 issue. I think he's got some German Shepherd in him (I see that in his tail, mostly), maybe some Chow way back (color, ears), and what else, I don't know! -- Nancy Kerns, Editor

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | May 25, 2011 11:08 AM    Report this comment

When I got my first greyhound, Bingo, his sole job was to protect the bird feeder & birdhouse from neighborhood cats. (Not hurt them, just run them off) As my grey pack grew to four I felt sure that my feathered friends would be safe from cats. Then my neighbor got an indoor/outdoor cat. I was horrified; I was sure my greyhounds were going to tear that cat apart, right in front of the three year old kid. But NO, that stupid cat would lay in the sun on my side of the fence and my guys wouldn't bat an eye. However, the day I brought home a fostered doberman that cat got quite a surprise. No the dobe didn't eat him, but he sure gave the cat a run for his money. Of course, in the long run, the cat just sat on his side and taunted the doberman. And when the dobe was gone, the cat was right back in the yard with my 'ferocious' greyhounds.

Posted by: JULIE R | May 25, 2011 7:18 AM    Report this comment

I have 2 Beagles, 1 Chincilla cat and am currently cat sitting 2 domestic moggies for my eldest son, interestingly enough the cats get on better with the dogs than they do with each other! Both of the dogs grew up with a cat in the house and my adopted puss had been living with a Lab prior to being rehomed with me. My previous cat had been a very patient teacher to both Dexter and Lilith when they were puppies so they are very respectful of their feline friends which makes things much easier with regards to cat sitting. Dexter is a gem, Lil can be a minx sometimes and I think Anastasia, Trini and Missy would wholeheartedly agree.It is possible for cats and dogs to live harmoniously together and they make great companions not only for us but each other too. Janine W VIC/AUST

Posted by: luvsahound | May 25, 2011 5:48 AM    Report this comment

Otto is a pretty cool guy. I have 3 dogs and 4 cats. People ask if they get along and are surprised when I tell them yes. They not only get along they actually like each other, sleep together in various combinations, all eat from their own dishes in the same room at the same time, etc.

Now that you've mentioned cats I'd like to put in my vote for a "Whole Cat Journal."

Posted by: COLLEEN T | May 24, 2011 3:57 PM    Report this comment

I've loved following Otto's story since you adopted him, and am cheering for him as he's helping to raise the kittens. Keeping fingers crossed that Juno soon accepts Otto as friend rather then foe.

Posted by: 3grrrs | May 24, 2011 2:00 PM    Report this comment

What breed (mix) is Otto? I've wanted a dog like him, but never know what category to look for.
Thanks! Maarifa

Posted by: Marilyn C | May 24, 2011 1:06 PM    Report this comment

I've followed Otto since you rescued him, and he is indeed a special dog!!

Posted by: Lois L | May 24, 2011 11:26 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: Irene L | May 24, 2011 10:26 AM    Report this comment

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