The Pet Situation

A word about my pet situation: There has always been at least one dog or cat in my family since I was three years old. When we moved into my current home in 2004, I had one elderly dog named Loki but that Christmas we adopted a pair of late-season kitten sisters, JoJo and Raven. JoJo immediately bonded with my daughter; Raven was “my” cat and has spent every night of her life (and most of her days) as queen of my bed.

JoJo and Raven

The Queen of the Bed deigns to let Munchie share her space.

The Queen of the Bed deigns to let Munchie share her space.

When my mother passed away in 2010, I took a month off from work and thought it would be a perfect time to get a puppy. Loki had passed away a few years earlier, and while I was perfectly content with JoJo and Raven, I wanted a small dog, one that I could take with me when shopping or visiting or even traveling and that wouldn’t pose a threat to the cats. Munchie the Pomchi (Pomeranian-Chihuahua) came into our lives and I couldn’t imagine loving an 8-pound ball of fluff any more.

Munchie is a Rangers fan.

Of course Munchie is a Rangers fan.

Perfect household, right? But no. My daughter and I started volunteering at the local Long Beach Animal Shelter, where we cared for the cats and kittens. We grew very fond of two playful, exotically marked tabby kitten sisters in particular. When they aged out of the kitten room and had to be put into “GenPop” in the big cat room, my daughter was concerned that now they would never get adopted, so she started a campaign to convince me to adopt them if they hadn’t found homes by Thanksgiving. My initial reaction was to say no way; we’re perfectly fine with what we’ve got. But then I started dreaming about them, and waking up thinking about them, and looking forward to seeing them when we went for our weekly visits, and secretly wishing that they wouldn’t get adopted by Thanksgiving. I even moved up the date: If no one adopted them by Halloween, we would take them home.

October 29, 2012: Superstorm Sandy hit Long Beach and we no longer had a home to which to take them. My daughter, JoJo, Raven, Munchie and I went to live a few towns away with my ex-husband, his wife and two kids, and my ex-father in law (for which I was extremely grateful, but you might imagine that I was anxious to get back into my house once it was repaired). Thanks to my savior of a contractor – a jolly Irish fellow who I probably drove a little crazy, but who always gave me a reassuring hug when he left after a meeting – we were back in our house in just over four months. The day we moved back in, the two sisters from the shelter – now nearly a year old – moved in with us. All four cats and Munchie were essentially coming into a new home at the same time, so there were very few territorial concerns. The two new cats, Savannah and Luna – gorgeous big girls with velvety fur and little white boots and mittens, obsessively affectionate and purr-fect in every way – fit right in and soon became my “soul cats”, connected on a deeper level now that we were truly home after all of us having been through the trauma of living in a temporary shelter.


Living paperweight.

Savannah and Luna in their favorite positions.

An animal rescue organization called Posh Pets took over the Long Beach Animal Shelter about a year ago. < > Posh has been around for over a decade but never ran a bricks-and-mortar facility. Instead they relied on a well-developed system of foster families to shelter rescued pets until permanent homes could be found for them. So it didn’t take long for Linda Vetrano, the head of Posh Pets, to convince me to try fostering. Small dogs only, I told her, and beginner-rated pooches for a foster newbie like me. Plus I had no idea how my existing household –now up to four cats and Munchie – would handle newcomers. So I started with Chase, a sweet – and highly adoptable – shih-tzu/wheaton terrier mix, who drove Munchie a little crazy with butt-sniffing but was otherwise a very pleasant guest. Chase got adopted within a couple of weeks.



Then came Gizmo, who was here for a few months until I eventually ended up adopting him. Gizmo had a heartbreaking history, the bottom line being that he had serious trust and biting issues and might even have a little brain damage from getting hit by a car. Once I convinced him that he didn’t need to bite me every time I tried to touch him, I fell in love with the little crazy man, so he stayed. Now he is my little white knight, shadowing and defending me, except when he is barking at his own reflection in my bookcase.

Sweet Gizzy-mo.

Sweet Gizmo fighting his urge to bite me.

I thought that might mean the end of my career as a foster parent – four cats and two dogs now, certainly a full house – but Linda talked me into taking Tink, a tiny little Chihuahua/Italian Greyhound mix who had been staying in a cramped cage at the shelter. Tink and I had some epic battles, but she loved my daughter (home from college for winter break) and also ended up getting adopted into a home with a tiny-dog pack within a couple of weeks. The next pup, Snoopy – a sad-faced, shaved-bare little Bijon — was with us for an even shorter time before he headed home with his fantastic new family. (They actually had another nearly identical Bijon at home, who fell in love with Snoopy immediately, which wasn’t hard to do.) And then came Tobin.

Tink doing her garlic knot imitation

Goofy Snoopy

Tink (doing her best garlic knot imitation) and Snoopy.

After Snoopy, I wanted to just take a break, mostly to spend a little quality time with Gizmo to let him know he was “my” dog now (although Linda astutely pointed out that he probably thought he was “my” dog as soon as he realized that he wasn’t going anywhere despite literally biting the hand that fed him). But Tobin’s story was so sad, and Linda can be persuasive. She assured me that she had a ton of adoption applications for him already, so he wouldn’t be with us long. Three-plus weeks later, he is still here.

Tobin Makes Himself at Home

Tobin makes himself at home.

Tobin is a large cocker spaniel with massive paws and a face like a cartoon Bing Crosby, with droopy eyes and a pouty lower lip. He has a sweet disposition and a playful personality, but he is more dog than I can handle. He barks quite a bit, which of course sets off the other two (who, believe me, do not need much encouragement). Even worse, he traumatizes the cats. JoJo and Raven did try to sleep with us for a few days, although Savannah and Luna barely came out from under the couch after Tobin arrived. Any time one of the cats moved, even slowly, Tobin would chase and corner them. I was afraid he was going to hurt one of the cats or knock over the TV because the cats kept running behind it. One day I found all four cats hiding in my daughter’s room, so that became “their” room and the door was kept closed. (Technically, it’s a suite, with two adjoining rooms and a bathroom, so there’s plenty of room for everyone to have their own private territory, but still – they’re locked in a room, and have been for weeks.)

Then he started fighting – serious, screaming, knock-down-drag-out fights – with Munchie. More accurately, Munchie started fighting with him. It happened once in my bed, on top of me, and I ended up throwing Munchie across the bed just to free him from under Tobin, who is literally three times his size. After that incident, Tobin has to sleep out in the living room while Munchie, Gizmo and I get the bed, which is kind of sad for Tobin, although he does have his choice of comfy sleep spots and I always leave him with a peanut butter-filled Kong.

I also need to lock Munchie in my room for hours at a time. Although before Tobin’s arrival my bed was his favorite spot and he spent most of his day there, now he just whines pitifully behind the gate. I do try to let him out when I can keep my eye on everyone, because he will inevitably start a fight with Tobin, who refuses to stay out of his way, so I need to be able to act quickly and snatch Munchie out of harm’s way and toss him back in my bedroom. Oddly enough, the three of them manage to walk together without conflict (as long as they don’t see another dog, which sets them all off barking), although I spend much of the walk wrestling with Tobin so my arms ache and I am forever getting tangled.

One morning Tobin got loose while we were walking on Park Avenue, one of the two main arteries through the West End of Long Beach and a relatively busy street. As I was frantically trying to chase him down, Munchie got tangled around the street sign and pulled out of his harness, screaming, and then . . . I WENT DOWN!! Hands and knees on the muddy pavement, three dogs on the loose at the intersection of a busy street –damn. Luckily, Tobin and Gizmo came right back to me, maybe concerned or curious as to why I was somehow down on the ground, but Munchie wandered off – slowly, thank goodness, and down the side street rather than toward Park Avenue. There was a construction worker there (who had probably seen the whole embarrassingly hilarious episode), and he called Munchie over to him.  When we got to where the guy was, Munchie and Tobin got into one of their battles and Munchie started screaming. I scooped him up and limped home. My neighbor was outside when I got back to my house, so I abashedly recounted what had happened. She said, “I guess two dogs is your limit.” I told her it wasn’t the number of dogs; it was the size of one of them.

Unfortunately, the people who have shown an interest in adopting Tobin have not been good fits. One young couple came to my house to visit Tobin, and Tobin and the boyfriend bonded quickly, but the girlfriend clearly didn’t think they were ready. Another girl with two roommates set up a time to come meet him but, at the 11th hour, she called in tears (and, I confess, so was I) saying that one of her roommates had had a change of heart and she wouldn’t be coming to meet Tobin after all.

I regret taking Tobin in but I’m stuck, because it’s too disruptive to the dog to keep shifting him around, and there’s no way I’m letting him stay at the shelter. He’s never lived in a shelter in his life and, as Linda likes to say, a shelter is no place for an animal. At least he’s safe and warm and fed and entertained and given plentiful affection here, and that’s what fostering is really all about. The cats and Munchie are thoroughly put out but everything will go back to normal soon enough, and it’s not like they’re suffering other than from the loss of their freedom. They have all their needs met, even if it isn’t what they’re accustomed to. And the same goes for me.

But spring-like weather can cure a lot of ills. I took the boys to the beach the other morning, which was a great way to get everyone (myself included) some exercise and fresh air, and prevent battles, and wear them out so they’ll sleep for a few hours at least. Plus now I walk Tobin using the short loop in his leash, so he stays by my side (although it’s still a workout to hold him there).

I do miss my cats, though. I hate that they have to be locked away and that I literally have to visit my own cats a few times a day!  But Tobin will go when Linda finds him the right situation, and I certainly wouldn’t want him to go somewhere just to be returned. He’s already had a trauma, being wrenched from the only family he knew, and especially his boy, who joined the Navy. And when I look into his sad, soulful eyes, I know I won’t let him go until I know for sure he’s going to a better place.

Hopefully we’ll have a positive update next week. Talk to you then.


Sister kitty love.
Sister kitty love.



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