Category Archives: Pets

2017:  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I blame the New Yorker.  I kept getting emails in my inbox from them, teasing me with a few of their intelligent, well-written articles and glimpses of the on-point cartoons (“Love them New Yorker cartoons!” frequently writes a Facebook friend.)  So, in the spirit of supporting definitely-not-FAKE NEWS (which also accounts for a subscription to the Washington Post that I can’t really afford right now), I ordered a trial subscription.  (I also, by dint of some clerical error that I won’t be calling to anyone’s attention, received not one but two fantastic New Yorker totes as a thank-you gift.)  The subscription has caused a bit of a problem in that I don’t have enough “free reading” time – I pretty much only ready on the train going into the city once a week, and really only coming home because I tend to nod off on the morning ride – and the New Yorker articles are so dense and just, let’s face it, LONG, so the magazines were just piling up.  I’m only now getting finished with the November 9 issue.  So I discontinued the subscription when it came time to renew at the regular rate (which, needless to say, I can’t afford).

Apart from overloading my limited reading time, the more egregious thing that my New Yorker subscription did was expose me to all that quality writing, which had the effect of shifting my confidence decidedly back into the “I will never write as well as these people” sphere.  So I blame the New Yorker, but that’s only one of many reasons why I seem to have abandoned my blog just short of three years from its inception in March 3, 2015.  It causes me indescribable psychic pain that I wasn’t capable (for whatever reason) of keeping up with my weekly blog posts, and since November I haven’t posted anything at all.  And yet that discomfort hasn’t been painful enough, evidently, because I haven’t done anything to stop it.

Is it mere writer’s block?  True, I haven’t been writing much in my journal either.  In fact, I have to force myself, most nights in bed before I fall asleep, to even manage to pen a few quick paragraphs to recount my day and beat myself up over how miserably I’ve failed at keeping up with my writing.  (On the positive side, I’m at least somewhat proud of that meager diligence, and also that I manage to write SOMETHING in my joy book every day, even if it’s “No joy today”.)  It’s also the case that my brain hasn’t been particularly brimming with creative ideas or juicy thoughts ripe for squeezing out on paper.  I’ve basically been BLANK for months.  The things that occupy my gray matter lately fall into three categories:  the good (not much – mostly my kid, my pets and volunteering at the shelter – oh, and actually having a parking spot every time I leave the house); the bad (my money woes, hating a job that I desperately need, lacking an overriding “purpose” to my life and continuing to be somewhat of a hermit); and the supremely ugly (TRUMP and the travesty our government has become in the hands of the Republicans).

The fact that it’s winter doesn’t help.  I’m pretty sure I may have mentioned it once or twice in this blog, but I HATE WINTER.  I especially hate when it snows, as it did this past week (nearly two feet in drifty spots), and digging out the carport was no picnic.  Thank goodness Darian had to free her car right away for a trip to Boston to catch a flight to the Cayman Islands (SO JEALOUS!) with her college friend’s family, and then a lovely man with a snowblower and three pre-teen “assistants” with shovels came by the following day to liberate my car.  To add to the snow, the temperatures were well below freezing for nearly two weeks and my front-of-the-house pipes froze, halting the flow of water in my kitchen and main bathroom.  Fortunately, we still had heat and hot water in the small master bath at the back of the house (tiny shower and tinier sink) throughout the frigid snap.  But only on Tuesday morning, as the temps hit 40, did all my water come back.  The short, dark days, the cold, the mess – all of that contributes to my seasonal depression.  Plus the Rangers – usually the only bright spot in the winter months – aren’t playing particularly well (and they’re actually in their “bye week” right now, so there’s been no hockey AT ALL for nearly a week), so that’s become more of a downer than an upper on the mood scale.

Underlying it all is this feeling of futurelessness.  Like, when I try to envision my life in twenty years, ten years, even five, I don’t see anything different than what I see right now, and that is ultimately kind of paralyzing.  Realistically, I know things won’t stay the same – in fact, I can almost guarantee that I won’t be doing this job much longer, which will create a whole different trauma.  I had my worst year, billable-hourly speaking, since I started working there over fifteen years ago.  And (by design) I don’t participate at all on any of our “big client” deals that the younger partners in our group spearhead.  When the senior partner in my office, who has enabled me to finagle my current plum working situation, was removed as practice group leader (“moved up” to global practice group leader, they said, but he and I both knew what it really was) last year, I was sure I would get my walking papers.  Fortunately, the new practice group leader knows me a little bit (although he works on the West Coast) and appreciates my work (at least so far), so he kept me on.  After this past year, though, there’s not really much justification for my retention unless I expand my scope and I am too lazy and unengaged to do that, I’m afraid.

So let’s say they cut me loose – then what??  I won’t get a severance package because I’m a contract attorney, not an employee.  I guess I could try to collect unemployment, but I have no idea how to do that.  It might force me to start another career, even if I have to begin at the bottom of the ladder.  At least I could explore areas that are more fulfilling to me – ACLU, civil rights work, even some kind of animal law, or perhaps not even practicing law anymore and getting back into the publishing sphere – but that would probably involve having to LEAVE MY HOUSE to work a regular 9-to-6 shift somewhere (to which I would also have to commute).  It’s been so long since I’ve had that experience, I don’t think I even remember how to do it (and I’m pretty sure I don’t WANT to do it).  That is, if I can even get through an application-and-interview process that sounds like the worst kind of hell right about now, given my lack of self-confidence.  I’m way too lazy for my own good.  And don’t even mention the inevitable reduction of income.

So, as you can see, there’s enough “bad” there to choke a horse.  I don’t even want to get into the “ugly” because it fills me with such impotence and gloom and an overriding fear that it’s only going to get worse, somehow, if all the controls come off completely.  I remember when Trump first (inexplicably, shockingly) won the election, the thing that most upset me was that there would be no checks on him, given that the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and he would take advantage of the Supreme Court nomination stolen from Obama (by those same dastardly Republicans) and create a conservative majority (please the gods, no one else dies or leaves while he’s still in office!).  (Alarmingly, it’s largely gone under the radar what a travesty Trump’s judicial lifetime appointments to the lower courts will turn out to be.)  He’s stacking the deck with hand-picked federal prosecutors and even trying to get the Justice Department and FBI, both of which are sworn to uphold the law wholly independent of any president, to swear fealty.  It’s an “American Horror Story,” all right.  And it’s brought out all this ugliness in so-called publicly elected (and supposedly publicly accountable) government officials.  Whatever happened to “You work for US”??  November 2018 can’t come soon enough, and there needs to be waves of volunteers helping everyone who wants to vote, because the Republicans are going to do their damndest to shut out (and shut up) the Democrats.

I’ve never in my life been so obsessed (and not in a good way) with the workings of our government, but it’s probably a civically responsible thing that I am.  In fact, every week I receive an email about the local neighborhood association meeting, and I note it but I never actually go.  (That’s not precisely true – I went once, when they were talking about hiring a “parking consultant” to sort out the parking situation in the West End, which turned out to be a colossal waste of taxpayer money with no apparent results.)  This year I am committed to going to the meetings regularly and maybe even getting involved on a committee or something.  The last president of the West End Neighbors Association went on to win his first election as city councilmember this past November, so who knows?  Maybe I would make a good politician!  There’s a woman I met at one of my Organize Plan Act (OPA) meetings named Elaine DiMasi who is running for House representative in Suffolk County to unseat the terrible Lee Zeldin.  She is a scientist and is operating a really intelligent campaign, getting out to meet her potential constituents and LISTENING TO THEM, which is something that I think this happy flood of women candidates nationwide will do much better, as a bloc, than their male counterparts.  (There are always exceptions – I’m looking at YOU, Susan Collins.)

One of the pundits I follow regularly since Trump came along is Robert Reich, formerly the Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton and an incredibly smart man (who also draws well!).  I saw on Facebook the other day his “GUIDELINES FOR 2018”, which I found encouraging and uplifting and entirely do-able:

  1. Don’t use the president’s surname. [Well, I do call him “Trump” but I never use the word “president” when I refer to him or, like Charlie Pierce of Esquire does, use an asterisk! One of my OPA colleagues always uses a lower-case “t”.]
  2. Remember this is a regime and he’s not acting alone. [And they’re the truly frightening ones – Trump is an ignorant puppet who can be easily manipulated.]
  3. Do not argue with those who support him—it doesn’t work. [I’ve lost so much respect for people I know who support him that I wouldn’t waste my time.]
  4. Focus on his policies, not his orange-ness and mental state. [Again, they’re not necessarily “his” policies since he only parrots what he hears – see #2 above.]
  5. Keep your message positive; they want the country to be angry and fearful because this is the soil from which their darkest policies grow.
  6. No more helpless/hopeless talk. [These two might be tough, but I’ll try my best.]
  7. Support artists and the arts. [YES! ALWAYS!!]
  8. Be careful not to spread fake news—check it out first.
  9. Take care of yourselves.
  10. RESIST.

To end on a positive note, let’s look at the good – and there IS definitely some, and I do my best to remember that.  My daughter is home, at least for a little while, till she figures out her next career steps.  January finds her, first, in the Cayman Islands for a rainy but warm vacation, and then she’s off to Thailand for five days (almost longer in the air than on the ground) to pick up some pups from the Soi Dog Foundation, an affiliate of Posh Pets Rescue who saves dogs from the meat trade and other cruelties in Southeast Asia.  Generous Soi Dog donors periodically offer to pay the round-trip airfare for volunteers to come to Thailand and then accompany a few doggies back to the States to find their forever homes.  It was an ideal opportunity for travel (which she loves to do), so she jumped at it.  She’s never actually been to Asia (apart from a wedding on the Asia side of the Bosphorus in Turkey), so that will be yet another continent represented on her “world travels” map.  I’ll finally get to see her again at the end of the month!

But in the meantime, I have furry children to keep me company.  We’re above maximum capacity at the moment, on the canine AND feline side.  The Posh Pets cat director, Vanessa Vetrano Vaccaro, had a horrible fire at her house just before Thanksgiving and actually lost five of her favorite cats, which was heartbreaking, although the many fosters living with her were saved and shuffled off to various locations in Westchester and Long Island.  In the chaos after the fire, I of course offered to take in one of her foster cats.  As this happened a couple of weeks before Darian’s graduation (on December 15, a day that will live in Lucas Family history!), I had a whole room in which to host him.  Turns out the cat I took home wasn’t one of Vanessa’s cats at all:  He was just a stray that lived in a foreclosed house down the block from her.  But he’s never going to live outside again, as he has become House Cat Supreme, lazing all day on the bed and getting cuddles and pets, non-stop purring and making biscuits.  He’s a big, beautiful strawberry blonde boy we first called Fred, which we had to change when another “Fred” was surrendered to the shelter the same day.  So then we were calling him “Big Red,” but once Darian got home, she decided she didn’t like that name because it reminded her of a girl she didn’t like, so now we’re calling him “Greg”, which seems to fit just fine.  Greg is still officially a foster cat but we are going to have a hard time giving him up.  My daughter is very fond of him as well, and shares her bed with him nightly.  They haven’t even posted him on the Posh Pets website yet as none of us can manage to get a good photo of him (as the below can attest – it does NOT do him justice).

Greg (fka Fred, Big Red)

Greg (fka Fred, Big Red)

And earlier this week I took home a little 7-month old Teddy Bear (bichon-shih tzu mix) named, appropriately, Teddy.  Teddy was one of fifty (!) dogs that Posh Pets saved from a puppy mill auction where they sell these beautiful creatures off like so much merchandise after having lived their lives as breeding machines, stuck in a metal cage with bars under their feet so the poop and pee can fall through, never feeling a human touch or love.  It was harrowing for the Posh folks that actually went there and for those of us here at home, too, as we heard the horror stories.  What a cruel business!  And what’s even worse is that so many of those puppy mill puppies will end up in shelters when the unthinking folks who preferred to buy from pet stores rather than adopt inevitably unthink their way into surrendering an animal whose family membership they didn’t fully consider. (More ugliness, I’m afraid.)  We can’t change people but we can save some lives, including little Teddy’s.  I didn’t have him for long.  He was adopted today by a lovely family in New Jersey and he’s going to have the best life ever.  Housebreaking and separation anxiety will need to be worked on (although he was a pretty quick study with the weewee pads), but he’s so cute and cuddly and playful, he’ll make a wonderful companion.  So now I’ll probably end up taking another one of the 50.  So many dogs!!!  Watch this space.

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Teddy has a forever home!

Finally, the ultimate “good” is this:  I have a roof over my head (and now I even have running water from all my faucets!); reasonably good health (although my medical insurance situation is a whole other nightmare that I’ll tackle in another blog post); a house full of love and barking (and yes, plenty of poop and pee – my garbage men must find me disgusting); good friends and family (even though I don’t see them often enough); and a college graduate daughter whose future stretches out before her like a sparkling (if maybe a little daunting) yellow brick road.  And maybe, just maybe, I can re-start my blog in earnest and resurrect it as the pleasurable pursuit it was intended to be.

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The graduate and her siblings

Happy 2018!

A sad post-script:  My cousin George has officially retired “The George and Tony Entertainment Show,” which makes me very sad, especially as his foray into the podcasting arena was a catalyst for me to start my blog.  RIP, GATES.  You will be missed.  I am encouraged, though, by inklings that his podcast days are not entirely over and that there’s some new project in the works.  I certainly hope so!  Cousin George has shown himself to be an intrepid interviewer and a charming and funny host.  Can’t wait to catch up on some of the podisodes I missed in the last year or so and look forward to his future endeavors.

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Fostering

This past weekend, I was enjoying the (relative) silence in my house.  My daughter and my last foster dog, Charley Girl, both left last Monday – my daughter to WVU for her last semester, Charley to her new home in Riverdale in the Bronx.  Since I moved back into my house in late March, I’ve been making up for lost time and fostering pretty much non-stop, one pup after another.

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Charley making friends with Aunt Sue

First it was Marco, an adorable but painfully shy “dorkie” (a silly name for a dachshund/yorkie mix).  At first he hid behind my couch any time someone came in, and he actually nipped my sister, but he eventually got more comfortable around strangers.  He also had never in his life been walked outside on a leash, so he had some housebreaking issues.  I even published some photos and video of him on Facebook so others could follow his progress.

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Marco

[An aside:  Frankly, I am not a very good trainer, despite the revolving cast of pooches over the past few years and time spent at the shelter observing how OTHER people train dogs.  I’m not consistent enough.  I learned this long ago with my dog Loki.  Even after paying money we didn’t have to a professional trainer (who reminded me of a young Phil Simms), I was unable to sustain the lessons Loki learned after the trainer was no longer around.  My dog Munchie, who we adopted back in October of 2010, right after my mother passed away, still does not come when called, which often turns into a battle of wills on those mornings when I neglect to close my bedroom door and he scoots under the bed and refuses to come out for walkies.]

We brought Marco to an Adopta-palooza event in Union Square in NYC, where we met a lovely family from Brooklyn who had come in specially to meet him.  The two kids were absolutely smitten, and the precious photos they sent me afterward made me glad that Marco had chosen them as his new family.

After Marco left, it wasn’t long before Wilson came into our lives.  Wilson was found wandering the streets of Bay Shore, a town in Suffolk where Posh Pets has a new “satellite site” (a house owned by Posh Pets shelter director and second-in-command Melissa).  Evidently he was having his way with the ladies in the neighborhood and had knocked up one of the local gals, and no one had any idea where he came from or who he belonged to:  no collar, no microchip, but fully intact in his maleness, if you know what I mean.  After a diligent but fruitless search, Mel decided she would just take him in and make him “posh” so he could be safe and his days as a “deadbeat dad” lothario would end.

Wilson and my daughter (who had just arrived home for the summer) developed a serious connection.  When a couple living in Long Beach fell in love and adopted him in short order, my daughter was FURIOUS at me for taking him to their house without her having a chance to say goodbye.  I offered to take her over there – they live only a few blocks away – so she could see him one last time, but she didn’t want to.  It turned out to not be the last we saw of him, though, because I told the couple I would dog sit if they ever went away (and I even volunteered my daughter to walk him, if they wanted).

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Wilson, literally underfoot

Sure enough, they took me up on my offer for a few days at the same time that Charley was here, which put me at maximum capacity of nine four-legged creatures plus two humans (four dogs, five cats).  It was a little hairy in the beginning, because Charley and Wilson DID NOT LIKE EACH OTHER and engaged in a couple of scary scraps.  We had to lock Charley away in my room for the first day.  We briefly considered bringing her back to the shelter, because we’d only had her for a couple of days and it had really been only a trial run, because Charley was a very high energy doggie who my daughter actually warned me against taking home.  But we figured it was better being locked in a bedroom with a big comfy bed than being at the shelter, with barking dogs and cement floors and cages, and after some tentative tête-à-têtes, the two became good buddies for the five days Wilson (now called Trey, short for “Sammy the Third”) was with us.  Plus my daughter got to say her official goodbyes.

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Charley and Wilson, finally buds

Between Wilson and Charley we had Baby Bella (in fact, Bella and Wilson were together for one remarkably calm night), a beautiful little Yorkie who was only with us for about a week before she was snatched up by a family from Connecticut.  They were smitten at first sight and I’m confident they’ll treat that sweetie like a queen.

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Bella (top) and Wilson (bottom)

That’s the thing about fostering:  People always ask me, “How can you give them up?  Doesn’t it break your heart?”  Actually, it doesn’t, because I believe they’re going to good homes where they will be loved.  I mean, there’s no guarantee – the folks at Posh Pets, who do a painstaking job of checking references and analyzing situations to find the best fit for their wards, still have animals returned to them, unfortunately.  But my sense, with every adopter of one of my fosters, is that they were going to a place where they would be loved and doted on and valued as a member of a family, which is all you ever want for an orphaned or abandoned animal.  The bonus is that every foster baby that gets adopted leaves an “opening” for me to take on another one.

Of course, I did fail once, with my precious nut-job Gizmo.  And I may very well fail again.  Yesterday, when I thought I might be foster free for a little while, finally able to give my guys a break from having to share my attention, Linda, Posh Pets’ founder and queen, called to ask if I could take on a special case:  little Polly, a female Shih-Tzu, about 6 or 7 years old, who had been adopted by a young woman from Linda years ago but who now was moving to California and couldn’t take Polly with her.  Then Linda thought she might have found an adoptive family, but they ended up keeping Polly for only one night before deciding she was more than they could handle.

Polly, you see, has some kind of neurological damage that makes it difficult for her to walk, although she does manage to do so, even though she looks a bit like a drunken sailor.  I’ve taken to calling her Polly Wobbles.  She’s very sweet but very confused, as you might imagine after being torn from the home (and thoroughly undeserving parent, if I may be a bit judgy) she has known for over five years.  She wouldn’t walk when we went out with the boys, which forced me to carry her, and when I brought her out separately, she didn’t walk then, either.  Linda assures me that she does walk; I haven’t seen it since she’s been here, but time will tell.

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Polly Wobbles (that face!)

I worry about who will adopt Polly.  There’s a couple we know, good friends of Posh Pets named Tom and Mary, who take on “special needs dogs” (including Little Miss Lexi, who is the most adorable little angel on wheels and has her own Facebook page), but they’re chock full at the moment.  I told Linda anyone who adopts her has to be very special, but she already knows that.  Which makes me think that Polly Wobbles might be here for a while.  But that’s okay with me, and Gizmo and Munchie (and even the cats) seem to like her okay.  Polly is my 12th foster dog (and 13th foster overall, if you count this precious kitten named Egypt who we had only long enough to give us all ringworm a couple of summers ago), so I guess I qualify as “experienced” now!  Keep ‘em coming!

Rescue Me

Becoming a volunteer for an animal rescue organization has been one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.  I’ve met many incredible people – dedicated and generous, and just a little bit crazy (okay, some of them quite a LOT crazy).  I get a strong sense from some of these folks that they prefer the company of animals to people, which sometimes means that, while we may have common goals, we don’t always get along with each other.  In the nearly four years that I’ve been volunteering at the Long Beach Animal Shelter, I have seen a number of differences of philosophy among strong personalities that have resulted in terminations of relationships, although there generally remains mutual respect even after the break.  Everyone’s in it for the animals, after all.

Today I attended a “gala” organized by a true friend of Posh Pets, a woman named Yvette Schneider.  The amount of work that she puts into the event is impressive.  This is the third one I’ve had the pleasure of attending, and each year I have known more and more of my fellow guests.  This year there was a whole contingent of Long Beach staff and volunteers, and one of our own, the shelter director Melissa McClellan, was honored for her service, along with the head of the “cat division”, Vanessa Vetrano Vaccaro, who mostly operates out of her Westchester home base but frequently “steals” our best cats from the shelter to bring up to the Post Pets cat room at the PetSmart store in Greenburgh, NY.  Both of these ladies are true heroes to me, as is the head of the whole organization, founder Linda Vetrano.  I’ve written about this animal-loving triumvirate often, going way back to when I first started my blog [“The Pet Situation”, 3/17/15].

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Posh Gala, Long Beach Squad

In addition to volunteering at the shelter on weekends, mostly to clean the cat rooms and give them love and affection, but I help out wherever I can – playing with puppies, washing feeding bowls, folding laundry, scrubbing litter boxes, you name it – I have discovered that I really enjoy fostering animals until permanent homes can be found for them.  My boy Gizmo was a “foster fail,” meaning I adopted him when it became clear that we had developed a bond and my home was the best possible home for him.  My other Poshie, Mimi, was never a foster – I knew I would keep her from Day One.  In fact, I waited a whole year to take her home, which I regret, because she ended up being shuttled between Long Beach, Vanessa’s house (she has an entire cat colony there, including the more elderly, infirm and “problem children” among the dozens of Posh cats), the PetSmart cat room, and back again to Long Beach, which is when I finally said, “What am I waiting for?  She’s coming home with me.”  Happily for both of us, she’s where she needs to be now.

But since I’ve been in my temporary housing, I haven’t been able to foster at all.  A few times, Linda has asked me to take in a small dog for a couple of days because there was no alternative and they would prefer not to leave them in the shelter.  (The shelter is set up for larger dogs; smaller dogs have to stay in cages and don’t get walked as often as they should, and they get stressed out with the excessive barking.)  At one point, two gorgeous Pomeranian puppies came in, and I took one for a few days and the other for a few days, and both times the lady downstairs freaked out.  When the banging on her ceiling was having no effect (and it DOESN’T – the only effect it may have is to make her feel better but it certainly doesn’t alter my/our behavior; in fact, when she bangs, the dogs actually bark MORE, thereby defeating her purpose), she ventured upstairs to complain in person about how she didn’t ask to live downstairs from a zoo.  (That was the last time I’ve actually spoken to her face-to-face, although we ran into each other in the elevator once and said NOTHING other than “Have a good night” when she got off on her floor.)

So when Linda asked me this week to foster an eight-pound Chihuahua she had saved from Craig’s List, just for the proverbial “couple of days,” I reluctantly agreed to do so.  “He doesn’t bark,” she told me.  He didn’t (much).  “Chichi” (not my favorite name choice; I mostly called him “Buddy”) was a sweet-natured dog and got along with everyone as soon as he entered the apartment – no fights, no excessive sniffing (although Gizmo did engage in some obsessive licking of the pup’s back while he was eating, for some reason – maybe he tasted good?).  Chichi did try to engage and play a couple of times – which of course is a no-no in this apartment because playing would be WAY TOO NOISY for the lady downstairs – but apart from that, the first night was relatively quiet.

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Chichi/Buddy/Richie gives us a smile

The next morning, though, first with preparing for walkies and then at feeding time, there was a lot of rambunctious activity – jumping, scratching the carpets, grimbling (sort of a growl/bark thing that Gizmo does) – and here comes the banging from below, on multiple occasions, getting increasingly loud and lengthy.  But once the morning activities were complete, we all settled in for a nice, quiet, snowy afternoon.

Unfortunately, I had to go out to do errands and stop at the shelter.  Even though I knew I would not be gone for long, I was afraid of how Chichi would react to my leaving, despite the fact that he would have plenty of company in my absence.  I do not have a nanny-cam set-up here, so I have no idea if they made noise while I was gone, but as soon as I parked on the side of the building where my apartment is located, I could hear them taking up the chorus, and I knew it would continue the whole time I rode up to the sixth floor in the elevator (which seems to take an incredibly long time when they’re carrying on like that).

While at the shelter, I heard from one of the employees that he and his family were interested in fostering the chi-baby, so I was ecstatic.  He would come to my place later that evening to pick him up.  But in the meantime, I had a visit from the president of the tenant’s association, a very nice lady who lives on my floor who is also incredibly diplomatic and considers herself EVERYONE’S president (unlike someone else in the news lately).  Of course her arrival caused a cascade of barking, but they quit as soon as I stepped outside to talk to her.  Some of the neighbors – she waved her hand sort of up, sort of down, sort of sideways, but of course I knew she was talking about the lady downstairs, for certain, and maybe another lady at the end of my hallway (who once asked me, as I was unlocking my door after having parked on the “bad” side so of course the boys were in a frenzy of barking, if I was going to muzzle the dogs to prevent them from making so much noise because “they do that quite often”) even though she didn’t say so – had been complaining to her.  The president couched it in terms of, “The dogs sounded like they were in distress,” and “What if something happened to you?”

I thanked her for her concern, admitted I had one more dog than usual at the moment (“Oh, yes, the neighbors can tell when you have more than your two dogs in there” – can they??  Really??), and that they would be barking again in about an hour when the guy came to pick up the extra dog.  And soon everyone would be free of us and our noise because I would be leaving in a few weeks (which the president knows, so we talked about the logistics of that for a few minutes, the obligatory dog noise conversation seemingly over).

So the sweet little Chihuahua ended up going to the guy’s house, and he told me today at the gala that they had in very short order fallen in love with the little dude and were going to adopt him, which made me EXTREMELY happy.  (They’ve also changed his name to “Richie”, which I think suits him much better!)  And I’m stuck here, with my two little noisy dogs and the galloping cats that make life a misery for the lady downstairs, for at least another few weeks.  But it’s weeks now and not months, and for that I am eternally grateful.  As soon as we get back in the house, the kids can make all the noise they want!!  And I’m going to foster the next little doggie that Posh Pets rescues, and maybe even take home a couple of the cats from the shelter of whom I’ve grown very fond.  I have a lot of rescue time to make up for!

A Visit from My Downstairs Neighbor

I hadn’t heard much from my downstairs neighbor for a couple of months, for which I was very grateful.  I know my creatures disturb her, especially at night, but I figured she had just resigned herself to the fact that her upstairs neighbor has pets and they are boisterous, but we’re only going to be here for a short time so she’ll live with it.  I hear hubbub from my upstairs neighbors all the time – some days it sounds like they’re lifting (and dropping) weights or something, and there’s definitely a high heel wearer  – but I would never bang on the ceiling (with what does she bang?  A broom?  The ceilings in these apartments are pretty high) or pay them a visit.  It’s just LIFE.  LIFE is noisy.  And this is not a terribly quiet location.  There is a lot of commotion from outside and also from the nearly 100 apartments (16 per floor on six floors plus two on the ground floor), not to mention laundry rooms on every floor and an incinerator that makes a loud “WHOOMP!” every few hours.  I’ve always known there were a few other dogs in this building, but  I’ve only ever seen one other dog parent face-to-face (she actually had two adorable black Maltipoos), and I did see (and hear) a little white one hanging out on the terrace with its mom.  According to a building resident with whom I shared the elevator, she feels bad for the dogs who have been trained not to bark (one person evidently uses an electronic collar):  “It’s like asking people not to talk!” she said.

Truth be told, the biggest noise, at night, in my apartment is not from the dogs (although they do occasionally release short, sharp barks at the cats or in response to a sound from outside).  Rather, it’s from the cats, in particular Savannah, my 16-pound Big Bertha who likes to go rug surfing at night when everyone else is asleep.  I’m sure that’s what my neighbor is hearing, although I seem to be able to sleep through it.

I may have exacerbated matters by taking home an adorable little Pom puppy named Natalia on Sunday night (my friend Barbara took her sister) for an emergency foster until she can go into the city to get spayed and move in, with her sister, to a more long-term foster home (although I bet they’ll get adopted pretty quickly – they’re cute and very even tempered, but do require more of a firm hand than I’m able to muster).  It was just going to be for a couple of days – how hard could it be?

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Natalia smiling.  Who could resist that face?

Well, first of all, she hasn’t gotten her rabies vaccine, so she can’t walk on the dirty ground.  But I can’t leave her in the apartment by herself when I walk the other two because she barks – a sharp little yip that’s definitely on the annoying side – so I have to carry her (luckily she only weighs about 10 pounds).  Second, contrary to the story told by the woman who surrendered them to Post Pets, neither of the girls turns out to be housebroken.  I put a wee-wee pad by the door, where she has tended to poop, rather than trying to convince her to go on the wee-wee pads I already have in the kitchen for the other guys.  But her pee spots have been hit and miss (mostly miss).  Third, she annoys EVERYONE with her playfulness.  She’s adorable, but she doesn’t understand why no one wants to engage with her.  Mimi has been a hissing machine and has even developed a bald spot from the stress.  Gizmo and Munchie are constantly growling at her, and I’m afraid Gizmo might bite her because she doesn’t seem to heed his warning messages.  She follows me everywhere, which sets up awkward battles with Savannah in the bathroom.

She also seems to have separation anxiety, which is something I’ll have to warn her new foster family about.  I was doing laundry today, and every time I left the apartment I heard her shrieking.  Then, when I attempted to go for my early evening walk (I’ve been diligent, I’m proud to say, for three weeks now), I could hear her ear-piercing yapping from outside on the street.  As it gave no sign of abating, I turned around and went home.  Things were already bad enough with my downstairs neighbor.

In the morning, she had pounded on her kitchen ceiling, likely prompted by some dog-chasing-cats incidents that were admittedly a tad thumpy.  Natalia is an early riser, unlike me and the boys, who will stay in bed with me until I rouse, no matter what time it is.  (In fact, some mornings I only get out of bed because I feel bad that they haven’t been out for a pee for 8 or 10 hours.)  But Natalia wakes up at 7, and she wants to get off the bed (and it’s too high for her to jump), so I have to put her down and then get up myself to lead her to the wee-wee pad, where she just sits, cocks her head, and stares at me, like “You want me to do something?”  And even though I try to go back to bed, when Natalia is left to her own devices, that’s when she does a lot of her cat chasing.  If I lift her back into the bed, in an effort to get closer to me, she jumps on Gizmo (who sleeps right next to me, sometimes even partially UNDER me), causing him to grimble angrily and threaten to bite whoever might get in the way of his teeth (which could very well be me, if I’m not careful).

So there was that.  I was kind of bothered about the ceiling banging so I took great joy in vacuuming when I cleaned the litter boxes a while later.  She couldn’t very well complain about me CLEANING, could she?  Then I actually took Natalia out for a couple of hours to give everyone (including the downstairs neighbor) a break, bringing her with me to the vet to pick up Mimi’s medication and then taking her to Pet Value for a bath to try to dislodge some of the poopie that’s stuck to her butt, at which I was largely unsuccessful, although she’s nice and clean otherwise. (Linda, the head of Posh Pets, told Barbara and me that the girls needed to be clean before they went under the knife for spaying because they wouldn’t be able to get wet for a while post-surgery.  They both seem to have this dingleberry problem, which unfortunately requires scissors rather than soap and, as far as I am concerned, is a two-person job.)

But when we got back to the house at around noon, Natalia’s crazy act continued.  I completely understand; she just wants to play.  She’s a puppy, after all.  And there was the barking every time I left to go to the laundry room.  So when my wimpy old front-door bell clanged, I was hoping it was my friend Ellen to ask me about redeeming cans but I knew that it would be HER.

Of course, all the dogs (and especially Natalia) carried on as soon as I opened the door, and continued the whole time we were talking, which just underscored her complaint.  She said she knows I’m a nice person, and she doesn’t want to get confrontational, but the noise situation is out of hand, especially at night when who knows what goes on up there.  She said that other people complain, but she’s got it the worst because she’s the one right below me.  I sheepishly apologized and said I do try to minimize the noise as much as I can, but she said, “Can’t you do MORE?”  She said if she had the money she would pay for me to get carpet.  (I do have area rugs covering most of my floor but, for the most part, they don’t deaden the sound that effectively and, frankly, the area rugs are what Savannah uses for surfing purposes at night.)  I feebly tried to tell her it will only be for a few more months, and I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but honestly, what does she expect me to do?

I feel for her, I really do.  I’ve had a million conversations with her in my mind (see “Truly Random Thoughts (Or, a series of pretty accurate snapshots of my daily brain)”, 6/22/16) where I try to plead my case and/or defend myself.  But she’s right.  We make too much noise.  I feel horrible about it.  And all I could do was stand there and apologize.  I wonder what would have happened if I had started crying (which I pretty much felt like doing)?  But what more can I do?  Perhaps I can look into some kind of inexpensive floor padding (my contractors are targeting a return home by the new year, and if they lower my house this week like they’ve promised, we’ll be well on our way to our homecoming, so I don’t want to spend a ton of money – besides which, I don’t HAVE a ton of money; what I DO have is a ton of debt and no end in sight, but that’s another blog post for another day).

I’ll be so happy when I get back into my house and can make as much damn noise as I please.  I’ve already promised the dogs I won’t yell at them for barking anymore.  I hate living in a high rise apartment building, tiptoeing around and shushing the creatures when they’re just being themselves.  It feels like I’m living in somebody else’s house, even though I pay my rent like just the next guy.  I try to be a considerate neighbor, I really do.  But there’s only so much I can do.

And so, downstairs neighbor, as I told you a dozen times today alone (and as I’ve ALWAYS told you, almost every time we’ve spoken, since the day I moved the dogs in), I’m very sorry for the bother.  But I’ll be out of your hair before you know it, and I hope a nice quiet lady-of-a-certain-age moves in and wears soft-soled house slippers and doesn’t have any pets to disturb you in the night.

Four Kitties

When we hosted Jordan, one of the cats from the shelter, during the storm-that-wasn’t a couple of weekends ago, it occurred to me how territorial my cats are, especially given the tight confines of a one-bedroom apartment.  They have clearly staked out their favored spaces and, being creatures of habit, they don’t stray much from those spots.

The cat of longest standing in this household is Raven.  She is an unapologetic diva, the Queen of the Bed, who spends all day on top of or under the blankets in my bedroom.  Making the bed with Raven is always fun.  At one point I used to have a bunch of throw pillows neatly assembled against my headboard but Raven made it a point to toss them all around, even though some of them were probably bigger than she is.  (She is on the petite side.)  She does deign to allow the dogs and me to sleep there at night, but we have to put up with her walking all over us until she finds her perfect sleep position.  She also wanders around on my night table and knocks stuff off, which causes Munchie to bark and me to have to get down on my hands and knees in the morning to find what fell under the bed.  Nighttime is an adventure with Raven, but occasionally she will just settle in for a cuddle, and all is right in Raven’s world.  She is the boss of us.

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Luna is my desk cat.  She lies on top of my work papers and my desk calendar and the mini-notebook where I write down my spending as if they are comfortable little pillows, and she never gets angry when I gently remove whatever it is I need at the moment from underneath her.  The real bonus to having a desk cat is the ability to reach over at any time and give her a tickle on her chest and tummy, which are incredibly soft, like angora fur.  Sometimes she’ll grab my hand in her paws and pull it toward her, hugging it, careful not to extend her claws.  However, she is also a kneader, which IS painful because she DOES use her claws.  Most of her kneading takes place on the couch or occasionally the bed, if Raven is feeling generous and lets her on there.  I have to inch away or bunch my clothes or the blankets under her reflexive retracting fingers to avoid the pinches.  But she doesn’t care; she’s just expressing her extreme happiness.  Who am I to deny her?

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Newest arrival Mimi has at least three favorite spots, all in the living room, not including under the couch where she vanishes every once in a while, perhaps when she needs a moment of peace in what can sometimes be a chaotic household (although more often than not, on a typical weekday, I’m at the computer working and/or reading, the radio is tuned to Carmel Holt on WFUV, and everybody is peacefully asleep).  She likes to lie on the big standing boxes that hold my framed pictures (which I never unpacked but just leaned up against the wall under the window in the living room) so she can get the benefit of the breeze and keep an eye on the birds.  She also enjoys draping herself over the back of the chair, which doesn’t look all that comfortable but she doesn’t seem to mind.  In fact, that seems to be her prime “yelling at Mommy” position when it’s time for breakfast or cookies.  Her absolute favorite spot, though, is on top of the back of the couch.  If I sit in front of her, she has to touch me, maybe just to let me know she’s got my back.  Mimi is a great cat.  I’m so happy I took her home so she’s able to live out her golden years in utter contentment.  Clearly, she relishes her role as the guardian of the living room.

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Last but not least, there’s my soul cat, Savannah.  Savannah is the bathroom cat.  She spends most of her day in the bathroom doorway or curled up on a box just outside the door so she will be sure to see me any time I head in that direction.  She always has to be in there with me; she is the leader and only permanent member of the bathroom entourage, making sure I never relieve myself alone.  And if I accidentally close the door before she notices I’ve gone in, she busts her way through or, if it’s latched, scratches and jiggles the doorknob until I let her in.  She’s been known to hang out in the sink, especially in the summer, when the porcelain is cool.  When I brush my teeth, she stands on the toilet and reaches out to me – “Give me some pets, please!  Rub my face!” – and how I can resist?  I cannot.  She often presents her enormous belly for stroking, a position that isn’t limited to the bathroom.  She is like velvet, more plush than even the most expensive stuffed animal.  She is the cat I share my most intimate moments with, the only living thing that has recently seen me naked!

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So even in a little space like this apartment, the girls have all staked out their personal private areas, but one thing is clear:  They all like to be near ME.  They don’t pay much attention to each other, or the dogs, but they sure do love me.  And the feeling is definitely mutual.

P.S.  Let’s not forget Jojo, Raven’s sister, who is down in Morgantown with Darian, keeping her company and being her “emotional support animal” while she’s away at school.  (I read an article recently in the ABA Journal, of all places, about college kids needing “emotional support animals”, so evidently it’s a thing.)  I’m grateful for Jojo, who has always been Darian’s cat, living almost exclusively in her room when she wasn’t trying to escape for outdoor adventures or sitting on top of the kitchen cabinets.  Darian actually brought her to the vet today because she’s had a little cough, which might be asthma or might be allergies.  In general, the vet was surprised that she was nearly 12 years old because she’s so healthy and presents much younger.  Good old Jojo, giving my kid comfort far away from home for years to come!

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The Hurricane That Never Came

We spent the weekend preparing for Hurricane Hermine, which had battered Florida’s West Coast and was now pummeling the Carolinas.  It was not going to make a direct hit on Long Island, but there was a significant risk of flooding and high winds, so the Long Beach Animal Shelter, having learned the lessons of Sandy, essentially emptied out the shelter, sending the dogs and cats to temporary housing until the threat passed.

The reaction of Long Beach residents to Superstorm Sandy – or, rather, the lack of reaction – was in part based on what had happened the summer before, with Hurricane Irene.  This was the perfect illustration of the risk of over-preparation.  Some folks were decidedly affected by Irene.  My neighbor John, who lives in a basement apartment, was flooded and displaced for nearly a year, and by the time he was finally able to enjoy his brand new couch in his renovated living room, he was watching the weather reports saying Sandy was going to be the “storm of the century”.  For John, Irene was devastating, but for most of the rest of us, Irene was a whimper, a waste of good storm preparedness.  Darian and I evacuated at the recommendation of the City of Long Beach, despite not wanting to, and went to stay with my sister, who lives more toward the middle of Long Island.  Well, we lost power at my sister’s house (the outage lasted nearly two days), but when we returned to Long Beach the afternoon following the storm, the clocks on the microwave and cable boxes were steady and unblinking.  The power had not gone off at all, and not a drop of water had entered the house.

So when the doom-and-gloom predictions for Sandy came over the airwaves, I suspect that people didn’t take them all that seriously, given the sputtering storm that Irene turned out to be for most of us.  This may have explained why they didn’t evacuate the Long Beach Animal Shelter (which was not being managed by Posh Pets at the time), despite the shelter being located mere yards from the unprotected shore of the Reynolds Channel.  As a result, when the waters were rising at a shocking rate, the shelter manager and his son had to scramble for their lives and the lives of the animals under their care, getting everybody up to higher ground on shelves and cabinets until help could come the following morning, when the survivors were finally moved to a temporary shelter just over the bridge in Island Park, where they stayed for over six months.  Miraculously, only two animals – an elderly dog and a semi-feral elderly cat – were lost.  But the traumatic experience served as a valuable lesson to the current managers of the shelter (as well as some of us volunteers who have been around since then), so we cleared the facility.  My ex, who is now also volunteering there (it’s a family affair!), was down at the beach, taxing his back to fill sandbags to be placed at the back doors.  All but a few cats and dogs were parceled out to shelter employees, friends and fosters, and the director and one of the employees planned on staying the night on site.  I took one of the cats, Jordan, home with me.

Poor Jordan did not have a great couple of days, spending most of his time under my couch.  The first night, I could hear him making his way around the dark apartment, wailing.  I kept saying, “Shhh, Jordan!” (as if a cat understands what “shhh” means!), just waiting for the downstairs neighbor lady to start banging on her ceiling.  On Monday night he quit the mewling, but I did hear a single cat battle, even though, for the most part, the cats had largely ignored him the entire time.  (Only Gizmo had any interest at all, following Jordan around with his tail metronoming, like “Who’s this now?”, more curious than aggressive, but it put Jordan off, understandably).

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Jordan is the terrorized black-and-white tuxedo in the middle, Munchie photo-bombing bottom right.

This morning, it took a bit of maneuvering to get him out from under the couch and into the carrier but I finally managed, and back to the shelter he went.  If I had been in my house, with the extra room where I could close him off from everyone else, I probably would have continued to foster him and allow him to get acclimated to the resident beasts gradually.  But there are just too many animals in too small a space for me to consider it right now.  Fostering again is one of the things I’m really looking forward to once we’re back home.

As it turned out, Hermine did not have the predicted effect.  Long Island residents were in prep mode from Saturday to Monday, and Labor Day weekend turned out sunny and beautiful, with very little breeze, although the seas were rougher than usual.  Experienced surfers – and there were MANY – were permitted to enter the churning waves, and the boardwalk was packed with lookie-loos as the beach itself was off-limits.  It was only today that the wind picked up and the skies turned gray, and we were expecting some evening showers.  But there was little, if any, damage from Hurricane Hermine, which is currently petering out in the Atlantic Ocean.

The water line never came up to the shelter, so they were spared without even needing the sandbags.  But the staff used the time of vacancy to give the place a seriously overdue scrubbing (which is impossible to do when it’s full of creatures), and it certainly served as kind of a drill for the NEXT TIME we get a serious storm warning – and we WILL, because, as I think I’ve mentioned in this blog before, PEOPLE SHOULD NOT LIVE ON BARRIER ISLANDS.  There was measured and well-planned activity as the staff and volunteers cleared the shelter, and not one ounce of panic.

But I worry that NEXT TIME may fall victim to the same mistrust of the officials (and don’t get me started on those meteorologists!) and doubt that affected the populace after Irene before Sandy rolled around:  “Well, we got all prepared for Hermine and it turned out to be nothing.  Maybe we could get away with not doing so much for this storm.”  As much as I tend to avoid thinking about disasters, having a plan is never a bad thing.  And now we all know what needs to be done with a few days’ notice and many hands making quick work of a potentially stressful situation.

Trainer, Train Thyself!

The dogs just wanted to play with me this afternoon, and we were having a fantastic time fetching.  But then I found pee on the rug and it took all the joy out of it for me.  As I’ve already acknowledged in these blog posts, I’m not a very good trainer.  And Gizmo’s marking behavior – which has somehow infected Munchie since we’ve been in the new apartment; I thought I was buying an area rug to cut some of the noise but evidently what I bought was a $60 weewee pad  – has been a problem ever since I took him in as a foster back in October of 2014.  But when I yell at him and tell him “No!” he gets mad at ME!!

I’ve had animals all my life, but I’ve never managed to learn how to train them properly.  Fortunately, most of my creatures were reasonably well-behaved, with a few notable exceptions (Gizmo is by far the one most in need of correction).  Even when I followed the rules of an expensive trainer, hired to help us with Loki, who from the moment we adopted him had severe separation anxiety, I still failed to get through to the dog.  (Another charming thing that Loki did was scream with joy every time we walked up Montgomery Place in Park Slope to go to Prospect Park, to the point of embarrassment.  I had to sheepishly explain to stoop-sitters we passed along the way, “No, really, I’m not hurting him.  He’s HAPPY.”)  At the trainer’s insistence, to prevent Loki from tearing up the living room and making a poop deposit any time we left the house (and it did not matter for how LONG we left the house –it could literally be a span of minutes), we needed to lock him in the kitchen, which was at the far end of a long hallway from the living room.  As much as I thought this was cruel, we trusted the trainer and did it anyway.  We even locked Alfie, our more “mature” dog, in there as well to keep Loki company, even though Alfie had no such issues.  (Alfie was a GREAT dog but her biggest quirk was that she tended to be easily spooked.  I remember one time she ran away from my boyfriend at the time (and the dogs’ co-parent) in the middle of First Avenue in the East Village, set off by some mysterious trigger.  She also got loose once on Governor’s Island but, short of getting on the ferry, she wasn’t going anywhere we couldn’t catch her.)

So anyway, after saying goodbye down the long hallway to Loki and Alfie behind the gate in the kitchen – there was probably some pitiful whining from Loki and a sad “Do I REALLY have to be in here?” look from Alfie – we headed out.  A short time later –a couple of hours, at most – we came home and peeked around the door and down the hallway to the kitchen.  There were the pups behind the gate, happy as could be that we had returned!  “Good boy, Loki!”  I said as I went to move down the hallway, thrilled that he hadn’t been traumatized by being caged.  [An aside:  Following advice from other dog owners, we had tried to crate him on the first couple of nights he was with us, but HE CRIED.  Incessantly.  We couldn’t take it.  We had to bring him into bed, and he basically never left.  See?  Horrible follow-through.]

“Uh, Nan . . . “ I heard from behind me.  I turned to look, and I saw what was in the living room:  mounds of couch pillow fluff with a huge poop right in the middle!  Evidently, Loki – so named for his mischievous nature – could just as easily have been named “Houdini”.  He had managed to jump the gate, come into the living room to do his nasty business, and then jump back over the gate into the kitchen.  He was always smarter than he looked, our Loki.  He lived a good long life and did mellow out as he got older, although his nose was perpetually out of joint that we had brought home a little human to bump him out of the “baby” position.  Alfie, on the other hand, was a fantastic babysitter to little Darian, excitedly running out to find us if she heard even a peep out of the crib.

But the point of this digression is  that I’m pretty sure I have the wrong attitude when it comes to “correcting” my naughty pets.  I understand training is necessary, and that it’s even GOOD for a pet to be well-behaved (i.e., well-trained).  I actually know an effective trainer but I’m terrified to go to his (free!) group sessions [LB Dogs] on weekend mornings with my two crazy canine kids because I already know Gizmo has trouble being around other dogs (which is one of the reasons I want to get training, for him AND for me!).  He also evil-growls and tries to bite when you do something he doesn’t like – for instance, CORRECTING him about peeing on the rug.  I’m afraid my friend Marty is going to throw up his hands when he sees how incapable I am of being forceful enough to get any of my training to click with the boys.

I must admit, though, after the first few weeks, they have been remarkably well-behaved going up and down in the elevator at least three times a day (although, admittedly, nearly two months along in our tenure here, we have YET to run into another dog, which I consider a fortunate thing).  I’ve been picking up and carrying little Munchie, to avoid his being freaked out by bikes or carts or strollers or surfboards or anything else, really, since pretty much everything freaks him out.  But while we’re waiting and while we’re in the elevator, Gizmo usually assumes what I call the “butterbean” position, where he tucks his limbs up underneath him and lowers his head, resembling a furry white legume with a tail.   I suspect in Gizmo’s former life he was an apartment dog, because I certainly didn’t teach him to do that – he just did it naturally.  And on our walks and in the elevator, he lets people pet him, which is great; Munchie, on the other hand, wavers being between shy and a complete flirt.

Keeping them quiet is another issue entirely, although I’ve been maintaining the dog bark log I mentioned last week and have come to some conclusions.  What they bark at the most are the cats (which unfortunately I cannot tell my downstairs neighbor), but noises from outside are also a big factor.  The barks themselves are pretty evenly split between the pair of them (and less often both together) and range from 10 to 15 daily.  They’re generally short and sharp rather than sustained bouts.  But I’ve promised them multiple times that, once we’re back home, I’ll let them bark as much as they want!!