Category Archives: Pets

Raven

Fifteen years ago, I didn’t realize that there was a “kitten season”.  So when I went to look for a kitten for my kid for Christmas, I was shocked that there weren’t many to choose from in mid-December.  But I saw a photo of an adorable all-black baby, which the ad said was a boy, and I called.

The foster mom (a large, loud woman named Brandy who creeped me out when she told me, apropos of nothing, that former New York Ranger and New York City native Brian Mullen had pursued her romantically, leading me to think, wow, she has NOT aged well) explained that the kitten was really a female, and she was so young she wouldn’t be available until after Christmas.  And she also said there were actually two kittens – the last of a litter she had saved at literally days old when their mother was killed by a car.  She called them Serafina and Eleanor; my daughter immediately renamed them Jojo and Raven, after two pop stars of the moment.

Baby Raven

Baby Raven

Jojo was all gray – she resembles a Russian Blue, but I don’t think she is one – and Raven was, of course, all black, both solid without a spot or hair of another color (other than Raven’s stark white whiskers).  They felt like flannel and silk.  At first, they cuddled a lot, perhaps for security, but it wasn’t long before they went their separate ways and essentially became one-person cats:  Jojo was my daughter’s, and Raven was mine.  My bed was Raven’s kingdom, which she would occasionally let someone else share (including me).  I would often wake up in the morning with her literally lying on top of me, but more frequently she woke me with a poke or a nose nibble.  Jojo went away to college with my daughter for two and a half years, but Raven was a homebody.  She kept to herself, but didn’t mind a daily petting session, usually at night.  Oddly, she didn’t purr for years, but one day, suddenly, she did.  It was as if something had been jarred loose in her purr box.

Raven sharing her bed with Gizmo and with me.

Raven has been suffering for the past couple of years with hyperthyroidism and went from being a sleek panther girl to a bag of bones.  Her once silky fur turned greasy and full of dandruff.  The doctor prescribed Methimazole, which I gave to her in the form of chews.  Unfortunately, she wouldn’t eat the chews on their own so I had to break them up and stick the pieces on the backs of a few Temptations treats and then feed her a bunch of treats together so she wouldn’t be able to tell which ones had the meds.  But despite the medication, and even though her appetite never wavered, she was still losing weight.  (She also had some awful bowel movements, usually on my daughter’s bathroom floor, but let’s not dwell on the details.)

Yesterday, she appeared to deteriorate quickly.  Her eyes were sunken and she seemed to be struggling to walk.  I worried that the end was coming, so I brought her to the vet for one last set of tests.  He sent her home, promising to call in the morning with the results of her blood work.

Six a.m. this morning, my daughter came into my room.  She was getting ready to take a load of shelter puppies to the ASPCA facility for their spay and neuter appointments, and she found Raven behind her bathroom door.  “I think she’s dead,” she told me.  She was.

It was too early to take her to the vet so I gently put her in a box and tucked it away so none of the other creatures would bother her.  Jojo seemed not to notice, but who can really tell what goes on in the mind of a cat?  She’s known Raven all her life; they’re sisters.  Could Jojo sense that Raven had passed away?  We will never know.

I brought Raven in as soon as the vet opened.  They made a pawprint mold with her name beneath, and a few tiny black hairs got trapped in the indentation.  This, and photographs, are all that remain of my 15-year companion, a really nice cat, one of my favorites.  I will miss her.

Final Memento

Final memento

I’ve lost two cats in the span of a year – first, Mimi, an elderly cat who I had waited  a long time (a year too long, actually) to adopt but who belatedly became a cherished pet for the last three  years of her life.  (An aside:  The vet actually lost Mimi’s pawprint when she died, which made me determined to stay there this morning until they could hand me Raven’s pawprint rather than wait for them to call me to pick it up.  That was actually highly unusual for my vet, All Creatures in Long Beach, NY, whose doctors have been my trusted vets since I moved into my house in 2014.)

For some people, losing a pet is like losing a family member.  Your companion animals are a huge part of your life for what could be up to a couple of decades.  It is one of those ultimate unfairnesses that pets are given such short life spans.  But looked at another way, because they are so short-lived, you have a chance to know and care for many animals in your lifetime. Every pet is a unique soul.  I am grateful that I had the pleasure of sharing my home with Raven (and Mimi before her, and Loki and Alfie before her, and Beezer and Honey, Lucky, Puck and Simon – oh, my sweet, sweet Simon!) for however much time we had together.  And I still have six cats and three dogs who need my time and attention for the foreseeable future (not to mention my foster friends).  I’d rather not think about them dying until I absolutely have to.

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My Favorite Things

There are five general categories of things that I love more than anything else in this life:

No. 1 – My kid. While she’s certainly not perfect and even drives me a little crazy sometimes, I will always be her biggest fan.  I made her, after all, baked her in my body like it was an Easy-Bake Oven and she was a tiny angel food cake.

Second only to my kid I love my family and friends, and goodness knows I’ve been fortunate to have some really special people in my life – including my sister and my niece, and my first cousins on my mother’s side:  one is a podcaster extraordinaire (check out his podcast “Meanwhile at the Podcast”, described as “a show about pop culture, fandom, and the fun stories of everyday life” [http://meanwhileatthepodcast.libsyn.com]) and the other is a dad of two kids, the younger of whom I only know from Facebook (but I already adore her) and the elder I last met when he was barely walking.  I miss my cousins.

When we were growing up, and especially when my grandparents still lived in New York, we saw them a lot, and always spent holidays together.  I remember vividly the night before my cousin George was born.  Much of my extended family had gathered in the basement of my grandmother’s house in Queens Village to celebrate the 90th birthday of my great-grandmother, which included the whole panoply of second cousins and first cousins once removed.  My aunt hadn’t come to the festivities, however, due to the fact that she was ready to give birth, and in fact she did the following morning – on Christmas Eve of 1967.

But now my cousins live in the D.C. area and, while we follow each other on social media, we haven’t seen each other in years, which is really a shame.

Some of my closest friends, too – people I love like they’re actual family – are long-distance and visited much too infrequently.  One of the things I’m most looking forward to for my retirement is being close to one or more of them so that we can hang out on a regular basis. They are fun and fascinating to be around, and I cherish the time spent together, especially given that it’s so infrequent.

No. 2 – Music of all kinds (as long as there’s a melody). I’ve been accumulating my collection since I was four years old, although I had a devastating loss following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 when all my best LPs – hundreds of them – were warped and waterlogged and lost forever.  (I lost a lot of unreproducible cassette mix tapes, too.)  I’m still kind of old-school when it comes to my current collection, although I’m not a vinyl collector (I do have a few remaining second-tier albums and also took a box of my soon-to-be-ex-brother-in-law’s albums that he was going to just THROW OUT (the horror!), including a stash of Pink Floyd LPs that I’m very excited about).  Streaming music just doesn’t do it for me, although I certainly appreciate the variety.  I mean, I listen to the radio – WFUV, 90.7 on the terrestrial radio dial – all day, every weekday while I’m working from home, and in the car on local drives.  But I want to OWN my music, to be able to listen to it on demand, in my own flow and combinations, wherever I might be located (as long as there’s a listening device).  My classic iPod is battered and suffers glitches such as songs that end prematurely, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the greatest musical storage invention of all time, and incredibly portable.  I still buy CDs when I have Amazon gift cards, not to mention thousands of downloaded iTunes, which I then back up on recorded “mix tape” CDs with names like “The Never-Ending Collection” and “Nan’s Favorite Gift Is Always Music” (a not-so-subtle message to anyone who is thinking of buying me a present for my birthday or some other gift-giving occasion), which I catalog in a Mix CD inventory so I know exactly where to find any single song in my miscellany at any given time.  I’m kind of obsessive about it and only regret that I don’t have more time to enjoy the full variety of my music (basically only on weekends and long drives).

I also regret that I no longer have any good buddies in close proximity with whom to share my music.  Back in the day, communal music listening was a huge part of my life, but no longer.  I haven’t found any new friends who love musical exploration as much as I do.  There is a lovely couple I’ve become friendly with lately – I went to high school with the husband, who is a guitarist in a really entertaining CSNY cover band named Four Way Street, for which I’ve turned into quite the little groupie, and I also really like his wife; we all share political leanings as well as a love of music – but unfortunately they live miles away and we haven’t reached the point of socializing outside of band performances, where it’s not always so easy to communicate amidst the noise and crowds.

In any event, music for me has always been somewhat of a solitary pursuit, but one that I take a great deal of pride in sharing with like-minded, open-minded folks.

No. 3 – Animals, especially cats, and especially kittens. There is nothing cuter.

My daily involvement as a volunteer with the local animal shelter / rescue organization Posh Pets and being the foster parent of over 30 creatures over the past few years is a testament to that love.  Even though the never-ending clean-up of poo and pee and vomit can be exhausting, the incessant barking gives me frequent headaches and the cost of pet food (and wee-wee pads and paper towels) is bank-breaking, I get a warm feeling inside when one of my fosters goes to a permanent home where they will be loved and doted on.  When I pet my cat Savannah, or cuddle a puppy, or a kitten makes biscuits on my belly, or on quiet afternoons when all the dogs and cats are in their respective beds enjoying a siesta, it’s the pinnacle for me of peacefulness and joy.  Companion animals are deserving of better than we give them.  They trust us; they depend on us; we are their world.

No. 4 – Hockey, especially New York Rangers hockey. Such an exciting game – there’s no greater value for your entertainment dollar, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m far from a stats wonk, and I have no interest in assembling a fantasy league team.  I just like to watch the games, and I really only follow the Rangers.  Once the Rangers get eliminated in – or prior to – the playoffs (which has sadly happened every year since the blessed year of our Messier, 1994), I just immerse myself nightly in the glorious spectacle that is playoff hockey and perhaps a favorite will emerge over the course of no less than four grueling best-of-seven series that I think is deserving of the ultimate team prize, the Stanley Cup.

I appreciate the personalities of hockey players and enjoy watching their reactions to things happening on the ice, and I’m also fascinated by what they do for fun off the ice.  (One of the best things I ever watched on TV was the HBO Series “24/7” that followed the Rangers and the Philadelphia Flyers in the days leading up to the NHL Winter Classic in 2011.  Uncensored and hysterical, it was a coveted insider look at what hockey players say and do during games and at home.)  Hockey is an incredibly human game.  Hockey players come in all sizes, from 5’6” mini-mighties like Mats Zuccarrello and Marty St. Louis, and the prototypical tiny tough guy, Theo Fleury, to giants like the 6’9” “Big Z” Zdeno Chara or the man-mountain goalie for the Dallas Stars, 6’7” Ben Bishop.  Even though, as a general matter, the players seem to be getting bigger and younger, there’s still room in the game for small and old(er).

I feel sad when the Rangers lose a lot, and I get frustrated when they don’t SHOOT THE DAMN PUCK, especially when they’re on a power play.  If I were a coach, I would preach the following:  Get the puck out of your zone, then get it deep into theirs.  Think shot first, always.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  I’m not as clear on defensive strategy, but that would be my simple but effective offensive game plan every time.

I spent my youth talking hockey with my dad, and my college years being a valued member of the Trinity College hockey coaching brain trust, as team statistician.  (A precursor to today’s “video coach,” I had the best overview of the action from my perch on the highest bleacher seat at center ice, and I memorialized every shot, goal and penalty in my trusty spiral-bound book, which we analyzed after every game.)  The players undoubtedly wondered about my motives for spending so many winters hours traveling with the team, but Coach John Dunham knew the real reason I was there was a pure love of the game, and he was the only one whose opinion mattered.

As a college graduate, I was certain I would have a career in the sports world (well, hockey was the dream, but I would have settled for any pro sport in those early days).  Thanks to an unfortunate life path divergence I’ll expand upon in some future post, it was a dream deferred and, ultimately, denied, because it’s way too late in life now.  In law school I seriously considered pursuing a career as an entertainment lawyer, and my Sports Law professor (who gave me an A) was a former trustee of the New York Islanders so I might have had an “in”, but it wasn’t meant to be, and I ended up as a summer associate at the firm where I’ve been ever since, dealing with aviation finance transactions rather than rinks and stats and sticks and pucks.

Even if it’s not my career, I can (and do) still love hockey from the confines of my own couch and occasionally even decent (but never great, which is always a huge disappointment ) seats at Madison Square Garden.  For a few years I even had the income to be a proud partial-season plan owner, with all the perks that came with it, such as an outing at Bowlmore Lanes in NYC with my kid, where we literally rubbed elbows with Brandon Prust (her favorite player at the time) and Rangers’ TV color man Joe Micheletti.

(An aside:  My kid also counts among her favorite things in life items 2, 3 and 4 above, but not so much item 5.  Which is  . . . )

No. 5 – The written word – both to read and to write. Right now I literally have four books going, from Rachel Maddow’s Blowout to James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read any of them to the end and will in all likelihood have to return one or more of them prematurely to the library, to be re-borrowed to finish at some future date.  I am so jealous of a recently retired friend of mine who just published on Facebook his 10 favorite books of the year.  (Obama, too, always brags about his prolific reading lists.  How does he find the time??)

As for the writing part?  Well, here I am . . . staying up past my bedtime while trying to keep up with my weekly posts for this re-boot of “Life Considered”.  I maintain my dream of a wider readership (when I actually write something worthy of wider reading, that is).  And one of these days – probably in connection with my next residential move, which will involve considerable down-sizing – I’m going to have to cull through the decades of blathering journals I’ve been hoarding to see if I can find a nugget or two or three that might be the genesis of something publishable.

You know what I’ve concluded as a consequence of this analysis of my favorite things?  I NEED TO RETIRE.  Because once I do, I can indulge more deeply in all these things I love.

                     Some adorable kittens.  (Impossible to get them all to stay still!)

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.

The Graduate

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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