Tag Archives: cats

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.


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.


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].


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.


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?


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.



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?



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.



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!



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!


Summer of ‘16

Summer’s almost over.  According to my building superintendent, they’re closing the pool at 6 p.m. on Labor Day and he’ll be cheering when he turns the key for the last time of the season.  I guess pool maintenance is not one of his favorite activities.  In fact, water in general has been a problem here in the four months since I moved in – once being without hot water and twice being without water of any kind for the entire day.  As I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, my temporary housing is no palace, but I guess it could be worse:  A small three-story apartment building a block over had a whole row of terraces collapse today.  Fortunately no one was hurt, but the seemingly sturdy brick façade crumbled like crackers.

In fact, it’s been a tough couple of days in Long Beach.  We had our first water fatality yesterday – a Brooklynite who waited till beach entry was free and the lifeguards were off duty to go into the rough waters – and then two chicks on a jet ski crashed into the Long Island Railroad Bridge crossing the Reynolds Channel and were pulled unconscious from the water.  (Last I heard they were in critical condition but will probably survive.)

So it’s been kind of a dark ending to a weird summer.  Being displaced from my home has certainly contributed to the odd feeling, although I must admit that it was an interesting change of perspective to live on the Boardwalk side of town.  Frankly, I took very little advantage of the primo location, which is kind of a shame.  I never visited the aforementioned pool (although Darian spent a couple of afternoons there) and, despite it being literally steps from my front door, I never set foot on the beach either.  On those few occasions when I did take a stroll on the Boardwalk – meeting my friend Barbara halfway between our buildings for a delightful late afternoon chat; watching Darian and her dad play beach volleyball; having dinner with a friend at the Shoregasbord (a collection of food trucks just off the Boardwalk, comprising the surprisingly limited culinary choices when one is waterside) – I enjoyed it very much.  There’s something about the air and the light when you’re at the beach that gives everything a magical sheen.  [An aside:  Much about Long Beach real estate is incomprehensible to me.  There are so many abandoned parking lots and empty storefronts.  As far as I can tell, there’s incredible opportunities here; it’s a perfect time to renovate the entire city almost four years after Superstorm Sandy destroyed it, given that every street is already a construction zone.  Someone is clearly not making the kind of far-thinking decisions that would help this city thrive.  Is the short-sighted waste driven by greed?  I can’t imagine any other explanation.  If you own a property in need of a tenant, why would you price the tenants out just so that your property can continue to stand empty, wasting money that it could be earning?  It makes no sense.]

But living in a “foreign land” isn’t the only thing that was strange about this summer.  One good friend is suffering through cancer, and two are going through a divorce (one was a relief, the other a devastation).  There was a falling out among folks I like at the shelter and as a result I spend a lot less time with a good friend.  I barely saw my kid at all, between her being in Africa for three weeks, hanging out with her townie friends and basically living at her father’s house the rest of the time because at his house she had a whole basement to herself rather than having to share a one-bedroom apartment with me.  I spent a lot of time on my own, on the computer, playing Words with Friends (at one point, I had nearly 30 games going and most of them had a “QI” somewhere) and reading disturbing articles about politics and encouraging ones about how to build self-confidence as a writer.

Work was quiet.  I got a taste of what it might be like when I’m retired (or when I win the lottery, whichever comes first), although cash flow is certainly a problem and I’m in a little bit of denial about it.  I’m like the grasshopper who played all summer and then had no food when the winter came and had to depend on the kindness of the ants (or, in my case, the small inheritance that my mother left me that was supposed to fund the aforementioned retirement).  Like a kid getting ready to go back to school (except without the new shoes and school supplies), I’m anticipating a very busy few months on the work front to make up for my vacation-lite summer.  I actually regret not taking a week off outright, rather than working an hour or two but remaining shackled to the computer every weekday waiting for the next client query or assignment.

I went religiously to the shelter on the weekends, even though some days I kind of wished I could stay home and listen to music and play on the computer.  But by the time I got there (usually on my one-speed rusty-chained bike, at least two directions of my journey against the wind and torture on my butt muscles) and started petting my favorites, all the stress would leave me and I’d be glad I came.  We had fewer kittens than in previous years (which is a good thing!) and they actually took away my favorite little one, Penny, so that she and her two siblings could get adopted sooner with more “people traffic” in the other Post Pets location at a PetSmart in Westchester.  Right now the only kittens we have at the shelter are six painfully adorable babies that we affectionately call the “ringworm kitties” because they have it and they need to get rid of it before they can be handled.  I am dying to cuddle them, and they’re not shy at all, always crowding the front of the cage and squealing for attention, not like some feral kittens who cower in the back and hiss and spit at every approaching hand.  My other “love cats” this summer have included Ginger, a gorgeous white cat with a distinctive mark on her nose, who was recently adopted and apparently, based on a photo posted on Facebook by her new mom, is quite the queen of the household already.  There’s Jackson, who almost became a member of the family when Darian took him home for a trial run but he had an unanticipated freak-out and attacked her so violently that she’s still a little scared of him, even though he is the most affectionate mush in the cat room.  My new boyfriend is Romeo, a big gorgeous creamsicle that Vanessa, the Post Pets cat director, is inevitably going to steal because she takes all the brawny strawberry-blonde beefcake for herself!!  So I’m enjoying him while I can.  And I’ve kind of fallen in love with a dog this summer, a humongous galoot of a female pittie named Jenny Craig (so called because she was desperately in need of a diet and some moisturizing when she first arrived) but I call her Mama because she’s as sweet as pie and you can’t help but love her.


Pretty Little Penny

This has also been the summer of sausage – specifically, Aidells Roasted Garlic and Gruyere Sausage; I’ve tried others, but those were hands down the best.  I’ve been eating them a couple of times a week, on a golden brioche roll with Dijon mustard, with slaw and potato or macaroni salad on the side.  Yum.  I’ve also been on a watermelon kick, especially enjoyable when it’s juicy and sweet.  And ice cream – it wouldn’t be summer without ice cream (although, truth be told, I eat it all year long).  Often, when I go over to check on the progress on my house, I’ll stop by Caffe Spiaggia for a soft serve cone or a milkshake and just sit in the parking lot and savor for a few peaceful moments.  I’ve also been slightly obsessed with cookies, which has prompted frequent visits to Country Boy Bakery for a black-and-white or giant chocolate chip.  And I discovered Little Debbie Cream Cheese Streusel Cakes BUT THEY NEVER HAVE THEM IN THE DAMN STOP ‘N’ SHOP!!  So they’ve teased me with deliciousness and now they’re withholding!

I didn’t catch up on movies, as I’d planned, and I didn’t even watch much first-run TV, although last weekend I binged on “The Night Of”, the HBO limited series that considered a murder and the navigation of the criminal justice system by a kid who’d had the very best – and very worst – night of his life.  It was riveting, especially the first couple of episodes, but left me feeling unsatisfied at the end, with unanswered questions and unresolved relationships.  In fact, what has most often been on my TV this summer is “Law & Order”, which has replaced “Law & Order:  SVU” as my go to background noise while I’m messing around on the computer, usually playing Words with Friends.

Some new music I discovered this summer:  Midnight to Monaco, “One In A Million” (a real ear worm, that one – I even caught Darian singing it); “Shut Up Kiss Me” by Angel Olsen; a new crunchy nugget by a UK band called Tibet that I heard on Passport Approved, “I’ll Put You In My Pocket”, and also the new Peter Bjorn & John, “Breakin’ Point”.  I listen non-stop to WFUV during the week, and even stream it in the office on the days I go into the city.  I love the lunchtime DJ, Carmel Holt; she seems like someone I would like to be friends with.  And the mix is always so eclectic – it comes the closest in song selection to my own iPod than anything I’ve ever heard on radio.

The other thing that was distinctive about this summer has been the consistent heat.  I swear my AC has been on continuously since the beginning of July.  We were going to move it from the bedroom window into the living room, figuring that would best cool the room where I spend most of my time, but we left it in the bedroom, where it blasts on me at night and resulted in a doozy of a sinus infection.  I’m longing for the day I can turn off the air conditioner for good and open my windows wide to let in the crisp fall air.

September has always been my favorite month, probably because of my birthday but also because it meant I could go back to school, which I always loved (and to which I very much wish I could return) and hockey starts again.  It’s the time when all the returning TV shows finally have new episodes, interspersed with premieres of intriguing new programs, although I haven’t seen anything that’s piqued my interest in the “coming attraction” ads thus far.  And before we know it, my house will be finished and the kids and I can head back home, and maybe we can even add to our family and take home a foster or two.  (My daughter is already talking about getting a kitten to keep her cat Jojo company – my first “grandchild”!)  As much as I enjoy the pace of the summer, and the sun and blue skies, and the warmth, it’s almost unreal, kind of like a “time out” from the regular routines of life.  Sometimes I think I’d like to live in that “time out” world, but then I come back to reality:  Is an “endless summer” really possible?  It’s a nice dream, I guess, but ultimately unsustainable.

Little Ball of Stress

I wake up pretty much every morning so weighed down by stress and worry and dread, it’s no wonder I have trouble getting out of bed.

Lately, the conglomeration of things in my life that cause me tension include my worries about the upcoming elevation of my home and trying to come up with alternative living arrangements.  The greatest stumbling block has been finding a nearby apartment in my price range that will accept my menagerie.  My realtor – a very nice woman named Bonnie who was recommended to me by my contractor – told me about three high-rise buildings managed by her office right on the beach block in the East End of Long Beach, reasonably priced, plain vanilla, and pets are just fine.

I felt a little like Goldilocks when she took me to see the available units:  There was a 2-bedroom, which was too big, and then a studio, which was too small.  She promised to tell me as soon as a 1-bedroom came on the market, and sure enough we were able to see one the very next day.  It ticked all the boxes – roomy, plenty of storage, price was right, primo location – although it wasn’t the most attractive of places.  I handed in all my application paperwork and the fee, and waited for the call to come in and sign the lease and pick up the keys.  But, according to Bonnie, evidently there was a “conundrum” with the apartment and I would have to wait for the next one.  That was over a week ago and I’m starting to get nervous.  In actuality, any deadline I have is self-imposed, so there is really very little need for the anxiety I impose on myself.  It was just that I had told the contractor that we could get started in April, so I worried that if I had to delay until May, I might get bumped off the calendar and would have to wait even longer to begin the whole agonizing process.

It turned out that was a needless concern.  I spoke to the contractor and he assured me I could get on the house-lifting calendar for May.  Now if my realtor can just come through with an apartment in the next week or so, I’ll have enough time to put my seemingly endless ducks in a row before the anticipated May start date.  If not, well – to quote Alfred E. Neuman, “What, me worry?“

Rest assured (or not, as the case may be), there is no shortage of other sources of stress in my life these days.  My daughter is having some real estate issues of her own.  She wants to leave her 2-bedroom apartment (which – long story short – has been a source of disappointment ever since she arrived last August because her roommate was a disaster and ended up skipping out halfway through the year, leaving her with a full electric bill) but she unknowingly obligated herself to stay in the place for another year in order to lock in a big $5 discount on her next year’s rent.  So now Mom has to put on her lawyer hat and see if I can get her out of the situation by the letter of the lease or, if not, to plead the case that she was an unsophisticated renter who didn’t know what she was doing and it’s unreasonable and unfair to make her stay there and/or force her to sublet half an apartment on her own.

There’s the daily work annoyances, of course, but the overarching stressor is money – or, more accurately, the lack thereof – and my endless expenses, which I have no idea how I’m going to meet given my limited income:  another year of college tuition, my semi-annual car insurance payment, getting a tooth pulled with no dental insurance, Darian’s summer internship in South Africa, security deposits for two separate apartments, and possibly having to pay three rents AND a mortgage installment for the month of May, combined with a less-busy-than-usual month of billable hours – it ain’t pretty.  A small tax refund will help but, in layman’s parlance, I’m financially screwed.  Only the lottery can save me now.

So how do I manage to combat the stress?  Not very well, I must admit, but there are a few things that help.  I saw a great quote the other day from famed scientist and philanthropist Albert Schweitzer:  “There are two means of refuge from the misery of life:  music and cats.”  (And to that I would add a chicken souvlaki platter with Israeli salad from Abe’s Pitaria.)

Music – most assuredly, yes.  I asked Darian today what the first thing is that comes to mind when she thinks of growing up with me as her mother, and she said:  “Traveling, and music.  Oh, and hockey.”  Except when the TV is on, there is always music playing:  music in the car, music on my headphones on the train, music in the background during the day while I’m sitting at the computer, music blasting while I’m feeding or playing with the animals or cleaning the house.  I’m also a collector of music, in vinyl, CD and MP3 form (I used to have cassette tapes, too, but lost them in the flood).  I have thousands of individual songs, hundreds of CDs.  As far as I am concerned, I will never have too much music.  My latest favorite is the new Cage the Elephant album, Tell Me I’m Pretty.  I’ve liked other songs of theirs, but this is the first time I’ve wanted to purchase an entire album of their music, and I’m extremely glad I did.  It’s been a while since I’ve found a record where I like every song, start to finish.  With the same Amazon gift card (earned as a credit card “reward” – I can’t afford to actually spend money on music), I also bought Badfinger’s Timeless . . . The Musical Legacy.  Now I finally own two of my favorite songs of all time, “No Matter What” and “Baby Blue” – classic nuggets of pop perfection.

And cats?  Also a big yes.  I love spending time in the cat rooms at the shelter on the weekends, making my way from cat to cat, chucking them under their chins and rubbing their cheeks, head butting and ear scruffling and slowly letting the layers of stress fall away.  I find scooping litter boxes to be a very zen activity, like working on a little sand and stone garden with the miniature rake.  I get the same relaxing feeling at home, sitting on the couch with Mimi on my right and Savannah on my left, two chubby lady cats luxuriating in being stroked by the chubby cat lady.  They’re so soft and sleek to the touch, like velvet and mink.  And they both purr so loudly I can literally feel the purring as well as hear it.  (Not to overlook the pooches:  While they are generally less affectionate, sometimes it’s Gizmo parked up on my left thigh, soaking in the mutually beneficial massage of his silky soft coat and his fat little body.)  Nothing gives me more joy and calms my soul more than those moments on the couch with my creatures.

And what about the thing that occupies the bulk of my evening hours from October to May (and hopefully into June), New York Rangers hockey?  Does watching hockey give me relief from my daily vexations?  Seriously??  Their performance of late, combined with the success of the surging and obnoxious Penguins (coached since mid-season by former Ranger assistant coach Mike Sullivan), has proven to be an addition to my sources of stress rather than a respite from them.  After a decent February, March’s alternating wins and losses are threatening to not only deprive them of home ice advantage after they were pretty solidly in second place (behind the juggernaut that is the 2015-16 Washington Capitals) all season long, but they might even get bumped out of the playoffs entirely.  With eight teams vying for seven spots, one squad is getting left in the dust.  Judging by the way the pundits poop on the Rangers (especially poor old Dan Girardi), I’m sure many of them think the Rangers will be the team to fall out, and certainly none of them holds out much hope about their chances in the post-season.  [An aside:  I think back to 2014 when the Rangers basically had to choose between keeping Ryan “Captain Cally“ Callahan or defenseman Dan Girardi.  The two were up for contract renewal at the same time and, given the limited salary cap space, one of them would have to go.  Cally ended up being traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for Martin St. Louis (now since retired), and Girardi got a hefty new contract (which many said at the time was a little TOO hefty).  Girardi had been a dependable stalwart for years, coming in undrafted but establishing himself as the bedrock of the Rangers’ top shut-down pair for a number of years.  But that kind of devotion takes its toll on a body.  Now that he is 31, all those hours defending hard-fought ice and blocking shots have clearly had a detrimental effect.  An already slow-ish skater, he’s become practically glacial, and his mental acumen isn’t what it used to be, either.  It’s unclear how the two tie together; maybe because things are physically more difficult for him, he has to think about them more, and getting too into his own head is preventing him from making the instinctive plays he’s made for years, so he overthinks and overpasses (which, truth be told, is a malady ALL of the Rangers suffer from) instead of just bulling his way out of the corner with the puck or shoving an opponent’s big body away from in front of Henrik Lundqvist.  Yes, Dan, it sucks to get old.]

I very clearly see their problems, watching from the eye in the sky while sitting on my living room couch.  This is what’s wrong with the Rangers:  They have all the pieces but they lack the urgency and intensity – that drive, that fortitude, whatever you want to call it; that extra SOMETHING that all champions seem to possess  – to take advantage of their opportunities, to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes.  They need to have a single-mindedness of purpose to FINISH.  They get plenty of opportunities, but they consistently waste them, to my great frustration and consternation.  My daughter and I frequently text during Ranger games, and I can’t tell you how many times I use the words “BLOWN CHANCE!!”.  It’s no longer even mildly amusing; it’s beginning to be pathetic.  They also need to be QUICKER – quicker with their decisions and puck movement, especially in the offensive zone and especially at this stage of the season, when they’ve had a whole year to sharpen up their timing and familiarity with one another (with some leeway for Eric Staal, who just came into the mix, and Rick Nash, who has just returned to the lineup after missing 20 games).

Who knows?  I keep hoping that the team, having made it as far as the Conference Finals twice and the Stanley Cup Finals once in the past three years, is saving their best for the post-season, now that they know what it takes.  Only time will tell.

Mats Zuccarello was telling everyone on the bench before last night’s game against the Florida Panthers (which, much to my relief, they won) to “Have fun out there”, and it’s so true:  When the boys are playing well, it’s way more enjoyable for them, and the same goes for the fans.  A good Rangers win, savored from my couch surrounded by purring kitties, is the best remedy by far for a stressful day.

Pet Peeves

Next to my immediate human family (consisting at present of my daughter, my sister and my niece), I love my pets more than anything else in the world. They are my family, too.  But like every family, the members have their foibles and idiosyncrasies, sometimes to the point of forehead-slapping frustration. Let me tell you what I deal with on a daily basis.

First, the boys:

I just gave Gizmo (the Shih Tzu) and Munchie (the Pomchi) some new dental chewies, hopeful that maybe these will improve Munchie’s god-awful breath (although Greenies don’t seem to help much), and I suddenly realized that Gizmo’s breath is not too bad, actually. He’s got yeasty ears, goopy eyes and itchy skin and feet that he licks obsessively, primarily due to his allergies, but one thing he doesn’t have is halitosis. That’s some consolation, I guess.  I’m well aware that Munchie’s death-breath is due to bad dental care, because he won’t let me anywhere near his mouth and will need to be sedated to have his teeth cleaned. I love my vet (shout out to All Creatures, Long Beach, NY), but they are not cheap, and I have a lot of expensive creatures.

Munchie and Gizmo are usually good walkers, although I think I could probably be accused of letting them lead me rather than having them under my control. Gizmo in particular is very jaunty, his little ears flopping as he skips down the street on his out-turned walrus feet. But lately Munchie has been pausing to sniff – and not always to “go” – every ten steps! I understand the appeal of the “odor tour”, but we barely move!  Shuffle, shuffle – sniff.  Even Gizmo seems impatient, poised like a chubby dwarf pointer looking off into the distance that he must believe he will never reach.

Another recent annoyance is cat-chasing. I swear Munchie – who spent the first four years of his life with me in a house full of cats (first 2, then 4) – was never disturbed or distracted by the cats, and he never chased them. When Gizmo arrived as a foster in October 2014, one of the reasons I decided to keep him was that, despite his many quirks (more on that in a moment), which ultimately may have made him unadoptable by anyone other than ME, he got along with Munchie and the cats with nary a grumble, as if he’d known them all his life. I blame Tobin, the foster cocker spaniel who was far more dog than I could handle, and who terrorized my cats to the point where I had to lock them away in my daughter’s room and visit them every night (for more on the Tobin story, see “The Pet Situation”, 3/17/15). [As a postscript: I finally convinced Posh Pets to find Tobin another foster home, ashamed at my inability to cohabitate with a really nice dog but truly at the end of my rope. Within days – literally days – a series of serendipitous events occurred that resulted in Tobin going to live in a beach house in West Hampton with a woman who fell in love with him immediately and who’s had cockers and knew how to handle him, so Tobin has ended up having the best life ever! Good on ya, Tobin!]  One cat in particular – Raven, my cat of longest standing now that her sister, JoJo, is away at college with my daughter (#collegecat) — is the victim of the screaming and chasing that Munchie initiates and Gizmo imitates: Yet another bad habit to add to Munchie’s peculiarities.

Munchie is a screamer. He screams mostly in anticipation of pain but it’s also his way of being a bully to others. His groomer Tammy (shout out to Grooming Tales, Long Beach, NY) told me that she doesn’t even have to touch him with the nail clipper; as soon as the clipper gets within inches of his nails, he commences to screech. Bed time is always an adventure, because Munchie screams every time Raven tries to come up on the bed, even though they inevitably will end up sleeping right next to each other. (The trick is that she has to wait until he’s sleeping.)

Munchie hates plastic garbage bags and barks at them viciously, his little doggie lips ferociously curled, but he is deathly afraid of plastic water bottles. It has something to do with the crunchy sound of it, I think. And he has an amazing ability to see/hear/sense the nearness of a water bottle even though you try your best to hide it from him. He used to cower under the bed until he was certain the water bottle was gone but now, as I’ve got my bedroom gated off because Gizmo has a tendency to lift his leg on a small ottoman in there that serves as my clothes-piling spot, Munchie’s new hiding place is behind the bathroom door.  There is no apparent explanation.

Gizmo is truly brain damaged, the result of being hit by a car, which precipitated his abandonment by people who pretended to be his family for nearly four years but who brought him to the kill shelter rather than get him much-needed medical treatment. It’s still a challenge to give him eye drops for his allergies, or to put on his leash if he’s not in the mood or cranky from being woken up before he wanted to, or to give him a bath without him biting the hand that feeds him. The bath he tolerates once he’s in it, but he DESPISES the towel, which led to a summer of a soaking wet dog “drying” himself on my living room furniture. It’s going to get tougher now that the weather has cooled, but he still needs weekly baths to help him deal with the aforementioned allergies. The last time he bit me – on my big toe – was when moved my foot a little too near him a little too quickly while trying to get out of bed. He’s completely unpredictable but I do see improvement, even though many activities still have to be done very gingerly.

Gizmo barks at EVERY SINGLE DOG he sees on our walks and seems disinclined to make any canine friends whatsoever. (I’m told he’s protecting me but, oddly, when we’ve brought foster dogs INTO the house, he doesn’t seem too bothered.) He and Munchie both bark at everyone who walks past the house or parks in front (he’s got the right idea on the parking, though); one will start and the other, like clockwork, will join in. But Gizmo also barks – all freakin’ day, pretty much non-stop – at his own reflection in my bookcase and sometimes the kitchen cabinet when the sun is shining on it just right and he catches a glimpse of himself. I frequently work from home and he’s been known to carry on when I’m on the phone trying to be a professional. In addition to his own reflection (I actually bought him a little mirror, like a lonely parrot in a cage), he also barks at the light reflected on the ceiling and wall off the shiny metal parts of my desk chair. Every time I move my chair and make a “ghost”, he barks at it. I’ve reached the point where I barely notice anymore; it’s just constant background noise.

I clearly need to bring the dogs to see my friend Marty Aynat, who runs a dog-training collective here in town called LB Dogs. They do some fantastic work, but I think we need a few private lessons first before subjecting those well-behaved LB Dogs to the incessant squawking of Muncho-man and Gizbutt. Neither of them listens to me at all.

Now to the girls:

Raven has been with us since December 2004, a few months after we moved into our house. She is, generally speaking, a very calm cat. She keeps to herself, primarily in my bed, and will occasionally call me in to give her a few pets before she decides she’s had enough and attacks my hand. But when it’s time for me to go to sleep, that’s when she wants the most attention, and she will bite my nose to let me know she is dissatisfied with the quantity and quality of my affection. She also hacks up hairballs on my bed instead of jumping down to do it on the floor, in spite of my constant reprimands. (She doesn’t seem to care, evidently.)

Luna, Savannah and the newest member of our family, Mimi , all have their annoying proclivities as well, but I find many of them kind of charming. My office area is always a mess because Luna takes up so much valuable desk top real estate, all spread out on top of my papers. Lately she’s been trying to sit in my chair WHILE I AM SITTING IN IT, which causes me to end up perched on the very edge of the chair, which isn’t terribly good for my back.  But Luna is by far the friendliest of all the animals and always greets the dogs when they come in from their walk.  Even though I often have to move her around to get at the documents beneath her (or shove her off the chair so I can sit), I love having her in arm’s reach for a little tickle.  Sometimes she grabs my petting hand (gently, nails in) and hugs it close to her.

Savannah, my favorite cat (yes, I confess, I have a favorite! I’ve had a lot of great cats in my life, and in fact I have some pretty great cats now, but she is by far the best – my “soul cat”, if you will), has to follow me into the bathroom every single time I go in there, and then she tracks up the bathroom sink with her dirty little paws, head butting me adorably as I try to brush my teeth. (In point of fact, I am almost always accompanied by a 3-beast entourage when I go for a sit-down in the bathroom. One of these days, I’m going to take a video of Munchie, Gizmo and Savannah trailing through the partially closed or closing door, one after the other, and then they all want pets, and they sometimes even pet and rub up on each other, which is actually really cute.)  But Savannah’s biggest issue is that she is a finicky eater.  Due to a tendency to get bladder stones, the vet gave me these Chinese herbs in a capsule that I’m supposed to sprinkle on her food, which of course she refuses to eat. One of my huge cat frustrations is that I cannot for the life of me find a type or flavor of canned food that all of them will like (and sometimes NONE of them will like something they all liked the week before). Savannah and Luna were shelter cats, for goodness sake! They ate whatever they got and they had to fight for it! Now they’ve gotten spoiled!

(Munchie also has bladder stones:  After a $2,000 operation, getting him to eat his special — and pricey — urinary health kibble was nearly impossible. He would eat Gizmo’s premium grain-free allergy food, and Gizmo would eat Munchie’s.  I’ve finally resigned myself to feeding them the same thing, a mixture of both, and hope that Munchie’s bladder stones don’t return.  I told you I had expensive pets!)

Last but not least, Mimi is a chill and sweet old lady. I fell in love with her a year ago, when she was first brought into the shelter (I think her prior owner was either an ill or deceased old woman) but it took me a while to risk bringing in a fifth cat and possibly upsetting the two-pairs-of-sisters balance.  I needn’t have worried as Mimi has fit right in.  Mimi had some digestive issues – it took a lot of poopy litter boxes to sort through what kind of “limited diet” she required, and it turned out Natural Balance Duck and Green Pea did the trick, so that is what she will eat from now until the end of time – but I also think a lot of it was stress. She was always a purr machine, craving pets and chin chucks, and letting out a cackling quack whenever you stopped and tried to move along to attend to the other kitties.  I always dreamed for her that she would find a home where she could sleep on a comfy couch in a patch of sunshine in some old lady’s house. Well, it turns out that old lady is ME!  At night on my way to bed, I distribute cat treats (and the dogs each get a biscuit slathered with peanut butter), but Mimi gets more than anyone because she is just so damn INSISTENT!  She becomes obsessed, entreating me in no uncertain terms, in her Patty Bouvier 2-packs-a-day-for-50 years-smoker’s meow, that she requires more cookies IMMEDIATELY and don’t even THINK about stopping.  Even though she’s black and white and not striped, Mimi reminds me so much of the B. Kliban cat, who was ubiquitous back in the late ‘70s and ‘80s. (My sister had the sheets; I had the hilarious comic books, which gave my college roommate and me hours of amusement.)  She often has that “look” on her face, equal parts bemused and disgruntled. What do you think?  (I think Mimi’s favorite word is actually “wackawacka”.  She is truly one of a kind!)

Mimi or Kliban CatB Kliban Cat Words

Why do I put up with all this insanity? They’re my fur babies, my beloved companions. I couldn’t imagine my life without them.