Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

Service of Learning Whatever You Do: Info About Pets You May Not Know

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Ultimate Air Dogs competition @ Super Pet Expo

A college student in a PR class asked me “How can you represent something that’s boring?” My answer was “the more you know about a product or organization, the more interesting it becomes.” I’ve advised countless students and others to at least consider jobs that didn’t appeal at first. Why? You might surprise yourself.

Photo: Pig Placement Network

I knew it would be fun to publicize Super Pet Expo, coming up tomorrow at 3 pm and running through the weekend at the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, because I love animals. I’ve owned and loved a few and have been a neighbor or relative to many. I didn’t realize how much I’d learn when I interviewed some of the people exhibiting or producing special events–a happy bonus.

For example, Did You Know……

  • How many wolves there are in the wild of New Jersey? Answer: None. They live mostly in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.
  • The difference between a pot belly pig and a farm hog? Answer: As much as 920 lbs. Pot belly pigs grow from between 80-150 lbs.; farm hogs as much as 1,000 lbs.
  • What you can teach a pig to do? Answer: Sit, give a hoof, go through a tunnel and teeter-totter, just to name a few tricks. There are therapy pigs who visit schools and assisted living homes too.
  • What lure coursing is? Answer: It’s the sport for dogs that are born to chase.
  • How long cats remember? Answer: Cats learn quickly and have a long short-term environmental memory—16 hours—vs. 10 minutes for dogs.
  • Which reptiles make a good first pet? Answer: Several species of snakes’ feeding requirements are not demanding, requiring a meal once a week, and the upkeep of their habitats is fairly easy.
  • The Ultimate Air Dogs jumping record? Answer: A whippet jumped 30 feet 7 inches.

Cat agility

What do Ultimate Air Dogs do? Vic Sparano the trainer and judge said that visitors will see four-legged athletes soar through the air into a four-foot deep pool vying to win at four games: jumping the farthest; knocking down a “Fetch-It”  bumper; “Catch It,” and being fastest in the “Chase-It” swimming contest to win a coveted ribbon at the finals on Sunday.

The answers to the other questions came from Super Pet Expo founder/producer Eric Udler; Sheryl Rotondi, special events coordinator at the Pig Placement Network; Roeann Fulkerson, Director of Marketing and Business Development, The International Cat Association; Vinnie Reo, owner of Wolf Visions and Billy Healy, Repticon’s COO. The latter is a showcase of hundreds of reptiles and amphibians from around the world such as boas, pythons, bearded dragons, monitor lizards, skinks, turtles, tortoises and dart frogs, to name a few. Experts are on hand to tell prospective reptile owners about care and feeding.

At the show you’ll also see a pig who can paint. You can buy one of her “Pig-Cassos.” Friends Ruth, Jim and Ken lived for years with George, a smart marmalade colored cat who, on command, shook your hand. Have you known pets that did extraordinary things? Did you know most of the answers about pets in Q and A above? Have you had a job or client that you hesitated working for or representing but when you did, surprised you in a good way?

New pet bought at Super Pet Expo

Service of DNA to Train Pet Owners

Thursday, August 6th, 2015


My nephew Barry at the vet.

My nephew Barry at the vet.

My idea of capturing DNA off garbage tossed on otherwise pristine country roads isn’t as farfetched as I once thought [though I haven’t yet figured out the part about matching/connecting it to the perpetrators’ genetic footprint.]

The board of a Brooklyn condo with about 440 apartments, One Brooklyn Bridge Park, did a similar thing. Some owners of 175 dog residents allowed their furry charges to defecate and urinate in public indoor spaces leaving it up to staff to clean up, ignoring countless pleas to stop. As a result tenants now have to register each pet for $35, DNA is taken, checked against traces found and fees meted out.

Dog puppyIn December 2014 building staff recorded the number and types of incidents, according to Ginia Bellafante reporting in her New York Times article “Using DNA to Fight Dog Owners’ Discourtesy in Brooklyn.” That month there was “a mix of diarrhea, feces, urine and vomit: found on virtually every floor including the main lobby and north and south lobbies; found in all five elevators and with the staff cleanup time ranging from 10 to 50 minutes (average time roughly 20 minutes) per incident.”

Bellafante noted that the waste problem at One Brooklyn Bridge Park was especially bad in inclement weather. Can you imagine paying to live with such neighbors? That honor doesn’t come cheap. Bellafante wrote that two bedroom apartments “of modest size” cost $2.5 million. NYC and many other municipalities have poop scoop laws for streets and sidewalks to enhance cohabitation of man and pooch. You’d expect, at the least, that civilized people would exhibit similar respect inside their own homes.

Dog trainingAccording to Bellafante a Tennessee-based biotech company’s subsidiary, Poo Prints, does the trick at this apartment house and in over 1,000 other buildings in NY and around the country. She reported that in Naples, Italy an effective dog genetic testing program comes with $685 fines for violators. Through genetic matches, One Brooklyn Bridge Park has charged seven owners $250 per occurrence since May. The initiative seems to be working.

I’ve owned dogs in NYC and their companionship made it well worth daily walks through snow, Dog phys.orgrain, heat or gloom of night. It wouldn’t occur to me to use the public areas of any place in which I live or visit as a pet WC and inflict my pet’s mess on others much less expect staff to clean it up. Accidents happen. My five month old puppy freshly adopted from Bide-a-Wee peed in the elevator of a Brooklyn co-op I lived in years ago. I was immediately on the job with paper towel, disinfectant and Nature’s Miracle to make amends. Later, because the elevator carpet was still wet when a neighbor asked the doorman about the stain, the doorman, a dog person, [and a very nice man who sensed my distress] told him: “One of the children spilled his soda.”

I thought animal lovers were a breed apart, especially those who invite pets to join their families. This story proves me wrong. Have you ever before heard of such an epidemic of slothful, disrespectful, inhuman behavior?


Service of Lost and Found

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014


lost and foundWe bought a house that came with a feral cat. We fed him outdoors for several years, as the previous owner instructed us to do. One weekend he didn’t come round and we were devastated as we feared he’d been attacked by a coyote. When he reappeared we rejoiced.

He was very friendly but wouldn’t come in the house. He’d put one paw inside the door and then he’d retreat but quick–until one winter when he was trapped under a shallow eve by a storm that left three feet of snow. We scooped him up from the overhang where he was stuck and calling for help, and brought him inside. After that he became an indoor/outdoor cat but if he didn’t return for dinner, we’d worry.

When I read about Reckless the dog, who ran away in fright during Hurricane Sandy and landed up in the Monmouth County, NJ SPCA, I felt for Charles and Elicia James and their three kids who lost him. Lisa L. Colangelo wrote in her Daily News article that he didn’t have a microchip and James found his collar sticking in the fence. Due to the damage to their home they, too had to leave.  

Reckless. Photo: NY Daily News

Reckless. Photo: NY Daily News

Charles searched for Reckless at shelters and elsewhere. A few weeks ago, after 18 months, he and his wife decided to adopt another dog for their daughter’s 10th birthday, so they went to the shelter. There was their pit bull, who had arrived in October.

Reunited with his family Reckless, whom Liz Wise of the SPCA described as “a really sweet dog with a great disposition,” now has a microchip.

I’ve lost and found things that mean a lot to me and feel overwhelming gratitude. Being reunited with a pet inspires more than simple relief. Have you lost and found something and celebrated with a cheer and more?



This man was reunited with his dog. Photo:

This man was reunited with his dog. Photo:


Service of Lemon Laws

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013


A friend’s mother loved apricot colored miniature poodles. She paid a premium for such puppies and the kennel would assure her that she could return the pet Apricot Miniature Poodleshould its adult coat turn out to be light brown. The kennel dealing with this woman was safe: It took some months for a pup’s true colors to emerge and by then, she and puppy had fallen for one another and there was no question of returning the furry love ball.

I thought of her and my dog Cassie when I read about the upgraded lemon law for pets in The New York Post. The Associated Press piece reported that the New York legislature upped the time a pet owner could detect and report problems from 14 days to six months.

Dog like CassieWe found Cassie at Bide-a-Wee in Manhattan. She had a long scar on the inside of her leg which we pointed out before taking her home and the staff assured us, “that’s a scratch, it’s nothing.” However, the scratch kept getting infected and long story short, when we returned her to Bide-a-Wee to be neutered [you sign a promise to have this done with their adoptions and the organization maintains a wonderful hospital], the vet looked at her leg and admitted that the “scratch” was as a result of a post inserted improperly after she must have been in an accident. The doctor took care of the post so it wouldn’t give her any more trouble and didn’t charge us for that part of the procedure. But even if they had, we loved her by then and we would have paid.

Over the years I’ve read horrible things about unscrupulous puppy mills and the pet stores that sell the poor injured and sick innocents. The law is perfect for these businesses that charge $thousands for a companion. One outcome may be for such mills to take better care of the animals in their care as they—or the shops that sell these pets– will be held responsible for treatment should they become extremely ill within the 180 days of purchase.

Give me my money backThe Post article, “‘Lemon’ aid for new pets,” reports only 20 states have lemon laws of any kind. Quoting New York state senator John Flanagan, one of the sponsors of the bill,  “‘“This legislation is aimed at helping provide these families with some reassurance that their new family member is healthy and, if that is not the case, provide them with an ability to recover their costs.”

Has any lemon law helped you with a grievance? Have you returned a pet because it was unmanageable or had a chronic disease that was too expensive to care for? Is there significance that members of two political parties got together in New York State to protect pet owners when, like most politicians these days, they can agree on little else?



Service of Pets IV

Monday, January 9th, 2012


I love to read or hear about cat and dog antics whether they do typical or atypical things.

I enjoyed Stephanie Clifford’s article, “Nine Lives, One Leash,” about her city cat Mac whom she taught to walk in a harness. It took a lot of work: Most cats don’t cotton to discipline and training although I knew one, Georgie, who would lift his paw on command to shake your hand as dogs do.

Clifford launched her cat training with professional guidance that cost $375 for two hours. It was money well spent as the cat was unhappy in her Brooklyn apartment when she no longer let him roam the streets alone. The counselor told her what to do and what signs of overdoing to look for so as not to permanently turn the cat off. It took six months.

Lots of my brave friends mix cats and dogs in a household or introduce a new pet to an only cat or dog household with little ensuing flying fur. I’m in awe.



My neighbor’s cat Cibier strolls around the property and trots or races home every time he’s called. He didn’t once when he was ill. Hiding is typical of a very sick animal. He’s fine now and back to responding.

But not all the news is rosy for pets, especially those prized for hallmark characteristics.

In a New York Times article “Can the bulldog be saved?” Benoit Denizet-Lewis wrote: “In January 2009, Adam Goldfarb of the Humane Society of the United States told The Augusta Chronicle that bulldogs, often referred to as English bulldogs, are the ‘poster child for breeding gone awry.’ The article came in response to a scathing British documentary, ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed,’ that highlighted the health and welfare problems of purebred dogs and claimed that breeders and the Kennel Club (the British equivalent of the American Kennel Club) were in denial about the extent of the problem.”

bulldog1Denizet-Lewis continued, “Broadcast on the BBC, ‘Exposed’ spawned three independent reports into purebred breeding, each finding that some modern breeding practices – including inbreeding and breeding for ‘extreme traits,’ like the massive and short-faced head of the bulldog – are detrimental to the health and welfare of dogs. Bulldogs were noted in all three reports as a breed in need of an intervention, with one going so far as to question whether it is ethically defensible to continue breeding them at all.”

chocpoodleTracie Hotchner on her radio show “Dog Talk” mentioned the Denizet-Lewis story and added that extreme breeding practices also harm pugs, American German shepherds and chocolate standard poodles.

What do you think about training cats? Are Mac, Georgie and Cibier extraordinary cats or is it a myth that felines don’t usually take to discipline? What about breeders who respond to the public’s desire for dogs with specific traits–yes or no?


Service of Pets III

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011


On reading “Service of Pets II” last week, Catherine C wrote: “You could do a piece about health care & animals.” To illustrate what she had in mind, she wrote a magnificent guest post that follows. Her experience with vets is just the opposite of earlier coverage on this blog, “Service of Man and Beast,” where animals were treated more humanely than people.

Only one of the featured cats is Catherine’s–Dodger, lounging in the sun, above.

Catherine wrote:

We’ve had four cats. The first one, Sinbad, died of kidney failure when she was 15. We kept bringing each new symptom to the vet’s attention and kept asking whether it was kidney failure. They stonewalled until it was too late. She was a real pistol and they didn’t like to deal with her. Her end was traumatic.

We found another vet who specialized in cats. It became evident that a cat with failing kidneys could get along fine with the right treatment if the vet was proactive.

We still have our second cat, Dodger.

cat1Our third cat, Bimini, died traumatically of complications from diabetes, which we didn’t even know she had. Again, there were signs but the “good” vet kept attributing them to other things. She went into a diabetic crisis on our sailboat while cruising the Chesapeake and when we finally got to a marina and got her to a vet, she was really sick. We had to rent a car and cross the Bay Bridge at rush hour to get to the emergency veterinarian hospital, where she died after expensive efforts to save her.

Pumpkin, our fourth cat developed an inoperable brain tumor. By then I’d moved on to another vet and shopped very carefully to find her. It took a while to figure out what the problem was and it was expensive to get to that point. Then we allowed ourselves to be convinced that she could have quality of life if we did chemo. It was horrible and I finally got to the point where I couldn’t take it any more. My husband was hard to convince. And the specialists were not happy when we decided to pull the plug.

cat2The emergency animal hospital we dealt with, and where the specialists practiced, was not at all sensitive to the feelings of humans. It was all about money. I can’t even look at the place much less think about taking Dodger there.

My own vet was very sensitive and helpful but I’d think long and hard about heroic measures again.

There’s no doubt that vet care is expensive and Catherine told me that pet health insurance is inadequate. We’ve spent a fortune on the cats and dogs we’ve loved. That’s the trouble: We love them and do what we can to save them. What do you feel about heroic measures to save a pet’s life?


Service of Pets II

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011


I could write about pets every week and have succumbed to temptation several times before, once to mostly crow about their charm and once to note how vets seem to take better care of animals than some doctors do people.

Many pay $ thousands for purebred dogs and cats, “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” as Seinfeld would have said, especially if you plan to use the dog to hunt or rescue, if that’s what a breed has instincts to do. I don’t think I’d love a purebred any more than the cats and dogs in my household over the years. None of mine have been 100 percent anything, but they haven’t been working dogs or cats either [other than to smile at the camera].

seeing-eye-dogI admire Seeing Eye dog foster families who invite puppies to live with them until they are old enough to graduate to hardcore training. They also give the little ones initial instruction, for free. They know in advance that they must give up the furry love balls. Their reimbursement: That they are helping a stranger become independent, a remarkable gift.

In contrast I read about a different approach and reimbursement model in a recent front page story in The New York Times “For the Executive with Everything, a $230,000 Dog to Protect It,” by John Tierney. He wrote about tycoons and celebs who spend mostly in the $40,000 to $60,000 range for German shepherds trained to protect them and he obviously also wrote about the dog worth almost a quarter of a million dollars. The concept is that a dog is a cheaper guardian than a human security guard.

I wonder how reliable the dogs are at either $40,000 or $230,000 for a rough life in the security biz? I’ve seen the sweetest, gentlest dogs turn nasty/fierce/act dog-like in a flash provoked by something unfamiliar and sometimes, for no reason evident to me. I would worry that the dog might get a mixed signal and attack, by mistake, a visiting mother-in-law, friend or child.

What about dogs trained for police, military, drug detection and Seeing Eye work? Are they worth more, less, as much?

Are Seeing Eye dog foster families chumps doing their work for free when others are being well paid to train dogs or are the chumps the people who pay so much for a security dog? If money were no object, would you depend on a trained dog to protect you, your home and family?


Service of Man vs. Beast

Thursday, January 6th, 2011


We attended a magnificent New Years Eve party with a wonderful group of people who gathered at the country home of friends handsomely dressed for the holidays both inside and out. Our hosts shared two stories that illustrate drastic differences between the care of animals and people.

docpatientI’ll start with John’s recent adventure to determine the cause for pain that has laid him low for weeks. During a recent visit to a specialist, the doctor noted that all tests came back negative and he told John to return in several months. Frustrated and wondering how he was supposed to work and live feeling as ill as he still did, [weeks of antibiotics hadn’t done the trick], John asked, “Nothing showed on the sonogram either?”

The doctor said, “sonogram?” and scuttled out of the room returning with Xrays that clearly showed his kidneys and three large stones. The stones weren’t going anywhere, said the doctor, who planned surgery to remove them in the New Year. He sounded surprised when he learned from John’s primary doctor that one of the stones had decided to move out on Christmas Eve. [The pain involved in this exit is said to be equal to childbirth.]

white-kittenAlmost simultaneously, John and Bob found the perfect white kitten to join their family and to become their black cat’s sister. Before they could take her home from PETCO, that helps shelters find families for pets, they had to fill out a long form about themselves and agreed to be interviewed by the kitten’s human foster mother/rescuer. [By the way: January 15 and 16 is a National Pet Adoption weekend at some stores.]

Hoping to move the process along, John told the PETCO associate that they had a city and country home, both were employed, had shared their lives with Spooky [the cat] for umpteen years and so forth. The only information that drew any positive reaction was that they had paid thousands of dollars to save Spooky who, as a result of complicated surgery and intensive care, lived an additional eight healthy years. Nevertheless before they’d let John take home the diminutive furry friend, he and Bob would still have to be interviewed and approved by the kitten’s volunteer foster mother–no exceptions.

I’ve been a pet owner for years and I’m impressed that animals aren’t handed out to people helter skelter. But something’s wrong here. How do we beg for human care that’s at least as good as how we treat our pets?


Service of Children’s Books

Monday, May 10th, 2010


Mary Nethery, [Left], Mary Ellen Robinson,

VP The Christophers & Kirby Larson. Nethery &

Larson co-authored Nubs.

I love buying book gifts, especially for children. But if I don’t have time to read or skim the hard or paperback, I won’t make the purchase. I spent far too much time, one Christmas, rejecting book after book, leaving the store empty-handed and frustrated by not being able to judge a book by its cover.

A failsafe shortcut is to find out if the book has won a Christopher Award. For a full list of this year’s winning books for young people–and the age appropriateness of each–visit the site. 

First presented in 1949, the Christopher Awards were established by Christopher founder Father James Keller to salute media that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.” According to the Christophers, award winners encourage audiences to see the better side of human nature and motivate artists and the general public to use their best instincts on behalf of others.

I was lucky to promote the Christopher Award winners in both adult and children book categories and took advantage of the opportunity to ask some children book authors questions I’ve had for eons.

Following are the responses:

How do you get into the head of a child or young adult reader and how do you know how to write for a certain age and reading/listening-comprehension level?

Kirby Larson, Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Hachette Book Group, Inc.): I don’t! My job is to tell the story at hand as fully and honestly as possible. I find if I keep my focus on that task, I can engage my readers, no matter what their ages.

Mary Nethery, Nubs: With the exception of “early readers” or “hi-low” books [designed for children who are not reading at their level], there really are no age or reading/listening-comprehension level restrictions. Eve Bunting, a renowned author of children’s books, has said there’s no subject that can’t be dealt with for young children if handled in a developmentally appropriate way-she’s explored topics such as death, war, and homelessness.

The one restriction I impose on my own writing is always to offer hope to children. Anything less seems to me to be an abdication of creative and adult responsibility to our community of children.

How do books compete with the electronic gadgets and gizmos, TV and DVD distractions that fascinate children?

Kirby Larson: Until scientists invent time machines and teleporters, electronic gadgets and gizmos don’t stand a chance against books! What other media can fully transport a child to King Arthur’s court, to the moon, to a place where Wild Things rule?

I think adults may be the biggest hindrances to kids’ reading. We have a huge responsibility to let kids catch us reading, and to let them see how much we love and value it ourselves. And just think about the message that gets sent if adults actually read the same books – and chat about them – that the important kids in their lives are reading. Talk about powerful!

Mary Nethery: An even field of competition requires parents to introduce books to children early on, to gift them with that unforgettable pleasure of sitting in a lap as a book, another universe, is unveiled before their very eyes. But first things first: A great story that captures the heart must exist for each and every child and their particular taste. Diversity is a critical piece of the puzzle.

Do you hear from your readers?

Kirby Larson: I’ve heard from hundreds of readers – with my novel, Hattie Big Sky, fan mail has come from places as far away as Qatar and Lebanon, and from readers ranging in age from 11 to 94!

One of the emails that made me really smile was about my book, Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival. A first grade teacher wrote to say that her students were now “playing” the Bobbies at recess: One would be Bobbie Dog, one Bob Cat and one Bobbie’s chain!

An email about Nubs that brought me to tears came from the wife of a military officer. She wrote, “Countless times, my husband stood on the ramp in the cold, dark hours before the sun came up, waiting for a body to be put on an airplane and flown out of the country. When he got home last spring, he couldn’t watch a movie where anyone died. Nubs is more than a dog; he’s hope and life and healing. But you knew that.”

This last email, especially, reminds me of a favorite C.S. Lewis quote: “A children’s book that is only enjoyed by children is not a very good children’s book.”

Mary Nethery: Both Two Bobbies and Nubs sell to boys and girls, men and women. They’re great examples of “cross over” books.

From fans, we receive the most thoughtful, heart-tugging emails about our books, such as this one about Two Bobbies: “I wanted to write and thank you for your wonderful book . . . When my beloved pet dog, Bear, passed away unexpectedly earlier this week, my wife handed me your book and asked me to read it. I was so touched by the story, and by the kindness that those two showed to each other. Your book has helped me greatly through my grief over my pet’s death. I never thought that I-a 30 year old man-would find so much comfort and joy in a children’s book.”

That’s the secret of books for children- they’re not really just for children after all! All books are tasked with needing a plot, great characters, and something that speaks to the human condition.

tonyahegamin1Tonya Hegamin, [Photo, Center] Most Loved in All the World (Houghton Mifflin Company), illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera [left] with Monsignor Peter Flinn. Hegamin:  Yes, I have actually had mixed feedback about the book from parents and caregivers. I had a father tell me that I was wrong to have the mother “abandoning” her child. I explained that the mother is doing the most nurturing thing she can do in her circumstance–she treasures her child’s freedom above all else and is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to give her a chance. I’ve had kids love it and some who get very upset about the story and tell me they don’t want to read it again! I’m happy that it’s sparking all kinds of discussions.

How do you suggest we keep alive a reading tradition for children?

Kirby Larson: I touched on this with an earlier answer, and I second Mary’s comments. It boggles my mind that parents are letting pass away those magic moments of sitting with child-in-lap, paging through a book. Get those 3 year olds off the computer and cuddle up with them and a good book!

Mary Nethery: Ideally, every adult would embrace the concept of childhood and maintain that moment in time for each child, providing books galore at home (if they can) and liberal access to the public library which offers open arms to everyone. What we don’t value dies a natural death.

Tonya Hegamin: With my writing I try to really reach the heart of the reader.  The emotional connection between reader and writer can be very palpable and the page conveys that in a tactile manner.  I continue to write emotion-evoking books because it engages young readers to reach the heart of their other issues.  Reading those types of books keeps kids wanting more. 

What are a few of your favorite children’s books?

Kirby Larson: The book that made me want to write for children was Ming Lo Moves the Mountain, written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel, which I discovered as an adult. A Larson family favorite when our kids were small was How Tom Beat Captain Najork and His Hired Sportsmen, by Russell Hoban and illustrated by Quentin Blake.

Mary Nethery: I loved any book with animals that talked-didn’t care that much for reading about other kids, just animals! And, a little later on, I couldn’t get enough of Nancy Drew-I wanted to live her life, have a sports car and be a very important person!

Tonya Hegamin: I’ve always been a romantic.  One of my favorite books as a kid was Julie (Edwards) Andrews’ Mandy.  It’s about an orphan who makes herself a home.  I also loved L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle and her other books, although I never got into Green Gables.  Of course I’ve always been a fan of Virginia Hamilton– really all of her books.  I used to read a lot of Christopher Pike and Edgar Allen Poe, too.  I started reading serious poetry at 12– Rilke mostly.  I also read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye in the 6th grade.  Again, anything that evoked strong emotions.

Yumi Heo, Ten Days and Nine Nights: An Adoption Story (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House): My favorite children’s books are Across Town by Sara, The Bomb and The General by Umberto Eco and Eugenio Carmi, and all the titles by Ezra Jack Keats.

What are your favorite children’s books? Do you have a comment or question for the authors?


Service of Pets

Monday, March 15th, 2010



I dedicate this post to Marita Thomas, a dear friend whom we recently lost, who adored her precious dog Lucy and who planned to contribute to if not write the post.



I woke up yesterday-Sunday–to a story on WCBS radio news that tenants with dogs in Trump Village in Brooklyn were to be fined. The New York Daily News covered the same story, “Trump Village co-op in Brooklyn puts new bite in no-pet rule: Threatens fine, loss of parking space,” I adore my pets and sometimes, just to torture myself, I wonder if my husband became allergic to one of them, what would I do? So would I move if I lived in such a place?

Pets can be disruptive. I moved to a co-op where a board member interviewed one of my neighbors who attested to the manners and compatibility of our almost dachshund, Prunella, our friendly, perky, quiet, perfect apartment dog. We all passed the board and moved in.

Our next dog, Cassie, whom Bide-a-Wee assured us was full grown at 35 lbs, grew to 68 lbs but by then, we were in love. A mix of Doberman, German Shepherd and x, she was a nutty, high-energy, rough love-dog and was she vocal! As dainty and polite as Prunella was, Cassie was the opposite. Even after dog school, while she no longer jumped on the dining room table when it was set for dinner guests, she’d bark for hours when we were at work. She was the kind of dog that is quiet when burglars come because she welcomes the company. Lucky the apartment building was so well built because her daily conversations weren’t heard by too many people.

Pets can save the day. My cousin’s husband and mother died within months of one another. She said that without Toto, a 50 lb shepherd mix, she didn’t know what she’d have done. Cassie helped me through a bad stretch-her walk schedule forced me out of the house when I’d have preferred to hide and we’d dance together in the kitchen when a favorite song came on the radio.

Neighbor Sadie frog hunting

Neighbor Sadie frog hunting

Trump isn’t alone when it comes to landlords, but he’s out of step with most people in his lack of enthusiasm for pets. Dogs or goodies for dogs are featured all over the place-in the pages of recent issues of Town & Country, Country Living, Elle Décor, Veranda, New York Magazine, The New York Times and in an ad for windows in Architectural Digest. David Reich just wrote “Going to the Dogs, and Cats, Parakeets and Gerbils” in his blog, My 2 Cents.  Regarding the bond between humans and pets, Reich illustrates its strength on anticipated sales of pet products hitting $72 billion by 2014 according to Packaged Facts.

I’ve been thinking about this subject for months, all the time hoping for Marita to get better, and keeping a file of pet coverage. What was glaring? There were no cat stories and no photography featuring felines in recent issues of decorating magazines while dogs were included in family shots taken in the kitchen, on front steps, stretched out on a carpet, sofa or bed. [Only one magazine had a shot of a lethargic cat in a vet’s health advice column.]

Neighbor Cibie

Neighbor Cibie

So where’s the cat lobby? While more households own dogs than cats-43 million vs. 37 million-in 2007 there were more domesticated cats living at home-81+ million vs. 72+ million, according to a study on the American Veterinary Medical Association website.  

Caramelli Cat

Caramelli Cat

I’m currently stepmother to a cat. While originally oriented toward dogs, I love Caramelli, my second cat, as much as my first one, Cat, and as much as my dogs. Cara’s shenanigans make me laugh, hugging her makes me happy-I scoop her up in my arms and with my husband, we all hug. Her gentleness on this occasion, given her roots as a tough Poughkeepsie, NY street walker is always a surprise and we confirm her approval by the clarity of her purring.

As with all my pets, what she ruins-rugs, upholstery, walls-I forgive and forget [though that rug she’s shredded in the living room looks like no other it is so frayed].  By the way: I’m not that forgiving when people ruin my things. One complaint: it’s hard to remove her hair from things, but dog hair is similar.

Loki's cousin Dehlia

Loki's cousin Dehlia

In his post, Reich, one of the most sensibly frugal people I know, notes that he spent some $5,000+ at the vet on Loki dog-whom he calls his third child–this year. Cara cat had an infected tooth removed [requiring anesthesia] and is on a special diet as she’s allergy prone leading to ear infections and skin issues, so her non-allergenic venison and pea food pellets cost a fortune and her bi-yearly checkups add up. While I am always on the lookout for specials for our meals and we take generic drugs when appropriate, Cara gets whatever she needs, no questions asked, no substitutes. I don’t want to add up what she costs us as she’s priceless and I don’t want to know [though I’m sure my husband does to the cent].

BeBop Wyman

BeBop Wyman

I wasn’t on speaking terms with many cats until we bought a house that came with a cat. The first real dog I loved, apart from Poodle and Golden Retriever step nephews Lucky, who slept at the foot of my bed like an angel when I babysat and Auggie, who never forgot a car that visited his property and step Cousin Abigail, a Lhasa Apso who sang soprano, was a Beagle named Snoopy. Snoopy, a mature pup, was my neighbor on an Air Force base in Turkey. When we dog sat for him, we’d guard our dinner plates as he was quick as a puppy when he found an occasion to sneak food. And when reprimanded and sent to his bed, Snoopy’s head drooped so dramatically and his tail wrapped under him so tightly, his remorse was hard to watch.

I’ve gone on far too long and could write so much more but I’d love to hear from you.

What are some of your favorite pet anecdotes and memories? Have any pets come to your rescue? What do you think of landlords who don’t allow pets?



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