Archive for the ‘Pets’ Category

HeidiI’m loving all of the posts here about pets. I myself share my life and lap with an 18-pound cat named Heidi, an alumna of our local animal shelter. I also have the pleasure of knowing Herbie, the basset hound in an earlier post, and spending many happy hours with him at the local dog park.

Speaking of the animal shelter — oh wait, let me back up a step. The other day I bought a new sofa. People do this every day, right? Not I — I hate change so much that replacing a 26 year-old well-worn, well-stained and much slipcovered sofa involved months of visiting and revisiting every sofa store within 20 miles of my home (San Francisco) and making sure it was perfect not only for me, but for Heidi and her habits. Are the arms wide enough for her to sleep on? Can she walk across the back? Can she scratch the fabric?? OK, I finally solved all of this, but now the next problem: figuring out the “disposal” of my (and my cat’s) very comfortable friend. Did I mention that I hate change?

Well, a brainstorm hit me that has me thrilled. I called SF Animal Care & Control and asked, if I made new covers (waterproof, durable, removable for washing)  for the 3 seat cushions, would they accept them as beds for little older dogs or cats?  i.e., not a pet who would immediately chew it up, but a quiet little one who would just love the comfort? They love this idea!! I already knew that SFACC (and any shelter) gratefully accepts old blankets and towels, but had never thought of this type of “recycling.”

How do I know SFACC so well? I’ve been volunteering there since 1989. My “job” is lost and found, where I try to reunite new stray pets with their frantic guardians, who call to report them missing. Of course, any volunteer’s job there is also to pet and play with any and all of the animals we meet, and to work at public events. And, to supply a free shoulder on which the newest stray Cockatoo, Pineapple, can perch and offer commentary. Other jobs are adoption counselor, dog walker, cat socializer, PR, etc. – something for every talent and interest.

I’m also the secretary/treasurer and webmistress of Persian & Himalayan Cat Rescue, a group dedicated to placing Persian and Himalayan cats who find themselves in shelters or other hard situations. Speaking of which, to anyone who lives near Delaware, there’s a darling 2 year-old Himalayan named Opal who urgently needs a new home due to a family “situation.”  Check out our website if you’re interested!

These animal shelters and breed rescue groups never have enough volunteers… or beds!

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CatsMy Grandma raised Boston Bulls in her basement–just one of the many business enterprises my grannie embarked on. (Bathtub gin during prohibition for one.)  My first pet was Midgie, the runt of one of Grandma’s litters  I don’t remember when Midgie was no longer part of my life, some time in my teens, I think.

My next pet was a long-haired dachshund named Santina von Dacheldorf Gergweis.  We bought her in Pirmasens, Germany when I was pregnant with our first child and my husband was in the army.  Tina cost us more to transport to the United States when Syl’s tour was finished than our son, who flew for nothing. She died the night we celebrated Harvey Reese’s 30th birthday at our apartment. I held the cake and sang “Happy Birthday” doing my best to not upset our guests–but sniffles and sobs and then tears soon alerted our friends that something terrible had happened.

We bought another long-haired dachshund and named her Saffi.  She had a litter and we kept Freddie, the black and tan long-haired male. He disappeared when he was 6 months old.  I grieved and so did Saffi, taking one of our son’s teddy bears to her bed. When my husband and I separated I got custody of Saffi, and I also was given my first cat–a Siamese whom I named Pamela. Saffi mothered the kitten and when my beautiful dachsie got old and sick she was put to sleep.

Pamela was bred with a Siamese cat one of my students “lent” me for the time it took for them to mate. My mother, definitely not a cat lover, was staying in my apartment while the mating was taking place. She found the whole process very disturbing!  Pamela gave birth to a male and a female. I kept the female and named her Miranda. I placed them in a picnic basket several years later and drove to California with them. Miranda had cancer and so was euthanized at the Humane Society soon after we arrived in San Diego. Pamela lived until she was about 15.  The next day Mahmoud, my neighbor and student at SDSU, gave me a kitten he had found.  I named him Bernie (we lived in Rancho Bernardo). Pamela tolerated the new member of our family, having gotten over the loss of her daughter, and she loved being able to wander around the grounds at Casitas where I had my apartment, but one day she had a stroke and I had to say goodbye to her.

Bernie was murdered by a 15-year-old boy while I was visiting on the east coast. My dear friend and neighbor Bonnie was taking care of him, and felt terrible about telling me when she picked me up at the airport. Having sobbed at the loss of my past wonderful pets, I didn’t want Bonnie to feel guilty, and so I told her I promised myself years ago I would no longer grieve at the loss of my pets.

I told my students about Bernie’s murder and I told my friend Maury. That week Maury came to my house, where we were co-teaching a graduate seminar, with an orange tabby whom his friend had found but couldn’t keep.  Maury assured me she was spayed and had all her shots. “What will you call her?” he asked.  “I don’t know,” I replied.  “How about Moira?  It means fate.”  After everyone left my apartment I held my new cat and discovered that “she” didn’t have what a “she” should have but had, in fact, what a “he” had had.[sic]

The next day my students from UC San Marcos came to my house with a kitten. I named her Moira, called my friend, and said “Maury, Moira is Murray.”  Moira bonded immediately with Murray Catz and they were my beloved friends until years later Murray’s cancer caused him to be sent to kitty heaven. I grieved as much over his death as I had over Tina’s. When my grandchildren would call  they would say, “Gran’ma, can we talk to Murray?” I would put the phone to Murray’s mouth and she would meow and make other cat conversation. The kids loved it.

Some years later Moira went blind and she joined Murray. I couldn’t bear going back to my house after I said goodbye to Moira so my friend drove me to the Humane Society and I adopted 2 kittens. I named them Ben and Jerry–biblical names you know:  Benjamin and Jeremiah.

Their flight to Dulles cost more than my flight from San Diego. I had to smuggle them in to my apartment because the cat nazis do not want any pets in our building. After living in fear that Ben, Jerry and I would be arrested, I discovered that my neighbor down the hall had a big black cat. She looked a bit frightened when I exclaimed “You have a cat!”  I added:  “I have two!”  She then told me that another neighbor down the hall also had two cats.  Ah, what a relief.

Benji is a lump, lap cat, and lazy. He will sit and wait in the kitchen in the morning until I open up the can of cat food, place it in the dish–half for him, half for Jerry, then run into the bedroom.  I then have to pick him up and carry him to the kitchen, put the dish on the floor for him and Jerry to have their breakfast. It’s a ritual.

Jerry is hyper, funny, will stroke my face with his paw and nuzzle his face against mine. But he is also a very nervous creature who will hiss at the mop when I clean the floor.  They’re my companions, and I do love them.

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PetPartnersLogoHelen had not been eating well for the past few days and this morning was no exception. She just stared at her plate of bacon and eggs with no apparent interest or recognition of what had been placed before her. The three other Altzheimer patients had finished their breakfasts and were on the way to the first morning activity. Gianni, one of my therapy dogs and I entered the facility and were greeted by a friendly nurse who smiled broadly and said, “Look Helen, Georgia and Gianni are here to see you!” Helen continued to stare. Helen did not move. Her blue eyes were unfocused and distant. Gianni approached Helen and leaned up against her leg. Still no reaction. I tried to interact with Helen. Nothing. I began a conversation with the heath care worker inquiring about the other residents in the unit. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some movement. Our dear Helen had removed a piece of bacon from her plate and was feeding it to Gianni. And then…a miracle…Helen began to share her breakfast with my wonderful little two year old Italian Greyhound.

Mara M. Baum has done extensive work with Alzheimer patients and therapy dogs as part of her research at the University of Texas. She found that those afflicted with the disease respond well to dogs. They feel less agitated, eat better, and will even talk to a dog when communication with a human is almost impossible.

My work with The Pet Partners Program (Delta Society) has enriched my life immeasurably. I have two dogs who participate in the program and seem to enjoy it as well, especially the free bacon!

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poodleIn my 30 something years of retirement finding myself more and more limited in terms of movement, relationships, activities, etc. could be depressing. However, I still have my Willi, a toy poodle who greets me in the morning with a lick on my nose. On my return from wherever to an empty apartment, his tail is wagging a mile a minute, while jumping with joy. I don’t know who is happier-he or me.

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