Bella’s First Roadtrip

We’re heading to Jersey tomorrow for the weekend, taking the dog. My parents are tickled pink about having the dog visit! OK, not really. But they like to see their grandkids, so I didn’t give them much of a choice. Anyway, we’re driving. It’s not a long trip, tops two hours. What do I need to know about driving with a dog? I know this may seem like a silly question, but she’s afraid of everything. Like, the air conditioner in our apartment makes her tremble. She runs and hides in the closet. Is she going to cower the whole drive?

I found out more about Bella this week. She’s from Tennessee. She was born in someone’s backyard and lived there with her mom and her sister until someone started shooting at them. Then they were dropped off a the pound. In June, they were rescued by a woman in Brooklyn and transported up to BARC. So, she’s a bit of a scaredy cat. I hope she learns to relax. It makes us sad.

I also hope that she doesn’t freak out and think we’re giving her away or something. I’m hoping that since she’ll be with Em and me, things will be OK. She’s really taken to Em and I’m her main provider, so she likes me a lot too.

Am I over-thinking this?

Dogs can’t eat chocolate, so feeding her M&Ms like I do with Elliot isn’t the answer. Duh.

Any suggestions welcome. Or just tell me I’m crazy and to shut up. I’m ok with that as well.

Dog Abuse: What Does One Do?

We have a view from our building that looks into several backyards of houses lining the street parallel to our own. Toby Joe and I have spent many hours staring out over the city. It’s really a great view. I am lucky. I know this. We have a view overlooking the choppy rooftops that make up Northern Brooklyn, the bridge and finally Lower Manhattan. I love watching the world outside my window.


Several months ago, I noticed an cat living in one of those backyards. The cat wears a collar, so I know it’s a member of a family. I have watched this cat and I admit that I’ve felt a little sorry for it at times whenever it’s too cold or too hot, during snow or rain storms. I have voiced my empathy for this cat to Toby Joe who was quick to point out how happy and healthy he or she appears to be.

There’s a dog living there too. Although, I don’t see the dog nearly as often as the cat. I guess the dog is kept inside a lot. But sometimes he or she is let out for a bit.

One day I saw the man of the house hold the door open and call the dog to come back inside. It was at that moment, during that interaction, that I began to really question the situation.

Before I go on, I have to admit that I know very little about dogs, dog training, dog owners, and basically all things dog. There have been many times where I have seen an interaction take place between a human and a dog and that interaction seems abusive to me only to find out that the person is actually training the dog. I have been told that dog training can be a little aggressive. So I usually just try and look the other way.

But this dog? This dog cowered as it squeezed between the man and the door jam. It looked up at the man—tail between its legs, head down, then up again, then down again—as the man made stern gestures, seemingly aggressive ones. And the interaction bugged me. 

But he did not touch the dog.

Still, I told Toby Joe about what I had seen and he suggested that some dogs are just like that sometimes. They like being told what to do sometimes and that it’s probably nothing. And we both wanted to believe that.

Then some time later I saw man of the house let the cat do figure eights around his legs and he bent down and patted the cat and then fed it some food and was off inside the house again. I figured: an abusive person would have probably kicked the cat away, right? 

So, I finally stopped thinking terrible things about its life, the dog’s too. 

But then yesterday something happened that sent me reeling. 

The dog was out back again. This time a woman wearing a bathrobe stood in the doorway. She called the dog back into the house. The dog cowered. As the dog walked in through the doorway, she lifted her leg high and kicked it as one might kick open a locked door. This wasn’t something that seemed like a dominance kick or nudge (if there is such a thing in dog land?). This had intent. And even though she was barefoot, my mind raced with other scenarios.

I wrote on Twitter asking people what I should do and many people wrote telling me about the New York ASPCA. I hate getting too involved in the lives of those around me, but when an animal or child is potentially being harmed, I simply can’t bite my tongue. I know that this post may open me up to some backlash, suggesting that I should mind my own business as we New Yorkers often do, but this time I found it impossible not to intervene.

When Toby Joe began (justifiably) questioning what I had seen especially considering I had sought to take action, I started to question my initial reaction to the whole situation. (I’d make either an excellent juror or a terrible one, depending on which side you’re on.) I can’t help but wonder: am I making it out to be worse than it really is? Am I overreacting? What if I’m wrong? I could be wrong.

To be honest, I kind of hope that I am.

Abby Needs Your Help!

I get a number of email about cats. Some people ask me questions about their cats that I wish I had the answers to because I do so love these creatures. I am by no means an expert in this area. I just have a deep fondness for them.

The latest email I received is from Alyssa about a cat named Abby. I was going to answer her personally, but decided that it might be better if I give her a broader spectrum of feedback. I was hoping that if I posted it here, someone else might have the answer(s) for her.

Here is Alyssa’s email:

We found Abby when she was 4 months old and took her to our vet immediately. She had ear mites and worms, but nothing a few meds couldn’t fix. We made an appointment while we were there to have her spayed at 6 months. A few weeks before her appointment my husband was sleeping and she crawled upon him and peed on his leg! We called the vet because it was so out of character and they asked if she was acting more affectionate than normal, and we answered why yes, yes she was. They suspected she was in heat and said we could bring her in the next week. We took her in and 24 hours later brought her home. She was sleepy and was having trouble walking, so when she PEED ON ME WHILE SLEEPING I blamed it on the surgery/meds/whatever. So things were going fine until this morning when I decided to allow her in the bedroom at 5 AM because she was looking so darn cute when I woke up to get a drink. (On a side note, she is not allowed in the bedroom with us due to slight allergies.) So, just as I started to nod back off, she crawled upon me and left a mighty pee on my leg.

A few things that may help…

  • 1. We haven’t changed litter or moved her box and we keep it clean
  • 2.We feed her Dick Van Patten Natural Balance dry food

The only thing I can say with any amount of certainty is that cats tend to “act out” (do weird things—however you want to describe it) when they are trying to tell you that something is wrong. My cat, Schmitty, peed and pooped all over my house for months and months before I realized he had ash build up and had to have emergency surgery. I came home one day to find him screaming in pain—actually screaming because he hadn’t been able to urinate in who knows how long a time. He was rushed to the veterinary hospital where I was given an ultimatum: put him down, or cut off his manhood. I chose to cut off his manhood. (I always forget the name of the surgery.)

He lived another 11 years perfectly happy and healthy until cancer finally got to him. (And at the end of his life, he started acting out again by pooping in weird places.)

My only suggestion (and I am by no means very wise when it comes to this stuff) is to take Abby in and run some blood work. They can figure out if she’s diabetic. They can test her for liver function, kidney problems, you name it.

Are there any other suggestions for Abby and Alyssa? Do you have any ideas as to why Abby is behaving this way? Could this be due to a mental problem? Might she need kitty prozac?

Feel free to leave comments anonymously if you are wary of such.

Tuesdays With Murray (Chapter 69)

Murray seems to be healing nicely. The Pepcid and prescription “belly coater” he was given seems to be working wonders for his appetite. The vomiting has stopped entirely. Things are good in Murrayville. (Thank goodness.) But we’re not in the clear just yet. After his belly heals, we have to then take him back to the doctor and put him on a lifelong diet, which won’t be fun because this little man loves to eat. But he’ll most likely have belly issues for his entire life.

Em has been sick as well. And today I finally decided (after two weeks and three nights of little to no sleep) that it was time to take him to the doctor. My guess has been that he has a common cold, but what if I turned out to be wrong and he was actually suffering from something worse? I would never forgive myself and we all know that motherhood is fueled by guilt—love is a given—it’s the guilt part that we don’t often talk about because admitting we do something out of guilt makes us feel guilty because, well, doing something out of guilt is actually selfish, right? And being selfish makes you a bad mother.

(I’m sorry, have I gone off topic? This is what happens when someone is sleep deprived, guilty and unable to stop her child from coughing long enough so he can get a good night’s rest. It’s also what happens when someone is rundown. While level crazy may be high today, I reckon I’ll be back to a relative normal tomorrow.)

Where was I?

Today I took Emory in for a sick visit to the doctor. But not before having a major breakthrough where crazy is concerned. I’m so sleep deprived, I actually considered taking Murray along with us. Why? Because Emory kept him company last week, so Murray would naturally want to return the favor, right? I mean, that’s what brothers do, right? They make their siblings feel better when they’re down or sick. I had the cat carrier in my hand when I realized how completely and totally insane I was being. Who brings a cat to a pediatrician’s office? Apparently, I’m a few steps away from becoming that person and I’m not even sure that person exists yet, I’m not sure that person has yet been defined. But leave it to me to define that person.

Anyway, I talked myself away from entering crazyville and went to the pediatrician without our shaved cat.

The doctor confirmed my thoughts: Emory has a cold and a nasty cough to go along with it. Other than slathering a vapor rub on his feet, chest and tummy, there’s nothing much I can do for him. So I packed everything back into the car and we headed home.

That’s when something spectacular took place.

The second I removed Emory’s jacket, and the moment we walked through the door, he toddled over to the armchair where Murray napped and climbed up next to him. And he spoke clearly, concisely and with syllables (not the English variety, mind you) and told Murray everything he had missed.

Naturally, I ran for the camera. (I so wish I had audio too!)

I hope our pediatrician is open to the idea of welcoming pets as binkies.

And brothers.

Tuesdays With Murray (Chapter 53)

The other day I was thinking about Schmitty. Schmitty was our 15-year-old cat who got cancer and died in a very short amount of time. Schmitty was chubby, loyal, beautiful and probably one of the sweetest creatures alive. We used to say that if there’s such thing as an 8-fold path, he was most certainly at the finish line. When he was put to sleep on April 21st, 2007, he entered nirvana—enlightenment. He would have left this tangible world forever.

I used to brag about Schmitty. You see, he was directly responsible for turing at least three people into cat people. In fact, they liked him so much, they too adopted cats. The surprising thing about these three people is that they didn’t particularly like cats before they met Schmitty. I took great pride in knowing that cats were adopted directly because of Schmitty. (I still take great pride in that.)

Schmitty was always spreading compassion.

We had to say goodbye to Schmitty. But we still think about him all the time. He comes to me in dreams sometimes, which is always bittersweet because I wake up aching to see him again—like, actually aching. But it’s nice to see him at all.

We miss him. That’s about all I can really say about that because if I continue writing about him, I’ll cry and I don’t want to cry this afternoon.

And so.


We adopted Murray a month or so after we said goodbye to Schmitty. We got Murray because I needed to laugh. And Murray is a hoot. I don’t have to convince you of that. If you’re reading this, chances are you already know and love Murray—goofy as he may be.

Well, Murray and Em get along wonderfully. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more baby-friendly pet. When Murray plays with Em, he’s surprisingly gentle, like he knows he needs to be. And they actually play together. Murray makes Em laugh almost as much as he makes us laugh, which is pretty remarkable if you ask me.

I swear if I were a less cynical person, I’d guess he’s doing this intentionally.

Their relationship brings me some bittersweetness as well. You see, watching Em with Murray is great, but there are times where I just wish he had a brother. There are times where I think, “Oh, this boy is entirely too friendly and outgoing to spend all of his time playing with a cat!” And I feel a little sad for him and then I take him for a walk and show him the colorful arrangement of drunk and dying men our neighborhood park has to offer. (Again, sad.)

About two months ago I started to realize that Emory simply couldn’t be an only child. I was surprised by the change of heart. All along, I have said one child, just one. But I think I was even more surprised when I realized who brought the change to light.

A cat. Another freaking cat!

And so I have to spell it out for myself. I simply have to write it down for the sake of history.

Schmitty was responsible for convincing a difficult crowd that cats make awesome pets. At least three people adopted a feline because of him. He passed and we “replaced” him with a fuzzy feller named Murray.

Murray is responsible for showing us—a couple determined to have only one child—that we simply cannot stop at only one. We simply have to give our son a sibling someday.

I guess what I’m saying is perhaps this is what Schmitty wanted all along.

But I have to admit, I’m having a little trouble figuring out a way to tell Em’s eventual sibling that he or she was brought into the world because of a cat.

Tuesdays With Murray (Chapter 48)

I am in South Jersey for a few days visiting my parents. I’m relaxing. We’re going deep sea fishing. It’s gonna be awesome. Right now, I’m sipping coffee, eating my daily allowance of Weight Watcher’s yogurt (Strawberry today), and catching up on the plethora of ways I normally waste my time. (Hello, Internet!)

I gotta tell you, unplugging for a few days really sets a person back. I feel as though I have no idea what is going on (out there) anymore. And I’m not sure if I feel out of it or liberated.

It seems most of Twitter is filled with blurbs about iPhone gadgetry, heat waves and travel. The national news seems to be about iPhones, the Clintons, and the price of gas per gallon. And of course our local news is about baseball, subway outages and heinous acts of torture. Flickr has been fairly consistent. Travel, dogs, babies, more travel, macro shots, and more dogs, throw in a few mouthwatering shots of meals and you get a pretty great idea of my daily “Friends and Family” Flickr stream.

My Net News Wire RSS feed reader is down to less than 20 feeds. Sometime last month I decided—out of nowhere—that I was spending too much time trying to keep up with other blogs. That said, I have no idea what’s been going on in the (I hate this term) Blogosphere lately.

And then I got to my email. I had a lot of email waiting. I’m still nowhere near caught up, but I’m trying.

I heard from Karyn (my old boss) and Nico (who’s coming to see me on Friday). I heard from many of you about Weight Watchers and how you either hated it or love it. I also had an email from Lisa, our cat sitter extraordinaire.

Part of her email read:

“Tucker said hello then hid, but Pookum came right out to eat and sat for some pets and headbumps. Murray was Murray. He knocked my coffee over and tried to steal my Entenmans. You can’t trust him for a second can you?”

It’s nice to know that while the internet may be full of surprises, twists and turns, Murray remains exactly the same. You can always count on Murray even if it’s about how little you can trust him.

Tuesdays With Murray (Chapter 38)

If somebody from Animal Planet contacted you about taking part in a reality TV show about pet weight-loss (Biggest Loser for pets) would you consider it? Murray’s so fat! Speaking of Murray…

TobyJoe and I have talked about how Murray will most likely be considered Emory’s first childhood pet. Tucker and Pookum are much older and unfortunately, he probably won’t get to know them very well. But Murray should be around for a while.

Lately, Emory and Murray have started to actually play with one another. They have their toys mixed up a bit. For example, Emory really likes to play with the blue cat toy shown above but it doesn’t really bother Murray too much considering they can knock the ball around together. And they do.

Murray and Emory tend to find the same things amusing, take the Swiffer, for example. Both of them love the Swiffer! Which I find really quite strange and since neither one of them speak English, I can’t get a straight answer as to why.

I thought today might be a good day to put together a video of clips featuring how Emory and Murray interact. I want to share it with you today to thank you for all your support lately. (I received some pretty great email last night and when I find the time, I do hope to write everyone back personally.)

Lastly, and this may sound a little silly, but when I watched the final video, it brought tears to my eyes. I hope you enjoy it as well.

UPDATED TO ADD: Lisa posted a video of Murray when he was just a wee little man. Check it out.

Chemicals In Our Children

This is why everyone who made fun of us for buying an organic crib mattress can go ahead and bite me. Seriously, we were laughed at for buying chemical-free baby clothing, blankets and a mattress. We were also scoffed at for wanting to use glass bottles not only by people we know but by some of the folks in our parenthood preparation classes.

This is NOT the type of article I want to see in my RSS feed. Some really scary stuff, people. And you’re insane to not let it bother you.

“[Rowan’s] been on this planet for 18 months, and he’s loaded with a chemical I’ve never heard of,” Holland, 37, said. “He had two to three times the level of flame retardants in his body that’s been known to cause thyroid dysfunction in lab rats.”

Granted, our couches are filled with chemicals. Our cheap Ikea carpets are as well. And the Pack ‘n Play isn’t exactly retardant-free either.

Bedroom Chaos.

Murray has ringworm, which was the catalyst that started The Great Cleanse of 2007. (I know some of you may be wondering if this whole ringworm thing is OK for me since I’m pregnant. I have spoken to my doctor about it. Ringworm is harmless for me and the unborn baby.) After Toby dunked the little guy in a sulfur mixture, we scoured the floors with bleach and water. We washed every piece of clothing we own. We stripped down the bedding and washed whatever we could, and boxed up whatever we couldn’t. One of the items we couldn’t wash was our bedspread. I washed it twice before (because I’m a moron) and the second time it nearly came undone. So I’ve stopped washing it, which means it needs to be boxed up until I can figure out a way to get it clean. (Or until the ringworm spores die, which I believe takes a month or so. Oh, and by the way, ringworm is not a worm.)

Well, all of this has left us with one of the most schizophrenic looking bedrooms I’ve ever seen. Because I’ve had to make due with an old duvet and its cover, which doesn’t go with the red and gold curtains. It’s not pretty. And the whole ordeal has me looking for new bedding.

Here is a shot of the only duvet cover we currently own. (Ignore the cat. She just likes to sleep in my pregnancy pillow whenever I am not.)

Here is a picture of our curtains. (Ignore the cat hair all over them. How embarrassing.)

Here is a picture of our sheets.

Here is a picture of Murray sleeping on my belly. (This has nothing to do with the post, but it’s freaking cute, so I had to share.)

I was going to buy a new duvet cover from Overstock yesterday, preferably one to match our curtains and sheets (also the cheapest way to solve this problem) when I realized that even though the Eastern seaboard seems to be fighting it right now, it’s going to be summer soon. Buying a new duvet cover for our existing duvet seems a bit silly right now, doesn’t it? I mean, we do usually use the AC in the summer and I am always cold from it which means on any given night you can find me snuggled beneath the covers as the AC blows cold, Arctic air onto our heads. Meanwhile, Tobyjoe is usually flopped down on top of the comforter, legs thrown about, arms spread as if he surrendered to the heat. Point is: I often need blankets even in the dead of summer and Tobyjoe is often annoyed by them. I’m starting to think that a duvet might be a little too much and sheets aren’t enough.

What do you do about this sort of transition? Do you have seasonal blankets for your bed? Do you use a duvet as well because it looks good? Do you strip that duvet down at night and use a blanket for warmth? As simple and trivial as it may seem, I have no idea what to do about our bedding situation. And obviously this is the single most important aspect of our lives right now. I am willing to send you cookies if you can make this work. What do you do about your summer bedding?

Sick Pet Support (Pet Bereavement, Health, Etc)

Tobyjoe and I built another Web site last week. When Schmitty was sick, we looked all over the Internet in search of a forum devoted to pet health and pet bereavement. We were both shocked to discover how few sites there are out there, so we built our own. The site is called Sick Pet Support and it’s mean to offer just that: support.

My hope is to gather some content over the next couple of weeks, and, hopefully, eventually, it will grow to fill that void. We hope people visit, write, talk about their pets, discuss treatments for their pets, whatever. As long as it’s pet related, the site remains open to anything, run by people who simply love animals. No post is too long, too personal, or too nonsensical. When it comes to our furry companions and the way in which they live, anything goes.

I will answer any questions people may have here in the comments section. For more information about our goal for the site, as well as how it came to be, please visit “About SPS”. Remember, the site is still in Alpha and may have a few bugs. Kindly report any such matters so we can fix them. (If you don’t like to leave comments, you may email me.) Also, please feel free to pass this along to anyone you feel may benefit from it or help it grow.

Again, I am going to write more about the site in the comments sections, mapping out how to leave links, what will change over the next couple of weeks, what we’ll be adding to its functionality, etc. And, as always, if you have any suggestions as to how to make it better or more usable, please do let us know. We really do cherish feedback. We take it very seriously.

Stop by when you have the time.