Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pet Sitters

I have a neighbor and a friend who regularly take care of Toby when my boyfriend and I are out of town. Both have declined money in the past so for one I make pie or cookies (I make a killer blueberry pie) and for Christmas we're giving him a gift certificate to the restaurant where we know he often eats lunch. We didn't stalk him, it's the restaurant where my boyfriend works. We decided it would be too creepy to make it for exactly the cost of his usual lunch.

For the other, we load up the fridge with specialty beer and he drinks a bottle each time he visits Toby while playing with him and providing company for the cat. For Christmas he's getting an awesome specialty beer mug for his personal bar.

I used to pet sit for a friend of my sisters and she paid me in gift cards to my favorite pet shop and complete set of LSAT books when my boyfriend was getting ready to take the test.

Now that it's the holidays and many people are getting ready to travel, I'm wondering if non-money is actually common or if I just hang out with a group of people more inclined to barter/trade than to pay. Any thoughts?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Best part of working at home

The heat is broken at my office today so I'm working from home. I was just starting to get annoyed with an excel sheet (I love the program, but often have to check formatting formulas) when I heard a commotion to my left.

I turned and there was Toby.

Ignore the mass of gray fur that collected along the baseboard. I swear, I vacuum. That's just his favorite spot to roll and rub off his shedding fur.

Hope your Friday is just as full of joy as a cat in a bag playing with his favorite rattle ball.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

First Ever Film By Cats

Departing from the holiday theme, I know I'm late on this, but I finally saw the Purina "Cat Diaries" today and it melted my heart with happiness.

We're still in the midst of a nasty cold snap in DC right now, but this warmed my heart.

Don't forget, with the cold snap, make sure to call your local animal control if you see a pet left in the cold. WHS listed a warning last night. Be careful out there! Also, if there's ice near you, remember to clean your dog's paws off when you come in--various de-icers can be uncomfortable or even poisonous for dogs so make sure you're the one cleaning it off and not your dog's tongue!

Stay warm!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Leaping Bunny Reminder!

Don't forget that many animal lovers, even those who aren't vegetarian, avoid products that have been tested on animals. That's not a major issue with books, but if you're trying to pamper the hands of an animal-loving teacher with superb lotion or give a relaxing spa set to your stressed out wife, make sure to check Leaping Bunny to see if the manufacturer tests their products on animals.

Leaping Bunny admits that not every cruelty-free product is in their database, but it's fairly extensive. Another option is to browse manufacturer websites. Many companies have pages of information on their alternative testing methods. Make sure you're not fooled by green washing though. Many products that appear green (Herbal Essences, I'm looking at you!) aren't actually green or cruelty free.

That hand lotion would also be appreciated by many shelter workers. It's good practice to wash one's hands or disinfect between animals and that can dry out skin fast. I'll give a recommendation to The Body Shop's Hemp Hand Protector. It has a bit of an odd scent, but it feels amazing. Also, for your information, check out The Body Shop's statement against animal testing.  I will freely admit a soft spot for this company. They were the first store I shopped at where I didn't feel the need to check the ingredients of every product but could actually still afford a lot of the products!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Gift Ideas for Animal Lovers (and an Eggnog Complaint)

I brought my first eggnog of the season home a week or so ago and have had the devil of a time keeping glasses of it away from Toby.. I keep turning my back for a second only to find his entire head in my empty glass, frantically licking up the remains of the eggnog. He is on a small laxative at the moment so I'm not going to fret too much over him getting a few occasional licks, but it's worse than whipped cream (another favorite) to keep him out of it. Was curious if anyone else had that problem or if Toby is just extra special and full of holiday mischief. I promise, it's nonalcoholic (Organic Valley Eggnog actually--insanely delicious).  If he was fine after diving headfirst into an empty mocha frappe (I swear, I just turned to say hello to my boyfriend before finding that Toby had knocked off the lid and stuck his face in), I trust Toby will be fine with a few licks of eggnog.

1. For Your Favorite Pet Parent: Interactive Toys
Kongs, Fling-ama-string, Batting Practice mouse, Treat Puzzle Boxes
I love my catnip mice (and so does Toby) and we love our Zig-n-Zag ball so those are fine gifts, but being able to turn on the Fling-ama-string while I'm eating (anything other than eggnog) so Toby is distracted is amazing. I love turning it on when Toby feels playful but I have a migraine, or I'm cooking, or doing yoga (please say your cats also love to be affectionate when you're trying to hold a plank pose, please?), or anything where I want Toby distracted. My brother gave me one for my birthday (from the ASPCA so bonus points of awesomeness!) and it's the coolest toy ever. It does require batteries and I do prefer to be present while he's using it, even if I'm not actively watching (I do watch often though, he's adorable with the pouncing). The company does suggest supervision in case of anything getting tangled or loose but we haven't had any major issues with it other than forgetting to change the batteries once.

I also love the Batting Practice Mouse my brother gave me (also from the ASPCA). It's a little squishy mouse that makes an electronic squeak when batted. The mouse hangs on elastic and string from a plastic "branch" that sits over the top of a door. The branch is easily detachable from the door so I can hide the mouse if Toby is playing at 3am. The branch can be knocked off or the mouse knocked into an unreachable position (mine is near some shelves so the mouse gets stuck sometimes) but the actual playing does not require supervision. Before Thanksgiving I took the mouse down for a week or so then put it up as we were leaving. Our cat sitter found the mouse happily played with every day he came. I felt better about Toby being occupied while we were gone.

Kongs and Puzzle Treat boxes
Kongs are the traditional cone shaped rubber toys into which a person places peanut butter, kibble, and anything else you want your dog to slowly eat. The dog then licks into the kong and works to get the food out. This keeps the dog happy and can be used for peace during mealtime (if you can't tell, I'm a huge fan of distraction) and to keep a dog occupied and entertained while his parent is out of the home.
There are also puzzle treat boxes for dogs where the dog needs to figure out a puzzle in order to get the treat. I've seen some people fill the boxes with the dog's kibble breakfast as a way to make the meal last and also as a way to entertain the dog without feeding too many treats.
I use a food ball for Toby that operates on a similar principle. His portion of dry food (that which isn't used as sprinkles on his wet food--my boyfriend spoils my cat) is put in a ball that Toby then knocks around. As Toby bats the ball, kibble falls out and he's able to eat. It makes meals last longer and keeps him occupied.

Most pet parents worry about their pets being bored, if you can help soothe your friend's mind about that, it's a wonderful gift. Plus, a lot of the toys are really entertaining to see being used. I keep trying to get video of Toby using my birthday gifts but he stops playing when he sees the cameraphone.

2. The Animal Lover Without a Pet--Sponsor a Pet!
Do Not Give a Pet!!!
Pets are personal and should never be given as gifts. Even people who love animals can have valid reasons for not wanting a pet at this point in their lives.
A better alternative? Sponsor a pet at their local shelter and give a small stuffed animal who looks similar. Depending on your shelter and personal budget, you might need to go in on the sponsorship with a friend, but it's an amazing gift.

3. The Animal Lover Who Also Loves Books--Pet Themed Books
If your friend is cool with used books (my family and friends usually indicate a preference for them) this can be a really inexpensive gift that's still a lot of fun. If new books are preferred, Borders offers a lot of email discounts (ranging from 20-33-40% off) that can be printed off and brought in for browsing.
Head to the section with your friend's favorite genre and find several books where an animal seems important or is on the cover. This post shows four of my favorite romance books featuring animals (and one of my favorite mysteries as well). If you want other genre suggestions, just leave a note in the comments. If I can't provide an answer (or the other commenters don't!). The only genre I really avoid is suspense but I have family members who love it and will provide suggestions if need be. I just finished Mercedes Lackey's The Serpent's Shadow and was reminded of how well she uses animals. The 'pets' in that books are integral to the plot and the book is a great choice for fantasy fans who also enjoy historical fiction.

Any other types of animal-loving friends about whom you're stuck for gift ideas? Just let me know. I love gift finding.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

All Healthy!

Finally went in for a full day of work on Friday. So grateful that my company allows us to work remotely. I was all set to go in tomorrow afternoon, but then Toby had a tablespoon or so of blood in his litter box. I freaked, called the vet for advice, and she said that she wanted to see him that afternoon.

Thankfully, he's healthy. She checked his glands while I experienced the oddness of having someone tell me to stand on the other side of the room because they don't want Toby associating me with that experience, and everything seemed fine. She gave me a preliminary diagnosis that he just has a sensitive colon and the extra treats I'd been giving him while I was sick (I had to bribe him to ignore the menthol smell somehow!) had just upset his system. She suggested a small amount of a gentle laxative and said she'd call with the lab results of the sample I'd brought in.

She called today to say the sample was clean!!!

Toby has been adorable destructive last night and this evening and everything seems good.  so I am incredibly relieved.

After looking over my budget for this month and the bill for the vet services--it's a darn good thing he's adorable. Signed over half my restaurant budget into the Pets column today. *sigh* the things we do for our loved ones.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Slight Delay

The rest of the guide will be posted once I recover from a nasty cold and trust myself to write coherent sentences.

Many apologies.

Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Advent!

Let's cover my horribly long absence by stating that I had some personal stuff to take care of that meant my internet time has been severely limited. I've been reading only my most favorite blogs and even commenting on those only in batches while mostly lurking. I'd apologize, but I think it's understood that people sometimes need breaks from these things when life gets crazy.  Everything is good now though and things are getting under control and less hectic.

I've also started Christmas shopping. I'm a list person. It helps keep me under budget, but it also helps me remember ethical constraints for my friends.One friend is so fed up with Palestine/Israel that she won't buy anything that is made with disputed resources (such as Ahava products and most other "Dead Sea" products). Another feels strongly about independent shops and would rather a book from an independent second hand shop than a Borders. It's easy for me to remember that about my friends and adjust my shopping accordingly.

But what about your animal loving friends? We're a pretty diverse group--some people do a whole vegan lifestyle, others love cats and dogs but that's the extent, and many of us are somewhere in between. Plus, even if you know your friend is vegan or some form of vegetarian, it's hard to remember what that can entail. One of my friends is an amazing cook and has a great cooking blog--unfortunately one of her recipes labled vegetarian uses traditional gelatin which isn't. So in the tradition of the "Examination of Conscience" guides my Catholic grade school supplied, this week is devoted to examining your gifts for animal-loving friends. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to answer. Otherwise, I'll provide a general overview with some specific don'ts and some suggestions for if you're stuck.

Feel free to consider this a guide for Solstice, New Years, or Hanukah shopping if you prefer. Or Festivus. Or you don't celebrate anything now but might be buying birthday gifts in the future.

Also, please realize that just because you aren't opposed to every item I list, does not mean I consider you any less of an animal lover. I'm, what I consider a "Conscientious Dairy- and Egg-Consuming Pescatarian." I'm still figuring out exactly what I think about certain issues and the vast majority of animal rights is a bit gray and murky for most of us. That's okay, in my mind, so long as we still try to think about it and don't just ignore it all. Please feel free to disagree with me. I'm not easily offended. Just don't say that you think God wants us to eat meat. You'll get a digital finger flick.

My general view on animal rights and animal issues is that animals need to be respected as animals and as just as much a part of the Earth as we are. I am not opposed to symbiotic relationships where both species benefit. I like to think that Toby benefits as much from my loving are as I do from his antics and affection. I'm not opposed to working animals, so long as those animals are treated in a respectful manner and allowed to live somewhat natural lives. I try not to consume or use products from animals where the animals suffered. Obviously, suffering is somewhat subjective. I consider factory farming to be suffering. I consider it wrong to kill and eat animals who are at least as smart as dogs and cats (a line needed to be drawn somewhere, for me it's there). I'm still learning and my views are subject to change. I'm not a saint and I still get strong cravings for greasy cheeseburgers and blts. I do not look down on anyone who chooses to eat meat but I do rejoice when people think about their choices and choose to support farmers who treat their animals well before death or choose to consumer less meat than before.

 What if you are an animal-loving recipient of a gift that goes against your ethical grain? Your response is dictated by your own conscience but my plan, if that happens, is to say thank you and then quietly donate the gift. Even if you're given fur, HSUS has a program where donated furs are used to help orphaned and injured bears. I tend to think that people are best won over by example, not by shouting or rudeness. I would never tell my boyfriend that he's not allowed to eat meat or bring it into the apartment, but I almost melted when he told his dad that he was trying to move away from ham, pork, and bacon because of how smart pigs are. I never set out to change my boyfriend's mind, but I know that he looked through vegetarian starter kits I had out when I was first switching and that he listens to me when I talk about animal issues. I know I also started lessening my animal-consumption after exposure to low-key, non-evangelical vegetarians and vegans. People who had yelled about animal consumption never made an impact on me. Instead, I was converted by seeing that smart, successful veggies were happy to talk about the issues or send me to sites when I expressed curiosity. They didn't act like I needed to convert or be evil, but just made it clear that they would love to help me inform myself if I so chose.

If your conscience tells you to scream at the gift-giver "don't you know who I am?" well, if it's your grandmother I'll pretend I've never heard of you even on the internet. If it's your boyfriend who knows you're vegan and would never use an Omaha steak subscription, I'll assist you in dumping a bucket of herbal tea on his head.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


After a great deal of thought, I'm going to spend some time this weekend getting posts ready and cleaning up Capital Animals so that I can post on a more regular schedule with better content in the future. If you have any feedback (criticism, compliment, or complaints are all welcome! Well, within reason.) I'd love to hear it so I can work on making this a better blog. It will still be driven primarily by what I think/want to write about (I'm selfish that way) but if there's something you've loved and want to see more of or hate and want to never see again, that'd be good to know. Photos of Toby will still continue. Just to let you know. He's adorable.

If there are no compliments I'll assume you're super happy with everything the way it is, have no advice, and want Toby to rule Earth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Welcome You Back with Electronica Cats

I've been absent as of late partially because of work and partially because I was busy outside of work. Last week was my birthday and amongst other awesome times and gifts, my brother gave me amazing cat toys that amuse Toby (and thus me, too) for hours on end.

My brother is pretty awesome. I'm hoping once I get out to visit him in El Paso that can maybe score a visit to the border patrol dogs who apparently are in high demand and just as awesome in real life as they seem via news stories. He also likes electronic music, from what I understand (I'm kind of awful at keeping up with people's music tastes).

So, in honor of him and tomorrow's National Feral Cat Day:
Cats playing electronica

Happy Friday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Family, pets, and feral populations

In Russia there are dogs that have figured out how to use the subway system to travel to locations with better food. From what I can tell, most Russians aren't particularly bothered. The article there calls them stray, but I've seen them also referred to as feral dogs the way that we refer to feral cats in the US.

In the US, 30% of Americans consider pets family but Trap, Neuter Return (TNR) groups, such as Alley Cat Allies, always have a tough sell convincing people not to just poison feral cat colonies.

I feel like these are related somehow but I'm not sure. Maybe because so many Americans do have a familial relationship with their pets, it's more difficult for us to accept feral cat colonies?  I don't have an answer yet but I want to explore and find one.

In England, it's considered best for cats to be outdoor animals or at least only confined inside at night. In the US we build giant catios (patios for cats) to keep our kitties entertained while also safe and secure, as we point to figures showing that indoor cats live significantly longer. We round up strays and bring them to shelters and seem certain that this is the way to handle things.

In Italy, we saw a ton of freely roaming dogs and cats. The winery where we stayed fed and cared for a dog and a cat that had shown up in the past and hung around, but they weren't allowed inside the buildings because that would be considered dirty.

I do volunteer at an open access shelter and my gut reaction is that it's better not to let strays wander all over the city. I also support TNR and not taking feral cats into a shelter where they will likely end up euthanized or miserable. In the southern US, a far smaller percentage of pets are fixed than in the northeastern US. I want to know why.

Yes, part of me wants to know why the differences are there because I think that trying to change people's behavior (i.e. get more people to spay/neuter) without first understanding the reason for that behavior is doomed to failure. A large part of it is simply a desire to know more and explore.

A cat-like curiosity if you will.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Monday Bit of Cute

I've been trying to get some cleaning done this holiday but was just distracted by how sweet Toby was being with his new "friend." My nana had a collection of small stuffed dogs that she gave me to me when she started preparing for the day that she and my grandpa might have to move into a nursing home.

If you don't already know, my nana and grandpa were the first to really teach me about dogs and how to interact with them. I really credit them and their dog Mickey with inspiring my love of animals so it means a lot that she gave me her little stuffed dogs. I have no qualms about a respectful display of stuffed animals in an adult apartment. There are also Andy Warhol cat prints and a full bar.

After setting up a new headboard to make reading in bed a little more comfortable, I placed a few of the stuffed dogs there. That night I woke up to all but one of them being dropped onto me by a stretching Toby. Since then, Toby has been spending the majority of his time up there, curled up with the little brown and white stuffed dog. I tried to snap the photo while he was napping with his head resting on the dog, but Toby of course woke up at the sound of my approach.

It's still a cute shot all the same, I think. I'll be visiting my nana and grandpa in two weeks and am looking forward to telling them that Toby has adopted one of the dogs. He hasn't rough played with the dog at all, just curled up with it and purred.

I wonder if he'll be so sanguine about it the first time he meets a real dog...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Support Pakistan

When  Haiti experienced an earthquake, there were telethons, collections,  front page headlines, radio djs talking about it, massive cell phone  donations, and more to help the victims.

Now  there’s massive flooding in Pakistan, causing more damage than “the  2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, and the 2010 Haiti  earthquake combined” (  ) and the first I heard about it was when my sister mentioned that she  needed to stay late at work because of the flooding. At my confused look  she clarified “in Pakistan.” My sister genuinely saves lives for a  living and does tend to be more up-to-the-minute with foreign issues  than I am, but it seemed wrong that I hadn’t heard something earlier via  Twitter, the radio, or just office talk. But I hadn’t. I still don’t  hear much about it. Weeks later, as the floods are getting worse and  more people are suffering, I see the occasional tweet from a charity  group or Foreign Policy and an email from WSPA asking for donations. I  did hear about it in the sermon at the new parish I tried this past  weekend. There doesn’t seem to be a giant push to help though. People  don’t seem to care. There are no calls for a massive telethon like for  Haiti or a charity concert like for Tennessee. That seems wrong.

Foreign  Policy has a great article on why people aren’t giving to help Pakistan  flood victims. The article is great, the comments made me cry at how  inhumane people can be. They gave me an idea though. If people really  are going to be racist jerks, refusing to help the poor of a country  because they dislike the country’s elites, well what about the animals.  Those animals have no political agenda. They understand less about the  word Jihad than the average American (whose understanding seems to be  pretty limited from what I can tell). They’re suffering, too. WSPA is  doing its best to help them. explains why helping animals matters even if you’re not prejudiced against the people.

I  have a monthly budget for donations to help me deal with constantly  feeling like I should be giving more (and then seeing my credit card  bill and realizing nothing got saved for next month). August went to  help in Pakistan. September’s probably will as well.

If  you don’t have a monthly charity budget or have maxed yours out for the  month (it is the end of the month), please consider giving up today’s  coffee or muffin and donating at least that much to one of the many  organizations helping people and animals in Pakistan. How we take care  of each other matters.

WSPA: Update on a small success in Pakistan
IFAW’s blog about their work in Pakistan with a donation link:
IRC: Report on their work in Pakistan

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Puppies aren't products

The focus of Best Friend's "Puppies Aren't Products" campaign isn't giving puppies as gifts (it's the awful practice of puppy mills) but the sentiment still applies.

I've been asked multiple times by different people for advice on buying a cat or dog as a gift for someone. I always tell them not to do so. If you want to buy a gift for someone who loves animals, maybe ask to help pay for their adoption fee on the animal they pick out themselves, but don't go buying them a cat or a dog as a gift. Period. They Should Not Be Gifts.

I know that we see images of the kitten or the puppy with the big red bow at Christmas. I know that it seems sweet. But think about it for a minute. Would you ever give someone a child as a gift? A pet means years of responsibility, vet bills, and more. Yes, there are great aspects about pet ownership, but there are a lot of responsibilities as well. When you give someone a pet, you're taking away a chance for them to really think whether they're up for all the work involve--teaching kids how to behave toward the animal, handling allergies, buying appropriate food, training the animal, caring for him/her, etc. It's easy for people to forget all that when handed a cute puppy with a bow around his neck.

Plus, it diminishes the value of that animal. Animals, even pure-bred animals, are unique and have their own personalities. While a great deal of that personality is based on nurture, it's no more immune to nature than my or my sister's very different personalities.  We're great people, both of us, but many who would happily deal with her for 10 years might not want to deal with my quirks for that time period and vice versa. When you give an animal as a gift you remove the opportunity for the new pet parent to really look and find an animal with whom the bond and can get along.

Why this topic now, in the middle of my family vacation at the beach where I've been mostly offline? Because a friend of a friend is looking to rehome a dog she was given as a gift. . I'm not going to get into the reasons for the rehoming here because I'm standing by my belief that it will do no good for me to judge and the girl is trying to find a new home for the puppy which is responsible. The dog is pure-bred so I first suggested contacting the breeder because most reputable, good breeders will take back their dog  However, the girl apparently can't do that because the breeder is across the country where the mom lives and she can't get back across the country to return the dog. I don't think people consider that outcome when they give animals. Apparently the dog is sweet and cute and I'm sure she'll find a new home soon--cute, pure-bred puppies with papers don't lack homes long.  I'm just frustrated by the situation.

Don't give animals as gifts. Don't accept an animal as a gift if you aren't 100% prepared to commit to that animal for the span of his or her life. If you really want to give someone a gift and they want a pet--make a donation to a shelter in their name and sponsor one of the animals there.  It costs about the same and it'll help save a life instead of putting one potentially at risk.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Crossing my fingers

Keen met his applicant yesterday. And ate from her hand!  It took him months to eat off of my hand. He also purred when she held him. I think it was true love.

Now I'm just waiting for the shelter to process the application and paperwork. I'm crossing my fingers that she'll get approved quickly so he can go home before Virginia Beach.

He's such a special cat. I want him to have his forever home.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Might be a bite?

Just a quick update on my lunch break...the shelter called and a woman heard about Keen from Sunday's event (I think a friend of her's saw him?) and she's interested in him. She's an older lady who has a soft spot for older cats. I should be getting a call from the lady soon to talk about him and possibly set up a meeting.
(side thought--I really should have cleaned this week more than just reorganizing my book and game shelves)

I'm really hopeful that this is the right lady for him. This will sound nutty, but I've seriously been having dreams the past few nights where he finds the right people and they adopt him. And I haven't had that dream before and now here it's been on repeat (though with different people each time) and he finally gets a bite of interest? I'm just spiritual enough to hope it might be related.

Of course, there will be some sadness mixed in with the joy if he gets adopted by this woman. But it'll mostly be joy. I'll have a glass of wine or a mocha martini, toast the joy and experience he brought to my life and to his happy retirement, and then hope for new photos of him in his new home.

Any vibes/prayers/etc you all have to spare that this works out and he gets his forever home soon, would be greatly appreciated. I really do love this old cat. He's a character and I think could really shine in a home without Toby's jealousy.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Re-homing PSA / I'm on my high horse

I do have sympathy for those who must give up their pets. My grandparents had to give up their dog after my nana's health problems continued to worsen and my grandpa no longer had the time to care for the dog the way he should. Also, the dog loved to dart out open doors and try to run away which isn't a huge deal for younger folk to deal with, but older folk with heath problems and difficult joints? Not so easy. So they asked around and looked at friends of their kids and did give their dog up. The entire process they were open about why they were giving up their dog.

Why is this on my mind? Because I saw a tweet today that said "Tomorrow is the last day for anyone to take our kitty!! If not, she'll have to go to a shelter :( Plz RT!! " from a user whose tweets are locked. This meant that when I thought, "oh that's sad, I wonder why they're giving her up, I'm sure one of her other tweets explained it" (I saw this as a Retweet--rt) and clicked for more info--I couldn't read any of her other tweets. So then I tried clicking on her tumblr link, sure that someone responsible for rehoming their cat would have some photos of the kitty.

Uh, no. No photos. No mention of the cat whatsoever.

Now, maybe she did have other tweets explaining the situation. However, if so, they're in a locked account that's not viewable by the adopting public.

So I'd like to make a PSA for those who, for whatever reason, feel the need to re-home their pet to whom they promised love and fidelity until death do you part (yes, that's part of the unwritten contract we have with our pets, it's even stronger than marriage because humans can deal better with being left after years of being loved, they're not utterly dependent on us).

1. Consider whether you really need to re-home your animal. Is it money? Look into pet foodbanks or vets with flexible pay plans. Behavior issues? Have you talked to a trainer? For any of these, when in doubt, talk to your local shelter. They likely have counselors and behaviorists on staff who can assist you in finding these resources.

2. When emailing/tweeting/flyering/blogging about your pet that you need to rehome, please, for the love of pawprints, say WHY you are finding your beloved pet a new home. Honestly, I promise not to judge you for "my 2 year old son can't breathe with kitty around and we've tried shots, roombas, and wipes all to no avail" or "I'm shipping out in a week and my friends/family are all allergic or unable to take my pet" or even "my pet is too rambunctious with my child and I don't have the time to train my kid and pet how to deal with each other."  Seriously, potential adopters and those people who want to help you, want to know what the reason is. It makes it a lot easier to help you find your pet a new home if we know why you're giving the pet up.

3. Read ASPCA's guide to re-homing your dog and seriously do everything they say. I'd love to see ASPCA have some social media tips added to their list, but honestly, it's the best advice on this. Go read it. Make sure you get your pet healthy and up-to-date on shots. Make sure you charge people at least some money to cut down on Class B dealers (those who take free-to-good-home pets and sell them to labs).

4. Don't try to guilt people. It's your pet. If he or she goes to a shelter tomorrow, that hangs on your head. Not the head of readers who didn't adopt him or her. This is not an animal already given up in a shelter, this is someone who you vowed to love and care for. It's really not a very effective way of getting adopters because it just makes me think that you're shucking all responsibility.

5. If you do have to give your pet to a shelter, please make a donation and bring supplies, and try to find one that's no kill if you can to give your pet the best chance possible. Especially if he or she is older. Keen is 15. He's very lucky that he came into a shelter with such an active foster program. He would likely not be alive if he had been dropped off at many other shelters. And I say that with my shelter not being no-kill. We're just lucky to have enough fosters that there was room for him at the time to get into the program.

I'm sorry if this seems harsh, but I get very upset with people. I understand how hard it is to give up an animal, really, I do and I don't judge you for having to do so, but I do think that we need to take responsibility for our actions. Giving up a pet should not be the same as giving up a purse. It should break your heart a little. If it doesn't, why did you have a pet in the first place?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Greeted with a purr

Sorry for the lack of posts but I didn't want to announce that I'd be out of town for a few days. My boyfriend and I headed up to Cleveland to see my parents. My boyfriend has only been in Cleveland at Christmas when it's not at its prettiest so it was a treat to show him my home town full of greenery.

We had a bit of a scare two days before we left when Toby started peeing frequently and I spotted some redness in the pee. The vet gave us another prescription for anti-inflammatory meds and said not to worry unless it happens again. I then of course freaked out about asking my neighbor to not just feed, scoop litter, and play with the cats but to medicate Toby--until I gave Toby his first dose and remembered how crazy he is for that anti-inflammatory. He literally tries to suckle on the dropped. It's bizarre but kind of awesome.

My neighbor has two cats of his own who have met Toby and Keen in the building hall and is a really nice guy but I was still a bit nervous about adding "and keep an eye out for bright red pee spots" because that just somehow sounds crazy and weird, but he was really nice about the whole thing and swore he didn't mind.  I left a blueberry pie in the fridge for him which has disappeared so I'm assuming it was a good thank you gift. I'll probably find out Thursday when I stop by to say thank you and pick up my extra keys. We didn't get back until after 11 on Wednesday so I didn't want to bother him.

The cats seem happy and there were no major messes, which, as you all may know, is unusual for kitties left wild.Unless mine are just odd.  I'm not sure if it's Toby purposefully being naughty or if the stress of me leaving throws off his digestive system, but there's almost always some big mess near the litter box, into which the bathmat, toilet paper, and various other objects have been pulled.

As I write this, Toby is laying on the table, staring at me and purring. We played a short game of fetch after he flank rubbed my boyfriend and me. Even more impressive, guess who started purring when he was scooped up? Yup. Keen rested his head on my arm, relaxed, and actually purred for about 10 seconds before gently leaping to the couch (without claws!) and then formed a little kitty loaf and purred at me with his sides moving in and out with the purr.  Such a nice way to be greeted home.

Tomorrow is back to work and the shelter. A friend of mine is an amazing professional photographer and he agreed to shoot some photos of WHS's Georgia Avenue cats tomorrow evening :)  I'm really excited. His photos are absolutely amazing and in this age of, a good photo makes all the difference. Cross your fingers that the shoot goes well!

Also, in case you didn't see Webbthistle's comment, her two fosters from WHS got adopted! Grinned so hard when I saw her comment that I almost cried.

Not sure there is a greater homecoming than Keen purring, Toby forcefully flank rubbing, and finding out two kitties got adopted. Such an awesome day.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

To make your hope easier

My dad has been a die-hard Cleveland Indians Baseball fan since 1954. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MLB, to be a fan of the Indians (or really of any Cleveland team) requires one to be an optimist. My dad is no exception. One day in college when I was upset about something and I asked my dad how he could deal with all the setbacks and negativity and bad people and bad things in the world, and still be an optimist, he responded:
"I have always found optimism to be a healthy antidote to much of what happens in life. I always think that something nice is just around the corner. And every once in a while, just often enough to keep me going, there is."

And it's true. I find that I'm somehow the same way. I get down and sad about life, and then there's something good that happens that draws me back into being a bleeding-heart optimist who really does believe that something nice is around the corner.

Well, tonight I needed that. After reading about high kill shelters and lost cats, and being reminded of how anti-pittie Peta is and how many animals they kill while making money as a "pro animal" organization... I was upset. On the sort of scale that's beyond my fears that Keen will never find a home and that I'm not doing enough but I'm not sure I could do more right now, just overwhelmingly upset and worried that we'll never make headway and my great great grand-niece will have a futuristic apartment with foster cats from shelters who still have to euthanize to make room for all the homeless animals...

But I'm an optimist, even when it takes a little work. And I decided to screw waiting for that corner, I'd go out looking for some positives to keep me going. So here are five.

1. Ohio, which is my home state and doesn't have the best record on animal rights, is making serious progress! Advancement for both farm animals as well as at least some legislation cracking down on puppy mills. It's not perfect and it's not everything, but it's more than I expected and it's positive so I'm counting it as a win.

2. Pfizer and World Rabies Day are giving free rabies vaccines to shelters for World Rabies Day in honor of feral cats across the country (also, )

3. Speaking of ferals, Alley Cat Allies is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Boardwalk Cats Project.

4. The black momma cat in the high kill shelter that the awesome HubbleSpacePaws posted about was saved!

5. posted an awesomely perky summer video of pitties and their people playing on the beach.

I went to a Jesuit university and my favorite priest, Fr B, had this way of looking at the world and talking about it that really did make our hearts burn for social justice and filled us with the belief that we really could make a difference just by trying to be men and women for others. One of my favorite homilies he ever gave (sermon for those not familiar with Catholic jargon) included this:
"Hope is not answers or solutions; it's faith that something is waiting for us, that there are possibilities. Hope isn't easy."

What we do isn't easy, but we do it because we have faith that we make something better for those animals, that there are possibilities beyond accepting high euthanasia rates and over crowded shelters. On this Independence Day, I'll raise my blueberry pie to all the amazing people in the United States and beyond who work for animals whether in their day jobs, as volunteers or fosters, donating time and talent, and even just being good examples of how to treat animals. Because it's not always easy. But it is needed and it is part of what makes this country great.

I'd love to read about some other people's victories for animals, please leave some in the comments!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Short Term DC Cat Fosters, please?

I usually try not to post from work because I respect my employer. shelter, Washington Humane Society, just took in 20 cats from an eviction. It's kitten season and we just got 20 more cats. We're open access, not no kill. Do you start to guess why I'm breaking my "don't post during work hours" rule?

WHS is looking for short-term fosters asap. You would not be fostering one of the new 20, we're holding those in the shelter for 7 days before even considering putting them in foster care. You'd have one of the 20 we need to move from the shelter to make room for those new cats. I love my shelter for being open access and for trying to desperately hard to find fosters when situations get tight like this.

Here is their blog entry about it:

The coordinator has said that she's willing to "deputize" fosters because the need is so great right now. Please, if you're in the area and aren't already fostering, think about it. If you're unable to take any in (fostering, out of area, allergic, I respect your reasons), talk to your friends in the DC area, please. I can't take any with Toby still healing (vet said one reason for his thing might have been stress, like one commenter said) and Keen the way he is and it being a studio apartment but I have to at least go and ask people for help.

I'm certain that enough foster homes can be found if people just keep passing the word.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Something so cute can't be that dastardly

It's been one of those special weeks where my boyfriend and I keep repeating "it's a good thing they're so cute."

Monday, I stepped in one of Keen's hairballs while trying to get ready for work and Toby was acting oddly that night. He was peeing every 15 min or so, racing between the litter box and a pile of typing paper.
Tuesday morning when I was getting ready for my own doctor visit, I saw that the spots on the paper were red. I called and got a vet visit for that afternoon. Keen had another hairball on the carpet--just missing papertowels.
At the vet Toby whined pitifully but was otherwise sweet to the vet tech (one we've had before and who has always been awesome) and the vet. His heartbeat was fine, his organs felt ok, and he was very modest and refused to, er, "extend" when the vet attempted to check his external organ. They were unable to palpate the urine out so they had to do a mini ultrasound to guide the needle.

Well, Jarrod had dropped me and Toby off while picking up prescriptions for me (he's awesome and deserves tons of good boyfriend karma this week, seriously) and was reading in the lobby/waiting room of the vet's office when the vet came into the exam room with the test tube full of bright red urine.

Apparently I eeped for 2 minutes straight. I know I scared the poor vet and Jarrod came back shortly after to make sure I was okay because he had heard me in the waiting room. I refuse to be ashamed of my reaction to seeing that my cat's bladder was full of bloody urine. Seriously. I think that's a sight to freak out anyone who cares about her pets.

We got the test results back Wednesday morning--sterile cystitis. If I understand correctly, this is vet speak for "we have no idea why your cat is sick but there's obviously something wrong." There was no bacteria, white blood cells, crystals, or anything other than red blood cells and urine. So he's on anti-inflammatory meds and seems mostly ok.

I came home from work Wednesday night eager to clean because I was supposed to meet with a shelter friend on Thursday to discuss how the shelter could benefit from social media techniques (that's what I do in my job that pays for these emergency vet visits) and found that Toby, the dear sweet love of my life, had managed to knock down 4 of the 6 shelves of my splendidly organized, dearerest-of-my-possessions bookcase. And broken 2 glasses. Ad cleared a table. And hid my boyfriend's keys.

It's a darn good thing he's so cute.

He's currently curled up on my robe that he pulled down from the back of a char, looking sweet and innocent. He's returned to only using litter, not paper (though we did put out an extra litter box which has helped) and his spots are getting larger and less frequent which I'm taking as a good sign. There wasn't any fresh destruction when I came home today so I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. And he's accepting his meds. He dislikes it but doesn't claw or anything which I'll take as a win.

I'm choosing to see the wanton destruction as "see, I'm still healthy!" not "hahaha, you just lost your entire shopping budget for july at the vet's office."

Right? It's the first. It's gotta be the first. No way something so cute could be that dastardly.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dogs and Cat Pee

First, a cool article that talks about a study showing wolves and dingos were better at problem solving than domesticated dogs. I'd be curious to see this study done with different breeds of domesticated dogs, including those who are a little more "wild."

Second, I think (in my sleeping med induced haze) that Toby is trying to get me to clean. He just started doing mini pees outside his litter box--on the overflow from my laundry basket (I really hate doing laundry, seriously, least favorite chore) and my mail pile (which I also take forever to go through--I grab anything urgent and then wait to throw the rest away). He kept trying to go back. The areas are sprayed with a ton of Nature's Miracle and he's now happily cleaning himself in the front hallway. Hopefully he won't do anymore while I'm at work. He used the litterbox before going to the other places this morning so its not like he's forgotten it. Boo :( Massive cleaning and Cat vs Cat reading. He's normally awesome about the litterbox so I have a suspicion it's either because Jarrod left yesterday and it's anxiety related (Jarrod is around a lot and is currently out of town for a wedding) or something Keen related. It's not a full pee that he's doing in the two spots, more like just a tiny little dab--like when a dog has emptied his bladder but still wants to mark more spots on his walk.

Or maybe once my antihistimine sleeping pill gets out of my system I'll be able to think better.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Bark Ball

This past Saturday was Washington Humane Society's 23rd annual Bark Ball to raise money and celebrate the work that WHS does in and around the nation's capital. It's a glitzy event with animal lovers spending money for the purpose of helping the shelter.

Sadly, despite the above video, Bo couldn't come, but it was still a great event with lots of glitz and glam for a good cause.

I was working with the adoptable dogs which I love because you're directly with some of the event's beneficiaries. Most of the 6 dogs got applications which was awesome. We had a pittie puppy, Almond, who was then featured on Fox 5 yesterday morning. The anchor had walked with one of the adoptables on Saturday and was one of the nicest people I've met. She was super sweet, asked questions about the dog before walking, and understood that the energy and exuberance in three-legged Bentley was a good thing.

Another highlight of the night was seeing Tulip again. Tulip was one of the my favorite dogs from WHS. We loved having her at adoption events because she was just a cuddly, licking, happy pittie. She seemed to love being held, picked up, cuddled, and petted. Her adoptive parents brought her to the Ball clad in a yellow tutu and fake tulip necklace. She was adorable. When I saw her I asked if she remembered me and suddenly I had a doggie hug with her paws on my shoulders and her tongue lapping my face! There is nothing so wonderful as seeing a cat or dog's happiness post-shelter. Tulip is picture #5 in the Washington Post's slideshow.

The Georgetown Dish has a cute write up of the event, too. I wasn't able to take any photos with my full hands, but I'll keep my eye out for any! One photographer caught me rolling on the floor with Bentley during setup which should show off his adorableness appropriately!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Just because Toby can't read doesn't mean I don't

The other day, I picked up a contemporary romance collection of short stories about couples brought together because of cats. I thought it looked cute and it was under $2. Unfortunately, the stories weren't my favorites, partially because of the cats and the people's behaviors toward their cats. One heroine had a pure-bred, fully-intact female bought on a whim from a mall store. I would have a hard time holding my tongue if I met a real person like that, let alone a character in a story with whom I ought to be sympathizing. She didn't even make plans to spay her cat after she was impregnated by the hero's tom. I did like the hero (kind of, I thought he was wimpy toward the heroine) who A--had saved his cat from a dumpster and B--immediately fixed his cat the day after the accident and apologized for the incident.

The one story I did like involved a cat to whom a house had been willed who then saved the heroine from certain murder. I can respect that.

It got me thinking about animals in books and how they affect my enjoyment of a book and my sympathies for characters. I adore Jennifer Crusie's books and many of her works involve characters who rescue animals, have rescue pets, and who judge others based on their animals. You recognize the hero because of how he interacts with those animals. "Dogs and Goddesses," written with the amazing Lani Diane Rich and Anne Stuart, has the following line describing one of the heroes:
"Slayer of Demons, Greatest of Kings, Savior of Puppies"

How do you not like a hero with that description? That's what makes our heroine start to fall for him.

Lani Diane Rich also has a book where you know the hero is a good guy because he saves all the animals from a burning pet shop at the start of the book, even though he's trying to get out of town before anyone sees him. He knows that you have to save the animals.

Elizabeth Peters has her heroines and heroes form relationships with animals although it's not always quite as cut and dry as "the guy the animal likes is the hero." One of her heroes is hated by the heroine's cat, but he's the one who found the cat for her when she thought the cat was lost forever. He braved tooth and claw to help his beloved keep the cat she loved. That same heroine has a vicious looking but incredibly sweet dog she saved from a gang of criminals who kept him half starved.

I started Kristan Higgins "The Next Best Thing" feeling friendly toward the heroine half because the cat pictured on the front, back, and side covers looked identical to Toby and the heroine loved that cat.

A heroine/hero doesn't need to have animals in her/his life for me to sympathize and identify, but it certainly helps and I cannot like a character who isn't responsible or kind toward her animals.

Does a character's relationship with animals affect your enjoyment and judgment of stories? Does a character treating animals well automatically signal to you that he or she is good and important to the story? Or is this trait contained to my personal brand of crazy?

All the books in those photos are from my collection and involve, in some fashion, animals telling you about the characters. They're some of my favorites.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Senior Kitty in MD needs a home

I have a weakness for the senior cats. As some might know, one of my favorite fosters, LeCat, was a 14 year old who was brought to the shelter when his person went to a nursing home and no one in the family would take him. I still say prayers of gratitude for the awesome woman who adopted him.

Now there's a sweet kitty over at SpacePaws who needs a home for a similar reason. His woman is dying and her nurse is allergic to him so he needs to live elsewhere. His mom is understandably upset. Murph is the kitty's name and he's adorable to me. SpacePaws has a full description and is handling his adoption. If you want a nice, laid-back kitty and aren't sure if Keen's medium hair is for you, Murph might be perfect and you'd soothe an old woman's heart. I hope that if I pass before my pets that they have lovely people to take them in and love them.

Go over to SpacePaws and give him a look, please.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I was sick again

I had a bad lung infection that hit Monday and barely let up this past Sunday so I've been playing catch up ever since then. I'll write something good soon now that I'm feeling close to normal and Toby is no longer running scared from coughing fits.

He tried to be sweet and would curl up next to me on the bed but as soon as a coughing fit would start he'd dart off--eyes wide, fur up, fear evident in every bit of his body language--and hide under a chair where he would stare at me until the fit would subside. I don't blame him--those were some nasty coughing fits. Thank heavens for good medication.

Keene didn't seem to notice the fits other than that I was around more for him to bug about food. My previously underfed foster is starting to form a belly! I've started being more careful but it's hard not to give into his meows when food seems to make him so happy. He's an old man, surely he deserves some happiness?

I did also get to show up Keene's awesomely fierce playing skills to Jarrod while he kept me company. Keene's eyes turn completely black and he attacks his toys when they move close to meal time. Toby just bats playfully and leaps around. Keene goes nuts with lashing tail and fully extended claws. He does sometimes seem to forget what he's doing midleap though. There were a few times when he would miss the toy and just keep going into the middle of the room before stopping with a confused expression on his muppet face.

You should not laugh at a cat when this happens if you have a lung infection. To pay for the insult on their dignity, the universe will cause the laughter to morph into a long and painful coughing fit while the insulted cat strolls calmly to his food bowl.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ridiculously Cute DC Puppies

So after a full weekend with the family I'm way too exhausted to write anything good.

So I'll direct you to my friend Gina's blog about her foster puppies. She's this incredible volunteer and awesome person. And the puppies she's caring for need homes.

So go bask in the cuteness.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

My awesome mom

My mom is an amazing woman. She was on law review at a seriously amazing law school where she met my dad and still made time to play by Walden Pond and go to baseball games despite maintaining an excellent gpa. She then was a partner at a major law firm with my dad while they raised three uber-precocious kids. She played the guitar for us when we were small and instilled a love for the piano in all of us (I'm awful at playing, but I can get a basic melody out because of her). When I was about 10, she left the firm to become a full time freelance writer specializing in nonfiction for kids and teens--writing award-winning history, science, and religious articles and books while again, making time for three active kids.

My mom never had a dog or a cat. She had a bad experience with dogs as a kid and is extremely allergic to cats. We had fish growing up. However, she raised me into the animal-loving person I am through her examples. She made it very clear through her actions that just because you might not be comfortable with an animal, doesn't make it any less deserving of compassion and respect.

Here are just a few of the awesome ways she has shown compassion and respect for animals.

  • Her book, "Everything Kids' Nature" won one of the inaugural Henry Bergh Children's Book honors from the ASPCA in 2000.
  • She once stopped the car in a street three blocks from home because there was a cat in the road and she didn't want to accidentally hit it.
  • When I was in junior high and my girl scout troop found an injured squirrel during our park cleanup, she helped us call Animal Control and allowed us to mourn for the poor hurt creature.
  • She took me to riding lessons for years and even made a witch costume for a costume class, despite being a little intimidated by the Quarter Horse mare she had to measure.
  • She arranged a trip to Assateague to see the wild equines and then "adopted" a mare which for me which meant paying for birth control darts for her to help keep the herd a healthy size.
  • She bought me Andy Warhol cat prints to celebrate my Toby.
  • She loves supporting the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and their conservation efforts.
  • She convinced her editor at Yes Mag to include not only that kids should find ways to help their local shelter, but also a photo of one of WHS's awesome dogs (Nyla) to show how beautiful shelter pups could be.
  • On one of my last trips home, after I mentioned Big Black Dog Syndrome and how colorful bandannas help--she whipped out some beautiful fabrics, and made bandannas for the shelter dogs.

She raised three children who love animals. My brother called me to ask what temperature is too cold for a dog to be outside when he noticed his neighbor in El Paso had their dogs outside over night. My sister is incredibly supportive of my volunteer work with WHS and loves to dogsit for her friends. Obviously my mom did something to show us the importance of compassion for animals.

You don't need to grow up surrounded by pets to grow up learning to respect animals. On this mother's day, I'm really proud of my mom.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

What Keen Needs

It's been a long week and a long Friday (I got stuck in an elevator this morning. It was dark and small and I'm claustrophobic) so I elected to stay in for a chill Friday with the cats. Picked up an iced coffee at Silver Spring's Kefa Cafe and some books from Silver Spring Books (seriously, my favorite used bookstore, I've gotten some great cat/dog reference books there in addition to fun reads).

So I've been playing fetch with Toby, petting Keen, and reflecting on where Keen is now and where he needs to be in the future.

He sometimes shows affection and comfort but then reverts to old man cat. It was great the other night to wake up midway through the night, start petting a gray cat on the bedside table and suddenly realize "holy! this isn't Toby!" and then later have him leap up on the bed, right next to my head, on his way to the table. Unfortunately he hasn't repeated this, at least not while I've been around and awake.

I have woken up to him staring at me from the floor and leading me to the kitchen as soon as I start to sit up. He's like me--I want coffee first thing in the morning, he wants food.

Unfortunately, he's been to two cat adoption events and hasn't gotten even a nibble. He was sweet at the first one and was nice to people when taken out of his crate but spent the second one staring at the garden instead of the people. He has a profile on the shelter site and I'm taking him to events, but he's not getting interest.

And I understand, I do. He's fifteen, he needs regular brushing, he only eats wet food--he's going to need a really special adopter who understands him and will nod back at Keen. Fyi, in my opinion, Keen's cutest behavior is when he nods at you like "that's right, I'm the Keen, you're the person, do it" but I've been accused of anthropomorphizing at times. He's a great cat with a cool personality, but he's not a super affectionate guy. He's fifteen. He's loved and lost. He needs someone great who can love him and understand that underneath the meows, is a cat who just needs some affection and attention in his life.

He's an old cat who wants to sit in the sun, play a little bit when he wants, eat some good food, and get chin scritches before falling asleep. I just need to find the person who can provide that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Doga in the Dish

The Georgetown Dish covered Saturday's Doga event!

First, a confession, I almost didn't post the link because I really don't like the photo of me. There were about ten photos taken but little Daffie just did not want to look at the camera. I guess I'd rather the cat look cute and me look odd than the other way around, but oh, my vanity!

The event was a lot of fun, despite the insanely hot day. We had Gaby, a full-blooded-with-papers German Shepherd who was surrendered by her owners. We figured out that her coat problems were because of a corn allergy and her new coat is growing in nicely. She'll still look like a German Shepherd/Wolverine crossbreed for a few weeks though until the new growth comes in completely. She absolutely loves people but got stressed and overwhelmed by the dogs so she got to chill on the RV with ice water for the second half of the event.

I spent most of the day in the cat room with 4 awesome cats, including Daffie who got a great application that day so should be going home soon! One of the cats we brought was Cindy, a super affectionate little girl who has only one eye. When she first came to the shelter, she had an ulcer in one eye and the vets were unable to treat it. However, they were able to successfully amputate her eye and now, this little girl is happier than ever. She loved headbutting people and purring while being petted.

Hopefully someone will read that Dish article and come to the shelter to meet some of our animals. The events are great fun for most of the animals, but what we really want is for them to find their furever family.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dolphins and other cetaceans

Tomorrow scientists will be testifying before the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans and Wildlife about marine mammals in captivity. Lately there's been a lot of interest. There was the documentary The Cove, which for me was quite eye-opening. I had never realized how those dolphins came to the parks around the world. I guess I always believed that they had been injured in the wild and were saved by coming to the parks. I know that some are, but it can't be denied that the slaughter off the coast of Japan happens in part because of public demand to see the animals in parks.

I remember growing up reading stories where they were brilliant, being used for experiments, spies, and more. In the Dragons of Pern books, dolphins were people's companions--smart and helpful in establishing colonies. In Star Trek the whales were descendants of space faring cetaceans, smart and necessary to the survival of Earth.

I know that's all fiction, but it seemed so obvious to me that these animals were at least as smart as we were--if not smarter for returning to the oceans and not working themselves into stress-related death like we do.

It amazes me that there are people who see them only as a way to get money. These are beautiful creatures, smart and playful who have saved human lives in the wild. One of my happiest memories was seeing dolphins swimming off the coast from a vacation house when I was little. They were so graceful.

I'm not 100% sure what should be done about marine mammals in captivity. I do think that the trainers at Sea World have the best intentions and that they do bond with their trainers. I don't think that Sea World is evil. I do think that we need to re-evaluate our process. We need to look at whether we should keep smart mammals in captivity, whether it would be better to move them to viewable sea pens, or some other option. I'm not a marine biologist. But I do think that there is something wrong with a system that allows such atrocities as that cove off the coast of Japan.

Friday, April 23, 2010

All you need

All I need in life (other than some tea and food) is in that photo. Toby and books. I was sick today (there are a few bugs going around different circles--I'm hoping this is the 24 hour one) and I spent the day in bed, sleeping, with Toby keeping a watchful eye

Keen wandered near the bed at some point, I woke up enough to see him looking at me from the floor.

I should stay up to finish some work I didn't do earlier but the lure of sleep is calling to me. Toby has already gone back to the bed to curl up and purr.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Play Ball!

+ = WIN
After telling @Tribetalk about the PSAs that the Nationals are doing for Washington Humane Society (I was certain my beloved Cleveland Indians would want to join in the fun), I actually got a response back that their tweeter would be passing the story to their communications department. He also included a link to their blog, which led me to their Volunteer Challenge.

Essentially, if you want two free tickets to an Indians game, all you need to do is volunteer for four hours at one of their approved organizations. Seriously easy, right?

And what's even more awesome? They have a bunch of animal shelters and rescues on their list!

  • So if you're in Cleveland, go click to find an organization, volunteer and then cheer on the Tribe!
  • If you're in DC, make sure to buy tickets to one of the two Pups in the Park games, May 8 and August 29! You can purchase a $5 dog ticket along with your $20 human ticket and not only watch the game with your dog, but know that a portion of your ticket price is going to WHS!Also keep an eye out for those PSAs on the jumbo-tron.
  • Not in either of those areas? Let me know if your baseball team is doing any cool promotions that help out animals!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cute April Fools

So I'm not a big April Fools person (funny how not liking surprises does that to a person), but I do usually enjoy Google's take on it.

This may be my favorite.

Google Translate for Animals

I wonder what Toby was saying this morning. Did "meow meow meow MROR!!!" mean "Do not wear that dress, do not wear that DRESS!!!!" (yes, I changed out of the dress, I realized it was too light for the wind today).

Maybe it was just "Play play play, don't leave!!!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cute Cat Calms

In case anyone else today is having a hard time with his or her temper when people say things that are factually untrue.

Here is Toby.
Leaping from the shelves on top of my fridge.
Yes, my fridge is that cluttered.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meet Keen

I was home sick today and lucky enough to observe Keen actually playing with a toy in he sunlight. He also sat next to my laptop while I did my work. I think he's finally coming around :)

Senior foster cat relaxing and playing in the sunlight--totally worth a small stomach bug

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sweet Potato Enchilladas

There are lots of reasons to reduce your meat consumption--animal welfare, worries about the environment, health, etc. Although, I should make the caveat that simply cutting back on your meat may not make you lose weight if you do what I did and replace meat with cheese whenever you get a craving.

I went pescatarian because I don't approve of how factory farming treats animals. I had considered only buying meat from free range cattle (who are treated fairly humanely from all that I've read, if one considers eventually being eaten humane). I wanted to give up all pig products, despite a sad love for BLTs, because pigs can be as intelligent as some dogs--and I didn't feel right about that. I ended up completely giving up meat because after awhile, I realized that the idea of eating a cow didn't seem attractive to me. My last taste of land meat was a bite of Jarrod's fillet mignon on my 25th birthday in October. It was delicious, but not enough to make me regret giving up meat.

Since it's Lent and a lot of people I know will be avoiding meat on Fridays, I figured I'd start posting a meat free recipe on Mondays--that way anyone who wants to use it for Friday will have a few days to get the ingredients together. Just cutting back on your meat consumption will help reduce the number of animals affected by factory farming. If everyone really did give up meat just one day a week, factory farming would feel the effects. If we ate reasonable amounts of meat, there'd be no reason to have factory farms treating animals as simply mini meat factories and not actual creatures who feel things.

One of my favorite standby recipes, which even meat-eating Jarrod likes and sometimes requests is Sweet Potato Enchiladas. They're modified from a Whole Foods recipe.

One note--I'm a lazy cook so that's why there are canned ingredients. I have nothing against fresh sweet potatoes but canned ones don't require pre-cooking them before chopping them up to fill the enchiladas.

1 can sweet potatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Shredded cheese to your taste
Fresh spinach, rinsed and torn
Enchilada sauce--either canned or homemade, up to you--when I'm really lazy and have forgotten to buy the sauce I use salsa
Chili powder
Garlic, minced
Juice of one lime
Tortillas, burrito sized are my preferred

Mix the sweet potatoes, beans, chili powder, garlic, and lime juice
Pour a small amount of sauce or salsa in a baking dish--just enough to cover the bottom of the pan
Lay out a tortilla and place approximately 1/4 cup sweet potato/bean mixture and 1/4 cup spinach in the tortilla (may adjust according to the size of your tortillas)
Add a small amount of cheese and wrap like an envelope
Continue filling the tortillas and place them all tightly in a baking dish
Cover with sauce/salsa
Place in the oven at 375 F for 10 min, keep an eye to see when the sauce bubbles
After 10 minutes, sprinkle the enchiladas with cheese to your taste
Place back in the oven and broil until the cheese melts and starts to brown
Remove from the oven and let stand a few minutes before serving.

Because there's no meat, these don't need a lot of cooking time. The sweet potatoes make them filling and comforting, the black beans give you protein, and the spinach gets you another vegetable. I've added precooked chopped onions to this sometimes when they're leftover from another recipe. The onions are a nice addition but not necessary and they take extra time to chop and cook so I don't usually add them unless I've got some already in the fridge.

Anyway, enjoy your meat-free dinner. If you want to be totally animal-free, just leave out the cheese or use vegan cheese instead.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Setting Myself Up for Success

Shopping for clothes (so I'll look better and thus be able to help more animals at events, of course, because I need that justification to spend the money) got me thinking about setting up for success.

It's a common phrase when talking about training animals. You want to set your pet up for success. It's why my foster cats spend at least a week confined to the bathroom in my tiny studio apartment. It's inconvenient as heck for me, but it gives them and Toby a chance to become used to each others' scents. If you just throw two cats together, it's very likely that something will go wrong, especially if it's the home territory for one of those cats. Once things go bad between two cats, it takes a long time and a lot of difficulty for the people to get things back to neutral. So I set Toby up for success, I wait and I have patience.

When I do introduce the cats, it's always observed and for short periods of time and they get separated as soon as either seems upset or anxious. I think this is why I've only had one incident in the time I've been fostering. And that cat leaped for Toby as soon as he caught a glimpse. Toby tried to turn tail and run, but the foster got a good enough swipe in that he ended up needing to see the vet for an infected abscess. I tried to set them up for success that time but failed. It's okay though. I'm human and humans sometimes fail. Thankfully nothing worse happened.

But with the shopping Saturday, I realized I was taking one small step toward setting myself up for success, but that I needed to do more because I had been setting myself up failure every morning.

I've been trying to get out of the apartment earlier in the morning. I'm not a morning person whatsoever. I've tried, but I'm not. So it comes down to my morning routine, making sure it's stress free (because of how I am, anxiety can affect me pretty badly in the mornings) and quick. I realized today that I've been setting myself up for failure in the mornings by having a closet mostly full of clothes that don't fit. Which every morning not only reminds me of an area of my life that (especially when tired and cranky) I can consider a failure, but also means I spend time pawing through my closet seeing blouses I used to love to wear to work, that I can't wear.

Back in the fall I wentthrough my apartment and round up two large storage bins worth of items to donate (including the storage bins--see Studio apartment mentioned above). It included shoes I haven't worn in years, books I never reread, random clutter I had no need or use for, and clothes that were more than two sizes too small or that I simply didn't like. But I kept a lot of blouses that were too small because I loved them and jackets that my upper arms can't fit into. I don't want to give them away because I really do think that, within a year, I'll fit back into them. However, I just left them in my closet cluttering it up and giving me trouble in the mornings.

When Toby was chewing paper towels and waking me up at 3am, I realized that I wasn't setting him up for success by leaving the roll of paper towels out after cleaning. So (and this I realize is obvious) I removed the towels and did set him up for success. Now, most nights, I make sure that the roll is places in a drawer or on the fridge--out of Toby's normal nighttime prowling routine. When I remember to do this--I don't wake up at 3am to the sound of Toby eating a roll of paper towels.

Why wasn't I doing this with myself? Why wasn't I removing the obstacle to my morning success? Probably because it was easier with Toby to see the situation clearly. I still sometimes make mistakes--while sick I woke up to Toby curled up in a bed of clean lotion tissues he had pulled out of the box that I had left on the cocktail table. Overall, it's not personal for me to look at Toby and analyze his environment and influences when trying to figure out why he isn't doing what I want him to do. With myself? I just thought it was my own darn fault I couldn't get an outfit together in the mornings.

Well, yes and no. It was my fault. It was my fault that I didn't set myself up for success. What woman could quickly put together an outfit staring at a closet full of ill-fitting clothes? So...I set myself up for success. Before putting away the fruits of my shopping laborsI took everything out of the closet that doesn't fit me perfectly right now. Now, I'm not following the usual advice for clutterbugs and getting rid of it immediately. I'm doing a version of Apartment Therapy's outbox. They're in a box in my closet and not in my way. I won't even open that box until I notice my current clothes are getting loose. I'll reevaluate in a year. Right now, having those clothes in a box on the floor of my closet means I'll be set up for success in the mornings.

I'll also be reminded to do laundry more by how empty the closet looks. You have no idea how easy it is to put off doing laundry when your closet "appears" to be full of clothes still.

I think I need to do this more often, look at failures in my life not as simply something I haven't been able to do, but separate from it the way I do with Toby. With Toby I look at what tempts him into "bad" behavior and then figure out if there is an easy way to remove the temptation. I need to just do that for myself. So from now on, I'm setting myself up for success. When I find myself repeatedly engaging in behavior I don't like, I'll look at what tempted me into that behavior and do what I can to remove that temptation.

I should show myself the same understanding and kindness I show to Toby and the animals at the shelter. We all should.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

For DC readers--lost dog

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, news is getting around about a lost little sheltie in AU Park/Friendship Heights.

Her name is Gigi and she had only come to her new home for three days from the Northern Virginia Sheltie Rescue. She's young, shy, and runs quickly when she thinks she's cornered.
Her parents are keeping a search blog at

If any DC ites live in (or just happen to be in that area ) keep an eye out for a little sheltie running loose without a person and call the Hunns (her parents) at 202.528.7724

I know I'd be frantic if Toby were lost. If you aren't in the area, send around to any friends you have who might be able to keep their eyes peeled.

Social networking can do so much good, let's help this family reunite.


March 6, 10am-noon, Busboys and Poets
My first event with the RV! Really excited that Kelly trusts me this much! I've run small events before. My largest ever was VegFest. VegFest was awesome--all day event, two shifts of volunteers, multiple dogs, two cars broke down on my way there (my car died that day--with a pit bull puppy inside) and me forgetting to eat all day because I was so nervous. Also, I think we got more than half the dogs adopted.

I like my day job and I'm good at it (no ego problems here), but there's a great kick from finding out you're trusted to do something that, to you, feels really important. I've been thinking about motivation a lot lately and realized that trust really is one of the best forms of praise possible. I loved when a superior at work told me that I was one of the few people she could trust to handle proofreading a document. It was long, tedious work that, without the praise, would have dragged. However, because the job was treated as something particular to my skills (ocd-tendencies, extreme attention to detail, extreme focus while reading, etc) and not just work no one else wanted to do, I wanted to do it and felt pushed to do it perfectly. I found some errors and completed the task before the deadline. The praise made me happy and being happy helped me work harder.

I do the same thing with Toby. Victoria Stillwell does that with dogs. (Disclosure: It's Me or the Dog is one of my favorite shows). Pam Johnson Bennet, my favorite feline behavior author, also believes in positive training. Positive training works on dogs, cats, and people better than punishment. In Office Space the main character says that his main motivation is to do as little as possible so as to provide as few opportunities as possible for people to reprimand him. That's not unusual. If you punish, you're not teaching and rewarding new behaviors, just making it more difficult for the individual (dog, cat, person) to feel they have a chance at making you happy.

So closing advice? Look for opportunities to praise others. Thank your doorman for holding the door and tell him how much you appreciate his friendliness. Tell your cat "good boy!" when he does something good. And give trust and responsibility to people when you praise them. It might surprise you what they'll do to prove themselves worthy.