Monday, September 5, 2011

This will not be updating for the near future

Due to changing jobs and now working for an animal shelter to coordinate adoptions outreach there, I no longer feel that it is ethical for me to keep up this blog.  I will keep it up for awhile because I may return to it in the future after more thought and after I become more comfortable with the ethical interplay between being a private blogger and an employee of a public shelter.

Thank you for reading.  I do miss writing here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Come Together

The Smithsonian claims that outdoor cats (feral and pet) are a serious danger to birds. They even seem to suggest (subtly) that TNR be abandoned and that TNR supporters are unknowingly killing birds.

Alley Cat Allies claims that loss of habitat and increased human activities are a far greater danger to birds than cats ever will be.

Both sides were posting on twitter in a way that made me, as a supporter of both organizations, feel a bit awkward.

My take? They need to work together. Alley Cat Allies should push hard for cat parents to keep their kitties indoor only, with a strong push at suburban areas where the Smithsonian claims birds are being killed most often. The Smithsonian, instead of trying to claim that TNR is ineffective (without any research to back this up) because it requires a 70% saturation in a colony, should actually make a push for strong TNR. Help people trap kitties, donate the time of the zoo vets to assist with the spay/neuter surgeries. Maybe the two could even have a cross-promotion where for every cat owner who signs a pledge to keep her cat indoors-only and makes a donation to a special fund (half going to TNR, half going to songbird rehab and research), people can attend a special event at the Smithsonian zoo to learn about big cats.

Essentially, it seems ridiculous to me that two organizations that care about animals can't find a way to come together and find ways to support each other and all animals.

Admittedly, this is part of a larger frustration with "opposing" sides refusing to associate with or listen to each other.  Imagine what could happen if good, small breeders stood with the HSUS and started supporting bans against puppy mills? If Peta listened to small farmers and found ways to improve the lives of animals on farms? As I said before, if animals can come together, why can't we?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Paddy's Day

Most people today will have at least a beer or two. I'd say the majority will have far more than two. If you're one of those, please take my challenge to donate at least the cost of two beers to your favorite group helping in Japan.

American Humane's Red Star Group and WSPA are both helping in Japan. In addition, Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support has been doing some amazing work.

Do you think St Patrick would rather you get smashed tonight on green beer or that you help some suffering creatures? Thankfully, you don't have to choose and can do both if you want! Even if you don't believe in saints, give to the groups anyway.

By the way, if you want a touching story of survival, the kitties and people of Cat Island seem to have survived despite the worst fears! Here's a Discovery article.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Save the Date! April 21, Meow Mixer!

Very exciting personal news--I'll be taking the lead on Meow Mixers this kitten season for Washington Humane Society! I'm both thrilled and terrified I'll make a cake of it. The first one is scheduled for Thursday, April 21 in the evening (likely 7-9 although the times aren't nailed down yet).

If you're in the DC area and thinking of adding a cat to your heart, please come! The events are open house style with snacks and soda so you can nibble while meeting great cats. There are usually both kittens and adult cats, although we've been known to focus on one side of the age spectrum depending on that Mixer's theme. One of my favorites was a Baby Shower Meow Mixer where mama cats had reduced adoption fees. We also did one with more senior kitties and gave a free cat bed out with adoption of senior cats.

I'm having a hard time keeping my brain from just staying in hyperfocus on the events. I've been debating themes, flyer and tweet ideas, blog posts, restaurants to approach for free snacks...  The "good" side of my ADHD is coming out for this one!

My personal favorite flyer idea for the first event, although I'm worried it might be just due to my weird humor, is my boyfriend's idea of a grayscale, noir-style image and the words "They're coming..." with a small explanation below that kitten season is starting up and we'll be overloaded with cats and kittens so now is the time to come in and meet the first of the season's awesome litters. He wants these as postcards which I can easily envision, but I'm fairly sure that would be too expensive. I also received permission from Randall Munroe (awesome XKCD artist) to use his Cat Proximity comic on a flyer (I think it'd be suitable for flyers at local dives and indie places). So I'll want to use that at some point. If you think any ideas I've mentioned are awful, please tell me! I have my first planning meeting the first week of April and hope to come to it with a full plan of theme, flyers, sample tweets, blog posts, possible partners, etc. Maybe we can do a small door prize or raffle (25c tickets? I want it to be really inexpensive) if I talk with my local (favorite, has shown tons of support for WHS, and just has amazing people!) pet supply shop, Living Ruff.

I did make sure that one of my friends, an amazing volunteer who has been at the shelter longer than I have and has worked events in the past, would be available to help. I figure there's no shame in making sure I have support I know for the first event. I've helped with these events in the past and done quite a bit of work on them, but I've never fully taken the lead on a Meow Mixer before so I want to be sure I have support I know I can count on.

I hope all of you are doing well in your kitten season preparations. Also, if you observe Lent, many wishes for a blessed Lent. I didn't attend Ash Wednesday services but I did rub my forehead against an ash-colored kitty which counts in my mind.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


My boyfriend used to work a job that was mainly evenings/nights which meant Toby had his company during the day when I was at work, and at night when I was home. Toby has always been a friendly cat but not a lap cat by any means. When we say that he's "cuddling" we mean that he's on the same piece of furniture as us, possibly touching us with a paw. More often than not, he'll sit a little distance away, keeping an eye on us. The other week he was spending a lot of time actually sitting against my legs purring and being within easy petting distance which I attributed to Toby knowing I needed extra comfort due to my anxiety.

This weekend Toby has been almost constantly near one of us. Sitting on our feet while we watched Monty Python and Cats 101. Curling up against my leg while I napped. Following my boyfriend to the couch and leaning against him while he was working. He did get up and move around during Bad Dog and he did insist on playing fetch for an hour, but otherwise Toby has been incredibly cuddly compared to his normal.

I'm not sure if it's because boyfriend changed jobs and is now on a schedule similar to mine so Toby hasn't had as much attention during the day as he was used to or if it's because I'm sick. Yes, the massive amounts of television watching and napping are because I'm fighting off yet another stupid nasty cold. My dad asked if Toby was avoiding me to stay healthy and I told him Toby was actually being really affectionate. Pretty sure from what I know of kitty URIs that the virus I've got likely won't infect him. I know that cats can get some versions of the flu bug though so happy I don't have that!

What do you think? Is Toby being more affectionate and cuddly because he's been lonely during the work week? Is it because he knows I'm cranky and sick? Or some combination of the two?

My first thought was that the apartment might be cold (he cuddles much more when it's cold in here!) but my boyfriend swears the temperature is normal, even to someone who isn't sick.

The cause is a mystery but I do appreciate the result of the sweet cuddly cat!

He's not 100% cuddly though, he did almost attack the tv during Bad Dog. Boyfriend suggested Toby wants to be famous.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

ADHD, Anxiety, and Animals, Oh My!

You already know I have ADHD. Like most adult women with ADHD, the Hyperactive part of my ADHD expresses itself partially as anxiety. Unrelated to the ADHD I also have a condition called hyperekplexia (stiff baby syndrome for you medical folks) that results in me making little noises I call eeps that sound like a baby panda hiccuping. Technically I eep when I'm startled, but it works out to a correlation between rate and volume of eeps and my anxiety levels. However, because I have that whole ADHD-related anxiety thing, anxiety levels don't always relate to real world events for me. As I told my best friend the other day, I can rationally tell myself "Beth, that's a silly response. Everything is fine. There's no way Toby will figure out how to move the lock and escape into the hall, make it into the elevator, and run into the street in front of a car while you're at work" and yet the anxious part of my brain, fueled by ADHD hyperactivity turned inwards doesn't give two pennies for rational thought and just says "that's nice, but still, he's a smart kitty, he could!" and ignores reality.

What does any of this have to do with animals as this is a blog ostensibly about animals? Because animals are amazing for my anxiety and the mental illnesses of many people around the world. There are local and international organizations that organize visits from dogs, cats, and other pets to people who can benefit from the experience. Research has shown that petting cats helps lower people's blood pressure, which can relieve feelings of stress.

For me there's definitely the physiological benefit of petting Toby being calming and soothing. A lot of it for me is that even if the things I'm worrying about happen (aside from any involving Toby hurting himself), Toby will still love me. Even when the crazy part of my brain can't listen to the rational side that says my fears are baseless, it can still recognize that Toby's love is in no way dependent on those things being untrue. Even if I wake up 40lbs heavier and get fired all in one day, Toby will still love me. I can believe in him, even when I can't believe in logic.

Last night when I was feeling particularly anxious (it's been a bit high the past week) he came over and curled against my leg while I watched Monty Python. The night before when I woke up from a nightmare, he climbed onto the bed and curled up next to me. He's not always the most cuddly cat, but he knows when I need extra affection and he makes it clear that he loves me. Toby, like all pets, has a lot to teach us about unconditional love. This evening he licked my hand when I went to pet him.

Even though I might bribe him into cuddles this evening with treats while I read, I'll still know he loves me. Even if he'd rather stay on the comfy nest of clothes he's created for himself.

I did warn that Clean All the Things (named for Allie Bosch's amazing Hyperbole and a Half strip) didn't quite work this weekend...

Note: My inclusion of the personal here was partially because we often think of mental illness without thinking of the people they affect and so hold stereotypes that anxious people are irrational cowards (I am quite logical and have had people consider me brave) or that ADHD people are irresponsible (Many people have found me to be quite responsible). More importantly for me, "coming out" like this on the internet where it might be seen by someone feeling alone with her mental illness is my tribute to a beloved friend who passed away two weeks ago. He was incredibly open and honest about having been on medication for depression since he was in high school and advocated for acceptance while breaking stereotypes about those with mental illnesses. His openness helped me a great deal in coming to terms with my own mental state and if my openness can help one person the way he helped so many, it will be a fitting tribute. He also loved animals and Monty Python.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Another Toby Photo

Why I'm slow at cleaning

Aside from being easily distracted/overwhelmed by clutter due to my ADHD brain, Toby always gets extra cute and affectionate when I clean. So many flank rubs today!

Plus, he figured out how to bat open the doors to our dvd storage!

I keep trying to tell him that fetch will be more fun once I declutter and he has more room to run around, but I think he just sees me opening up spaces for him to explore and sitting on the ground as invitations to flank rub and head butt.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Disgrace at UC's Veterinary School

You may have figured out from previous posts that referenced Jezebel that I'm a bit of a feminist. I shockingly think that, along with animals deserving decent lives, that people of any sex are equal--male, female, transgender, hermaphrodite--your genitalia do not affect your worth.

I also have a great deal of respect for veterinarians.I love mine and call whenever Toby has an issue. I firmly believe that before starting training for an issue, one should get a clean bill of health and talk about problems with your vet. I care about our vets and care that they are educated well and receive an accurate record of their performance at school so that their hiring decisions can be made more accurately.

How are these two related? Because I am completely outraged by what happened recently at UC Davies Vet School. Dr. Isis of Science Blogs covers it in full detail that you should read. I'll summarize it below.

Essentially, Dr Isis received an email that a third year student recently gave birth. One of her professors, Dr Feldman, (yes, male) had the class presidents send an email around about this. Not to collect gifts or well-wishes as the birth announcements at my small office do. No. So that students could vote on how Dr. Feldman should handle the woman's grade for the class.
"a) automatic A final grade
b) automatic B final grade
c) automatic C final grade
d) graded the same as everyone else: best 6 quiz scores out of a possible 7 quiz scores (each quiz only given only once in class with no repeats)
e) just take a % of quiz scores (for example: your classmate takes 4 quizzes, averages 9/10 points = 90% = A)
f) give that student a single final exam at the end of the quarter (however this option is only available to this one student, all others are graded on the best 6 quiz scores and the % that results)"

Despite that there were already clear options for him to follow laid out by UC Davies for students who might have to miss multiple classes (ok, for things like being sick, but are we really supposed to think that illness is ok but reproduction isn't? I know they're learning to encourage spaying/neutering but that's of pets, not people!). Also, the student in question hasn't even missed class or requested to miss class yet!

So--her professor, instead of sitting down with her to form a plan for if she misses class due to bringing life into this crazy, messed up world, decided to alert the entire third year class to her newborn (which seems awfully lacking in respect for privacy) and then decided to present those students (who are depending on being in the top percentile of their class and so have every self-interest in not helping a fellow student out) with the option of just arbitrarily deciding that this woman gets a C as her final grade?

I'm just completely appalled and angry. Really angry.

Dr. Isis is calling for people to contact the chancellor of UC Davies about Dr. Feldman's highly inappropriate conduct. The address for that is I already sent a note. I won't tell you how to act, but if you're as appalled as I am, please consider sending one as well.

It's 2011. How does a vaguely intelligent person even think this is ok and walk away without a reprimand from his higher ups? I told the chancellor that I hope for a full apology made to the student.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Kong question

Just for a quick survey of readers, please leave a comment whether you knew a Kong was an awesome interactive dog toy without clicking on the link or not. Jarrod had no clue what they were and thought I made up the word so I added a link to explain it.

No wrong answers, just curious!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Dog and His Man Save Neighbor

I came across a story on Jezebel tonight that I just have to share. It starts off bad but it gets better, I promise.

On Thursday, a girl started screaming after being attacked in her yard. Agustin Zamora Jr heard the cries and ran outside, calling for his Great Dane, Scooby, to follow. They, with two other men, chased the attacker off into an alley where the man, fearful of the large dog's deep barks, was held until police arrived to arrest him.

I really hope that dog gets some awesome Kongs for his part in the heroic rescue. First, it was impressive that multiple people responded to the screams and tried to help. Many people for hundreds of years haven't responded to screaming because they assume other people have heard the screams and are already responding. This is known as Genovese syndrome or the bystander effect. It's really disturbing to think about.

I first came upon the idea in a freshman philosophy class where we read Rousseau talking about a philosopher who ignored the screams out his window. It struck with me to the point where, as a junior, I insisted on seeing why I had heard a girl scream outside in the winter (it turned out she was drunk, which made my friend even more angry as he'd been in favor of ignoring any screams one heard). I thought of it again last year when a friend told me about Genovese syndrome after I was stuck on how no one had even seemed to notice when a homeless man hit me on my way to work, despite there being at least a dozen people around who had to have seen (and heard!) the whack when he struck my face. Knowing that it was normal for people to ignore bad things happened sucked, but it at least made me feel better than "those people all thought I deserved to be hit!" which was where my freaked-out mind had gone.

To think that someone not only responded to someone else's screams, but had the foresight to call his dog along to help hold the intruder? Just amazes me. That guy is a hero and his dog is, too.

For more information:
Jezebel article where commenters have some awesome stories about animals protecting them (I was bawling with happy tears after scrolling through, just to warn you)

Chicago Tribune Article about the dog and the attack

Do you have any stories of animals protecting you or alerting you to danger?

Thankfully Toby hasn't had to do much although he did hiss at the door when two (drunk) guys tried to come into the apartment. I think they thought it was their apartment from their response when the door didn't open! He also has been known to run at the wall between my loud, rude neighbor's apartment and mine and act as though he's trying to attack the wall. Very happy if that's all he's ever called to do in defense of me!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Cuteness is the way to start the new year

In the midst of my massive cleaning for the new year, Toby has decided to supervise.

Yes, that is a shoebox top that he's managed to climb into. Apparently Toby wants to be sure I don't clear too much from the apartment!