All posts filed under: Pets + Animals

I Loved My Dog, But Do I Really Miss Having a Pet?

A couple of years ago, my friend Susie and I were strolling along the Riverside Park promenade with our elderly dogs, Lucy and Daisy. “So,” Susie whispered, as if she were afraid the dogs might overhear, “when Lucy dies, will you get another dog?” After a moment of self-reflection, I whispered back, “I love Lucy. But when she’s gone, I’m done.” “Thank god!” said Susie. “I thought I was the only one.” Apparently, we both felt some degree of shame over our willingness to relinquish our status as dog people. After all, we’d both taken great pleasure in our dogs over the years and showered them with love in kind. So could a true dog lover really turn her back on all the wonderful things dogs bring to our lives? Perhaps she could. [pullquote]Lucy died a year ago, and I miss her every day. But she was also a pain in the neck –nippy, ornery and expensive.[/pullquote] Lucy and Daisy had entered our respective households more than a dozen years earlier when we both had …

Silly Things People Have Said to Me When I Tell Them I Don’t Want Pets

I know, I know, you think I have no heart. Everyone does when I tell them that I don’t have (or ever want to have) a pet. But I do have a soul, I swear. I’m just not that into four-legged, furry creatures, and I certainly don’t want one running around my cozy one-bedroom apartment. Listen, I never said I don’t like pets. And I don’t think I’ve ever implied that I’m “anti-animal.” I’m just not a “pet person” (and neither is my husband, thankfully). But still, people just don’t get it. Recently, when I told a friend that my husband and I were thinking about starting a family next year, she said: “Get a pet first. That way, you’ll know you if you can handle kids.” When I told her no way, and that I’d take a baby over a dog any day, she looked at me as though I had just murdered a bunny rabbit. To me, a pet is just as much of a responsibility as a baby, maybe even more of …

My Dog Became My Jersey Ambassador

When I first moved to my neighborhood in Jersey City, I knew it was something on the edge of “up-and-coming,” kind of like “slowly approaching” or “looking forward, sometimes.” But I figured with the stop before mine on the PATH train improving so quickly, it was just a matter of time. It turned out it would be a lot of time. I moved in as the housing bubble burst, and what had been transitional turned into a standstill. It wasn’t as bad as in unsafe, but it wasn’t good as in somewhere you wanted to explore, either. The only retail options have questionable inventory at best. I mean, these aren’t even dollar stores.These are like stores filled with crap typically found for sale on sidewalk blankets. An indoor yard sale. The dining options are equally lackluster. Technically, we have everything — McDonalds, Burger King, Blimpie, White Castle, Subway — everything you could want in fast food. If it isn’t represented within my ten-block radius, it must be on a lower, less-recognized rung of the value-meal …

I Had a Pet Psychic on Speed Dial

I don’t use the term “fur baby mama” non-ironically or own a collection of seasonal holiday dog sweaters. My pup doesn’t have an Instagram account or eat small-batch, home-prepared foods. But, true confessions: I’ve had my animal communicator on speed dial for the better part of ten years now. They tell you when you rescue a dog that it can take up to six months for their true personalities to come out, and boy was that true with our basset hound, Oliver. My husband Greg and I brought this little dude home to our overpriced Manhattan apartment 13 years ago feeling excited and determined. The first few months were pure bliss. Cue the gauzy slow-mo video in my head: walks to the local dog park, fun conversations with strangers on the street, trips to Petco. Oliver was quiet, loving and shockingly obedient. His sole purpose in life seemed to be pleasing us in any way he possibly could. I guess the changes started happening slowly: an unexpected pull on the leash, a barking session that …

This Story May Actually Make You Want to Buy a Pet Rat — or Two

Here is a tale about two tails. Two long, scaly grayish-pink tails that skeeved me so hard I could barely look at them the first time I saw them. Two hairless appendages that caused me to backpedal furiously on my promise to my son that today was the day that he could finally choose his very own pet rats. We were at the pet store, thanks to my cousin, whose son had a rat of his own. When he showed me a photo of it, I drew back a bit, gave a sidewise look at my cuz and said, “Really? A rat?” She nodded firmly and said, “Annette, it costs six dollars, lives three years, and eats whatever you have lying around in the fridge.” Hmmmm. My son was nine years old at the time and aching to take on the responsibility of a pet. We already had a dog, but she’s always been my baby and barely gives him the time of day unless he happens to have bacon stapled to his shirt. He …

Confessions of a Serial Dog Lover

I have an abnormal love of dogs. At least that’s what a former boyfriend told me when he broke up with me. (see the video evidence.) Which is funny, since I didn’t have a four-legged friend of my own at the time, and I still don’t have one today. But, I have to admit, it is true. I love dogs too much. I am – according to those who know me – the person who loves dogs the most despite not having one. I am obsessed with dogs the way some tweens are obsessed with Taylor Swift, or how the Jennifer Jason Leigh character in Single White Female fixated on her roommate (minus the homicide.) I attribute my affinity for dogs to the fact that I was probably was one in another life. Never, ever walk down a street with me and expect me to ignore a dog. In fact, I can spot a pooch from a block away. My ears prick up. My proverbial tail starts to wag. I absolutely, positively must say hello …

How I Became a Professional Cat Lady

My college roommate and I met our cats at side-by-side animal shelters in San Francisco. Her tabby, Zeke, went home with her that very day, and my black cat, Chuck, also went home with her, as I was still scrambling to get into an apartment. (Here’s to you, Jen, for letting my cat crash with you for a month; thank you for keeping your cool that time he peed on your duvet.) Thus began 15 years (and counting) of what my husband calls “My Cat Goes Mrow” — that is, long conversations in which Jen and I mostly swap Zeke and Chuck stories. You could argue, and I do, that they’re the beast-shaped filters through which we tell each other about all aspects of our lives, but I can admit that they tend to follow the format he identified (“My cat goes ‘mrow’!” “My cat goes ‘mrow’!”). My Cat Goes Mrow is having a moment — call it a decade, really — right now, as you may have noticed. (Robert De Niro certainly noticed when …

The Dog My Mother Never Wanted

“I’m sure I have eaten dog.” That’s what my mother, the World War II survivor, told me one day. My jaw dropped, so she quickly clarified by saying, “Well, when you got meat on the black market, you didn’t ask.” Needless to say, my parents, who were both young Germans growing up in frequently bombed Cologne in 1942 and didn’t have the luxury of pets. But as a typical American middle-class kid in suburbia, I wanted one — badly. I grew up in Ambler, PA in a split-level-filled neighbrhood as, essentially, an only child; my brother was 13 years older and out of the house by the time I was six. There were lots of other kids on the block who had a dog and I yearned for a fuzzy friend who would sleep on my bed and be my best friend and companion. My parents weren’t keen on the idea of a pet, however. It wasn’t a necessity and possibly created more problems. For a short time, my brother had a hamster and my …

Training El Diablo

I’ve known a few friends who put a lot of thought into getting a pet. They research breeds to the point of becoming experts, citing life expectancy and typical health issues at the drop of a hat. They investigate the lineage of prospective pups with a thoroughness that I’d expect one to interrogate a surrogate mother for their child. They spend days, even weeks thinking of names. I, on the other hand, rolled into a pet-store two years ago during an adoption event and walked out with a scrawny, pee-covered little Westie-poo that I wasn’t aware I even had to name. “We need a name for the adoption papers,” the volunteer told me as the puppy squirmed in my arms, alerting me that bio action that might soon take place on my jacket. “You can’t just put ‘TBD’?” “No.” “Puppy?” Dead stares. So I walked around for five minutes, texting friends and family for their votes on some hasty options and came back with “Ollie.” Soon after I got him home, a better name came …

Puppy Love Landed Me in the Doghouse

As soon as my kids knew what a puppy was, they wanted one. What began as a simple campaign of begging and tears evolved into a sophisticated multi-year mass operation. Sweet crayoned drawings of floppy-eared pooches began to come home regularly in school projects, and Christmas lists for Santa all had one major request: P-U-P-P-Y. My husband and I talked it over. I was for getting one; he was against. After years of asking, the kids started to step things up. In desperation, they began to leave pictures of puppies on the fridge on the shopping list, hoping that if they threw “puppy” on there, something might happen. -Milk -Hoisin sauce -Puppy They brainstormed and decided that maybe enlisting the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as magical soothsayers on puppy progress would get them some answers. After a lost tooth or on the night before Easter, succinct notes were often accompanied by this question: “Will I get a puppy?” [Check yes or no.] “When? -3 months -6 months -1 year I was in a …

City Dog, Country Dog

Owning a city dog is very different from owning a country dog. For one thing, city dogs must be walked. A lot. My terrier, Lucy, gets three or four walks a day (the extra walk depends on my mood and the weather,) whereas country dogs head out unaccompanied through any open door and do their business where they please. No schedule. No leash. No poop bag. I know this because Lucy is both a city dog and a country dog. Along with her human family, she spends weekends at our upstate house, morphing from urban pup to rural pup as soon as we pull in the driveway. One sniff of the piney air and she becomes practically lupine. All fifteen pounds of her turn into an amped-up mini-wolf — hunting, chasing, digging, swimming, and occasionally disappearing into the forest. Lucy is not alone in leading a double life. I know plenty of people who wedge their pooches between kids, coolers and duffle bags as they head out on the Long Island Expressway or wind their way …

Free Bird: Learning to Work with Wild Animals

My voice goes singsong, as though I’m speaking to a baby or a small dog: “BEN, MY SWEETHEART!” With a series of high-pitched chirps like sneakers on linoleum, an apple-red cardinal swoops down and lands on my shoulder. He sidesteps over to my ear, gives it a quick nip with his beak and starts trying to pull out my earring. This is unquestionably the high point of my week. About a year ago, I was surfing around the cute-photo Internet and stumbled into a gallery of birthday parties for zoo animals — a weird, marvelous corner of the web where Komodo dragons are presented with frozen meat-cakes festooned with dead rats and elephants trumpet over dessert-shaped towers of vegetables. The zoo websites explained that the cakes were enrichment objects. Exotic animals and craft projects are some of my favorite things on this earth; why, I thought, I should make those cakes! [pullquote]I burrito-wrapped a swan in a beach towel and felt him stamp his huge feet with impatience as we tube-fed him.[/pullquote] It felt like …

Why I Spend Hours Watching an Eagle’s Nest

I would hate having a camera pointed at me around the clock, no more so than when I was pregnant. There were some decidedly sweaty, puffy and crabby moments that no one needed to witness save for my unfortunate husband. But lately, I’ve been transfixed by one mama-to-be who is blissfully oblivious to my spying eyes. Along with thousands of other online peeping Toms, I’m addicted to watching live streaming video — broadcast 24/7 — from an eagle camera in northwestern Pennsylvania. Mounted high beside the nest in a scraggly tree, the camera captures the comings and goings (but mostly sitting) of a pair of bald eagles. Mom is larger and more powerful than her much younger mate (you go, girl!). The two take turns protecting and warming the pair of eggs she laid back in February, which are scheduled to hatch as I type. That momentous occurrence will no doubt herald season two of this hit reality show, and I suspect even more viewers will tune in once the eaglets arrive. [Editor’s note: They’re …

Gifts For Discerning Dog Owner

  Janey, my dog, is an amazing beast who has discerning taste. It doesn’t help that her mom has a certain penchant for fabulousness, as well — I always seek out the best of products for the best of friends. I buy Janey gifts so often that she goes nuts when the UPS person comes to the door. Here, I present some of our favorite shipments, which Santa or Hanukkah Harry may deliver if pup isn’t on the naughty list.   1. Tattooed-Inspired Dog Sweater I never thought I’d own a dog who sported outfits. Seemed dumb. But once I moved to New York City and got a little, lean pup with scant hair, I learned that clothing is not optional: It’s essential. Add to that the fact that I like to think that someday I will get a tattoo, and maybe Janey thinks she will, too. So here’s our intermediary endeavor: a comfy and warm sweater with an old-school, tat-inspired logo. Janey shows the world how much she loves her mom, and I share …

What to Get the Cat Lady Who Has Everything

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a woman in possession of a good cat must be in want of a bunch of cat-related holiday gifts. That said, all cat-related gifts are not created equal, and no one deserves a third copy of the Jingle Cats’ Meowy Christmas album. Celebrate the feline enthusiasts in your life with gifts that say, “I realize that if you’re interested in a bunch of Grumpy Cat stuff, you’ve probably already bought it yourself.” 1. Anatomical Heart Cat Toy These organic catnip toys are handmade in England from recycled wool and velvet. If Kate and William ever add a cat to the royal family, I’m guessing they’ll head to London’s Cheshire & Wain for supplies. Semi-realistic organs don’t strike your fancy? The company also sells toys shaped like gingerbread men, lobsters and turkeys — but c’mon, what’s cuter than a cat trotting around with a heart in its mouth? $14, cheshireandwain.com  2. KitNipBox Subscription Each month, the team at KitNipBox sends out a seasonally-themed assortment of handcrafted toys, all-natural treats …

The Beast with the Least: Taking Our Manx Home

Straight out of college, back in 2001, I took a job with the San Francisco SPCA’s animal hospital. Every morning I’d drive down to the Mission and spend the day processing new pets and arranging veterinary care for others. I saw homeless people with piles of donated towels they’d collected and brought in to use as payment for their beloved pets’ medical bills; I saw sweet old pit bulls covered with bite marks from when dogfighters had used them as bait; I saw a stone-faced lady lie down on the floor of an exam room when it was time to put her cancer-ridden Rottweiler to sleep. I’d cry the whole way home in the car every night. It was wonderful to spend so much time with animals — all I’d wanted when I was a little girl was to be a veterinarian — but the reality of so much suffering I was unable to prevent bowled me over like a wave. It was a kind of helplessness I’d never imagined, much less experienced. One day …

What to Get the Dog Who Has Everything

Last week, we shared all the reasons why our furry friends mean so much to us. They’re family, so naturally, they also deserve some holiday cheer (even if they don’t really know what it is they’re getting). Nevertheless, we’re sure your dog will love one (or all!) of these five canine Christmas gifts. 1. Yum Gift Pack I feed my dogs Dailo and Lola mostly raw and all-natural food, so why shouldn’t I wash them the same natural way? Y.U.M.’s Gift pack contains a dog wash made with essential oils such as citronella, lavender and cedarwood, plus a cleansing spray infused with lavender and lemon patchouli. I secretly want to spray this on myself. $24, indigowild.com   2. Filson Dog Shelter Cloth Dog Coat with Wool Lining This dog coat is cozy, warm and reversible! The otter green side is made of water-repellant waxed-canvas, while the classic Filson plaid side is a sporty and hip (a perfect to match for your Filson Double Mackinaw). $75, Filson.com   3. Bark Box Join this subscription service and …

Moby Might Have Been a Dick, But I Loved Him

Moby loved curling up in cardboard boxes and cold ceramic sinks. He had a habit of biting shoes and biting people, especially an ex-boyfriend or two. He had a protruding chin like a little man, and a marking on his side that looked like a broken heart. He’d snuggle and spoon with me at night. When I met my husband-to-be, Moby gave me his own personal nod of acceptance by not biting him. Moby would regularly knock things off shelves to wake us up, so often that we installed new cabinet doors to deter him. A big white whale of a cat, Moby was alternately named for Moby Dick or ’60s psychedelic band Moby Grape but not the electronica musician, as many suspected. His nicknames included Little Man, Mister Man, Mobius Strip, Mobus Operandi, Moby the Dick. Funny thing is, I grew up with dogs and never thought about getting a cat until a fateful day in 1995, when a crazy-seeming old lady on a street in South Philly offered up an adorable white kitten. …

A Mutt (and an Aunt) Named Edna

I brought home Edna, a Chihuahua/terrier mutt, when I was 12 years old. She’d been living with a punk rock boy named Clay who hung out where I did on the Santa Fe Plaza. We were called the Plaza Rats (in our thrift store creations and Violent Femmes-blasting boomboxes), but this Edna “thing” was rattier than any of us put together. Clay had been stealing Mighty Dog food from the Woolworth’s on the corner and didn’t want to get busted. I agreed to take her home for one night, and if my mom didn’t allow her to stay, I’d bring her back the next day. She was handed to me on a ratty rope used as a makeshift leash. I slowly rode my rusty brown Huffy bicycle home to Alto Street; she trotted along beside me. “Don’t name her!” my mother implored, knowing that to do so would be getting Edna one step into our little rental apartment, and into our lives, for good. I can’t remember whether it was my brother or I, but …

The Dogs I Have Loved: Although None of Them Are Mine

I have an abnormal love of dogs. At least that’s what a former boyfriend said when he broke up with me. (Also on the list — which you can review here — is that I’m not political enough, and that I’m a loud clapper.) I do, admittedly, have an irrational love of dogs. I love them more than humans. My favorite movie is Best in Show — and I actually go to the Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show in New York City every year. (The movie ain’t too far from the truth.) I must have been a dog in a former life: I sense them from blocks away. If I had a tail, it would start to wag when I saw a furry friend on the street. I know my dog breeds cold, but please don’t ask me to pick a favorite. Although, if pressed, I’m partial to the following: Puli (Rasta dogs), Poodles (the may look wussy but they are super-smart) and Poodle mixes, along with any shaggy-looking mutt. I also know how …

Married, With Pets: Opting for a Furry Family

As I’m writing this, my 11-year-old son and five-year-old daughter are fighting over toys and running around the house. They stop and look at me, then at the cupboard where we keep the snacks. Those little faces know that I’ll give in and give up soon, meaning it’s cookie time. They’re average kids, with the exception that that they’re of the furry kind with four paws. More and more, I’m meeting like-minded marrieds in their 30s and 40s who have chosen to adopt rescue dogs — and love them just like family. You know how moms post endless baby pictures on Facebook? I love to see them and adore my friends’ children. But my own bragging is about PetSmart Basic Training graduation and how well behaved my dog is around the larger breeds. There is a special camaraderie among this group of people that are owned by their dogs. Our conversations at the dog park are very much like the mothers at the playground, except we’re exchanging training tips, discussing the latest in organic snacks, …

Dog, Divorce, Do-Over: Meditations on Momo

A year after I got married, rather than having a baby, we got a puppy. Momo. A Miniature Australian Shepherd. Momo was the first dog I’d ever raised on my own. I’d grown up with cats, I’d inherited a rabbit named Mr. Bunny, I’d lived with dogs before. But Momo was the first pup who was all mine. A year later, we got another puppy, Dailo, also a Mini Aussie. My husband didn’t really want Dailo, but I went ahead and got him anyway. Funny enough, Dailo turned out to be a guy’s dog. And Dailo and Momo got along famously. They were like a cute little couple. And then, six years later, my husband and I got divorced. Irreconcilable differences. I decided it was best to just start fresh with a clean slate. Perhaps if we’d had had kids, we would’ve tried harder to make it work, but no matter. I made the decision and I got to keep Momo and Dailo. Divorce was sometimes difficult. What happened? Maybe I should have just stayed? Why …