Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Breed Bans

I get upset every time I look at the pages of animal biographies at the local shelters...  because I see that they are all bursting at the seams with sweet pit bull faces...  all so eager to please, all so eager to get "busted out" and to go home with their very own human.  Because I have to wonder how many of them actually will.

I guess that we're actually lucky to be a city that even allows pit bulls, and they aren't immediately put down after being brought into the shelters.

I get so tired of willful ignorance.  An entire breed of dog simply cannot be bad, no more so than an entire race of humans can all be bad.   And where the hell are they all coming from anyway?

I cringe whenever I see a newspaper article about pit bulls running down and attacking kids or little old ladies out tending their yards, and the indignant animal protector in me desperately wants to know...

1.  Why are these dogs running loose?  I mean, you could have the most vicious attack dog in the world (which I know pit bulls are NOT, but for argument's sake) and as long as they are safe inside of your home, or crated, or whatever, they are not going to be attacking random people.

2.  Who trained these dogs?  Pit bulls aren't hard-wired to attack human beings.   As anyone who has ever bothered to do any research on the breed knows, they, perhaps more than any other breed of dog, LOVE people, and would do anything, absolutely anything, for their approval and praise.

My heart breaks for these dogs.  They can't help being pit bulls any more than I can help being female, or short, or having red in my hair.  I hate the intolerance that people have for the breed.  I hate that so many of them have to die because our society does so insist on remaining ignorant about things that they don't understand.  They don't want to understand.  Like sheep, they believe every shrill news headline that they read.

When I was a child, pit bulls hadn't yet risen to notoriety.  The "big bad breed" at the time was the Doberman.  Rottweilers and German Shepherds have "enjoyed" some notoriety as well.

Did German Shepherds used to be vicious, but suddenly became less dangerous?  No.  Did Dobermans?  No.  It's just that the public is less highly sensitized to them, so people don't have the same terrified reactions as they did before.  No, all of that rests on the unfortunate shoulders of pit bulls right now.  I'd say that I'm looking forward to when people actually start to settle down about them, but I'm terrified to know which breed is going to be vilified next.

The road to a better public image is a long one, and I know that better minds than mine are working hard at it.   I tip my hat to those people.  You do good work.  Keep it up.  Those doggies depend on you.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Dream

If I ever became obscenely rich (to the tune of winning gazillions of dollars in the lottery, getting a surprise bequest, becoming the next Stephen King, etc)  I have a lovely little pipe dream of what I could do with some of the money.  I can't imagine that my passions would change, and that I would still want to be involved with animal rescue.  With nearly limitless resources, and no need to spend time working to make a living, this is what I would do... (If you like your blog posts realistic, you'd best stop reading here!)

Of course the first thing most newly rich people do is get a much bigger house.  I want one with two separate wings.  One for living in, with my own personal pets.  The other would be devoted to homeless or unwanted animals.  In THAT wing, I would want a row of rooms, all with southerly facing windows, all for animals that need to be alone or isolated, whether for health or behavioral reasons.  Of course the rooms would be very pleasant, with climbing shelves and rails for cats, soft warm things to lie upon, and toys and comfy beds for dogs.   Since we're talking limitless money, we could have fresh air continuously piped in, and the stale, dander-ridden air flushed out.  And I want what my vet's office has, which is an in-the-wall vacuum, which has got to be one of the best inventions for sucking up stray hairs ever made.  And a staff member to help me.  Even if I DON'T have to work, I would prefer to do more with the animals than scoop their litter boxes constantly, every day.  ;)

My real pie in the sky dream is to have a huge, open room... two stories high but just open, with an enormous skylight overhead.  Two slow-growing trees would be planted in the largely dirt floor, and there would be grass and a huge sandbox, with an elaborate wooden kitty jungle-gym off to the side.   This would be a room for cats to play.  I haven't decided if this would be a haven for "unadoptable" cats, or if it could just be overflow for one of the local shelters - a foster home for multiple cats.

On my own side of the house, of course all of my current animals would be with me.  I would also want to adopt a few more...  I'm specifically thinking of another greyhound, and two or three other needy dogs - mixed breeds probably.   And since this is my dream, I'd want to be able to open the door and let them all run free whenever they wanted...  to have a lovely six foot fence surrounding the property, but have that property go on for a few acres to give them lots of room to play and stretch their legs.

My own cats would be highly upset with me if I gave the homeless cats jungle gyms and plant rooms to play in and not them, so we'd probably have to have something like that on our side of the house as well.    And I'd love to be able to build a screened in area outdoors for them to be able to go out and soak up sunshine and fresh air whenever they wanted, without roaming completely free.

I would probably also have a couple of horse rescues - I grew up with horses, though at the time it never occurred to me that there were actual horse rescue operations that I could have adopted from.  Just a pair of them, I think - my days of being a serious equestrian are probably behind me.  Trail riding, yes, I can handle that much, with gentle, undemanding horses.  Okay, maybe I don't mind if they want to run "all-out" once in awhile.  :)

And of course horses get kept in a barn, with pasture to be turned out into.  What else is kept in barns?  Barncats.  I would totally be willing to take on a handful of speutered ferals.  They could live in the barn, have full run of the place,  and would get regular exposure to people, and of course would be fed more food than they've seen in their lives.

And that is my dream.

On a more realistic level, I feel like I'm doing what I can with the resources that I have.  I'm going to kick it up a notch this spring, I THINK.  More on that later, when I know more of the details.  For now, let's just say that it involves kittens.  Kitten season is here or going to be here soon, depending upon who you talk to.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

State of the House

Tonight didn't start out well.  Jeff had to drive home in a thunderstorm, which also brought very "interesting" hail for him to drive in.  By the time that he got into the house, Argos was practically out of his mind with fear.  (I was still at work, so couldn't be here to comfort him.)

He somehow got him to go outside for a potty break, but at this point he's completely refused to eat his dinner, and was even willing to run up the stairs past all of the cats (something he never does) in order to get to his sleeping crate to hide.  He's even refused to eat his treat.

He's calmed down a little bit now that the storm is over, and is curled up on the couch with me.  He keeps giving me sad looks, as if silently asking me why I caused such a scary storm.   *sigh* The downside to dogs thinking that we're something akin to gods.

Otherwise, we're all doing pretty well.

Maybe I was just punchy and tired the other day, but the following picture made me laugh for several minutes.  Not because Annie was hanging out on the couch arm, which she frequently does, but at the curious dog face in the background.  I call the picture  "Annie, with Accidental Argos."

Annie was far less amused with it, and turned to give him such a cold stare when she realized that I was not, actually, laughing at her but at him.

Get out of my picture, DOG!
Meanwhile, Charlotte has been uncommonly friendly, even clingy.  Last night she "guarded" me while I bathed, usually Annie's job, slept on the bed at least part of the night with us, and sat on my lap on the couch tonight while we watched some t.v.  I have no idea of what is up with that, not that I'm complaining.  Just really, really confused.
Burglar?  What burglar?

Don't get me wrong - she can and does show us affection, but it's always on her own terms, and she totally reserves the right to completely snub you.  But I haven't been snubbed for an entire week!  

And because no still photo can completely catch the intensity that Argos puts into his squeaky toys, here is a short clip of it.  Now think of this going on for about half an hour straight while you're trying to watch a movie or make a blog post or something of the sort!

I got this skunk from Drs. Foster and Smith on Friday, and Argos was over the moon about it.  He even insisted on taking it outside into the backyard with him the next morning, he was so loathe to be parted from it.  

Romeo is having a good week as well.  Last time we were at the vet, he mentioned in passing that Romeo seemed to be one of those cats that always had at least a mild case of conjunctivitis brewing in their eyes.  He showed us, and it was barely visible, but definitely some redness.  The vet recommended a lysine supplement for his food.  Well, going back to Drs. Foster and Smith, I saw that they had a lysine powder supplement.  We've started sprinkling it on his food, and his eyes do noticeably look brighter.  So I'm glad that it worked!  I do feel bad that I didn't notice that he had conjunctivitis, though.  

Here is Romeo, lying on the forbidden table.  This table was kind of a big deal last year because we got it and swore that this was one piece of furniture that we were never, ever going to let the cats jump up on.  You see where this is going, don't you?

The only cat that you won't see a picture of is Bit.  Right now she is having a "Mommy is terrifying" day and is avoiding me like the plague.  I have no idea why, as she was sleeping snuggled up against me when I got up this morning.

So that's really it.  We're all looking forward to the weekend...  for now, it's just get up, do the routine, go to work, come home and continue the routine, go to bed, repeat.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Stargazer Girls

Some of you may remember that back in January, I posted A Plea For Help, describing two female kitties, Galileo and Copernicus, that needed a new home ASAP.  Many of you tweeted about them, and forwarded their names on, but we all know just how hard it is to place adult cats.  Adult cats that come as a pair, even.  We were trying to keep them out of traditional shelters, because I knew that the shelters are bursting with cats right now, and it is not going to get better.  (Kitten season, anyone?)

It took awhile... I kept thinking and thinking and thinking in circles, trying to come up with a solution for these babies.  I knew that I couldn't take them - our four are in a constant state of warfare as it is.  We keep them partitioned away from one another, but if we get one more animal that doesn't get along with any of the others... there's no place to put them!  And so many cat lovers that I know are full-up, with no hope of being able to add not one, but TWO extra mouths to feed.

Well, to make a long story short, I found a place that was willing to take them.  Not a home, though I tried so very hard to do that, but a rescue.  Not only a rescue, but one that will treat them like family.

Last Sunday was the day that a friend of mine and I delivered them to this rescue, a little over an hour away from us.  They're called Rembier Farms.  They rescue large and small animals - and they have so many more than are on their Petfinder listing!  And let me tell you this much about the couple that owns this farm... they are awesome, and have tremendous hearts for animals!  They believe in caging and penning up animals as little as possible, believing that animals that are allowed to socialize with them in their house and on their farm make better, more well-adjusted pets when someone adopts an animal from them.

Just about every kind of animal that someone can cast off was represented there.   Many kinds of chickens were enjoying the bugs in the fields - it was the first day that they'd been allowed to range freely since winter started, and they were thrilled!  There were peacocks, turkeys, bunnies, grown-up pot bellied pigs, llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats...  yaks, cows, horses, donkeys,  ponies, Great Pyrenees, and of course, cats.  There were a couple of greyhounds as well, though I believe she said that they were in the house.

They were kind enough to give us a tour of the place, and we walked freely amongst the animals, which was fantastic - at one point, I had an alpaca nuzzling my hair, a yearling cow kissing me on the face, while I was holding a lamb, and had a pig staring up at me demanding to be petted.

One thing that I noticed, and I saw demonstrated over and over again - these animals were well taken care of, well-fed, and well LOVED.  There were no stand-offish animals there.  Everyone was bright-eyed, curious, and obviously felt secure in their surroundings with these people  -whether it was the goats following our hosts around, demanding food and attention, or the cat that rode on shoulders or the cows that came up to the fence and had long, lowing conversations with us, or the alpacas that walked amongst us with wide-eyed, tilting head curiosity, as if asking "Hey, who are the new kids?"

It was sad to leave the stargazer girls behind, knowing that they were scared and outside of their home for the first time in years, but I felt so much better that they were with good people.  They were given a guest room in the house, immediate bowls of food and water, and a litter box all of their own.

So Galileo and Copernicus, I did my best for you...  Godspeed, and may someone adopt you quickly.

And as for Rembier Farms... I'm so glad that I found them!  Not just because they took the cats, though for that I am so incredibly grateful, but because it's good to know that a place like that exists so close to Pittsburgh.

Might I recommend them if you ever want to adopt an animal from a rural rescue?  I know that if I'm EVER in a position to adopt a livestock type animal  (that would be, if I ever decided to make a lifestyle change and move OUT of Squirrel Hill and into the country, in case you were curious) I will call them first.  But they are a good source for cats and dogs and fowl as well.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Things I've Learned Today: A Not So Serious Post

We did our second "shift" at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden Show today, at the Steel City Greyhounds booth.  Argos did very, very well (as did Bobbi Jo, his "partner" for the morning.)  Crowds were charmed, and at least some of them seemed to be seriously considering adopting one of these noble dogs.  As seems to happen every year, this last weekend of the home and garden show coincided with the city's large St. Patrick's Day parade.  Which meant that the parade was starting right when we were supposed to start our shift.

Jeff dropped Argos and I off a few blocks away and we walked to the convention center.  Of course this took us right along the parade route, where onlookers were starting to stake out their places.  We could hear bands and bagpipes in the distance.  It was really a very festive atmosphere, and I wish that we could have lingered instead of rushing on!

Here are some of my observations from the day, not just from the show and the parade.  Mostly because I am feeling woozy and tired, so my brain is taking some strange neurological pathways.

1.  Irish Wolfhounds are freaking enormous!  I've read plenty about them online, even follow a blog or two that prominently features one, but there was one all ready to walk in the parade today...  he was lying stretched out on the sidewalk, and I thought he was large.  Then he saw me approaching with Argos, and stood up... and up... and up.  I swear he could look me in the eyes!  I'm not a very tall person - just 5' 3", but wow.

2.  Sparrows are much more bad-ass than I ever gave them credit for.  One landed on Argos's head, much to his consternation and displeasure.

3.  Pittsburgh had this bizarre mythical, mystical, whatever, ball of light in the sky today.  I hear rumors that other places see more of this ball of light, but it felt very warm and pleasant, and melted all of the snow that seems to keep insisting on falling.

4.  Dogs really, really bring out the best in people.  I'm pretty sure that some of the people I've encountered out and about with my dog open up to me in ways that they'd never dream of if I was alone.

5.  It doesn't matter that my cats really don't want to go outside, that doesn't stop them from REALLY getting excited when I open the windows.  I have cat noses smashed against every screen in the house, sucking in the fresh air.

6.  I have finally stumbled on the best way to train Argos to obediently lie down in the car as soon as I tell him to, not whenever he feels like it:  take him to the home show and make him exhausted first.  I've never seen a more sedate car rider.

7.  Bagpipes are scary, at least if you ask one specific canine.  Though I noticed that the Irish Wolfhound didn't seem to be bothered by them.

8.  Cats do not care if you have had an exhausting day and really only want to take a nap.  You are there for THEIR pleasure, so wake the heck up and start with the petting.

9.  There are some smart, smart kids out there.  There was a young boy who informed me that "Argos" in mythology had one thousand eyes.  He seemed very pleased that we had actually named him after the dog that belonged to Odysseus, after I explained where he fit into the story (he was familiar with Odysseus and his entire voyage, but had forgotten about the faithful hound.  I'm pretty sure that this geek got some "cool points" with the kid for knowing that.)

10.  It feels about how you would imagine to be awakened from the sleep of the dead by a raspy kitty tongue on the bottom of your foot.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Two Very Special Dogs

I am writing this blog post to tell about two very special dogs that both need homes.  Ideally, together, but not completely necessary.  But first, some background on where they come from.

Many of you may already know Chrystal, who writes the blog Daily Dose of Dogs (aka Cats with Your Coffee.)    She is a private rescuer, who rescues dogs and cats and cares for them out of her own home while trying to find them permanent "forever homes."  She is one of those people who was born to do animal rescue, and she does it without the resources that the bigger rescue organizations have.  Over the course of the year, she has gotten more and more attention in the blogosphere, and they have placed several well-deserving kitties in loving homes, and have raised funds to build a shelter area for those that are still waiting for their forever homes.

She has two dogs that need to go to homes, both girls, named Muffin and Mandy.    Chrystal's daughters rescued these abandoned pups in the woods right before a snow storm - SIX years ago!  Mandy temporarily went to a home of her own, but when the owner passed away, was brought back to Chrystal.
Muffin has never been adopted, despite being a very sweet, loving dog.

If you've read Chrystal's blog, you know that these girls have a place with them for as long as is needed - but they can't be "house dogs."  And oh, do these girls really want to be someone's pets.  Though they are treated as lovingly as possible, and Chrystal and her family go out of their way to provide everything that these girls need - they just can't give them that.  They need for someone ELSE to step up.

Beautiful Mandy, with the soulful eyes.
At six years old, these girls are "over" the obnoxious puppy phase, but are not considered elderly by any stretch of the imagination.  They are very eager to please, and joyful at any attention that they receive from humans.

Loyal, faithful Muffin, eager for attention.

Why should we as fellow pet lovers and bloggers let their joy and their eagerness go unrewarded?  If you can offer one or both of them a home, you will be their best friend!  If you are like me, and cannot personally offer them a home - please, blog about them, tweet about them - help put the word out!

They are located in the Midwest.  But I do believe that they could work with you if you lived elsewhere - they certainly have transported kitties to other places to be adopted!

But don't just take my word for it - Chrystal herself has posted about them today.  Visit her blog for more details, at http://dogsandcats.typepad.com/blog/2011/03/how-to-celebrate-dogs.html (With apologies to Chrystal for blatantly stealing her photos.)

For the story of TRIPLE rescue of these girls (first from the snowstorm, also from starvation, then from  mange) see the following:

http://dogsandcats.typepad.com/blog/2010/03/sylvia-part-iii.html.  The story begins here, but keep reading the posts immediately afterward to see more.

Monday, March 7, 2011


We all have quirks/faults.  My blood sugar tends to run low, and as a result, I can get extremely irritable if someone gets between me and a meal.  I also snore, and under the right circumstances, usually if I learn that an animal or child has been harmed,  have a hair-trigger temper. (No, I don't beat people with bricks or anything.  I'm much more civilized than that.  But oh can I rant.)

Our animals are no exception, and anyone who has an animal could probably list a TON of quirks... hopefully mostly benign, but probably some less so.  I don't mind my animals' quirks for the most part.  It's just part of who they are.

1.  Charlotte will flip over onto her back while using the upright scratching post, showing me her round belly.

2.  Bit tries to sharpen her claws on my leg.  (This one less benign than others.)

3.  Bit is the only cat I've ever had that lets you hold her on her back, cradled in your arms like a baby.

4.  Annie tries to lick Vicks Vaporub off of you if you've recently applied it.  If you prevent her, she will just wait until you go to sleep before making her move.  I'm serious.  She's relentless.

5.  Argos would seriously rather be with us than eating his meals.  I think that he would happily starve himself into a skeleton if we didn't intervene.  He makes me play a game, in which I scoop up a handful of his food and pretend like I'm eating it.  Then he'll become more interested in eating.

6.  Charlotte likes plastic bags.  She will roll on them, stick her head inside of them, and lick them, purring like a crazy lady the entire time.  (No, I don't leave her unattended with them.)

7.  Bit comes to tell me whenever there's something strange going on in the house.  Now, this is Bit's definition of strange, so she might just be telling me about a fat stinkbug lying on the floor in the hall.  But she did come to "tell" me that my husband had left in the middle of the night once.  (The IDEA was that he would sleep on the couch and quietly leave so that I wouldn't have to wake up.  Bit had other ideas.)

8. Argos will stand and stare at someone, even a guest, if they're sitting on "his" spot on the couch.

9.  Romeo doesn't suffer an empty food dish gladly - and if you do not move quickly enough, will start shredding and eating paper products instead.

10.  Bit hordes things in little stashes throughout the house.  Usually these stashes contain my slipper socks.

Update on Sprite

For those who read my previous post about Sprite the Kerfluffled Kitty and her troubles in finding a home, I have good news!  She was adopted over the weekend.  If all goes well, she's in her forever home, and her people will work to help her get over her trust issues.

Yay, Sprite!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Like Dark Chocolate

I just found a blog entry made about a cat in need of a home, at the Animal Rescue League here in Western Pennsylvania.  Her name is Sprite.  http://arlcatlady.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/sprite-the-kerfluffled-kitty-behind-bars-again/.  And I think that she is gorgeous.  Her eyes - I have a weakness for expressive kitty eyes.

But if you read that blog post about Sprite, you'll see that she has some issues that make her a "special case" and as most of us know, special cases have a difficult time getting adopted sometimes.  It's heart-breaking but true.  But my guess is that most of her issues could be dealt with over time - as long as she was out of the shelter and into someone's home, that is.

It's natural to want a "turn-key" pet, that you just have to bring home, and immediately settles in and makes friends with everyone.  And it IS refreshing when that happens.  This happened to us with Argos, and really with Bit, since she was a kitten at the time that we got her.

But my Annie and Romeo were both "diamonds in the rough" and needed a little patience before they could be good pets.  They were like dark chocolate, something a little bitter in the beginning, perhaps not as sweet as you might like...  (and you wondered where I was going with that title, didn't you?)

But that changes with time.  Sprite nipping and taking swings at people?  Romeo did that a lot when we first got him.  There was about a month that I was extremely leery about approaching him for any reason.  He's gotten much better about it.  He may nip gently, without breaking skin, VERY occasionally, and it's usually when he's been petted for a long time, or if he doesn't know what you're doing to him.  Most of the time, he's a gentle, loving cat.

Being afraid to be held?  Annie was like that.  Little street cat that she was, she had little opportunity to see the kindness in humans, and was TERRIFIED to be held.  She'd claw and scratch and wail until you put her back down.  Two years later... Annie is my best lap cat.

Sprite needs someone to adopt her and give her time.  Not many people are adept at savoring the taste of dark chocolate when so many sweeter varieties are out there.  But it's so very rewarding when you can learn to do so.  Every time that Annie jumps into my lap, I can feel an enormous sense of satisfaction that  the little spooky cat that we adopted has become the perfect family cat.  Every time Romeo leans into my hand as I scratch his neck, while purring and making "happy feets" on the chair cushion, I can know that not everyone would have tolerated his stroppy ways in the beginning, but that he is now a happy cat.

It does sound like she would need to be an only cat - but that's fantastic that she is at least "neutral" about dogs.  Does a household with a dog want to add a single cat?  My prediction is, if you are able to be patient and let her deal with the household on her own terms, that Sprite will adapt just fine.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rescuers at Heart

Dear Mom and Dad,

There is a cat in the utility room.  I found him begging
for food in the McDonald's parking lot, and decided to bring
him home.  I hope that you don't mind!  He's really nice and
has a loud purr, so I'm calling him Harley.
I'll be back at midnight!

Love,  Mel

This was the note taped to the front door when my parents got home one Saturday evening.  I was sixteen years old, and already showing the signs of being a rescuer at heart.  Granted, it was not MY largesse that I was being generous with.  Though my parents owned 30 acres of land in Missouri farm country:  if anyone could take on an extra cat, we could.  

Only...  about six months earlier,  I had rescued a kitten.  A classmate told us sadly that her father, a farmer, was going to kill a litter of kittens if they didn't find homes; they had far too many cats already.  Well, I of course agreed to rid them of one of those kittens, so drove to her farm after school with my brother, and picked out a little black fluffball that we named Suki.  Only to find out the week after that they had managed to find homes for all but one, who was going to die that night.  Back I went to her farm, and took away Wendy, a little tabby.  

Two years before that, I spent some time working at my aunt's Colorado ranch for a summer, with the idea that for my help, I would get to keep one of her surplus horses.  I did come back with that horse...  a lovely quarter horse mare, PLUS a pregnant Appaloosa for my brother, twenty ducks, a bird dog, and two survivor kittens.  (The kittens were the only survivors of an entire feral litter that was attacked by an enraged tomcat.  They were inexplicably white long-hairs with blue eyes.) 

I'm not telling these stories to illustrate that I am a great and wonderful rescuer (because I'm not) -  but to make a little bit of fun of myself - I have the willpower of a noodle when it comes to little (and big) furry faces.   This is why it would be a bad idea for me to work at a shelter.  I KNOW what would happen.  All someone has to do to reduce me to tears is to mention that an animal's time in the shelter is "running out," or that poor Fido or Leo has been in a cage for months and months.  Yeah, I would have a houseful of animals in no time flat.  You know,   a houseful being more than my current houseful.  

I was fortunate;  as a young teenager, that my parents had the space to keep these animals, and really, the desire to let them stay on even if I did have to endure some teasing about my err... tendencies to bring them home.   We had the means to take care of them, and we did.  (Though life in the country was and is a whole lot rougher on the animals than what my current pampered pets are used to.)  Now I live in the city, and while I can do a lot for the animals that I take in,  I am limited to 5.  I try to focus my rescue efforts into finding animals OTHER homes besides my own now.  

Many, many of you are true animal rescuers, some of us are more "concerned amateurs," but it is a labor of love for all of us, and we all have our stories about how we got started.  And I love hearing the stories!  Let me know how you got interested in rescue! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I've made a couple of "spotlight" posts about some of the other animals recently - Bit, and earlier on, Annie.  And thought that it was time that I added something about Charlotte, queen of the household (I accepted long ago that it wasn't me.)

Probably most of you already know that Charlotte is considered to be a "special needs" pet, because I mention it frequently on this blog.  But for those that are new, I'll recap.  Shortly after we adopted her from the shelter, she started to sound like she was trying to cough up a hairball, except that it didn't respond to hairball remedies, and kept getting worse.   After a series of vet visits,  a misdiagnosis (I don't blame the vet; Charlotte didn't present the normal symptoms) and a night of crisis in which she collapsed, gasping for air, the true diagnosis was finally made:  she had congestive heart failure.  Not only that, but the scar tissue on her heart was evidence that she had probably already had at least one heart attack in her life, probably more.

The prognosis for a cat with congestive heart failure is not good.  We keep her alive and comfortable with medication, but this disease WILL eventually take her life.  My thought on that is that as long as she is comfortable and happy, the daily medication is a small price to pay.  And she has outlived everyone's predictions so far.

However, Charlotte refuses to be defined by her illness.  It's evident in her mannerisms, and in everything she does.  She rules the house with an iron, er, paw, and does not hesitate to put the smack-down on any of the cats that challenge her authority.  I know that I've recently complained about her abusing Romeo,  but that is a separate issue entirely.  She does mostly get along with the other two cats, but there is no doubt about it that she expects them to be submissive to her.  (And is rarely challenged.)

She's always been that way, from the day that we got her.  I have also mentioned a few times on this blog that I did not choose Charlotte at the shelter; I'd already chosen Annie.  But Charlotte chose me, and with a show of physical force (she reached through the bars of her cage, hooked me with her claws, and YANKED me to her.)  Some people might have been terrified about this forceful gale of a personality housed in a cat, but I was fascinated.  I looked into her large, green eyes, and actually spoke aloud, "Do you want to come home with me?"  And the look in her eyes clearly spoke, "Well, duh.  Get me out of this place."

And that has defined our
relation- ship ever since.  Though for all of her bossiness, Charlotte is very devoted to me.  Jeff has told me that she waits until about twenty minutes before I come home from work, then comes downstairs to wait for me on the back of the chair, so that she is the first thing that I see when I walk in the door.  And as soon as I come in and acknowledge her, her purrs fill the entire room.

If I'm crying, she is the only one of the cats that isn't afraid of my tears - and will jump up and just BE with me.  She doesn't try to comfort me or cheer me up, but lends me her presence and her strength.

I find myself using her as a sounding board, and I'm admitting this even if it does make me seem a little unbalanced.  But it's so UNCANNY how she seems to understand everything I say.  She sits there and listens to me solemnly, unless she's in a particularly chatty mood, and then she makes commentary.

Oh, she bosses me around.  She is currently trying to do so, even as I type.  I can hear her on the other side of the door that shields Romeo from her (I'm in the living room with him and Argos) demanding to be let in.  No one else in this house has such a strident meow.  She demands to be fed, she demands milk.  She even demands that the litter box be cleaned NOW so that she can use it while it's clean.  She demands to be let into the cedar closet (don't ask) and demands to be let into the basement.  It never crosses her mind that I might say no, and to say that she looks puzzled and offended when I DO say no is an understatement at the very least.

She is a real handful sometimes - her personality probably isn't for everyone.  She's opinionated, stubborn as an ox, determined, forceful, and has a vicious temper when provoked.  (Hmm.  I'm not going to explore why I'm drawn to that.  Not tonight.)

But I adore her, even if I'm not completely blind to the fact that she can be quite... difficult.  It's like she knows that her time is short, and is trying to pack as much punch into her life as she possibly can, in order to leave her mark.

Oh, Charlotte, you've left your mark.  Our household and our hearts will never be the same for having known you.

And on that note, she's moved on from howling at me through the door to applying claws to the underside of the door.  I think that I'll go and let her in and pick her up...  I might grump that it is mostly to spare the door a splintering, but I think we all know that it's because she has me wrapped around her little finger.  Around her little claw?