Belly Bands and Brothers


You may know that I have two dogs, Moose and Red. You may also have noticed that they are always wearing an article of clothing in most of their inside pictures. So what is that material that wraps around them?

What the brothers are wearing are commonly known as belly bands, or weenie wraps, or squirt stoppers. As the names imply, these are specifically geared toward male dogs. In our house we call them man pants.

Their purpose is to be used as a housetraining tool. They also prevent your canine companion from marking his territory in inappropriate places, such as against the refrigerator or curtains; not that my angels have ever done such things. If you have an incontinent dog, they’re good for that, too. They’re not meant to be worn at all times, but . . .

Italian Greyhounds are a notoriously difficult breed to housetrain, unlike their larger cousins whippets and greyhounds. They do not like wind, rain, or the cold. Unless the conditions are optimal, there’s a good chance your little guy will run back into the house to do his business, no matter how long you have kept them outside on potty watch.

Because of their lack of reliability in the house training department, this is the reason they are most often surrendered to shelters and rescues. I hear they can be taught to go inside in a designated area, but that’s something I haven’t attempted.

Moose had very good potty habits when he was young. He was neutered at 6 months of age, and taught himself to ring the bells on the back door when he had to relieve himself. Nowadays he rings the bells and jumps on the couch to steal your spot when you get up to let him out.

Moose was three when we adopted Red, and that’s when the problems started. The Petfinder ad did mention that Red wasn’t housetrained but was smart and would learn quickly. Oh how wrong they were. Red’s arrival launched pee fest, with both dogs becoming leg lifters in the house, even though both were neutered.

We discovered belly bands, which enabled us to keep the boys in their forever homes. The brand we like uses fleece, and has elastic along both sides, similar to Huggies diapers. The fabric wraps around the dog, covering the boy bits, and is fastened at the top with Velcro. For extra absorbency we line the band with a feminine pad from the dollar store. Of course I would prefer them to go au naturel, but that’s not an option for them, especially in their advanced age. I think they’re adorable just the same.



When Does Compassion Become Cruel?



When Ozzy left me suddenly last June, I think he knew something I didn’t. I would need all my resources and energy to care for another ill fur family member. I believe Ozzy planned that time to go, somehow with the knowledge that one of his canine brothers would suffer ill health.

Red is our rescued Italian Greyhound, adopted into our family at the age of 1 or 2. We noticed recently that he “knuckled,” walking on the first bend of his paws, akin to human wrists. In fact, his paws bend all the way back, resembling flippers. He stumbled when he walked, which worsened quickly. To better accommodate him, we covered our kitchen floor with yoga mats for better mobility. We also moved a water dish into the family room, so he wouldn’t have to climb the two steps into the kitchen.

Our regular vet checked him and believed he suffered from a neurological problem. We consulted a specialist in Philadelphia, who believed Red’s issue was centered in his neck. This vet thought he had a herniated disc causing the problem. It was a better diagnosis than a brain tumor, but it was still disheartening.

There were two options to treat his condition. We could opt for medicinal help, using prednisone to see if that would give him any improvement in his mobility. We could try to keep him on the lowest dose possible. The other option was surgery. Red would need an MRI at the cost of $2,500 to see the exact cause of his problem. The specialist cautioned us that he would only operate on our dog if the problem were clear from the test and he thought surgery would help. Surgery would be an additional $3,000. Of course, he told us we had to decide if we wanted to put a 12, possibly 13 year old dog through that. We decided on the prednisone, reminding me of all the times I gave it to Ozzy. In fact, we still had some of his pills left to now give to Red.

We tried different dosages of the prednisone with varying degrees of success. One pill per day worked the best, but that wasn’t saying much. His conditioned worsened to outright falling over on his side. Back to our regular vet we went, where I asked how much prednisone he could tolerate. Two and a half pills per day would be the maximum, but it would cause muscle loss, his head eventually becoming misshapen. There was no way I could do that to him, I would see him euthanized first.

Although Red’s condition is shocking to anyone who sees him, other than this, he is healthy, and that is our dilemma. They say you know when it’s time to say goodbye, but I’m not getting that vibe from him. On one hand, he’s almost totally immobile at this point. His best times are when he first wakes up, he’s able to toddle around on his wrists. His back end isn’t much better, but it’s better than the front. He needs to be carried everywhere. When outside he sometimes needs to be steadied to relieve himself. He can stand most of the time to eat and drink, with a spotter nearby so he doesn’t fall over and choke.

We realize his best days are behind him and our time together grows short. Still, even though he has limited mobility, he has joy in his life. He loves to lay on our couch and snuggle with Moose, our 14 year old Italian Greyhound. He loves sleeping between us at night, secure that he won’t roll out of bed. He’s not missing out on walks (he never liked leaving his house), or running around anymore, as at his age he’s a couch potato. His appetite is as good as it was before he was on the prednisone.

The vet tells us he is not in pain. Every time we’re in the yard and he falls into a heap on the grass, I worry that the neighbors are calling the doggie version of DYFS. I feel judgmental eyes on me when I carry him into the vet’s office. We carry him everywhere he needs or wants to be; I’ve even Googled living with a paralyzed dog, although Red can feel and move all of his legs, he doesn’t know where they are, which is how our vet put it.

Two vets recommended against the surgery due to his age. Younger dogs have had the surgery and recovered, with another 10 years ahead of them. We know we don’t have that long with Red (although I had a friend whose dog lived to 21).

So it leaves me to wonder, when does compassion become cruel?





I could barely see anything through the stinging haze of my tears, as I slid into the passenger seat of my vehicle. The radio turned on as the engine started, and I didn’t think it was possible to cry any harder than I already was. Slaughter’s “Fly to the Angels” filled my ears, and I switched it off with a trembling hand. How apropos. Now sitting in the shadow of my vet’s office, only moments before, I sent my beloved cat Ozzy to fly to the angels.

Ozzy had been chronically ill 11 of his 14 years. Through it all he stayed the same gentle soul everyone loved; from several medical interventions peppered throughout the years, to his strict medication and prescription food regimen, he was always a happy guy.

Nothing got my boy down. That’s why it was strange in the weeks leading up to his death, that he fought me when I tried to medicate him. I asked him if he was trying to tell me that he was done with it all. He just looked at me with his usual expression, always appearing to smile.

When he showed signs of illness soon after, I didn’t think much about it. Surely it was another setback and he would bounce back from the vet, as good as he could possibly be. As my better half secured him in his carrier for the trip to the doc, I assured my boy he would be home soon. Little did I know one of the last things I told my baby was a lie.

The baby vet called with a diagnosis that I was not expecting. I say baby vet because she was new, and not one of the two senior vets that I normally dealt with. Ozzy had end stage renal failure, with maybe a week left. My heart broke in a million pieces. Is this really the end? Despair turned to anger when baby vet said that his kidney values were normal in December, but now (June) they were awful. Did he get into anything he shouldn’t have? It took every ounce of strength not to scream, “Are you kidding me?” into the phone. Eleven years of enemas, xrays, MRIs, hospitalizations, prescription food, and medication from various places. Again, are you kidding me? Most likely several years of meds took their toll on his kidneys. It was a double-edged sword, if it weren’t for them he would have been euthanized at age 3 at the suggestion of our prior vet. He made it to 14, much longer than was expected.


We were given the option to bring him home (our regular vet would later tell us that was not possible), or give him another day of fluids to see how he responded. We made the difficult decision to euthanize him.

When the techs brought him to us, one glance at him told us it was time. He looked so tired, he’d had enough, and he had been trying to tell me. It was heart wrenching. My boy needed the gift of peace, but it was painful. I told him how much I loved him, and what a good boy he was, and how I tried for so long to keep this day from coming. I begged his forgiveness, his fur damp with my salty tears. I told him I wanted to stay with him until the end, but I was a coward and could not. (It’s the same with humans, I don’t get the point of viewings. I want to remember the person alive, not dead in a box).

Fortunately my petsitter and dear friend held him as he took his last breath while I sobbed outside the building. She told me he was at peace, and had closed his green eyes. I will be forever grateful to her for staying with him. All I could say between heaving sobs was, “my baby is gone.”

I have to believe that a Rainbow Bridge does exist. I told Ozzy when I get there I will look for him first. My boy was deservedly at rest, but where did that leave me? Shattered.


Welcome Vlad


First Night at Home

People often ask me why I don’t have a black cat. As much as I love Halloween and Salem, Massachusetts, you would think one of my kitties would be a traditional Halloween cat. It just didn’t work out that way.  Until recently, the right black cat never crossed my path.

You may have read my post about adopting Barnabas Collins. When we adopted him, I was actively searching for a black cat, but not just any black cat. Since I’ve wanted one for a long time, and we had only one spot left for a new addition, he or she had to be a perfect fit.

Keeping that in mind, I didn’t adopt the first black cat that I saw. One kitty at age 10 was a bit older than I wanted. (This cat was later adopted). Another was great until he started biting. One boy just didn’t like other cats, and still one more was a little shy. He was friendly, but our existing menagerie at home may have been too much for him.

I had been checking Petfinder weekly to see the available black cats and had gone to the shelter that evening to see a four year old female who was no longer available when we got there.

When we were in the room of cats up for adoption, I recognized another cat from the website trying to get our attention. As much as he wanted to get out, he was the shy cat once we got to meet him. I saw a black cat not on the website, in cage #9, Bubba. He was stretched out in the front of his cage and squeaked out a sound when I said hello.

The volunteers were taking the shy cat away from the acquaintance room, and 10 minutes before closing, they asked if we wanted to see anyone else. I saw the only black cat that was listed on Petfinder, but I remembered Bubba in cage #9.

Within those last 10 minutes, we fell in love with Bubba. He was going to be my spooky kitty. He was eager to jump in our laps for petting, rewarding us with purrs. He even gave me kisses on my fingers. We couldn’t take him home that night because he wasn’t yet neutered or vaccinated. He had been at the shelter about a month recovering from an upper respiratory infection. He was two years old, brought to the shelter because his owner had too many cats. I noticed that they let him go outside and that he never had any veterinary care. His luck was about to change. My cats are strictly indoor and have pet insurance.

Two days later I had my Halloween kitty. Unlike Barnabas, Bubba was parasite-free. I thought I would have a bunch of great names for my black cat when I finally found him or her but I didn’t have any until it came to me on the drive home from the shelter following our initial meeting. Since our other cat had a vampire name, I renamed Bubba Vlad. I guess I could have gone with Bram, but Vlad sounds more bad ass. Of course, he is anything but a bad ass. He’s a 10 pound gentleman. I hope we have many more years together.


Handsome Guy

Welcome Barnabas Collins


After losing two cats exactly a year apart, on June 2, we added a new kitty to our family. Meet petite, one year old, Barnabas Collins, also known as Barney. He’s an orange and white tabby, named after the fictional vampire on the television series Dark Shadows. I’ve never seen the show, but the name sounds cool.

We decided to adopt two more cats into our household. These are not replacements, mind you, as like humans, each cat is an individual. Since my husband has never had a say in any of the cats we acquired, I told him I thought he should pick out one of them. (I had my heart set on a black cat, more on that in a future post).

Of course I wanted to adopt from the shelter where I volunteer, so when we were approved I started checking out the black cats. There were two in the PetSmart where I volunteer, but neither were the right fit. The shelter also has an adoption center in another local PetSmart, so we stopped one afternoon when they were closed. They had one black cat that I wanted to come back and see. In the cage below him was a small orange and white tabby. Hubby talked to him through the Plexiglas and the little furball rolled over to show his belly.

We returned the next night to visit the black cat named Dodger. While I spoke with him, the orange and white ball named Trapper was grabbing at me from his cage below. I ignored him, wanting a black cat for so long. Dodger was a great cat with people, but not a huge fan of other cats. He wouldn’t mesh with our two other cats and two small dogs at home. (I am happy to report that he was later adopted).


Hubby wanted to see Trapper, and while I chatted with the other volunteers, he made a new friend. I didn’t interact much with the furry little guy, but he had fallen asleep in his new daddy’s hands. I thought I would find my black cat before hubby found his cat, but it didn’t work out that way. In fact, this cat was exactly what I didn’t want. I didn’t want another orange cat (our Tiger is orange), but at least he has four white paws and socks, and white from chin to belly. I like big cats, and he weighed in at a whopping 7.9 pounds at his well vet visit. I’m used to 12 and 14 pound cats, when they got down to Barnabas’s weight they died. He’s not a kitten, but I would have preferred an older cat. The shelter said he was 1 to 2 years old, but the vet believes he is closer to a year old. This means he gets into stuff. Confined to one room in the beginning, he spent his days knocking the phone off the hook and pulling books off the shelves. Our resident cats are believed to be around 8 and 9, estimates since they were also adopted from the shelter. I hope he doesn’t annoy them. As much as I didn’t want him, I love him. He has me wrapped around his little paw already, and I don’t regret a thing about adopting him.

The spare room that was the sick ward when our beloved Ozzy suffered setbacks now has renewed life to it. We’re no longer keeping watch over our handsome Russian Blue/tabby, praying he will recover from his latest tummy trouble. He is at peace, leaving us at age 14, after 11 years of chronic illness. Now there’s a young man to explore all the room’s corners, and play with the toys that now cover the floor.

Trapper was renamed Barnabas Collins by my hubby and is now a member of the family. His introduction to the rest of the gang was delayed because he came with an intestinal parasite, causing the need for isolation until it was resolved. I’m happy to report he is integrating with the others just fine.


Black Cat Appreciation Day


Black Cat Appreciation Day was August 17. While we should be thankful for all our feline companions, cats born with a black coat can have a more difficult life.

For some reason, black cats are the hardest to place with people looking to add a new family member to their home. No one is sure why that is, but it seems to be true in shelters across the country. Perhaps their coats aren’t perceived as pretty as other colors. They don’t stand out as well in their shelter enclosures or online photos in comparison to their more colorful peers. Maybe their ebony fur combined with cats’ natural sneaky nature make them unappealing. Is it because of superstition, such as not allowing one to cross your path? Black cats became synonymous with witches during the Salem Witch Trials in America, with some people believing that the malevolent ladies can take this animal form to move from place to place unnoticed.

Not all countries have an aversion to black cats. They are considered good luck in places such as Italy, Great Britain, Russia and Japan. The Egyptians idolized all cats, and harming one was a serious infraction.

Max - Security at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Max – Security at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Did you know that black cats are often the friendliest cats? Maybe they are grateful to be received into a loving home. Orange colored male cats are also said to be friendly, although my Tiger is an exception. I love him, but he is a bit of a jerk, in particular when it’s near feeding time. I adopted him from the shelter and I know he is grateful in his own way.

Many kitties born the darkest color can be found in shelters and rescues across the country waiting for pet parents to give them a good home. Some adoption centers will run specials on black cats, either reducing their adoption fee or eliminating it. If you’re interested in adding a black cat to your home, be sure it’s not right before Halloween. Many shelters and rescues will not adopt a black cat out at that time due to fear. There are some disturbed people that don’t have these cats’ best interests in mind, and to protect them, shelter workers will not allow them to be adopted at this time. It’s the best solution for everyone involved.

I have always wanted a black cat, an onyx colored friend I could give a fun name related to my favorite holiday, Halloween. Most of the cats who have come into my life have been tabbies, with a tortoiseshell and dilute calico in the mix. I have never been owned by a solid colored cat, but that’s just how it worked out. I wouldn’t resist a homeless kitty based on coat color. If you’re not considering adopting a black cat, you may be missing out on a best friend. Just as humans promote the black cat with an appreciation day, black cats appreciate the chance to be placed in a loving home. Please don’t overlook them when considering a new companion for your family.


Remembering Annie 1998-2015

IMG_20150218_064250413 When I wrote “To Annie, With Love,” in April, I expected her to live into her twenties. She was always a healthy cat, never having issues. I had no clue we would have to make a painful decision two months later. Annie hadn’t been eating very much, she weighed just over 7 pounds when she died, down from the 14 pounds she weighed as a young cat. In addition to the appetite reduction, we noticed she was no longer jumping into her bed on top of the fridge. That was her favorite place in the house. From that vantage point she was free from the harassment of two dogs and three other cats. She was the queen of the house and her throne was perched atop a white Whirlpool. Our girl appeared to have difficulty getting comfortable. I pet her head to hear purring. One thing about Annie was that you could pet her for only seconds before she tried to bite. This reaction was so different that I knew something was wrong. I assumed it was arthritis, and the vet would prescribe a med to make her feel better. I held onto that assumption as I pushed her into the carrier, telling her not to worry, she would be home soon. My husband drove her to the vet while I stayed home. He called to say she was spending the night, as she was dehydrated. He wasn’t back from the vet yet when the office called. They asked me if I wanted her put down. I was dumbstruck. What were they talking about? Annie’s belly was distended, filled with fluid. In their experience, in cats of the age of 17, it was either stomach cancer, or a heart or liver issue. More tests could be run to discover the cause, but the outcome would be the same. Once the fluid was drained, it would return in 24-48 hours to require more draining. It was five minutes before the office closed. I wasn’t going to let them kill her before I could talk to my husband. I managed to tell the vet to keep her comfortable, I would speak with another vet who was on in the morning about her prognosis. I hung up the phone and lost my mind, my worst fear realized. I gave my husband the diagnosis through sobs when he returned. We held out hope that somehow she was wrong, that a more seasoned vet on duty in the morning would have a different opinion. The second vet agreed with the first. Annie was not going to get better. We told our vet we would euthanize her, but we wanted to visit to say our goodbyes. Later that day we went to the veterinary office. Annie was brought out to us, her eyes dilated from the pain medicine. We took turns holding her, telling her how much we loved her, and if there was anything we could do to keep her with us, we would have done it. We took a lot of photos that afternoon. IMG_20150602_162546383_HDR I wished I were strong enough to stay with her until the end, to hold her as she left for the Rainbow Bridge. I couldn’t do it, I was a coward. I couldn’t let my last memory of Annie be her lying dead on a steel table. Maybe that’s why I don’t like viewings, I prefer to remember people alive. Handing her over to the vet tech for the last time was gut wrenching. I knew she would be surrounded by people we knew, and our favorite vet in the office promised to perform the procedure. She had been the third vet involved and came to speak with us. She agreed we were making the best decision for Annie. It’s a month today that our girl has been gone. Annie’s homecoming was bittersweet, I couldn’t wait for her to be home, even if it was not in the same form. The house didn’t feel right without her. Her urn sits in her bed above the fridge, returned to her rightful place. Her food dish, a straw, and foil ball surround her. IMG_20150615_213719511 This was the first time I ever had to go through this. Previous pets belonged to my parents, and they dealt with the end of life decisions. In a way I was relieved it happened the way it did, so fast, so unexpected. There was no lengthy illness, no period of time where we wondered what day we would give her peace. I love and miss you, Annie.