Archive for April, 2007

crazy cat lady

When I got my cats, I wasn’t going to be one of those crazy pet owners that spent tons of money on their animals and treated them better than they treated the children. I held to it, too. I asked the vet for a food recommendation and she gave me one, for a higher-end brand you can get in the grocery store. The cats liked it, it wasn’t too expensive and so that is what they’ve been happily chowing down on for the last few years. See, no crazy cat lady here.

Then two things happened: I got Jasper and my cats got sick. Yes, the first apparently led to the second, thanks to the stress. But it also lead me to the crazy lady section of the pet food store.

When the vet tested T’s pee, she warned me that he’s at risk for developing nasty crystals in his urine that could block him up and kill him in a day. We’re lucky he doesn’t already have that problem. Then she sold me some really expensive ‘perscription’ cat food and told me he’d have to eat that forever. I read the ingredients. I really should learn not to do that.

I would have gone along with her recommendation without question, were it not for Jasper. When he came home, a friend who breeds Australian Shepards twigged us on to the differences in pet food. You can pay a little bit and get the McDonald’s of pet food, or pay more and get the almost-as-good-as-homemade. Or, you can even make it yourself.

I tried not to listen. I really did. “He’s a dog” I told myself. Does it really matter if there is indigestible corn in his kibble? Those pet food companies are putting research into this and want to make nutritionally-healthy food, right? Right?

It was right about that moment in my thinking that the news broke about a mass recall of Menu pet foods. Pesticides had gotten into the food and pets were dying. That prompted me to pick up a book on how most pet foods are made. That was scary. I’m surprised it took this long for something like this to happen, frankly.

It also didn’t take much research for me to reach the conclusion that this idea that animals shouldn’t eat ‘people food’ is ridiculous. Since when are chicken or apples reserved only for people? So Jasper eats a high-quality kibble (no corn, I admit), supplemented with whatever is around – left-over veggies, rice, meat. He also gets raw chicken necks and wings. He’s a happy dog.

Today, I took the final step. I went to the alternative pet store and bought my cats ‘raw’ cat food. Turns out, you can buy it pre-made and frozen, then just thaw out the bit you need. And it is cheaper than the perscription stuff. And it has none of the things that cause a cat to be prone to developing crystals. T loves it.

You can just call me the crazy cat lady.


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furry joy

We’ve been back from Vancouver for a couple of days, but between the hideous weather, jet lag and all I wanted to write about, I have instead written nothing.

Today is sunny. I fell walking the dog yesterday evening. I was running with him, even, letting him chase leaves, when I tripped and took a huge, child-like tumble on the road that left me bruised, scraped and very sore. But the beautiful weather and Boo got me out walking the dog, despite my aches.

As we organized to get out, both cats escaped into the sunshine. Thanks to a grumpy neighbour, I try to keep them inside, but they’ve had a rough couple of weeks. T got sick with a raging bladder infection right before we left and spent our vacation in a small cage at the vet’s. Poor Roxy got to stay home alone as a result, and developed her own bladder infection, no doubt caused, said the vet, by separation anxiety. She doesn’t have to be hospitalized, at least, and I have a scratch for each pill I’ve had to administer so far.

Given what they’ve gone through, I couldn’t bear to put them back inside, and left them out as we went off on our walk. It soon became clear, as Boo biked and Jasper and I walked, that the cats were accompanying us. Roxy has been known to follow me as I walk to the mailbox and back, but T has never done the same.

I was initially concerned that whichever neighbour hates them would spot me and see that I was allowing my cats outside, but soon the charm of the scene overwhelmed the concern. The cats, one huge and one tiny, trotted after us, shoulder to shoulder. Occasionally one would bound up a lawn and back down or run underneath a car, but they never let us get far ahead.

Jasper was beside himself with joy that his cats were out walking with him. He kept trying to lunge for them, which my sore shoulder did not appreciate, but they quickly figured out that he couldn’t go any further than the leash and stayed just beyond his reach. T once allowed Jasper to lick his back a little before dashing on past.

I loved walking with the cats as well as the dog. I don’t know exactly what it was that gave me such joy in that moment, but it did. Perhaps it was, as I discussed previously, that cats rarely demonstrate much significant affection. Following us with such determination is so, well, un-cat-like that I couldn’t help but be charmed.

I missed my pets while I was gone, more than I expected to, given how busy we were. I was glad to be back home with them, and it was gratifying to see that they were so delighted to be with me too.

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All the internet access in the world doesn’t help much when you are too exhausted to write. So far, we have gone to the Vancouver Aquarium, Science World, spent a day visiting with my cousins, taken a ferry to Vancouver Island, seen Butchart Gardens and Victoria Butterfly Gardens, and taken a ferry back, and much of that I did alone with the kids. We’ve loved it all, but I am wiped. This is the latest I’ve managed to stay up, and it is 10 pm.

And now, to bed …

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silver lining

We are in Vancouver. It is raining. At least it is green.

We have had an eventful trip so far. We moved rooms three time in the hotel, I lost my cell phone charger, the children are jet lagged. I am horribly jet lagged. J went up to Whistler by himself to ski for a few days (my birthday gift to him) and tore a calf muscle within about half an hour of getting on the mountain.

But the hotel offers free wireless internet and my marvellous brother lent me a laptop, so I have email and web access.

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Free to a good home

One lovely, soft, medium-haired male cat.

Positive traits: He’s so friendly he purrs while the vet gives him shots and so mellow that he’ll let anyone pick him up and then will happily settle down with them and purr, no matter what else he was planning to do at the time. He runs to the door when the bell rings to see who it is. He is a bundle of beautiful love.

Negative traits: He’s a little fat because he’ll eat anything not tied down and his breath smells when he licks you on the nose. Also, he likes to pee blood in the bathroom tub the evening before the last day before you are leaving for Vancouver for 10 days, completely unconcerned about your plan to have someone come in every few days to throw down more food and clean the litter box, knowing he’d be happy because he has his house and his best friend with him. This may result in, vet visits, cat isolation, many drugs, special food and having all your plans thrown into disarray, including things like packing and writing longer, more interesting blog posts about the seders and the upcoming trip to Vancouver.

But other than that, he’s adorable.

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Did you know that way more women than men have Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Want to know why? I have a little story to illustrate exactly why.

I have IBS, and right now my bowels have gone on strike. Fibre, stool softeners, lots of water, oatmeal – nothing will get them moving. Right now, everyone is out beside me and Boo. She was watching TV. I decided that it might be a good time to go and sit and see if I could encourage action (if you had told me when I was a teenager that I’d be discussing such things in such a public forum, I’d have been mortified).

Anyway, I collected the newspaper and went upstairs to the bathroom and locked the door. That’s right, folks. I locked the door. I placed a physical barrier between myself and the other living things in my house.

Of course, the silent alarm went off, alerting Boo and Jasper, who were downstairs in the basement watching Dora together. They were upstairs in a shot. Jasper settled down right outside the door and stuck his nose up to the crack at the bottom and snuffled. Boo told me she had to pee immediately, but needed my help because of her dress. I told her she’d just have to go to the other bathroom and give it a go herself.

She came back wailing, claiming to have hit her knee. Oh, the screams. Is it bleeding? I asked. She told me she couldn’t see if it was bleeding, because if she leaned over to look, she would fall down.

At least the screaming blotted out the sounds of Jasper’s pathetic snuffling. I still got tired of it pretty quickly.

It escalated. In quick succession, her stomach hurt, she was too hot but couldn’t get the dress off, she was too cold, and she was hungry. All required wailing and rattling at the doorknob. Jasper decided to help out by scratching along.

Nature chose not to call.

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I’m finally starting to get into Passover now (good thing my MIL is doing the seder). It’s the kids that do it for me. They are so excited about the holiday. You know, we converted types always talk about Hanukkah vs Christmas in December, and the party line tends to be that it isn’t just a direct trade, and this weekend has reminded me of that.

The kids have already gone through the excitement of Purim, all the dressing-up, noise-making and candy. And here, only about a month later, we get another holiday. The kids love the seders – getting to dip their fingers in the wine to count out the plagues, finding the afikomen and getting money in return, staying up unbelievably late, visiting cousins.

Cleaning the house and removing all the chametz – bread products – gives them a real sense that something big is going on. Asher is very concerned this year that we haven’t been doing enough cleaning (what, me, not cleaning enough?) and has taken it on himself to doing some sweeping and the like. At bedtime tonight, I told him tomorrow is going to be fun, as our job for the seders is to make dessert and my kids love to help with baking. He said, “Okay, baking is fine Mom, but there is something much more important we must do first.” Huh? Who is this kid and where’s my son? “We need to clean, or Hashem will be angry with us for not doing a good enough job.” (This is what happens when you send your kids to religious school – they end up being so very … religious.)

We had a little chat where I suggested that perhaps God isn’t that judgmental. Although I’m sure many would disagree, that’s what me and the boy are going with for now, and he agreed to bake with me.

Boo arrived home from her model seder with a handmade hagaddah. A hagaddah is basically a guide book for the seder, with the story of the exodus, the prayers, the songs, when to eat the various ritual foods. In the earlier grades in school, the kids always come home with a handmade one.

She was showing it to me a couple days ago. The front cover has flaps that open up. She’s painted them blue and when you open them, inside she’s drawn several people. She told me : “See these flaps? They are the sea. And even though they are blue, do you know what the name of the sea is? The Red sea. And see these people inside? They are Jews, crossing the Red sea!

There are five Jews, by the way – Moses and his immediate family, I guess.

She’s so enthusiastic about the whole story. I realized that is something I simply love about Pesach, and all the other holidays. When kids are four and five years old, they really, really get into the stories behind the holidays. The stories live for them at this age.

I had the radio on, and the newscaster mentioned Egypt. Boo’s ears pricked up and she said delightedly, “Hey, Egypt! We were slaves in Egypt! But a long time ago, right? Not Bubby and Zaidy or Oma and Grampa, right?”

It reminded me of Pesach when Asher was this age. We went out of town, to J’s brother for the seders, and arranged to visit my room-mate from university and her family one day. In discussing our plans with my brother-in-law, I mentioned my former room-mate’s name, which is very unusual, and he asked it’s origin. I told him she was born in Egypt, although she grew up here. We thought nothing of it until Asher came up with eyes huge and said, “Your friend we are visiting is Egyptian?”

You could see the concern on his face. He was clearly convinced my friend was on the phone right that moment with Pharoh, arranging our personal return to slavery. He was relieved when it turned out to be an evening of playing with her kids and eating sushi. He said to me quietly, “Egyptians are pretty nice now, Mama.”

That’s the other thing I like about celebrating the holidays with kids when they are little. Despite the fact that every holiday is about, as I heard one comedian tell it: “Some bad people wanted to kill all the Jews. They only killed some of the Jews. So, we eat!” the kids firmly believe we are living in ‘happily ever after’ where no one hates the Jews any more. I hold onto that for as long as possible.

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