Please Keep Your Cats Inside This Season

The weather is finally starting to warm up and I’ve been feeling claustrophobic due to this quarantine, so I was standing in my doorway, gazing out into the back yard. Then a male Dark-Eyed Junko landed on the deck and kind of danced in front of me. He was quite agitated. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to garner so much attention. Then his female counterpart, heavily pregnant, came on the scene and gave me a stern talking-to.

Ah, so there must be a nest nearby. Good on them. I quietly left the area, and will do my best to not be an intrusive part of their lives in the next few months. Fortunately, we are rather isolated, and I’ve never seen a stray cat in our yard.

I’m not saying I dislike cats. I actually love them. If I weren’t so allergic to them, I’d probably have one. But I do have a problem with people who let their cats roam outside. According to this article, cats are responsible for the deaths of up to 3.7 billion (yes, with a b) birds in the continental US each year. When you consider that 1/3 of the bird species in the US are endangered, that’s a horrifying number. These same cats also kill up to 20.7 billion mammals annually.

Yes, I get it. These cats are doing what cats do. Nature is harsh. But here’s the thing. These are your pets. You are the responsible one. You can keep your cats indoors, or at least in a catio, at a bare minimum from Mid-April to the end of July, can’t you? Sure you can. You can also have your cats spayed and neutered to reduce the stray cat population. These are the actions of a responsible pet owner.

I know your cat wants to roam. But another thing to consider is that your cat, unsupervised, is in quite a lot of danger. The average stray cat only lives for 2 years. On a daily basis, outdoor cats have to survive cat fights, cars, dogs, coyotes, weather, and other predators. They are eating disease-carrying animals and spoiled food. Their stress level is always high. These factors reduce the lifespan of even beloved pets who only go out occasionally. So keeping them inside is also the kindest thing you can do for them.

Do the right thing this spring. Please be responsible. Keep your cats indoors.

cat dead bird

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Pet Euthanasia: When Is the Right Time?

Recently we had to say goodbye to a beloved family member. Junior was a sweet old dog who lived a good life. He told us when it was time to go. We didn’t want to hear it, but the message was loud and clear. He had a boatload of health issues, all of which we were willing to help him with for as long as he was willing to fight the good fight. But now he had stopped eating and drinking and could barely get up on all fours. It was time.

This is not the first dog I’ve had to put to sleep. It probably won’t be the last, either. It’s not an easy choice to make, but often it’s a kindness. It’s always heartbreaking, but often, it’s the right thing to do.

When this subject comes up, the conclusion most of my loved ones seem to make is that it’s related to quality of life. When your pet is no longer experiencing a good quality of life, then it’s time to put them down.

It sounds so simple. But quality of life is pretty darned relative, when you think about it. Some people will put up with a lot more pain and suffering than others will, and they seem to use the same yardstick on their pets. The ultimate choice lies with the pet owner.

Personally, I’ve been horrified to see how long some people will make their dogs suffer, simply because they don’t want to say goodbye. They seem to overlook the fact that it isn’t about them. Or at least it shouldn’t be. No animal should suffer simply because you can’t let go. When you take on the responsibility of pets, you become the arbiter of their well-being.

Let’s talk about heroic measures for a minute. Certainly, if there is a treatment that will cure your dog’s ailment completely, then definitely go for it. But I’ve seen people put dogs through chemotherapy for a cancer that is so far advanced that these treatments will simply prolong the animal’s suffering without preventing the inevitable. I’ve seen dogs reduced to a wailing bundle of skin and bones for no good reason at all. That’s just cruel and selfish.

I wish euthanasia were more acceptable for humans, if I’m honest. I watched my mother suffer needlessly for two long years before she finally died. Most of the time, especially toward the end, she was so tranked out on morphine that she didn’t know where she was or who we were. I wouldn’t have treated a dog the way my mother was treated.

Ultimately, with pets, the decision is yours. It’s a good idea to consider the counsel of your veterinarian and your loved ones, as you may not be seeing things clearly through your profound distress. But in the end, this is a choice only you can make. And unfortunately, it’s a rare occasion when you can feel confident that you didn’t act too quickly or not quickly enough. The second guessing can be the worst part of all, but it’s your burden to bear.

My best piece of advice is to take you and your emotions out of the equation. Look into your pet’s eyes. Imagine what they’re experiencing. And then ask yourself whether you’d want to live like that.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve made this final choice for the dogs I’ve loved.

  • Mocha had a cancerous tumor on her side that was the size of a cantaloupe. It was so fast growing that it hadn’t been there a few weeks before. For a short time, it didn’t seem to bother her. But then it did, and she told me so.

  • Sugar was extremely old, had had several strokes, lost the function of her back legs, and had to be carried outside for her frequent need to urinate. I was happy to do that for her, but she’d have suffered needlessly while I was at work.

  • Charley had bone cancer, and while she was fine part of the time, when the pain came it was excruciating, and nothing the vet tried helped.

  • When I took Karenin into the vet, thinking he had a bad cold or something, they determined that he had lost 70 percent of his liver function.

  • Blue had hemolytic anemia that wasn’t responding to treatment, and he was rapidly wasting away.

  • The sac around Devo’s heart had filled with blood. They said he wasn’t in pain, but he became increasingly sleepy and nonresponsive as he was struggling to get oxygen. They said they could drain the sac, but it would fill up again. I think he died of a broken heart due to the loss of his best friend Blue.

If you are reading this because you have to make this hard choice, I’m sorry. Please remember that your pet knows he or she is loved. Please put their needs ahead of your own. Make an informed decision. Definitely fight the good fight with your furry friend. But know that surrender may ultimately be the greatest gift and the most loving act you can perform.

Looking Back at Junior
Rest in Peace, Junior. We love you.

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Coyotes Killing Cats

I know what it’s like to lose a pet. It’s heartbreaking. They are a part of your family, and the loss is felt keenly.

But.

Pets are also your responsibility. If your Pitt Bull is running around loose and bites a someone, that’s on you. If your boa constrictor gets loose and swallows the neighbor’s poodle, that’s on you. If your cat is allowed to roam free and gets killed by a coyote, that’s also on you. That coyote is only doing what coyotes do. (And your cat was probably killing songbirds anyway. It’s a cat.) Keep your cat inside and coyotes won’t be an issue.

I get so frustrated when people complain about coyotes. “Coyotes Killing Cats” is a frequent topic on my local Nextdoor.com page. It’s the coyotes’ territory as much as it is ours. They have every bit as much right to survive as we do. It would be great if they could live far away from people and feed on things that we are not emotionally attached to, but we’ve made it all but impossible for them to do that.

When people’s pets start disappearing, there’s always a call to kill the coyotes. It makes me sick. If you allow your pets to roam free, you need to be willing to live with the consequences.

I can hear the coyotes howling in the park behind my house on many nights. I think it’s a lovely sound. And I never let my dachshund outside from dusk to dawn without supervision, even if our yard is fenced, and I’ve never seen a coyote inside that fence. Because that’s what a responsible pet owner should do.

Coyote

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An Atmospheric Shift

I grew up always having cats. So imagine my surprise when I went away to college, and my eyes stopped itching and my nose stopped running. Holy crap. I’d been allergic to cats that whole time and didn’t even realize it. It was just status quo for me.

Similarly, people have been telling me my whole life that I’d feel different when I got married. I didn’t believe them. I mean, I’m an adult. I know myself really well. And I’ve been in two long term relationships. So why would this be any different?

And yet, it is. It’s completely and utterly different. Why is that?

It had been confounding me for a few days. So, one day while sitting on my drawbridge, I decided to do some inner dialogue with myself to try to get to the bottom of this feeling. What’s changed?

After meditating on it for a bit, I figured it out. And It brought tears to my eyes. Because here it is in a nutshell: For the first time in 53 years, I’m not afraid.

And I’m not just talking about feeling more financially secure because of our combined incomes. (Although, yes, that’s a part of it. We are saving a fortune in insurance and utilities and in so many ways it’s insane. You don’t realize how much the capitalist system is stacked in favor of married couples until you join that elite group.)

But that’s only a small part of it. Here’s what’s huge: I had been living in fear for so long that I didn’t even realize that free-floating anxiety had always been in the very air I was breathing.

Fear of spending the rest of my life alone. Fear of dying on the weekend and it being days before anyone found my body. Fear of getting so sick that I couldn’t call for help. Fear that this painful loneliness would eventually kill me. Never feeling completely safe.

For the first time in my life, I feel like someone has my back. Always. Unfalteringly. There’s someone I can count on, and someone who can count on me. That’s incredibly new. Before, if I screwed up, I was on my own.

And if I triumphed, I was on my own, too. You don’t realize how freakin’ lonely that feeling is until you actually have someone to share the triumphs with. And that makes me really excited about the future!

The fact is, I’m part of a team now. A mutual admiration society of two. We are each other’s roofs and foundations. While past relationships have dragged me down, this one lifts me up, and if we go down, we’ll go down together, and climb back up together, too.

It seemed as though in past relationships I had to do the bulk of the heavy lifting. In this one, we are more equally balanced. We work toward the future together, and we want to go in the same direction.

So yes, this realization brought tears to my eyes, and they were complex tears, indeed. Tears of joy for the amazing place I find myself in now, and tears of sadness for the person I was a month ago, who had absolutely no idea how afraid she always had been.

If you’re lucky enough to be on a winning team for life, go and hug that person right now. Right this minute. And never let go. Because that connection is every bit as precious as the air that you breathe.

Breathe

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RIP Mary Cerruti

Every once in a while I’ll come across a news item that I know will stay with me, probably, for the rest of my life. Mary Cerruti’s story is one of those. On the surface, it seems fairly simple.

In 2015, she went missing. Later that year, her Houston area house was foreclosed upon. In 2016, the house was renovated and put up for sale. In 2017, the new owners moved in. They’re the ones that found Mary’s bones in the wall.

The question is, how did they get there? Some people think it was foul play. But I can’t imagine someone killing an old woman, and then somehow dragging that dead weight up into the attic, only to stuff her in a hole that they wouldn’t have known was there in the first place.

I think the more simple answer is the more likely one. She was in the attic and fell into that hole, and got stuck in the area where her bones were found. A 61 year old woman living alone. A freak accident. A sad ending to a solitary life.

What I don’t get is, wasn’t the attic’s ladder down when the police inspected the house? Couldn’t they smell the decomposition? Rats did wind up devouring her flesh and leaving behind very little evidence, but they don’t work that quickly, do they? It’s just that she didn’t have enough loved ones to work up enough of a head of steam for the authorities to find her. There’s no way of knowing how long she was gone before anyone noticed.

Did she die instantly? I hope so, for her sake. I hate to think that she was stuck in there, injured, slowly dying of thirst and crying for help as she listened to her beloved cats starving to death on the other side of the wall. Please, God, let her have died instantly.

What really gets to me about this story, though, is the things I have learned about her through the collage of photographs that she left behind. I think we had a lot in common. We even look alike. Brown hair, glasses and all.

Like me, she was a homeowner. She was only 8 years older than I am. She lived with 8 cats, which would probably be my fate if I weren’t so allergic to them. Like me, she loved photography, and preferred to be alone. She also took pride in her house and seems to have kept up with the repairs herself. I could see myself living in that cozy little bungalow.

She watched in horror as the houses along her street got torn down and replaced by apartment buildings. She mourned the loss of each grand old tree. She even plucked up the courage to speak out at a city council meeting about it, for all the good it did. She refused to sell. And she hated all the construction noise. I would have reacted in the same exact way.

Here’s where we part company: In the photographs of the houses in her neighborhood that were subsequently demolished, she called one a “whore apartment” and another a “multi-Mexican crash pad.” While the writer in me appreciates creative descriptions, I find these sentiments unappealing, and kind of get why she was alone. She was also known to write the occasional incomprehensible letter, which makes me wonder about her mental health.

Still, I can relate to Mary a little too well for my own good. Because of that, it’s really unpleasant to contemplate such a strange and lonely death. I hope there are no rats in my future.

Even those of us living in cute little houses in very big cities may as well be on far flung islands. Our connections are becoming ever more remote. Note to self: reach out just a tiny bit more.

Mary, rest in peace.

mary-cerruti_1488832452541_8917042_ver1.0
Mary Cerruti

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Who’s the Animal in This Scenario?

One of the most distressing features of social media is that it really highlights the more despicable aspects of humanity. If I’m not reading about some sick $&*@(% who buried a dog alive, leaving only its snout exposed, causing its eventual death, then I’m seeing pictures of men cheering as roosters slice each other to ribbons. If I’m not hearing about people who get off on torturing black cats at Halloween, then I’m learning that the Amish (whom you would expect to have a moral compass), are some of the worst perpetrators of puppy mills, because they see dogs as livestock to be exploited. And how does one hunt not for food, but for fun, Trump Junior?

And then there are all those animal rescue videos. It warms your heart that all these animals are saved, rehabilitated, and given forever homes, yes, but it’s horrifying that they were abandoned in the first place. Seriously, how hard is it to spay or neuter your pets, or, here’s a thought, not take the responsibility of owning one if you don’t have the maturity to follow through?

And don’t even get me started about people who tie their dogs up in the back yard, all alone, even in the worst weather imaginable. Because I’ll cut a b****, if I have to, to prevent that. I really will.

There is nothing lower than someone who abuses, neglects, abandons, or tortures a helpless creature. How do people who do that carry on with the rest of their lives? How do you send out for pizza while you have dozens of animals starving in their own filth in a shed somewhere? How do you read your kid a bedtime story after having reveled in the painful death of a creature that you’ve forced to fight for its life? How do you decorate your Christmas tree after dumping kittens on the side of the road like so much garbage? How does that work?

Trump Junior

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Off Limits

There’s nothing on earth that makes me want to do something more than being told I cannot do that thing. Not that I’m going to disobey The Law writ large. I won’t even shout “fire” in a crowded movie theater. Laws are generally put into place for the protection of society. But some arbitrary rules and decisions are just absurd. And some long-standing traditions with no basis in logic could stand to be modernized.

Even as a child, when I would hear that a book was banned by our school district, I’d make it a point to read that book. Fortunately my mother was very supportive of this. She believed we should have access to a variety of points of view, and then form our own opinions. So I read quite a bit.

I once met a man from another culture who was horrified that I was “allowed” to work the graveyard shift. “They let you go out alone at night?” First of all, who is “they”? I’m a 52 year old woman who lives alone.

I experienced that same look of horror when I rented a car in Turkey. They made me drive it around the block to prove I could before they’d let me have it. And sure enough, in the rural areas in particular, I soon noticed that I was the only female driver.

So imagine my thought process when reading about Mount Athos, in Greece. It’s a region that has 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, and women aren’t allowed on the entire peninsula. And it has been thus for nearly 2,000 years. I’ve never wanted to go somewhere so badly in my entire life.

Their reasons for this ban are very strange. They claim that the Virgin Mary once was on a ship that blew off course, and when she landed on Mount Athos, she liked it so much that she asked her son to let it be her garden. And so it was decreed, somehow, from on high. (As they say, it’s who you know.) And because of that it became out of bounds for other women.

Whatever.

But these monks really take it to the extreme. They won’t even allow female animals there even though they do a lot of farming, so their eggs and milk must be imported. They do make an exception for female bugs and songbirds, because, let’s face it, that would be a bit difficult to control. But they also make an exception for female cats. I’m guessing that has to do with rodent control. (Come to think of it, what keeps out the female rats? It’s a slippery slope!) Who knows what their rationale is.

So I’m lower on the pecking order than a bug. Nice. I’m that big of a danger to their society. Insane.

A few women have made it to Mount Athos, I’m happy to say. A Serbian Emperor once brought his wife there to protect her from the plague, but she wasn’t allowed to touch the ground the whole time she was in residence. Cooties!

One woman, Maryse Choisy, once disguised herself as a man, and lived there for a month. She then wrote a book about it. Good for her! A Greek beauty queen then followed her example in the 50’s, and it was such a scandal that it was written up in Time magazine.

Three women landed there that same year and caused a big controversy. And there have been various movements to allow women in since then, but none of them have taken hold.

It’s not like they are against modernization under certain circumstances, when it suits them. Some of the monks are now taxi drivers, mechanics, and computer IT techs. But women! Gasp! Can’t have that.

But then, they also insist upon maintaining Byzantine time, which commences at sunset each day. That means that their clocks need to be regularly readjusted because sunset isn’t at the same time every day. Talk about stubborn.

And they’re all about doing what’s right for them, and to hell with everyone else. To avoid WWII, they asked Hitler to place them under his protection, and oddly enough, he agreed. So they referred to him as “High Protector of the Holy Mountain”. And that was while he took over the rest of Greece. Wow.

The reason I’d most like to visit, though, is that these monasteries are the repositories of so much medieval art, codices, relics and icons that even though they are trying to catalogue and restore them, they say it will take decades. Such rich history would be a joy to behold.

Men can visit. But only if they have short hair and are over 18 and get all the proper visas, and are preferably, but not necessarily, members of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  That means even Vladimir Putin got to go, but I can’t. (One assumes he had to keep his feminine side strictly under control.)

If this is what faith has to offer, I’ll stick with logic.

mount athos putin

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On Being Someone’s Person

My dog Quagmire is hysterically clingy. That’s partly due to his breeding—Dachshunds can be that way. But it’s also partly due to all that he’s been through in his life. He was found dirty and starving and wandering the streets. He spent a lot of time in dog rescue facilities, which, despite their best intentions, probably felt a lot like puppy prison to him. It’s got to be traumatic to be jailed when you’re innocent.

And then I adopted him. I became his person. Now, when I’m home, he sticks to me like glue. If I’m sitting, he’s on my lap or nestled under my arm pit. He even accompanies me to the bathroom. He sleeps curled beside me. If I roll over, he repositions himself for maximum body contact.

Mostly I love it. Sometimes it drives me nuts. It’s like I suddenly gained 18 pounds of furry fat.

But when you adopt a pet, you make a commitment. You are responsible for the health and safety of another living thing. You don’t get to take a day off. It’s like being a parent. If you cannot provide a child with constant love and security, then maybe you should not take on this lifelong task.

Once you tell someone or something that you will provide a forever home, you need to keep that promise. Ideally, you will do so happily. It’s okay to have your moments. We all do. But don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. The damage you cause will ripple outward.

And it will also say something extremely ugly about you.

i-will-love-forever

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Adopting Older Pets

I just love puppies and kittens–when they belong to someone else. The chewing, the accidents, the level of hyperactivity is all just a bit much for me. No, give me a well-established dog or cat every time. I want a companion with a certain level of independence.

Another good thing about getting a full grown dog is you already know just how full grown he is going to be. No size surprises. And with both dogs and cats, it’s kind of nice to have a pet whose temperament is already evident.

And think about it. Here’s your chance to be a hero. It’s MUCH harder for shelters to place older animals with loving homes. Many of them die in these places for that very reason. Would you want to end your life in a cage, surrounded by other howling animals, scared and confused, with no one to love you? That’s my definition of hell.

And think of the huge deposit that would go into your karma bank! Somehow older pets seem more grateful for a forever home. It’s almost as if they know, on some level, that they just dodged the euthanasia bullet. (Quagmire, my hysterically clingy Dachshund that I adopted in his golden years, couldn’t agree more.) Older animals have a lot of love to give.

So if you’re thinking of getting a pet, don’t forget the seniors out there. They’re waiting for you. Calling your name. Crying out for help.

old-dog

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Finding a Lost Pet

Anyone who owns pets knows that they quickly become part of the family. The unconditional love that they provide is priceless. The companionship is irreplaceable.

So if one runs away or is otherwise lost, you will naturally be very upset. This happened to me recently, and I thought I’d lose my mind. Not only was I frantic and in tears, but I also quickly realized that I was totally unprepared for this contingency.

Fortunately, in this digital age you have quite a few options. And after my experience I realized that there’s a lot one can do in advance of a pet loss to prepare for it. (Fortunately my beloved dog was returned to me after 48 of the longest hours of my life.) So what follows is what I learned.

First and foremost, have your vet microchip your pet, and keep your contact information with them up to date. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but believe me, if you don’t do it, there may come a time when you desperately wish that you had. When shelters receive new animals, the first thing they do is scan them for microchips. If a responsible person finds your pet, they will most likely bring them to a shelter or a vet, and vets can scan for chips as well. You may think that the ID on your pet’s collar is sufficient, but my dog dug out under the backyard fence, and left his collar behind (the doofus).

Next, as soon as you discover that your pet is gone, walk the neighborhood. You may get lucky and Rover is just exploring the trash cans next door or sniffing another person’s pet through the screen door. If, like me, you have amazing friends and neighbors, recruit their help in this as well. Also, and I hate to say this, but if you live near any busy highways, you will need to look on the side of the road and in ditches as well.

If that doesn’t work, the next step is to spread the word in as many ways as you can. The best way is to post a notice on the Lost and Found section of Craig’s List for your area. That is ultimately how the man who found my dog was able to contact me. It’s often one of the first places people will look.

Next, post the information on your Facebook page so all your friends, especially the local ones, will know. It’s important that you make this post PUBLIC so they can share it with their local friends, and so on. You’d be amazed at how quickly the word spreads. (Six degrees of separation ROCKS!)

Also, search Facebook for groups related to your neighborhood. You’ll find that they mostly will allow you to make this post, even if it’s not exactly their subject matter. I got a lot of feedback from a local Buy/Sell/Trade page, and a Farmer’s Market page. There was even a Lost Dogs Facebook page for my county. Keep track of what Facebook pages you post on, because people will get emotionally invested in your story, and they’ll want an update if your pet is found.

Next, it is important to contact the area pet shelters. Many of these have entered the 21st century, and have ways for you to post reports and pictures on their website. They also may post pictures of found pets on their websites. Others have hotlines where you can hear descriptions of the animals they’ve taken in in the past few days. Don’t count on their descriptions being accurate, though, especially if you have a mixed breed. What they think of as a terrier mix may be your half beagle, half Chihuahua. You never know. It’s best to pay them a visit and have a look and touch base with them.

Remember that there may be more than one shelter in your area. I live on the border of two cities, so if my dog ran south, he’d wind up in one jurisdiction, and if he ran north, he could have been in any of three different facilities. The first shelter you contact will be well aware of others in the area and can give you a list. But think city and county Animal Control, neighboring cities, no-kill shelters, breed rescues, and Humane Societies

There are also all sorts of pet finder websites on line. You can register with any or all of them, but be aware that they’re often trying to get money out of you or spam you within an inch of your life, so choose carefully. Some sites will fax a flyer to all your area vets, often free of charge, which is very helpful. But if you have a good relationship with your vet’s office, contact them as well, because they’ll often do the same thing for you. Failing that, you can always google all veterinarians in your zip code and e-mail them a flyer yourself.

A note about flyers. It is important to include the following information:

  • Lost Dog (or cat or boa constrictor or whatever) in very large font so it can be seen from a distance.
  • The breed of your pet and its weight and coloring.
  • The gender, and in the case of males, whether it has been neutered.
  • Any unique and distinguishing features such as moles. (And note the location of those features NOW. In my agitated state, I couldn’t remember if my dog’s cyst was on his right or left side.)
  • Whether or not your pet was wearing a collar.
  • The date your pet went missing, to avoid getting calls about pets that were recovered before yours disappeared.
  • A recent picture of your pet. (Do you have a recent one? If not, take one now.)
  • Also, include your CELL phone number rather than a land line, because someone might call while you’re out searching.

These unique descriptions help to eliminate many calls about animals that look like yours but aren’t. There’s nothing more upsetting than getting those. Also keep one of your pet’s unique features to yourself, so that if you do get a call and the person says, “How do I know he belongs to you?” You can respond, for example, “He has a white Nike swoosh pattern on his left flank.”

Here’s my flyer for example:

Devo Flyer

Now, print out multiple copies of your flyer, stick each one in a plastic sheet protector to protect them from the rain and weather, and then, armed with a staple gun, post them on telephone poles all over your neighborhood. Also hand flyers to your postman, your local police officers, the fire department, and area churches. Does your grocery store have a community bulletin board? Post one there, too. (You may need to bring your own tacks.)

Here’s something I wish I had done: make a note of every place you’ve posted a flyer so if you do recover your pet, you can take them all back down again. No need having your personal info out there if it’s no longer necessary. Plus, it’s the responsible thing to do from an environmental/good citizen standpoint. It doesn’t do to piss off the neighbors. You might lose your pet again one day and need their help.

Once you have done all that, you’ll be reduced to canvassing the neighborhood, old-school style. Knocking on neighbors’ doors. For that, I suggest you produce a mini-flyer, three per page, that you can hand them so they have your contact information, like this one:

Devo Neighbor

It’s important to appeal to their emotional side. The worst case scenario (aside from the final, unspeakable one) is that your pet may have been stolen, or a kid brought it home and whined, “Ma, can we keep him? Pleeeeeeease?” and the selfish parent doesn’t have the heart to say no. If that’s the case, public pressure is your friend. Your neighbors will keep an eye out. Your internet friends will, too.

Now, if you’re an organized person and want to give a gift to your future, frazzled self, you might want to reread this again, and make a list of all the contacts mentioned above. Then compile the names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mails and websites of the agencies in question for your area. Also keep all needed supplies in a central location (it’s a pain in the behind to have to go buy sheet protectors when you’re hysterical). Even start the bare bones of a flyer in advance and leave it on your computer.

Believe me, I wish I had done all of these things in advance. I also hope that if you have other ideas, you’ll post them in the comments below.

If you’ve lost your pet, I’m very sorry. All you can do is your very best, and hope, like me, that a kind, responsible person has taken him or her in and will contact you. Best of luck.

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Home sweet home and totally unrepentant.