Wednesday, December 03, 2008



I don’t usually repeat TTs, but this topic is timely and important, so we’re revisiting it.

In order to keep it fresh, I have added the photo of Abraham Lincoln's dog, Fido. When you consider how rare photography was back in the 1860s, I think it’s remarkable that a portrait of Lincoln's dog was even taken. Fido was a much-loved mustard-colored mutt, who unfortunately never made it to the White House. The President-elect was sadly aware of how frightened Fido was by loud noises and trains, and since the trip from Springfield to Washington would be made by train, he reluctantly decided it was kinder to Fido to leave him behind. So the dog made his second home with a neighbor who, while helping the Lincoln’s remodel their home, developed a rapport with Fido. The horsehair sofa you see Fido resting on went with him to the neighbor’s, as well. The Lincolns wanted to be sure Fido was comfortable in his new surroundings. When the President’s body was brought back to Springfield for burial, Fido returned briefly to the Lincoln home to help comfort the mourners, who were indeed happy to see him again.

And now, without further interruption, here are 13 holiday petcare tips:

1. When it comes to mistletoe, hang it high. If ingested, mistletoe may not only upset a tummy, it might even cause cardiovascular problems.

2. While poinsettias probably aren’t as deadly as once thought, they’re still not good for dogs and cats. They can still cause nausea and diarrhea – which can be hard on both you and your pets.

3. Turkey leftovers are not for pets. They can tend to be greasier than your dog or cat are used to, which can cause indigestion. And poultry bones splinter too easily to be safe.

4. Keep chocolate off limits! It’s not good for cats and positively dangerous for dogs because it contains theobromine.

5. Candy wrappers aren’t any good, either. Aluminum and cellophane can appear irresistible to curious critters (like my bundle of feline energy, Reynaldo), but if swallowed, they can cause tummy troubles and intestinal blockage.

6. Ditto for tinsel.

7. Make sure your tree is securely anchored. This one comes from my mom. One night, when we were all asleep, our beloved family cat Tommy decided the Christmas tree simply needed to be climbed and he toppled it. That’s when she began running a bit of fishing line between the tree and a small hook in the wall. It’s almost invisible, but it does the trick!

8. Pets and tree stands. Every year, dogs all over the country suffer tummy troubles and occasionally even sores in their mouths from lapping up the water at the base of Christmas trees. It happens to cats now and again, too, so all pet owners should be careful.

9. Watch your pets when company arrives and leaves. Those open doors can be awfully tempting. I know, because Reynaldo is always ready to make a run for it. (Fortunately, I live on the fourth floor and until he can figure out how to use the elevator, there’s really nowhere for him to go. Besides, once out in the hall, he just calls me to join him. He seems to want us to run away from home together.)

10. Keep your pet in a quiet place during holiday parties. A lot of guests can mean a lot of stress for your dog or cat. Plus you can’t be sure that every invitee (especially the young ones) knows how to be gentle with your pet. A quiet bedroom is often the perfect place for your pet to spend a party.

11. Be careful in your garage! If you decide to keep your dog or cat in the garage during a party, make sure that it’s warm enough, and that there aren’t antifreeze spills. Antifreeze is positively deadly.

12. Keep an eye on your garbage, too. Ribbons, leftovers, candy wrappers … your trash can be filled with dangerous – but irresistible – stuff this time of year.

13. Be careful when you start your car. There are lots of sad strays out there, looking for warmth. And there are still plenty of cat owners who refuse to see the wisdom of keeping their cats indoors. So to make 100% sure that you don’t hurt a cat when you start your car, hit the hood or honk the horn before you turn the key.

Now let's enjoy a safe holiday season!

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Sigh. This is all so complicated.

I hated high school. It was the 70s, after all. Welcome Back, Kotter was popular on TV, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" went gold, we lost in Viet Nam, Nixon resigned over Watergate, my parents' marriage was unraveling. They even tried to make me read Moby Dick! How could anyone be happy under such miserable circumstances?

Of course, life is never all bad. And when I look back on those unhappy days, I can recall some bright spots. I had one really good friend. Judy. She was smarter and geekier than I was, therefore I didn't have to hide my smarts or my geekier tendencies. Hanging with her was a relief.

Between the ages of 15 and 30, we were very close. She wasn't easy to be friends with, since she suffered from agoraphobia, but her intelligence and artistic tendencies made her worth any inconvenience.

Until 1987. More than 20 years ago. Judy was dating a photographer, an older guy (considering that she and I are both 51, right about now he must be ... dead). This guy was a recovering alcoholic who had briefly slept with Judy's sister. (HEY! I warned you this was complicated!) She asked me to try to get him a job with my employer, a haircare company that paid for a lot of product photography. While he and I were discussing this on the phone, the conversation got very personal but not (at least not in my eyes) inappropriate. He never followed up, never called any of the numbers I gave him. I thought he wasn't interested in the work and that this episode was over.

Fast forward several weeks -- I had just had some female-type surgery. I'd never had any type of procedure before and was frightened. When I got home, I was supposed to stay in bed and off my feet completely for 24 hours. THIS was when my close friend chose to confront me. When I was home, when I was scared, when I was supposed to stay off my feet. THIS is when she decides to ask me why I hit on her boyfriend.

Huh? What? Not, "Did you come on to my boyfriend?" Not, "John thought you were flirting with him, isn't that crazy?" No, she asked me why I hit on her boyfriend. He told her I did it, so it had to be true

After 15 years of friendship, of Christmases and birthdays, of late night phone calls and confidences, she just automatically accepted his word over mine. And waited until I was uncomfortable and scared to confront me. I was sooooo angry I couldn't stay still. As we argued, I paced, and hemorrhaged, which set back my recovery by a day or two.

I wrote her a letter telling her I never wanted to hear from her again, and why. And I never did.

I saw her on a train once, years later. She gestured to me across the car and I shook my head "no" and that was it. I did not want to speak to her.

This morning, I received the following email from her:

"A lot of time has passed--I never read your last letter-felt I would hear things I didn't want to keep in my head/heart. Interested in how you are."

I don't know what to do with this. I don't miss her but I am curious as to what motivated her to Google me and track me down after two decades. I also wonder why she felt it was important to tell me she never read my letter.

Receiving her email made me reflect on Me at 30 vs. Me at 50. I don't see any value manufactured dramas -- like the entire "How could you hit on my boyfriend?" scene -- anymore. I have learned that life throws enough drama our way without us creating additional tumult.