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Posts Tagged ‘cats’

sam&hannahchaiseI’ve been delayed in posting on the Hannah Grace blog, as I’ve recently been asked to become a regular contributor/blogger with The Huffington Post! While the Hannah Grace blog will still continue (in fact, a new Hannah & Sam book is in the works), I’d like to invite you to follow me in The Huffington Post. Click here to view my latest essays and click on the “fan” link to receive notifications of upcoming posts. There’s a sure possibility that you’ll see something about Hannah and Sam in the near future.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch – or, rather, the “spartment” – the big news is the heat: for those of you who recall the garret (who could forget?), heat was not a given. However, in the new apartment, the heat is on and H&SdeepconversationHannah, Sam, and I are loving it. Who would’ve thought that adequate heat was not only a basic need but a simple pleasure? And yet it is.

Last year, when family and friends asked what I wanted for the holidays, all I wanted were warm things: slippers, a robe, flannel pajamas. Now, heat is a given. And not only that. The back of my bedroom closet shares a wall with the bathroom, where two heating pipes are located. This means that my clothes are warm in the morning. You can bet Hannah and Sam stay cozy.

Hannah is in love with the local TV weatherman.

Hannah is in love with the local TV weatherman.

One other big piece of news: we have a new TV.  The 1998 Panasonic died a couple weeks ago, so I finally joined the present day and purchased a flat screen television. Hannah and Sam have been infatuated with it. Hannah can sit in front of it for hours. In fact, I think she may be in love with our local weatherman.

As we approach Thanksgiving and the holidays, may you all be surrounded by the warmth of family, friends, and your pets.

 TLS

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Sam, the night before his vet visit: keep calm and carrier on.

Sam, the night before his vet visit: keep calm and carrier on.

Unlike when we lived in the garret, the new apartment is practically drama-free. This has left me with a lack of interesting material to relay to the reader about Hannah and Sam. Not that anyone is complaining, of course.

A few weeks ago, it dawned on me that Sam was guarding the refrigerator not for a second helping of his duck dinner but for the mouse that might be hiding in the hole in the corner pocket, an unreachable spot for not just a human but a cat.

I was adamant that Sam was not going to catch an escapee mouse as he did when we lived in the garret. I didn’t want to have to dispose of a corpse, for one thing, but even more importantly I didn’t want Sam to acquire a parasite from a mince-mouse meal.

Unlike in the garret, our current apartment has a maintenance team, and they filled the hole upon my request – in fact, they measured it (5×7 inches!) in order to seal it properly (such a deed would’ve never crossed the mind of the garret landlord).

IMG_1560Still, you can bet I worried anyway when maintenance moved the fridge and I spotted what looked to be mouse turds on the floor (mixed in with some dried up peas I’d spilled a week after move-in). I had no idea how long the turds had been there—perhaps as long as the previous tenant. So, at Sam’s yearly appointment with Dr. Parker, our vet, last week, I asked if it was a concern. The answer, thankfully, was no.

I knew going to the vet was going to be a nightmare for Sam, and that even getting him “familiar” with the carrier days or weeks before was not going to quell his anxiety, as it didn’t last year, or the year before, or when we moved. I used the Feliway spray and Rescue Remedy, again to no effect. I hated having to chase Sam around the living room—while Hannah hid under the bed—and extricate him out from under the couch, a crawlspace not intended for a cat Sam’s size. I held him in a towel as I lowered him into the carrier and shut the door. His whimpers turned to terrible screams, and an old lady who lives downstairs came running. I think she thought I was in the process of killing a child.

“It’s my cat,” I told her.

Her chest heaved, “Oh, there, there,” she cooed at Sam. “It’s okay.”

IMG_1519Sam got a clean bill of health and even—dare I say—enjoyed sitting on the scale (he lost a half-pound since last year, to the delight of Dr. Parker), despite his persistent crying jags. Our cat sitter, who works at the vet clinic, tried to soothe Sam with petting, but he was inconsolable.

“I know, I know,” Dr. Parker said softly to Sam, examining him gently. “You have such a hard life.”

Sam whimpered in agreement.

After it was all over and Sam was back in the carrier, and I took him to the reception area to pay the bill, a familiar stench permeated the air: in his upset, Sam had lost all bladder and bowel control.

IMG_1606When we finally arrived back home, Sam scrambled out of the carrier (Hannah was still under the bed, probably worried she was next) and, after cleaning the carrier and putting it away, I sat down on the couch, let out a breath, and closed my eyes, trying to still the vibrations in my mind. All that screaming had activated my PTSD.

Sam quickly forgave me, of course. It was dinnertime, after all. And soon enough, he and Hannah were on the couch, sleeping soundly.

 TLS

Does your cat or dog enjoy seeing the vet? Share your stories and comments below.

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IMG_1506Ever turn to your pets for comfort? *Raising my hand*. It’s funny how Hannah and Sam behave differently when I’m sad. Hannah, who’s gotten into the habit of whining insistently for me to pet her every minute I am home, instead sits quietly next to me, calm and purring. Every so often, she turns her cheek and wipes the tears from my wrist. Sam sits in the doorway like a guard, looking on, until I quit the tissue box. Then he starts meowing and goofing off to make me laugh.

It’s Labor Day. Two years ago, my mother died on Labor Day, though that year the holiday fell on September 5, so I’m uncertain whether or not to mark the anniversary today or later this week on this year’s 9/5. It’s all still a blur to me. Perhaps next year I’ll feel differently.

My mother and me, with a stray cat, 1977.

My mother and me, with a stray cat, 1977.

We must remember where we’ve been to appreciate where we are now, to look forward to where we are going. I’d like to re-post this blog’s story from that day, in remembrance. Much has changed since my mother’s passing. For one thing, Hannah, Sam and I no longer live in the garret (thank heavens!). Good neighbors and friends abound. Today, I am not standing in an ICU in a hospital in New York, holding my mother’s hand, watching her go. I am in Harvard Square, writing this post, finishing up a book manuscript, preparing for a new teaching semester.

Today, we may mark the end of summer, but I feel the beginning of something new and affirming. Despite today’s rain, hope is in the air.

 TLS

Writer’s Note: My essay, “Why We Write: A Topic Too Risky,” about writing on trauma, appears in the September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. The piece is only available in print, but you can find an online snippet here.

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Sam's new cat bed design: the canopy.

Sam’s new cat bed design: the canopy.

During these lazy days of August, Sam has been busy designing a new kind of cat bed: the Cat Canopy. It’s quite inexpensive — simply find a usable curtain. Nothing else is required. There is absolutely no cost to humans.

I think Sam was watching The Sound of Music when he acquired the idea to use the curtains — if Fraulein Maria could find such a creative and useful purpose for them, so could Sam. When I first saw him under his new Cat Canopy bed, however, I went over to investigate, concerned that he was hiding. I soon realized he wasn’t frightened of anything; he was just relaxing.

“Sammy?” I said, peeking underneath the blue fabric.

The "wrap-around": there is a cat in there.

The “wrap-around”: there is a cat in there.

“Mnn?” Sam responded contently, then took a deep breath and went back to sleep.

The Cat Canopy is quite versatile and can be adjusted to fit a cat’s mood, from the “umbrella” to the “wrap-around.” However, some cats — such as Hannah, for example — feel they are too refined for this type of cat bed. Those cats prefer the couch, or the bed.

 -TLS

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1173738_10151534035380906_200440028_nWhere do your pets like to sleep? Share your stories and comments in the comment box below! 

Hannah prefers the couch.

Hannah prefers the couch.

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Hannah and Sam, on the new couch in our new "spartment."

Hannah and Sam, on the new couch in our new “spartment.”

Greetings from our new digs! It’s been one week since Hannah, Sam, and I moved out of the garret and into what a friend termed “the spartment,” a word that comes from the merging of “spa” and “apartment.” Why? Because after living in the substandard garret for four years, the spartment, a spacious one-bedroom apartment with its full-sized refrigerator, up-to-code electricity, high ceilings, and many windows, it feels like we’re living in a spa.

The move itself wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined. Sure, I had to get after the city traffic and parking office since they forgot to post my moving truck parking permit signs in one location, and then I had to call the police to tow a car parked in the other location. But the movers got us out of the garret and into the spartment in two-and-a-half hours. As for Hannah and Sam, I kept them in the garret bathroom at first, turning it into a virtual playroom. I sprayed the carriers

Garret bathroom, as Hannah & Sam hideaway, on move day

Garret bathroom, as Hannah & Sam hideaway, on move day

with Feliway and gave Sam some Rescue Remedy. Although in my “test trials” of the stuff neither had any effect, perhaps using them is why, to my surprise, I was able to place both cats in their respective carriers without struggle. However, then the wailing began…mostly from Sam.

At the spartment, once the movers were gone, Hannah was the first to venture out. Within a matter of minutes, she was in love with the place, as seen by her enamored look on the new couch (a couch!), a piece of furniture we have not had in years. Sam, on the other hand, stayed in the carrier, whimpering, for hours. I sat beside him every half hour or so to pet him and feed him treats, but he would not be consoled. After all, the garret was the only home he’d ever known (Hannah, on the other hand, had already moved with me twice before). Eventually, I picked up Sam, taking him out of the carrier, and brought him from room to room, showing him the food and water bowls in

Hannah & Sam, upon arrival at the "spartment."

Hannah & Sam, upon arrival at the “spartment.”

the kitchen, underneath a lovely windowsill where birds were congregating; the living room with the garret cat tree; the bedroom with the familiar bedspread comforter; and back to the bathroom, with the litter box.

Sam decided then he’d camp out under my bed for the next twenty-four hours. Hannah cried for part of that first night, but for the most part she relaxed like I haven’t seen her relax in years.

Finally, the next evening, at dinner time, Sam came out. He spent part of the evening perched on the windowsill in the kitchen, quickly running back under the bed when he saw I saw him enjoying himself – he wasn’t going to forgive me too quickly for taking him out of his garret.

Hannah is in love with the spartment couch.

Hannah is in love with the spartment couch.

Now, just as the thick air of summer has arrived, the cats and I are beginning to settle in to our new home. There are still some rules to work out – the other night I caught Hannah leaping onto the couch arm and then proceeding to use it as a scratching post, despite the four real scratching posts in the place – and Sam is still a bit disoriented, occasionally missing the window sill when he leaps up (the garret windows were much lower) or slipping and tumbling on the hardwood floors (he’s only had carpet), and scaring himself silly. But those small bumps aside, I can say with great confidence that we are happy.

– TLS

Sam finally came out from hiding the evening of our second day, looking to Hannah to show him the way.

Sam finally came out from hiding the evening of our second day, looking to Hannah to show him the way.

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Hannah loves every inch of the spartment.

Hannah loves every inch of the spartment.

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Sam’s favorite spot is the kitchen window.

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*Writer’s note: Look for my essay, “A Topic Too Risky,” appearing in the Sept/Oct issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, arriving on newsstands in mid-August!cs-gy-88x31-4

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DSCN1393A lot has happened since Hannah’s birthday earlier this month: illness, and new digs.

Two weeks ago, Hannah woke me up in the middle of the night with frequent trips to the litter box, accompanied by noisy digging and meowing. By morning, she was returning to the litter box every few minutes and straining with no output. I rushed her to the vet for an emergency appointment – unfortunately our wonderful long-time vet Dr. Parker was not in, so we had to see another vet on staff. I suppose I should say Hannah, Sam, and I have been spoiled by our experiences with Dr. Parker. This became clear to me  when we met this other vet, who was qualified and capable but who had a terrible cat-side manner. She was impatient with Hannah and raised her voice and tried to rationalize with her when she wouldn’t stay on the scale. At one point she grabbed Hannah’s hind to prevent her from leaving the exam table, and pulled her towards her. DSCN1400Human-to-human, she was too busy to hear much of my details regarding Hannah’s symptoms and behavior, and was not all that fond of questions. I decided then and there that we would never, ever see this vet again. Luckily for Hannah, a simple urine test came back positive for bacteria associated with a urinary tract infection, and the two-week liquid antibiotic prescribed to her began working within one dose. I’m glad to now be done with the force feeding of medicine: I had to wrap Hannah in two towels, tilt her head back, and jam a syringe into her mouth twice a day. Although of course I was simply doing what was necessary to care for her, the sense of violation wore on us both.

The same day Hannah got sick, I was scheduled to sign a lease for a new apartment – that’s right, folks, we’re moving out of the garret and into a wonderful, spacious place! I’ve been preparing for how I will transport Hannah and Sam. Hannah and I have moved together twice, so I know how to handle her and how she’ll likely react, but Sam, who screams like he’s being murdered and defecates out of DSCN1395fear in a carrier, is another story. As a six-week old, he was thrown from a car on the highway and almost died, so I think somewhere in his little brain he is afraid it’s going to happen again. He positively hates leaving the garret, and this time we’re leaving for good. So I’m going to try Rescue Remedy drops to calm him and use Feliway spray in the carrier and in various places around the new apartment. I know once we get through the initial adjustment period, our new home will feel homey to both cats.

Got suggestions for handling Hannah and Sam during our move? Please share them, and your experiences transporting your own pets to a new home, in the comment box below!

– TLS

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Hannah turns 10 years old today.

Hannah turns 10 years old today.

We met during a crisis – I was coming to terms with a life-long trauma; she was abandoned by an abusive owner. It was May 2, 2006 when she was dumped at my feet at Saint Meow’s shelter in Cambridge, Ma., at the estimated age of three. I stood there, stunned.

She looked up at me with her green eyes and let out one long cry. Before I could think, I told the shelter manager, “I’ll take her.” She was my first pet. Together, Hannah and I learned what it meant to love safely again.

Hannah, post-adoption, age 3.

Hannah, post-adoption, age 3.

Hannah almost died of life-threatening pancreatitis in 2008, when she was five, but today she turns ten, and she’s healthier than ever. When I asked what she wanted to do for her birthday, she said,”sunbathe.” So be it.

Happy 10th birthday to Hannah! We thank all of this blog’s readers for continuing to follow our story as it’s developed over the past three years. Stay tuned…

– TLS

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