Coz Baby You’re A Firework…

Beautiful fireworks are part of what makes Independence Day a favorite holiday for many people.  However, if you have a pet who is afraid of fireworks, or has a noise phobia in general, the loud crashing noises can make for a very long summer.

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Oreo is such an amazing dog; but one of the quirks he’s always had that I’ve never been able to break is his noise phobia.  Specifically, his firework phobia.  He does fine during thunderstorms, but come Summer time and the festivities that come along with it, I have a pretty miserable pup.  Even if the fireworks were popping off in the distance he would become inconsolable.  Each year he shows small amounts of improvement, but I don’t think it’s something he’ll ever completely get over.  This past 4th of July he spent the entire night wedged underneath the dining room table.

Over the years, I’ve tried many different medications to try to help ease his firework fears.  I even borrowed a ThunderShirt from a friend to give that a try – Oreo wouldn’t even let me put it on him.  So I’ve been trying to focus more on behavior modification.  It’s a SLOW process, but as I mentioned earlier, Oreo seems a little less stressed every year, so I think (hope!) that it’s helping him.

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In general, I’ve been using desensitization and counter conditioning to try to help Oreo get used to the fireworks and hopefully eventually associate the noise with something positive.  Initially, upon hearing fireworks, he would hide for the entire night – even long after the fireworks had stopped.  He wouldn’t eat or drink, would pant excessively, and his entire body would quiver incessantly.

The first year I tried simply blocking out the noise, which didn’t really seem to help much.  I’d have the TV on as loud as it could go, hoping the sound of Animal Planet would drown out any booms from fireworks.  That year I also catered to him completely – if he was under the table hiding, I’d be under the table laying with him.  After a few weeks of wondering why there was zero improvement, I realized that I was accidentally rewarding the behavior that I didn’t want to continue.  By showering him with attention and affection while he was stressing, I was in turn showing him that being fearful was a good thing.

Next began the SUPER hard process of trying to ignore him when he was showing signs of fear.  I never have been able to completely ignore him; but rather every half hour or so I’d try to get him to come out from hiding to do something fun.  Going outside for a walk is always his favorite thing to do – but when there’s fireworks even in the distance he won’t step one foot out of the door.  Probably for the best…Oreo has a history of being quite the escape artist, and the last thing I want is for him to get spooked and run away!

So on to his second favorite thing – food.  He would ignore his food bowls, sometimes going a day or two without touching anything in there.  I began playing around to see what I could get him to take, and the one thing that he ate every single time was his dog ice cream.

Currently, since Oreo seems the most content hiding under the dinner table, when there’s a firework show outside I’ve been letting him stay there – putting his dog bed under the table and covering it with a heavy blanket as a partial sound barrier.  Every once in awhile I’ll call to him, and if he comes out to me he gets one of his doggy ice creams.  It’s been pretty effective so far – he’ll stay out from hiding long enough to finish the ice cream, happy licking away and temporarily forgetting about the noise outside.  Keeping an easy-going manner and remaining calm has also done wonders for helping Oreo stay a little bit more relaxed.

Does your dog have a noise phobia?  What have you done to try to help them conquor it?

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To veg or not to veg…

I’ve gone 20 years now without eating meat.  A fact that I thought was pretty well-known.  It appears that I was mistaken – it’s been pretty frequent that a friend or coworker has found out, and the look of shock on their face is priceless!  Maybe it’s because I’m not the stereotypical vegetarian.  I don’t care what other people eat, I don’t try to guilt trip people into giving up meat, and I don’t even care if my veggie burger is cooked on the same grill as someone else’s hamburger.

I gave up meat the summer before my 10th birthday, immediately following a family party that involved a pig roast.  The house that we were at was on a farm, and I spent the majority of my day playing with the animals.  I was so happy!  Imagine my complete horror when one of the pigs was shot, killed, and cooked in front of my eyes.  I remember throwing up on the spot and I threw such a tantrum that my parents were forced to leave the party to take me home.  I couldn’t believe what I had just saw!  I was young, and it had never occurred to me what I was putting in my mouth every time I ate a hamburger, chicken nuggets, pepperoni…etc.  I understood where fish came from – and living on the lake, I grew up associating fish with the smell of the dead rotting fish that we’re blessed with smelling on hot summer days.  Fish had been something that I was never fond of.  But it never crossed my mind that every time I had a strip of bacon, it came from an innocent pig.  That a pig had to die so that I could eat.  I was mortified.

When someone first finds out that I don’t eat meat, I always prepare for backlash.  However, while it has definitely happened more often than not, recently I’ve found that the people I surround myself with are pretty great.  Instead of going on and on about how they could never leave with meat, etc; I’ve had several friends express interest in trying out some recipes!  Not to go vegetarian themselves, but simply to expand their own horizons.  I always come prepared with a veggie dish to picnics and parties, but I’ve been so pleasantly surprised lately by the number of meat free dishes that are already there!

As I’m sure I mentioned before, I am a terrible cook.  Just awful.  One day I WILL teach myself how; but for now…if I made something, you probably don’t want to eat it.  Shea, a childhood friend of mine, is the complete opposite.  I follow her blog drooling over her delicious, vegan meals.  For those looking to try out a meal or two, I HIGHLY recommend that you check out her page!  Let me know what you think!

It’’s almost effortless these days to find yummy, healthy vegetarian foods.  Just about any restaurant you go to has some sort of vegetarian option.  Even fast food places are jumping on board – Burger King carries veggie burgers, and Taco Bell even has an entire vegetarian menu on their app!  I do eat dairy products and occasionally eggs, so it is easier for me to find things to eat when I’m out than it is for someone who is a strict vegan.  Eventually I plan on going fully vegan…I just have to kick my love of cheese to the curb somehow.  I heard somewhere that cheese is addictive, and I really believe that to be true!

Just a word of warning before I end for today… For vegetarian pet parents out there, it may be tempting to try to convert your pet as well.  It makes sense.  If you feel strongly enough about it from a health, political, or ethical stand point, it completely makes sense that you might want the same for your pets.  Be VERY careful with this, only switching their diets under the strict care of your veterinarian.

Unlike humans, most animals NEED animal protein.  Here’s what Cornell University says on the subject –

“It means that cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients in animal tissue to meet their specific nutritional requirements. In their natural habitat, cats are hunters that consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimal amounts of carbohydrates.”

Dogs can digest and absorb vegetable protein better, but it’s still not usually suggested to switch them away from a meat-based diet.  That being said, there ARE vegetarian dog foods out there, especially those designed for dogs with allergies.  I also know of a handful of people who home cook for their dogs – some vegetarian, some not.  Dogs need a balanced diet, which can be tricky to ensure if you are cooking for them at home.  Again, I can’t stress enough that before making the decision to stop giving your dog meat, PLEASE consult with your veterinarian.



“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
— Mark Twain

With the weather getting warmer, I can never turn down a nice big bowl of ice cream.  Unfortunately for me, neither can my dog.  I officially flunked out of DOG 101 – “How to say no to your dog”, and for awhile found myself investing in doggy ice cream.  If you have a dog, I’m sure you’ve seen it in the freezer isle — dog ice cream more expensive than the finest human ice cream, and at half the size!  I knew there had to be a better (and cheaper!) way.

Those who know me know that I do not know how to cook.  Anything.  At all.  However, last summer I decided to play around with various doggy ice cream recipies.  I mixed and matched flavor after flavor; but in the end, the one my dog prefered the most was the simpliest!  And I PROMISE you that if I can make it, you can too.

So, without further adieu, here are step-by-step instructions to the easiest DIY doggy ice cream ever – Oreo’s Banana Peanut Butter Swirl!

Here’s what you’re gonna need:

  • 32oz vanilla yogurt
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • a dash of honey


How to make:

Combine all ingredients in a blender

Blend until smooth.

Pour into containers of your choice and freeze.  

I chose to pour half into an ice cube tray and half into dixie cups to create different sized ice cream treats!

Serve to your pup and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!


They Say Time Heals All Wounds..

“Dogs never bite me. Just humans.”
— Marilyn Monroe

 People love their pets, and most consider them part of the family.  However, I am always surprised to learn how many people give the standard “it’s just a pet” line to someone grieving the loss of their beloved animal.  As if that’s something that will help the other person move on.  Could you imagine saying that to someone who lost a different family member?  “It’s just a kid”.  “It’s just your mother”.  I would hope not.  So why do so many people think that a dog, cat, etc isn’t as worthy of such grief as a human is?   The world around me simply does not understand that Buddy was not “just a dog” and that I cannot “just get a new one.”

It got me thinking… Today marks 3 months since Buddy passed on to the Rainbow Bridge.  The grief I feel for him is still so raw.  I don’t think a single day has gone by yet that something hasn’t reminded me of him and forced me to fight back tears.  More often than not, I wind up on the losing side of that fight.  The callous way some people approach the subject of pet loss made me wonder – Am I doing something wrong?  Am I not grieving properly?  Is that even such a thing?

Realistically, I know better than that.  I treat my pets as if they were my biological children.  I celebrate their birthdays, confide in them when I need someone to talk to, carry pictures of them in my wallet.  I have more photos of them on my phone than I do of anyone or anything else.  So I can only assume that it’s natural that I would feel more intense grief than someone who viewed their dog as just that…a dog.  I know that the grieving process is unique to each and every individual person.  For some it may only last a matter of days, for others the grief may feel overwhelming for weeks, months, maybe even years later.

So what helps us to move through the period of mourning, to get to a point where you can remember your beloved fur babies with smiles instead of tears?  For me, knowing that I work with some of the most incredible people in the world, who understand exactly how I am feeling definitely helps.  They have lost their own pets, deal with the loss of loved patients almost daily, and most importantly for me at the moment…I know that they loved Buddy just as much as I did.  It really helps knowing that when I’m at my wits end and don’t think that I can pull myself together for the remainder of the day without breaking down, that they get it.  That I can talk to them and they won’t judge me.  That they would NEVER throw out the “it’s just a dog!” line, because they are exactly like me when it comes to loving their animals…loving their furry children.

I also like to create little memorials for my pets.  I have their ashes and paw prints close at hand, and pictures all over of them.  It’s hard when looking at them still brings me to tears, but as time goes on, I can look at the photos and smile…knowing that as long as they are in my heart, they will always be with me.  The memorial that was made for Buddy at the animal hospital is absolutely perfect.  I sneak away fairly often to visit him here and talk to him.  I can’t leave at the end of the day without stopping to say goodnight to him.  Looking at his face in this picture brings me to tears every time.  It’s just such a perfect capture of his personality and spirit.  He was always SO happy, and you could always see in his eyes how much he loved you.  How much he loved EVERYONE.

Ever since I was little, I have chosen to believe that shooting stars are a way that loved ones let you know that they are still there watching over you.  My Grandpa was the most important person in the world to me growing up…I lost him when I was 10.  Each year on his birthday there is a meteor shower (Geminids).  The night that one of my best friends was killed there was the Perseids meteor shower.  Each year it falls on/around the day I lost him.  When I’m having a particularly rough night, I will always go outside for a walk, look up at the sky, and talk to one of the people or pets that I have lost.  Almost always, I’ll see at least one shooting star before I make it back home.  Even if in reality it may just be a coincidence, it makes me feel better.  It makes me feel as though the person/pet I was talking to heard me, and that it was their way of responding.  Maybe it’s a silly thing to believe in, but honestly…I don’t care.


Warm Wishes For Mother’s Day!

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”
Charles M. Schulz

“Mother’s Day” Question:
How do you feel about people making the statement that they are their pet’s “Mommy” or “Daddy”?

I saw an article written not too long ago shaming people who referred to animals as their children.  To be honest – that post made me see red.  It is my choice (and that of others) to refer to our pets as family members.  Pets are not just something that you throw in a closet when you’re not paying attention to them.  They are not toys.  They are not there to be paid attention to only when it is convenient for you.  They have feelings.  They rely on you for food, shelter, entertainment, and most importantly…for love.  Just like children, pets require your attention and your money.  Some people can’t have human children, and some people just don’t want them.  I honestly don’t think I could ever love a human child as much as I love my dog.  I am a GREAT pet mom…but I think I would be a TERRIBLE human mom.

So, why is it that people take it upon themselves to be upset about what others choose to refer to their pets as?  Why does it bother you that there are humans out there that care enough about their pets to call them their kids?


Pet Moms can feel a bit left out when it comes to Mother’s Day.  I mean, it’s not like your cat or dog supposed to sneak out of the house to buy us a gift or card!  And no one has ever said, “Happy Mother’s Day mom, I love you!”   But then I got to thinking…  it seems as though Hallmark had to create a holiday to ensure that kids remembered to thank their moms and show their love and appreciation at least once a year.  Dogs and cats do that EVERY day!  When was the last time a human child greeted you at the door, so happy to see you that his entire body was vibrating with joy?  And cats don’t need a reminder to cuddle up next to you, kneading your shoulder while purring in your ear.  So while cards and gifts are nice (and yes, I bought my mom both!), maybe pet Moms are the luckier of the bunch.  The tinge of loneliness and the feeling of being forgotton on Mother’s Day is all in my head, afterall.  All I need to remember is the devotion and affection my furry babies show to me each and every day.

Perhaps one of the biggest perks of having only furry children is that I never have to deal with the sudden outbursts.  They don’t yell things like “I hate you” or “I wish you weren’t my Mom”.   Of course, our dogs aren’t going to take care of us when we’re old, so there’s that significant downside. However, with all the money we’re saving from not having kids, we should hopefully be able to save up for a home in a nice retirement community!

The lifespan of dogs and cats is short, just a flicker, compared to a human.  While during those few short years there are plenty of ups (puppy breath!  catnip play time!) and downs (illnesses and injuries), I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I know that one day the pets I have now will leave me just as the ones before them did…leaving a huge hole in what used to be a whole heart.  I try to make the best of every day with them, because I never know when they will be too old to want to go for a walk, or too sick to want to chase the laser pointer.  The saying that “a parent should never have to outlive their child” unfortunately does not get to apply to pet Moms and Dads.  Take advantage of the time you have, every day.  Make sure to spoil Fido with extra long walks and plenty of dogbones, and keep a fresh supply of cat scratchers and cardboard boxes in stock for Fluffy.

I’ll be working on the bucket list that I made for Oreo very soon.  Photos and stories to come.  I’m trying to come up with one for Burger as well; but thinking of exciting adventures to go on and goodies to try for a kitty isn’t half as easy as it is to come up with for a pup!

Until next time — Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Moms out there – both with furry and non-furry kids!


Rainy day project – DIY Mango Bird Feeders!

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
— Groucho Marx

Normally on rainy days, I don’t want to get out of bed.  Today was no exception…until I got hungry.  I was eating some mango that I had bought the other day when I remembered something that I had seen on Pinterest.


I had no real supplies (I’m not exactly known for being crafty), so I made due with what I had : a paper clip, some yarn and my mango rind.  I didn’t start taking pictures until I was half way through, because honestly…I didn’t expect much from this.  And while it still isn’t exactly Pinterest-worthy; it’s not bad for a first attempt.

I started by straightening out the paperclip most of the way and securing yarn around it.  Then I simply poked a hole through the rind with the paperclip and fed the yarn through.  I continued pushing until the paperclip and yarn went straight through to the other side.  I attempted to repeat this by doing a quarter turn and pushing the paperclip through the other side as well, but the top of the mango gave out.  So while this isn’t as sturdy as I would have liked, it seems to be working just fine so far.  I tied a knot on each end of the yarn to secure it to the rind, and pulled on the yarn to make a loop that I could use to hang the bird feeder with.


With the mango “cup” completed for the feeder, I then added some bird seed.


Upon my first attempt at hanging it outside, the bird seed flew everywhere.  So i brought it back inside to think of a way to make the seed stick a little better while still being safe for birds.  My solution?  Peanut butter!


I mixed a forkful of all-natural peanut butter in with the bird seed to give it some “stick”, and it seemed to work!


All that was left was to hang it outside again and see what happened.  Stepping outside and encountering my first gust of wind showed me that adding the peanut butter was successful – the birdseed stuck together for the most part instead of flying all over the yard.  I chose to hang it from a tree branch facing the bathroom window ledge where my cats love to sit and watch the birds and squirrels.


I’m not sure how long this will stay hanging for, but I’m pretty happy with the result.  Next time I’ll stock up on some actual supplies and try something a bit firmer – an orange rind, maybe?   My cats are also happy with the result – while most of the birds are hiding from the rain, there have been a few who adventured out to get some seed, and Burger and Kitten Little are entertained watching them.   Now let’s bring on the rest of the hungry birdies!

Hope you all have a wonderful rest of your weekend!

oreo buddy

Wordless Wednesday – Buddy and Oreo

Tribute To A Best Friend
“Sunlight streams through a window pane
unto a spot on the floor….
then I remember,
it’s where you used to lie,
…but now you are no more.
Our feet walk down a hall of carpet,
and muted echoes sound….
then I remember,
It’s where your paws would joyously abound.
A voice is heard along the road,
and up beyond the hill,
then I remember it can’t be yours….
your golden voice is still.
But I’ll take that vacant spot of floor
and empty muted hall
and lay them with the absent voice
and unused dish along the wall.
I’ll wrap these treasured memorials
in a blanket of my love
and keep them for my best friend
until we meet above.”

It’s little moments like this that I miss the most.  Can’t believe that Friday will be two months since you left us.  Missing you so much today, Buddy 🙁

A photo posted by BURGER (@burgerthekitty) on



“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
Immanuel Kant

Part of being a crazy pet mom is the duty of spoiling your pets rotten.  Unfortunately, with spoiling comes spending money, and money does not grow on any trees by my house.  Since starting this blog, I’ve reached out to a few companies for pet related freebies to try out, and I’ve been lucky enough to hear back from a few of them!  The first product I received was Salmon Oil.  You can click on the link to see my review of it on Amazon, but to make a long story short – it seemed to be a pretty big hit in my house.  I started mixing it in with Oreo’s normal food while we were in Philly.  I put a squirt in his food every morning, and he happily would chow down.  After the first time he tried it, Oreo gave me 5 fishy kisses and a bunch of fur on my new pants as a thank you.  Unfortunately, the packaging on the bottle wasn’t that great, and it didn’t survive the car ride home.  Now I’m dealing with the fun problem of trying to figure out how to make my car stop smelling like fish!  Thank goodness it’s warming up enough outside for me to drive around with my windows down.

When we got home, the cats LOVED ME.  Or more specifically, my luggage…which the aformentioned Salmon Oil happened to spill all over.  Kitten Little was so excited that he couldn’t contain himself!  My normally quiet kitty started singing me a love song (it went MEOWW AAARWW OOORRAOW MEW) while circling around my suitcase, making sure to sniff and lick every angle.  When he was finished, he continued to show his gratitude by gifting me a hairball he personally created.

Burger is my little Romeo. Shortly after sniffing the spilled salmon oil, he wooed me with shockingly loud purrs, and began kneading me with all of his might. Then, when I was relaxed and unexpecting, he latched onto my lip with his claw; getting it stuck in the process.  Remember kids – Romeo and Juliet isn’t the greatest example of a love story…it essentially was nothing more than a passion-fueled temper-tantrum.  Apparently, Burger was keen on making sure that I remembered that.  No more fishy oil for him, if that’s the thanks I get!

I can only hope to someday be able to repay even a little bit of the love and joy these little guys bring me.

Hopefully the next product I review will be a little less painful for me (my poor lip!).  Until next time…



Puppy breath and CyberKnife

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”
— James Herriot

Last night I was curled in my hotel bed, dreaming that Stephen Amell was whispering sweet nothings into my ear. I turned my head to him and smiled.  I leaned in and said “Wow!  …Did you eat anchovies last night?” He just stared at me, panting, until I open my eyes and realized it was just Oreo blowing his dog-breath into my face.

I hadn’t realized how bad Oreo’s icky breath was getting!  To be fair, I’ve smelled worse.  MUCH worse.  And I know that I’m mostly to blame for the state of his breath.  As a responsible pet owner, I should be brushing his teeth every day.  However, in Oreo’s case…that is easier said than done!  So, on my way back from dropping him off for his CyberKnife treatment this morning, I stopped at a pet store and picked up all of the dental health chews and treats I could find.  On that note…he has a history of not liking them, so I might have a good supply of treats in need of a new home pretty soon!

It was a needed reminder that Oreo is due for a routine dental cleaning.  It was something that I had planned to take care of last year, but wound up having to spend a huge chunk of cash on a major surgery for him instead.  That surgery was actually one year ago today!  No biggie, I thought.  I can always take care of it this year!  But surprise surprise, his cancer treatments this year are costing me even more than his surgery last year did.  So yet again, for now, his teeth cleaning is going to have to be put off for a bit longer.  Hopefully I’ll somehow be able to save enough to get it taken care of by the end of the year.  No matter how stinky his breath gets, I’ll always happily accept puppy kisses…but I’d love for it to be just a bittttt less icky!


Oreo and I are currently in Malven, PA – a suburb of Philly.  We arrived Monday, and thanks to some wonderful Acepromazine, our 5.5 hour ride in snowy weather wasn’t too awful.  I think I panicked more than he did for the ride – I got stuck on a highway stretch that was so foggy I couldn’t see ANYTHING.  I slowed down so much and was holding my breath that I didn’t hit anything…and that a car wouldn’t hit me from behind for going so much under the speed limit.  That was the worst fog I’ve ever seen – and on a 65mph road, at that!  All worked out well, but I still pulled over at the next rest stop to regain some composure.  Oreo stayed asleep most of the ride, waking up every now and then to look around, then readjust his position and fall right back asleep.

Our hotel is GORGEOUS…but insanely expensive!  If I could afford it, this is totally someplace that I would want to move in to.  It’s pet-friendly, Oreo has met a  ton of dogs.  And he’s done GREAT with all of them!  He has never been aggressive towards another dog, but he’ll get very anxious and barky and scare the other dogs owners a lot of times…but not once on this trip.  Every dog he’s met in the hotel and in the veterinary hospital he has absolutely loved.

Tuesday he had his CT scan.  The doctor said that he did really well. They were able to see the tumor – she said it’s currently small-to-moderate sized, invading mainly one nostril. There’s a part of it that’s pushing on his brain, but doesn’t seem to have invaded his brain at this point. She’s confident that the CyberKnife will be able to get all of the tumor. After that it’s just keeping our fingers crossed that it stays gone.  He had his first session yesterday, and second today.  He recovered from both very well; although he’s been very very sleepy.  Tomorrow is his last radiation session, after which his vet will give me another update and set up a plan for the future.  Saturday we’ll be heading home.

I’m excited to get home just to see Burger.  I haven’t been away from him for more than 12 hours since he got sick 2 years ago.  My parents are watching him, and have said that he’s doing pretty good; but he hasn’t had a bowel movement since I left.  That’s not abnormal for him, but it still makes me nervous just because I’m not there with him.

I’ve been trying to make the most of the time I have down here while Oreo’s hospitalized.  Tuesday I spent WAY too much time in the Wegmans by my hotel.  It’s HUGE and super fancy.  I’m used to my humble little Latta rd Wegmans!  I also went a bit crazy at the salad bar.  Apparently it was an “organic” salad bar…which I found out when I checked my receipt and saw that I had spent $28 on salad alone!

Yesterday I had Rita’s Water Ice.  Holy crap it was AMAZING.  I had the Cookies N Creme flavor, and inhaled it.  I definitely need to get more before I go back home – although I was THRILLED to find out that there’s a Rita’s in Brighton!  I may have found my new favorite spot.

Today I dropped him off then came back to the hotel to shower…after the shower I took an accidental nap that lasted 4 hours!  I had wanted to explore a bit to try to find a salon at some point – I need something done with my awful hair asap.  But instead, I stopped by a bar called Mckenzie Brew House.  They brew all of their beer there, which I didn’t know as I ordered a Guinness.  The bartender suggested I get the “Leather & chrome nitro milk stout”, which tasted like a chocolate/peanut butter/Guinness mixture.  It was delicious!  I also got their brocolli, mushroom mac and cheese which was also phenominal.

Tomorrow I drop Oreo off again at 7am…hopefully I’ll find some sort of salon instead of taking another accidental nap!



Burger the Kitty

“Of all God’s creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.”
– Mark Twain


Living with a pet is like watching life in its finest, most pure form- eat, poop, play, love, die.  It’s all great until the final chapter, which if you’re lucky is the only time that your furry loved one is faced with a serious trip to the vet.  I’m not that lucky.

I got Burger when he was brought into my animal hospital to be neutered.  A nice couple had noticed him as a stray, and had been feeding him for several years.  He was named Burger because he always seemed to appear when they were out using the grill!  They had tried inviting him to live inside several times, but he was wild at heart and would always escape.  After noticing several other cats appearing in the neighborhood, they wanted to be sure to get him neutered to prevent the cat population in their area from spiraling out of control.

Burger’s neuter went well.  However, after the neuter we ran a combo test – to check for FeLV and FIV.  It’s a routine bloodtest for strays and recently adopted cats.  Most of the time, those tests come back negative, and the cats are given clean bills of health.  Burger wasn’t so lucky.

Burger tested positive for FIV (Feline Immunodeficiency Virus).  The easiest way to explain FIV is to think of it like kitty AIDS.  FIV is not a mandatory death sentence.  Most FIV+ cats can live a reasonably normal life span.  However, FIV is easily spread in the wild – cats love to fight, and FIV is most commonly spread from saliva to blood contact (ex: deep bite wounds).  With there being other cats in the neighborhood, and Burger refusing to stay inside their house, his first human protectors made the devestating decision to humanely euthanize Burger.

However…clearly…that wasn’t the end of the story for Burger.  As our veterinarian was having this conversation with the clients, I had Burger snuggled up in my hoodie.  He was waking up from anesthesia and unlike a lot of cats recovering from the meds, he was full of purrs and snuggles and headbutts.  He had completely stolen my heart.  When the vet returned to the treatment room with the decision of our clients, I couldn’t let them go through with it.  I asked the owners if they would be willing to sign him over to me instead.  Thrilled that his life could be spared, they were more than happy to sign the consent forms.

Initially, my plan wasn’t to keep Burger.  I had 3 other cats at the time, and didn’t know how he would get along with them, or with my dog.  We kept him in a big cage in our treatment room, and I tried to find someone interested in taking him home.  Two days later, that home turned out to be mine (I was apparently the only one surprised by this shocking turn of events).

Everything was great for the first 2 years.  Burger bonded immediately with Oreo, which was exactly what Oreo needed – he was still mourning the loss of his first kitty friend, who had passed away around a year earlier.  Burger may be the sweetest kitty that I have ever encountered, and I’ve encountered a lot.

In February 2014 I was at a friends house pet sitting, when my dad called me concerned.  He said that Burger was acting strange, hiding in the bathroom and seemed to be in pain.  I stopped at home to see him, and it was visable that something wasn’t right – he hissed at me for the first time in the 2 years that I’d had him.  He seemed painful in one leg – which looking back, should have been a warning sign for me.  However, the day before he had just gotten blood drawn, and was very wiggly for it.  His vein blew and he bruised pretty bad.  It was the same leg that seemed painful to him that day, so I wrote it off to him still being sore from the blood draw.  The weekend passed, and he was acting a little bit better, but my dad reported that he was still limping (I had spent the weekend at the house of the dog I was watching, so I hadn’t seen him in a day and a half).  I had him bring Burger into work that day for one of the vets to take a look at.  I assumed he just needed some pain meds and he’d be good to go…but after taking one look at the vets face, I knew I was wrong.

Burger was tentatively diagnosed with a saddle thrombus – a very serious condition involving a blood clot affecting the blood flow to the hind legs of the cat.  I was crushed.  I didn’t know much about blood clots.  Since I’d started at the vet, every time that a cat was diagnosed with them, the owners always elected to put them down.  Always.  I was extremely lucky that my vet mentioned the possibility of taking him to Cornell University for a cardiologist to look at him.  I jumped on the opportunity and took him the 2 hour car ride to Cornell as soon as I could.

The results weren’t promising.  Every vet we met with was sure to tell me that Burger was more than likely not going to recover, and essentially could drop dead at any minute.  Every vet we met with encouraged euthanasia as kindly as they could.  But I couldn’t do it.  By this point, Burger was happy – he wasn’t urinating or defecating on his own and he had no sensation in his tail anymore, but his personality was right back to where it was previously.  I just didn’t feel like it was his time, and against the general medical advice, I chose to take him home and start medications.

That was just the beginning of our problems.  Burger eventually regained the ability to urinate (we had been expressing his bladder for him, which was becoming increasingly difficult to do), although he could not control when and where he would pee.  He became incontinent, and eventually needed to start wearing diapers.  He still was unable to defecate on his own, though.  He required around a dozen deobstipation procedures (to put it nicely, it’s a procedure where the cat is sedated, and the vet manually removes the stool from the cat.  It’s not for the weak of heart…or those who are sensitive to smells!).  Each deobstipation became more and more risky – with his heart condition, anesthesia was NOT good for him.  But we didn’t have any other choice.  Either he could die on the table trying to deobstipate him, or he WOULD die from not being able to get stool to pass.  It looked like either way, I was going to lose him.

Burger is a fighter, and he wasn’t ready to go anywhere.  The last deobstipation he had performed was likely the last the he would be able to survive.  His vitals were too unsteady, and he took a very long time to wake up from the anesthesia.  It was June 1, 2015.  He still hasn’t needed another procedure!  He goes through very irregular defecation habits – he’ll go 2 or 3 weeks without being able to produce stool without my help; and then he’ll have no problem going for the next 2 weeks.  Then the cycle will restart.  I’ve been trying my hardest not to worry when he’s gone a very long time without having a bowel movement – unless he starts acting sick, I’ve been trying to have faith that he’ll be able to do it on his own.  And so far, he hasn’t let me down.

This kitty has survived so much.  We knew he had FIV, and then we knew he threw a blood clot.  Since that initial blood clot diagnosis, it was also discovered that at some point he had been shot – there is a bullet (likely from a BB gun) lodged between two of his ribs!  Also, from the appearance of xrays, one of the specialists at Cornell said that it appeared that at some point he had been hit by a car.  It looked like his pelvic bone had been broken and didn’t heal properly, causing the passage to be more narrow than usual (which likely contributed to his inability to pass stool after his blood clot.  Go figure).  Throughout everything, he has maintained the best attitude.  Everyone who meets him falls in love with him.  He loves going for walks around the yard on his harness and leash, and laying outside in the sun with his doggy best friend.  He loves playing with the laser pointer, chowing down on baby shrimp, and going crazy on catnip.  He loves snuggling with me every single night.

Some people have said that I’m crazy for putting so much time, effort, and money into a cat.  Maybe I am.  But I don’t regret a second of it.  He’s worth it <3

Oh!  Burget also has his very own Instagram page!  Check it out and leave him some love!

Life is never boring when there are animals involved.