The Importance of Pets

Always alert for a treat, Macio is Colorado DanceSport's Pet Ambassador.

Always alert for a treat, Maceo is Colorado DanceSport’s Pet Ambassador.

At Colorado DanceSport, the place where I learn ballroom dancing each week, the owners share their dogs with everyone who comes in.  Maceo steals my heart with his obvious joy to see me.  Maddy has crooked teeth that make me giggle (shared experience, except I had braces to straighten me out). The excitement of these dogs who happily welcome us probably have something to do with the treats they’ll find in my dance bag, but still, there is a boost of instant happiness every time I go to put on my dancing shoes. I wonder why more businesses don’t have furry friends.

Maddy of the crooked teeth and huge heart.

Maddy of the crooked teeth and huge heart.


Right now, Prophet is laying on the floor while I type my blog post, his tummy grumbling from some poorly digested poopsicle, no doubt.

Last night, I didn’t feel well, and Nalla seemed to sense it.  She cuddled up, started licking my hand and settled in to purring me to sleep.

And right now, each of these thoughts is putting a smile on my face.

Prophet helps me write

Prophet helps me write

You can say all you want about the germs, the smells, the cost, and the responsibility of pet care giving, but I believe that pets help you live a better life, if not a longer one.  So I did a little internet research, mixed it with my own observations and came up with some great reasons pets are important.



Top 5 list of the Importance of Pets:

  1. Pets encourage you to exercise — If you know me, you know that I think of exercise as some disgusting way to turn sweaty and waste your time.  But walking?  Who can resist that?  Especially when your best friend needs it so much.  Turns out, walking is considered one of the best low-impact exercises a person can do.  Who knew?
  2. Pets are real mood boosters — Just having a cat or dog near you, with their silly sounds and their unconditional love creates a welcome happiness inside (at least until you find the latest accident on your white carpeting).  This increase in happiness helps reduce stress and in some cases even high blood pressure.
  3. Pets encourage social interaction — People who might otherwise pass you by as you walk your dog, easily stop to comment on your furry friend.  These small conversations help make our days brighter and us more a part of where we are.  One time, my family and I were walking in Washington D.C. and we saw a German shepherd.  I happened to have dog treats in my pocket, so a quick word with the caregiver, and I was making a new friend while my family was meeting a nice person to boot.  Our trip was more comfortable for the engagement. Apparently socially active people tend to live longer, healthier lives with fewer incidents of dementia.
  4. Pets make you laugh — Okay, so my dog eats poo.  My cat will only play with one, totally unrecognizable toy.  They chew things they’re not supposed to, dig in the trash, or even sneak up on furniture that is a no-no.  But whether they feel it or not, those guilty looks that turn into instant and boundless joy when they find out they’re not in trouble have my special guy and me laughing and telling each other pet anecdotes that brighten our days regularly.  And, laughter jump starts chemicals in the brain that help keep you healthy.
  5. Pets are amazing heroes— Beyond the stories of pets who save families from such disasters as fires in the house or intruders, I came across a site that lists seven surprising ways dogs are helping in monitoring people’s health, including detecting cancer, low-blood sugar in diabetics, seizures in epileptics, steering people away from foods they’re allergic to and more. It seems, the more we care for pets, the more they care for us.
Nalla the cat at our faucet

Who says cats aren’t funny? Nalla at her beauty spa.

Well, it’s 7:30 already.  I need to get to my dog and my walk.  Nalla has had her breakfast and is busy filling our home with the white noise of her snoring.

What about you?  What does your pet do to make you smile and keep you healthy?

A Mouse In The House

When we read about Colorado before moving here, one of the things that impressed us was the regular mention of a lack of insects.  After living in Florida with palmetto bugs, mosquitoes, and fire ants, or Dallas with the no-see-ems and sugar ants, Colorado seemed like a dream come true.

Unfortunately, we must not have read the small print about other creatures we’d be living with–coyotes, Canada geese or, you guessed it–mice.

Okay, so I’ve read all the cute mouse stories — Beverly Cleary’s “Mouse and the Motorcycle,” “Angelina Ballerina” by Katherine Holabird, or “Pet of the Met” by Lydia and Don Freeman.  Cute, cute, cute.  I should love mice.  Sweet little, do no harm critters that like peanut butter and cheese.  What could be wrong with that?

I’ve discovered since moving to Littleton that I am not fond of field mice.  Correction.  I am SCARED TO DEATH of the rascally little rodents.  There is no logic for this.  I fully understand how much bigger I am then them, that they don’t bite (for the most part) and while they carry disease and germs, a good swipe with disinfectant will take care of the problem.

Still, it is with all honesty (and a little shame) that I admit when I see a mouse indoors, my body and spirit split in two. While my logical side is in full observance mode–calm, rational and learning–it has to witness the primeval side of me jump onto table tops, into boxes, squirm and cringe, and, of course, let off a scream that makes banshee cover their ears. Two thoughts, two Liesa’s, one situation that gives my special guy no end of teasing fun. Somehow, I am not amused.

Imagine my surprise when on Sunday evening I walked into our dining room to find a mouse just sitting there.  It lay very still, a round tummy looking like it had been well fed (time to clean my pantry again). Brown fur fluffed out in every direction; indeed, it looked to be sleeping.

With all the courage in the world, I managed to yell for my guy (note, I did NOT scream) to come check out this mouse.  Throughout the yelling (my guy had the audacity to say “what?” instead of coming to my aid immediately), my logical side noted that the mouse did not move.  Still, when asked to produce a bucket, I ran for the kitchen and the tool.

Cat on chair, sleeping.

She may look like she’s sleeping, but Nalla is in hunting mode here.

Enter Nalla.

My cat is like any other, except we were told when we adopted her that it would be cruel to de-claw her.  For years we’ve put up with scratches and cranky cat behaviors. We’ve counted the months before she might go to that great scratching post in the sky.  Nalla’s biggest job around the house has been to find the next most comfy spot for her latest beauty rest.  She preens this way for about twenty-three and a half out of her twenty-four hour day.

I handed my guy the container, which he promptly slammed over the mouse. With great fortitude I did not mention that the handle of the bucket lifted the rim enough for a mouse to get under easily, but I felt the electric pulses race through my legs.  I was prepared on the primal side, for any unfortunate escapes by that now huge (in my mind’s eye at least three-foot long) creature.

Bucket went over the rat.  I stayed a good seven feet away and edged even further as my husband lifted the bucket again.  My logical side said the mouse was dead. Sigh of relief.  I ran for the dustpan and broom and a double-layered plastic bag ensemble, but resisted with all my bravery, the idea of handing him the equipment with rubber gloves on.

Thank goodness, Sweet Man was in a generous and not “fun-loving” mood.  There were innumerable opportunities for him to take advantage. Even now, the chills run down my spine.  He just scooped up the dead critter and dumped it into the bag.

Close up of cat face

Nalla on mouse alert.

This is gruesome, but I noticed there was a lot of blood on the dustpan, so the mouse didn’t die of old age in my house.  I also noticed Nalla creeping away.

Nalla!  My heroine!  Nalla killed her first mouse.

She is twelve and a half years old.  She moves with the speed of a snail most the time.  When we play with the cat wand, I have to put the toy critter right near her paws or she makes no effort to chase the thing.  She lies on her tummy to capture the toy prey. Not what I would call a good “watch-cat,” and certainly not a “mouser.”  But the other day, Nalla hunted down her first mouse.

She looked frightened as I excitedly ran to her and gave her a hug.  Today, she’s laying on the dog mat in my office back to normal.

And hubby and me?  We called pest control right away.  We thought about using the poisons from the store, but our vet has given us horror stories of pets made sick and even dying from eating vermin that have eaten mouse poisons.  Now I have shiny traps and other pest control stuff to catch the critters.  We found the hole in the garage where they come in, and stuffed it with steel wool to deter entry.

I like mice – Ralph, Angelina and Maestro Patrini.  I just like them in books and outside.

But, I LOVE Nalla.

Nalla, My Suicidal Cat

It’s good that they say cats have nine lives, as my Nalla has used up a few of hers and my husband keeps threatening to do away with one or two more–especially with our kitty “accidents.”

You should know that neither my husband or I are “cat people.”  When my older daughter earned straight A’s in elementary school, we broke down and got her the kitty she’d wanted for literally years.

“What’s the fastest animal in the world, Mom?” asked my daughter. We looked it up and settled on the cheetah.  Cheetah was the name that our new kitten had.

We loved Cheetah tremendously, and she had the good grace to wander off to kitty heaven before my daughter left for college.  Kidney disease.

Sara with her new kitten, Nalla.

Sara and Nalla – BFFs.

But my younger, special needs daughter, Sara, was not appeased by the wonderful burial or dog she’d gotten through two years of “I miss my Data” campaigning (Data being our first dog, and walking rug that occasionally exerted the effort to scarf up our trash, underwear, and anything else within reach of his ever-hungry mouth).

I wasn’t going to go through two more years of whining and crying, so we broke down soon after Cheetah went “up, up, up to the sunny side layer” and got Nalla.  As with Cheetah, I got the food, put out the litter box and handed the cat to my kid.  That is the extent of my kitty expertise.

Unfortunately, while Sara was a good kitty “mom,” Nalla started showing suicidal tendencies.

Take the time we found her throwing up about six times in a day–a Sunday, of course.  Off to the expensive emergency vet we went–Nalla, Sara and me. Sara was a champ, and listened carefully to everything the vet said.  She didn’t cry or get upset. She watched the exam and looked at the X-rays that showed our kitty had managed to eat about 24 inches of string.  The string wound around the kitten’s internal organs and we could choose to have an expensive operation or put the cat to sleep permanently.

Two cat funerals as well as watching big sis going off to college in one year was more than my husband or I wanted to deal with. Operation it was.

Then Sara deserted her kitty by heading off to that great unified basketball team in the sky.  Nalla was forlorn, but managed to hang in with us.  Still, she made another attempt on her own life by leaping for a bird  outside our bedroom window.  Nalla wasn’t aware, I guess, that cats have enough weight to push through window screens, or that falling out a second story window isn’t good for a little fat cat body.

One huge screech from Nalla followed by one from me, and we were back at the vet’s.  Luckily, part of the nine-lives system meant no broken bones, just some shattered nerves.

cat and dog "play" with teeth showing

Nalla and Trigger working out their “detente”

A couple years later, we lost Trigger, Sara’s dog.  We walked him to the vet’s and said our good-byes.  Then three or four months later, my husband determined that there had been too much sadness in our lives.

Solution? A new puppy.

I’m sure Nalla was thinking that a puppy who started life with us at the same size and weight as her own hefty 16 pounds was just the thing she needed. After all, she was so very fond (NOT) of that Trigger creature who came before Prophet.

Puppy Prophet with tiny toy

What cat wouldn’t want this baby?

A few weeks of scratching and sniffing and Proph and Nalla worked out, if not a friendship, at least a detente relationship.  I have even on a rare occasion seen them cuddle up and sleep next to each other.

But anyone who has worked on the Israel-Palistine situation will probably tell you that detente is a light film over a roiling volcano.  It needs constant attention to keep the peace.

Is it any wonder that when I took Nalla to the vet yesterday (eye infections) we had a thorough chat about the marking and urinating in my living room and the conclusion was “stress?” Ugh!

Unfortunately, the vet said I could try medicines to help “my” kitty relax more, but they are not reliable for this purpose.  I am doing research on ways to stop a cat from marking its indoor territory and will let you know what I come up with.

Meanwhile, I’m contemplating putting a bird feeder outside my bedroom window. Just kidding!