Category Archives: Pets

Old Writing: Part 10::Untitled

I wrote this October 1966. I am not sure what grade I was in. Probably fourth.

I am a ten-year-old girl. My name is Dona Patrick. I live at 240 Heine Street, Elgin, Illinois. My brother’s name is Kevin. He is three years old. My mother’s name is Pat, but I call her Mom. My father’s name is Al but I call him Dad. I don’t know if I am pretty, but my dad says so.

When I got my cat, it was 5 months old. When I got my dog, he was eight months old. I was ten when my cat was born. I was six or seven when my brother was born. My aunt was married and I was the junior bridesmaid. My mom was a bridesmaid. So was my aunt. The bride’s girlfriend was the maid-of-honor. My brother was the ring bearer. Now I have a new uncle and I might have a new cousin. I hope it’s a girl. But if it is a boy, it’s his business.

My aunt and uncle never had kids.


Old Writing: Part 9::Puff?

I wrote this on November 3, 1970. I was in 8th grade and 14 years old. I got an A+/B for the paper. The teacher wrote at the end:

“Yes, there are times when tears are impossible, we just hurt so much.”


“Dona, you have told this beautifully, for you have made me feel as if I knew Puff and shared your hurt in having to give Puff away. Thanks for sharing it so well. By the way, you have a very interesting writing style. Keep it up.”

My take on this is: it is forced and feels stilted. It is too formal in parts, yet too informal in others. I do not consider this one of my better old writings. And why the question mark in the title?


My love for cats is very great. But my father is just the opposite, he hates cats. So I have had only one cat in my life. (I have a five-month-old kitten at the moment but she acts so much like a person I think of her as a sister). This cat — a white half Persian, male. Mother Persian, father unknown. Born in a box in a breezeway by the side of a garage. He was my “birthday cat” as I called him, but every cat or pet must have a name so I had to find one. I tried every name I could think of: Prince, Whitey, Snowball, Pumpkin, etc. I finally settled on Puff. Everyone laughed. I said I didn’t care because Puff had been my favorite story character in Dick, Jane, and Sally. Also, my favorite song was “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Sometimes I made up “real” names such as “Prince Puff Patrick” (PPP). Yes, Puff was my cat and I loved him.

One and a half years after I received Puff, my kitten had grown into a cat. A large, long, slim and beautiful cat. He was all white except for a long black or gray streak down his back from when my friend and I accidentally left Puff in the charcoal burrner overnight. I thought that Puff didn’t love me anymore for he had always faithfully returned home after a day outside.

Another time I thought I had lost Puff was when he was caught between the screen door and inside backdoor. Around midnight my father heard a strange noise coming from the back door. He must have thought that a burglar was trying to get into the house for he went and opened it and was surprised to see a white streak running up the steps and under the table.

Finally, the sad part of this gleeful lifetime must be told for I have put it off long enough. Although Puff and I had happy times together, there were still some bad ones. For Puff was getting to be a nuisance. He would get hold of a piece of wool or a sock or any material and eat a big hole in the middle. Puff also, like any other cat, had a desire to catch and eat birds and rabbits.

So my mother suggested that we take Puff to Wisconsin for my grandparents’ house to catch mice. Naturally, I didn’t want to give up “my little cat.” After weeks of pondering about what to do with Puff, we finally decided on giving him to my Aunt and Uncle to take to a farm. By that time I had started to dislike Puff, or so I thought, for the cat would make my father angry, so angry he would get angry with me and that made me angry. The cat would sit in the middle of the living room and pull his hair out. Also, the cat was getting mean, very mean. He even made a sort of growling noise in his throat when he ate. This noise was not purring, he never purred, not even when he was a little kitten.

Well, the day came when my parents asked my Aunt and Uncle to come and take my cat to his destination. My mother tried to tell me that Puff would be happier at the farm, but I really didn’t care about anything at all anymore. My cat was leaving me. I handed my cat to my Aunt and I think she could see a tear in my eye. I gave Puff one last kiss and after they left I went into my room. I didn’t cry, I couldn’t cry. I was beyond crying.

The next day we received a call from my Aunt and Uncle saying that about halfway [to the farm] Puff jumped out the window, which was down about 6 inches. He didn’t get run over, but he ran into a cornfield. This was the last time anyone in my family saw my cat, Puff.

Now that I have heard of Pica disease in cats, I am pretty sure Puff’s habit of eating fabric, pulling out his hair and his meanness came from an underlying issue that we didn’t consider.

Several years after Puff ran off into the cornfield my father did some appliance repair for someone not too far from the place where Puff disappeared. The family had a large, white cat who apparently walked out of a cornfield and into their lives years before my father did work there. He believed it was Puff. I hope it was.

My cousin Jeff, my brother Kevin, my cousin Pam and Puff. Jeff always opened his mouth like that when the cat was in the room.
Kevin, Puff and Jock. Puff is dirty because he spent the night in an outdoor grill. Oops.


Probably the best gift I ever gave anyone was the Christmas I gave my brother a puppy. He’d recently lost his dog, Franz, and somehow Dean and I found out about a litter of puppies that were being given away in Elgin. Dean and I picked out a female, brought it to my apartment for a few days, then presented it to Kevin on Christmas Day.

I think he liked her.

Dog with a bow
The best gift ever
Tanner biting Kevin's fingers
Sharp puppy teeth

Kevin named her Tanner and she grew up to be a wonderful companion. Unfortunately, however, she only lived about 18 months. Our next door neighbor misused weed killer near the fence that separated our properties and it eventually killed Tanner as well as his own dog.

Photos of people I don’t know #2 — a cat on a fence post

Photo of a cat sitting on a fence post.

Not a person, but I don’t know the cat in this photo so it counts. This was also in the bag of photos from Aunt Corrine.

Even 1915, the year this postcard photo was sent, people took photos of their cats.

The sender wrote this on the back:

From: 117 Hinsdale Pl.
Elgin, Ill.

To: Mrs. W. C. Youngs, Elgin, Ill. R.F.D #2

Dear Mrs. Youngs,

This is a rather funny picture, but I thought you might like one. It is “Nellie” if you can’t tell otherwise. How are you all? This is dandy weather.

With Best Wishes,
Irene Nelson.


Spoiling the Cat

No, as far as I know that is not a euphemism.

HalloweenI am spoiling our cat. She is elderly, mostly deaf and going blind. She’s got a constant runny nose that was finally diagnosed as asthma a few years ago. We recently had a bad scare  and thought she was dying as we helplessly watched.

Long story short — an emergency vet visit brought up the probability of cancer and an emergency animal hospital visit said no cancer, but she has pancreatitis.

Apparently a cat with pancreatitis will eat, but the food he or she eats is not absorbed well. It can be a spell of pancreatitis or chronic. It can lead to diabetes. The vet said to feed her whatever she wanted to eat. Hence the spoiling.

She began turning her nose up to the Science Diet canned food for mature cats, so I bought Royal Canin because she liked the sample the vet gave us. I also gave her some low-sodium tuna in water — the kind people eat — and she liked that. We also give her the skin off the salmon we cook because we don’t like the skin and she loves it. It seems to make her chipper.

The other day she began turning her nose up to the Royal Canin food and I suggested to Dean that I buy fish for her and cook it and freeze it. He shook his head and said that at some point she would only eat caviar from the rarest of sturgeons in a country that does not trade with the U.S.

Okay, he really didn’t say that but I bet he wishes he had.

I did buy some inexpensive frozen fish and will cook it for her — but she seems okay with the Royal Canin again. Dean says she’s got me trained. I think he’s right.

How I learned that Cokie Roberts lives nearby

So, on Monday afternoon I got a phone call. The ID on the phone display read:


I didn’t answer, but later was curious and listened to the message. Notice that the message did not say “This is a message from your neighbor Cokie”. However, I made a note to be on the lookout for a scared looking black lab if and when I was out and about.

Katie the Missing Lab belonging to Cokie Roberts
Katie -- photo courtesy

That evening just before I left for Alexandria (to teach a class on document accessibility the next morning) I checked the news on my phone. I have a “Bethesda, Maryland” section on Google News and noticed that the Baltimore Sun had an article about Cokie Roberts and her lost dog, Katie. I was a little amused that a newspaper like the Baltimore Sun ran an article about a lost dog. Then I was kind of excited to learn that Ms Roberts lives within a few miles of me. The article (and the message) mentioned Bradley Boulevard which is very close to me as well as Walt Whitman High School (not the one from Room 222) which is where my children went  to school.

I now wonder if perhaps I have passed her in the grocery store or cut her off while driving on Wilson Lane. Truth be told, I would not recognize her. She’d have to accidentally put her groceries in my cart and then launch into a monologue about the benefits of avocados. (I know she is on some TV news program now, but I’ve never really watched it.)

By this morning the news about Katie the dog was on at least 10 media sites including the Washington Post and Huffington Post.

While I sincerely hope that Katie is quickly and safely returned to Cokie (I can call her that, she’s my neighbor and Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs is a mouthful) I do find it amusing that it has made such news around here.

UPDATE: I am sad to report that Katie was hit by a car and killed near our local middle school.

Our Three Cats

Halloween and Joe
Halloween -- asleep -- and Joe (caught him in action)

I’ve been meaning to write about the new [temporary] addition to our household, but I always seem to be scooping poop or filling water or food bowls or breaking up cat fights and don’t have time to blog about it.

So, you may know that we have two “mature” cats (I hate to say elderly), Joe and Halloween. Joe and Halloween were littermates and we brought them home from Dean’s brother’s farm in  1996. I keep saying that these are the last cats we’ll have because even though cats are not hard to take care of — they do take some effort. Plus I can never have flowers in the house because the cats think flowers are a yummy treat.

Sometime, late last spring, Clare called Dean to ask if we could cat-sit her roommate’s cat, Annabelle. Dean referred her to me. I wanted to say yes, but Dean cautioned me to word it more like, “we’ll be the last resort”, which I did. Clare and her roommate interpreted it as “yes” and they went on with their last few weeks at college, confident that the problem of Annabelle’s summer residence was solved. (Clare’s roommate is spending the summer in New Orleans and her mother is renting her room to a woman who, apparently, is allergic to cats).

Annabelle -- Just look at that face. Does she look like a "little bitch" to you?

Secretly I was excited that we’d be cat-sitting. Annabell is a calico and I’m partial to calicoes. I was worried about how we’d deal with the food and litter box issues, but figured if they didn’t get along at all Annabelle would be the “attic cat”.

Well, Joe, Halloween and Annabelle don’t love each other. Joe and Halloween are curious and might actually like Annabelle, but Annabelle doesn’t like Joe and Halloween at all. Annabelle can be in the same room as Joe and Halloween are without hissing, but if they come within 2 feet of her she hisses and swipes at them.  I think this has made them a little sad.

We’ve nicknamed her “the little bitch”. She’s very cute. And very cuddly if it is on her terms. And she’s very tidy. In fact, since she started using the communal litter boxes (we now have 3 in the basement and 1 in the attic) she covers up the other cats’ messes (they never did learn to cover their poop).

I’ve tried to not become attached to her because she’ll most likely be gone come September — but that is really hard to do. I think that our own cats are getting a good deal — we’re overcompensating on the cuddles they get because of the guilt we feel for giving Annabelle cuddles. (Ok, I’ll stop now — I’b beginning to scare myself)

I think I’d make a terrible foster mother. I’d want to keep all the kids.