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Easy DIY Margarita or Cocktail Costume

With a few basic sewing skills, you too can become one with your favorite cocktail!

Supplies you will need:
Fabric – Green/yellow or other color that will represent your drink of choice (I used a fabric with a bit of stretch, but any fabric will do the trick.)
White fabric with “salt” design or you can use glitter on the fabric instead
White thread
Elastic
Empty paper towel roll
White and red paper
2 Printed pictures of a lime (I printed one on 8.5×11 paper)
Headband
File folder

To create the dress, simply wrap the colored fabric around your body and determine the length you want it to be – Mid-thigh usually looks best. Mark the length and cut off the excess length.

Once the fabric is the length you want, you can hem the bottom of the dress if you are looking for a clean look or just leave the edge raw which is what I did.

Next, wrap it around your body again and pin it so that it is tight enough on your body to take a “glass” shape. Remove the fabric and sew along the pins. Cut off excess fabric.

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Ignore the pencil marks (I used scrap fabric) and crazy stitching. I’m sure you’ll do a better job!

Cut a strip of white fabric and elastic to match the circumference of your upper chest (above the boobs). Sew the elastic to the back of the white fabric using your elastic stitch and then sew the fabric to the top of the dress using a straight stitch Sew it right sides together so that your seam ends up hidden on the inside of the dress.

Bam! You now have the glass of your drink. 1027170717

To make the straw, you simply hold an empty paper towel roll up to your chest and see how tall you want the straw to be. Make sure to leave some extra space for the straw to attach to the dress. Cut off excess.

Cut strips out of the white and red paper and simply glue it in a spiral onto the roll. Be sure to leave all the seams on only one side of the roll so that you can make that side the back of your straw and any imperfections will be hidden.

To attach the straw to the dress, just stick it in at the top and secure it with a safety pin.

The last step is making the lime – you can’t have a margarita without a lime!

Find a graphic of a lime on the Internet and print it to the size you want. Print two copies and then cut them out. Cut the same shape out of your file folder.

Glue the lime pictures to the front and back of the file folder and then attach it to your headband. How you attach it will matter on what type of headband you are using. Mine allowed me to hand sew it on.

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That’s it…..now you’re a margarita! Grab your tacos and go have some fun!

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Sorry for the bad pic. This is the only one I have!

DIY Taco Costume for Dogs

Turning your dog into a taco is easier than you think. There are several steps, but it can come together pretty quickly if you have basic sewing machine skills.

Supplies you will need:
Large yellow felt
Small pieces of red, orange, black, etc. felt
Green fabric
Brown fabric
Stuffing / fill
Elastic or velcro

I started off by measuring the length of my dog from neck to tail,  belly to back and across his back the wide way (straight lines).

Next use an appropriate-sized bowl to trace a half circle onto the yellow felt. Cut it out and then make sure the sizing is right for your dog by holding it against his body. If all is good, cut out a second piece.

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Next use your measurements of your dog’s back length and width to create a template for the “meat”. I made mine a bit wavy so that it wouldn’t look like a brown brick. 🙂  Once you have the template done, hold it against your dog to ensure it is the right size. Using the template, cut out two pieces of brown fabric and sew them right sides together leaving a small opening to flip it right-side out and also to stuff it with the filling.

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Once the meat is filled with stuffing, go ahead and hand-sew it closed as well.

To make the lettuce, cut out a strip of green fabric twice the length of your taco. Ruffle pin the fabric to the inside top of the taco and sew it on using a simple straight stitch. Be sure to use a yellow thread so that it isn’t visible on the outside of the taco.

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Ignore the messed up stitching. I redid it after I took the photo 🙂

You should now hand stitch the meat onto the inside of the taco shell right by the bottom of the lettuce.

The next part is your preference. I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to make straps and velcro to secure it to my dogs so I just sewed on some elastic under his chin, front legs and back legs. Alternatively, you could sew on two pieces of fabric with velcro in each area and secure it that way. Totally your preference.

You’re almost done! Now all you have to do is cut up some felt pieces for the filling. You could use yellow and orange for cheese, red for tomatoes, etc. You then just hot glue these pieces to the top of the meat.

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Mimi got a little tipsy and knocked her taco to the side

Viola! Your dog is now a taco. Don’t let him too close to the cat……he may get eaten!

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PS Later I added a whole and a harness clip extension to the middle of the costume so that I could walk the dogs on leash.

PPS I paired this with a margarita costume for myself. Tutorial to follow!

Chihuahua Nation’s Chi-Leprechaun Pawty

If you have a Chihuahua, you need to belong to Chihuahua Nation – a worldwide group of people and their Chihuahuas. We get together to socialize our pups, have some laughs, learn from each other and help rescue Chihuahuas in need.

This month’s event was for St. Patrick’s Day. Hosted by Ada Nieves, this pawty was a sea of Chihuahuas and their pawrents dressed in green.

I made my pups their outfits. Eli was especially tolerant of his headpiece. 🙂

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It was a fun day with good food and great people! Come join the fun!

The unadoptable senior shelter cat – Tony’s story

I missed “Adopt a Senior Pet Month” by a couple of days but here’s my story.

After I put my cat, Simon, to sleep in January of 2011, I wanted to wait to adopt another cat until i found the right one. I didn’t begin my search for a cat until 8 months later. My criteria was:

  • An orange or beige cat to match my carpet (less vacuuming!)
  • An older cat since they are frequently overlooked
  • A cat that wouldn’t be scooped up right away because it was overly cute
  • Already declawed (yes, I know it’s terrible but I wanted a cat that had it done already. I have not and do not plan to declaw Milo for the record.)

I reached out to a few shelters that had cats that might fit the bill but for whatever reason they weren’t the right one. Some of them didn’t get along with other dogs or cats, some were already adopted, etc.

Even though I no longer lived with my parents I discussed the idea with them. My dad, an animal lover, thought every cat was a great cat.  My mom, an animal tolerater, was not keen on the idea of me getting another cat and shot down every cat i showed her (not literally shot! I realize the phrasing of that sentence sounds bad, lol.) Anyway, my mom did not approve of any cat until i showed her Tony’s picture on Petfinder. Only then did she say “Oh, maybe you should call about him.” I figured that was a sign that Tony was the right one for me. tony2

Tony was a 22lb cat that had been dumped at a New Jersey shelter by someone claiming a neighbor had left him behind when they moved. The problem with that story was that they knew too much about the cat.  I think the cat was theirs, and they got tired of dealing with his issues, which of course they neglected to tell the shelter about.

When I visited Tony that same night (the shelter stayed open late to accommodate my availability) he was squished in a tiny cage as that was the only option they had for him. He took one look at me and gave me the evil eye. They took him out of the cage, put him on the floor, and he promptly ran under the row of cages. I offered to sit and wait for him to come out which he eventually did when he smelled the treats I brought him. However, he wouldn’t eat any. He just sat there hissing at me.

I liked his attitude and knew not many other people would, so I said I would take him. The staff thought I was nuts but agreed to let me take him home that night (they didn’t even charge me, but I gave them a donation anyway).  I guess any person who had that much patience for an angry cat must be a good person.

I adopted Tony without knowing if he was friendly with other cats or dogs. I also didn’t know about his issues.  I didn’t find out about those until a few months later. Initially, all seemed okay. When we arrived home, I barricaded Tony in the hallway so that he could assimilate into the family at a slow pace. Well, he wasn’t having any of it. He sat there a bit and let the Chihuahua and the other cat smell him through the gate then pushed past it and entered the main area. No one fought, so I let it be.IMG_0484

He wasn’t the friendliest cat, but I learned his quirks like he only likes to be petted with your feet (I’m guessing he was abused at some point) unless he comes to sit or lay on top of you.  I need to let him do his thing otherwise he gets upset.

The only real issue he has is marking with a lot of urine which started once I introduced Milo to the mix. Milo wants to play and Tony wants no part in it. I believe Tony is just trying to show he’s upset. Because he doesn’t have claws, when he swats at someone or another animal, they aren’t too bothered by it, so I think he gets frustrated.

Lately, Tony has been slowly integrating himself into the group. I find that he now sleeps on the couches even when other pets are on them. He has slept in cat beds that are laying around – even if they are way too small for him. 2014-12-02 11.17.34 He even sprawls out on the floor when Eli and I play fetch in the hallway. However, if anyone gets too close to him or if he gets spooked, he springs up and runs away.

 

It’s taken three years but Tony is finally starting to act like he’s part of the family. I am still the only one he lets pet him, but that’s okay; I know he’s happier here than in the shelter, and I believe that I saved him from being returned back to the shelter once he started marking. We work through his issues and make accommodations for the situations that cause him stress like getting stalked by Milo when using the litter box – I’ve added a litter box in the bedroom so that he can usually do his business without another animal in his face, also that litter box is huge which allows his giant body to easily fit in and turn around without feeling squished helped the problem a bit.

Tony is now 15 years old. He has lost a few pounds but is still a giant cat. While he still doesn’t fully trust me, I have gained his trust enough to know he’s living a great life and is overall content.

Senior pets make the best pets. Try it; you won’t regret it.

Tony making himself at home on the table while I sewed.

Tony making himself at home on the table while I sewed.

Milo the turkeycat

Every year The Westchester Cat Show takes place in November and showcases over 200 cats who get primped for their turn in the judging ring. This year they also had a Cat Fashion Show “Catwalk Follies” which featured designs by none other than Ada Nieves. My cat, Milo, got to wear the purrrfect outfit – a turkey costume!

Milo turkey cat

In addition to this fun and fashionable show, the event had several rescue groups on hand. At least 14 cats got adopted during the weekend!

Overall, it was a fun weekend and Milo and I had a great time. I think all the attention went to his head a bit though. When we got home, he hopped back into his carrier and spent a lot of time checking himself out in the mirror. I think I created a diva!

No one likes to sleep on the floor! How I built a feral cat a home

If you are a follower of my blog, you already know that I am a huge animal lover. As a child, I would always try to save stray cats in the area near my home (my parents never let me keep any though!). So, it’s no surprise that I am still interested in helping street cats. One of the ways I want to help is by doing TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release). I took a class on this one day and learned about an easy and cheap way to make insulated housing for feral cats.

This is what you will need:

  • A styrofoam cooler (I saved mine from a delivery of raw cat food that I ordered online one day. The cheap ones from the drug store will work as well.)

  • A storage tote with latches that is slightly bigger than your cooler (measure inside dimensions of tote)

  • A jigsaw (a regular saw and drill will also work)

  • Sandpaper (optional)

  • Straw or hay

  • Blanket

2014-01-19 12.56.37As you can see from the picture, I did not do a good job of measuring and then buying the proper sized tote. I didn’t take into account that the dimensions listed on the tote were its total outside size – not the inside dimensions. My cooler was way too big! Thank goodness I had my dad on hand to assist during the project. (Okay, fine. He ended up doing the whole thing, but I directed him!) The best tote to buy is the kind with the latches. It will prevent the lid from flying away in the wind and it will allow you easy access for cleaning.

You can see that we cut off a big chunk of the cooler. This actually worked in our favor 2014-01-19 12.57.07because it was one less hole that we had to cut for the door. Because our jigsaw floated away in Hurricane Sandy, my dad drilled 5 giant holes in the side of the cooler and used a little saw to cut out the door. It wasn’t as pretty as I wanted but most feral cats aren’t divas!  When cutting your door, make sure to cut it several inches up from the floor so that rainwater does not flow into the house.

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After the door was cut, we used sandpaper to smooth out the edges to ensure no cat gets scratched walking in or out. You will also see that we used the extra pieces of styrofoam to help insulate the cooler even more. If you don’t have extra styrofoam, you can use hay or shredded newspaper to fill in the empty gaps.

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In the end, I felt like this housing was a bit small. I think only one cat will fit in there. Bigger is not always better though as bigger housing will allow more air to flow in, and it won’t stay as insulated. Include a layer of straw or a pillow stuffed with packing peanuts and shredded newspaper inside for comfort and be sure to check the housing every once in a while to make sure nothing is wet or soiled. If you don’t tape down the lid of the cooler, you can easily remove it to do the inspection.

Housing like this can help you earn a feral cat’s trust enough to catch it and get it fixed to avoid building a huge kitty condominium. 

This would be pretty awesome in a yard though!

This would be pretty awesome in a yard though!

If you would like to learn about TNR, check out this site.

 

If you’d like to help my kitty Milo win some great stuff from Jackson Galaxy, please click “admire” on this page https://www.snapyeti.com/snaps/16094

Thanks!

Howloween! One of the many reasons to love October

October is one of my favorite months of the year. It is Autumn, hiking trails are beautiful AND it has Halloween….cough cough…. I mean HOWLOWEEN!

Yes, that’s right. I said Howloween. The time of year when it’s perfectly acceptable to dress your dogs up however you like. This year I had two dog-centered events to attend, so I wanted to have some really fun costumes. Mimi played the role of a Chia Pet and Eli was very fittingly Oscar the Grouch.

I started my quest to create their costumes last year. I found a cheap small plastic garbage can in Target and spray painted it silver. I stored that thing for a whole year! On Friday, I dyed Eli’s fur green by using regular green food coloring and water. As you can see, the green didn’t really show that well, even on his white fur. I dyed him three times using a spray bottle, dousing him in cups of green water, and submerging his paws and tail in a big cup of green water. The water was really green, but perhaps his fur is not an ideal texture for absorbing dye. Good thing he doesn’t have to worry about dyeing his grays anytime soon!

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Earlier in the week, I drilled two holes in the bottom of the can – one to connect it to the wood platform that sits on top of their carriage (screw and nut) and one to feed a rope with a carabiner on it to connect to his harness to ensure he wouldn’t jump out (and so that no one could snatch him if I looked away for a moment). I did leave enough slack to allow him to stand up fully and adjust himself however he wanted. Interestingly, he never did try to get out of the can.

I placed a really comfy blanket in the garbage can so that he would have a soft place to sit and he enjoyed it so much that when he got tired, he 2014-10-25 16.24.59just curled up and went to sleep in the can which made it look like the can was closed!

 

For Mimi’s Chia Pet costume, I purchased a remnant of brown/taupe felt-like material for the body and cut out two pieces from a blanket-coat pattern I previously made for her. I ended up chopping off the neck piece of one of the pieces in order to use it solely as a top piece to attach the “chia” leaves to. I used these two items (lawn grass and more grass) and combined them using hot glue and sewed their edges to the top layer of the outfit. To ensure Mimi stayed comfy, I placed a layer of batting in between the two layers and then sewed them together.

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I’ve only had my sewing machine for a few weeks and can barely sew a straight line, but I was determined to sew legs onto Mimi’s outfit. I just held the base on her and marked kind of where I thought legs should be. It worked well enough, but next time I’ll try to do it properly so that she can’t pull her legs out accidentally. 2014-10-27 15.10.13

 I also added extra pieces to the neckline afterwards by creating a grass necklace that I sewed only on the end pieces and a quick stitch in the middle so she would have freedom to move it out of the way if she laid down.

I tied the theme of the two costumes together by dressing as an 80s chick with the multi-colored outfit, blue eyeshadow and a big bow on my head. Together we were Childhood Rewind!

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We had a great day at Tompkins Square Park in New York City and even managed to win third place the next day at the Chilloween pawty.

 Have I mentioned how much I love October???

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Being adorable is tough work - nap when you can!

Being adorable is tough work – nap when you can!

How I made a cat bed from a vintage suitcase

Several years ago I inherited a couple of ugly old school suitcases from my grandmother’s estate. Personally, I loved them and knew I would find a use for them. Initially I built a stand and used them as a nightstand / storage unit, but then I saw some posts about using them to make cat furniture. Well that settled that.

I first set the suitcase on the floor to see if the cats would actually use the bed. As you can see from the picture below, Freddie in particular loved it.

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I thought it looked a bit plain just sitting on the floor and I was nervous that they would knock the ugly stick over and decapitate themselves like my hamster did when I was a kid (side note, don’t use a brick to keep your hamster’s cage cover on), so I headed to the hardware store to find some legs. Turns out legs are expensive so I picked the cheapest of the ones I liked (4 for around $12 total) and spray painted them with some metallic paint I had laying around.

I first tried to just attach them to the suitcase by drilling four holes in the bottom and sticking them in, but this resulted in no stability – the suitcase just collapsed to the floor. I had to wait until the weekend when I would see my dad, so I could steal, I mean borrow and never give back, a few pieces of wood and a saw. Okay, okay, I admit it. As usual, when my dad knew I was doing a project that involved sawing, he stepped in and helped me out…..okay okay, he did it for me….but I stood there and watched!

My idea was to cut four pieces of wood and place them inside of the suitcase to stabilize the material. My dad, the genius handyman that he is, pointed out without nuts, it would still wobble. Off to the hardware store we went. With the proper tools, the rest of the project went pretty quickly. He even cut another piece of wood to lay on top of the four stabilizers so that the cats would have a flatter surface to lay on in case they pushed the pillow out of the way. Yay Daddy!

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To ensure the lid didn’t decapitate the cats, we wedged a few pieces of wood in the hollow space between the top and the bottom pieces.

The final step in this process was to enlarge the pillow I was planning on using. I cut open the back of the pillow and sewed on a piece of old t-shirt. This way the top shows the pretty satin blue colored fabric, but the entire suitcase and edges would be comfy.

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The final bed looks pretty cute, if I say so myself! However, I have only seen a cat jump onto it to take some of the catnip I sprinkled on it. I guess they prefer low-key designs instead of the fancy stuff.:(

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PS My parents’ dog, Jack, liked the bed just fine, so maybe I should give it to him for Christmas!

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Microchips – may be the only way to find your lost pet!

Recently, I started volunteering at my local animal shelter. I have learned many things – like how much work goes into caring for these animals. Their cages are constantly cleaned, they are walked at least three times per day, fed twice a day, medicine given, vet visits, socialization, etc. I also learned that they don’t do anything to help you find your lost animal.

In my mind, I envisioned that if a shelter receives an animal that was found as a stray, it would post it up on its website, send out a notice to local vets, and post on a lost pet page. They do none of this! Instead, they hold your animal for 7 days and then release it to be adopted.

I asked how a person is supposed to find their pet as I didn’t even know this shelter existed up until a few weeks ago. I was told that when you lose your pet, you should go to the police station and tell them about your pet, and they should give you the information of the shelter that should have picked it up if it was found on the street. Now I find this to be ridiculous. What if your pet wandered over to the other town? What if it was picked up by someone in a car and driven to their local shelter?

There has to be a better way. I realize everyone is overwhelmed but at my orientation, there were two other people who offered to do office work for the shelter. Couldn’t these people take on the task of getting the word out there that an animal was picked up?

I am going to try to get this process improved at my shelter, but if it’s not happening there, I’m guessing that it is not happening at many other shelters around the country.

The bottom line is get your pet microchipped! It may be the only way to get your pet returned to you if it goes missing 😦

stray bar microchip

Adventures in Hiking – Paw Pad Protection

Well, if you have been following my blog, you know that I only go hiking with my two Chihuahuas, Eli and Mimi. This weekend I learned that I am a bad mommy. This is what happened to my poor little girl!

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See the pink pad at the right? 😦

Yes, the black protective covering on her paw is MISSING! Now, she is not limping and doesn’t seem to be in pain. I am able to touch it without her pulling away (at least no more than when she pulls away because she thinks I’m going to clip her nails!)

I inspected the rest of her paws and they are all looking pretty ragged. I put some neosporin on the bare pad and a bandaid around her foot to help aid healing. She is good and does not bite on the bandage.

I also have purchased a paw protector salve that should help healing and also will give her protection against the elements outdoors. I will use this from now on when we go hiking as her paws obviously cannot take the wear and tear of so many miles!

My girl is delicate. I have to remember to treat her that way!

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So remember, when you are out and about with your pups, be sure to inspect their paws on a regular basis. They only get to wear one pair of shoes for life. (Well, unless they actually let you put shoes on them!)

Mimi and Milo – A match made in heaven – Interspecies love

Two years ago this month, I became mom to an interesting couple of animals – Mimi the dog and Milo the cat. However, their story started 5 months before I even came into the picture. You see, I belong to a Chihuahua meetup group that also assists in rescuing Chihuahuas in need. A Facebook post by Ada Nieves about a Chihuahua and kitten that needed a home caught my eye. My family already consisted of two 12 year old cats – one with chronic sinusitis and the other an anti-social 22 pounder, a 5 year old Chihuahua and an 18 year old turtle. Most people would think my house was full, but I knew there was a piece missing. I debated on adopting a playmate for the dog or a social cat for my lonely cat but was having trouble deciding. When I read Ada’s post, I thought that it may be the answer to my problem. I could help keep the pair together and finally stop worrying about making the wrong choice.

The story of why Mimi and Milo needed to stay together is more than just animals getting along. Mimi had become a surrogate mother for Milo (then named Rover). I will start from the beginning…..

In the Spring of 2012, a lady named Jen took in two little furbabies as she is known to do; however, this time she didn’t realize what an adventure she was setting out on. Mimi was taken in by Jen and her husband after her original mom became critically ill while Mimi was pregnant and was no longer able to care for her. She had a c-section because she only had one puppy in the womb, and unfortunately her puppy was not born alive. The week before they brought Mimi home, Rover was brought into her sister’s grooming salon by a man who said his Mastiffs brought him the kitten! Rover barely had his eyes open, so they hand-fed him until the next week when Mimi arrived. Mimi seemed very depressed, so they offered her the tiny kitten. It was instant love – proven when she started to nurse him. Rover played so gently with her and their bond was amazing…they truly loved each other. It was then that Jen knew that this pair could never be separated. She set on a quest to find them a furever home. Through Ada, she searched high and low to find them the perfect placement.

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First pic of Mimi and Milo together

Baby Milo

Baby Milo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, Mimi’s troubles were far from over. Later during her spay surgery in August, she developed a hernia along her spay incision, so yet another surgery was required. She actually developed an additional hernia right after I adopted her and needed another surgery then as well – that’s 3 surgeries in one month if you’re counting!

Anyway, while Mimi healed from the first hernia surgery, Jen and I had many conversations to make sure my home was the right one for Mimi and Rover. Fortunately for me, she thought we would fit well together, and I was able to complete my furry family! We each drove many hours to meet halfway between our homes and ended up meeting in a McDonald’s parking lot! Yup… I’m lovin’ it!

When I finally arrived back home, I was worried about how they would adapt to their new surroundings and siblings and vice versa but everyone tolerated each other well right from the start. I could tell that Mimi and Milo (Rover was a good name for the tough guy at the beginning but now he was a mush and needed a mushy name like Milo!) were completely bonded and inseparable. They would sleep in the same bed and many nights I was woken up by the sounds of Milo still nursing on Mimi – 5 months later!

It’s two years later, and their bond is as strong as ever. Milo is now twice as big as Mimi, but he plays with her like they are the same size. Mimi and Milo have completely settled into their new digs. Milo has taken his place as the bratty little brother and chases around the older cats, and Mimi has taught her Chihuahua brother how to be a nicer guy.  In Jen’s words: Milo is like the perfect mix of cat and dog, and Mimi is just a ray of sunshine.


Mimi is now a therapy dog bringing smiles to residents of physical rehabilitation centers, and Milo helps raise money for animal charities by starring in the annual cat fashion show at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.

 Bonus pictures!

They love to cuddle and sleep near each other.

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I love this pic of them sleeping with Milo's feet on Mimi's face!

I love this pic of them sleeping with Milo’s feet on Mimi’s face!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 out of 5 of the furry zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus videos!

I see my dead cat

I see my dead cat. …. yes,  that is an odd and creepy statement. However, I believe it to be true.  Let me back up. ….. 2.5 years ago I was faced with whether or not to put my cat Simon to sleep. He had been battling thyroid issues for a long time, and there came a time where nothing I did for him improved his quality of life. I had to make the difficult decision to end his life. Even now as I write this, I cry for him and for my loss. You can read about his struggles here

Happy Simon!

Happy Simon!

But alas the point of this blog is twofold. The day I put Simon to sleep was one of the hardest in my life. I knew I was doing the right thing. I believe Simon agreed. It didn’t make it any easier. I was fortunate to have my then boyfriend with me to drive us to the vet.  I had one last chat with the vet to confirm we had tried everything and then we went into the back room.

The room was sterile and cold.  He took Simon from me and laid him on the table. He was given a sedative so he wouldn’t be scared. Simon just laid there, calm and still. I said my goodbyes and let the vet do his job. I stayed with him the whole time and knew it was over when his eyes glazed over.

It was so quick and I’m told painless. …. at least for Simon. I sobbed and sobbed and had to leave the boyfriend with my credit card to pay the bill.  I sat in the car and cried. …I got home and cried. ..All day I just sat in my lonely house where Simon used to be happy and free. Well I guess he was then in a new place to be happy and free.

But this is where I come to the second part of my story.

As I  sat on the couch mourning my loss, I heard a sound at the window. It was a mourning dove on the fire escape. I had never seen one there before and this one just stayed watching me singing its song.

First sighting of the new Simon

First sighting of the new Simon

Now you don’t believe me, but I really feel that Simon’s spirit was in that bird. It gave me comfort when I most needed it and has continued to comfort me to this day.

Doves have continued to perch on the fire escape. …. sometimes more than one at a time. I learned that they are common in this area, but I never saw one before that day.

The birds sit outside my window even though my dogs bark and the cats sit and watch them. I just know that Simon sends these birds.

Go ahead. ….. think I’m crazy. ….. but I know I’m right.

Simon bird

 

Animal Shelters – Easy ways to make them better

I searched for months to adopt my dog. I saw dog after dog at foster houses and was rejected from all of them for nonsense reasons like I was single, I worked a full-time job, I live in an apartment, I didn’t have a backyard. I wasn’t looking to adopt a huge dog. I wanted a medium to small dog that would have room to run in an apartment. The whole process was long and frustrating. I spent many nights upset over all the time I wasted trying to get people to give me a dog. I was a great candidate with years of dog and cat experience, came with great references, had a good job, owned an apartment in the city and a house in the country…..but that wasn’t good enough. This experience got me thinking about how some shelters are run. Obviously, many of them are overcrowded so fostering is great, and I understand that you get attached to the pet in your care; however, sometimes you have to let them go to their new furever home. The goal of shelters should be to get pets into good homes – not necessarily the absolutely perfect home. Here are some ideas I had that I think would help get more animals adopted. First it’s all about how the animals are presented. Do they have a good name? A great photo?  If not, start there.

  • If you don’t have a great photographer on staff or as a volunteer, post an ad on Craigslist for an amateur photographer looking to get their name out there. Have them photograph your animals. Reward them with credit for the photos and be a great reference for them.
  • Set up a small area with a nice backdrop to be your permanent photo area. Animals do not look their best in cages. Take the extra minute to photograph them elsewhere. Perhaps have them sit on a chair. Get on their level. I am not a photographer so I don’t have lots of tips for this but there are many sites out there that do. Check out this site for a good start.
  • Make sure your listings on Petfinder are awesome…… Use photoshop if you have to
    A hat softens the look of a dog that might not have the happiest expression in a pic

    A hat softens the look of a dog that might not have the happiest expression in a pic

    (or another less complicated program) and throw a hat or caption on a picture – especially if you don’t have a great picture of the animal. Don’t have time for this? Recruit an intern who can work on this task from home.

  • On that same thought, use that intern to spice up your listings. Make them funny and interesting. You have to get the viewer to connect with this animal and all you have is a picture and words. Take the extra time to post something fantastic. You can always recycle verbiage from animals that have already been adopted to save time.
    • Organize! Use your computer. Print as much information about the animal as possible on an index card size paper and attach it to their cage. This way potential adopters will know as much as possible about the animals they are viewing. You can cheaply add and replace information by attaching paper to the cage via a clothespin. Use a border and a nice font. Include language that will connect the animal to your potential adopter instead of just bullet points. Something like  “Hi, My name is Misty. I love other cats and dogs but little children scare me. I’m 8 years old and love to be tickled under the chin. I’d love to become part of your family.” Include a great photo of the animal in case they are hiding in the back of the cage.

Mutts

  • Make it easier for people to volunteer at your shelter. I tried to volunteer at several shelters and had to jump through hoops just to get a response. I never felt like they wanted or needed my help even though their website asked for volunteers. In the end, I chose to volunteer elsewhere where I felt appreciated.
  • Shelter hours – Hours that people can visit pets after work and on the weekend are a must!  Having hoards of people come into your shelter during the couple of hours you are open on a Saturday is just not a great way to get your animals in front of people. I realize that shelters are often short-staffed, but getting people in is how animals get adopted! Make it convenient. Animals will be less stressed when viewed by fewer people at one time as well.
    • Ask your local high schools if they have home economics classes. Perhaps they can sew pet beds for you

      made out of things they already own, or if there is a woodshop class, they can construct some that are even fancier – perhaps for sale at your shelter or for auction at an adoption event. See some options here and here and here!

  • Dog toys are also an option for group projects. If you can’t get local schools on board, perhaps schedule a night out at a bar or restaurant. Have tools and supplies on hand and ask participants to bring supplies as well – old shirts, tennis balls, etc. Here are some ideas for homemade toys. Some of those toys are easy enough for elementary schools to create. Projects are great ways to keep kids occupied on rainy days – instead of just plopping them in front of a television.
  • Make an Amazon wish list to allow people to buy specific items for your shelter. Keep active on social media. Show both success stories and animals still in need of homes. It’s amazing how people will pull together to get your animals adopted; it just has to be easy for them to do so.

Sorry this list was so long. I feel like I have a million more ideas, but I’ll write them up another time. If you have any ideas of your own or thoughts about mine, please leave a note in the comments section. I would love to be able to help shelters in any way I can. dont shop adopt

NY Pet Fashion Show

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to help out backstage at the New York Pet Fashion show . If you have never heard of this event, you should check it out. It sounds a bit crazy, but it is all good fun and this year its proceeds went to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals which is a NY-based charity that helps out over 150 non-profit shelters and rescue groups around the city.

Backstage at the Pennsylvania hotel was a show in itself. My main tasks were to help dress the dogs and keep their handlers in line – literally in a line 🙂  The dog were very well-behaved; the people, eh, not so much. The clothes were amazing – long flowing gowns, tiaras and crowns and LED lights galore! The detailed work that went into these pieces of art was truly amazing. I was in awe of these creations – heck, I can’t even sew Eli’s tuxedo so it will fit him properly!

I was so busy that I didn’t get to take many pictures, but here are a few. If amazing gowns on dogs are your thing, please Google the show. There are so many great pictures and articles out there about it that I can’t possibly link to them all! Also, please consider donating to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to help save the lives of many animals across the city and afar.

 

Even the flowers were dogs!

Even the flowers were dogs!

Press was everywhere!

Press was everywhere!

Bling bling!

Bling bling!

So sweet!

So sweet!

Hand painted dress by Ada Nieves

Hand painted dress by Ada Nieves

How I made a top hat for my dog – Valentine’s Day Edition!

Valentine’s Day is not one of my favorite holidays. I think that you should show your love all year long and I grow very tired of having to see all the fake love floating around. However, what I do love about the holiday is that I get to attend St. Valen-Chi which is an annual pawty for Chihuahuas run by Ada Nieves, pet fashionista.

Now you can’t attend a pawty without proper attire. For Mimi, she had her pink dress and bows for her hair and Eli had his tuxedo…..but I felt it was missing something. Yes! He needed a top hat. I turned to my friend Google and found several sites with instructions on how to make your own top hat. All the sites seemed to have similar templates and you can probably find a better template than the one I used.

I am not crafty by any means and I wanted to make a very inexpensive hat, so I used white cardstock paper and simply kept my screen set to 100% in Microsoft Word while I created black boxes and circles to match the sizes of the template (by holding them up to the screen). To print, I set the properties to “best” since “normal” would print black solids in a stripey way.

After printing, I just cut out the cone template and the cardstock at the same time for a perfect size. I ended up just using circle sizes that worked for the size of the hand you want – no template needed! One of the difficulties I faced while using the template and instructions was that she mentions that the sides of the cylinder should barely be touching; however, when I did this, the circle top was too small so I reprinted a larger one – that’s one of the beauties about making this out of paper! I think it may be easier to cut out larger circles than you think you’ll need and then size them down to the correct size to fit your cylinder. To secure all the pieces I just used Elmer’s glue and binder clips to hold it together.

top hat

To make the hat more Valentine’s-y, I printed a bunch of different sized hearts and glued them on. To get the hat to stay on Eli’s head, I used black bobby pins. For a more secure fit, alligator clips for a long haired dog or an elastic band to wrap under the head would be a much better option. I also think that you should print black shapes on both sides of the paper as some of the white would show through – especially on the bottom of the hat. I colored in some parts with black marker but forgot to do the bottom of the hat since I thought it would be hidden on his head – turns out it wasn’t. No biggie, but it did bug me a bit!

In the end, Eli’s tuxedo kept falling off of him but the hat remained and was a hit!

eli hat

Feline Hyperthyroidism – Simon’s story

He loved holding the remote!

He loved holding the remote!

One day I realized I had a really skinny cat. I’m not sure when Simon went from being a huge fat cat to a skinny cat, but one day he wasn’t my big lump of fur anymore. My feline friend was 15 years old so I knew that medical issues may arise, but I had no idea what a diagnosis of hyperthyroidism would entail.

Cats can live great lives if hyperthyroidism is caught early and is treated properly. For Simon, my vet and I chose to administer Methimazole via a gel rubbed on his ears twice a day. Administering meds this way is a much easier method than trying to give a cat a pill. Unfortunately, when I moved to another state and had to switch vets, the new vet had no idea that Methimazole was available in a twist-a-dose gel format. I had to keep getting the meds from my old vet in another state until my new vet was able to research and obtain the product. I also had trouble finding a place to buy it online. On a search today, I found this site which may help you in your search.

I was given great instructions on how to apply the gel to Simon’s ears, but if you were not or are just curious, check out this forumThey give a detailed and accurate explanation along with video on how it all works.

Anyway, the meds kept Simon happy and healthy for a few years. He gained back several pounds to be at a healthy weight. He was active and playful. However, meds are not a cure. As time went on, his health began to deteriorate once again. Trips to the vet now included rehydration via IV fluid. My only option at that point was to begin rehydration administration at home via subcutaneous injection. Fortunately, Simon was a very mellow cat so he tolerated this well. I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck. I cried and at first it was very difficult for me. The first few times, my boyfriend helped me hold Simon steady which was a huge relief. After a few times though, I got the hang of it and was able to do it all on my own.

Watching YouTube videos like this one really helped. I can’t tell you how many videos I watched. I also read a lot about the various size of needles which affects the pain of injection and flow speed (the smaller the needle, the less pain, but longer to get the fluid in). It’s good to find a happy medium. Sites like this one will help you determine what size needle is best for you and your cat. You will most likely need to buy them with a prescription from your vet from the internet as many vets do not carry the smaller needles.  You can also purchase the fluid (I used Lactated Ringers Solution) from the Internet. Also, check Craigslist.org in your area for people selling excess product. After a cat passes away, many people are generous with their remaining product and will either give it away or sell it for a low price; that’s how I got my first batch of product. Personally, I ended up donating mine to a shelter when it was no longer needed.

For Simon and me, the easiest way to administer the fluid was to sit together in the corner of the couch. I hung the fluid bag on a hanger and attached that hanger to a standing lamp next to the couch. (I actually left it there all the time for ease of set up). Sometimes I would warm the bag of fluid in a large bowl of hot water first. I would have a bag of treats next to us, a bowl of milk or sometimes I would feed him breakfast or dinner while we fluid-ed. One of the most important things for me to do was to use a permanent marker on the bag and mark where the fluid dosages should be. This made it much easier to know when we were done.

The needle stays in on its own if the cat remains fairly still

The needle stays in on its own if the cat remains fairly still. Here he is eating treats.

You can see the yellow edge of the needle resting on his side here

You can see the yellow edge of the needle resting on his side here

He's obv not too bothered by it. Stayed busy watching TV :)

He’s obv not too bothered by it….must have been distracted flipping thru TV channels  🙂

Another issue that Simon ran into because of his dehydration was constipation. For this, my vet suggested Lactulose. It is given in a liquid form (but now seems to have a powder form as well). It is reasonably priced and comes in regular and flavored. Another option is to add pure pumpkin puree to your cat’s diet. Simon didn’t care for the pumpkin, and I tried administering it to him via a large syringe but it was more trouble than it was worth. Doing these things to keep your cat alive is only a good idea if your cat is going to be happy. Torturing him with too many meds and things he hated wasn’t an option for me.

Ultimately, Sub-Q fluids helped extend Simon’s life another few happy months. Don’t be afraid to try it. Your vet should help you try it the first couple of times. Also, having a friend help for the first week or so will be a huge relief to you – even if they just are there to provide moral support.

Good luck and best wishes in your kitty’s journey.

Sleeping wrapped up on my leg. His love never stopped.

Sleeping wrapped up on my leg. His love never stopped. I’m sure he knew I was only trying to help.

Feline Chronic Kidney Disease – Not a death sentence!

When my cat, Oliver, was about 11 years old, he started to lose weight and throw up a lot – mostly watery mush. Because my father had cats with kidney disease and these are key symptoms, I predicted this would be the case with Oliver as well. Unfortunately, I was correct. Also, unfortunately, I got the diagnosis from an inexperienced vet. She said the prognosis wasn’t good; Oliver wasn’t going to live long. His creatinine levels were supposedly bad, and I should prepare for the end. Thankfully the vet was WRONG!!!!!

I considered a kidney transplant but quickly ruled it out as they quoted me a cost around $8,000 and do not guarantee great results. I also considered subcutaneous fluid administration but Oliver was not a very easy-going cat so that wasn’t really an option either. Instead, I switched Oliver’s food to Hill’s K-D prescription diet food, left the bathroom faucet dripping to encourage extra water intake (and to increase my water bill!) and we went on living our lives. Oliver got regular check-ups and lo and behold, when I finally got to see the great vet that I usually took him to at the same practice, his creatinine levels were not at a death-level. I was told to keep doing what I was doing and that was that.

Oliver went on to live another healthy and happy three years. Chronic kidney failure is not always a death sentence. If you hear that diagnosis from your vet, do not freak out. Ask about and learn about what you can do to help your cat live his life to the fullest.

Oliver Garden

Feline Vestibular Disease – stroke-like symptoms

My cat, Simon, had a lot of health issues toward the end of his life. One of them was that he developed feline vestibular disease around age 14. This issue made him act as though he either had a stroke, an ear infection, a balance issue or was just completely uncoordinated. His symptoms started with walking into walls – with the side of his body – like he would fall over into them. He would cry and wail and be completely unresponsive when I would call him or try to comfort him. He would also cock his head to the side and walk in circles.

At first, I suspected a stroke, but he recovered from the episode within a few hours so the vet ruled that out. It is expensive to try to diagnose a stroke and there isn’t much that can be done about it, so I chose not to pursue that line of testing. Simon did not have an ear infection and blood work was good so by process of elimination, the vet gave the diagnosis of vestibular disease. Unfortunately, these episodes would happen every once in a while, but knowing that the condition had a name and it was not life threatening was a huge relief. It seems that this disease may run in the DNA of Siamese cats and I always suspected Simon was part Siamese.

It seems that vestibular disease is not a diagnosis that first comes to mind for many vets. If your cat is experiencing these symptoms, you may want to mention this disease as a possible cause.

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Tip of the day! Stock up and save

Find yourself buying pet food too often? Wait until Petsmart has a 15% off printable coupon then stock up for as long as you can easily afford. Incurring interest on your credit card wouldn’t help you save any money.   🙂

Tony tip meme

Tip of the day! Giving your pet a pill

Smush your pet’s pill in butter to help it glide down its throat. While holding your pet’s mouth closed, squirt water into its mouth via syringe after depositing the pill, in order to force your pet to swallow.

Tony tip meme