Archive for the ‘animals/pets’ Category

Posted by Karen Hadalski at 30 June 2012

Category: animals/pets

I’m late with this week’s blog due to the round-the-clock care my dog, Serena, requires.  A serious eye injury and infection has required numerous medical procedures which have not (yet?) worked to heal her.

We’ve only had this old girl a few years but have all come to love her.  She’s the only pet I haven’t raised from kitten or puppyhood and this experience has been a totally unique one for me.

Her history, past medical problems, age, etc. are all mysteries.  Vets guess her to be about 10 and her behaviors and fears lead me to believe she has endured an unhappy life of neglect and abuse.

Integrating Serena into a family that included a 5 year old, still puppy-like collie and an imperious cat was not easy.  But, she worked hard to fit-in and things eventually clicked.  (That is, until we adopted a new, 7 week old kitten.  Then it was back to square one).

While I certainly didn’t make an imprint on or influence Serena’s developing personality, there were no surprises regarding who she would eventually “become.”  She was given her name because, compared to our Odin, she was, indeed, “serene.”  Happily, there was no house training or puppy-mischief to worry about.

For sure, this dog had never been indulged.  She needed to be taught to play with a tennis ball, that quality dog food was more appropriate and nutritious than table scraps, and that her “place” was with the rest of the family rather than alone in the yard or bathroom–where she self-isolated during her 1st few months with us.

Because she apparently lived such an uneventful and isolated life previously, our old girl savors every experience and kindness with puppy-like zest and appreciation.  All it takes is a soft voice, a hug, or singing a song with her name in it to cause her to close her eyes, smile a crooked little smile, and make a throaty–almost purring–sound of contentment.

Her greatest delights are car rides, taking a walk in the woods, and rolling around in the grass with her very own ball in her mouth.  When we bought her a bed, she seemed to think she would get into trouble by climbing into it.  So, for days, she would eye it longingly, but sleep on the floor beside it, instead.  Finally, our coaxing paid off and she now rolls around and stretches out in delight when she beds-down on her own, soft sleeping space each night.

She treasures and parades around with her rawhide bones; and treats–well, an after dinner Greenie or biscuit sends her into a state of ecstasy. Odin has taught her to not be afraid of toys that make noise, and she eventually began to enjoy and share her playthings rather than hoard them.

While I don’t regret raising and nurturing any one of my past or current animal companions from infancy onward, Serena has opened my eyes and my heart to the joys of sharing life with a pet that has a history, but chooses to give herself to you, anyway.  I dread the thought of losing my beloved Odin, Lily, Serena, or Chance.  But, should the time come when we again find ourselves “empty nesters,” instead of living out our later years devoid of animal companionship, we will look for a pet to adopt that is closer to us in age, energy level, and life expectancy.  Thanks to sweet Serena.

Posted by Karen Hadalski at 14 June 2012

Category: animals/pets

Last weekend,” I’ll Have Another,” winner of the Kentucky Derby & Preakness, was pulled from running at Belmont due to a leg injury.  Had he competed and won, he would have been the first Triple Crown champion in 34 years.

I applaud this colt’s owners for making the moral, compassionate decision on his behalf.  Many others have not been so fortunate.

It was disturbing to read responses to this honorable decision, however.  The following sentiment, expressed by the last Triple Crown winner’s jockey, Steve Cauthen, pretty much sums it up: “I think the whole racing world is just dying to have another great horse come along and capture their hearts.” (

Never mind that I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby over 15-1 odds and, 2 weeks later, won the Preakness Stakes.  I guess that wasn’t enough to capture any hearts.  It seems the only colts who give enough to satisfy racing fans are those who die, themselves, in order to do so: Like the rare filly, Eight Belles, who finished 2nd in the Kentucky Derby but was injured and euthanized right after her finish; or, the “much loved” Barbaro who , after being injured during the Preakness, suffered with his injuries for eight long months before finally being put out of his misery.

Greyhounds used to entertain dog racing patrons don’t fare any better.  Essentially, they live a hard, isolated existence, brought out of their pens only long enough to run.  Then, when they begin to slow down– if not rescued almost immediately– are unsympathetically euthanized.

Using animals for our needs, entertainment, and financial gain is by no means limited to the racing industry.  Since the beginning of mankind’s occupation of this planet, we have been using; abusing; eating; killing for sport, hides, fur, pretty feathers, wall mountings, ivory tusks; imprisoning and training for our amusement; racing until they drop; and, now, destroying the habitat of the animal kingdom.

We do this without conscience and with a sense of absolute “entitlement,” referring to the Book of Genesis when our morality and ethics are called into question.

I don’t know what kind of self-delusion allows mankind to perceive itself as superior to the rest of Creation. Our history certainly doesn’t provide evidence to support this point-of-view.  As a species we have wreaked more destruction on the planet, other species, and our own kind than any other living creature.

Why not spend a week really looking around, listening to the news, observing the attitudes and activities of your fellow- man as a visitor from another planet would?  Emotional distance and objectivity provide the clarity and perspective unconscious immersion lacks.  In sociological terms, this is called being a “participant observer.”

Maybe if we were all schooled in this capacity, instead of “100 ways to feel good about ourselves,” the world would become a better place–for all it’s inhabitants.


Posted by Karen Hadalski at 23 February 2012

Category: animals/pets

As the weather improves, I’m beginning to see more cats out and about.  It amazes me that, in the world as it is today, some still believe it is better for cats to roam at will than to live the life of an indoor pet.  If you are one of these, please consider the following risks to your kitten before turning her loose:

* It is just as illegal to allow a cat to roam free–in virtually every U.S. town–as it is to turn your dog out.  If spotted by or reported to Animal Control, your pet will be carted-off and locked-up in a nanosecond.  Very few ever survive such a fate.

* Free roaming cats are exposed to and at risk for contracting two deadly “outdoor cat” diseases:  FIV (feline HIV) and Feline Leukemia.

* Domestic cats are not as wise and worldly as their feral counterparts and will almost certainly be on the losing end of cat fights.  They will also be easy prey for fox, other woodland creatures; and, if small enough, for birds of prey.

* Neighborhood dogs, even those kept in yards and walked on leash, are a danger to wandering cats.  Curious kittens can slip through small fence openings, unaware of the hundred pound dog lazing on the other side, until it is too late.

* No matter where you live, there is traffic.  Cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, bikes; even skateboards and electric scooters can be deadly. And, cat owners running over their own pets, when pulling in or out of their driveways, is a more common occurrence than you might imagine.

* Even if you live in a quiet neighborhood of neatly manicured lawns, there is a chance that your pet will ingest insecticides while nibbling on that beautiful green grass, or become deathly ill when eating one of the many plants known to be poisonous to cats or an already poisoned rodent.

*Outdoor cats are exposed to every kind of internal and external parasite in existence, which will come right along with him when he returns home to eat or sleep.

* Finally, there exists what is possibly the most dangerous threat of all to friendly, unsuspecting pets: ill-intentioned, cat-hating human beings.

If, after giving the indoor versus outdoor lifestyle a second glance you still decide to allow your kitten to roam free, please do everything possible to give her a fighting chance:

* Make sure you cat receives inoculations for FIV & Leukemia in addition to rabies and standard feline vaccines.

*Never, ever de-claw a cat that has unsupervised access to the out doors.  Claws are its only means of self-defense and will also allow it to climb a tree to safety.

* Spay/neuter your pet before turning it loose. Otherwise, your female will most certainly be impregnated and your male, while wandering far and wide, might become lost or find himself in competition–translate “cat fights”– with other Toms over territory and females.

* Administer monthly flea, tick, and heart worm preventatives religiously.

* Take your pet to a veterinarian at least every 6 months for a thorough once-over.

* And, perhaps most importantly, provide your pet with up-to-date identification in the form of both a microchip (easily inserted and registered by any veterinarian) and a break-away collar with contact, rabies, and animal license tags.  If lost, injured, or picked-up by Animal Control, this will provide the only hope of being reunited with your kitten.

Finally, if you are not a cat owner, but find a lost or injured stray, please provide a safe, warm temporary shelter; along with food and water; while you either attempt to locate its owner or call your local SPCA for assistance.



Posted by Karen Hadalski at 5 January 2012

Category: animals/pets

Last winter, during the holidays and a rare Virginia snow storm, we lost our kitten, Chance, for 16 agonizing days.  He was a small, thin rescue cat; not yet a year old; and had never been outside the warmth and safety of his house. He “escaped” by darting between the legs of our dog as I let her into the backyard, through our picket fence, and into the night.  After employing every recovery method known to man–search & rescue dogs; ads; posters; a 500 call Lost Pet Amber Alert; daily check-ins at every animal shelter, rescue, and hospital within a 10 mile radius; and non-stop scouring of three neighborhoods and nearby woods; it was the simplest, most common-sense actions which finally brought Chance back to us.  We sprinkled what was left of his previously used litter on top of the ice and snow around the perimeter of our house so that he could “smell it out,” and left the garage door open enough for him to squeeze under it and devour the refreshed food we set- out every evening. Finally, our confused, disoriented, dirty and even skinnier kitten found his way home. Where he had been and how he survived is both a mystery and a miracle.

Yesterday, almost a year to the day, and during another unusually frigid bout of weather, he disappeared again. But, this time, we had no idea how. I had stroked him before going to bed the night before and my husband gave him a treat before leaving for work in the morning.  Yet, when it was breakfast time, he didn’t rush to his bowl along with his sister, Lily, as he did every other day. While shaking the “Greenies” bag, I rushed through every room in the house calling his name and looking behind, in, and on top of every piece of furniture until a familiar, sinking feeling settled-in.  I then began an outdoor search.

After returning home to rest and warm- up, I looked into the eyes of my worried pup, Odin, and asked: “Where is Chance?!”  He immediately began to sniff and scurry around, finally halting and pawing at the linen closet door.  When I opened it, there he was: peacefully snoozing behind a tall stack of towels on the top shelf. What a relief!! No one remembers opening or closing that door and Chance had never before exhibited any interest in exploring that space; yet, I should have thought to open every single door and drawer before concluding my inside search.  Cats are quick, quiet, endlessly curious, and mysterious creatures. This incident served to remind us that we had let-up a little on the precautions we had put into place after Chance’s return last year, and to get busy reinforcing these.

It is during the first month of every new year that we seem to have the most energy and resolve to make productive, positive changes in our lives and lifestyles.  While doing so this year, don’t forget the animals.  How impoverished, predictable, and boring life would be without them!

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