with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: pets

Buying a dog bag by accident: Or owning the thing you have, no matter what

by SweetMidlife
Yes, it's a dog bag. But it's super cute. and I can work it.

Yes, it’s a dog bag. But it’s super cute. and I can work it.

About a month ago, rummaging through the local Goodwill for winter-type clothing for myself and my kid the day before heading north, out of Florida and into places where they have winter, I ran into the cutest bag. It was pink tweed, very Nancy Reagan at a press conference meets hipster bowling bag. It had a weird long zipper at the top, and some mesh zippered flaps on the side. I couldn’t quite figure out what those were for, but it was big enough to stick my laptop in for the flight, super attractive and easy to carry, and the weird side zippers made it a cinch to stick bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper in, which is totally a problem that needed solving. Totally.

Also, it was like $8. So welcome to the family, New Bag.

I wasn’t the only person to dig my bag – my sister and mother immediately told me how sharp they thought it was, and a few other friends specifically stopped to tell me how much they liked it. It was a very long trip, hanging out with Lynne to help out after her surgery, seeing friends and family when I could, and writing a random story for work when necessary (RIP, Ziggy Stardust), and I found myself shoving a lot of things into the new bag and its weird zippered portions, finding it spacious and easy to fill – there was always another corner to shove things into, and I have never met a bag I couldn’t fill till it looked like a hobo pack.

By the time I got home, I was rather in love with it – not the least of which was because it’s big and huge and easy to find in the crazy thrift store storeroom that is my living room.So a few days later, I grabbed it on the way out the door to go visit a friend for an after-work glass or two of wine. I plopped the bag down on her counter next to the wine and plunked into a chair, noticing her notice it as she walked by to get the corkscrew.

“That your new purse?” she asked.

“Yep!” I said, anticipating the compliments not only on the stylishness of my choice but an opening to brag about the deal I’d gotten.

“You know that’s a dog bag, right?”

No. No I did not know that.

Suddenly, everything made sense – the odd roominess of the purse, that was not actually a purse. The weird, helpful zippers on the side, that I could shove a soda in but that was actually made so that little Fifi and Fluffy could stick their precious head out of. The fact that it was $8, because not everyone needs a dog bag. Or realizes that they bought one, sans dog.

So I wondered – was everyone looking at me weird? Was it like when I walk my kid to daycare and then walk the empty stroller back home with people peering in looking for a baby but seeing a bag of spinach and spaghetti squash and thinking I’m crazy? Did I look dumb? Should I head back to the Goodwill for another non-canine bag?

I don’t know how I looked to others, but I can answer the last one – No, no I am not replacing that bag. Because I like it. Because it’s big and roomy and cute. Because it’s possible to repurpose a thing as another thing because it’s not hurting anyone. And because even if I look a little crazy to other people, I have decided to work my dogless dog bag and let it rock.

Because I can.

“Pet Semetary 3: What To Do With Babycat?” or Letting Go Of My Friend

by SweetMidlife

Every breath I take, every move I make, she’ll be watching me. And judging. Always judging.

Leslie here! There is a humor that those of us who have suffered loss – whether that of a parent, a spouse, a pet or a job – employ sometimes as a conscious defense, and sometimes because that’s just the weird space we live in now – that might seem inappropriate to others who expect us to cry, or rage at God, or at least eat something creamy-fried and wallow. I don’t know if you saw “Game of Thrones” this past week, but tiny Arya Stark, who’s lost pretty much her entire family in a series of gruesome, kingdom politics-related events, got all the way to the castle of her aunt after a long bloody journey on foot, during which she kinda became a tiny cross-dressing killing machine (you had to be there).

And when she got there, she was told, “Dude, your aunt, your only living relative maybe, died three days ago.” And instead of bursting into tears, or jumping off a cliff. or just getting stabby, she laughs. It’s a beautiful, frightening “Are you kidding me with this, Fate?” laugh, unhinged and hearty, and anyone who’s ever been backed against a wall and then seen the other wall hurtling right toward you understands that emotion. It’s a grasp of the ludicrousness of the moment, the bitter realization that there’s a hidden trap floor below the bottom you just hit. It’s awful and funny and stupid and cathartic, because what are you gonna do?

And it’s here where I find myself, six days after the death of the esteemed Babycat, my feline companion, good friend, confidante and cat overlord. We have until today to tell the vet staff, who loved her, what we want to do with her remains. I originally told them that I wanted them to just cremate her and keep the remains or do whatever they do with them, because I don’t want them in an urn. I am not an urn person. My husband went to the other extreme, asking me to look into pet cemeteries, headstones and perpetual lights, like the one his mother had erected for their late dog, Lisa.

“That’s a really stupid idea,” I told him, and I know that this sounds judgey and wrong, so for any of you who have perpetual lights on your beloved pets’ graves, I am so sorry to say that. That’s where I was, less than 24 hours after Baby’s death, in the middle of a very stressful week otherwise, and when he started talking about permanent tributes to a cat whose litter box was still my responsibility to dump one last time, I was in a very Arya place, like “So I’ve spent maybe $10,000 in vet bills, cat food, litter I had to scoop, special serums to give her so she would poop the poop I had to scoop when she was backed up, boarding and other stuff, for a being who I loved but who was often disdainful, rude, hairy and poopy, sometimes in a defensive manner all over my place of residence.

And now that I lost her, this fascinating, gorgeous, haughty, mean, loving, snarky little thing, her final gift could be either sitting on my shelf as ashes forever, or in very expensive digs that I will have to pay maintenance fees for, forever. Again, if this is your choice, I’m cool with that choice and you choosing it for you. But I am not about that choice, probably. My husband really wants to, because he’s sweet like that, but he’s left it to me. I am inclined to keep my memories and my love and heartbreak in my soul (because when the heart breaks it bleeds into your soul. Because science.) and let Babycat’s earthly remains recede into the earth or whatever.

What do you think? Am I being cold? Unsentimental? Cheap? Realistic? You tell me.

The “On the next ‘Mad Men'” treatment on my life

by SweetMidlife
Their lives are glam and “Mad.” Mine is random and has cereal in its eyebrows.

If you’ve ever watched “Mad Men” (and I can’t assume that you have, because you gotta do you), you have seen the purposely cryptic previews, which show disparate clips from the next episode over super-serious music that are mostly one line snippets with no context, providing no clue to the next week’s plot. I think they’re kind of pretentious, like “Other ordinary shows actually tell you what’s gonna happen next week. We’re not gonna do that. Losers.”)

Bur the randomness resonated with me this week, as I found myself in weird conversations with my husband, the baby we’re hanging out with, my cat, that were so strangely funny that they bear repeating. They’re weird. But funny.

“I swear to God, you’re going in this carrier….Cat…Cat…No, seriously. Give up….Oh, Lord.”


“How did you get prunes in your ear?”


“Should I put the baby in pants?”

Husband: What do you mean? Of course you should put him in pants! He can’t just go out in a diaper!

“I meant, just a onesie or jeans over the onesie. Geez. Have I ever taken him out in just a diaper?”

Husband: “No! That’s why I thought it was weird!”


“How did you get pee in your socks?”


“You are taking this pill, Cat. I swear…you are taking this pill.”


“Oh, my gosh, how are you hungry again?”


“No, in fact, I am NOT awake. Leave that baby in his crib. He’s still asleep. Do not bring him in here…Hi, baby!”


“How did you get cereal in your eyebrow?”


“Cat, do not poop on my floor…do not poop on my floor….Oh, man…”

Let sleeping cats lie: A life lesson

by SweetMidlife

Let her lie. Let her lie.


This cute, slumbering ball of fluff is Frances “Baby” Houseman Streeter-Zervitz, aka Babycat, aka Baby, aka Babycat Jackson, aka Myrtle. Doesn’t she look sweet? She’s so fluffy and innocent, probably dreaming of rainbows and milk and how to kill us in our sleep once we teach her how to open cans and the refrigerator.

Which is why I am not going to wake her up. She’s old and deserves her sleep. She also is a complete vicious jerk when that sleep is disturbed. Wiktionary.com defines the idiom “let sleeping dogs lie” like this:

(idiomatic) To leave things as they are; especially, to avoid restarting or rekindling an old argument; to leave disagreements in the past.

I imagine that the sleeping dogs come in because they, like those arguments and disagreements, are just sitting there passively and not bothering anyone, but will erupt into angry balls of teeth if you mess with them. And they’re sometimes big and clawed and awful.

Sleeping cats are similar. Even if they’re smaller (unless they’re that mysterious big cat roaming Detroit), they bite. They can claw the crap out of you. And…this is the thing about cats…they remember. They are vindictive. They will lie in wait for you and smack you with intent, and you can’t remember anything you’ve done to them in the last day that would provoke such a mauling. But they do. They remember. And they are watching.

Always watching.

So the lesson is that you should let sleeping cats lie. Because not only are they ready to explode at whoever woke them, they’re also maybe already got beef. And that never ends well.

Five things I like about working from home, off the top of my head

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here!

The nature of my job as a reporter/columnist/professional kvetcher allows me, with the magic of technology, to work from the relative comfort of my own home a couple of times a week. I also sometimes work from restaurants, hotels, concert venues, vacations, tarmac-bound planes and, once, the lobby of the car rental facility at Thurgood Marshall (BWI) Airport where I interviewed Kathy Griffin on the phone as my poor husband lugged the bags behind me.

While I love being in the office for creativity and inspiration purposes, not having to is pretty sweet. Here are five things off the top of my head I dig about it:

– I can be a little more flexible about my workout schedule, although sometimes work takes over and the workouts don’t get scheduled at all, making me prioritize.

– It’s easier to plan healthy meals and not be distracted by whatever carby deliciousness is wafting from the cafeteria at the office.

– I can blog with “What Not To Wear” on in the background, which I am doing right this minute. Girl, don’t wear that.

– I can work in my pajamas.

– My cat likes it, although it takes her a few minutes to reconcile Mom Work Mode with what she wants, which is Mom As A Food Fetching Ottoman Mode.


What do you like about working at home those of you who can?

Don’t move the furniture, or frugally loving your pet

by SweetMidlife

Hard at work, working off that expensive health care.

Leslie here!

Years ago, our Aunt Ann and Uncle Andre inherited my Great Aunt Tootsie’s cranky old diva poodle Frisky. They were a hilarious team, mostly because Uncle Andre is a manly guy who balked at the idea of something that weighed five pounds technically being a dog, let alone his dog. They spoiled that thing horribly, which she believed was no more than she deserved. But when Frisky got older, she developed cataracts which made it difficult for her to see, particularly in their large, old house with the steep steps. But they loved that dog, and wanted to do anything to make her comfortable…within reason.

“You have two choices,” their vet said. “You can either get her cataract surgery….”

“Or?” my aunt and uncle asked, probably calculating their retirement being re-routed to doggie eye care.

“Or you could just not move the furniture, because she already knows where she’s going even if she can’t see.”

Well, then. The furniture stayed where it was, and even as Frisky’s sight began to go, she navigated the place just fine, with an occasional bump. By the time she went off to that shiny dog spa in the sky, she was very, very old, and wasn’t really walking much anyway. So the dog was just fine, and the money stayed in the bank.

I love animals – I’ve had three that were/are my heart and soul, two of which died and left me a little heartbroken – Sweeney of an infection at 8, Cusack of a brain tumor at about 13. I spent a good bit of money on various things that went above and beyond usual checkups and was happy to do it, but I was always nervously reading pamphlets in the waiting room about expensive pet dental work, or cancer treatments. What would I do if one of my pets needed some crazy surgery? Would I go broke trying to pay for it, or would I try to make them as comfortable as possible, opting to extend my capital towards…human pursuits?

This brings me to the Babycat, our fine feline friend. She was about five when she found me – you never know with the street kitties – which would make her 13 or 14 now. She’s a talky, quirky, imperious little thing, and as she’s aged she’s slowed down a little. She’s also lost some weight in the last few months, and last week, when we took her into the vet dehydrated, skinny and constipated (and also not a little gross) we learned that she has a hyperthyroid condition, something common in older cats.

“Hopefully it’s not her kidneys,” my vet, who I adore, said, “because she’s probably not a candidate for a kidney transplant because of her age.”

I kind of nodded, dazed, and then ran out to call my husband.

“They say she’s not eligible for a kidney transplant because of her age.”

“No, she’s not eligible for a kidney transplant,” Scott answered, “because she’s a cat.”

I know there are cat mommies and daddies who are going to think me a lout and a bad mommy, or a cheapskate. I don’t think I am – We just gladly paid $600 for expensive foods, blood work, steroid injections, flea dipping, boarding (we were headed out of town the week we took Babycat in) and some stuff for PH balance that she hates. Oh, and an antibiotic that she tries to spit back in my face. (I know this was done on purpose.) And when she’s stronger we’re putting her on this special food that, should she eat it, both nourishes her and treats her hyperthyroidism.

That costs $17 a bag.

But we’re gonna buy that food. We want to make Babycat comfortable, to gain weight and be spunky and to live as long as she can. But here’s where I am – as old as she is, a lot of things, including the transplant or kitty radiation, both of which cost thousands of dollars, would be painful and possibly harmful to her. Also, she’s already at the average age of cats. As far as I’m concerned, she’s had a remarkable life – a kitty in a strange city who somehow made it to South Florida from the wilds of Pittsburgh, according to the unregistered ID chip in her neck, surviving on the streets of West Palm till my friend found her outside and convinced me to take her in. And for eight years, she’s had a big condo mostly to herself, with a view of the water, free food and treats and love, without a job or insurance.

She even got a daddy when her single mom got married three and a half years ago. So as far as I’m concerned, Babycat has beat the odds. She’s living the dream. She is a stirring movie, and if she were a human Viola Davis might play her and win an Oscar.

All of that to say that even if she were eligible and needed it, Babycat would not be having a kidney transplant. We would change her diet and hang out with her and buy her anything we could to make her comfortable. But we would not be spending thousands of dollars on a transplant for a cat, even a cat we love. We hope to adopt a human baby sometime soon, and cannot in good conscience give money that would be going to care for him/her to kitty surgery.

We are not judging rhose who would do that, because what you do with your money is your business, and your love for your pet is yours, and special and beautiful. I love my Babycat, and maybe if there were different circumstances, like she was younger and healthier, or we were richer, I might change my mind if she needed that transplant, which she does not.

But I don’t think so. Does that make me a bad mommy?

What do you think?

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