Creature Comforts

Dear Westley,

How are you? I am fine. Well, actually, I am not fine. I am so very not fine, in fact, that I am cutting into my morning nap time to write you this letter. (You know that’s serious!) I had to have Wyatt the cat help me type this, because he has much more experience with computers, being that he’s always sitting or stepping on the keyboards. He spends a lot of time on Facebook and shopping for stuff, so I figured he’d know how to get this letter to you somehow. He says now that there’s access to an iPad, surfing the net’s a piece of cake. I think he just ordered a piece of cake to make his point. He’s also the handsomest, awesomest, smartest cat I know – probably in the whole world. And he made me promise not to tip him over and rudely molest him or make fat jokes about him for at least a week. No, a MONTH. How long is a month?

How is sunny Florida? Grammy and Bop-bop keep sending pictures and videos of you and Niles running on the sand and playing in the waves. What’s it like on the beach? It looks like you and Niles have a lot of other dog friends there – do you miss me at all? I miss you a whole lot. I’ll bet Niles doesn’t know the first thing about keeping the insides of your ears clean, and what about thinning your feathery pants-fur out? Does he know how diligently I work at that? You must look a mess by now. Your tail must be all discombobulated. I will definitely have my work cut out for me when you return in the spring.

It’s horrible here. It snowed. A lot. Like, up to my neck! It’s cold and wet and yucky. The people thought it would be “fun” to take me and Miriam and Kevin and Shultz for a “nice” walk in the snow the night the big storm hit. I realize we all have big personalities, but dachshunds are not fond of deep snow. Miriam and I were made to wear “coats” because we are not sporting fluffy, warm pelts like Kevin and Shultz. It was warmer, but I still prefer to go “au naturel.”

The snow was coming down hard, and there was about 8 inches of the stuff already on the ground, and it was dark and nobody was around anywhere but us! I had to follow behind Kevin (because he’s a little jerk and always has to be first). But it got so deep on some sidewalks that we had to follow behind mom because we had to use her tracks to keep from having to pronk like antelopes through the frozen tundra. It was awful.

Well, OK, it was kind of fun running and smelling stuff under the snow and all, and we did get to see some creepy light-up deer (I almost peed myself when one moved its head – totally did not smell like deer – I steered clear of those alien beasts, to be sure). There’s these giant creatures all around the houses and weird lights and stuff. The whole landscape is different. Maybe the snow was throwing me off, but I could swear that stuff wasn’t there last time we walked around the neighborhood.

I spend most of my days and nights snuggled under piles of pillows and blankets on the couch or in bed. They make me go outside, but I do my best to avoid it whenever possible. Obviously, I need to go out to do my business, but I am very efficient, unlike the others, and I don’t need to go out nearly as often as Kevin and Miriam. They’re weird. According to Mom, they “can’t be trusted” and are made to go out every couple of hours. I make myself scarce until I am good and ready to brave the elements.

Things have improved since the new fence was installed. At least I no longer have to suffer the indignity and torture of being tethered to a leash and made to stand for long minutes in the bitter cold, having to hold my tender feet up at intervals, my pathetic whimpers falling on deaf ears while the others dillydally around sniffing and pacing and the like. Now, I do what I gotta do, and sprint back to the house.

At least I can get around OK. Shultz is so old, he sometimes won’t even leave the deck to do his business – I don’t know, apparently slippery steps aren’t his thing. Now, somebody’s got to go out and swab the poop-deck every day. Literally. It’s gross.

Since you left in the fall, the sun doesn’t seem to even make it all the way up into the sky. The days are definitely darker and colder without you, my friend. Wyatt thinks I’m sappy for missing you, but he’s a cat and cats are very unsentimental. Heck, I’ve never even seen him change that deadpan expression on his face, except when Mom offers him a sip of the milk leftover in her cereal bowl and he takes a big ol’ whiff of cinnamon – the way he squints and snaps his head back in disgust – hilarious! Cinnamon’s not so bad. I enjoyed eating those gingerbread man ornaments the kids made at school one year – plucked ’em right off the Christmas tree. The glitter was a bit gritty, and there was a strange gluey taste, but it was worth climbing up on the chair to sample them. Crunchy and delicious.

I hope you had a nice Christmas and tell Niles and Grammy and Bop-Bop I miss them, too. (Not as much as you, but we’re best buddies.) If there’s any way you can send for me, I’d be OK coming to visit where it’s warm, even if I had to leave here for a little while. The waves look scary and I’m not much into swimming, but I think I’d like to dig in the sand. Digging is fantastic. I would be a little homesick, and my family would miss my security services and sparkling personality immensely, so I wouldn’t be able to stay long, but see what you can do. You can be very persuasive, especially when you give them the sad, brown-eyed unbroken gaze. The paw placed on the knee is also a nice touch. I’m a bit short to pull that one off, but my classic dog begging stance is outstanding. If you practiced it, they’d probably give you anything.

Happy New Year. Send me a postcard!

Your BFF,


Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column prints every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at

Creature Comforts

The laundry is my job. My husband has not touched it since the “red sock incident of 1996.” Whenever I do the laundry, I have an audience. The cats find it necessary to actively observe my work, no matter how exhausted they are from doing nothing for 4-6 hour stretches all day.

Yawning and seeming mightily put-out, they appear on top of the dryer, gazing down at me as if to ask what my business is in their domain – it is, after all, where their food bowls reside and are magically filled twice a day. Perhaps they are hoping I forget the time and refill the bowls early. To this, I say: dream on, boys.

I don’t really mind doing the laundry, but lately I have been neglecting it, due to illness, lack of time and pure laziness. It has reached epic proportions. I am recently further delayed because I have been waiting for the FAA to install blinking lights to the top of the tallest stack of dirty clothes, so that low-flying planes can negotiate safely around it. Unfortunately, the FAA claims my laundry pile is out of their jurisdiction and now is NASA’s problem. NASA has informed me that since the pile is reaching the stratosphere, it would be more economically sound to arrange for the space shuttle to jettison the clothes pile into outer space and simply start over. It certainly negates the issue of looking for all those unmatched socks.

During my recent attempts to catch up with the laundry, I have realized that my cats have found yet another way to kill themselves. Not that they are suicidal, you understand. They simply are thrill-seekers, much like people who jump from bridges with a large rubber band tied to both ankles.

For example, I caught Wyatt recently balancing precariously on the tippy-top of the tallest heap of dirty laundry, and I had to rescue him from tumbling off at a dizzying height onto the floor. Ok, I was really plucking him off to save myself the trouble of re-forming the humongous pile of clothes, but it was annoying. Why was he up there, in the first place? Dare I ask – what was he thinking? Yeah, right. Thinking.

What next? Here’s where we get to the death-wish. When they were inquisitive and impulsive kittens, I caught Virgil and Wyatt on several occasions trying to time a leap just right, attempting to land silently inside the dryer as I loaded in the wet clothes. This may sound amusing, but it is not. I am describing a real syndrome in veterinary medicine called, “Dryer Kitty.”

The scenario goes like this: busy person, perhaps distracted by children or simply in a hurry, loads the heavy, wet clothes right on top of the curious kitty that has just jumped into the dryer to investigate. Nobody can hear the cat’s cries, since it is buried under a pile of wet clothes, and the dryer is closed and started.

If the cat is discovered missing right away and removed from the dryer, he may turn out a little dizzy and overheated, but will recover. But you can imagine the trauma he will suffer if nobody finds him until the cycle is finished.

I had the displeasure of seeing a “dryer kitty” in my last year of veterinary school while I worked my stint in the emergency room. This poor cat had not only been whirled around in a hot dryer for a few minutes and suffered heat stroke and trauma from all the spinning and struggling in heavy, wet clothes, but he was poisoned afterward. Yes, he was unlucky enough to be given a dose of Tylenol by the well-meaning, yet ill-informed owners before they decided to rush him into the ER.

Tylenol (acetaminophen) is extremely toxic to cats. It causes methemoglobinemia – the hemoglobin in the red blood cells gets all messed up and can’t carry oxygen anymore. These cats turn purple (and not a pretty shade) and their heads swell to about twice the normal size while they struggle to breathe and eventually die. There is an antidote to Tylenol, but it must be administered quickly in order to save the animal, and it is not often something that is sitting on the shelf, even in veterinary offices.

Please, when your pet is injured and you want to help, don’t open the medicine cabinet – call your veterinarian.

Now, we do have a front-loading washer in our home, but as yet, the cats have not attempted to jump into it. Not that I would put it past them, even at 9 years of age. Being trapped in the washer would be a really awful way to die, too, so I try to make it a habit to count both cats before I push the start buttons on either laundry device – just in case. Due to their extra-large adult sizes, they’re thankfully hard to miss.

Although it may seem like a nice idea in our modern world, don’t machine wash and dry your cat. Cat washing instructions should go something like this: Use warm water, hand wash gently with mild soap, rinse. Repeat only if you do not value your limbs and digits. Towel dry and stand back, or lay flat to dry in a sunny window. Never wring. For best results, dry clean only.

Daverio is a veterinarian at Williamsport West Veterinary Hospital. Her column prints every other Sunday in the Lifestyle section. She can be reached at