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Our Aging Pets

July 27th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
Isis, our Siamese cat, is 18 years old. I distinctly recall the day I brought her home. We claimed the entire back seat of the bus from New Jersey, she and I, bound for Port Authority Bus Terminal in NYC. She was actually meant for Michael; I was the designated guardian whose mission it was to drop her off at Michael’s apartment while he attended a Giants game at the Meadowlands. Because of this, I got to bond with her first. Frightened by her new and ever changing surroundings on our travels, I sought to comfort her. Scooping the tiny handful from her carrier, I held her to my chest. She purred, nestling up under my chin. I melted, giving myself up to her completely. And so we came to share a very special first connection. (She’s mine , Michael. Nah nah, nah-nah nah).
She thinks of me as mother, protector, (Snowshoe! Leave your sister alone!) friend, sister-feline, and not necessarily above all but oftentimes, waitress. (May I take your order, M’aam? No, I’m terribly sorry. We’re all out of trout. Might I interest you in today’s special: Chicken Florentine in Savory Sauce?) At one time possessing a voracious appetite yet managing to retain her sleek and slinky figure, Isis has grown increasingly discerning as the dawn descends on her aging profile. Ultimately thinner and fragile as a butterfly’s wing, I frantically reinvent creative ways to entice her to eat. (Isis! Look! It’s FANCY FEAST! WOW!) I even pretend to eat it myself as she watches in bland disinterest. The slightest consideration proven to tantalize her palate is served in double portions, in hopeful anticipation of a bowl licked empty to reveal the fishbone image at the bottom.
Isis has always been a complainer, whining at the tiniest inconvenience as though hapless victim to the  hardships of her posh lifestyle. Now, even more so. I attribute this to actual pain and discomfort in her aging, brittle boned composition, and rush her off to the vet. Various tests are run revealing a multitude of dysfunctions, some of which can be helped, the rest as insurmountable as the bill I’m handed when all is said and done. (Sixty dollars for taking a little blood out of her scrawny arm???) Charges for this. Charges for that. And there you have it….Three million, five hundred, forty two dollars and twenty nine cents. (Why can’t I include her on my medical benefits plan? She is my daughter. Well, no. I didn’t actually give birth to her. She’s adopted).
These days, I lavish extra love and attention on my tender friend. It’s as much a contributing factor to her slowly  increasing better health as the medication administered in her daily dosage. But facing facts and the harsh reality that will inevitably befall us, Isis will one day cease to walk the hallowed halls of home. Face it I must, with a sigh and a moan. It won’t be easy. In the meantime, there’s an oft repeated phrase in our household given Isis’s non relenting, audible demand for attention…. “What Isis wants, Isis gets!” For example: Open the closed door so that she might enter and reappear a moment later satisfied that there is nothing of interest on the other side of it after all. Repeat as often as necessary. Another example: Screams of bloody murder (from her) are soothed with gentle murmurings (by us) in attempt to calm whatever ailment afflicts her body, mind, or spirit. Sometimes this works, more often not. She’ll pace the house from room to room, a dispossessed being uncomfortable in her own skin. I turn a deaf ear, and she quiets. She can’t tell you what’s wrong, only that there’s something amiss. I know what it is. Old age digs in its heels. We either bear it or we don’t. There’s no third choice. But Isis is a survivor. Watching her prepares me for life’s final hurdle. To conquer it, is to go out fighting.
So…..whadawethink? How are you coping with your own aging pet? To what extremes do you go to comfort and provide?
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Perils Of Wisdom

July 14th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
I love the great outdoors. City born and bred, I quickly became enamored with country life early on by our many family outings to (a once wilder) Long Island and the deep woods of upstate New York. I vowed to one day move to the country and have had my dreams realized once or twice in my lifetime. Whatever circumstances intervened to keep me from my idyl, the thought of permanently returning is never far from my mind.
Lovely as it is, outdoor life has its dangers; poison ivy, bee stings, sunburn, getting lost in the woods, getting snowed in, mud slides (twice our dirt road was washed out by torrential rains that affected the entire upstate region causing a state of emergency). The majority of most of these perils can generally be avoided with just a little foresight (or hindsight if you’ve already had the misfortune to misjudge), while others are simply unavoidable. Common sense however, is the saving grace in all things. I’ve experienced all of the situations mentioned and have questioned my sense of judgement more than once to ascertain if my calamities were brought on by carelessness or happenstance. The conclusion is, invariably, both. But this is how we learn and the mistakes made never bear repeating. And if they do, we are at an advantage as to how to better handle them the second time around.
My biggest fear is an encounter with a wild animal such as a bear or a bobcat. Though both are said to be elusive, nature is unpredictable. I have never seen either one in its natural habitat, but they’re there all right. They see you . One deterrent is to make noise. Quiet by nature, I find this behavior a little out of character for me but my fear of coming face to face with a ferocious version of Smokey will prod me to do some things any sane person witnessing would find alarming. First Rule: Never venture out of doors without your hiking stick, though I tend to think of myself running in the opposite direction rather than actually poke Smokey in the nose with it. Rule Number Two: Make noise. My idea of making noise is to sing a ridiculous song at the top of my lungs in an over zealous manner. That should send Yogi and Boo Boo hightailing to Canada along with a good majority of the human population. Unfortunately, all I’ve thus far managed to do is send poor little Peter Rabbit scurrying for cover. Awww….and he was so cute too.
In years past, there was no threat of bears in our area but they’ve made a recent comeback in prolific numbers. Then again, how do we know they weren’t there before? Maybe we just didn’t see enough of them and what we’re seeing now is the baby boomer generation of bears. I shudder to think of my teenage hiking days, traipsing off into the woods by myself. I’d be quiet as an Indian to try and spot as many wild creatures as I could when all the while there’s old Bigfoot with his eye on me, salivating at the thought of a teen burger. Really, Mister Bigfoot, I’m too skinny, I might have protested. On the other hand, my younger cousin was entirely fearless. Come dusk, she’d grab her sleeping bag and head for the forest, all alone. I never thought that was a very wise thing to do then, and especially not now.
I think of my many foolish moments off on my own. Once I found a small cluster of black flowers growing at the base of a huge tree in the woods. I was intrigued. I had never seen black flowers before. I crouched down to examine the sharply pointed petals on their long smooth stems. There were only 3 or 4 of the flowers and none others nearby. I decided to bring them home and place them in a vase. Home, at the time, was just a short walk up the road. The moment the flowers were placed in the water filled vase, they drooped. As in, died. As if the most abhorrent thing in the world to them was water. It was like the scene in The Wizard Of Oz where the water gets thrown on the witch and she starts melting. I was perplexed and a little bit frightened. What flower doesn’t like water? What was this mysterious plant? I have searched the internet and have never found any wildflower remotely like it. It could have been the poisonous creation of Merlin the Wizard for all I knew.
The point to my ramblings is this; If you have any misgivings on what your foragings have to offer, heed them. Don’t touch anything that’s not familiar to you. Learn as much as you can about your surroundings and don’t go nosing around unless you know what you’re doing. Be alert to what’s happening around you. If you hear a humming sound and you’re in God’s Country, it’s probably not the drone of an airplane, but a swarm of bees that are not necessarily airborne but may very well be where your next step lands; on the ground. No matter how much we think we know, there will always be moments of wonder.
Happy Trails and have a Safe and Happy Summer!
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For The Birds

June 24th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor

While bike riding in the nearby Massapequa Preserve yesterday, I came across a glorious sight. Twelve swans floating as one in the creek that’s fed from the large pond a little further upstream. Other people also stopped to observe, one remarking “Six pair”. Everyone knows that where there’s one swan, there are usually two. Thus, multiple swans should turn out in pairs. They mate for life (something we humans can learn from). I spent a few moments drinking in their beauty before continuing on my way.
On my reverse trip, it seems that a Swan Lady had appeared, knee deep in the water, looking magical as the swans surrounded her. Then it became apparent, as the scene tarnished by the  fact that she was feeding them along with a smattering of baby ducks.  We were always told not to. Had something changed? As if reading my mind, she turned to me and said “It’s actually good for them. It’s wheat bread, not white”, she added in defense, as each swan politely took its turn accepting her offering by hand. I was somewhat skeptical but thought that she might be a swan expert, so certain was she in her conviction . She seemed pleased with herself at saying they had finished off the loaf. She had brought two and immediately began doling out the second one as more people gathered to watch. “Do you have any bread for the birds?” she asked a set of toddler twins. “If you do, then you can feed them too”.
On the other side of the preserve is yet another pond, along with a prominently placed sign facing Merrick Rd. DO NOT FEED THE WATERFOWL. It was posted by the Department of Environmental Conservation listing the reasons:
Poor Nutrition
Increased Hybridization
Water Pollution
Delayed Migration
Concentration At Unnatural Sites
Overcrowding
Spread of Disease
Costly Management Efforts
Unnatural Behavior
Cumulative Effects (one person feeds them, then another and so on)
Devaluation of the Species
And so, dear people, please leave nature to itself. It’s quite capable of providing for itself without any “help” from us, however well intentioned. It’s done so since the dawn of time. Take the bread home and spread some peanut butter and jelly on it for your kids. There are other ways of teaching your children about nature, beginning with suppressing the urge to feed the birds. They are not starving. They beg for food the same way your dog or cat does but the added distinction lies in the fact that these creatures are wild. So enjoy them at a distance with all the respect that they deserve. Meanwhile, the Swan Lady has prompted me to request another sign from the DEC to be posted at the Swan Lady’s site. It seems that it is she who needs to be re-educated, not I.
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The Egg Lady

June 12th, 2012 by Magdalena Tabor
“There it is”. I’ll point it out each time on our way to our country place. Sometimes I just say it to myself. Other times we drive by so fast I won’t see it coming. But always, I look for it. The ramshackle old farmstead with its cluster of outbuildings left abandoned now. It didn’t look much different back then, back in the 1970’s when my family and I first made our jaunts to the mountains that are so familiar to me now. We can find our way in the dark, and oftentimes do. I remember we always stopped at The Egg Lady’s. I know there used to be a sign for it somewhere – “Eggs”. A more prominent one announced – “Worms”. Guess fishing was in its hey day then. Anyway, we’d always stop for a couple of dozen eggs before continuing on our way.
The Egg Lady (or so she was known to us) lived all alone and ran a sort of gentleman’s farm, minus the gentleman and without the gentle manor lifestyle. In addition to eggs, she sold chickens, rabbits, worms, and even dirt. (If you can’t find dirt here, you won’t find it anywhere). Eggs were cheaper in the country – a dollar a dozen, and fresher too. Big, hearty, orange yolks swimming in their puddles of goo. Not like the puny yellow ones you get in the city. What would be the difference – they both come from chickens, right? Ah, but the country hen has free range (all the rage now) and is fed as a chicken should be fed, with scraps of leftovers in addition to its ration of mash, pellets, and cracked corn. The other guys (or gals, to be politically and biologically correct), the ones with the puny yellow yolks, are assembly line chickens, trapped within the confines of their clinical cages, and no table scraps for them. So why would they be expected to produce a better egg? It was well worth stopping at The Egg Lady’s.
She was attired as a farmer’s wife might be expected, going about her daily chores, but in stark contrast to her Beauty Parlor Blue hair she always wore stylishly arranged. She’d emerge from her weather beaten farmhouse that was worn down to its gray siding, stripped of its paint long ago. She hastily gathered enough eggs to make up the two dozen asked for, and placed them in recycled cartons she kept readily on hand. The chicken coops were intermingled with an assortment of rabbit hutches scattered haphazardly across the ground, and although an enormous barn stood alongside, it was never utilized for their benefit. When winter came, she simply covered them up with tarps of plastic. One day, there weren’t enough eggs outside so she had us come into the farmhouse for more. Standing in what should have been a functioning kitchen, were precariously piled newspapers, towering stacks of dishes, and all manner of odds and ends covering every available surface, so that it was virtually impossible to actually sit and eat a meal if one were so inclined. The sink was full of dishes that looked as though they had been there for an indeterminate length of time. It was even rumored that she had animals in the house. (What in heaven’s name was in that barn?) The truth dawned. The Egg Lady was a packrat, a hoarder, not the tidiest of housekeepers, and worse – we were eating her eggs….. But, I reasoned, the inside was pure and untouched. It was deemed safe enough. And besides, they tasted great.
Our relationship with The Egg Lady continued for some time but came to an abrupt halt when she raised the price of a dozen eggs from a dollar to a dollar fifty. (What! Highway robbery). They were suddenly the same price as those we could buy in the city. Still, they were way better. However, this is what hatched the plan, so to speak. It was decided that we would keep chickens of our own. House them in a proper coop (as opposed to housing them in a house), and give them enough food and water to last the week until we could arrive for the weekend and replenish their supply. Our first tenants came in the form of 6 baby chicks I was given as a surprise. But in a matter of weeks, they developed into 6 fine roosters (even more of a surprise). No eggs there (and no surprise there). Then one day, a baby chick stumbled into our driveway in the city. From whence he came, no one knew, but he picked the right house (someone must have told him) and we promptly scooped him up and drove him the 200 miles to chicken heaven where, in a matter of weeks, he too turned into a handsome rooster.  It wasn’t until we finally purchased 6 fully grown hens (we weren’t taking any more chances) from a nearby farmer, that we finally had a full fledged country breakfast and have continued the tradition ever since. This is the first year a brood of five chicks were hatched. It’s only a matter of time before we know…..
As for The Egg Lady, the farmstead has stood abandoned for several years now, she having passed on to perhaps a true gentleman’s farm where it’s hoped she doesn’t have to work so hard. Everything looks as it always did. I can finally see the sign I couldn’t seem to see before, in large hand blocked letters – EGGS. But no one ever stops anymore. I can’t help looking, though. As if I can glimpse her trailing through the barnyard in a sort of time warp, coiffed in blue elegance. But the meadowgrass is all that breathes, in a gentle whispering wind.
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The Easter Lagomorph Is Coming

March 8th, 2012 by Michael Tabor
Michael and I love our two Lagomorphs. What??? Put simply, our rabbits. In the past, it was thought that the rabbit belonged to the rodent family  but this is untrue and they should not be referred to as such. This is insulting to them. Besides being utterly cute, they make wonderful pets and they’re smarter than you may think. Not quite as bright as Bugs Bunny – more along the lines of Peter Rabbit in McGregor’s garden.
Blossom has quite a personality and if you’re under the mistaken assumptiion that she’s just some dumb bunny, you’re in for a rude awakening, and I do mean “rude”. Never, and I repeat this emphatically with the emphasis on the first syllable, NEV-er be so careless as to place your hand into her domain without placing the other available hand on top of her head. She will invariably bite you. Hard. Her otherwise sweet temperment will be dominated by her territorial instincts, and you (even if you come bearing gifts) are considered to be the intruder. When the cleaning lady arrives (that’s me), it gets even trickier but I have mastered the situation over time. She has to be lured into the outer section of her home (this being the sunroom) while I deftly grab a large piece of slate (used for this sole purpose, readily available) and cover the opening to prevent her from entering her loft (complete with cathedral ceiling). This is accomplished with the use of food as enticement. It works every time. The other day, however, she managed to move the heavy slate aside, which is no small feat when you consider it weighs a good deal more than she does. This would have proven disastrous for the unsuspecting cleaning lady busy about her task, for were Blossom to make her way inside, a set of acutely sharp incisors would have made their presence known. If Blossom were ever featured in a Flintstones cartoon, she would have been utilized as Fred’s razor to shave with in the morning. She even has the audacity to charge at you in defense of her turf and actually emits a small grunt- like noise in the process, stopping just short of you in an effort to frighten. It’s rather effective knowing she will nip you. When this happens, I laugh it off by calling her “The Big, Bad, Bunny”. It’s really very funny because she’s so cute (provided you escape the wrath of her teeth). When we bring her to the vet to have her nails clipped, they think she’s sooooo adorable! They don’t know the real Blossom.
Then there’s our other Lagomorph. Godiva. Whereas Blossom is snowy white, Godiva is like dark chocolate, hence the name. She is docile. Serene. Sweet. Clean. The complete antithesis to “The Big, Bad, Bunny”. That’s it. Nothing more to be said about Godiva. In no way is she the lesser of the two. She’s just “good”. More of what you would expect in the typical bunny.
If you’re thinking of getting a rabbit for your kid at Easter, you may want to reconsider. Rabbits demand a lot of attention and can easily become sick if not properly cared for. They need a variety of fresh greens daily in addition to fresh bedding, hay for consumption, and papaya pills to aid in good digestion. All these things can prove costly but if you’re dedictaed to their good health and well being, go for it – they are a constant source of amusement. They will interact at play, with toys made especially for rabbits. Have you ever seen a rabbit wash its face? Too cute! Or seen one yawn? Hilarious!

If you decide to keep them indoors, be sure to cover all your wiring with plastic tubing or they will disconnect your cable service, or eliminate your source of electricity and quite possibly themselves in the process. But if you choose to house them outdoors as we do, you’ll need to provide a constant source of shade as shelter from the sun and the elements. Many a bunny has suffered heat exhaustion and died as a result of exposure. In winter, a clear plastic covering acts as a sort of greenhouse effect. You may however, need to shovel a path in heavy snow. This is not always convenient but they will thank you for it. Don’t expect an outcry of “Hooray! We’re saved!” but instead, a little dance of appreciation to make you smile.
Never serve them wilted greens and not all greens are suitable. Not long ago, I purchased an assortment of greens from the local supermarket. On this particular day, the kale was so fresh that when I placed it on the kitchen counter, a large, bright green grasshopper crawled out of it! Now that’s FRESH! Needless to say, I was quite freaked out by this display and had to contain my anxiety and act fast before he hopped off into the nether reaches of the kitchen’s recesses. He made a feeble attempt at a hop, having survived the trip from California, to the Pathmark on Long Island, into the plastic  stay-fresh bag, wheeled around for a tour in the cart, ferried down the conveyer belt to be rung up, placed into another plastic bag with a multitude of sundries, back into the cart for a bumpy ride across the parking lot and into the back of the Jeep before reaching our home as its final (?) destination. So, little wonder that by this time he might feel a bit woozy, much to my benefit. I hastily grabbed the plastic bag from which he had just been removed and gently covered him, scooped him up, and raced to the front door. Snow was in the night’s forecast but no matter. He would find quick refuge under one of the many cedar bushes outside. Now, as anyone who knows me can verify, I am not, not, not, a bug person but as Michael often quotes, “All life is precious”. This being said and my duty done, I found it safe at this point to promptly freak  with an audible  “Eeeeeeeee!” shrieked several times in succession while shuddering and stomping my feet at the horrific ordeal I’d just encountered. I hate to think of what would have happened had I put the kale into the refrigerator along with “Grasshopper”. Might he have eaten all of the meat loaf? Or jumped out at Michael during one of his late night binges? I can picture him waking me up to tell me about it, and me saying “Go back to bed, It was only a nightmare”. Oh yeah??? Then where’s all the meat loaf?

In short, if you are prepared to deal with all this for the sake of a cute little, button-nosed bunny, then you are ndeed the perfect candidate for just such a pet. Make the leap only by making the commitment. Otherwise, stick with the chocolate version. Might I suggest Godiva?
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If You Love Animals, Help Save Feral Cats

October 30th, 2011 by Magdalena Tabor

Winter is fast approaching and if you’ve been feeding those feral cats all summer long, they’ll need a warm  dry place to stay. People have all kinds of misconceptions about cats. Because of their independent nature, people tend to think cats can fend for themselves and to a certain extent they can. But the sad truth is, these animals won’t live very long if they’re forced to endure extreme cold wet weather year after year. It takes its toll. So, you’ve been feeding that feral cat? Good for you! Now take the extra step in prolonging that precious little life.
I never intended to become the Cat Lady. It happened one winter when I was feeding the birds in my backyard. A small white cat would visit the feeder each day and in ignorance I would shoo her away. What I believed to be mischievous behavior was completely misunderstood. That pile of feathers revealed something more. Put simply, she was starving. I caved in. “Catherine” was fed from that day forward and was my friend for nearly ten years. Others came during this time – her sidekick Heathcliff. And a male I thought I’d been feeding (Mr. Linton) gave birth one Spring to three healthy kittens. I trapped and kept one. My intention was to trap and neuter them all but before I could bat an eyelash, three months later Mrs. Linton got pregnant again. This time there were four. God knows what happened to the other two from the first litter after a not so neighborly neighbor trapped and brought them to a local animal shelter. I was determined this would not be the fate of the second litter. But I needed help and fast!


I queried and I called but it wasn’t until I sought the expertise of two dedicated people at a local organization that things finally began to take shape. They lent me their Have-A-Heart traps for free and helped me to trap all four female kittens along with their mother. Oh, it wasn’t easy. It took round the clock supervision to trap them one by one but in the end it was worth it. When they were brought to be neutered, they discovered that Mom was “in the family  way” once again and so was one of the kittens at just three months old!
So, number one. You must trap and neuter your feral cats. As humans, we are responsible to take on the challenge and reduce the number of feral cats safely and humanely. After all, the problem exists because of us – beginning with the domestic house cat we failed to spay or neuter. Since this is the root of the problem, it’s also the means to its end. And just because you have a male cat, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be neutered too. What do you think he’s going to do with all that unharnessed energy? Contact any feral cat organization for help and information. They’ll also put you in touch with how to house your furry friends.
Mine are bundled all safe and snug on my backyard deck which happens to have an awning. Three separate units (small dog houses or large plastic pet crates) are clustered together with warm wool balnkets and rugs inside each one. Or you can even use straw for warm dry bedding. Styrofoam sheets for insulation along with plywood for stability (purchased at Home Depot) are stacked around the units and the whole shebang is covered with a heavy duty plastic tarp to keep out all that wind and snow. They love it. It’s like winter camp. When Spring arrives, simply take it apart, wash the blankets and store them for next season. Replace the winter blankets with some soft cotton ones as shelter against the hot sun and the occasional summer thunderstorm or if we happen to have a rainy season.
My five lovely ladies are happy, healthy and a source of constant joy all year long. Although I’ve given up feeding the birds (an unfair disadvantage to them with five cats to battle) I wouldn’t trade what I have now for anything in the world. They’ve gone from feral to friendly as nature intended. And the glow I feel inside having given them the life that they deserve goes beyond all measure. They give me so much more in return. Keep in mind, if you want to domesticate your furry family, you need to invest in the time. You can gain their trust by keeping perfectly still and letting them go about their business. Attempt to give them treats and eventually they’ll eat right out of your hand. I made it a daily habit of sharing my dinner with them. It took several months but now we’re friends for life.
I want to publicly thank Rob and Joanne at All About Spay & Neuter for their invaluable help four years ago. Please do your part and help support your local feral cat organization or get involved by writing to your congressman to stop the senseless killing of feral cats. The answer is “Trap, Neuter, Return”, an effective measure in eliminating feral cat colonies over time.  To learn more, log on to Alley Cat Allies. Give cats a voice.
So…………..whadayathink? Was this article helpful to you? Will you get more involved and help spread the word? Thanks for reading.

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