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Bitu's Diary

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The Mouse That Got Away

February 4th 2011 8:08 pm
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My younger human has to take medicine that requires her to take her dairy products at a certain time of day so there won't be a reaction. So that's why she loads up on cheese, ice cream and chocolate (among other things) at lunchtime and that after getting done with her clinic appointments or while out doing other things such as when she and my older human had to get ID cards from the bus company because they use senior citizen and disabled tickets and bus passes. There's a food court in a mall converted from an old department store downtown where my people get pizza slices and other things with cheese (like cheesecake) several times a week. They were having cheese pizza slices, pasta salad, breadsticks, a brownie they split between themselves, and cups of Diet Pepsi today when a mouse came from out of nowhere and tried to find a hole to escape into while getting away, though it disappeared up the hall away from the food court before anybody could do anything about it. It was reported, though nobody knew what became of it. When my people got home, they asked me why I wasn't there to get the mouse they saw. It made me so mad to miss such a rare opportunity like that that I scratched a box in frustration. But suppose I'd been there to catch that mouse? Where could I have gone to get more after that one would be gone? That's a real puzzler.


Pumpkin's Trip Out West

February 8th 2011 8:46 pm
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After being beaten again in the daily quizzes by Bitu on the computer, Pumpkin got a surprise in the Catster Mail. It was a letter from Jason Hopper inviting her family to visit him in California.
After rounding up John Hunt Morgan and the kittens J.J. and Mitzie, the four of them took a plane from New Jersey to California. After they found Jason Hopper waiting for them at the arrival gate, he gave Pumpkin a hug and shook paws with John Hunt Morgan. Then Jason Hopper looked at the kittens and exclaimed, “You two sure have grown! The last time I saw you, you were just little balls of fluff!”
As they made their way out the airport exit, the contrast between the cold winters of New Jersey and the welcoming warmth of California were immediately apparent. Pumpkin couldn’t get enough. “Just feel that warm sun!” she exclaimed in delight. “So different from the snow and ice of New Jersey!”
“I have an idea! Why don’t we relax on the lounge chairs at your hotel?” Jason Hopper suggested. So after the family checked into their hotel, they spent the afternoon lounging on chaise lounges by the pool, soaking up such a warm sun as Pumpkin hadn’t seen since last summer in New Jersey.
The next day, they went on a bus tour to see the homes of various movie stars. As they boarded the bus before the tour, the kittens appeared confused. “Where’s Bitu?” one of them asked. “Won’t she be running the tour?”
John Hunt Morgan and Pumpkin didn’t know what to say. So Jason Hopper tried to explain, “She couldn’t come, kids. She had to stay home with her people.” While this was true, Jason Hopper thought she should be spending time being affectionate to her people, though more than likely she’d be in the bathroom in her younger human’s room trying to take a nap on one of the rugs her people used to keep from falling.
As the tour bus drove along, the guide pointed out various homes of famous movie stars from years gone by. Though John Hunt Morgan and Pumpkin had some appreciation for the familiar names, J.J. and Mitzie appeared confused. Jason Hopper made a note to himself to look up various movies with those stars so the kittens could know what they’d done during their careers in life.
They were confused about something else too. “Why can’t we go inside?” one of the kittens asked.
“They don’t even let people into the movie stars’ homes.” Jason Hopper explained. He made another note to himself to find some disks showing the interiors of some famous movie stars’ homes so the kittens could see what they were missing now.
The next day the family made a trip to Disneyland. The kittens were overwhelmed by the larger-than-life Mickey Mouse. Then J.J. overcame his initial fear and assumed a crouching position, gazing intently at Mickey Mouse and flicking his tail. “What are you doing, J.J.?” Pumpkin wanted to know.
“I’m going to get that giant mouse, Mama!” J.J. announced. “He’d give us dinner for a week!”
As J.J. was debating how to capture the giant Mickey Mouse, John Hunt Morgan ducked into one of the souvenir shops and emerged several minutes later with a plush Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. He held them up and asked, “Will these do instead?”
Mitzie eagerly grasped the plush Minnie Mouse in her paws. While J.J. was persuaded to take his plush Mickey Mouse, he was disappointed that he couldn’t have caught the giant Mickey Mouse instead.
The family went on various rides in the park and saw a couple stage shows. The kittens held their plush Mickey and Minnie Mouse tightly the whole time.
They also took a trip to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre where various movie stars had taken time to leave their handprints and footprints in cement along with their autographs. But the kittens were disappointed that there were no pawprints of any famous cats to look at.
The trip to California was over all too soon. As they flew back to New Jersey, Pumpkin was wishing she could take some of the warm California sun she craved back with her to make the cold and icy New Jersey winters warm and bright whenever she wanted to.


Minnie's Person Is Gone

February 9th 2011 1:44 pm
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Those who know about me know that I'm my people's second cat after Minnie who died of a bad case of fleas in 2005. Before my people got her, she was on the sixth floor of the building where we live with a man who wanted her as a companion for the cat he already had. It never did work out - even after Minnie moved to my younger human's room on the fifth floor she never liked that other cat. The last time she saw him, she went into the main fifth-floor hallway, stood nose to nose with him and gave him a big hiss. Then when she died in 2005 of a bad case of fleas, the guy who gave her to my people thought they'd had her put to sleep, but she died naturally. And now the guy from the sixth floor who gave Minnie to my people is gone too. He died of cancer within the last few days, but he was a smoker anyway. We don't know whether Minnie's been told of it at the Rainbow Bridge or not.


My Younger Human's Day At the Hospital

February 23rd 2011 8:24 pm
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My younger human was born with cerebral palsy in the hips and legs, though her intellect is as normal (if not superior in some respects) as anybody else's. She's always been considered a "mild to moderate"case since her balance and mobility are the most affected. She's had her share of trips to the hospital, most of which were frightening and painful owing to the several operations she had on her hips, legs and feet which left both physical and emotional scars. Long before Minnie or I were ever thought of, she thought the last time WAS the last time until within the last several months. She'd been losing blood over several months like an extended period which she wasn't overly concerned about until large clots were coming out along with the blood flow. On top of that, she was losing her breath getting into her wheelchair which was overestimated in the height by whoever took her measurements the last time she needed a new one after the other one was overrun by the bedbugs plaguing the building at the time (the wheelchair was eleven years old by that time anyway). It turns out that she'd gotten down to one-third of the normal blood supply and she could die if nothing was done. In order to find out the cause of this, several ultrasounds were taken to see what could be seen within her reproductive system. Since she'd never had kids, it seemed unusual to my people that something should go wrong there, but the doctor insisted on something being done. It turned out that my younger human's uterine lining was larger than it should be, plus there was something in the uterus that made her look several months pregnant even though she'd never had kids in her life. This brought up the possibility of some kind of cancer, even though my younger human has never smoked. When the possibility of an operation came up, all the things that had frightened and pained my younger human came back - things she could hardly ever talk about. The thing she was scared of the most was having a mask put over her face like all the other operations except for one where she was given a shot in the arm of some kind. They never told her what they used that time, but she was wishing somebody would find it on her records so they could use that stuff again. The first time several years before that was especially frightening. Whoever was the anesthesiologist at the time asked her to blow a couple times on his fingers and said she would be put to sleep with a "magic mask". That night was the first time she rolled her head from side to side before she managed to get to sleep and it took her years to get over doing that. The actual mask looked like the earpiece of a telephone receiver attached to the same kind of cord as the end of the receiver you talked into, but it still frightened my younger human no end. Being in her fifties by now didn't make the prospect of an operation any less frightening, even though this time she had the chance to go home the same day and had less chance of adding to her collection of painful scars. My older human tried to convince her that things had gotten better in later years because he didn't remember having anything put over his face when he had a colonoscopy several years before, even though they never found anything of concern despite the fact that he had a lot wrong with him at once in 2003 - a high fever, dehydration, a rash, pneumonia and I don't know what else (Minnie had been with my people about four months by that time), though my younger human wasn't convinced. When she went to see the doctor for the preliminary discussion closer to the time of the day for the operation, she told him in Spanish that she was afraid and he said there was nothing to worry about (the regular doctor who recommended him thought my younger human would enjoy talking Spanish with him occasionally). She stayed up all night the night before, trying to hold on while she had to hold off eating and drinking until after everything was over and worrying more about the process than about what they might find. It was bad for her too in the sense that the folks wouldn't be there like all the other times because they'd died long years before, or they'd be beside my older human in the waiting room. It was raining by the time my people got onto the shuttle bus to the hospital after getting off the train, and the rumors of snow weren't helping matters, though my people knew that our building wouldn't get snow that would stick unless the freezing level hit the valley floor, though they knew the higher elevations always got it first. They made their way to the Short Stay Unit on the third floor of the hospital where my younger human was checked in and shown to a room to wait out her time, though it helped that my older human was there. They got a real laugh when they heard that the anesthesiologist of the day would be Miles Standish like the Miles Standish of the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - "a maker of war and not a maker of phrases". My older human was worried because they anticipated starting late because of a case ahead of my younger human's case. Because of the delay, my people got somebody other than Miles Standish, even though the thought of him helped to relieve the tension. To my younger human's immense relief, they put something in the IV tube to put her out. She remembered being put on the operating table, then after that she woke up in the recovery room. It was the second time she could remember being in a room like that with other patients, though the other time she was probably the youngest one there. When the nurses thought she was ready, they took my younger human to a room like the one she waited in before, though it confused my older human as to why they would take my younger human to a different room from the one she started at. But he was especially relieved that my younger human had no cancer, though the uterine lining still had to be pared down somewhat. The nurses checked my younger human's reaction to food and drink in her system by giving her some crackers and ice water to see how she could hold them down. Then a while after that my younger human was allowed to get her clothes on again and get back into her solid-seated wheelchair. They tried to keep my people from going back on the train, but since they don't drive, they felt more comfortable being on the train and they felt that whatever they worked on at the hospital wouldn't be adversely affected. So after signing a paper, my people headed back to town and made their way to the Subway booth in the same food court where I missed the opportunity to catch a real-live mouse. They had chicken and rice soup, a foot-long chicken teriyaki sandwich, a bag of Doritos pizza chips, some chocolate chip cookies, several pieces of strawberry-cream cheese strudel, and some Sprite. My younger human managed to hold her food down all right, but she was still so tired that she drifted in and out at home until early this morning. She has to go back in a couple weeks for a follow-up, but that's much less frightening than what she thought would happen at the hospital. Jason Hopper was right - the Big Cat (as he says) came through for my people again.


An Electronic Dog Named Precious

March 7th 2011 11:10 pm
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Most people like having real-live pets like me. But some like to have electronic pets too. My younger human belongs to a page where one of the main draws is to have your own electronic pets - dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, fish and a few others. She started with four (a cat named after the real Playful Ebersold who lives in California - known to her friends as Playful the Empurress, a pit bull named Blackie, a rabbit named Dash whose name is based on the dog featured in the movie The Young Victoria called Dashie, and a dalmatian named Domino). Another pit bull named Boxer came to her all by himself as a three-time runaway from another kennel, and my younger human's electronic kennel has never been the same, though she loves Boxer as dearly as the rest. After the first several pets you get yourself, people can either send you one as a present or let you adopt them in after almost a week of petsitting (the sixth day is always exciting at that point when you get to adopt somebody in you've been caring for), or you get to keep certain pets as permanent fosters because the adoption option isn't available for them, which can be an unfortunate thing. If the person who gave them to you goes inactive after a certain number of months, the account goes down and you lose your permanent fosters. That's what has happened to my younger human. Besides a pit bull named Blake, somebody gave her another dog named Precious and a pet rock named Dozer as permanent fosters. She was able to take in Blake all right, but she wondered if she might lose Precious and Dozer someday since they couldn't be adopted. The pet rock was of less importance because those kept as permanent fosters can't develop to the point where a dragon could be hatched, though those with their own pet rocks are eager to bring forth a dragon, only to complain if they don't get the color they want. But Precious was a sister to Blake even though they were different breeds and she was considered a "premium pet" even though they're not adoptable from others except as gifts in the beginning. My younger human ran Blake and Precious together as often as she could, but tonight Precious came up missing from her pet list. My older human thought she punched the wrong button and lost her that way, but she acted on a hunch and looked up the name of the person Precious had come from. As she'd suspected, the name came up missing, so Precious and Dozer were gone too. My younger human decided to take in another dog like Precious, wondering how she could ever tell Blake that his sister had gone to the electronic pets' equivalent of the Rainbow Bridge through no fault of his own or on my younger human's part. Were he real-live like me, Blake would probably look for her and wonder why she'd be missing. My younger human might get another electronic pet to name after Dozer sometime soon, but she might not get a pet rock like Dozer was who went missing with Precious. She's fonder of the four-legged pets anyway. We can hope that the electronic pets will become real-live in another life and they and their people can spend time together that they lost while being parted on Earth. It's not the same as being reunited with a real-live pet exactly, but the feelings will probably be the same. And who hasn't wanted their electronic pet to be real-live at some point to give the same love and companionship as any real-live pet would? We don't want to say goodbye to Precious because she hasn't died like a real pet would, but we hope she knows that we'd like to see her again someday along with all the real pets we hope to be reunited with. But how are we going to break the news to Blake?


I Never Thought I'd See the Day

March 17th 2011 11:39 pm
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I have a reputation of absolutely hating fish, despite what my Humane Society papers say. I've even gone so far as to hiss at fish when seeing them on TV in nature shows and I won't go near Goldfish Crackers. Then late tonight my older human got the munchies and my younger human offered to warm up some salmon patties from our most recent Schwan's delivery. They fixed a couple of them like sandwiches and had a few chips besides. When I get the notion to share time with my people (at least with my older human), I indicate in various ways that I want a bite of something he's having, or at least a lick of it. What was I thinking, knowing that there was a salmon patty between two slices of bread? The first time my older human held down his sandwich, I sniffed it and licked it, though my people wonder if I might have actually taken a lick of the salmon. Then after that I took a couple bites of the bread. Even if my younger human would have managed to take a picture, there would be intense debate among my dog and cat friends as to whether I'd actually licked the salmon or not. Since we still have several salmon patties to finish, the debate will continue among my people as to whether I might finally break down and have a bite of fish which I haven't had for some years since I've been with my people except for when they mix Meow Mix Seafood Middles in my dry food with several other varieties. If I do, I'll have to ask myself again, "What was I thinking?"


Getting Back To Normal

November 6th 2011 9:19 pm
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It's been a long seven months. My younger human has been subjected to excessive inspections by our building manager, resulting in my scratching boxes being taken away, but not entirely by my people's own choice, since they know how scratching boxes can be a great stress reliever. I was so traumatized that I didn't even scratch the box my people managed to save for me, though the manager didn't understand (how can somebody understand who's never had a cat?). On top of it all, I even stayed out of my favorite chair, though my older human insists on borrowing it whenever my younger human uses the cat scoop in my litter box (he holds the bag while my younger human uses the cat scoop). Then while my younger human was away from home in October getting her sore left leg tended to at the hospital and a care facility, I started scratching a box when I heard she was coming home, though I hissed at her the day she came home, but more for the principle of the thing. Then tonight I relaxed in my favorite chair again. My people think I'm finally getting back to normal. We can only hope the good times will outlast the bad ones.


The C & D Monthly Press - April 2009 - July 2012

July 10th 2012 4:37 pm
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I've been considered the greatest - and sometimes most controversial - feline voice in journalism. But for a little over three years I was the undisputed editor of The C & D Monthly Press. It was too big to be confined right from the start. After one issue on the free site from Earthlink - where we have our internet account - we were obliged to add web hosting to be able to accommodate all the pictures we ended up using. They ranged from portraits of the Dog and Cat of the Month to the contributions of various members, such as Teddy's modeling jobs from England. But the heart of the newsletter was the coverage of the trips, from Hong Kong to Alaska to Romania - including the castle believed to belong to the notorious Dracula. There were scenic shots and pictures showing various dogs and cats enjoying themselves as tourists. There were also a few social events, but they only interested me as a reporter - as a practical matter, I rarely added to the forums myself because they were so hard to keep up with, so I usually trailed along and copied things which could be included in the article I anticipated writing. Most of our readers admired my way with words, even when I mentioned something briefly on the front page. But when we started missing trips in 2011, it was hard to maintain the quality our readers had come to expect and which I demanded from myself (and my secretary). Life tried to get in the way - such as when my younger human needed care for her sore left leg and lost blood over months to where she was down to one-third her normal blood supply - but we kept at it, even though several double issues were necessary. After waiting almost two years for the resumption of the trips that were the virtual life-blood of The C & D Monthly Press, it was getting harder to keep up hope. My older human hinted that it was time to quit as long as there were no trips to cover. Other members started coming forward with the same suggestion, but not always in a friendly way. The pressure became too much to bear. The first thing to go was the Readers' Choice Poll which was originally added to stimulate reader interest and participation. That was a favorite part of the newsletter among our readers, even though sometimes there was just one interview and sometimes no interviews at all. But even before my younger human had pressed the button that spelled the newsletter's demise, she cried to think that all that hard work was ultimately for nothing, despite my efforts to push her to get it out in time. I wonder now how many will actually miss The C & D Monthly Press. I'd like to be able to promise our supporters that we'll be back when things get better, but it might turn out to be as prolonged a wait for that as for the trips that made The C & D Monthly Press great. And even if somebody else comes along someday to assume the editorship, I'll never let them forget that I came first.


How To Revive Interest In Dogster and  Catster -  by Bitu McClintock

July 12th 2012 4:02 pm
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That is the question -  how to turn things around so Dogster and Catster can go from virtually dying as they seem to be now to the vibrant, fun places they once were. But what are the problems that need the most attention? 

One constant problem which has been ignored even in the more independent days has been that official friendships have not been allowed across party lines, so to speak. Dogs can only send friend requests to dogs and cats can only send friend requests to cats, making it harder for those who would really like to reach out and make the other side feel welcome. But the traditional barriers need to be broken down to make that possible.

Groups can only go so far - it needs the additional individual touch as well. As the founder and president of several groups myself, I can remember when I wrote individual welcome letters that newcomers appreciated because they often went beyond the standard form letter. As I ponder our current overall crisis, I wonder why I left off doing that.

Then there are the various technical difficulties known proverbially as the Dogster and Catster "fleas" - the bane of existence all across the board. The technical service department needs to be expanded to adequately address the problems that are currently keeping many away. The computer program files need to be checked to see which ones  have been corrupted and need to be taken out, such as when an e-mail file on our Mac Mini was corrupted and causing multiple duplicate e-mails. After the problem was fixed, we unsubscribed from a number of things as a precaution, making the e-mail much easier to handle. 

And this brings to mind one of the suggested solutions discussed in one of the forums - combining similar groups in order to minimize duplication. But in order to make those mergers successful, it has to be done in such a way that feelings don't get hurt if at all possible. This has yet to be worked out.

Another suggestion that would require expansion of the technical service department would be the creation of an app to maintain contact with Dogster and Catster on the go - a must when you're not near the computer. But keep in mind that it needs to be compatible with multiple phone and tablet systems and should be easily maintained to ensure overall satisfaction. And there needs to be access to the full site, as an app leaves out many things that only the full site can provide.

There has also been a call to bring back instant messaging. While not a big fan of it myself - though I've indulged in it on rare occasions at Facebook for the sake of several Dogster and Catster friends- it should be an option for those who prefer it while allowing the rest of us the more traditional channels of communication.

That brings up another complaint among those who would like a return to the more personal touch - being absorbed into a larger corporate entity has caused some to forget what it meant to hear from somebody who actually shared your concerns. Will the customer service department also need to be expanded?

There has also been a complaint about the mass migration to Facebook, owing initially to the loss of friends to the Rainbow Bridge and the need to get away from all the sadness. Like many of you, I found my way there and have based many of my Facebook friendships with Dogster and Catster people. But this has caused many of us to neglect the groups we once took so much pride in. The question here is how to keep the original groups alive without losing the bonds of friendship just because a number of us have made Facebook pages. This also has yet to be worked out.

Then there's the question of balance between groups for a cause and play groups. Both are important - cause groups can address issues such as health, support, and political causes involving animal cruelty and animal-based legislation, while play groups can provide fun, happiness and a break from whatever real life throws at you. No matter how it's been discussed, dogs and cats alike need this balance.

There have also been calls for a Dogster and Catster reunion. But it begs this question: will it be a temporary reunion for the sake of nostalgia, or will it bring the dogs and cats back together and make Dogster and Catster better than they ever were before?


Felix and His Electronic Namesake

October 14th 2012 12:08 am
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As I mentioned some time ago, my younger human has a collection of electronic pets, one of whom is named after one of my friends. There are actually two friends of mine who have electronic namesakes. One looks like the real cat in coloring, and the other is more like his animated namesake except for not having his famous bag of tricks. The real one is actually gray and white and has lived in Texas, though his condition will necessitate a trip to the Rainbow Bridge to end his troubles. My people expressed their sympathy because we've been friends for some years. I waited until my older human went to his own room before I threw up. My younger human has promised to explain that I was overcome with grief to get me off the hook for my latest mess. I hate to see him go, but I hate that he's suffered so much already. I can hope that after he meets Minnie he'll have the chance to meet his electronic namesake one of these days. At least then he won't be sick anymore.

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