Waldo — Home Alone

For the first time since adopting our cat 18 months ago, we needed to go out of town. We placed our two dogs in a crate-free kennel and flew away, leaving Waldo in the care of a pet sitter. I realized not long before we left that Waldo had not been left alone–with neither dogs nor people–for any longer than four hours since coming to us from the Virginia Beach SPCA.

My anthropomorphic tendencies went into overdrive. I feared he would think we had deserted him like his previous family had done and that he’d never see us again. I worried he wouldn’t eat or that he’d sit in the dining room window continuously crying, as he does when my husband takes the dogs out for their dinner time walk. (If I’m in another room and call to him, Waldo comes running and stays until they return.)

Despite being a cat with his typical high-level of independence–except at dinner time–I have applied to him not only human characteristics, but also those of a dog. We had lived with only dogs for so long, it just happened.  Thus, I presume a level of neediness akin to a dog rather than to a cat. (Although, we’ve never had a problem with the dogs wanting to drink out of the toilet, we do with this cat.)

Therefore, because Waldo sleeps in our bed at night, I wanted to have someone stay at the house to sleep with him, to lessen the trauma I just knew he would suffer by our being gone. I gratefully received my daily text messages from Judy, with her notes and pictures of Waldo doing his normal things. I was still concerned about him, but did feel better.

Once home, though, I learned Judy had needed to go hunting for Waldo in the middle of the night. He had retreated to his own bed in our closet and was sound asleep–all by himself.

I should have known better…


[This first appeared as the “Editor’s Notes” in the February/March 2012 issue of Pet Tails.]


If patience is a virtue, then caring for animals can help make us virtuous.

I was far from virtuous one recent morning as my first coffee awaited my return from the daily ritual of walking the dogs as soon as I roll out of bed. A cold wind sweeping off a pond did nothing to improve my mood as I stood waiting at yet another patch of innocuous grass as both Labradors intensely sniffed, oblivious to my scowl and growing impatience.

I know that the life expectancy for my two large dogs is relatively short—one now ten and the other nine—and I should not be wasting any of the time we spend together in an impatient state. Later that cold day I realized it was the 7th anniversary of the passing of our golden retriever, Jake; he had been twelve. I resolved then to have more patience with Baxter and Cole, even when stopping for the umpteenth time during our morning walk. Besides it is a new year, an appropriate time for making resolutions.
Cole, Baxter, & Waldo
Our cat Waldo entered our lives last October and he, too, is now teaching us about patience. One of the first lessons came when trying to find items he enjoyed scratching other than the living room chairs and dining room seat cushions. Not only did we need to find the correct item, but we also needed to determine the correct location for it. The patience part came in the waiting for the absence of inappropriate scratching. It took several weeks before we were no longer awoken at 3 AM to the ripping sounds of cloth being shredded.

A new lesson in patience is on-going. Two weeks ago, Waldo stopped eating. We now have a plethora of cat foods in the pantry closet. After a couple meals of wolfing down a particular brand, Waldo decides he no longer wants it. I’ve had as many as four different ones open in front of him before he decides on one. Our vet suggested adding clam juice, which does help the appeal of a waning liking for a particular brand, but not permanently. (We need to have patience as we figure out what is going on…)

Anyone that has pets learns the need for patience, from house training a puppy to teaching a cat to stay off the kitchen counters. Numerous studies show the many benefits of pet ownership, both mental and physical. Learning patience is just one more.

[This is the “Editor’s Notes” column from the February/March issue of Pet Tails.]

We Adopted a Shelter Cat

We now have a cat; we call him Waldo.

I have immense respect for the people that work and volunteer at animal shelters. I can not do it. I am even unable to watch the advertisements on TV asking for help to support the shelters. As soon as that first sad looking puppy appears on screen, I mute the sound and look away. The thought of an unloved, homeless animal tears me apart emotionally like nothing else does. I am not happy to admit, but it has taken us longer to adopt a cat than was necessary because I wasn’t sure I could bring myself to enter a shelter, to see all the desperate animals.

I even hesitated to call up the page of available cats on the Virginia Beach SPCA website. I did not know how I would be able to read their sad stories. Fortunately, we had some criteria for the cat we desired and that reduced the number I had to read. We wanted an older cat who was less likely to be adopted and one that had experience living with dogs. Superficially, and because I have become enamored of several for whom I care in my pet sitting business, I picked on only orange faces peering out at me.

It didn’t take long to find our cat. A squinty-eyed face, displaying some attitude, belonged to a five-year-old ginger tabby named Garfield. I had a gut feeling he was the one for us.

It was then time for the difficult part—actually driving to the SPCA and going inside. We quickly walked to a small room where a volunteer was to bring Garfield to meet us. Heading there I kept my head down and tried to ignore my husband who kept commenting on the funny antics of the cats we were passing.

Garfield is a big guy at 15 pounds and purred from the moment he entered the room. He displayed no fear when introduced to our two large Labradors, soon rubbing up against Cole, who seemed bemused by the action and sniffed his back end, in the typical dog meet-and-greet fashion. When Baxter gave a less friendly reaction to this rubbing, Garfield showed only a look of, “What’s your problem?” on his face, unperturbed by the rumble coming from the 90 pound canine.

Having lived a couple decades with large dogs, it has been an adjustment to have a small, quickly moving, and often disappearing critter in our home. He could beat Superman in a leaping contest. This cat has been known to leave our loft room—not through the door—but by leaping down into the living room, stopping briefly on the cornice of the window treatments, and safely arriving on the back of a chair or sofa.

Unlike the dogs, we never know where we will find him—behind a drape, curled up on a dining room chair, or snoozing on a pile of Pet Tails in the closet. I was constantly asking, “Where’s Garfield?” which soon became “Where’s the cat?” and ultimately morphed into “Where’s Waldo?” Thus the name change.

This adoption has been a great success and Waldo is the perfect cat for us.

I asked the volunteers who processed his adoption, how do they stop themselves from taking many of the animals home. Each smiled; it turned out that both of whom I asked were living with several dogs and cats that they had grown to love while caring for them at the shelter.

[This is the “Editor’s Notes” column from the December/January issue of Pet Tails.]