Having been in business since 2004, many of the animals that I started caring for as puppies, kittens and young animals are now grey, slow and no longer see or hear very well. A large number of them have also passed away.

I was introduced to Alfred and Abby, a Cocker Spaniel and Black Lab, respectively, back in 2006. During the late part of 2013, we said good-bye to Alfred; just a few months later, we were suddenly forced to say good-bye to Abby.

As pet sitters we often come to love your animals almost as much as you do. In addition to a cat and a dog that share my bed at night, I feel I have dozens of other cats and dogs that are also mine — they just don’t live with me. Over the years I started to take pictures of all “my animals” and use them as my computer’s screen saver. The picture that accompanies Misty’s article is one I took during the very last set of visits I made to Abby last May. I never imagined it would be my last picture of her.

(Saying goodbye is never easy. This post offers some advice for deciding if that time has come.)


Fabulous Abby the Labby
2002 – 2014

By Misty Goldman


You took the sun with you when you left us.  It rained for days after we said good-bye and even when the rain stopped, the sky stayed a cold slate gray that reflected back the emptiness in our hearts.  It’s such a struggle to write these words, to acknowledge that you’re gone, to accept the void but I have to let you go.

You were such a beauty in your shiny black fur.  Attitude and stubbornness just like a teenager.  You had an angel’s face and a devils mind.  Your mischievous streak was legendary.  From digested checks, shoes and couches, nothing was safe from your jaws as your stealthy 90 lb body would tip-toe behind me.  On our first meeting you sent me home with only one shoe, a clear message that I was treading on your territory.  But I came back the next day and the next and the day after that.  You lost interest in my shoes and you became my shadow, my buddy, my clean-up crew.  Crumbs falling to the floor never had a chance.  A lover of vegetables and the nemesis of toilet paper, you probably thought Abby was your last name since it was frequently preceded by words that can’t be printed here.

Friends and dog people always offered the same advice; “…don’t worry, Labs calm down after about five years”.  Ha!  You were not a dog to be categorized!  I think you were seven years old when you stole the sandwich from that poor guy walking down the street in front of our house.  Nine or maybe 10 when you ran away to the school and got beat up by the neighborhood dog bullies.  And the toilet paper caper went on every chance you got for 12 years!  I’m so glad you defied the stereotypes.  I’m so thankful that you were Abby.

I can still see you there, rolling in the grass with pure joy on your face.  You would always stay just out of sight.  Always seeing me but making me look to find you.  That vision of our happy, loveable pup is all we have left of you now.  I look at that patch of grass everyday and it lifts my spirits.  It made you blissfully happy even when you were in pain.  Now your pain is gone and with it our hearts but the grass is still green so we sit there in your favorite spot, missing you but smiling.  I smile because I bet that you can still see me, even though I can’t see you.

You died just like you lived, on your terms.  It was Abby’s world and the sun and the moon and the stars would bend to your will.  And so would I…every time.  I miss you shadow.


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.]