2008-12-10 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

The holidays accentuate the extremes of emotion. Happy events seem more joyous while sad news is even more depressing. Long before I shared a last name, I had a strong attachment to Hans Christian Andersen's Little Match Girl so the report of an obese Border Collie found frozen to a Wisconsin sidewalk, barely alive, sent chills down my spine. Glad to hear that the authorities are pressing neglect charges against his owner. Hopefully many kind people will flock to adopt the poor dog.

As a child I loved the tragic tale of the Little Match Girl, forced by a heartless father to sell matches barefoot in the snow. Decades before DVDs, my mother bought two 78 rpm records of the story for grab bag gifts. When I overheard a Cub Scout complain about this prize at my brother's party, I quietly cried, and then made sure to fish around in my classroom grab bag to retrieve my donated present. Years later the story became tradition with my own students. The school librarian would make sure the Andersen book plus filmstrip (I am dating myself) appeared in my mailbox the first of December. I keep thinking the aging Border Collie, like so many unfortunates, out in the cold had no matches to keep him warm….

Moving on to a minor Christmas crisis in complete contrast, I fear Purina has discontinued my dogs' favorite treat- bacon flavor Chew-eez Sticks. This could be premature panic but it seems that some other chewie has invaded their space on the grocery shelf. In the past this has signaled product extinction just like my favorite, now defunct, garlic Stove Top stuffing and vanillascented trash bags.

Routine is as important to dogs as it is to kids. Many of my students came from sorrowful family situations. They'd often be the first to remind me that it was the day to change line leaders or time to do "homework yeller", a form of town crier. School was the only consistency they could depend on.

Dogs take comfort in continuity also. Happily I'm watching my newly rescued Edgar Afghan Poe become a creature of habit. He plops himself in position on a rug for his 3 squares (my dogs eat a light lunch), and slowly stretches in the same spot each night when he goes out for his last bathroom break. It's a far cry from his erratic life sandwiched between 66 other Afghan Hounds in the hoarder's New Mexico home.

Our schedule is carved in stone, or should I say, beef hide. My gang goes for an aprés dinner walk; then they are rewarded with the coveted "boney" divided for portion control. Little Charlotte gets a quarter stick and runs off with her treasure; while the Afghans alternate a whole stick or the broken one. They nosh as Siamese twins. Of course, they must "Sit" first. Grabby Edgar is learning the "Wait" command. You'd think I had just handed each a filet mignon.

On Friday this Mother Hubbard went to the King Kullen cupboard, the only cupboard where I still see Chew-eez Sticks, and the cupboard was bare. She wheeled right up to the courtesy desk to request a re-order, telling the puzzled girl behind the counter that she couldn't inform her dogs she's come home from the hunt empty-handed. Her plea may not be enough. She may need to sniff out the stock clerk and beg since Purina's website doesn't show the 1.8 ounce purple package, and their 800 number is not functional until Monday 9 am Eastern Standard Time. Amazon notes they're "currently unavailable". I can't stand the suspense. Have Chew-eez Sticks gone the way of the passenger pigeon and National Liquidators?

My treat reserve is shrinking so I tracked down similar sticks in other stores but those are made in China…I'm not going there…or as one package says, manufactured in some mystery land: "Made in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, China, or Thailand." I'm still not going there.

Last time I had a problem like this, the situation was really a matter of survival. My Jerry, a kitten rescued on the day Jerry Garcia died, had chronic liver disease and never ate on his own. He lived for 19 months at a maximum weight just over 2 pounds only because I hand fed him minute amounts of food, milk thistle and taurine. He nibbled Sheba chicken cat food. Then the company switched the font on the red label. Without tasting it, I suspected Sheba changed the recipe too. Jerry wouldn't eat it any more. I went on a wild goose chase trying to locate the old label Sheba. He died shortly after. In retrospect, the change of appetite was probably not the label, but his cirrhosis progressing.

Right now only 2 precious Chew-eez sticks remain, but my dogs don't know. Not yet. I am trying to forestall the storming of the Bastille and will put out an A.P. B. to locate places that sell purple package Purina's Chew-eez Sticks, real beef hide. Please be on the look out because I'm desperate. I just can't break the bad news to my dogs; not so close to Christmas.

For Adoption: On a more serious note, the homeless pets at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (677- 5784) Miller Pl. Syosset have "more on their plates" than my pampered pets. "Luke" #937 a Shepherd/ Lab has been waiting quite a while for someone to notice him. "Sesame" # 1000 a black & white female cat is in competition with many other shelter

felines to find a home of her own. Dogs: "Jaguar"#1018 - a mini Schnauzer mix; a Pit mix. Cats: "Tazz"- handsome, senior cinnamon Maine Coon- his owner passed away.

Pet Photos with Santa: Visit Pet Smart Huntington with your pet during the weekends of Dec. 13- 14 and Dec. 20-21 from 11 to 4 and Last Hope Animal Rescue will receive $5 of every $10 photo with frame purchased. See www. lasthopeanimalrescue. org.

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