Thursday, February 14, 2013


For most people the dog or cat question is easy to answer. People absolutely define themselves as strictly one or the other. Planned Pethood has both a dog program and a cat program. As far as I can tell, I am the only person to foster both dogs and kittens on a regular basis. But looks can be deceiving. I would say that a majority of foster parents cohabit with both dogs and cats regardless of whom they foster. I remember my shocked expression when profligate cat foster Nancy showed me the picture of her SEVEN dogs! Cat foster Lynn who has more kitty fosters than anyone, rescued a twelve year old Chihuahua with three teeth named Carmen to add to her pack that includes two of the most cat-friendly labs ever. Great Dane owner and foster Cheryl has absolutely the bravest cat in the universe who adopted Cheryl and the big guys, showing up at her home and never leaving.

Many people have never even given cats a chance. I can’t even count how many times people I meet declare their hatred toward cats but when questioned further, they have never lived with one. I wish each and every one of them could have the opportunity to meet Norman, the later years. He came to me as we prepared to head to Detroit for a Rolling Stones concert. One of my students called to say his mother had discovered that he had smuggled the little dude into the house, feeding him the family’s stock of tuna fish, and she was NOT happy. So, with my house full of people awaiting our departure, I detoured to pick up this orange ball of fluff.

I actually found a place in a shelter for Norman. And he was a stunningly beautiful kitten, so by rights, he should have been adopted in no time. But, beauty aside, he was the meanest little ba$+ard I had ever seen. That is how he got his name. He became Norman as in Norman Bates of the movie “Psycho” due to his mercurial personality. He lashed out and bit and he scratched out of nowhere. Those are not the qualities adoptive families are seeking so, long story short, he’s still here and has been for the past 16 years. He captured my heart. At one point he became very sick and would not eat so I let him eat from my plate. To this day, he is the only animal ever permitted to beg. For all these years, he has been the pack leader in my home. He holds his ground when he meets each new foster dog. If any of them dare make a threatening move, he fires them up. Over the years, my own dogs have taken a different route through rooms, around Norm, to avoid his wrath. One time we heard Rudy, my black lab, crying in the asement. In a rush to find out why, we discovered Normie lying on the steps and poor Rudy was afraid to come upstairs. I am happy to report that Norman has mellowed with age and is incredibly loving and is a beloved cat ambassador throughout the neighborhood.

So many dogs have touched my heart over the years. One of my favorite fosters was a chubby, older beagle named Red. He came to me in the most unusual manner. Someone reported that one of my former foster dogs was dumped at a local shelter. I knew this could not be the case because I knew he was safe and happy in his forever home. But, to appease the powers that be, I acquiesced to go to the shelter to prove it was not my foster. It wasn’t. But I stumbled upon the most pitiful sight of this poor dog shaking and miserable in a cage. I called PPI and obtained an o.k. to bring him into the program. And, soon realized Red PLAYED me. The minute he walked through my door, the shaking, sad dog disappeared entirely. He did not miss a beat. He made himself right at home with us for the next several months.

When you look in the dictionary under the word personality, you find Red’s picture. He was the most unforgettable character. He weighed in at 51 lbs. on arrival. We began a program of diet and exercise, green beans, green beans, green beans. But in spite of his weight, he was pure beagle. He would tear after the squirrels with his wail, oooooowwwwwww!! He would get so carried away that he would pull up lame and not be able to go to the park for a couple of days. He was adopted by Ruth Ann and her brother Ronald who cherished him for the next year. I knew he had found the right home when they stopped by to get his picture taken with Santa and they related the story of Red’s pawdicure. They took him to a doggie salon where they soaked his paws, trimmed his nails, then applied clear polish (colors were for girls). Then, sadly too soon, Red succumbed to cancer breaking our hearts.

The expression “fighting likes cats and dogs” has become a foreign phrase in my world. Most of you have chosen a side. The people adopting from Planned Pethood have spoken too. They have adopted 824 cats and 352 dogs through November of 2012. So, what about me? Am I a dog person or a cat person? I come from a family of six kids, all big time animal lovers but one. We are toying with the idea that my sister Anita was switched at birth. My passion for rescue must be in the DNA. I am sure it won’t surprise any of my wonderful readers that I would never be able to choose. You never know where you will find love.

by Judy Szewczak

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