Sued51's Blog

Though ABANDONED  was the topic of the Weekly PHOTO Challenge, I thought it was a good topic for my writing blog.

When I was a child, we never had to buy pets; they just showed up. Strays and abandoned cats and dogs seemed to see an invisible sign on our door that said, “welcome.”  Some stayed with us, some were found homes elsewhere, and some unfortunately did not survive the crazy busy street we lived on. I have written previously about my cat, Breeze, who just showed up one cold November morning and after some manipulation on the part of my brother and I, in cahoots with my father, became part of the family.

But today I wanted to write about a couple of abandoned dogs that were found: Trash and Freebie. I think their names tell you how they were acquired. 🙂

boy with puppy


Please excuse the quality of this scanned photo; it’s quite old and the only photo I could find of a dog who didn’t live with us for very long.  The little boy in the picture is my youngest brother.

My father worked at the town dump and recycling center for a time between jobs. One day he noticed that one of the trash bags dropped off seemed to be moving and making a noise. With further investigation, he found an adorable puppy. The puppy came home with him that night, and my father dubbed her, “Trash.” Not a particularly flattering name, but believe me, my father had a heart of gold and wasn’t trying to give the puppy psychological problems. Unfortunately at the time we already two dogs and a cat, too many children and not a lot of money. My mother said Trash couldn’t stay. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for my father to find “Trash” a home with someone down the street. I never knew what her new name became or saw her again, but I was happy that she was saved and had a home.

Years later my father found another puppy that he dubbed with an unequally unflattering name who ended up living with our family and becoming a beloved pet. Freebie’s story began this way: my father was working temporarily out in California; my mother and younger brothers were living out there with him. One day my father came across a German Shepherd-mix puppy tied to a pole on a street in California. The dog was thin, but friendly. My father checked around; no one knew who she belonged to or where she came from. As my parents and brother were due to drive back home to Massachusetts within a week and they couldn’t find her owner, they decided to take the puppy with them. My father’s thinking was that someone who would leave her tied to a pole on a hot day in the city didn’t deserve her.


And so she was dubbed “Freebie” and traveled across the country from California to Massachusetts. She initially was my brother’s dog, but as he was in his late teens, he soon moved out, unable to take Freebie with him. But he still paid for her food and visited with her. Freebie contracted heartworm when she was only 3 years old, but my brother, managed to scrape up a few hundred dollars to save her life.

Meanwhile she had become very attached to my father. My father would go for walks on the acres of land that he owned at the time and be gone for a while, but my mother knew how to get my father to come home. She would say, “Freebie, where’s Earl?” Then she would let Freebie out to go and find my father. Whenever she showed up, he knew it was time to go home.

World's Best Cat LitterI swear my husband and I have tried at least 5 different types and brands of cat litter for our two cats; this is less a review than an attempt to share the story of our quest with the intention of helping others make their own decision. There are so many features to consider: blocking odor, cleanliness and lack of dust, ease of use, economics, and ability to dispose of the litter. Our criteria for selecting the kitty litter has continued to evolve as our cats have aged. Thank goodness are cats are easy-going and have adapted to the many litter changes we have inflicted on them.

We adopted our cats as kittens from a display in a PetSmart store. One of our cats had been there off and on for weeks because she developed red eyes from an allergy to the cat litter they were using and that affected her adoptability. She had to be sent to a foster home to allow her allergy to subside and was then brought back with instructions. We were told it was the litter dust. So our first criteria was no litter dust. They had used paper litter to alleviate her problem; because of this, we originally used “Yesterday’s News.”

In our town we have to pay for trash collection, so I was also considering ease of disposing of the litter; I was looking for something I could dump outside. I thought because the litter was paper it would disintegrate over time in the rain outdoors. This did not prove to be the case. Every time I changed the box, I dumped the litter in a pile at the edge of our yard. After a couple of years of this, my husband went to discard some branches in the same area and saw my dumping ground: “You have a Mount Poopsuvius out there! You can’t keep doing that.”  So…now what? What wouldn’t be dusty and would break down better?

We initially switched to “Feline Pine” and then to a cheaper generic pine product. The cats were fine with the change and it broke down outside, but my husband couldn’t stand the odor. I could scoop the solid waste, but not the urine. The urine made the pine break down and there was no way to scoop it out. The box had to be changed too often. When you think about it, the odor of pine does have an acidic element; it seemed to magnify the ammonia smell and make it overpowering.

Pine cat litterCrystal cat litter

One week in a pinch I tried some sort of crystal product I found at a local discount store…dusty paw prints everywhere and the smell was still there. That experiment was over quickly.

My husband went to the Internet and read the reviews for “World’s Best Cat Litter.” We initially tried the “Multi-cat” in the red and black bag. Again, the cats were fine with it. I liked that it could still be dumped outside because it was corn-based, and that both types of waste could be scooped out because it was “clumping” litter. Unfortunately, despite my best scooping efforts, my husband still complained about the smell. The odor-control element was just not there. I managed to find a small bag of the “Multi-cat Scented” in the purple and black bag, a natural product scented with lavender. I thought we had found the answer. But it was hard to find the litter in stock, even at the pet specialty stores. And the odor was STILL an issue; the lavender smell was too delicate to mask the ammonia.

At this point you might be wondering whether I only have one litter box? No, I have multiple cat boxes in the house, but both cats insist on going only in the one box. (When they were kittens they would actually go into the box at the same time, which the vet said was very strange!) So in the end, odor control became the most important criteria for us in determining which cat litter to use. We are now using “Arm and Hammer” clumping litter with odor control. If I have to put the litter in the trash, I guess that is what will have to happen. My husband found it at the local warehouse store so the savings of buying in bulk probably cancels out the price for disposal. So far, my allergic cat has not developed red eyes, and my husband no longer complains about the smell. I guess we have finally arrived at the cat litter of choice for us and our cats.

Arm & Hammer Cat litter


So cat lovers…what’s your #1 criteria when it comes to cat litter?

This is painful for me to write about, but I feel like I should.  Is there more animal abuse happening recently or is it just that in the past it was not publicized?

I see the headlines, but I can’t read the stories.  If it comes on the TV news I have to change the channel or leave the room.  Yes, you can dismiss me as one of those crazy animal lovers, but I feel the same way about child abuse.  Both these issues are about an extreme, sick, violent form of bullying someone vulnerable.  The headlines alone are enough to make me want to cry, I don’t need to read the stories.  But is that why it continues to happen, because people like me want to pretend the problem doesn’t exist?

Bullying in schools has finally become an important issue; it can no longer be ignored because children have died, but it has been going on since the beginning of public schooling.  It has escalated recently because of social media and the illusion that violence is somehow acceptable in our society, which is implied through its excessive use in video games and movies.  Why do children or animals have to die in order for us as a society to address the issue?

I feel very torn about the reporting of it.  I know it is important that people know that it is going on so we can work to stop it.  A news story may motivate some people to step up and offer information on the perpetrators so they can be caught.  But there is also the element of glorifying those who do this by giving them attention.

I feel powerless to do anything but bring it up and get others to think about it.  How can we stop this behavior?

et cetera
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