This is a photograph of Richard, whom I met this morning as I walked home across a small park in Vancouver’s West End. I asked if I could take a photo of him and his dog.

2014-09-16 11.51.01

This is what he told me:

“I adopted her two years ago. She was ten and had been in the pound for several weeks. No one wanted her, she was old, she was big, she scared people. But she’s the gentlest dog. Everyone wants puppies. I didn’t know why I chose her, except she deserved a loving home. I thought I had rescued her, but after friends told me how much I had changed after getting “that stupid dog” I realized I hadn’t rescued her: she rescued me.”

What is her name, I asked him.

“Butterball.” He smiled and shrugged.

I laughed: “My cat’s Pumpkin.”

“She’s got arthritis in her front and back legs. I use a harness when we walk. When she’s having difficulty I pull up on it, take some of the weight off her legs.”

He looked at her, settling again on the lawn after sniffing me. “I’m going to be pretty much a mess when she dies.”

Yes, you will, I said, but the love you two share now isn’t just between you. It radiates out. “I mean, just now: I stopped, seeing you stroking her belly, and was prompted to take a picture. That’s love, going out into the world.”

“I guess you’re right. But I don’t know what I’ll do when she’s gone.

2014-08-28 12.33.27And this is a guy I talked to briefly on Robson Street, who, when I exclaimed that I’d never seen, or heard of, a pet crow before, said to me: “I live on the Island [which is how we in B.C. refer to Vancouver Island]. She was injured and I nursed her back to health, and she decided to stick around.” (The crow can fly, he told me, she just doesn’t want to. It’s not tethered: that’s an earbud the crow is examining, which had music leaking from it.)


The Cat in the Hat Box

This is a story forwarded to me by Marta Banat, who runs The Cat Nanny, a catsit and cat-care service in Vancouver. One of her clients, Patti, had a cat named Molly, who at sixteen was experiencing her end of life phase, losing interest in food and water. Patti wanted to have Molly pass away at home. This is her story of their final hours together.


Although I grew up with cats and dogs, I had no experience of a pet dying naturally at home. It wasn’t until well into my adult years that I had the privilege of being invited over to my friend Sandy’s home to say goodbye to her beloved cat Picou as he lay next to her in bed. When Picou passed away peacefully later that day I made an intention that if it was possible for my sweet cat Molly to pass this way when it was her time then this is what I wished for us.

Five years later on a snowy January day when Molly was just a few months away from turning 16 it was her time. For about a year or so previously despite my best care and that of our holistic vet’s, Molly’s health began to deteriorate as she entered the geriatric stage of her life. As challenging as that year was it gave me time to grieve and prepare and to treasure each day I had left with my beautiful little Abyssinian as I came to terms with the inevitable. The final diagnosis was cancer of the kidneys and a prognosis of a few months at best which could only be achieved through daily subcutaneous hydration and administration of steroids to keep down the inflammation. Molly had been treated with homeopathic remedies throughout her life but it seemed at this point more aggressive measures were needed. However, aggressive measures were not what I wanted for her in her fragile state, nor did I want her to be poked at and prodded anymore or to make any more trips to the vet, all of which were very stressful for her.

At this point on Sandy’s recommendation I turned to the guidance of a holistic vet who was experienced in palliative care and who made house-calls to support us during this time. Because I no longer wanted to give Molly any more needles the vet gave me a prescription for an oral “chicken flavour” steroid that I could put in her food. As I walked down Broadway to the pharmacy to fill the prescription I noticed a display of beautiful hat boxes in a store window. I went in and bought one of the hat boxes along with a beautiful cozy looking satin pillow to place inside. When I arrived home with my purchases I said to Molly, “ I bought you a bed for your final resting place and some chicken flavoured medicine. I am no longer going to force any kind of treatment on you, so if you take the medicine in your food we may have a couple more months together, if you don’t take it than I will be brave and let go of you sooner. It is your choice.”

Molly did not take the medicine. Not only did she not take the medicine but she no longer had any interest in food altogether. And I even bought her all her favourites out of desperation to try to get her to eat anything… ice cream, cheese, pepperoni pizza, and when she wouldn’t even eat her most favourite food in the world; barbeque roasted chicken I knew without a doubt that her time was near. Continue reading

Sorry, No Pets

2014-06-14 10.26.47

Pumpkin may not be Grumpy Cat, but she’s not amused by the lack of cat-friendly rental suites.

Recent ads on Craigslist in my city (Vancouver):

GREAT LOCATION! Well kept Hi-Rise. Unfurnished suites/some with water views. Heat and Hot water included. Laundry facilities in building. Sorry, NO PETS.


On Sunset Beach near the Aquatic center that has an
Olympic size pool and within seconds to the small
Granville Island Ferry.
Three bus stops within the block.
One Year Lease. No Pets.

And countless more. However, I did find see this ad:

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 5.23.06 AM

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – If Vancouver city council has its way, landlords will no longer be able to demand “no pets allowed.”

Not everyone is in favour of this motion.

The Rental Housing Council of BC doesn’t agree with the idea, President and CEO Amy Spencer says it should remain based on choice.

“Ten per cent of irresponsible pet owners do cause damage, so back in 2004 when the province did look at this, they provided landlords with the ability to charge a pet damage deposit.”

“We’ve actually had cases where people have been sued in the past where they’ve had new tenants come in and there has been some pet dander left over. Their children had an allergic reaction. It is a very individual choice. I’m a renter and I have a pet, and pets to me are a privilege and not a right.”

Councillor Tim Stevenson disagrees, “So why should people, just because they can’t afford to have a house or a big backyard, not be able to have a pet?”

He says over half of Vancouver households are renters, and the City of Vancouver is home to more than a quarter of the rental housing for the entire province.

A final decision would be up to the province of BC.

Ontario does not allow landlords to ban pets in rental housing agreement.


Things are different in cities with higher vacancy rates. For instance, a story on MSN Real Estate, puts the case that landlords should consider renting to pet owners.


As landlords vie for tenants in this depressed market, many are wondering whether it might be time to allow dogs and cats. Judging by the number of calls they get from pet owners, surely there’d be plenty of takers.

But when the plan is posed to colleagues, say, at an online property-management forum, it invariably gets quashed by a colorful tale of hurt: the kitty litter improperly disposed of (clogged pipes) or the whining dog inadequately attended to (infuriated neighbors). “After that,” a fellow property owner declares, “I stopped allowing pets.”

The problem is that what makes for a good story and what constitutes the norm are two very different things. When managers hear only the most outrageous tales – and what else are people going to recount? – they miss the true picture, which is far less interesting and far tamer…

“Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70% of your tenants are going to have some kind of pet, so you can’t just say, ‘No pets allowed,'” says Fred Thompson, president of the National Association of Residential Property Managers, a trade group. “If you do, you’re going to see an extended vacancy period on your investment and that doesn’t work out long term.

“Look at it in this sense: If it took an extra two months at $1,000, then … not taking a pet costs $2,000,” Thompson says. “Well, $2,000 will pay for a lot of carpet.”

Click image to go to story. This sign outside "The Hip Hound" in Portland, Oregon.

Click image to go to story. This sign outside “The Hip Hound” in Portland, Oregon.

From Ontario Tenants:

Question: The landlord says I must either move out or get rid of my pet; Do I?

Answer: Only if the pet is dangerous, causes allergic reactions or causes problems for other tenants or the landlord, must you get rid of your pet or consider moving elsewhere as per Landlord application to terminate tenancy based on animals.

Even if you signed a lease with a “no pets” clause, if the pet is not a problem for anybody they can not enforce it; such no pets clauses are invalid under the law.

You do not have to move or get rid of the pet unless the Board issues a written order to do so. has listings for apartments that allow animals across Canada. And in nearby Seattle, various sites list pet-friendly apartments. Here’s another one.

Erin Eberlin, writing in’s Landlords and Property Investments pages, lists some of the benefits of being a pet-friendly rental property:
  • Larger Prospective Tenant Pool- states that almost 50% of renters own a pet. Therefore, if you make your property pet friendly, you can be more selective when choosing a tenant as you will have a larger group to choose from.

  • Pet Owners Make More Money- According to Practical Apartment Management, by Edward N Kelly, 65% of pet owners earn over $50,000 a year. You should run a credit check to help determine if this money will go toward paying the rent.
  • Longer Tenancy- Pet owners typically stay in a rental longer because it can be harder for them to find other pet friendly options.
  • Responsible Pet Owners Are Responsible Tenants- If someone is mature enough to take good care of an animal, there is a good chance they will treat your property with the same respect.
  • Charge Higher Rent- look around your area. If there are not a lot of pet friendly properties, tenants will have fewer options, and you may be able to charge slightly higher rents if you allow pets due to the increased demand.

Have you run up against landlords and managers who refuse to rent to people with cats or dogs? We’d like to publish your story!






Given that this long-term project is to document and discuss our relationship(s) to and with our cats, I thought I’d take a page to talk about Pumpkin and me. This female ginger tabby and I have been together now since April 20. She turned five, five days after I adopted her._DSF3349 _DSF3347 _DSF3351Pumpkin, whom I adopted in late April, is warming to me. It’s been a long and gradual process, not at all like a kitten or young cat who instantly bonds, this cat, who had had three other homes before me, and was semi-feral, has had to get used to me, and me to her.

west-end-aerial-view-in-cov-we-plan-draft-22-oct-2013After a marital separation last fall, I moved to a small suite in Vancouver’s densely populated West End, which is the neighbourhood between downtown and Stanley Park.

Winter passed alone, and in the spring I began searching the SPCA and VOKRA websites…

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 12.03.55 PM

Which led me to…this image, of a cat they’d named Missy.

Her name was MISSY

How could I resist?

The foster couple visit my apartment to see Miss Kitty (aka Pumpkin)

The foster couple visit my apartment to see Miss Kitty (aka Pumpkin)

The foster couple lived only a few streets away from me. I visited them and sat on their floor. Missy seemed quite comfortable with them, and investigated me. I decided she was the one: why look for the “perfect” cat, when this one needed a home and I could carry her home in a matter of minutes? I met with the VOKRA rep who handles adoptions, signed various forms, and that night picked up Missy (a name I gradually changed to Miss Kitty Pumpkin).

She was introduced to the bachelor suite in only two stages: first, locked into the bathroom with water, food, litter box for two days and nights, to get used to the sounds and smells of the place. Then, after I’d seen that she’d been relaxed enough on the second (or was it the third?) day to deposit stools in the litter box, I let her roam. If it had been a one-bedroom suite I would have done it in three stages, but as it is, there’s only the one big room which serves as office, living and sleeping quarters, and the kitchen, in addition to the bathroom.

We didn’t get along. I had made an assumption, based on my two brief visits to her with the fostering couple in their apartment, that she would warm to me and we’d be all cuddly together. Not quite. She hid, she bit and scratched, she wouldn’t let me hold her, she growled at me, it was awful, and yet I knew that over time she and I would bond. Or so I hoped.

By mid-summer, three or so months after bringing her home, she was comfortable enough that she’d play on the bed, and allow me to groom her without trying to eviscerate me. But she hadn’t allowed me to clip her nails and they were like scimitars. So I called in a veterinary assistant who advertised house-calls for such things as injections and nail clipping. I warned her that Pumpkin didn’t take to having her paws held. She said not to worry, she’d handled many difficult cats. Before she arrived, I brought out a box of bandages, actually opened one and had it ready on the kitchen counter.

The veterinary assistant who had handled many difficult cats left five minutes later with two deep fang incisions on the back of her hand and scratches up her arm. Pumpkin’s nails were still long and sharp.

So a few weeks later I stuffed her into the cat carrier–itself not an easy job but I’d had it out for some while so she’d at least gotten used to seeing and sniffing it. Took her to a local veterinary office. Five minutes later–they brought her back out front. I said, “So, no luck?” But she’d been “no problem at all,” the assistant said, handing her back to me in the carrier. “Sometimes they’re so freaked by the new environment they just go limp with fear,” she explained. Not that that was the way I wanted to have her nails clipped every six to eight weeks, but for twenty dollars, I was happy and Pumpkin, actually, was happy when she got home and wasn’t clicking on the hardwood floor and getting her nails caught in the furniture (except when she wanted to scratch my new couch).

So that’s basically where we’re at now. She’s warmed to me (and I to her); she has jumped up on the bed in the morning and kneaded my chest when I’m on my back, or curled into my legs when I’m lying on my side. She still scratches me from time to time: a bit of playful rough-housing will suddenly become serious, or a grooming will go on too long. I thought I was attuned to feline signals, but Pumpkin, perhaps because of her background being left alone to fend for herself, hasn’t learned how to signal displeasure before she attacks: she switches from fun to ferocious instantly. But the nail slashed cuts on my hands and arms are fewer now, so Miss Kitty Pumpkin is getting me trained in Pumpkin etiquette.



a man and his cat

Tim Kreider sums up the joys and pitfalls of being “a man and his cat”  in the August 3 national edition of the Sunday New York Times.

Kreider writes–

I’ve speculated that people have a certain reservoir of affection that they need to express, and in the absence of any more appropriate object — a child or a lover, a parent or a friend — they will lavish that same devotion on a pug or a Manx or a cockatiel, even on something neurologically incapable of reciprocating that emotion, like a monitor lizard or a day trader or an aloe plant….

…I did not post photographs of my cat online or talk about her to people who couldn’t be expected to care, but at home, alone with the cat, I behaved like some sort of deranged arch-fop. I made up dozens of nonsensical names for the cat over the years — The Quetzal, Quetzal Marie, Mrs. Quetzal Marie the Cat, The Inquetzulous Q’ang Marie. There was a litany I recited aloud to her every morning, a sort of daily exhortation that began, “Who knows, Miss Cat, what fantastical adventures the two of us will have today?”


It’s amusing now to remember the strict limits I’d originally intended to place on the cat. One of the boundaries I meant to set was that the cat would not be allowed upstairs, where I slept. That edict was short-lived. It was not long before I became wounded when the cat declined to sleep with me.

“You’re in love with that cat!” my then-girlfriend Margot once accused me. To be fair, she was a very attractive cat. People would comment on it. My friend Ken described her as “a supermodel cat,” with green eyes dramatically outlined in what he called “cat mascara” and bright pink “nose leather.” Her fur, even at age 19, was rich and soft and pleasant to touch.

Kreider concludes his essay by admitting

we don’t know what goes on inside an animal’s head; we may doubt whether they have anything we’d call consciousness, and we can’t know how much they understand or what their emotions feel like. I will never know what, if anything, the cat thought of me. But I can tell you this: A man who is in a room with a cat — whatever else we might say about that man — is not alone.