EXTRA X CHROMOSOME

CHIMERA TORTOISESHELL KITTENS
AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION!
MAKE SOMEONE VERY HAPPY THIS CHRISTMAS!
COME IN – ASK FOR LEAH

Gary did a double-take when he saw the sign on the marquee outside Redemption Ecclesiastical Church. He’d always been fascinated by those distinctively mottled cats with an extra X chromosome. Gary supported humane societies, not pet stores. He knew people paid a lot of money for pets, especially the designer dogs some breeders ‘manufacture’ such as Labradoodles and Yorkipoos.

Not hesitating for a second, Gary walked inside and knocked on the open door of an office marked ‘Communities Outreach Program’. A pleasant voice rang out “Come on in! I’ll be right there.”

Glancing around the room Gary noticed a large bulletin board full of colorful flyers about the church’s events: the weekly Advent wreath candle lighting ceremony, the upcoming Christmas pageant, a clothing drive for the homeless and a sign-up sheet to volunteer at the local soup kitchen.

Hi! You must be Sam. The delivery is all ready for you.”

Gary found himself face to face with the most adorable woman he had ever seen. She was casually dressed in jeans, a Christmas sweater and a Santa hat; her short blonde hair barely reached her shoulders. Dark-rimmed glasses couldn’t hide her luminous green eyes and her infectious smile displayed sparkling white teeth. Even without makeup she was radiant.

Somewhat dumbstruck, Gary said “Um, hi. I’m Gary, not Sam and I don’t know anything about a delivery. I’m looking for Leah.”

I’m Leah. Sorry, there appears to be a mix-up. I’ve been waiting for a guy named Sam to deliver a truckload of groceries to the soup kitchen. I thought you were him.” Leah frowned.

Actually, I’m here because I saw the sign about the kittens for adoption” Gary admitted rather sheepishly, wishing he was there for something more altruistic – like making a soup kitchen delivery.

Oh, shoot! I forgot that sign was still up!” exclaimed Leah. “I’m sorry but the kittens were all snatched up except for the runt of the litter. Poor little thing – I took her home. She’s keeping my cat Othello company – not that he’s thrilled about it.”

Gary was visibly disappointed. “Oh, man! I was excited about adopting a cat. Well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be. I’ll get out of your hair now, Leah … unless I can help with something.”

Leah checked her watch; it was getting late and it looked like Sam was a no-show. Gary seemed like a trustworthy guy so she took a chance. Besides, he was wearing a Santa hat, too; if you can’t trust a cute guy in a Santa hat, who can you trust? “Well, if you wouldn’t mind I could use a hand delivering those groceries.”

Why not!” Gary answered – a bit too quickly. “I don’t have anything else to do now anyway.”

Great!” Leah answered – a bit too quickly. “You’re a lifesaver, Gary! And I’m really sorry about the kittens.”

On the way to the soup kitchen, Leah and Gary chatted non-stop and discovered they had a lot in common. They were both decent people who enjoyed doing volunteer work, they loved animals and they were hopeless romantics. What could have been a boring night turned into a wonderful evening and they thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.

When the delivery was done, Leah said “Gary, I want to thank you for all your help tonight. I know you were really hoping to adopt a kitten. How about we make that happen?”

Gary was blown away. “Leah, I didn’t help you because I hoped to be rewarded with a kitten. I really like you and was happy to help. But if you’re serious, then yes – that would make my day!”

I really like you, too, Gary.” Leah blushed. “I just have to warn you: watch out for Othello. He doesn’t like strangers and is pretty territorial. In fact, he barely tolerates me and that’s because I feed him!” Leah laughed.

To Gary’s ears Leah’s laugh sounded like crystal bells.

Arriving at Leah’s place, Gary was too excited to worry about Othello. He was enchanted by the tiny chimera kitten and gently picked her up. He sat on the sofa, cradling her in his arms. Leah’s heart melted watching the two of them.

I’ll go make some coffee” Leah suggested. “You be nice, Othello!”

Out of the corner of his eye Gary saw a large cat in the hallway giving him the evil eye. “Ah, you must be Othello” he whispered. “Look man – please don’t blow this for me, dude. I’ve really fallen for Leah and just between us guys, I think she likes me, too.” Othello crept closer and sniffed Gary’s shoes. Placing his front paws on the sofa he stared intently at Gary, then nonchalantly jumped up and made himself comfortable leaning against Gary’s leg purring contentedly.

Well, how do you like that!” Leah declared in pleasant surprise. “Othello’s taken a liking to you, too, Gary. I think we made a match here tonight.”

Yeah, I think we really did, Leah. And I have the perfect name for this little lady. Leah, say hello to Desdemona.”

Ah, Othello and Desdemona, Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers – but this time with a very happy ending” Leah sighed as she snuggled close to Gary.

Othello

NAR © 2020

RAINBOW BRIDGE

Eric and Sue always knew they’d get a dog someday – not one from the pet shop but a rescue in desperate need of a loving home. When they saw Lily, all chocolatey-brown with big doe eyes, they knew she was the one. She was the sweetest, most gentle dog ever, despite having been abused and terribly frightened most of her life.

Animals know when someone is trying to help them. Lily knew she was safe, happy living in her home on Paradise Place with Eric and Sue. She loved them as much as they loved her.

After six years together Sue noticed that Lily had a little raspy cough and some trouble eating; this worried her. A trip to the vet confirmed her fears; Lily was diagnosed with a rare case of tongue cancer.

Malignant. Inoperable.

How much time?”

Within the year” was the grim answer.

Sue and Eric promised each other two things:
– They would spoil Lily rotten and smother her with love.
– They would never let her suffer or die alone.

The veterinarian decided the best treatment would be medication and radiation therapy. It wasn’t a cure but Lily responded well; she was a happy girl. She loved napping in the upstairs TV room. Upon waking she’d walk to the top of the stairs, stretch and shake her head, dog tags jangling noisily. When baby Julia came along, Lily was so good with her; Eric and Sue never worried when Lily was near the baby.

Eight months later Lily started getting worse. Within days she declined rapidly; she was listless and wouldn’t eat. Eric and Sue were blindsided one morning when Lily began vomiting blood; they knew the end was near for their beloved girl. It’s not like they weren’t expecting this; it just happened so fast and too soon.

At the animal hospital Eric and Sue comforted Lily as the vet gave her a sedative. They whispered loving words and kissed her head. Lily finally relaxed in their arms. Another injection was administered and Lily passed peacefully after just a few seconds.

Eric and Sue were heartbroken. They took the next day off from work to recoup, scrubbing the blood from the carpet and washing Lily’s bed. That night while folding laundry Sue heard a noise upstairs. She thought it was Julia but the baby was fast asleep. Then she recognized the sound: jangling dog tags! Exhausted, Sue knew it had to be her imagination … until she looked at Eric. He was white as a ghost, his gaze transfixed on the staircase. Sue whispered in questioning disbelief “You heard that?!” Eric nodded yes. “That was Lily!”

Logically they knew it couldn’t possibly be Lily but they looked anyway. Then they checked Lily’s leash and collar; of course they were right where they put them the night before. But in their hearts they knew – Lily had come back one last time to her home on Paradise Place to say goodbye and let them know she was ok on the other side of Rainbow Bridge.



Lily

NAR © 2020

CHRISTMAS MUNCHKINS

It had been a busy night at my bar and I was cleaning up after the last guest left. It was Christmas Eve and most people headed out a little early to get home or do last-minute shopping. I locked up, turned off the lights and went upstairs to the apartment I shared with my wife Nicole and our little girl Mariah. 

It was quiet in our apartment but I could see a dim light coming from Mariah’s room. I peeked in to see my girls saying their evening prayers. My daughter’s sweet voice was hushed but I heard her say “And God, please tell Santa the only thing I really want for Christmas is a kitty”. 

I sat in the living room staring at the Christmas tree. Nicole came in and sat beside me. “You heard?” I nodded and said “You know, Nic, she’s such a good girl, never asks us for anything. I have to see if I can find her a kitten.” 

“At this hour, Kevin? Where are you going to go?” 

“Honestly Nic, I have no idea – but I have to try.” 

Every place I tried was either closed or sold out of kittens and puppies. Even the humane society and animal shelters had no kittens. I drove up to Westchester and down to Brooklyn with no luck. Time was running out and I was getting more and more depressed with every passing minute. I just wanted to make Mariah happy; disappointing my little girl on Christmas was not an option. 

As I was heading back home, Nicole called. “Kevin, did you have any luck?” 

“No luck, Nic. I’m tired, I’m frustrated and I’m really bummed out. I’m gonna stop for a quick cup of coffee and I’ll be home in a few. Love ya.” 

I pulled into a 24-hour Dunkin Donuts and ordered a coffee while the store owner’s cat rubbed up against my leg. “Adding insult to injury” I thought. At this God-forsaken hour the store was empty. I asked to use their restroom and as I walked to the back of the shop, I noticed a box in the corner. Normally a box wouldn’t interest me but this box was whimperingI gently flipped up the top and to my amazement saw four kittens in the box. Forgetting my need to use the restroom, I raced back out front, startling the owner. 

“Sir, I’ve been driving all night looking to buy a kitten for my daughter for Christmas. Please, I’m begging you! Can I possibly buy one of your kittens?” 

The owner looked at me and said “Aw, no man. They’re not for sale.”

I stared at him blankly, not knowing what to say. I was exhausted and frustrating and finding a box full of kittens was a miracle. At this point I did’t care about my pride – all that mattered was Mariah – and I was willing to beg. I slowly got down on one knee.

The store owner looked shocked and even a little embarrassed. “Aw, come on man! What are you doing?” he asked incredulously. “Get up off the floor. I already told you I can’t sell you a kitten.”

I stood, looking him square in the eye. “I know, sir, but it’s my little girl. She … ” and he cut me off in mid sentence.

“I can’t sell you one” he repeated emphatically. “But I’ll gladly give you one for your kid.” 

I swear to God, I could have kissed him. Grinning like an idiot, I grabbed him by the shoulders. “Bless you, sir. Merry Christmas!”

Sit down and drink your coffee” he said as he shuffled off to the back of the store humming “Jingle Bells”.

Christmas morning Mariah excitedly ran into the kitchen and saw the mugs of hot cocoa and the Dunkin Donuts Munchkins box on the table. “Yay, Christmas Munchkins!” she squealed as she reached for the box, her big green eyes opening wide when she saw the tiny kitty staring back at her. 

Yeah … this is the best Christmas ever.

NAR © 2018

OP-ED: THOSE LEFT BEHIND

Covered in filth and mange, a multitude of dogs and cats that survived Hurricane Katrina were crammed into military vans. Some had maggot-filled sores, broken limbs and infected eyes that burned like a red hot poker. The vans were filled to capacity and it was impossible to tell one animal from the other. 

Those once long-haired canines with soft billowy fur now resembled stone creatures encased in a shell of thick crust.  Scrawny, flea-ridden cats no longer purred contentedly but howled in fear and pain. The muscular pit bulls were reduced to skeletons, the outlines of rib cages and hip bones clearly visible in emaciated bodies. On and on it went, each animal a mere shell of its former self. 

The catastrophic hurricane had ravaged New Orleans, Louisiana three weeks earlier. The relentless rain caused the levees to burst, resulting in extensive flooding. Home-owners lost everything, all their possessions destroyed. Many scrambled to the roofs of their houses in a desperate attempt to save themselves while others tried swimming to safety. Those lucky enough to own a rowboat floated on the flood waters, dragging people into their boats along the way. 

The president declared a state of emergency and the military arrived .. some say too little too late … but they worked their asses off to bring a sense of order to New Orleans. Non-commissioned officers worked side by side with police lieutenants and fire chiefs. Doctors, paramedics and volunteers all worked hand in hand. The levees were rebuilt and people were relocated. 

However the animals … too many to count …  were forgotten or deliberately left behind in the frenzy. When the waters subsided weeks later, they were found chained to fences and porch railings. Others had climbed up trees or hidden themselves away in the attics of abandoned houses. All were starving, sick, in pain and scared. Others struggled valiantly to survive but failed. 

That’s what the military and animal rescue workers found. Helpless, hopeless animals in need of immediate medical care. Who knows what those poor creatures were thinking as they were being loaded into the vans. Could they sense these people were trying to help them? Were they frozen in fear, traumatized by the events of the past few weeks? 

All the dogs and cats were brought to animal hospitals and makeshift triage centers throughout the state. With the patience of Job, veterinarians … many from out of state … treated thousands of animals, gently cutting off matted crusty fur, administering antibiotics and vaccines, providing food, water and shelter, bringing those nearly dead back to life. If necessary, infected eyes were removed and useless limbs amputated but sadly, in the end, more animals were lost than were saved. 

Is human life more important than animal life? As a reporter, I ask: “If you saw an injured animal lying in a ditch, would you help?” If we choose to believe that a Higher Power created all living creatures in His or Her image, the answer is  easy. 

NAR © 2018

WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE

DAY 1 – Today, as I walked the hills, God spoke to me. We’ve had many talks before, but today was different.  There was a certain unhappiness in his voice and he didn’t say much. Later, right in the middle of dinner, I heard God calling: “Noah? NOAH!” Oh, for Christ’s sake! Always when I’m eating! I got up and went to our usual spot. God said that he was going to start a torrential rain that would flood the earth, essentially killing everyone. Then he told me to wait for instructions. OMG! This is heavy stuff. 

DAY 32 – Three weeks later God called again and told me to build a boat .. actually, he called it an ark and it had to be a certain number of cubits (Note to self: Google cubits). After it’s built I can only bring my wife, sons and their wives. In truth I did ask if I could leave the ladies behind but God just laughed and said there was a method to his madness. Now, here’s where it gets really crazy: I had to bring two of every animal, male and female, and enough food to feed all of us for forty days and forty nights. I don’t think even he knows what a major project this is.

DAY 35 – Tonight I told the family what we had to do and they looked at me like I was from Mars. My sons helped me build the ark while the women prepared plenty of unleavened bread and picked legumes, vegetables and fruit. 

DAY 318 – Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, we finished the ark. Now came the monumental task of collecting the animals and gathering provisions. The whole family worked tirelessly getting that done. Just as we got the last of the animals on board, it started to rain. We pulled up the plank, making sure everything was totally secure. 

DAY 327 – It’s only been a little while and I realized I should have brought three of every animal because I’m dying for a piece of meat. Now I’m a freaking vegetarian? Oy vey! 

DAY 358 – Today my wife says “Noah. There’s a problem. Where are the unicorns?” Well, I sure had a good laugh over that one. “You believe that fairytale??” I guffawed. “Next thing you’re gonna tell me is someone’s gonna write a book of biblical proportions about us. Woman, you crack me up!” 

NAR © 2018

FIELD DAYS

Justice, Fergus and Eustace were little triplets, abandoned at an early age. They never knew their father who was the ‘love-em-and-leave-em’ type and their mother was a floozie who ran off with a smooth-talking rat. They were in dire straits for a while but now they lived on a farm and life was pretty good. 

Days were spent romping in the tall grass eating berries, seeds and an occasional bug. At night they slept in the barn loft – a discarded half-filled bag of mulch as their bed. And they always kept an eye out for cats, snakes, owls and other creatures of the night .. the typical life of a field mouse. 

Justice was the self-elected leader. Fergus was somewhat dim-witted, obviously not the brightest bulb. Eustace, the only female of the trio, was a free spirit who apparently took after their mother. Most nights Eustace could be found across the yard getting it on with the Hamster Boys. Eustace was not very discriminating but size definitely mattered. One night she took off with one of the hamsters; her brothers never saw her again. 

Sometimes the farmer’s teenage son and his friends would come into the barn, hanging around smoking some funny smelling stuff and laughing their fool heads off. One day Fergus noticed something the teens had left behind – shiny and glittering in the sun. He climbed down to investigate and discovered a long glass tube with a bowl attached to the end which contained remnants of something that looked like weeds. ‘Lunch!’ thought Fergus and began chowing down.

It wasn’t long before Justice heard Fergus’s excited giggles and went to see what nonsense the dimwit was up to. There he was, chasing his tail all around the top of a well, Bob Marley music playing in the background. Suddenly Fergus screamed ‘CANNONBALL’ and jumped into the deep well. Justice heard a tiny squeal followed by an almost imperceptible splash .. then silence. ‘Poor little twit’ Justice muttered to himself and slowly walked back to the barn.

Alone now, Justice packed a few items and bid farewell to the barn. Along the way he came across a young couple enjoying a picnic. Reaching into her basket, the woman produced a small piece of cheese and gingerly offered it to him. Tentative at first, Justice looked up into the woman’s twinkling blue eyes and was immediately besotted. He took the cheese in his tiny hands, placed it in his little hobo sack and ran off. 

Justice had been served.

Once he was far enough away he sat down and nibbled happily on the cheese, staring at the wispy clouds and reminiscing about his siblings, now gone. 

That day Justice had prevailed. 

NAR © 2018