The pet-less hiatus at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has gone on long enough. At last, four-legged friendos are coming back! In honor of President-elect Joe Biden bringing Champ and a future feline to the White House, we are sharing stories about our doggos, kitties, and other creature companions. Quality of life would suffer without them. Warning: the cuteness overload you are about to experience will cause uncontrollable squeeing. You may even try reaching through the screen to deliver boops to those faces.
Our dog, Kafka, has been the patron saint of my sanity through this pandemic year. She makes sure I unplug from my work-from-home station and step outside for some fresh air every single day, whether we’re going for a quiet walk around the neighborhood or venturing further afield for a longer hike. I’m a homebody by nature, and without her, would surely have withered away and broken down long ago.
—Daniel Barks, Print Planning and Digital Production Manager
Timothy has always been a cat of big feelings, clearly expressed. He wants what he wants when he wants it, whether it’s love, food, playtime, brushing, or going outside. (I allow him brief jaunts in the backyard in the morning.) He has wide tonal range in his meows—I often think I understand exactly what’s he saying—and he’s good with the impatient paw tap should I ignore his clear verbal expressions of his needs. He’s also terrified of all strangers, so one of the pleasures of this year of spending way too much time at home has been his Zoom bombing. Usually, he finds my Zoom meetings noisy, annoying, and mildly frightening, and exits the room in exasperation, but every now and then, he marches straight to the lap top screen to stare at the people looking back and to rub his chin against the screen’s edge. And my friends or colleagues smile widely, because he’s a gorgeous, ridiculous creature, and a welcome break. And because this we all know: the matter-of-fact presence of our animal companions, lounging in the background behind journalists on TV screens, or popping into work meetings and book talks with a tail wag, has had the great effect of humanizing our professional selves, and hinting at the bonds, to humans and animals alike, that matter most.
—Amy Caldwell, Associate Editorial Director
This is Miss Kitty. For most of her life, she enjoyed a healthy and carefree lifestyle. But all that easy living caught up with her three years ago when her only functioning kidney started to fail. Her situation was so dire that we had a living wake for her. Thanks to her vet and her zest for life and turkey, Miss Kitty made a miraculous recovery. But her health struggles continued. Over the next year, her little kidney sputtered and failed two more times. We had more wakes, but she rallied from the brink again and again. Fortunately, she has been healthy and sassy for the past two years. She celebrated her fifteenth birthday this summer with tuna juice and a nap. When it seems like the pandemic is never going to end, Miss Kitty is there to remind me that there is always room for hope when things seem bleak.
—Beth Collins, Production Manager
Meet our orange tabbies, Dexter (back) and Willow (front), named after famous ginger TV characters of course. We adopted the brother-sister pair a little over two years ago as kittens. One thing we learned is that orange tabbies are male something like eighty percent of the time, so everyone at the shelter was really excited to have a female there! And much like a famous orange tabby Garfield, they love eating, except replace lasagna with cardboard, sticks, string, and everything else and you’ve got our cats—especially Dexter—so we’ve learned to keep the floors really clean to avoid any more costly trips to the vet ER.
—Alyssa Hassan, Associate Director of Marketing
Nicole and Sassy:
My partner and I adopted Sassy (full name: Sassypants. Trust us, it’s on her rescue papers!) during Boston’s lockdown in July 2020. We’d been scouring every pet rescue site for about six months and kept getting rejections (them: “Whoops, you’re too late!” me: “But the listing went up ten minutes ago!”). What’s made working from home, attending my night classes, and working on my graduate thesis all from my living room a little more bearable every day is having a friendly face to turn to when things get to be just a bit too much. No matter what, she’s always looking out for me—in exchange for some belly rubs and human hugs in return!
—Nicole-Anne Keyton, Editorial Assistant
Ode to King George
We adopted our tuxedo cat, George, when he was a sweet little kitten, but by the time he was half-grown, he’d become the swaggering alpha of our neighborhood. Walking home from Thayer, we’d spot him stalking about on the Brown quad and, pointing, say to the kids, “Look, there’s the big man on campus.” Sometimes he’d return from a night prowl smelling of perfume, and we’d know he’d been next door at Tina’s, where he liked to stop for a snack on the way home. In the afternoons, he’d hang about until our middle son rounded the corner coming home from school, and together they’d race up the driveway.
One January, after a huge snowstorm, he went missing for six days. Just as I was looking at his bowls and thinking, Well, maybe he’s not going to make it home, Tina called, happily reporting that he was on her back porch.
Another time, now getting advanced in years, he again went missing for days; we were miserable with worry. Then, there he was, crouched low on the back steps. He’d somehow made it home with his shoulder blade broken in three places. Eventually, he healed, but it was clear his prowling days were over. With resignation, he’d follow us to his leash in the back garden, where he could at least watch the squirrels and take one of his long naps in the sun. Observing him there, resting in his dotage, we’d tease him, saying, “Oh my, look how the mighty have fallen.” He even started napping on my lap in the winter, now content to settle by the warmth of the fire.
At the end of June, when he was almost twenty years old, kidney failure caught up with George and, heartbroken, we had to put him down. Our neighbor’s cat, Alu, sensing the new order, started sashaying through our back yard, offering a mocking little wave with her tail. “Okay, Alu,” we’d say, “but our George will always be the king of Lloyd Avenue!”
—Pamela MacColl, Director of Communications
Norton and I have been through a lot together. As an eighth grader, I wanted a pet that would outlive me, so I made a pitch presentation for a Russian tortoise on a trifold foam board for my parents, complete with photos of Norton taken through the glass at Petco. Norton followed me to college (smuggled into my dorm in a blue bin), through multiple moves, and now resides in a large, reclaimed bookshelf in my Brighton apartment. She’s moody, but I’ve been trying to get on her good side with handfeeding—a new favorite pandemic pastime. She can feed herself (as pictured), but isn’t it so much nicer to perch on a rock and have someone feed you dandelions, clovers, Belgian endive, watercress, collards, and radicchio?
—Melissa Nasson, Esq., Contracts Director