How Cheetah Cheated Fate

Cheetah the cat
Calicoes are spirited and inquisitive creatures. When they want something, they want it now. It takes a lot to stop a headstrong Calico from getting her way, and as someone who has owned two, I speak from experience. Currently I have a luscious, plump, orange, brown, black and white, proud purring machine named Cheetah, who sometimes is too curious for her own good. It’s gotten her into trouble enough to use a few of those nine lives.
Cheetah is very social, playful and interested in everything.  She’s unstoppable.  To this day, we keep baby latches on kitchen cabinets and covers over plug outlets because she wants to open doors and lick random objects.
One Saturday, (Caturday?) morning in December, I noticed her by the water dish being less active than usual.  In fact, she was a downright sloth.  When she sipped the water, she immediately yacked it back up!
My first thought was she might have an upset stomach.  Not a big deal.  I let it go.  As the day progressed, my husband and kids noticed the same things: Cheetah was not too energetic and not wanting to eat.
On Sunday morning I took her to the local emergency vet.  I explained her symptoms and how un-Cheetah-like her behavior was.  The vet, who of course didn’t really know our cat, felt around her body, commented on what an impressive size the cat was and decided to do an x-ray. Cheetah had not consumed food or substantial water to our knowledge for at least a day.  She hadn’t pooped either.
The x-ray was unclear but showed something in her belly that should not be there.  With the Cheetah-Who-Likes-to-Eat-a, you can never tell.   They injected fluid into her body to tide her over and told us to get her to our regular vet early the next morning.  I called in late to work and did just that on Monday.  Cheetah was only 18 months old at the time.
We were willing to do whatever it took to save her life.  In the meantime, at home, we discovered chewed and hacked-out bits of something dark-colored on the kitchen floor.  Downstairs, by the door to the holiday decorations closet, (which was opened and shouldn’t have been), I found nibbled bits of plastic Easter basket grass.
I knew I had an adventurous kitty but had no idea just how into everything she could potentially be until that moment.
The vet’s office called.  They had to do exploratory surgery to remove the unidentifiable blockage.  Of course, I gave them the OK.  After surgery, in her fat kitty colon they discovered a metallic piece to a pony tail stretch band and green plastic stuff.
Long story short, the doc removed the foreign objects from Cheetah’s gut, repaired her intestine, hydrated her and saved her life.  48 hours and $1500.00 dollars later and two days before Christmas, we had our big baby girl back.
What we learned after that was to keep the house more baby-proofed than we’d done even for our human children.  We had a furry toddler who could climb everywhere, fearlessly seeking out new territories.  Like a little kid, she was inclined to explore everything with her mouth.  She opened doors and drawers all over the house.  As careful as we were, we couldn’t control everything, and hoped she would one day out grow her urges to climb and maneuver into everything.
After the surgery one night I heard scurrying and scampering on the bare floor in the hallway. Cheetah had dislodged a push-pin from a bulletin board and was now swatting it across the wood flooring!
She is 11 now, very affectionate and settled down.  Do I trust her completely?  No way! Is she still playful and curious?  As much as ever. We are extremely thankful to the vets and techs who helped us with our large and loving Sweet-a Cheetah, and boy have we ever learned to be watchful and aware!
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Paige Adams Strickland is the author of, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity. She is a Spanish teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio and is married with two daughters and a son-in-law.  She has owned both cats and dogs but currently has four cats.  Her book blog is, and she welcomes visits and comments there. Her book is available on iPad, Kindle and as a print version at:     or:

SATURDAY GUEST BLOG: Happy National Pit Bull Awareness Day!

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My name is Katy Blanton and I am a “pit bull” dog lover.

Three years ago, a longtime friend called me asking if I wanted a tiny puppy her husband and his fire squad had come across while on a run. It was Christmas Eve in 2010. She sent me a picture and I immediately fell in love with the little puppy. When I asked her if she knew what breed of dog it was, she casually said, “It’s a pit bull.” I remember my heart sinking. There was no way I was going to get a pit bull. Those dogs were vicious. They were mean. They were bred to kill. But the photo of the puppy pulled my heart strings and I agreed to pick him up the next morning.

On Christmas Day, 2010, my “pit bull” dog story started. I did my best to raise the dog, whom I named King. He chewed up everything, including carpet padding, but he was the sweetest, and most snugly dog I had ever been around. A friend and neighbor who is a groomer and runs a doggy daycare, had extensive experience with “pit bull” dogs and recommended that I contact a woman she knew through rescue that worked with them. Around this same time, the City of Cincinnati was in the final stages of repealing the ban on “pit bull” dogs. In a fateful twist of events, two months later, Cincinnati Pit Crew (CPC) was created.

No one has been more surprised than I that “pit bull” dogs have become such a huge part of my life. I’ve done extensive research on “pit bull” dogs, have had the opportunity to participate in a language and advocacy workshop at the Animal Farm Foundation in upstate New York, and to speak with local media on several occasions.

What I have realized is that most people understand that much of what they always thought they knew about “pit bull” dogs is based solely on stereotypes and myths that someone else told them or on negative media coverage. I’ve also discovered the pride and confidence with which “pit bull” dog owners carry themselves. These beloved dogs have changed people’s lives, mine certainly included.

“Pit bull” dogs are loyal, kind, gentle, and responsive to training. They are strong and athletic and have a great deal of energy if not given the opportunity to exercise properly on a regular basis. As with any other type of dog, a “pit bull” dog demands a certain level of responsibility from an owner. Unfortunately, there is often a stereotype associated with “pit bull” dog owners as well that tends to overshadow the many responsible owners that do provide appropriate care for their dogs.

Today, October 26, 2013, we celebrate National Pit Bull Awareness Day. On this day, we recognize the “pit bull” dog for the loyal and misunderstood dog that it has become. Gradually, the “pit bull” dog is regaining its position as America’s Dog. I find “pit bull” dog owners in the most unlikely of places; an administrator at the college for which I work, a doctor I saw recently, a politician running for office, a professional baseball player.

I work tirelessly alongside my CPC colleagues to continue advocating to change the negative perceptions and misinformation that exists about “pit bull” dogs. It is disheartening that irresponsible owners continue to mistreat and not take appropriate care of their dogs and it’s those owners that often overshadow the work of people like me.

I will continue to do this work until “pit bull” dogs are recognized as the wonderful family pets they are. As I write this post, my 55-pound, almost three year old, “pit bull” dog, King, is snuggled against my arm snoring like a grown man. This dog has changed my life – opening doors for me that I didn’t even know existed. King is a TDI therapy dog, he’s wonderful with children and the elderly, he never stops wagging his tail and giving kisses. I never imagined that I would run a non-profit organization advocating for “pit bull” dogs. The experience has given me great confidence in myself when speaking with people and to the media, and has allowed me to build a community of contacts that spreads across racial, socioeconomic, and neighborhood lines. While at times it can be heartbreaking and frustrating, the rewards and satisfaction of knowing I am making a difference for “pit bull” dogs and for those who love these dogs has been am invaluable experience.

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Katy Blanton has lived in Cincinnati for over 25 years and is a teaching faculty member at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.  She resides on the west side of Cincinnati  in Cheviot. Eighteen months ago, Blanton and three other local women founded Cincinnati Pit Crew (CPC), a “pit bull” dog education, advocacy, and rescue organization with the hopes of changing perceptions and overcoming stereotypes of “pit bull” dogs in Cincinnati. Today, CPC has become one of the most well respected and valued rescue organizations in Cincinnati.

Fish Tales – Smarter Than You Think

goldfish in tank

Over the course of my lifetime I have had many fish: LaForge, the one-eyed fantail, Cody and Eric, the Beta pair that fell in love with my computer mouse, a whole tank full of starship/crew named fish who behaved just like their namesakes, and Pluto, my classroom fish who had several tank-friends in his long life and loved to play “tag” with the kids.

I wanted to start Fish Tales with a heartwarming story that would also help to encourage people to re-think what they know about fish. Keep in mind the following is a true story and when you reach the end and think, “No WAY!” take some time to glance over at your own tank and change that thought to, “What if…”

Tale One – Rene and Data: Best Friends

Among my fish with Star Trek names I had a pair named Rene and Data who outlived everyone else. Rene was a larger orange colored fantail (named after Rene Auberjonois of DS9 because of his beard-markings) and Data’s body was about half Rene’s size and a silver-white color. They shared food, swam side by side, and rested together in their inactive periods.

One morning I woke up to feed them and noticed instantly that something wasn’t right. Data was zooming around the bottom of the tank in a panic, and Rene was “standing on his head”, mouth down and constantly open. Since this isn’t your typical fish behavior, I instantly began to worry, but couldn’t see anything wrong… until I got down on my knees, at Data’s level and looked up at Rene. He had picked up a pebble from his tank and it was jammed in his mouth. (This is why it is important to make sure your rocks are bigger than the mouths of your fish.) I assumed that Rene was pointed down, open mouthed, to let gravity take the pressure off and hopefully pull the rock down, but I never would have anticipated what happened next.

While I began to grow frantic over what to do, Data, calmed down, came up to where I was, and turned around to look at his friend. He slowly swam to the other side of the tank and looked up again, swam back to me and looked up some more, then gently approached Rene, put his smaller mouth into Rene’s larger one and sucked that pebble right out! Problem solved! Rene took in a few good gulps of un-obstructed water and the two celebrated by swimming around together, Data fussing over Rene until his movements returned to normal.

The moral of this story? Your fish aren’t going to play chess with you, but they probably ARE smarter than you think. While you don’t have to run out and get the training kits that teach your fish to play basketball or football/soccer, you might want to give a little bit of thought to the intellectual stimulation that your tank’s environment provides. These little swimmers aren’t just a nice decoration for your room, they have thoughts and feelings of their own, even if they aren’t at our mental level. Keep in mind that fish are not solitary creatures and they don’t naturally box themselves in to a tiny space with nothing to do. My fish have always had “toys” (little crystalline plastics) that are lightweight enough that they can easily shuffle them around in the water. My current batch of three (Charon, Nix and Hydra) prefer to sort them out from their other objects and push them into a corner, while Pluto preferred to hoard them in his cave, and LaForge took great pains to scatter them evenly throughout his entire tank, each crystal going in exactly the same place it had been in before I cleaned his tank… Which is a story in itself that I promise to share another time.


Mirrani Houpe, Staff Writer.

You can e-mail her with questions at:


Auggie the cat

There’s an old saying my grandma used to live by: Each day is a blessing.  This idea is true for humans as well as animals.  Currently I have four beautiful felines in my life plus a couple of “grand-kitties”, one “grand-dog” and other assorted family and neighbor pet buddies. Animals make me complete, and I can’t imagine a life without my furfriends. I am blessed to be connected to such loving beings.

Last summer, we lost a dear companion.

Auggie, named for the month of August when we found her as a stray kitten 15 ½ years ago, is no longer with us. She was a wonderful, willowy Maine Coon with stripes, swirls and tufts between her toes.

Auggie was a fairly low-maintenance and unassuming kitty. Even at the end of life, she made it easy because we never had to make a difficult decision about what to do for her. She passed to the Rainbow Bridge quickly and easily.

The evening before, we knew something was odd. She gave us signs that it was going to happen.  Auggie was mild-mannered and a distant kind of cat. She liked being in the room with people, but she wasn’t a cuddler. She was aloof anyway, but we sensed something else.

She dozed in unusual spots around the house, had no interest in eating or drinking, was lethargic and generally was oblivious, even when the drooling, dramatic and zealous grand-puppy came for a visit. There wasn’t much we could do on a Sunday night but be mindful of her behavior.

Just as she moved around in real-life, she passed swiftly and gracefully the next morning with my daughter and me close by. We even had my out-of-town daughter on iChat, so she could see and say her farewell too.

Later that week, when Auggie’s kitty ashes had been processed and returned to us, we planned a pet memorial service. Our other four surviving cats joined my husband and our kids in the living room.  (Anyone who owns cats knows you cannot MAKE one sit for a eulogy, but ours did.  They seemed to know and sat beside the discreet paper sack, which held a small wooden box containing Auggie’s cremains.) My husband read a brief bio of Auggie, and I read a poem I’d written about her. Then we went to our back yard into a private, tree-filled area, read Psalm 23 and gently spread her ashes into a hole I’d dug earlier that morning.  We also passed the small shovel and deposited dirt into the hole to give our Auggie a true “Mewish” funeral.

When the loss of a beloved pet happens, it has a profound effect on the humans and the other animals.  For us, planning a simple but meaningful service was necessary. It gave respect to Auggie’s not-too-dramatic yet influential life. It gave us a feeling of closure and accomplishment. Our remaining animals even had a chance to be present with all of us and process the loss in their own way.  After the memorial was over, we held our four remaining earthly kitties and assured them of our love and continued devotion.

Believe me, they understood.

 Paige Strickland

Paige Adams Strickland is the recently published author of, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity. She is a Spanish teacher in Cincinnati, Ohio and is married with two daughters and a son-in-law.  She has owned both cats and dogs but currently has four cats.  Her book blog is, and she welcomes visits and comments there. Her book is available on iPad, Kindle and as a print version at:     or:

Saturday Guest Blog: THAT’S OKAY, WE THINK YOU’RE GROSS TOO! Meet the Rat

vet questions: rat nutrition

Mention your pet rat to someone and you are almost guaranteed to get a look of disgust in return.  All rat owners know the face, it is something we have to experience on a regular basis.  What those listeners don’t know is that our pet rats would be feeling exactly the same way if they ever met these strange, filthy human-creatures who are wrinkling their noses and making sounds of “Eeew!”

Rats are some of the most misunderstood of all the small, exotic pets.  Their bad reputation comes mostly from the past when parasites like fleas used rats as a mode of transportation, spreading illness wherever the rodents made their homes.  Pets of the day were workers; useful animals who pulled their weight for the family who cared for them, but the rat’s intelligence hurt them more than helped them, turning them from wild creatures who were just trying to survive into disease-laden pests. Meanwhile the useful cats, dogs and farm animals found safe, happy homes with their caretakers.  Today, most are surprised to see rats working with companies to rewire buildings or taking a new place alongside police, sniffing out drugs or explosives.  Rat owners, however, are hardly surprised.  In fact, when we see news of this kind, we pump our fists in the air and shout for joy at finding one more speck of proof that we were right all along.

Even with all the new hype, if you talk openly about your love for your pet rat, most will still frown upon you.  Tell people you have a hamster, guinea pig, gerbil, or even a mouse, and everyone is generally willing enough to allow the cute factor, even if they don’t understand your choice of pet.  To many, rats are filthy, diseased creatures with hairless, snake-like tails that are happy to live in the grime of the subway or the stench of the dump.  The truth is that rats are very intelligent and CLEAN animals, whose natural family units make them some of the best bonding-pets in the small animal world.

In my series on rat care, I hope to share my own experiences with current rat owners while introducing the rat as a pet to those who would have previously turned up their nose at the thought of sharing a snuggle with a large rodent.  Everyone who is disgusted as they read this right now has no need to worry though, most rats would give themselves a THOROUGH cleaning after being held by any oily, grimy, filthy human.  At least you and the rats are starting out on equal footing.

Mirrani Houpe, YPS Staff Member

Mirrani Houpe has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade.  Since that time she has purchased, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them.  She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world.