Pigeon Feathers

There are twelve beautiful trees gracing my block on Charles Street. I consider myself very lucky to have them. From the glass door leading to my terrace, I watch the seasons change as these very trees sprout buds, tender leaves and then large green ones that look like open hands. At this time of the year, dried berries appear in clumps as the leaves curl inward, turn crusty and fall to the street, where the neighborhood dogs charge through them like kids at recess. It is great fun to watch them and a forbidden distraction from the computer. Yesterday, a young squirrel mesmerized me as he dashed up the side of the tree closest to my terrace. He stopped suddenly and looked in, checked me out and continued scampering to the top. He leaped to the tree across the street and then onto the rain gutter of the oldest residential house along the Manhattan waterfront area, facing me across the street. The real evidence of one season gone and another starting is the scattered leaves and pigeon feathers waiting to be swept off my terrace. As you read this, October will have come, gone and will have ended another chapter for dog and cat lovers.

Susan Cook Henry and her Persian beauty. Photo by Mordecai Siegal.

On October 8 and 9, the exciting CFA-Iams Cat Championship made a big splash at Madison Square Garden with 300 of the most sumptuous pussycats this side of the Mississippi. I have to tell you, the minute I hear about an event at Madison Square Garden, I know it is going to be important and worth attending. Now I must confess, the cat show at the Garden this year had attractions for me beyond the competition itself, which was fabulous in its own right. However, it was an opportunity to see so many old friends. I spent time with Show Committee Chair and Japanese Bobtail breeder Allen Scruggs, whom I have known since our days as members of the Empire Cat Club. Then, there was a large clowder of CFA officials and show judges whom I enjoy seeing such as Tom Dent, Pam DelaBar, Kitty Angel, Pat Jacobberger, Joan Miller, Lois Jensen, and Diana Rothermel. And, I always enjoy catching up with Allene Tartaglia, my co-conspirator on our five-year project, The Cat Fanciers’ Association Complete Cat Book (HarperCollins). Allene performs so many functions for CFA it makes the head spin.

And speaking of The Cat Fanciers’ Association Complete Cat Book, the most demanding time for me at the show was sitting at the CFA booth, saying hello to my readers as they entered the show hall and autographing the big book for those who bought it. This blockbuster is a 500-page honey with the most beautiful color photos of all the CFA breeds. I will be performing the same pleasantry at the huge CFA International Cat Show in the San Mateo Expo Center in San Mateo, California on November 18, 19 and 20. Dusty Rainbolt was also at the Garden, coming all the way from Texas to autograph her award-winning book, Kittens for Dummies. What a treat for New Yorkers to see this sweetie in her buckskin outfit, lookin’ like a writin’, ropin’ rodeo star.

Left to right, Chelsea Sic, Deanna Dorman, Michelle Kupec, Kaitlin Erickson. Photo by Mordecai Siegal.

For me the most enjoyable part of the CFA-Iams Cat Championship was the fabulous girls from the Fancicats Dance Company from Annmarie’s Dance Place in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. You couldn’t miss them as they circulated all over the show hall in their kitty-kat costumes and face make-up. These adorable kittens put on a mini dance production in a little set-aside theatre space, and they called it “Meowcity,” a cat-themed variety show for the benefit of CFA’s Winn Foundation. They also did face painting for the kids. Everyone I saw thoroughly enjoyed them, and I hope they become a permanent fixture at this and other CFA cat shows. They’ve been doing it since 1995 and are real eye-catchers.

Oh, yes, the Best in Show winner was Marmese Cobalt, Blue Point Siamese Female. Breeders/Owners: John and Margaret Robins. “Ahhh” and “Oh my” was heard all over the place for the magnificent winner. 20,000 cat lovers passed through the gates of Madison Square Garden, and by the time it was over, you couldn’t hear a whisker drop. Well, maybe a whisker.

Courtesy of Westminster.
Assisting with the unveiling of this year’s poster was (l to r) Westminster’s 2004 Best in Show winner, Josh, a Newfoundland seen with owner David Helming and Best in Show at Westminster’s 2005 event, Carlee, a German Shorthaired Pointer with owner Richard Stark. Photo courtesy of Westminster.

On the dog side of things, those Westminstarians keep proving that Westminister Kennel Club (WKC) is a great organization, from producing their dog show at Madison Square Garden to choosing a great cause to support. For the second year the WKC, the oldest and most prestigious dog club in America, commissioned a fine artist to create their official 2006 poster, put it up for sale and donate the proceeds to the “Angel on a Leash” therapy dog program at the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital in Manhattan. Here is the part that gets my keyboard teary: they held a late morning preview unveiling the new poster, giving their friends in the press, of which they have many, an opportunity to see a few of the kids fighting for their lives and how frequent visits from therapy dogs (a fancy name for lick-your-face doggies) lighten the load and stop the hospital routine for a few minutes to bring joy and laughter. It was easy to see the sheer pleasure these dogs bring to the kids, from toddlers to teenagers, but not so easy to view them between their forest of IV poles, hooked to them for survival. I had 18 months of that myself, but I’m a grown man. As a parent, I can’t imagine the anguish of watching your child battle for its life. If you have any interest in helping them, order a 2006 Westminster Poster, from an oil painting created by noted sports artist Bart Forbes. To order a poster, log on to www.westminsterkennelclub.org or call 212-305-3155. For information about Angel On A Leash, e-mail angelonaleash@wkcpr.org.

Murray Weinstock and his inspiration, his beloved Sparky.

Capping off the month was a delightful Sunday night at a village café enjoying the live performance of Murray Weinstock and Company, playing and singing his own compositions, and what fabulous compositions they are, most taken from his current CD, “Tails of the City.” They are all songs about dogs, each a gem. Some of them are from the perspective of the dog and some from the perspective of the human at the other end of the tail. You’ll love “Big Dogs Need More Food,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “My Buddy,” and one of his latest, “The Bow Wow Polka.” They are funny, charming and doggone heartfelt. I just love them! What a great live ensemble for any doggie affair. I can’t stop thinking about the CD with formidable talent such as Phoebe Snow, John Sebastian and Steve Diller (playing a splendid harmonica). If you love dogs, you gotta have this. It’s for real. The CD is available from Lovenotes Records at www.dogtunes.com or toll-free 866-864-8868.

Okay. Pop the champagne and break out the streamers. This column marks my fourth anniversary with goodnewsforpets.com. What a great ride it continues to be, thanks to our farsighted founder and leader, Lea-Ann Germinder. My longest running pet column was with House Beautiful, which I believe went for eight years. When I left, five full-color pages of pet food advertising left with me, and I don’t know how many readers. (Sardonic grin.) A dog or a cat is a terrible thing to waste, isn’t it? So, pour the bubbly and give us a toast. I do love it here.

Mordecai Siegal’s next book will be in stores this January, titled “I Just Got a Kitten. What Do I Do?” published by Simon & Schuster. His latest book is, “The Cat Fanciers’ Association COMPLETE CAT BOOK. The Official Publication of the CFA,” published by HarperCollins. This feline reference book is comparable to the AKC’s Complete Dog Book. His most recent dog book is “The Good Life: Your Dog’s First Year” (Simon and Schuster). His most durable books are “Good Dog, Bad Dog” (Henry Holt), “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things” (Little, Brown), the 10th Anniversary Revised Edition of “I Just Got A Puppy. What Do I Do?” (Simon & Schuster), “The Cornell Book of Cats” (Villard), “The Davis Book of Dogs” (HarperCollins), and “The Davis Book of Horses.” He is President Emeritus of the Dog Writers Association of America and a founding member of The Cat Writers’ Association.


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