I have always been a dog person. I have had dogs since age 11; my first childhood pet, Cookie, was a salt and pepper miniature Schnauzer. When our precious Angel, a Whippet/Collie mix, died in 2004 at age 14, I decided not to get another dog. She was, by far, the weirdest dog I had ever had and meeting her needs was excellent preparation for our adopted son who turned out to have special needs. Angel was a special needs dog. We adopted her from the Anti-Cruelty Society when she was 1 1/2 years old. The fact that she was the only dog in the shelter who did not touch her “Pup Pizza” should have been a big red flag, in retrospect. As our esteemed former President George W. H. Bush put it, “hindsight is 90/90” – well, actually, 20/20. She was an extraordinary dog who “smiled” when she met people she liked and she did what we described as the “full body wag”. Her phobias were many and her needs were great. She would curl up in a cardboard box and she hated water. She was a dog-cat.
Angel died when my son, E, was 3 years old. We tried guinea pigs; they didn’t last long. E won 4 goldfish in a carnival. Only 1 survived and he is still alive, amazingly; Jerry is 2 1/2 yrs old and we bought Lips 6 months later to keep him company. E really wanted another dog but I was pretty fried from caring for Angel. To satisfy E, we started volunteering at Treehouse No-Kill Cat Shelter. We went every week for about 8 months and played with the kittens. E really wanted kittens. I had never had house cats and they do have a reputation as being aloof and selfish.
Then, in summer 2013, E fractured his knee cap in a freak accident at day camp. You remember Summer 2013, right? During the month of July it never got below 90 degrees or so it seemed and we had more than 1 day when it was over 100. Poor E was in a full leg cast during that entire month. When he was sprung from his cast, he had to wear a removable leg immobilizer for 2 weeks. By week 2, he was really fed up with the whole affair. So, I promised him we would get kittens if he kept it on and got a clean bill of health. And that’s what happened.
We adopted 2 brothers at 3 months of age and called them Sergeant Sunshine and Mr. Whiskers. By the 3rd day, Mr. Whiskers developed diarrhea which lasted on and off for 8 months. Here we were with yet another special needs creature – a kitten, this time. I tried different food, ran back and forth to the vet with fecal samples that were negative for worms, bacteria and whatever else they tested for. Martin and I would wake up every morning to several piles of diarrhea all over our living room floor – TMI? I was beside myself and even called Treehouse and asked if we could return only Mr. Whiskers, who is the most adorable, sweetest, scardiest creature. Everyone told me to give him away. I finally took him to the vet who put him on prescription food; you can’t imagine how much we spend on his food!!! It did the trick and now a year later he is very well, has put on weight and is almost as big as his fat cat brother, Sarge.
I seem to be a magnet for special needs creatures of all kinds. These cats have turned out to be cat-dogs. They are as affectionate as dogs and in fact, Mr. Whiskers, also lovingly referred to as Middy Wicky and Wisty H. Micklethwaite (don’t ask), would love to spend his entire life sitting on my lap, being petted by me. Sarge comes when you whistle for him, follows me around all day and is particularly fond of visiting me when I am on the toilet (TMI, again?) and jumps up onto E’s bed at night when you tell him “up up” and goes to “his spot” which is on one of E’s many pillows. They snuggle under the covers and Sarge starts purring as loud as a motor. We have seen a huge improvement in E’s behaviors since we got the kittens and I now refer to them as “therapy cats”. We have the best of both worlds; loving animals that don’t need to be walked. Considering the winter we are having, I am glad they are cats!
And now for something completely different. Please read the following PSA from Commonwealth Edison.
ComEd Expands Groundbreaking Program To Help Individuals with Developmental Disabilities Achieve and Educate Customers on Energy Efficiency
Inspiring Energy Force educates and empowers customers through passionate ‘ambassadors’
CHICAGO (Oct. 1, 2013) – ComEd is expanding its one-of-a-kind ComEd Energy Force program, in which individuals with developmental disabilities educate customers on energy efficiency. Launched last year, ComEd’s Energy Force is the first and only program organized by a U.S. utility company designed specifically to help empower individuals with developmental disabilities to reduce their electricity use and save money—and educate others to do the same.
In Illinois, tens of thousands of individuals with developmental disabilities live with families or in assisted living communities where they are responsible for their home’s energy usage.
“ComEd is committed to doing all we can to support and partner with the communities we serve, and our Energy Force ambassadors are yet another way that we can help our communities and customers use less energy, improve our shared environment and lower their monthly bills,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd. “The ambassadors are passionate, confident and connect with our customers because they care deeply about conservation and protecting our environment. It’s inspiring to watch the Energy Force in action.”
ComEd has increased its partnerships to support the Energy Force to10 nonprofit organizations. The participating nonprofits, located throughout Northern Illinois, work with individuals with developmental disabilities. They include:
Access Living (Chicago)
Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago
El Valor (Chicago)
GiGi’s Playhouse (Aurora)
Lambs Farm (Libertyville)
Neumann Family Services (Chicago)
Orchard Village (Skokie)
Ray Graham Association (Lisle)
Special Olympics Chicago
Access Living, Orchard Village and the Ray Graham Association are new Energy Force participating organizations this year.
Each organization nominates an individual to serve as part of the ComEd Energy Force. ComEd trains the nominees and staff, providing them with the tools, resources and to create fun, interactive presentations that offer easy and simple energy-efficiency tips to their individual peers and larger audiences.
This year, the program will increase its reach and expand into more opportunities to educate audiences even beyond individuals with developmental disabilities. Each Energy Force team member is expected to conduct approximately ten outreach events in the next twelve months. ComEd provides a stipend to cover time, costs and materials.
“Last year, this program helped our Energy Force ambassador to learn more about energy efficiency and to teach others how to conserve as well,” said Nancy Gianni, president, GiGi’s Playhouse Down Syndrome Awareness Center. “I’ve seen this program instill a level of confidence and growth as it expands the circle of individuals doing their part to preserve our environment, help our communities and save real dollars.”