Monday, January 25, 2010

Revenge of the Recycled Cat.

Our house is, quite literally, a zoo. With three dogs, two cats, a bunny, and two aquariums of fish, we spend an exorbitant amount of money on pet food and vet visits. But, that's the commitment we made when we added these furry friends to the family. Or should I say—when Kristen added them to the family.

We started with one
dog—Maxi, a purebred Dalmatian.

I know, I know...shame on me.

Next, we added Mimi the bunny, who actually turned out to be a boy. Let's just say—identifying bunny gender is not as easy as you would think.

Then came Murphy, a tiny little black kitten, who decided to find shelter from the rain—under the hood of Peter's car. Peter drove home from work, heard meowing in the garage, and found Murphy stuck near the engine in his car. I never wanted a cat. I'm allergic to cats. I'm a dog girl. Kristen saw Murphy. We had a cat. Actually, the cat was originally named Mia--until Peter took her to get spayed and discovered Mia needed to be neutered. Obviously, pet gender ID is not our strength.

Around this time, Peter found two baby sq
uirrels that were abandoned. Guess who hand raised squirrels? And I wonder where Kristen gets her animal obsession? As soon as the squirrels were old enough, we released them into our backyard. Those ungrateful things came back often to eat the heads off of my pansies.

Next, Ringo. For whatever masochistic reason, we decided it was time for a puppy. Ringo was our first experience with adopting from a shelter
. Peter and I thought we would visit a few shelters, take a look, and think about adopting a pup. Of course, we left the shelter that day with Ringo. He was a sweetheart of a dog, chewed everything in sight, and loved Peter. The feeling was mutual. Murphy, however, did not love Ringo—and disappeared. Heartbreak. And then Maxi and Ringo got out of our fenced yard. Devastation.

RIP Ringo.

A month later, I received an e-mail. Our friend's son adopted a puppy with his girlfriend, not realizing how difficult it would be to care for a dog while in college. In an apartment. Would we be interested in adopting the pup? What do you think?

Chloe joined the pack. During the summer, we suddenly noticed two cats hanging around. Remember that I'm not a cat person? Well, starving animals break my heart, and these guys obviously had been abandoned. Oreo is part dog—she's mine. She comes when you call her, and jumps up like a dog to be petted. Someone cared enough to microchip her—but never updated the contact information. Sammy belongs to Kristen. For a very long time, he would only let Kiki the animal whisperer pet him. Now, he's gotten less nervous with the rest of us...but he's also turned into the true Tom cat, with torn ears and a scratched nose as battle wounds. We figured he had found a girlfriend, and decided it was time for the prowling to be done for Sammy.

So, last Friday, Sammy underwent the knife. Needless to say, he was not a happy fellow.

He sprayed.

Have you ever experienced cat spray?
Skunk couldn't be worse. Honestly. I feel well-punished. My car stinks. The entire house stinks. The downstairs, where Sammy is recuperating in a kennel, reeks. Friday night I woke up choking on the smell.

Please don't stop by—because I really can't let you in the house.

After several days of opening windows and doors i
n the freezing weather, along with various odor neutralizing sprays, we're starting to breathe again...but Sammy's revenge still lingers.

It's funny, because when thinking about pets and environmental issues, I realized that—with the exception of Maxi, who is spayed but from a breeder—we're pretty eco-savvy about our animals. I worried that we don't feed them organic pet food, we don't buy toys made from 100% organic cotton, we don't use hemp leashes. Still...we do two of the most important ecological actions as pet owners:

We adopt.

Whether it's from a shelter, from a friend, or taking in a stray, our pets are “recycled.” According to the Humane Society, between six million and eight million animals enter U.S shelters each year...and approximately four million dogs and cats are euthanized annually. That's about one every eight seconds. Not all of these animals
are strays—many are the offspring of well-loved family pets. Puppies and kitties are cute...but they grow into cats and dogs. It's never a good idea to let a pet have “just one” litter. There are too many animals in shelters who need good homes.

We spay and neuter our pets.

Yes, we got punished for it by Sammy. Still, Sammy is an outside cat. I don't want to be responsible for his inability to practice safe sex. Spaying and neutering is the only way to ensure population control. If, as a pet owner, you want to be truly environmental—forgo the organic cotton Halloween costume for Fido and get him
neutered instead.

Sophie, our sweet little third pup who Peter found starving in the company's parking lot, is soon due for her spaying appointment. Thank goodness dogs are so much more civilized than's hoping for a much less odorific experience.

Did you know that the Humane Society sponsors a Spay Day photo contest? The site states: “Capture your pet’s essence in images and words, win a great prize.” Hmm. I wonder if I could capture Sammy's essence and submit it?

Anyway—it's a cool promotion with a great environmental message. Check it out:

I'm off to scrub the house...again. For you animal lovers, we'll continue our chat about environmental pets next time with interesting eco products and ideas to minimize Spot's carbon paw print.

Until then...have any great ways that you minimize your pet's impact on the environment? Do you have a “recycled” pet? Please share!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Holiday recap.

Well. That was a pretty long food coma, huh?

I'm slowly re-emerging from post-holiday lethargy. I know—you thought the Adolfs had gone off the green wagon. You thought we couldn't handle the pressure of forgoing Christmas traditions that involve non-LED lights. You thought we'd cave and let Santa bring crappy plastic toys that will soon litter the landfill. You assumed we couldn't handle the pressure of a non-battery-driven, non-electronic Christmas.

You're right.

Yes, I failed miserably at the greening of our holidays. I knew I would. I hate to say it, but I know how I am at Christmas time. I am a holiday fanatic. I love the lights, I love aimlessly driving around, looking at decorations. I'm the first to suggest that we pile in the van (not Prius) and drive to the zoo where there are millions of energy-wasting lights. You can drive into the “Deer Forest” and feed the animals out of your car, all while wasting gas as the car idles with the heat on, doors open. I try to be good and order presents online—but then they arrive, with the non-recycled boxes, plastic, and styrofoam peanuts consuming the house. I still send the old-fashioned Christmas cards and will probably never embrace e-cards. We bake too much, indulge too much, and throw away too much. It's a glutton's dream.

So, I suppose, I've been a little ashamed to write about our family's “green-ness” after our holiday lapse. There were, however, a few things we did right:

We recycled. A LOT.

In Christmases past, I must admit to throwing away bags and bags of trash, just to get the clutter out of the way. This year, we made a very concerted effort to recycle anything and everything we could. During our present-opening frenzies, both at home and at my sister's house, we took the time to separate paper, cardboard, and plastic that could be recycled. We took bows that weren't crushed and put them away to reuse. In past years, our trash can overflowed after Christmas. In fact, our neighbors next door, in addition to their two trash cans, had at least a dozen trash bags at the street post-Christmas.

We didn't even fill one-third of a trash bag. We had a very large recycling run.

VERY large. I still have piles of boxes that need to go to recycling. But at least they're not headed for the landfill, as in Christmases past.

We turned down the heat. WAY down.

This fall, when it began getting chilly, I think I shocked Peter by my insistence to keep the thermostat down. OK, in truth, it's really not that far down. However, I'm the one who usually keeps the temperature set at 72 degrees. I'm cold. Always. When I get tired, I freeze. And, since I'm always tired, I'm always cold. Still, I was determined to keep the temp at the more environmentally friendly 68 degrees. I know, I's not that great. Lots of the greenies of the world turn it way down, and there's a cult of green gurus who try not to use heat AT ALL. Have you heard about these environmental gods and goddesses who forsake heat? Good luck to those dedicated souls...but can't people die without heat?

Anyway, as a mom, I'm a little torn. Our daughter has no body fat—seriously, the child is a stick. We do feed her, I promise. So, while trying to maintain my stance on our lowered thermostat, I've encouraged the kids to add layers. Personally, sleeping in my old Bradley University sweatshirt is not winning points with Peter, but hey—it's warm, I love it. Still...there are times, especially in the morning, when I'm trying to get Kristen out of bed...and it's cold. Darn cold. And I wonder why I can't get that child up and moving in the mornings? There are some mornings she puts her coat on over her PJs. It's kind of pitiful.

Someone, who will remain nameless, has been known to sneak the thermostat up a degree on really cold nights. Huh. I thought I married a tough Swiss man.

Garden Delights is going e-commerce—and I'm committed to running a very green business.

Yes, there's never a dull moment at our house. My heirloom plant business is expanding, with the website going live very soon! Now, it's one thing to grow heirloom plants sustainably and sell them locally at the Farmer's Market. It's quite another challenge to run an e-commerce business, shipping plants across the country, while utilizing only green materials for sustainable growing and packaging. Still...I've found some great vendors, terrific green packaging options, and even some ways to offset the environmental impact of the transportation involved in shipping. Stay tuned...I'll be reporting on my attempts to start the business and keep its green mantra, while continuing to get our family back on track to reducing our environmental impact.

So, friends, Happy New Year—a little late! Did you make any interesting resolutions this year regarding the environment? Want to share them here? Maybe we can help each other be more accountable and meet our goals. (Oh...and besides being better to the environment, I also plan to drop 20 lbs. And exercise every day. And not set unattainble goals. HA.)

Here's to 2010!