Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Cat Smokey; August 1998-April 19, 2012 RIP

Fourteen years ago a beautiful, green eyed, gray, kitten was wandering the neighborhood. My son and his girlfriend were sitting on the front steps of our house, when she walked up to them softly meowing.  Hungry, no doubt.  We gave her a plate of milk and sent her on her way.  A few minutes later, she returned.  Persistent little creature. 

“Can we keep her?” Asked my twenty-year son.  “No way!” was our reply.  We neither wanted nor needed another cat in the house.  We had just lost a cat a few months prior and were in no mood to take on any more pets.  Pip, our ninety-pound Old English Sheepdog, was enough to keep us busy.  “But we’ll take care of her.” My son pleaded.  “She will live in our house at school.”   “Okay,” We agreed, “But she is YOUR responsibility.”  Two weeks later, when the landlord found out a cat was in the house, she become our responsibility.  And that is how Smokey found her forever home.

Well, it wasn’t always Smokey.  First it was Binger.  Remember a twenty-year old college student is naming her.  Then Stoli; after the vodka.  That wouldn’t do, so we settled on Smokey.  She had the most beautiful coat. All grey with faint ringlets on her tail.  Nearly perfect proportions.  Her only flaw, if you could call it that, was that her legs were slightly too short.  She had a funny way of running.  It just added to her charm.  

When my younger son was a baby, he would constantly watch The Lady And The Tramp. In one scene, Si and Am, the two deliciously trouble making cats, sing "We Are Siamese If You Please."  That became Smokey’s song.  I would hold her head in my hands, lock eyes with her, and softly sing the song to her.  She would gaze right back at me and purr. 

Through the years we got two other cats, Lucky and Misty, as well as our dog Rocky.  By this time Smokey became the undisputed Alpha cat.  She would determine who got to sit in what window.  Who got to sit on what piece of furniture. And most important of all, who got to sit on the kitchen table under the warm lights.  Woe to the cat or dog that was in the spot she wanted.  A hiss, growl and a smack across the snout would send the interloper running. 

A few months ago she started to go downhill. She stopped grooming herself.  She was not eating well.  She was throwing up and had diarrhea.  She was sleeping a lot.  We were treating her for hyperthyroid.  We changed her diet to a modified RAW diet.   She started to thrive.  She seemed to be her old self again.  Affectionate, loving and still maintaining her pack status.

Last night, I was grooming her on her perch; A five foot tall pie safe.  She was cooperating as usual.  I finished up, put the brush away, threw away the fur and remarked to my wife how great she looks.  Right in front of my eyes, she got up and fell off her perch!  She hit the ground hard.  She didn’t move.  When she finally got up she ran down into the basement.  She was panting hard, her eyes were extremely dilated and she was drooling profusely. Not good.  We ran down to our vet’s office.  They immediately took her in.  They put an oxygen mask on her and gave her a sedative.  Since our vet doesn’t have any overnight staff, they told us to take her to the emergency clinic.  We frantically drove to the hospital and they too put her on oxygen.  The doctor explained all of the possible outcomes and tests they would do to diagnose the problem.  We glumly nodded and agreed to have them do what they could do.

This morning, when we called, we found out the bad news.  She was dying.  There was nothing the doctors could do to save her.  I raced down to the clinic. They brought her in to the room.  She was bedraggled.  That proud, beautiful cat, shaved, with needle ports attached to her.  It was heartbreaking.  The attendant left.  I picked her up in my arms, hugged her gently and told her how much I loved her.  The doctor came in and explained how the procedure would work.  As she inserted the anesthesia into the port, I held Smokey ever so gently and sang, “We are Siamese if you please...”  Those were the last words she heard.  I hope it comforted her as she made her journey over the Rainbow Bridge.  She was a wonderful cat.  Our lives are enriched with pets and when they leave us, they leave a little hole in our hearts.

Smokey Scott
August 1998-April 19, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

First The Education Gap, Now Two More Sinister Gaps

As a teacher, I have been closely watching Governor Malloy’s assault on our profession. We have been accused of having cushy jobs for life because of the tenure system.  Our unions have been accused of stymieing education reform. Older, experienced teachers are portrayed as dinosaurs. According to him, all we do is show up to work and get paid.   He constantly reminds the public of the achievement gap in Connecticut; the discrepancy between the low and high-income students in our state.

This gap has got me thinking.  If there is an achievement gap, surely there must be other gaps in Connecticut as well.  Through my careful research, I have discovered two very disturbing gaps; the crime gap and the fire gap.  Two gaps, which have for some strange reason, been overlooked.

I started by looking at the different crime rates between Darien and Hartford, Connecticut. Hartford is one of the nation’s poorest cities while Darien is one of the wealthiest. Through my meticulous investigation, I discovered that the overpaid and apparently lazy Hartford police are not doing their job. The information I found out was mind blowing.  Despite having 445 sworn officers in Hartford vs. 51 in Darien, Hartford remains a very dangerous place.  In fact Hartford is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States.  That’s astounding.  In 2010 Hartford had nearly 6900 thefts, burglaries and robberies.  Darien had 143. 

Logically, you would think that it would be the other way around.  Crime should be out of control in Darien, because duh, that’s where the money is.  But, unbelievably, the crime rate is rather low.  In fact, the last time someone was murdered in Darien was 1999. Hartford has five homicides this year and a total of twenty-seven last year. Those crime dogs in Darien are busting their butts keeping the good residents of Darien and their BMW’s safe at night.

Clearly the cops in Hartford are eating too many donuts to prevent any crimes. They make good money and don’t seem to work too hard to earn it.  They ride around in air-conditioned cars all day.  They wear cool uniforms and carry guns. What they don’t do is prevent crime.  It is obvious that outdated union work rules have hindered any real progress in bringing down the crime rates.  I bet that if their pay was tied to how many people they arrested, boy would the crime rate plummet.  I’m sure that if the older more experienced (read - more expensive) cops were replaced by newer ones, fresh from the police academy, you could walk down the street flashing hundred dollar bills and no one would give you a second look. 

The other gap I discovered is the fire gap.  I looked at the fire statistics of Hartford and Avon, Connecticut for the year of 2011.  Avon is another fabulously wealthy town.  Hartford had 913 fires and Avon tallied only 32.  But here is the kicker.  The Hartford firefighters are unionized while the Avon firefighter are, sit down, volunteer!  That’s right, they don’t even get paid and yet they manage to prevent Avon from burning to a crisp. What are those greedy, unionized Hartford firefighters doing with their time?  Having chili cook offs? Polishing their pole?  And do they really slide down that thing anyway?  You never see them out on the street being proactive.  Only when there is a fire do they reluctantly leave their firehouse and go to work.  Disgusting.

I think the governor needs to be aware of these dangerous gaps.  I think we need to have a blue ribbon task force to figure out why crime and fire rates are so much higher in poorer communities compared to rich ones.  I think we need to get rid of collective bargaining and strict union rules that are damaging the very fabric of our society.  Once we bust the unions and make public employees toe the mark, then and only then, will we be safer and smarter.