Monday, August 10, 2009

What's New, Pussycat?

When I move, Maggie the Cat will move with me. She is 14, and has been with me for 12 years. Most likely, moving to California will annoy her immensely, but so far, moving Maggie appears to be the best option.

On the American Airlines web site, I read all about flying with pets. Then I called the airline to discuss some details that the web site does not address. A cat lover happened to take my call, and he had plenty of advice.

“Buy her a harness and a leash,” he said. “When you go through security, you have to take the cat out of the carrier and walk with her through the screening machine.” He added that Maggie also would need an ID tag with her address in San Francisco and my cell phone number.

Next, I called the veterinarian’s office for advice about harnesses, leashes and ID tags. The receptionist suggested I go straight to PETCO and see what was available. At PETCO, I lucked out. The sales clerk’s last job was with the Transportation Security Administration, and she had plenty of tips.

First, the young woman suggested a small round ID tag for the harness. The words “San Francisco” wouldn’t fit on it. We fiddled with abbreviations, and then moved on to larger tags. One of the bigger ones was heart-shaped, in a ruby color. “That won’t do,” I said. “The pointy end might poke Maggie’s skin.”

No matter how crazy you sound in a pet store, the staff has heard crazier.

PETCO had a new supply of harnesses, a different style from the traditional strappy ensembles. The new style looks like a cross between a kerchief and a bikini bottom. “Some cats slip out of the strap harnesses, but I’ve had good reports on this new style,” said the clerk. Unfortunately, the harnesses come only in pink.

I hate pink.

Pink is a pale, washed-out color assigned to baby girls, a throwback to the day when baby girls were expected to grow up docile and submissive and undemanding. Raspberry is vibrant. Red rocks. Pink stinks.

Perhaps the worst abuse of pink comes from people who think if they wear a pink tee shirt or buy a pink KitchenAid mixer or eat yogurt from a container decorated with a pink ribbon that they are somehow putting an end to the epidemic that is breast cancer. That’s just not how it works.

Do I appreciate support for women experiencing breast cancer? Absolutely – I’ve had it, and you need all the help you can get. I am wholeheartedly in favor of putting more research dollars into isolating the cause of this insidious disease. But I become downright crabby when told that “thinking pink” will lead to a cure.

Does the sky turn a delicate pink color from time to time? Yes, and I revel in it. Are some flowers a breathtaking shade of pink? Of course, and I celebrate their beauty. Does my pale, freckled skin take on a pink hue after about 15 minutes in the sun? Oh yes, and that’s fine. Otherwise, pink is off limits in my life.

Yet this particular cat harness, said to be the safest, comes only in pink. Worse, the only cat leash on sale also was pink – shiny, sparkly pink. I bought the harness. I bought the leash. I also bought the ruby-colored, heart-shaped ID tag because (I blush to admit) it looks nice with the harness and leash.

“The tag will be attached here, on the top of the harness,” the clerk pointed out. “Look -- there’s no way the tip of the tag can poke Maggie’s skin.” She was right. Now Maggie is ready to go.

First, of course, I must sell the condo. And now I have a deadline. On Nov. 18, American Airlines will no longer offer direct flights from St. Louis to San Francisco. I’d hate to ask a 14-year-old cat, a cat that gets car sick on short drives, a cat dressed all in pink -- to change planes.

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