Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving – it’s a personal thing – but whether one does or does not observe the long holiday tradition it is always good to recognize those things in our lives for which we should feel gratitude. Many will confirm that one of the things that makes life better is the presence of a pet. For this canine-obsessed writer, dogs make everything better.
Many members of the cabaret and concert community of New York City have been quarantined, sheltering in place, isolating – whatever verbiage is used, the fact remains that these last several months, the critters have been a boon to life inside a few rooms. One need only scroll through the social media of these artists to see just how much the animals are truly, deeply, loved and required.
Here are the critters of just a few of the artists who make their profession upon the stages of small venues.
All accompanying text comes directly from the critters’ humans, via email, and reproduced here as received.
Mommy: Becca C. Kidwell
Name: Willow Kidwell
Age: 9 years old (adopted last year)
Favorite Activities: Playing with shoelaces, eating, sleeping, holding paws, being brushed, and cuddling
Favorite song: “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid
Pet peeves/fears: Human leaving the apartment, human on zoom/phone calls, heights.
Preferred location: Next to human or on top of bags.
Moms: Susie Mosher & Hope Royaltey
From the minute we brought Charlotte home (she was being fostered by the angels Rob Morrison and Lauren Molina) she and our year-old Freddie were in love. Never a hiss, a yowl, or quick slap between them. Freddie is extremely gentle and little Charlotte was immediately all over him. He loved it and her and it’s been like that for the two years they’ve been together. Freddie is so calm and relaxed, he now lies next to our baby Hudson and purrs and lets Hud pet him, sometimes not so gently, and closes his kitty eyes in rapture. Char Char is a bit more reserved but definitely interested in the newest addition to our family.
Cats and a kid. A great distraction from the nightmare of the past eight months. Adopt a pet, save a little life, and in the process, you might make your life a lot brighter.
Mother: Meg Flather
Roy Rogers is the most mysterious cat I have ever had in my 56 years of cat worship. He began his journey as a mouser in a Times Square deli and was rescued to then experience 2 years of uncertainty going back and forth between a cage and foster care. But his beauty, charisma, keen intelligence, and savvy social skills saved him. The day I spotted him in a cage in the back of a pet supply store on 9th Avenue, that was that. He was David Bowie, Robert Plant in a cat and I was his groupie. Indeed he is the most intense and emotional cat I have ever had. He is the most expensive cat I have ever had. I am sleepless in New York, but that’s what happens when you live with a rockstar. Photo by Barbara Porteus
Matriarch: Katie Dunne McGrath
My Havanese dog, Doctor Bob (Doc), now eleven years old, was a year old when I realized it was selfish of me to leave Doc alone for 10+ hours a day when I was working, so I decided to find him a canine friend.
Doc and I visited a rescue facility that specialized in small breeds. We sat in a small room with nothing but a folding chair for me, as one at a time they’d bring in potential candidates to see how they behaved with Doc and vice versa. With some, he was an aggressive jerk. With others he was submissive. And with a few he and the other dog were like two bored strangers awaiting the bus.
Just as I was giving up for the day, a white, curly-haired Shih Tzu/Bichon mix with a serious underbite waddled into the room – a strange Walter-Brennan-like hippity-hop from the Real McCoys – and despite her odd exterior, something magical happened. It was as if the very air and light changed. They ran to each other, then spent wild moments racing around the room, stopping occasionally to make sure I was OK. They’ve been together ever since, and they made me believe in the chemistry of love at first sight.
The rescue pup’s name was Katrina, a bit of a problem since that’s what my family nickname for me is. So I named her Sister Mary Margaret Ignatius. Her everyday name is Sister. While I love Doc, I am besotted by Sister. She is the dearest, funniest, most optimistic creature I’ve met on this planet. In these days of COVID, she sits on my lap on the piano bench when I play.
Mommie: Gerrilyn Sohn
Zoe is my sweet cartoon-like cat. I’m so lucky she found me.
Big Mama: Leanne Borghesi
Angel Baby The Boston Terrier is my name, tuggin’, muggin’ & lovins’ my game!
I have 2 Moms who adore me so and right next door is my Aunt Jojo!
I’m a 75k frequent flier, having visited so many destinations.
But most of all, even though I’m sooo cute, I take care of my Mom as a Service Dog to boot!
My gift is pure love, spreading joy, and a wiggle butt wherever I roam! xoxo
Dad: Alex Rybeck
The Perfect Pet For My Household: Petula
Petula is a typical common corn snake (scientific name Pantherophis guttatus). Corn snakes are harmless (nonvenomous). They constrict their small prey, are easy to care for and make great pets. Petula is a gentle, beautiful creature; I think of her as living art. All along her back are brick-orange saddles thinly outlined in black, on a background of lighter orange. By contrast, her belly is a checkerboard of dazzling black and white, with the white becoming salmon pink toward the tail. She’s simply gorgeous to look at. And lovely to hold.
Like all snakes, she is deaf, sleeps with her eyes open (snakes have no eyelids), and can go for long periods without eating. I normally feed her one thawed-out mouse every ten days. Like most snakes, she enjoys being left alone and doesn’t require constant attention the way dogs do. Snakes do not need to be walked! And, as they are furless, they are hypoallergenic! Since I travel a lot (or at least used to, pre-pandemic), having a pet that’s okay being left untended is very convenient. I can leave her for a week and she’s fine until I return.
She lives in a glass tank furnished with hiding places, branches to climb on, and some water bowls to drink from and/or bathe in. She was about 18 inches long when I got her six years ago. She is now the length of a piano keyboard! Fun fact: she was a gift from Ann Hampton Callaway and Kari Strand, who knew I was mourning my previous pet, a kingsnake named Brooks, that had recently died.
People often ask me “Does Petula know you?” To which I reply, “How would I know?”
Snakes, having fairly small brains, do not have the capacity to feel or show affection in the way dogs do. So if you are looking for a pet that will slobber all over you and do somersaults when you walk in the door, don’t get a reptile. On the other hand, if you want a pet that’s beautiful, quiet, doesn’t take up a lot of room, is endlessly fascinating (watching them shed their skin never grows old), and in general, will be a low-maintenance relationship, a snake might be perfect!
Ma: Jen Houston
I love these cats so much it hurts. They both came to me in such sickly, tiny, sad shape and I had to really work to keep them! I love Buddy despite the fact that he’s kind of an asshole…there. I said it.
But I think he just really needs a playmate that will run him around and rough him up. (to be clear, I think he needs a dog.). And Miss Miu, bless her heart. She’s been so sickly for all these 15 years, and even with her cancer, she handles it with such grace. I could learn a thing or two from her.
Mom & Dad: Jennifer Hallie & Rob Diamond
Of course two theatre people live in a house with fur babies named after two of their favorite shows. Barnum is named after the musical of the same name, particularly the West End version starring Michael Crawford. While he’s never actually walked a tightrope, he probably could because nothing stands between him and a treat. Barnum got his shy, quiet nature from spending his early years on Rob’s lap while he built BroadwayWorld. He has some strong opinions on the Message Board.
I knew Miss Adelaide was my girl when I met her and she ran right by me and slammed into the wall. She’s traveled with me when I have gone to do shows since the age of 6 months. She’s a proper little showgirl, who struts around with her own spotlight AND always sings with me during my vocal warm-ups. Spoiler alert: she has a killer mix/belt.
Mama: Leslie Carrara-Rudolph
Newhart is a special guest in everything I do from home – he’s my little Toto on this yellow brick road.
Mum: Joanne Halev
Riley is our charming terrier mix, found by my daughter Talia at a shelter in Tucson. He follows me from room to room and, as soon as I finish a meal, leaps onto my lap, and stays to be caressed and coddled. One minute he is snoozing by the window, the next barking about the deer or fox or other big dog passing by – “keeping the world safe for democracy” as Woodrow Wilson once said. “It’s So Nice to Have a Man Around the House” when that little man is our Riley-Boy.
Pop: Blaine Alden Krauss
Whenever someone meets Phalcon I always get, “Oh he REALLY loves me.” I have to respond, “Yeah babe, you and every other person he has ever met.” This human trapped in a mutt’s body is a sneak with casting a spell that makes you feel seen, heard, and understood – all the while he is getting belly rubs for the ages. But I suppose it’s a symbiotic transaction – and I guess there is a lesson in there somewhere. We could all take in one another the way Phalcon takes in a stranger; no judgments, all love.
Daddies: Will Nunziata & Joseph Amodeo
Bella was born on 7/11/20 – our lucky girl born on the luckiest of days! She came into our lives in September 2020 just at the right time. My husband, Joseph, and I both knew we wanted a female Maltese, and when we saw her face online – we were IN LOVE! Joseph and I enjoy watching the Disney Channel with her, hugging and kissing her, and dressing her up & taking photos of her for Instagram. You can follow her @bellathemalty.
Mama: Pam Antrobus
Macon Saratoga Antrobus is my beloved fur baby. She is a precocious black cat who I have had for the past five years. Macon is special in so many ways. (of course, every fur mama says that) She puts her paws in my hand so I can massage her toe beans. Is affectionate until she is not then she gives me a bite to remind me who’s boss. She is a constant loving companion during this pandemic. The most special thing about her is how she came into my life. I have always had cats in my life, and it is always the most painful thing when they pass over the rainbow bridge.
This happened in August 2015 to my then fur baby Noah. This time the experience was particularly terrible because he and I had been together through one of the most difficult periods of my life. (The series of events that resulted in my disability) It is amazing how much of a rock he was. He developed cancer and I had to put him down. I could not work for days and swore to everybody that I would never have another cat because I just could not stand the pain of losing one again.
When I returned to work, I explained to my boss, also a cat person that I was never adopting another cat unless one in need was put in my path by a higher power. That night when I got off the subway I started to hear the meow of what sounded like a very small kitten. My first thought was me and my big mouth. I spotted the kitten in the garden of the neighborhood library wandering around and meowing loudly. I stood there for an hour hoping that mama cat would come and claim her youngling. No such luck. At this point in time, a young man came by with a large I don’t know what kind of snake wrapped around his neck. He asked if I wanted the kitten as he scooped her up. I snatched her out of his hand wrapped her up in paper towels (I was carrying a bunch around for all the crying) and took her home.
When I got her home, she generously gave me a case of fleas I fed her wet food which she was able to eat, and fed her water from a bottle cause she didn’t know how to lap. She and I cried all night long for her mom and me for my Noah and the fleas. We were bound for the vet the next day.
She was named for the library where I found her the Macon Saratoga branch of The NYC Public Library
Dads: Brad Simmons & Stewart Green
Mac & Cheese, our Jack Russell Terriers, have been and continue to be the yin to my theater career yang. The intelligence, allegiance, and love from them balance the ever-changing, stress-inducing pandemic world we are in.
Mom and Pop: Orfeh & Andy Karl
“Lucious aka Loosh” is a rescue from my favorite people at the Humane Society of NEW YORK… He was part of a hoarding situation and we’re pretty sure he spent the beginning of his life in a cage because his legs are pretty short… He went to Pretty Woman with me almost every day and the whole cast and crew adored him… he’s the most chill chihuahua on earth lol and the reason I even discovered him is because of the brilliant Photog Richard Phibbs… I’m sure you know he does this series of photographs of adoptable shelter pets and I saw Loosh in a picture and immediately contacted Sandra at the Humane Society of New York and the next thing I knew (a few Septembers ago) we brought him home!! Andy was actually in London doing Groudhog Day and I surprised him on FaceTime
Daddies: Christopher Sieber and Kevin Burrows
Khoi-Khoi, our 22-year-old African Grey Congo, was a part of our Family before Christopher entered the picture. While she did not eagerly accept Christopher into this relationship, this dad’s girl did warm up to the idea of Christopher as a second papa following a harrowing life and death situation where Christopher came to her rescue. That story is too long to go into now and usually needs drinks. 16 years later when one of the kids of Matilda (Christopher playing Agatha Trunchbull) informed the cast that her Shih Tzu/Maltese dogs had given birth to a set of 3 puppies, Christopher came home asking if we could make our little family of 3 a foursome? Having had any number of dogs over the span of my life I was excited over the idea. Well, who would have guessed that a little Shih Tzu/Maltese, Bacon, would become the Mayor of Tamarack spending 6 months of the year defending a 4-acre island against invaders and spending most summer days swimming in our lake? While we do make the strangest family, men, dog, and bird, we are definitely well known by all the residents of our lake. The neighbors can hear Khoi-Khoi singing away all day from our cabana and the locals rowing, kayaking, or paddleboarding by all know Bacon’s name as he barks at them if they get too close to our summer oasis. While Khoi may only be a fraction of the weight of her younger brother, Bacon, she definitely holds rank in the pecking order. She is a typical older sister teasing her brother and if she decides she is the one who should be sitting on the couch she Will Chase him off by simply getting a bit too close. He will play with her by trying to bark and get close to her face, tail wagging all the time, but he knows the line can’t be crossed. She will also drop all kinds of treats to him off of her cage when she decides to spend time on top of the cage. Both kids love Daddy Time when they can sit on our laps, shoulders, knees, whatever. They really are both such a part of us. It is hard to imagine life without either of them.
Mummy: Christina Bianco
My Dog Jeff
Upon meeting him, one thing was immediately clear to me and my husband – this little guy had personality. So much personality, we had to give him a name that was adaptable to match all of his human-like moods. Whether he’s Jeff ‘the dude’, Jeffrey, Jefferson, El Jefe, JeffDJeff, or his official title, Jeff Vader (yes, we’re big Eddie Izzard fans) this Schnoodle wants to be part of whatever you’re doing and he has a strong opinion about it! With expressive features like a Disney cartoon, he’s a local celebrity on our daily walks through Greenwich village, always receiving hellos, pets & treats from neighbors, doormen & shopkeepers.
Easy to train & happy to give ‘keeses,’ Jeff has undoubtedly spoiled us for future dogs. He sleeps as late as we do, will enthusiastically squeeze himself into any travel bag & for the most part, obeys all commands. Sure, he once chewed his way out of not one but two designer wooden crates, his deafening bark lets the world know when a member of ‘the pack’ leaves the room or when he hears ANY outside noise, & his obsessive love of food is almost as profound as his fear of children. But the joy, laughter & love he has brought us & everyone he comes into contact with makes up for all that. He has improved our lives immeasurably & we’re so thankful. Long live Jeff Vader! The force is indeed strong with this one.
Big Daddy: Brady Schwind
BONITA: I’m a sweet 11-year-old rescue who is the official timekeeper of the family. Every morning I wake up Brady exactly at 5:30 AM so that he can watch the sunrise. I’m very outgoing and am a frequent and popular house guest to all the homes on the block. I’m a fan of international people food and am most fond of bacon (crisp) and whipped cream (french vanilla). I also know tricks and can play fetch.
ANNABEL: Brady found me on the street outside Port Authority. I looked like a tiny stray but was hiding a secret that I’m a beauty cat. I love to be brushed and exercise by running laps up and down the stairs at least four times an hour. I’m a true ‘linguist’ — and love to practice my accents and vocal inflections. My attention span isn’t the greatest but I’m still young. It’s hard not to be excited about life!
WINDSOR: I’m the old soul around here. Brady found me at the “Best Friends Animal Clinic” where I was a regal king staying calm amongst chaos. I guard the house, when the other two aren’t pestering me, and love to go on long walks with my humans. I don’t even need a leash. Sunset is the best time of day. It matches my coloring.
Papa: Jack Bartholet
Poby, a completely silly, made-up name and rhymes with Toby, is a pandemic pup. We rescued him from Social Tees Animal Rescue in the East Village the first week of April and omg did he make an otherwise completely bleak situation much happier. On a daily basis. Such a snuggler. Seems to smile. Underbite included. Loves his travel backpack and learned new tricks. I’m obsessed. I call him far too many nicknames. I’m a full dog person now; animals are angels.
Dad: Ari Axelrod
For much of my life, I’ve wanted a dog. I was told that it was too big of a responsibility and that I should wait until I’m settled down to get a dog. Well, as someone who beat death at 21, waiting until “the right time” made no sense to me because as I’ve learned, everything can go away in an instant. I didn’t wait for the right time, I waited for the right dog. Leo is my soulmate, and I’m convinced that we’ve spent many lifetimes together before this one. I think “sit” and he sits without me needing to say a word. When I hold him in my arms, he wraps his paw around my surgical scar. When I’m sad, he comes bounding in from the other rooms and refuses to leave my side. When recurring symptoms of my surgery arise, he (an otherwise completely silent dog) will bark to notify me so I have time to seek help. He listens to people, he watches people, he brings out the best in people. He will find strangers at airports, on the streets of Manhattan, on public transportation who are truly suffering and need a comforting presence. He’ll climb into their lap and be present with them. They always well up with tears and say, “You have no idea how much I needed this today. It’s the anniversary of my husband’s death, I just found out I have cancer, my dog died last week, etc.” He knows. He truly knows.
I know that everyone says their dog is the best dog in the world, but I truly believe that Leo is one of a kind. He really is the greatest dog in the world.
Foster Mom and Full-time Mom: Raissa Katona Bennett
Garrett and I have been active in dog rescue since 2001 when we rescued our first dog, Brandy, a 7-year-old Toy Fox Terrier. We have always rescued older dogs because people leave them behind, and we have found that to be so rewarding. (I wish people would realize that older dogs are often easier to adopt and live with than younger ones.) Brandy inspired our journey into rescue, and, if you wish, you can read all about it on the Dog Blog part of my website – (http://raissakatonabennett.com/2016/10/10/brandy-who-started-it-all/).
I use my performing career website as a way to highlight dog rescue and to educate others on what goes into adoption vs. purchasing. I am ALMOST as passionate about dog rescue, as I am about performing! In the past 10 years, we have been uber involved with Shih Tzu and Furbabies Small Breed Dog Rescue, www.stfbr.org. I do adoption application processing, counseling, home visits, and ultimate matching the right dog to the right family with our director. During the pandemic, our rescue received over 200 applications a day, and I was able to help place 8 dogs with new families!
Currently, we have 6 dogs in our home – 4 of our own, and 2 new fosters. Our four – Otie, a 17-year-old chihuahua we rescued from Birmingham, AL. We fostered him for 4 months when he was 1.5 years old and then adopted him almost 2 years later when he ended up back in the shelter. He’s the most challenging and the one we’ve had the longest. Everyone loves him and wants to pet him, but he bites – even those he loves – just ask Sean Harkness!
Molly is our 16-year-old Havanese – we’ve had her since 2013 when she was retired from being a “backyard breeder” – kept pregnant her whole life – she is the sweetest, spunkiest dog – you’d never know she was 16! She was my first “foster fail”. (Molly & Otie are pictured together)
Unusual for us, we have 2 babies in our pack – Buddy, the black and white Chihuahua, just turned 2. We had just started fostering him after our 15-year-old Chi, Tiny, passed away, and then the pandemic hit, so all rescue transport stopped. He fit right into our household, so he’s our second “foster fail”. Buddy needed a young pal to play with since Molly and Otie would only skirmish a little with him. Enter Chloe, the fawn and white Chi who will be 2 in January. I met her when she was 4 months old, at one of our rescues reunions, and she was never adopted! She’s amazing and I guess God was keeping her for us. (Buddy & Chloe are pictured together, modeling their hiking shirts)
Our 2 new fosters are Kanga, who is between 6 & 8 years old, and Piglet, who we think is 10 – a bonded pair of Toy Fox Terriers, who were saved by our rescue the day they were to be killed at a kill shelter in IN. I hope someone reading this and seeing their picture, will reach out to me to help us find a home for them. They are incredibly sweet, smart, and affectionate. Piglet is on meds for Congestive Heart Failure, so he needs some special attention, but it’s very doable.