Tag Archives: cats

John Oliver the Cat

30 Nov

Dramatic reenactment of our first meeting.

Labor day weekend this year, I had plans to meet some friends for brunch in Chelsea. I woke up late and hung out in bed watching old episodes of Last Week Tonight.

As I lay there, I heard a clear, distinctive meowing which almost sounded like it was coming from my apartment. It took me a couple of minutes to realize it was coming from outside. Still in my pajamas, I put on my rain boots and rain coat (it was POURING) and headed outside to investigate. I stood at the side entrance to my building where my landlord parks his car and listened. I heard nothing. Maybe it was a stray cat passing by. Maybe one of my neighbors adopted a cat. As I turned to go back inside I heard it one more time. A tiny, little meow.

After looking around, I finally saw a little ball of fluff darting between the garbage cans. I didn’t think I’d be able to get to it, so I headed back inside to text Dr. L.

IMG_5136She guilted me into going back in the rain. Nothing in me wanted to, other than my sacred duty and pledge as a veterinary technician to help the furry creatures of the world. I grabbed an old beach towel and went back out. The cat did not want to be caught, but I kept following him around until I cornered him by the recycling bins and blocked his escape with a grate. Once he ran from me and hit the grate I grabbed him with the towel and swaddled him close to me. He didn’t fight, didn’t cry, he almost seemed to relax in my arms. I got him into my apartment and dumped him in my bathroom while I figured out what to do next.


Scared little kitten hiding behind my toilet.

I made myself presentable and grabbed an old gym bag to put him in. I took an Uber into the city, and I kept peering into the bag to make sure he was okay. He was shaking and looking at me with those big eyes not sure to trust me or not.

“I got you,” I kept telling him. “I promise to not steer you wrong.”

My boss agreed to let us keep him at the hospital until we found a permanent home for him. I named him John Oliver, although most everyone just calls him Oliver. Within a couple of days, he was playful, friendly, exploring all over the hospital.


Making friends at the hospital.

He quickly grew to love his little life. Steady supply of good food. Warm bed. Lots of attention. He was right at home at the hospital. We posted a couple of pictures of him on Facebook and immediately started getting responses from people who wanted him. I was happy for him, but so so sad for me. He felt like mine, like our lives were fated. He belonged with me. I had been told when I moved into my apartment that I couldn’t have pets, but I had to try. I had to ask again.

Turns out, both of my roommates really wanted to keep him and our landlord didn’t mind! John Oliver was coming home with me. The day I brought him home, he was so confused to be leaving his happy hospital. I took him back on the subway with me, and he kept looking up at me through the mesh of his carrier with that same worried look he had given me in the Uber a month earlier.

“I haven’t steered you wrong yet, have I?” I quietly said to him.

It took him a while to warm up to his new home, but now he owns the place. Even though I work with cats a lot, I’ve had to learn a lot about owning a cat, especially a rambunctious kitten. He still bites and gets what we call his “night crazies” where he runs laps around our living room nonstop from 1am-3am. But I love him. He’s my guy. My little John Oliver.


My guy, all dressed up for the day he was neutered.


My Elite, Top 5 Favorite Patients

9 Mar

I love the majority of patients that come into the clinic. Of course, mean cats and misbehaved dogs are par for the course, but in general, I love animals, and I love working with them. However, there are a few that are special. Some of my patients and I have a special bond, and I end up thinking of them as my own. It happens to all my co-workers. No rhyme or reason, the heart wants what it wants. I started referring to my beloved patients as an elite top 5.



My darling Princess. One of the owners of the clinic, Dr. S, has a special affinity to pugs. We work with a pug rescue organization and have become known as the premier pug veterinary hospital in New York. Therefore pugs have a special place in my heart. Ellie Mae is one of the greatest pugs, and for us, it was love at first sight. Those tiny black ears, her feminine cankles, the grey fur on her chest. She has back issues and walks with an odd little strut that drags her back legs. I think she is perfection. I’ve become friendly with her owner and take care of her when she’s out of town. And despite the fact that she pooped on me once when I was putting booties on her feet before we walked in a blizzard, she’s still a special, special dog to me.



I took this picture of Raja, because it is the happiest I’ve ever seen her. I often refer to her as “My Cranky Darling.” She has horrible allergies which cause her to have scabby pustules on her body and horrible, goopy discharge from her eyes. She is also VERY protective of her owner. Whenever I go into the room, she growls and snarls at me. Her owner and I laugh a little as she hands me the leash. Raja trots along behind me, willing to walk, but growling with displeasure. Once we are in the treatment area and away from the owner, she is a sweet, loving dog. This was after Dr. N changed up her treatments and recommended special grooming. I think it’s her sass and chubby waddle that stole my heart.



Blurry picture, because he’s so squirmy! At heart, I’m a dog person, but cats play a huge role in my work life, so I had to squeeze one in. Mr. Phelps was born with a genetic abnormality. He’s about half the size of a normal domestic shorthair, he’s missing an eye, and he has a deformed front leg. But all his flaws add up to perfection in my eyes. He comes in every couple of weeks for nail trims, and I love going to the front area, throwing my arms up and joyously announcing, “It’s Mr. Phelps!” His owner does it right back at me as we have a duet of announcing Mr. Phelps.



Raffee is a classic rags to riches tale. His owner was summering in Florida when she saw Raffee alone and running around on a tennis court. Once she was back in New York with him, he seemed off to her, so she brought him in. During the routine exam, I noticed he felt cold. We took his temperature, and it was something in the 93, 94 range. A dog’s normal temperature is 101.5, so something was very wrong. We ran bloods, and Dr. L racked her brain trying to figure out what was going on. I did all a technician could do. I heated up some water bottles and plugged in an electric blanket. I bundled him up with the warming aids and held him close to me. With that temperature, he was only a couple of hours away from dying. He kept staring into my eyes, and it was the first time as a technician where I could sense the gratitude of a patient. Dr L figured out that he has Addison’s Disease which is a manageable adrenal disease. Within a couple of days, he was fixed. He’s so very special to me, because I’m convinced that he remembers me from that time. When he comes in for his steroid shot (that’s why he’s so fat), he runs straight to me , tail wagging. He’s a perfect example of why I love my job and why it feels good to do what I do.



An underbite is the quickest way to my heart. And I have encountered no finer underbite, than that of Melvin. An amazing puggle that boards with us occasionally. He’s such a great dog and always down for a belly rub. He can shake hands, dance, roll over. Swoon! His owner is one of our more difficult clients, but she is tickled by my adoration of her dog. She started calling him my boyfriend and making a big deal of bringing him in to see me…his girlfriend. I mean, I’m at a point in my life where a relationship doesn’t really fit, and I’m enjoying being single and focusing on moving myself forward. BUT, Melvin is a real catch, and I could definitely could see myself settling down with him. Total boyfriend material.


Animal Personalities

17 Dec

About a week ago, I got bit by a cat at work. It was one of the few times where a cat managed to get its teeth into me, and it was the strangest. I’ve been doing this for four years, and I have seen my share of bad cats, and I’ve learned a lot about the behavior to look for in a cat that is getting upset. Other than the obvious hissing, growling, swatting, I watch for the subtle tail flick, the slow movement of the ears to a flatter position, the dilated pupils. But this cat betrayed nothing.

The cat’s name is Gypsy Rose, and she had B.C. written all over her chart, our secret lingo for aggressive animals. It stands for “Be Careful.” But the cat just seemed nervous during this particular visit. So we figured we would handle her the way we do most nervous cats, we’d go slow and keep a close eye on her. Cats love to hide when they are scared or nervous, and a great restraining technique I use is to let them bury their head in the crook of my elbow. So for the entire exam, Gypsy Rose sat still with her head tucked away, secure in her feline head that she was safe and no one could see her. At the end of the exam, after the nail trim, the injections, the abdominal palpation, she brought her head out of my elbow nook, looked at my arm for a second before opening her mouth and biting me. No warning, nothing bad was happening to her. I pulled my arm back and announced to the room that I’d been bit. The veterinarian and other vet tech were incredulous. I was stunned. I thought Gypsy Rose and I were cool with each other. And if we weren’t, the least she could have done is give some sort of behavioral signal that she wasn’t. When we thoroughly checked her record, it seems she had done the same thing to a technician before, bit without warning or cause.

Here’s an unpopular opinion: some animals are straight-up jerks.

I can hear the gasps of shock that friends and family have given me when I say this. “Don’t you love animals, though?” they ask, their eyes wide with bewilderment. Of course I do. You’d be hard-pressed to find a vet tech (underpaid, overworked, smelling like wet dog) that doesn’t adore animals. But we see them every day. Hundreds and hundreds of cats and dogs. I’ve been doing this for years, so I’ve probably even crossed the thousand threshold at some point. And, yes, some animals are jerks.

For all the anthropomorphizing our culture does to animals, to the point of dressing them up, making them the stars of children’s movies, we gloss over the fact that they have a wide range of personalities as well. I think we can all agree that there are a lot of people out there who are jerks. Black, white, christian, muslim, gay, straight, blonde, brunette, bald. Whatever the case may be, jerks can be found in all of these demographics. I believe in the goodness of humanity as a whole, but working in the Upper East Side, I’ve seen my share of people who are downright nasty and selfish.

Animals can be that way too. I love getting to know an animal’s personality. Some are dull, some are curious, some are cuddlers, and some are hyperactive and easily excitable. But this doesn’t mean that they are all perfect little angels. And I’d argue that some of it is genetic. We have a number of lovely owners who had amazing pets. They then adopt a pet who is a jerk. A dog that growls and bites them, that pees on their bed in spite. A cat that claws them, even when they aren’t doing anything to bother the cat.

Of course, though, just like people, I believe animals can change for the better. Even though we have domesticated animals over the centuries, they will always be a different species than us and that much more difficult to understand. We can’t communicate with them as well as we’d like, never able to grasp what exactly they are thinking. I admire training clips I have seen where behavioralists are able to turn a cat or dog’s personality around, but a fair amount of editing goes into these shows. I’ve first-hand seen a lot of these trainings fail and the animal goes on being a jerk.

I don’t know what the solution is with these little sociopaths. I do see that even despite their bad behavior, people still adopt them into their homes and find themselves loving an animal that will not love them back, or maybe they aren’t able to show it. It’s important to not give animals carte-blanche. Cute as they may be, you still have no idea what is going on in their little heads. We have to remember that even the furriest, fluffiest little nugget might just have a dark side.

Walking a Mile in the Client’s Shoes

30 Mar


At my clinic, we refer to a lot of our appointments as “Upper East Side Problems.” People will bring their pet in for an “emergency” appointment, and it often results in something silly. A pimple on the nose, licking of the paws, not eating their entire breakfast, standing in the hallway looking off into space for too long. I sometimes think our clients have too much time on their hands and that they must spend a majority of their time staring at their pets, manifesting problems out of thin air. They then show up at our clinic in a nonsensical panic, complaining about how their pet is nervous about being in a new place. “Please don’t put Fluffy in a cage! I can’t bear the thought!” I have little patience for these people.

A couple of weekends ago, I was pet sitting for two of my favorite patients, Ellie Mae the pug, and Lucas the fat cat. I’m friendly with the owner, and she had warned me that Lucas has become a picky eater, lost weight, and been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). I have stayed with them since the diagnosis, and it means that when he is dropping a deuce in the litterbox, he makes the saddest little kitten cries. It’s heartbreaking.

So I walk into the apartment on a Friday after work to be greeted by Ellie Mae who is making her pug squawks at me, letting me know that she is ready for dinner. But I notice Lucas hanging back a bit, sulking. Then I start to notice small drops of diarrhea everywhere. In the entryway, in the living room, the bathroom, and leading out of his litterbox. I text the owner to ask if that is something that has been happening. She texts back in a panic that, no, the diarrhea is a new development. I start texting the veterinarians asking for their advice. I’m hovering over Lucas, feeling his pulses, checking his mucous membranes for tackiness, testing his skin turgor, overall annoying him. I call the clinic and make an appointment and spend the night not able to sleep with worry.

In the drizzle-rain the next morning, I put Lucas into his carrier and bring him into work with me. I set him up in a cage and have the doctor’s look at him. As in multiple doctors. I want bloods. I want fluids. I spend most of the day hovering in the cage, petting the stressed out cat and telling him it’s okay. I have in a 24-hour period become the crazy clients that I find myself complaining about most of the time.

I’m an anomaly in the vet tech profession in that I don’t own any pets of my own. I would LOVE to, but my apartment lease doesn’t allow it. I also feel too irresponsible, too prone to spontaneously going out, too overbooked to give a pet the love and attention that it deserves. So this weekend of taking care of a sick animal that I have a deep fondness for was an important experience to have. Although I still stand by the fact that the majority of our clients have too much free time on their hands, I get the neurotic obsessiveness. It comes from a place of love and a feeling of helplessness when their pet is not feeling well.

By the end of the day, Lucas was doing much better. He was stressed and hiding in the cage (which shattered by heart), but the veterinarians and I rehydrated him and found some better food options that are more compatible with his delicate bowels. Later that night when I got into bed, he came with Ellie Mae and I. He curled up under my arm purring, and I knew that he was feeling better. And after a full day of worrying about him, the three of us slept soundly through the night.

Our post-hospital cuddle-fest.

Our post-hospital cuddle-fest.

Cat Sitting

16 Dec
A couple of rescues from the NYPD.

A couple of rescues from the NYPD.

Last week, Dr. L introduced me to a new cat sitting client. His cat, Midnight, had that day been diagnosed as a diabetic. Him and his wife often go to Long Island for the weekend, and he needed someone to stop by and give Midnight her insulin. I quoted him my rates, and we had made a deal.

“You know,” I told him. “I also do cat feeding and litter box changes if you wanted me to take care of all of it while I stop by.”
“Oh no. There’s a lady in our building who does that and..um… she does that.”
“No problem. I’ll just take care of the insulin then.”

He sent me a nicely detailed email about the times he wanted me to stop by. The cat sitter that lives in the building would feed the cat in the afternoon, and I was to come over in the “early evening” to give her the insulin.

So after work I walked to the apartment, and as I entered, I heard someone rustling in the kitchen. I called out a hello and a slight-of-frame woman came out from the kitchen with a phone cradled between her shoulder and face.

“The technician just got here,” she said into the phone. “Yes, she just walked in. So I’ll help her.” She hung up the phone and turned to me. “I’m the other cat sitter. That was Bruce. He told me you were coming in the early evening, and it’s almost six.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize you’d be here.”
“I’ve been waiting for you since 3 when I fed Midnight. I called Bruce to tell him that I could just give the insulin. I know how to do it myself, you know.”
“Oh, okay,” I said making my way to the kitchen to draw up the insulin. I wanted out of that apartment.

“Bruce is such a nervous daddy,” she continued. “I mean, I can give the shots. I know how. I don’t know why he hired you. I’ve done this before. I’ll hold Midnight for you. She doesn’t like strangers.”
“I actually met Midnight at the clinic.”
“She likes me better.”

So I let the woman hold the cat while I gave the quick injection. We both left the apartment together, and she told me to call her tomorrow if I needed help giving the injection in the morning.

The next morning I walk into the building and tell the doorman at the front desk the apartment number that I’m going up to. He picks up the phone and starts calling someone.

“Oh, they’re not there,” I tell him. “They left a key for me to let myself in.”
“That’s not who I’m calling.” I swallow my annoyance as I hear him announce to my cat sitter friend that I have arrived.
“She will meet you at the apartment,” he tells me.

I head upstairs and let myself in. I get out the insulin and start drawing it up as the cat comes out of the bathroom and circles at my feet. A couple of moments later, the cat sitter enters.

“When you said late morning, I didn’t think you meant 11!”
“Here. Let me hold Midnight. I can do this myself you know.”

I smile and nod and give the injection that I was paid to give.

“I’ve given injections to other animals before. I don’t think Bruce will be using you again. I’ll just do it from now on.”
“So I’ll leave my key here for them, so they don’t have to come by the clinic,” I say, placing the key on the living room table.
“Sounds like a good idea,” she says to me. “I mean, I have my own set.”

So, needless to say, I don’t think that client will use me again. I felt a mix of frustration and guilt. I never meant to step on this woman’s territory. I wasn’t trying to steal her client. I had no idea Upper East Side cat sitters could be so territorial.

Cat-lovin, baseball-watchin, hot dog-eatin

3 Oct
Will and Kate

Will and Kate

I updated my profile picture on Facebook on Wednesday. I posted a picture of me with my sister’s cat, Miles. A friend of mine from Seattle commented about how amazing it is I’ve done an “about face” from hating cats to loving them. I’ve heard similar comments from my co-workers. It doesn’t bother me. Why would it? It’s the truth. But it felt like a weird thing to bring up.

I never hated cats. I’ve just always been a dog person. Still am. I think when I was younger, cats freaked me out. Those sinewy bodies, their fickle affection, the claws, the hissing, the claws, the claws, the claws. But I have found cats to be an acquired taste, like whiskey and coffee. After getting to know more about cats and spending time around some exceptional ones, I learned about the joys of holding a cat while it purrs, how excited they get when you scratch their lower back or under the chin, their exceptional personalities. I love them. And due to my job, they are a huge part of my life now.

So what’s the big deal? I changed my mind.

It’s not just the cats thing though. It’s comments like: “I can’t believe you love baseball, despite having been a moody, artsy teenager” or “I can’t believe you play sports in spite of your lifelong ineptitude” or “How can you love hot dogs so much when you used to be a vegetarian for eight years.”


And thank God, because I live for the Mariner’s, weekly softball or soccer. I didn’t pursue a career as a poet, and I couldn’t be more happy and fulfilled right now saving furry lives on a weekly basis. I guess what bothers me about these statements from other people is they make me think they’re saying, “THIS isn’t who you are. THAT way you felt years ago is who you are.” Or maybe they’re saying who I was and what I believed so long ago wasn’t who I really am. But I think it’s all me.

I’m an evolving piece of work. I love that at the age of 28, I feel like I’ve lived a couple of varied lives. The moody, punk-obsessed teenager moping in suburbia. The aspiring poet/barista/student living on her own for the first time in Seattle. The Mariner employee who made the decision to stop being scared to speak up and try new things and stand up for herself. The ingenue in New York who had NO sense of who she was or where her life would go, desperately clinging to a failing relationship and floundering through heartbreak. Now a softball playing, karaoke singing, boxing veterinary technician.

I hope to God that when I’m 38 I’m not in the same place doing the same thing with the same interests. Sure, I’d love to keep some of them around. After all, I’ve held on to a number of passions and friends from my past lifetimes and been a happier, better person for it. But my mind is open to the world around me. I’m willing to be convinced, to adapt, be willing to say, “I was wrong about that.” I’m stubborn, and it’s been hard for me to do in the past. But adaptability and an open mind are two of the things I aspire to most in my life.

Book Roundup #2

16 Oct

Columbus Day weekend meant a lot of cat-sitting for me. This also meant a lot of extra travel time to and from my client’s apartments. It can be irksome to get out of bed earlier than usual on a Saturday morning, but the extra money is so nice to have. Plus, CATS! And one of the greatest joys I take in living in New York City is the opportunity to use travel time to read. I love popping on the subway, pulling out my book, and zoning out until I hear my stop announced. No matter how busy my life gets, I still need to get from point A to point B, and I love that I get to read whilst doing just that. I also took care of one of my favorite cats this weekend, Grayer.



Despite being a former feral cat and a rescue, Grayer loves people and wants nothing more than to be petted. I often like to sit and pet him with one hand and read with the other. I was lucky enough to read two great books with Grayer this weekend.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

4989I grew up in a Christian home and am well-versed in the Bible. Somewhere in my teenage years I began to question the faith I had been raised in. My questions were varied and complicated and eventually led me away from the church. One of my biggest problems with Christianity was the way women were treated in the Bible. I didn’t like that women were often a sidenote. Often reduced to nothing more than mothers or sinners or whores.

This book is about the wives and daughter of Jacob who is spoken about in Genesis. While it is fiction and imaginative, the writing is beautiful and captivating. She captures the relationships of mothers and daughters of sisters and of friends. I did some basic research on the book once I was done and most of the things she writes about aren’t historically accurate. But the story is moving and believable.

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

zeitounWhen Hurricane Katrina hit, I was 19-years-old and self-centered. I remember so little about the hurricane and the after math. I remember going to a keg party to raise money for the Red Cross, and I remember this.

But I was young and didn’t pay much attention to the news of the struggles going on in my own country. “Zeitoun” is a beautiful, creative non-fiction book that depicts the experiences of a man who stayed behind, who canoed through the streets of New Orleans. I feel late to the show, but wow was that a FEMA fail. The main character Zeitoun is separated from his wife who flees the city with their children. The unfolding of the catastrophe and the injustice they exprienced was so suspenseful, so enraging. I read this in two days.

The Master of the PU

23 Sep

When I was a wee receptionist, I had to be taught what constituted an emergency and what didn’t. For instance, if a client calls and says their pet is having a seizure, and it’s an emergency. It IS an emergency. If a client calls and says their pet sneezed once this morning, that is NOT an emergency.

One of the weird things that is an emergency is a male cat straining in the litter box. Neutered male cats have narrow urethras, and if they get stones or blockages, it can lead to serious complications, even death, due to a ruptured bladder. The condition is painful and can be recurring.

There is a solution. Though it is not a pretty one. It’s a surgery called a Perineal Urethrostomy (in most clinics it’s called a PU). Or in simpler terms, amputating the penis. I happen to work with the leading PU surgeon in the world, Dr. G.

Dr. G estimates he has done over 3000 of these procedures in his life. At one time, he was flown to France to perform the surgery, while it was filmed and broadcast to veterinarians around Europe. Another way in which this man is a total badass. Last Friday I got to help him with one of these procedures on a chronically blocked cat named Cuddles. He came in on his day off to do it as Dr. S was too afraid to perform the surgery himself. I was excited to see the master at work. Although (like a good technician), I spent the majority of the procedure monitoring the patient’s vitals, adjusting anesthesia, and handing Dr. G different surgical instruments, I did get to see a lot of what happened. His hands were quick and nimble and before I knew it, the penis was removed.

Everyone left the surgery suite, except Dr. G and I. He sutured open the new urethral opening and let out a sigh.

“You know, Chris, I’ve done so many of these surgeries.”
“I know! You’re the master.”
“I’ve done it so many times that I have visions, and I have them a lot.”
“About the surgery?”
“Well, I have these visions that in my next life, a cat performs this surgery on me.”

That’s the hardest I’ve ever laughed at work.

Side Note

29 Jun

That’s a rather amusing video, but my subject is not.

Today at work, Dr. S sent me to an exam room to get a cat. There was a couple in their 30’s, and the man handed me the cat, who was sweet and docile. I smiled at them and told them I’d be right back.

In treatment, I held the cat as Dr. S went about his exam, palpating the belly, listening to the heart, etc.

“You know,” he said. “This is the client with the fiance that got arrested.”
“What? I’ve never heard about this.”
“Oh, well his ex-fiance a couple of years ago went to jail for animal abuse.”
“What?! His cat? This cat?!”
“No, the cat died, but she took it to the Animal Medical Center with broken bones all over its body. They opened an investigation into cruelty. She actually confessed and went to jail for a year or so.”

He finished up his exam, and I carried the cat back to the owners. I’m not that much of a cat person, but after that story I felt a sad affection for the cat in my arms. It brought to mind a quote from a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode I saw years and years ago (I’m not ashamed.) “I will not let you destroy what I was chosen to protect.”

That might sound a little melodramatic. But I spend most of my days helping animals, sometimes in little ways, sometimes in big ways. It brings me so much joy and satisfaction. I’m lucky to work where I do, and I don’t often see cruelty cases. To be reminded that it happens in the world is so confusing to me. Why would anyone take out their malice on these creatures?

Before I went back in the room, I gave the cat in my arms a quick kiss on the top of its head. “You’re a good kitty,” I told her.


26 Jun
Morning in the countryside.

Morning in the countryside.

I have decided upon a new rule for myself when traveling. Up until now, I have always had a ratio of 80% in a major city and 20% off-the-beaten-path. This needs to change. The truly amazing, awe-inspiring, life-changing moments I’ve experienced while traveling usually happen in the middle of nowhere, in a place no one has heard about. Case in point #1: Yoshino. Case in point #2: our road trip through Normandy.

D and our Twingo which we dubbed Amelie.

D and our Twingo which we dubbed Amelie.

A bit of wary of driving in Paris, we decided to take a train to Versailles and rent a car there. Easier said then done. We ended up wandering around in the rain, trying to find a car rental place. We finally found our way to a Hertz station where two French men assisted us in broken English. What we gathered from them, though, was that they had given us their most pink car, since we were ladies and must like that sort of thing. As we prepared to leave the lot, I ran in quickly to ask them which way to the highway. The cute boy with bright, blue eyes looked at me worriedly before rushing into a back room. He brought out a GPS unit and showed me how to work it. “Uh, it’s no charge….um…but that’s…exception for you.” He was truly our hero as we would have been quite lost without it.

View of Honfleur from the Ferris Wheel.

View of Honfleur from the Ferris Wheel.

We had reservations at a bed and breakfast place in a tiny town called Torigni-sur-Vire. But along the way, we made a detour to the north at a small fishing village called Honfleur. Dr. G had recommended it to me as his favorite place he has ever been. Dr G has yet to steer me wrong in life. Honfleur was possibly the highlight of my entire France trip. Everything about it was charming. From the chocolate museum with mechanical beavers making chocolate to the old Ferris Wheel to the old man painting the carousel to the apple brandy liquor to the fresh mussels caught that morning. We would have loved to stay longer, but we didn’t want to be late to check into our B&B.

La Beauconniere

La Beauconniere

After much skillful driving along winding roads, past cows and other speeding French drivers, we found the B&B where we were to stay two nights. As we pulled up, a smiling man waved eagerly at us. This was Dean. He directed us where to park and as we got out of the car, he introduced us to him and his wife, Suzanne. I can’t say enough wonderful things about them. They were two of the warmest people I have ever met. Kind, happy, eager to learn everything about us. We were likewise interested in learning about them. Their story is a tale that proves happiness is possible, and it’s never too late to lead a life you love. They originally owned their own law firm in Manhattan, but they didn’t like the hustle and bustle of city life. Dean is British and had always loved the French countryside. So one day they packed up, moved to France, and opened La Beauconniere. She has a passion for horses and cooking, and he loves history and gardening. They share this with the visitors that pass through. Dean calls himself a collector of stories. He loves to learn about his visitors.

They advised us to get dinner at a small bistro in town. We drove through the tiny town with one streetlight. We drank Calvados (apple brandy made in the region, 40%, not for beginners), and I ordered a Nicoise salad. The lettuce in the salad was so fresh and flavorful. I was in heaven. We went back home and crawled into our big comfy bed with the windows wide open to let fresh air in. We slept like the dead.

American cemetery at Omaha beach

American cemetery at Omaha beach

The next day I had made arrangements to spend the day horseback riding through the countryside with Suzanne. But there were huge gusts of wind, and Suzanne was worried about the horses getting spooked and didn’t want to not be able to communicate with each other. She offered to take me out the next day, but we had to return our rental car by a certain time or face a huge penalty fee. I was disappointed, but Dean promised to map out a good sightseeing day for us.

We headed to the D-Day beaches and in particular Omaha beach where the American cemetery was located. It was fascinating to see what those men had to go through, the long beaches and dunes they had to cross over. It was a moving experience, and I’m so glad we got to see it. There was a quote engraved there that stood out to me.

“If ever proof were needed that we fought for a cause and not for conquest, it could be found in these cemeteries. Here was our only conquest: All we asked…was enough soil in which to bury our gallant dead.”

-General Mark W. Clark

Amazing to see you much of the war came down to that one moment, that final hope to free France, all the countries that worked together to make it possible. USA, England, the French resistance. Astounding.

Afterwards we drove to the small town of Bayeaux to see the Bayeaux tapestry which was made in the 11th century depicting the Norman conquest. A stark contrast between the two wars and what people have fought for over time.

Our next stop was going to be Mont-St-Michel, but our trusty GPS broke, and we were nervous about getting too lost. So we found a convenient store with some maps and made our way back to Torigni sur Vire. Once there we found a little pub that was open, bought some beers (whilst noticing a black cat napping on the bar) and played darts. Naturally.

D proved to be a formidable opponent.

D proved to be a formidable opponent.

Once we started feeling a bit hungry we headed out to wander around the town. We stopped in a bakery to grab fresh baguettes, a liquor store to buy a bottle of cider (apples are big in that region), a grocery store so D could pick out some smelly French cheeses, and a butcher to buy some sausage. Back at La Beauconniere, we ate our humble feast and followed it up with some more Calvados brandy. D fell asleep early while I took a long shower, played with the cat Jake, gazed dreamily at the horses and wrote a little.

Jake resting in a sunbeam.

Jake resting in a sunbeam.

The next morning we said our goodbyes to Dean and Suzanne while they packed up some baguettes, homemade pear bread, and what was left of our stinky cheese, so we could snack on the road. We drove back to Versailles to drop off the car and spend the day at the palace. After our amazing countryside experience, it was difficult to stomach the mass amounts of tourists. The palace was interesting to see, but we ended up rushing through it, trying to get away from the crowds. The gardens were beautiful, and it was good to get fresh air after being herded like cattle from room to room. If I were a wealthy Queen of France, I think I’d rather stay at La Beauconniere as opposed to Versailles.