George, Owned by Kristin van Ogtrop, Managing Editor
One of the sweetest traditions we observe at Real Simple is publishing, each spring, the photographs of babies born to the staff during the previous year. This time we’ve decided to celebrate a different beloved family member: the pet.
My own household currently contains assorted members of the animal kingdom, but the pet who reigns supreme is our 16-year-old cat, George. My husband and I adopted George as a kitten when we were clueless newlyweds; he provided our introduction to parenting, among so many other things. Over the years, George has grudgingly come to share his place in our hearts with three children, a number of hamsters, countless fish, and―horrors―a dog, but he will always remain our first child.
2 of 9Madaline Sparks
Elmer, Owned by Madaline Sparks, Contributing Writer
He’s not named after Elmer Fudd. A six-year-old, who had just been introduced to a certain brand of glue at school, gave Elmer his name. His original owners were neighbors of mine and he was an indoor-outdoor cat. He came to visit my husband and me quite often, and we thought he was quite possibly the handsomest, friendliest, coolest, most wonderful cat we had ever had the pleasure to meet. We fantasized that somehow he could be ours one day, not dreaming that it would ever happen. Through a series of unforeseen events, our dream came true! Our two very senior cats both had a paw in kitty heaven when we became the happy parents of Elmer. After they had passed, his sparkling personality generously filled the gap left in the wake of their sad departure. His old owners don’t miss him, and vice versa. They turned out to be “dog people” anyway (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
Elmer likes to cuddle, hang out in the garden, drink water from a dripping bathtub faucet, ride in the car, and roll in the dirt. (I guess he doesn’t know he’s white.)
3 of 9Lisa Kovalovich Whitmore
Molly, Owned by Lisa Kovalovich Whitmore, Senior Beauty Editor
I adopted Molly from the Humane Society in Newark, New Jersey―she’s a kitty from the streets. I was looking to get a friend for my other cat, Olivia. When I walked in, they had a wall of cages and all sorts of cats there. But Molly stuck out because when I walked up to her cage, she stuck her long white arms out of the cage, like she was saying, “Pick me!” So of course I asked to see her, and the first thing she did was lick my nose. I was immediately sold on her and went through all the paperwork and wait time and finally got her. She still is the lickingest cat I have ever met―she licks me all the time.
She is also the current “most improved cat” in my house (my husband and I have three cats). We made up that award because one of our shy cats started being more friendly. Anyhow, Molly is most improved cat right now because she had a bad habit of using our mattress as a scratching post, but I recently bought a real scratching post and set it next to the bed. Now she never scratches the bed―she only uses the post.
She likes to sit in bags and boxes, like other cats. I once hung a big straw tote on a doorknob in our apartment, and later that day I couldn’t find Molly. Somehow she had gotten herself into the bag and was hanging there in it on the doorknob.
4 of 9Anastasia Signoretta
Spark, Owned by Anastasia Signoretta, Production Manager
Spark’s nickname is “Dangerkitty” because he is quite the curious cat and not at all “scaredy” when it comes to getting himself into perilous situations. Even though he’s almost six years old and a tad on the chubby side, he still bounds all over the apartment like a kitten, favoring the jump from the kitchen counter to the top of the refrigerator. Spark is fascinated by fire (he has actually tried to paw the gas flames on the stove) and enthralled by water, unlike most cats. Daily, he tries to join me in the tub.
5 of 9Westry Green
Gertie and Lexie, Owned by Westry Green, Research Chief
It took us at least a half hour to get this photo of both dogs. Lexie loves to model―whenever she sees a camera, she starts posing. She will hold a pose until she hears the shutter click (because I used to only shoot film; now, when I use my digital camera, she just holds a pose for a really long time).
Gertie, however, is not much of a model. We had to dangle treats up over the camera to get her to look at the lens. Unfortunately, that would make her jump up as soon as she saw the treat. We literally have dozens and dozens of outtakes of her walking toward the camera or licking her lips in anticipation.
6 of 9Ellene Wundrok
Eve, Owned by Ellene Wundrok, Design Director
I got Eve from a racetrack in Connecticut about three years ago. She had never lived in a home before, so there were many things she didn’t know. She had never walked on stairs, for example, and she had to learn how (which was quite entertaining). She had never seen a mirror and spent quite some time standing in front of one when I first brought her home. Now she is well adjusted, very friendly, and playful, like she’s been living with me forever.
7 of 9Lauren Epstein
Andy, Owned by Lauren Epstein, Deputy Photo Editor
Andy is my first dog. He’s 90 pounds, very lazy, but very lovable. He loves carbs―bagels, hamburger buns, black-and-white cookies. He would not fare well on the Atkins diet. He doesn’t fetch, gnaw on shoes, or lick your face like most dogs. However, he is a constant companion and an astute watchdog (deliverymen, beware!). He loves to rest his head on the couch and be close. He has a very waggy tail and once won third place in a tail-wagging contest.
While Andy enjoys what the city has to offer (great dog runs, stray food on the street), he still loves to get out of town on the weekends and stick his head out of the car window.
8 of 9Al Young
Maya, Owned by Al Young, Assistant Editorial Production Manager
We saw Maya at the pet store and the reason we fell in love with her was that she was dragging her right hind leg―something my wife does because of an auto accident that happened when she was 14. (My wife was thrown from the back of a pickup truck and hit her head and needed brain surgery. She basically spent a year in the hospital and another learning to walk again, but she still drags her right leg every now and then.)
Maya loves vegetables. If you place a bowl of peas, green beans, or romaine lettuce next to a bowl of any meat, she will always go for the veggies.
My wife and I both have seasonal allergies, and for whatever reason, Maya began developing them, too. It’s hilarious watching the three of us sneezing together and taking our medicine together. Maya has her own prescription from the vet.
9 of 9Jim Baker
Joey, Owned by Jim Baker, Editorial Development Director
My cat, Joey, was born in October 2000, to a stray feline in my Brooklyn backyard. Fiercely smart, he was the only one of the litter who stayed―probably because he drove everyone else off. He was the king of the yard, until one of the worst snowstorms that New York City had seen in years blanketed our backyard in three feet of snow. The air became oppressively cold―and suddenly this confident cat was afraid for his life.
Every day before dawn, I awoke to find him shivering and crying on the ledge outside my kitchen window. He was feral, of course, and whenever I tried to approach him, he disappeared into the alley. But my partner and I eventually gained his trust by feeding him, and in time we coaxed him into the house for his dinners. One night, while Joey ate, I simply closed the window that he used as an exit―and he has been a huge part of our lives ever since. Initially, I was worried that this feral cat would be weird, aggressive, or unpleasant, but as our vet said, “Sometimes these stray cats can turn out to be the sweetest things.” True enough: Joey is now such a loving and lovely cat, sleeping happily (against the radiators) in our home in Westchester―a feline success story.
I would strongly urge anyone who is thinking of getting a dog or a cat to go to a no-kill shelter―not to a puppy mill or the like―to rescue one of the millions of lovely, loving animals that die on the streets or are euthanized in shelters every year. Support your local mutts! Also support the ASPCA and the Humane Society.