Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

In this issue, we return with a pet interview. I have had my eye on this little puppy for a while and due to social distancing measures, I have been keeping a respectful distance, but in this time he’s already grown so much that I must introduce him to all of you without delay. Today, I interview Otto, the beautiful dog who has come to live with Tatiane Kanno (Postdoc, Brivanlou Lab, The Rockefeller University). 

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Watson and Otto

Otto: I just turned six months old. In human years I am ten years old. I am a happy little boy!

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

O: My mommy said she likes unusual Brazilian names; Otto is actually short for Otacílio. 

PV: How did you first meet your mommy?

O: I was living in a foster home for a week when my mom started looking for a puppy. I went to visit her house and she could not say no to my cuteness, so she adopted me right then and there. I met my big brother Watson the same day. He is my best friend! He is teaching me how to be a good boy and how to outsmart the hoomans with puppy eyes!

PV: What is your first memory?

O: I was rescued in Texas with two other siblings, but I do not remember much about it. My best memories are from the day I met my new family! 

PV: Where do you live?

O: I live on the Upper East Side in Manhattan. 

PV: What are your favorite smells of NYC?

O: NYC has such a diversity of smells; I am still exploring so I don’t have a favorite smell, I think. Every day I find something new.

PV: What are your favorite neighborhoods in NYC?

O: I haven’t had the chance to explore much in the city. My hooman said I am not allowed to go out because we are in quarantine. I don’t really know what that means, but hooman is home all the time and I love it! For now, I can say I like walking by the river, and I went to Central Park a couple of times. Central Park is so much fun, a bunch of new things to explore and see. I am looking forward to going back there and chasing squirrels with my brother, Watson.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

O: I would be happy living anywhere else as long as my mommy is with me. I don’t like to be left alone; I cry when she goes out without me. Mommy also said she will take me to Brazil for the holidays, I wonder what it’s like there.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

O: Hooman food of course! Every time she eats, I get very excited and want to eat as well, but mommy said I cannot have much of it. Besides hooman food, I love eating peanut butter and banana treats. 

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

O: I like walking outside and playing with my big brother Watson. But, what is a weekend? Hooman said every day is a weekend nowadays.

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

O: Watson! Wait, Watson is not a hooman. Hmm, I like Watson’s dad Kevin as well. He likes bullying me all the time, but I know he loves me very much. We used to share the same name. When I was living in my foster home, my name was Kevin as well. Uncle Kevin helped my mommy with the whole adoption process and when he saw my name he told my mom: it is meant to be, it is fate! Adopt him! So, I guess I like him because he helped me find a home! 

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

O: One night I had a playdate with my big brother Watson, we had so much fun and I got very thirsty after running all over the place with him. I went to drink water, and the tiny water bowl was empty. Then, I started exploring the house in search of water. When I entered the bathroom, I saw a huge white bowl of water. I was so happy that I had found water, but when I started drinking my mommy came yelling at me and gave me a stink-eye. I still don’t know why; I was just thirsty. Hmm, maybe that was not such a funny story, I got scolded in the end!

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

O: Yes, @watson_otto on instagram! I share the account with my big brother, Watson.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

O: To talk because every time my hooman leaves me alone, I scold her, but she doesn’t understand what I am saying. She thinks I’m joking and laughs! 

PV: What do you miss the most about pre-COVID times?

O: I’m a COVID baby. I don’t know anything before COVID. But I wish it would go away so I can go to the dog park. Watson told me it’s so much fun there!

PV: How have you helped your human get through these times?

O: I give her lots of cuddles and kisses! I don’t give her any space to sleep on the bed and I like to share her pillow. This way, I’m sure she isn’t lonely! I also like following her everywhere in the house, even when she is in the shower, I keep peeking to see if she’s okay. She might get stuck indoors, so I make sure she always has company!

Otto

Otto

Otto

Watson and Otto

Otto

Otto and Watson

 

Pets of Tri-I: Working from Home with Pets Pt. 2

Gretchen M. Michelfeld

Heading into June, many of us in the Tri-I community are still working from home, grappling with the uncertainty of tomorrow’s news, the loneliness of quarantine, or the frustrations of too much family togetherness. Our pets continue to be comforting companions.  

As a Patient Representative at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), David Jay Smith Chang works from home four days a week. His two dogs, eight-year-old Maxwell (who is half Pomeranian, half Pekingese) and Reno Sweeney (a five-year-old Pekingese) have  become role models, reminding him how important it is to stay grounded. 

David, Maxwell, and Reno Sweeney

“They are present in the moment, enjoying where they are, fearless,” Chang told me. “The amount of emotional support they give me is incalculable. They are willing to provide love 24/7.” 

Chang’s colleague, Karen Wexler, the Associate Director of Patient Relations at MSKCC, finds that seven-year-old Daisy (a domestic shorthair “tuxedo” cat) makes it much easier to work from home. 

Karen and Daisy

“Although she has disconnected me from more than a few calls by walking on my keyboard or playing hockey with my iPhone, she usually gets settled into the morning workflow after a nice tear around the apartment and a light breakfast,” Wexler said. 

Daisy can also be a considerate colleague. According to Wexler, “Recognizing the confidential nature of her mother’s work, Daisy is great about taking some time on her own. She will sometimes stay in bed until 2 p.m. So dedicated, that one!” Daisy is also great at helping Wexler choose which “work from home” overalls to wear each day and whether or not to employ the Oxford comma in her letter-writing. 

On a more serious note, Wexler credits Daisy with helping her feel human during this time of social distancing. “I live alone [and] my partner is isolated in Los Angeles, so Daisy’s presence is essential to my feeling another breathing being next to me.” 

Ainslie Durnin of Rockefeller University’s Development Office feels lucky to be sheltering in place with her five-year-old lop-eared rabbit, Charlie. 

Charlie

“Charlie loves that I am home all day every day,” Durnin said. “Every morning we sit on the floor together. I have a cup of coffee while he enjoys lots of treats and cuddles. He loves Life cereal and will sit on my lap while he munches his breakfast. For much of the day he naps, moving from one favorite spot to another, but whenever I emerge from my office for a break, he will follow me around the house.”

Durnin pointed out that Charlie can be a bit of a demanding coworker. “If my attention is not forthcoming, he will go into his bunny house and throw a temper-tantrum, scratching and throwing his food dish around to make lots of noise. He actually did this in the middle of my husband’s virtual thesis defense a few weeks ago!” But mostly Charlie is “sweet, funny, and quirky, and he fills our home with love and joy.” 

Bernard Langs, also of the Rockefeller University Development Office, said his one-year-old calico cat, Pippa, is overjoyed to have the whole family home with her all day. 

Pippa

“My wife and I are working from home remotely, and my daughter is finishing her final college semester via Zoom classes,” Langs told me. “Pippa roams from one of us to another while her much older “sister” Roberta sleeps all day. 

As we wait to find out when Rockefeller and her sister institutions will fully reopen, Natural Selections would love to hear from more of you about working from home with your pets. Feel free to contact Gretchen M. Michelfeld (gmichelfel@rockefeller.edu) with your stories and photos.

Pets of Tri-I: Working from Home with Pets

Gretchen M. Michelfeld

With some adorable exceptions, most of us do not bring our pets to work. We were used to coming home at the end of a long day to a cat clamoring to be fed or a dog dancing ecstatically at our return. The sudden change in work culture throughout the Tri-Institutional community has served to expand the work environment through videoconferencing (I just discovered that one of my bosses loves Monet and another likes antique cameras). At the same time, it’s hard to be trapped inside all day. We go a little stir crazy. And now we spend the whole day with our crazy pets, as well! 

I interviewed members of the community to see just how working at home with pets is impacting their daily working lives:

“Yogi has definitely made it easier for me,” said Joyce Ng of the Office of Sponsored Programs Administration. “He is my emotional support pup in these uncertain times.” Yogi is Ng’s twelve year old Pomeranian, who is very happy to have her home with him all day. However, “He has definitely become more attached and needy.” 

Joyce Ng and Yogi

According to Adam Collier of the Leibowitz Lab, Yogi would appear to be the opposite of his cat Zelda. 

Adam Collier and Zelda

“Zelda is an independent lady, so I always appreciate it when she lets me pet her,” Collier explained. “I think she is difficult to impress, but my talk of zebrafish piques her interest. At first, she seemed pretty confused with me being home all day and wondered why I’m in her house so much, but I think she has slowly gotten used to the idea of sharing her space with me.”

My own cat, Cleo, starts driving me crazy in the late afternoon. 

Something about the way the late-day sun creates shadows right above my desk makes her bounce off the walls, and she insists on having her supper much earlier than she would normally get it when I’m out of the apartment all day. Collier says Zelda has never really been motivated by food or treats—just catnip. Cleo definitely does not need catnip! But in these difficult times, there is nothing like a purring little furball in my lap to calm my frayed nerves. Cleo is usually excellent company. 

Anna Amelianchik of the Strickland Lab feels the same way about her cat, Mila. 

Mila

“Mila has been in our family for nearly eleven years,” Amelianchik explained to me over email. “Last year, I brought her with me from Russia, and despite the many challenges of caring for a pet, she has been a source of great comfort because she is the only family I have around. She is not exactly needy or cuddly like other cats, but when I am visibly upset or very ill, she sits next to me looking all concerned. And in trying times like these, what else do you need other than knowing that someone cares for your well-being?” 

Unlike Cleo, Mila makes Amelianchik’s apartment a peaceful place to work. 

“Mila makes it much easier to be isolated alone in a tiny studio apartment. She doesn’t tend to disturb me much when I work, but a few times a day she wakes up from a nap and comes to me asking for pets. It always makes me smile, but also gives me a chance to unpeel my eyes from the screen and let them rest before returning to work.”

Beckett and Cleo

Isolating alone can be very lonely, but quarantining with other people presents a whole other set of challenges. The first few days that I was trying to both work from home and help my eleven year old son, Beckett with online schooling, we both got very frustrated. But by the end of the first week, Cleo helped him calm down and focus. Now it’s comforting to see him casually snuggling with her while he logs onto Google Classroom or reads a novel for his English Language Arts class. It’s good for both of our stress levels, and I get a lot more work done.

The Rout Lab’s Natalia Ketaren finds her cat, Little Kitty, to be a stress reliever as well, but her home sometimes has the same challenges that ours does!

Little Kitty

“Little Kitty is definitely a stress reliever,” said Ketaren. “Pets are a calming presence and ours makes us laugh. She breaks up the work day. However, at times she goes completely wild and does circuits around the apartment. You have to put away your cups of tea or coffee to protect the electronics!”

What does Little Kitty think of Ketaren’s work?

“She sees my notebooks and papers as a bed. My laptop is both a bed and a chin scratcher. My pens are her toys. She often likes to be the center of attention. However, she will self-isolate somewhere where we can’t reach her to get some uninterrupted nap time.”

I think all of us working from home are pretty jealous of Little Kitty’s opportunities for uninterrupted nap time! We’ll just have to keep plugging away and make the best of a very strange situation. The thing is, our animals know nothing of this scary pandemic. They remind us of life’s simpler concerns and rewards.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, I interview Rudy, the dog who lives with Riccardo De Santis (Postdoc, Brivanlou lab, The Rockefeller University) and his wife, Dacia (Columbia University). 

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Rudy: I have 5 human years. 

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

R: My parents wanted to name me after a scientist, but not a pretentious one. The story goes that one day, one of my humans (the tall and hairy one) was in what you humans call a “meeting” and he met this very important scientist from Harvard. They were having a very formal discussion until a young Ph.D. student stopped by and interrupted the conversation, saying to his important supervisor in front of everyone “Hey Rudy, are you missing again your own talk?” I don’t really see the connection, but this is the reason why I am named Rudy.  

PV: How did you first meet your humans?

R: I arrived in New York from Puerto Rico and I was staying in small dog resort on 38th Street and First Avenue called “Bidawee.” The food was good and my room had a lot of toys (I love toys). Many humans were going around visiting and meeting dogs. The day after my arrival my humans stopped by, and we started to hang out over some treats and some new toys (have I mentioned that I love toys?). They convinced me to go with them to stay in their apartment, where I took the bigger room and I left them the small one.

Photo courtesy of Riccardo and Dacia

PV: Where do you live?

R: I live in Faculty House, close to my favorite dog park just across the street by the river and my small private backyard that by coincidence is the Rockefeller campus.

PV: What are your favorite neighborhoods in NYC?

R: My favorite neighborhood is Central Park. It is perfect to spend my Sunday walk where I have the chance to meet many friends from all over the New York canine world.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

R: I would live where it is always sunny and warm—someone told me that a place like that exists and it is called Sicily. I will go there at some point, just for a quick check, and I will let you know.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

R: Carrots and treats, of any kind, shape or flavor! 

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

R: I like to hang out with my humans and walk around to say “hello” to every dog I come across. I like to have humans around when I meet my fellow dogs. 

PV: Besides your human roomies, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

R: I like everybody, but I like those humans more who have treats. 

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

R: The first time I went to Brooklyn, my humans decided to go on this strange car that goes on water that they call a ferry. In the beginning I was super scared of the weird noise and the rocking, but at some point I met a beautiful human puppy…her name is Marina. She petted me and I gave her a huge kiss. Suddenly, I was not scared anymore and I enjoyed my sniffing around in this island called Brooklyn.  

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

R: I don’t have an Instagram profile yet. My parents said that I am too young, but they promised me that I can have one when I turn seven human years. 

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

R: I would like to have the human ability to open the fridge. I am sure something good is hidden there. My humans always go there and don’t let me look or sniff inside.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, I interview Astérix, the guinea pig who lives with Amélie Cornil (Laboratory Administrator, Strickland lab, The Rockefeller University) and her husband, John. I hope I meet Astérix.

Photos courtesy of Amelie Cornil.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Astérix: I am 1 year old, and that’s 18 human years, so I’m still a teenager.

 

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

A: Yes! My name is Astérix just like the French comics.

 

PV: How did you first meet your humans?

A: I was a baby when my human mom held me the first time! I was scared, I thought “This is it! They’re going to eat me now!”, but then they took me to a huge house and gave me lots of amazing food.

 

PV: What is your first memory?

A: The first time my humans gave me a bowl of colorful things that didn’t look edible, I went to hide for hours. Then I tasted them and now I can’t get enough of vegetables!

 

PV: Where do you live?

A: In a 2-story luxury loft inside my humans’ small apartment in Queens.

 

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

A: In Omaha Nebraska, in the giant fields full of the different hay that I could eat daily!

 

PV: What are your favorite smells?

A: Green leaf lettuce, apple and banana.

 

PV: What are your favorite foods?

A: Green leaf lettuce, apple and banana!

 

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

A: Eat, nap, poop, eat, nap, poop. On Sundays I also get to run in the playpen, and eat and poop in there!

 

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

A: Aunt Xinzhu from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

 

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

A: When I was younger, my human mom tried to make me taste banana multiple times and I would just run away. Since a week ago I am crazy for it and every time they eat a banana I demand a piece!

 

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

A: No, I am afraid of the owls and eagles on social media that might want to have me for dinner.

 

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

A: Go to the fridge by myself to get vegetables in the middle of the night!

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

 

For this issue, I interview Sumo, the dog who lives with Margaret Fabiszak (Freiwald Lab, The Rockefeller University) and her husband, James.

 

Photos courtesy of Fabiszak & Co.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you?

S: Roughly in my 60s. We don’t know exactly! If anyone at the Tri-I can give me an estimate based on my DNA methylation, let me know. I lick everything and shed constantly. It’s very easy to get my DNA.

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

S: I’m told I have a reddish-orange coat (although if you ask me, I’d say brownish-brown) so my humans had the idea of naming me after an orange fruit in what is apparently a long held tradition of naming pets based on their color scheme. I’m skeptical at the novelty, but I’ll still go with it. The first contender for a name was Kumquat, but that ran the risk of being confused with a word I’d later become acquainted with, “Come.” Let’s all agree that the resulting name Quat isn’t particularly flattering. After a bit more thought, Sumo Citrus stuck! You can all call me Sumo.

PV: How did you first meet your humans?

S: They came to meet me in a great shelter called Animal Lighthouse Rescue. We went for a walk in Central Park and I knew I had them hooked. 

PV: What is your first memory?

S: I grew up in Puerto Rico and was a stray most of my life. Given the lengths to which I’ll go for them now, I have to imagine that chicken bones had a strong impression on me as a pup. A big chicken bone on a long, warm day–that’s my ideal picture of my youth.

PV: Where do you live?

S: Harlem with my humans.

PV: What are your favorite smells of NYC?

S: Chicken bones are high up there, but they’re a rare find on a walk here. I smell A LOT of urine in this city and I appear to love it. My humans support my interests though. They’re even working on making an app called PupPee Value to reveal a social network of neighborhood dogs!

PV: What are your favorite neighborhoods in NYC?

S: Harlem, Jamaica, and Park Slope–anywhere I know humans who will give me lots of treats.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

S: A place with chicken bones, beds I’m always allowed on, and humans who know exactly how I like my belly rubbed.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

S: Chicken bones! But since I’m not allowed chicken bones, I’ll settle for any treat with meat in it. If it’s human-grade beef jerky, I’ll often run through all the tricks I know on repeat until my humans stop laughing and give me the jerky.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

S: Going for a hike followed by a long nap in the sun coming through the windows …and then eating.

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

S: Most any treat giver! Lots of Tri-I humans have even looked after me for a weekend! I haven’t found one yet who will give me chicken bones. They will be my favorite.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

S: NYC is a wild and magical city. I love chasing squirrels and even get to chase a few rats! One time I thought I was chasing a squirrel but it turned into the tail of our neighborhood cat. I was so surprised at this transfiguration I jumped into a somersault and ran to my humans! I’m still not sure why they found this so funny, but they laughed for a long time and gave me extra head scratches. The cat was unfazed.

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

S: Unfortunately, I don’t have thumbs so I can’t make an Instagram yet, or for that matter, I can’t even open the door to the closet with treats!

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

S: Thumbs.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

 

For this issue, I interviewed Luna, the rat who lives with Brigid Maloney (Jarvis & Magnasco Labs, The Rockefeller University) and her partner, Brandon. I think rats make great pets and I wanted to meet Luna ever since I first heard about her from Brigid.

Photos Courtesy of Brigid Maloney

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Luna: I am 2.5 years old, which makes me a pretty senior rat!

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

L: Luna is the name I came with when I was adopted, but usually my folks call me Looney Toon since I run around the apartment looking for snacks all the time.

PV: What is your first memory?

L: Probably when I was adopted and came home for the first day! I remember all of the new smells and meeting my parents, who gave me a welcome home chocolate chip, my favorite!

PV: Where do you live?

L: I live in a big 3 story cage in a little studio apartment with my humans. Comparably, my cage is much bigger to me than their apartment is to them!

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

L: Probably in the kitchen cabinets so I could have unlimited access to the full pantry!

PV: What are your favorite foods?

L: I love human food and any time my humans make anything tasty, they usually give me a little bite! My favorites are pizza crusts, but I also love chocolate chips, oatmeal, and above all else, bananas!

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

L: Snoozing late all morning, then running around the couch and snuggling with my humans while they fold laundry or watch tv, and then building big nests with loud crunchy paper all night long!

PV: Besides your human roomies, do you know other humans in the Tri-I community?

L: I get to meet all of the humans who visit our apartment! Some of them seem a little nervous when they first meet me, but I usually have them eating out of my hand (or rather, I am eating out of theirs) within a few minutes.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

L: One time, my humans went to the cage to make sure I had enough food before they went to work, and realized I wasn’t there! They tore the apartment apart looking for me and were worried I was lost, until all of the sudden, they heard a crunching noise coming from mom’s backpack, and then they realized I had found my way in and was trying to break into her lunch box! Alas, I was foiled again!

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

L: Sometimes I am gracious enough to make an appearance on my mom’s Instagram, @Brigid_m.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

L:  Definitely thumbs to open jars and the ability to reach the fridge by myself!

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue I interviewed Lord Bullingdon, the dog who lives with Mehrnoosh Oghbaie (Rout Lab, The Rockefeller University). Lord B is such a happy dog, and I love running into him when he’s out on walks.

Photos Courtesy of Mehmoosh Oghbaje

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

L: I don’t quite know. Some say 3 years, others say 6.

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

L: I don’t have a name, but there are different sounds my mom/the humans make that I get treats for: Lord, Bully, Lord Bully, Lord Bullingdon.

PV: What is your first memory?

L: What is a memory? I know good food makes me happy and I like walking to the dog park. Is that a memory?

PV: Where do you live?

L: I live on the other side of a door that opens through a corridor right out of elevator that takes me from the lobby.

PV: What are your favorite smells of NYC?

L: The smell of barbeques, cheese, yoghurt, and banana.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

L: I want to live in a garden with birds, bunnies, and cats.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

L: Anything my mom is eating; I want to try it.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

L: I like going to barbeques with lots of meat.

PV: Besides your mom, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

L: There are lots of them in the street and school. They stare at me and pet me when I go to them.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

L: The first day my mom took me home we went for a walk, and I peed on a flower in a flower shop before my mom could say anything. I got away with it.

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

L: Oh, I never thought of that, but I’m gonna open a profile.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

L: I’d want to be able to drink those yellow waters people drink while sitting together in a bar.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, I interview Michelle, the dog who lives with Emma Garst (Hang Lab, The Rockefeller University). I love animals, please write me at pviswanath@mail.rockefeller.edu if you have pets! That’s the whole point of this.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Michelle: I’m going on four years old! I guess I should be settling down, but I think maturity is overrated. I am still “young at heart,” as my mom likes to say.

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

M: The foster agency gave it to me, and mom kept it because she thought it was funny! You can take it up with her. We get asked sometimes if I was named after First Lady Michelle Obama. For the record: no. Who would dare.

PV: What is your first memory?

M: I have some early memories, but the most exciting one was when I took a long road trip up from Pittsburgh to meet my new mom! I was driven by a couple of volunteers, so I got to meet a lot of new people. I love new people.

PV: Where do you live?

M: I live in Faculty House with my mom and our roommates, Fangyu Liu and Mizuho Horioka. I like to play a fun game with Fangyu, where I make funny noises and she makes funny noises back. We have a good time. (*Editor’s note: this is not a fun game for Fangyu.)

PV: What are your favorite smells of NYC?

M: Oh boy, I love trash day. New York has so many interesting smells, I couldn’t name just one! There’s old chicken, and fresh pee, and Thai take out, and bird droppings…

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

M: I love New York but I would love to run more! I’d like to live somewhere off in the mountains, where my mom wouldn’t worry about me running off to explore every once and a while.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

M: I’ll try any food once, but it’s got to be chicken. I love when we get rotisserie chicken and I get the little fatty salty skin bits. MMMmm.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

M: I like taking mom up to Randall’s Island! There’s plenty to sniff and explore up there. There are squirrels, and we also get to walk past lots of dogs on the way. I find other dogs confusing… but very interesting.

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

M: I have to pass on this question, I don’t want to play favorites with my fans.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

M: One time I almost got that rabbit on the Rockefeller campus! I even got away from my mom, but I couldn’t find it once it got in the bushes. Actually, it is an exciting but sad story, not funny. I would like to chase the rabbit again someday.

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

M: My mom basically only posts pictures of me (for obvious reasons). You can follow her Instagram @egarst.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

M: Opening doors. Just imagine, I could take myself out on walks all the time!

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, Natural Selections interviews House and Kima, the forever kittens who live with me (Freiwald lab, the Rockefeller University), and sometimes, with my partner, Scott Rennie.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Kima: We don’t know exactly, but the humans guess about 1 in human years. In cat years, we are teenagers.

 PV: What are the names we gave you?

House: My name is Gregory Mouser House, MD. I was named after a very important and smart doctor that I remind my humans of.

K: My name is Kima Lima Greggs. I was named after a fictional character in the Wire, a TV show my humans like.

 PV: What is your first memory?

H: I wasn’t feeling well, I was very sick. The humans who found me looked very concerned, but they were talking about youth in Asia.

K: I remember a shop window and humans brought me inside that shop. You told me it was the Petco at Lexington and 86th.

PV: Do you remember when we first met?

H: We met on a Saturday afternoon. I was sleepy, but I was also hungry, so I was falling asleep with my head buried in the food bowl. Scott decided right away that I was going to be your kitten.

K: I was meowing with my older cat friends in my foster home when you and Scott came to visit. You had already decided to adopt me, so I knew you wouldn’t mind me pooping in front of you.

PV: What did you think of each other when you first met?

H: I thought she was a great playmate to have in my apartment. We wanted to play together instantly.

K: Hated him. Maybe you don’t remember, but he used to be smelly, and acted like he owned the place.

PV: Where do you live?

K: We live with you! In Scholar’s residence. Sometimes we live in Philadelphia with Scott. Scott is a postdoc at UPenn.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

K: Anywhere that both of our humans could live together. With any other animals we might grow to tolerate.

H: Where there are lots of things to hunt.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

K: House will try anything once, even things that never moved like carrots or avocadoes.

H: Kima’s favorite food is whatever’s on my dish. She hates tuna though. Don’t try to give her tuna.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

H: I like to chase Kima around.

K: I like quiet time to myself.

PV: Besides us, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

K: Natalie is very sweet. She lives with us and feeds us when you’re gone.

H: Natalie, Sofia, Tara, Margie, Liz, Vero, Madi, and Ceren are a few I can think of right away.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

H: One time we went somewhere and came back with cones around our heads. It was fun to try to get them off. Kima looked so funny.

K: That wasn’t funny at all. You know what’s funny? Every time the humans flush the toilet, House thinks it’s a great big monster. He runs to the farthest corner of the apartment.

PV: Is there some way others can see more pictures of you online?

K: Yes, you have an Instagram account @majorpooper where you upload pictures and videos of us.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

H: I have all human abilities.

K: I wish I could close the door on House whenever I wanted.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

For this issue, Natural Selections interviews Fifi, the young cat who lives with first year graduate students here at The Rockefeller University, Sarah Cai, Lindsey Lopes, and Kathryn Eckartt. Fifi is extremely sweet and playful and I enjoyed our meeting. Please contact me if you have sweet, little nonhumans living with you. I’d love to meet them.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Fifi: I turn one on June 14th! That makes me a teenager in human years, which my moms say makes sense because of my sometimes naughty behavior.

 PV: Is there a story behind your name?

F: The shelter that I was adopted from named me Fifi and the name stuck!

PV: What is your first memory?

F: I don’t remember a lot from when I was a baby, but the people at the shelter said that I was found as a stray in NYC when I was six weeks old, and some nice person brought me to the shelter.

PV: Who are your moms? When did you first meet them?

F: My moms are Sarah Cai, Lindsey Lopes, and Kathryn Eckartt. They adopted me last October. I met them while I was hanging out with a bunch of my kitten friends at the shelter, and it was love at first sight.

PV: How do they belong to the Tri-I community?

F: They are all first year graduate students at The Rockefeller University. Sarah just joined Titia de Lange’s lab, Kathryn is in Jeremy Rock’s lab, and Lindsey is still rotating.

PV: Where do you live?

F: I live in Faculty House. I don’t really know what that means, but I like to look out the window at all the cars on the FDR and York Avenue.

 PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

F: Hmm, I’m a city cat, but I definitely wish that I could go outside! Maybe somewhere with a big yard and lots of birds to look at.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

F: I love snacks. Some of my favorites are cat treats, chicken, and black beans…but I’ll definitely try anything if you leave your plate unattended! Except veggies. I don’t like veggies.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

F: What are weekends? Is that when the humans are home more? I like to hang out in my moms’ rooms and knock over things on their desks, dressers, or any flat surface. I also like to nap in the sun.

PV: Besides your moms, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

F: I like pretty much everyone that I meet, especially if they give me snacks!

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

F: Sometimes Lindsey dog-sits and one time I decided that I wanted to try out some dog food, so I jumped onto the bookshelf where the dog’s food was and knocked over the whole bag. I made a hole in the bag with my teeth so I could eat the food…dog food is yummy!

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

F: Yes! Check out my Instagram @fifi_the_kitten.jpg

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

F: I would love it if I had opposable thumbs because then I could get into all the treat jars! My moms had to stop leaving treats out in plastic bags because I would chew through the plastic to get more treats when they weren’t looking.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

 

For this issue, Natural Selections interviews Malu, the dog who lives with Tiago Siebert Altavini (Gilbert Lab, The Rockefeller University) and Patricia Saletti. Malu speaks Portuguese and I only know 10 words of it, but her parents were willing and capable translators for our interview. I love animals, please write me at pviswanath@mail.rockefeller.edu if you have pets!

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Malu: I’m 5, which in human years is about 36 years old.

 

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

M: Malu is actually short for Maria Luiza, which my parents only use when they are mad at me. That doesn’t happen often though.

 

PV: What is your first memory?

M: I’ll never forget the day I met my best friend, Nina. She lives with my grandparents and we spent much of our childhood together. We used to play a lot in the backyard. Unfortunately, I don’t see her much anymore because she lives in Brazil and I live here.

 

PV: Who are your parents? When did you meet them?

M: I live with Patricia and Tiago, my mom and dad. I met them in August 2013 when I moved in with them.

 

PV: How do they belong in the Tri-I community?

M: My dad works in the Gilbert lab as a postdoc. My mom is also a postdoc but works far away in the Bronx, but she has many friends in the Tri-I community.

 

PV: Where do you live?

M: I live in Scholars Residence, the tall building close to the university where my dad works.

 

PV: What are your favorite smells of New York City?

M: Oh, I love to smell everything. My mom always complains that we take too long when we go for a walk. I guess that’s why my dad does most of the walking with me.

 

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

M: Definitely in Brasilia so I could be close to my best friend, Nina. But I have to say I would be tempted to live closer to the beach. I love the beach, it’s like a huge dog park with all that sand.

 

PV: What are your favorite foods?

M: Chicken and carrots! Not necessarily together. I usually get chicken flavored dog food and whenever my dad is cooking I cry by the kitchen countertop to see if he’ll give a little piece of vegetable. If I hear him cutting carrots, I come running. I also like to eat fruits.

 

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in New York City?

M: Going to the dog park. I don’t care much about the other dogs to be honest, but I get to play “catch the ball” a lot, which is my favorite game. I don’t go much anymore though. I got sick after going to one of these parks and now my parents are afraid of taking me again. I also like going to Central Park and to the beach.

 

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

M: I have many friends in the area, but if I had to choose one, it would be Sofia from the Freiwald Lab. We used to be neighbors and I would play with her all the time. I usually stay with her when my parents are out of town. We play a lot and she teaches me Spanish.

 

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

M: I tend to get very excited after my morning walk. When I come back from walking, I run around the house, play with my toys and try really hard to get everyone’s attention. One day I was particularly agitated and decided to jump on the bed. Now, the bed is too tall for me, but on that day I was feeling so energetic I was sure I could do it. I took some distance, ran towards the bed, jumped and hit the side of the bed with my chest and fell to the floor on my back. I didn’t get even close. I didn’t find it too funny at the moment but my parents laughed the whole morning.

 

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

M: No, my parents say I’m too young for social media.

 

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

M: To open the door and go out by myself. I love going out, to the park, to parties, to trips. The problem is sometimes my parents don’t take me with them and I have to stay home by myself until they come back.

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

In this issue, Natural Selections interviews Muffin and Velvet, the cats who live with Sarah Mereby (Fuchs Lab, The Rockefeller University) and Eddie Spencer. I wasn’t able to meet these lovely creatures but Sarah graciously transmitted my questions to them and their answers to me. Please write me at pviswanath@mail.rockefeller.edu if you have pets!

Muffin (left) and Velvet (right).

Muffin (top) and Velvet (bottom). Photos by Sarah Mereby and Eddie Spencer.

Pooja Viswanathan: How old are you? In human years?

Velvet: We are 21 years old and 1.5 years old in human years.

 PV: Is there a story behind your names?

V: I was named by the people that work at the shelter that I am from. It is very fitting since my coat is very soft and sleek.

Muffin: I was named by my hoomans. They told me I am super cute and small like a muffin. I’m not so small anymore though.

PV: What is your first memory?

M: My first memory was waking up to find I had been put in a mailbox in the middle of winter. I was so scared! Thankfully I was rescued by the local shelter, which led to me meeting my hoomans. Meeting my hoomans is my favorite memory.

V: My first memory was meeting Muffin at the shelter. The shelter told me that I was the only survivor of all my siblings. Muffin has been my friend and a part of my family ever since.

PV: Which humans do you live with? When did you meet them?

V: We live with Sarah Mereby and Eddie Spencer. We met them at the shelter in January 2018.

PV: How do they belong in the Tri-I community?

M: Sarah is a Research Specialist at The Rockefeller University.

PV: Where do you live?

V: We live in Montclair, NJ. We just moved from Lyndhurst, NJ. We love our new house. We got to learn how to go up and down stairs and there are so many new places for us to hide. Also there are plenty of birds and squirrels to watch from the window.

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

V: I would live wherever my hoomans and Muffin would live.

M: I would live in a restaurant since I love to eat and would help eat any leftovers.

PV: What are your favorite foods?

M: I love to eat canned cat food. I do not have a favorite flavor. I eat so quickly that I can’t even remember what flavor I had or whether I had a full bowl to begin with. I also love to try to eat Velvet’s portion. Never know if Velvet had a better flavor or was given more food than me.

V: I love Friskies Shreds. My favorite flavor is salmon. I am very picky and have taught my hoomans to only give my shreds and not pate. Ew. I also like treats: Ahi Tuna flavor! I also like to drink water out of hooman’s glass. It always tastes best when it’s nice and cold. Sharing with hooman is the best. Although I don’t know why they get mad at me when I take a small lick of their water.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

V: We like to hang out with our hoomans on the weekends. That’s the best. We normally like to watch TV with hoomans and sit in our cat tree while looking out the window. We also like to play with hooman. We love our feather toys.

M: I like to snuggle with Eddie.

V: I like to follow hoomans everywhere around the house to make sure to help them if they need my assistance.

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

V: I have met Stephanie who works at Memorial Sloan Kettering. I love making new friends.

M: I can’t remember. I am a bit afraid of meeting new people.

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

V: One time hoomans brought home a cat stuffed animal that is about the same size as us. We were so convinced it was real. It was very scary. We both approached it very slowly and pawed at it. We were worried we were being replaced by a new cat. Thankfully it’s just a decoration. It wishes it could be like us.

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

V: You can follow us on the Instagram account @catasticday or use the hashtag #muffinandvelvet.

PV: If you could have any human ability, what would it be?

M: Being able to open cans of cat food. That’s the dream.

V: Being able to play the piano. I love when hoomans play piano. It’s very relaxing. I’ve attempted to play the piano myself by jumping on the piano keys but it doesn’t sound as good as when hooman plays.

 

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

In the third run of this series, I interview Mocha, the rabbit who lives with Natalie Omattage (Chen Lab, The Rockefeller University). I meet this fluffy one often, as Natalie and I share an apartment. If you would like your pet(s) featured in this series, please contact me at pviswanath@mail.rockefeller.edu.

Pooja Viswanathan: Mocha, I have never met a bunny like you before. What kind of bunny are you?

Mocha: I am a Lionhead bunny. We are named for the mane of fur around our heads! Lionheads are majestic creatures (I may be biased), and we are known for our sassy personalities. Some say I take after my mom, but I’d like to think we are just strong independent women!

PV: Is there a story behind your name?

M: I was originally named Ladybug but I didn’t think it suited me very well. Mom is a big coffee drinker and was inspired by my mocha brown hair!

PV: How old are you? In human years?

M: I’m seven years old—some say that’s about forty-nine in human years, but I still feel pretty young and spry! I was born in 2012, coincidentally, the same year my mom began grad school! I think that’s how I knew we were meant to be together.

PV: What is your first memory?

M: Sadly, one of my first memories was being abandoned in the middle of an alley during a rainstorm. I still get scared during storms to this day. Fortunately, the friendly folks at the Missouri House Rabbit Society (MO HRS) came to my rescue and gave me a warm safe place to sleep and spend time with other bunnies!

PV: Tell us about your mom. When did you first meet her?

M: My mom’s name is Natalie Omattage. We met in April 2014. She had just passed her qualifying exam at Washington University in St. Louis and wanted a furrever friend. I had spent nearly two years at the MO HRS and was very picky about who I wanted to be my next family. As she walked around, we locked eyes, and the rest, as they say, is history. Below is photographic evidence of us meeting for the first time.

PV: How does your mom belong in the Tri-I community?

M: She’s a postdoc in Dr. Jue Chen’s lab at Rockefeller. We made the trek from the Midwest to the Big Apple in September, and haven’t looked back since. I’m definitely a big city bun!

PV: Where do you live?

M: I live with my mom in her room. My cage is a large dog crate, and I also have a wooden bunny castle so I can keep watch over my territory! I’m allowed to wander around the room so long as I don’t chew on Mom’s belongings. I like to test my luck occasionally but Mom says I’m too cute to stay mad at for too long. 😉

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

M: I think I’d want to live in Sri Lanka. All of mom’s family lives there, and I could see myself being a beach bun and living that tropical life!

PV: What is your favorite food?

M: Sticking to the Bugs Bunny stereotype, I really do love carrots! Although, they are high in sugar so I’m not allowed to have very much. My other favorite foods are bok choy and brussel sprouts.

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity?

M: I like to splay out in my cage and relax after a long week of nibbling on hay and playing with my toys. I miss Mom a lot during the work week so I often face her direction when I’m resting. I also like lots of scratches and snuggles when she’s around!

 PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

M: My mom’s partner once took care of me when she was out of town. When we are really happy we binkie, or jump in the air while twisting our body and heads in the opposite direction. It was my first time running around freely on carpet so I binkied the whole time I was staying with him! He had no clue what was happening and thought he had “broken” me and was too scared to tell my mom. When he finally told her what had happened we both had a good chuckle!

Pets of Tri-I

Pooja Viswanathan

Rusty

Emma

In the second run of this series, Pooja Viswanathan interviews Emma and Rusty, the cats who live with Jim Keller and Dom Olinares. I met these wonderful creatures one fine evening, and they were very gracious to answer some pressing questions I had for them. If you would like your pet(s) featured in this series, please contact me at pviswanath@rockefeller.edu.

Pooja Viswanathan: How long have you lived in New York City?
Emma: All my life. Forrr 52 years—that’s nine human years.

Rusty: Forrr 32 years, that’s fourrr human years.

PV:  What is your first memory?

E: Hunting and defending my prey from otherrr stray cats on the streets of New York. I took advantage of my big paws and extra thumbs to fight and survive.

R: When I was brought in a shoebox with my siblings to the Humane Society from the freezing cold of winterrr. The tip of my tail had to be removed due to injury, but I was glad to be warm. I have a slightly shorterrr tail now, but it does not affect me at all.

PV: When did you meet your daddies?

E: In 2011, daddy Dom adopted me from the ASPCA, and soon afterrr I trained him to become my slave. Daddy Jim joined us two years laterrr and reformed me, but I still have the last say in everything.
R: When I was a kitten in 2014, my daddies came and picked me up from the Humane Society. I felt like I had always been waiting forrr them. The moment I saw them we werrre bonded. I cannot imagine living without them and my sisterrr.

PV: How do your daddies fit in the Tri-I community?

E: Daddy Jim is a writerrr and editorrr at MSK.

R: Daddy Dom does a lot of really cool experiments as a scientist at Rockefellerrr University.

PV: Where do you live? What is your favorite thing about living here?

E: On the Upperrr East Side. Our new place is very high up and has so many windows. I love it because I can see a lot of flying, feathered prey on the rooftops of adjacent buildings and on the East Riverrr. I chirp and chatterrr when I see them but they neverrr seem to hearrr me. I imagine the many different ways to catch them once I get the chance.

R: I love all the space in our new apartment because I can run around and chase my sisterrr all day and night. All the time is play time!

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

E: I heard a lot about Paris from my daddies’ vacation last spring. I have already conquered New York, and I’d love to move on to anotherrr city of equal caliberrr.

R: You mean without my daddies?! Nowherrre!

PV: What are your favorite foods?

E: Classic chicken pâté, and dry cat food forrr treats. I shed a lot of furrr and I groom myself continuously so I preferrr food that helps me control hairballs.

R: Special treats from my daddies with real fish like sardines! Sometimes daddy Jim will sneak me some cream. Yum!

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

E: Napping on daddy Jim’s lap and then afterrr a while moving to daddy Dom’s lap.

R: Play all day! I bring my toys to my daddies and we play fetch.

PV: Besides your daddies, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community?

E: I am loath to say that I like anyone else besides daddies Jim and Dom, but I guess I would say Auntie Natalia, who often looks afterrr us when they are away.

R: Auntie Natalia! She takes care of us when our daddies are traveling (even though I don’t like it when they leave!)

PV: Do you have a funny story to share with us?

E:  I’m afraid I can’t find much humorrr in the world today.

R: Well one time I rolled around in the bath tub and came out all glittery because of a bath bomb that had been used the night beforrre. My daddies could not figurrre out wherrre I got the glitterrr at first but then they caught me rolling on the tub again afterrr they had just cleaned me up. I thought it was the funniest thing everrr! I love rolling around in the bath tub when no one is looking, and I come out smelling really nice!

PV: Is there some way we can see more pictures of you on the interwebs?

E: You can find us both on Instagram using #theemmaandrustyshow.

PV: Which movie do you think will win the Oscar this year?

E: Definitely The Favourite because like Queen Anne, I am a queen who depends on others for everything.  I can relate to having loyal subjects, and I love that hers relentlessly fight over herrr in the film. That is how it should be.

R: Black Pantherrr! Wakanda foreverrr!

Pets of Tri-I – Watson Gonzales

Pooja Viswanathan

This is a series to introduce the Tri-I community to the wildlife amongst us. In this issue, Natural Selections’ Pooja Viswanathan interviews Watson Gonzales (follow on Instagram @_watson_dog_), the terrier mix who lives with Kevin Gonzales (postdoc, Fuchs Lab).

Pooja Viswanathan: How long have you lived in New York City?

Watson Gonzales: I was moved to NYC in July 2017. I remember being scared in the car ride and pooped inside my carrier. Then I met my dad and the first thing he did was pour water on me and scrub me with soap! I’ve been in NYC now for 1.5 hooman’ years, and I still don’t know why he keeps doing that to me! I’ve learned it’s called a “bath.” I’m scared of baths!

PV: Where do you live? What is your favorite neighborhood in NYC?

WG: I live in Manhattan. I like my neighborhood, the Upper East Side. I heard only snobby rich dogs live here but I’m certainly not one! All my doggie and most of my hooman’ friends aren’t either!

PV: If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?

WG: Anywhere with a big backyard where I can run run run run like a gazelle! My hooman’ brought me to Cape Cod for Thanksgiving and I love it there. Lots of space to explore! I chased and caught a mouse, but the hoomans’ got angry because it didn’t survive…I just wanted to play with it. 🙁

PV: What are your favorite foods of NYC?

WG: Hooman’ food definitely! I always look at hoomans’ eating with puppy eyes, and they always give me some! I love outsmarting hoomans’! Unless it’s salad, celery or strawberries. Ewww!

PV: What do you miss most when you are out of town?

WG: I don’t miss anything. Whenever I’ve been out of town, there’s always a big backyard to run around in and mud to roll in!

PV: What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

WG: What’s a weekend? My activities are eat, sleep, poop, and play. My favorite is play.

PV: Which human do you live with? How do they belong in the Tri-I community?

WG: I live with Kevin, he says he is a postdoc at The Rockefeller University, but I don’t know what that means. All I know is he keeps doing fun things outside home and won’t bring me.

PV: Besides your human roomie, who is your favorite human in the Tri-I community? (If you could share your bone with anyone in the Tri-I community, who would it be?)

WG: All my roomie’s friends think they’re my favorite, especially Tati! She always kidnaps me from my home when my roomie isn’t around. But she gives me biscuits, belly rubs, and takes really good pictures of me that highlight my true beauty! I guess she isn’t half-bad.

PV: Can you tell us a funny story?

WG: Once I went hiking with my hoomans’ upstate, and I found a big pile of poop! I thought it smelled nice so I wanted some on my fur and rolled on it! My hoomans’ made a funny face when they saw me and said, “What’s wrong with this dog?” They took all the tissue paper in the car to undo my effort. Guess they don’t like the smell of poop as much as I do…in the end, Kevin had to use his gym towel and Tati’s water to give me a bath. Their faces were so funny; it looked like they were getting sick, not sure why. Oh wait…you said a funny story, but that one had a sad ending with me getting an actual bath. I hate baths!