September 22, 2013

The stories of curious companions

North Country is home to a variety of intriguing pets


PLATTSBURGH — While many domestic cats are less than enthusiastic about being submerged in water, Connie Marsh’s feline companion, Weasley, doesn’t share their sentiments.

And it’s a good thing too because not long after adopting him from Plattsburgh’s Eagle’s Nest Veterinary Hospital, where Weasley was brought after being rescued by police, Marsh heard a loud crash inside her Cumberland Head home.

Though she’s not certain what caused the noise, it became clear when Weasley began walking funny that he was somehow involved in the incident.

“I did notice his back leg,” Marsh said. “It went askew.”

She and her furry companion returned to the Veterinary Hospital, where Weasley underwent invasive surgery to correct what turned out to be a broken kneecap.


Following the operation, Marsh learned of an interesting way in which her cat might rehabilitate his injured limb — Eagle’s Nest’s Ferno-Aqua Paws treadmill, the only underwater treadmill of its kind in the area.

The hospital, however, had only attempted to treat one other cat with the apparatus, which consists of a treadmill enclosed in a glass, water-filled tank that, according to Marsh, “looks like an oversized aquarium.”

And that cat, said Caitlin McNulty, an assistant at Eagle’s Nest, did not take well to the water.

Still, Marsh had a feeling that her inquisitive and joyful Weasley would be different.

“He’s the type of cat that when you’re loading the laundry into the washing machine, you had to hold him back or he would have jumped in,” Marsh said.

So with McNulty’s encouragement and supervision, Weasley braved the tank, submerging all four legs in water.

“It was amazing to me to watch,” Marsh said. “The cat is, like, prancing in the water, and the treadmill is going, and you know it’s helping.”

“He took to the water really, really well,” McNulty added.

Though he only stayed in the tank for about eight seconds during his first encounter, Weasley, who participated in the therapy twice a week for about eight weeks, eventually got to where he’d walk in the water for as long as 17 minutes at a time.

“He just put his feet down and kept walking,” Marsh said.

Throughout the course of Weasley’s physical therapy, he and Marsh became close with McNulty and Eagle’s Nest receptionist Emily Fuller, who, Marsh said, did a fantastic job caring for her furry friend.

“They adore him,” she continued. “He’s adorable looking.”

Marsh has even given Fuller the title of “Weasley’s Godmother.”

The curious cat, who is now just over a year old, completed his aqua therapy a few weeks ago and, Marsh added, is thriving.

“He’s just back to being a cat that’s in love with being alive,” she said.

But the water-loving Weasley isn’t the only North Country pet that goes against the norm.

Like many dogs, Dave and Lisa Benjamin’s bichon frisé, Shadow, enjoys going for walks.


The 6-year-old pooch, however, prefers that Dave and Lisa’s daughter Olivia do most of the walking, while he sits back and relaxes in an umbrella stroller.

“He just jumped up in it one day, so Olivia decided she would take him for walks,” Lisa said of Shadow, who will stay in the stroller for as long as the 8-year-old is willing to push him.

“He’s my friend,” Olivia said, noting that she also plays tug-of-war with Shadow and has even painted his nails.

The Dannemora family also has two cats, Murphy and Heidi, both of which are polydactyl, meaning they have seven toes on each of their front paws.

The past few years have been challenging for 14-year-old Murphy, as she has developed cancerous tumors on three separate occasions.

Each time, a veterinarian removed the masses and ordered her to lay low for the monthlong healing process.

To keep her calm and safe, Dave converted the family’s basement recreation room into Murphy’s recuperation pad, complete with a TV and stereo to keep her entertained.

It will be a year this December since Murphy’s last surgery, and so far, she remains cancer free.


On occasion, the Benjamin’s also babysit Mikey, which belongs to Lisa’s father, Richard Green.

In addition to mimicking the sounds of Green’s cough and answering-machine greeting, the chatty Amazon parrot also asks, “What’s your problem?”

Mikey put Dave and Olivia in an awkward position one day, when the three were standing outside the Benjamin home and the parrot let out a provocative whistle just as a group of teen girls walked by.

“It wasn’t my dad,” Olivia yelled to them. “It was the bird!”

But the girls, she said, probably didn’t believe her.


Dave Drollette of Peru also knows a thing or two about animal antics.

His dog Brutus is quite the entertainer and will “sing” along to the sound of Drollette playing the harmonica.

The toy poodle also waves his front paws up and down for his audience.

“He’s done that for years,” said Drollette’s friend Ginny Laport. “He sings and he waves at the same time.”

When not being serenaded by Brutus, Drollette enjoys spending time with his miniature goats, Greta and Rosie.

In addition to eating saltine crackers out of his mouth, the goats gobble up the poison ivy and poison sumac on Drollette’s property.

But it’s his rooster, Louie, that really keeps people on their toes.


The bird does not like women, according to Drollette, and nobody can attest to that better than Laport.

“I went to pick the rooster up, and when I did, he attacked my leg,” she said.

But Louie, Drollette said, wouldn’t dare hurt his owner, who threatens to make soup out of him if he misbehaves.

Still, the rooster has been known to fly the coop.

Drollette once found him perched in a nearby tree, ensuring the neighbors woke bright and early to the sound of cock-a-doodle-doo.

Louie, however, later returned to his pen, which is complete with a mirror, on his own accord.

“He has to have a mirror, so he can look at himself,” Drollette said. “He thinks he’s beautiful.”

Email Ashleigh



To submit a story of a mischievous, strange or extraordinary pet, contact Features Editor Rachael Osborne at or 565-4138.