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2009-04-15 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

April 15th the tax day that conjures up so much anxiety is upon us. Oh, by the way-time's up; the deadline is here. Astute readers are probably wondering how I'm going to work income tax into a pet column. They know I wouldn't dare suggest claiming Fluffster as a deduction, or subtracting Floyd's heartworm pills as a medical expense. Actually the IRS connection is the saga of my poor friend (given the alias "Brenda" to protect her identity) and her worst tax nightmare, a meltdown caused by her cat. The "incident" was far worse because it occurred 24 years ago in that pre- Personal Computer Paleozoic era before digital returns, Turbo Tax, or flash drives to back up data.

In 1985 Brenda's parents' estate was in probate, the finances complicated with the sale of a business and a home. Brenda put years of tax records and interest statements in a covered cardboard box- the type Xerox paper comes in- and stored it in a basement pantry. She knew her cat Whiskers liked to visit the basement for naps and self-serve dining. Whenever Whiskers didn't want the meal in her dish, she'd gnaw her whole head glutton-style into a new cat food bag in the pantry. Cats love boxes, but there was no reason to suspect she'd tamper with a no calorie covered carton when she could help herself to a fancy feast.

[Disclaimer: Before proceeding any further, I take no responsibility for Whiskers. She pre-dated my friendship with Brenda. However, I assume culpability for several subsequent feline perpetrators, including a neurotic and vocal Siamese who, now in retrospect, made Whiskers seem mild.]

Returning to the tax horror story, Brenda learned that her parents' estate was to be audited. When she reached into the tax box, every statement had been shredded by Whiskers. She was in a panic, knowing that the authorities would not believe her story. Brenda convinced her attorney to call IRS and forewarn them. The IRS person laughed. Yes, I said "laughed".

Both her attorney and accountant brought Whiskers Exhibit A to the audit. They tried to tape strategic documents but most were beyond repair. There was a lot of give and take because of the unique circumstances, and things worked out fairly well. Brenda will be getting out of Leavenworth in a year or two. (Only kidding.)

There are three lessons inherent in this tale. First be aware that pets prioritize their hit list. The more important something is to you, the more likely and the sooner it will be destroyed. (For example, the new Nikes will meet their demise before the cheap flip flops.) Hence, keep all tax records out of the reach of claws and teeth.

Next remember if the worst happens, hire a CPA who loves animals, possesses a sense of humor, and has the rare talent to do the impossible- that is, and get a chuckle out of an IRS auditor. Practicing what I preach, we started going to the same accountant in 1995, around the same time I first reported the woes of Whiskers here in "Pets".

Finally when all else fails, pin your mistakes on your pets. Kids have been using the "dog ate my homework" scam for years. Furry friends can conjure up sympathy. If Nixon had said that Checkers erased the Watergate tapes, we may have forgiven the 37th President. Pets are always politically correct.

On that note, the present administration needs take note. Bo, the Portuguese Water Dog, is poised to move into the White House during these turbulent times. Easter evening as I type this, the press releases announcing the 6 month old pup's imminent Washington DC arrival are starting to appear. Since the new First Pet will probably be sleeping at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue by the time my advice hits the newsstands, Bo's first order of obedience training should be "Sit", followed by "Roll Over" so he's ready to take the blame for everything that happens with the economy.

For Adoption: These two poster pups at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon would love to be your new "dependent". "Buddy" in Cage 14 is an adorable 1 year old mix who looks like a Dachshund that has mushroomed to the size of a Basset. Theolder Lhasa in the Puppy Room is quite happy go lucky despite the fact that he was found as a stray in Deer Park but remains unclaimed. Males: "Big Daddy"- mellow, mature Pit mix Cage 3; "Harvey"- red Shepherd Cage 15; "Rocky"-gray & white pup with blue eyes Cage 13. Female: "Amelia" & "Miss Piggy"- Pit mixes. Cats: "Phantom"- tuxedo in the lobby; a 6 month tortoiseshell in C-1.

Upcoming Pet Events: * Last Hope Jewelry Extravaganza- Sat. April 18 from 10 am to 2 pm- at St. Bede's Church 220 Berry Hill Road Syosset, great bargain prices on fine and costume jewelry- benefits Last Hope's special needs dogs and cats.-www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org.

*Microchip Clinic on Sunday May 3 at Total Pet Care 780 Broadway Holbrook-$30 for chip and registration, fun pet contests, proceeds to help Save-A- Pet of Pt. Jefferson Station. Call 631-905-7860.

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