Masks, pets and old friends

May 4, 2009 1:54:05 PM PDT
I was flying back from California overnight - and there on the plane were two women sitting together, each with long gloves and a mask on her face.

My first instinct was to say something to them -- say it nicely of course; something like, "You know of course that those masks will NOT stop swine flu?"

But I didn't.

Who am I to tell someone how to act out their fears? And besides, maybe they were relatives of Joe Biden. Ya just never know.

We've talked a lot about how this outbreak might, in the end, be viewed as a preview of how health officials, and the public, handle a pandemic. And, with the outbreak still spreading but clearly not out of control, experts will now debrief and analyze how they death with this.

Meanwhile, life appears to be getting back to normal at places where normalcy was disrupted. St. Francis Prep School in Queens - the ground zero of this outbreak in New York City - re-opened today following its week-long shutdown. And Mayor Bloomberg -- campaigning both for another term and for public calm -- was outside, greeting students, teachers and staff as they re-entered campus for the first time in more than a week. We'll have the latest on the swine flu - er, I mean H1N1 - outbreak, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we're following another medical story - this one a rare disease called raccoon roundworm. Two New Yorkers have been infected through some kind of contact with raccoon feces. An infant has permanent brain damage, and a teenager has lost sight in one eye. Now, the City Health Dept. is warning parents to be on alert. Just how serious is this?

We also have a sign-of-the-times story, and it involves your pet. Turns out, some people are putting off visits to the vet, trying to save money. Completely understandable. Except, what's that old saying, penny wise, pound foolish?

Carolina Leid tonight looks at how giving your pet preventative health care -- for relatively little money -- can save big bucks down the road. And for anyone who has spent a lot of money at the vet, you know caring for these little critters can be a costly thing.

I could fill a whole column about my own over-the-top expenditures over the years to save the life of a pet. From my small beagle in the early 70s who decided to get friendly with a Doberman in heat next door -- but the Doberman's mate didn't cotton to that idea.

My little dog -- his name was Che, but he was much more like an Ernie -- didn't learn his lesson after the first throat attack. With stitches still in, he approached his would-be girlfriend, still in heat, again a week later. A second trip to the vet put me -- recently out of college -- in debt.

Then there was my cat Emma who decided to eat some ribbon. It wrapped around her colon. Thousands of dollars later, the vet removed the colorful invader. To this day - years later - she still throws up several times a week.

And finally there was my son's Guinea Pig named Squirm. He was a goner - no question. But my son, 7 at the time, looked at Squirm, then at me, and ordered, "Whatever it takes, Dad."

I will not divulge how much money we spent trying to save the life of this $19.95 rodent, or how I hand-fed him three times a day for three months, using a syringe filled with a mixture of "special" cereal and water that Squirm would spit back at me. And I won't rehash the question of why it was up to me to feed him.

But we did get three months of this infant-feeding in, before Squirm, alas, started to smell like death, and my son boldly ordered, "It's time, Dad."

I could go on - but you get the point. Many of us are just suckers when it comes to life-saving measures for our pets. Tonight, Carolina has some helpful tips about preventing the worst-case scenarios with a little precautionary health care.

And finally, a moment of silence to honor an Eyewitness News original. Milton Lewis, who covered politics and so much more in New York for decades, died over the weekend. He was 97. Milt was, to quote long-time Ch. 7 news writer Mort Fleischner, "an old-school reporter -- persistent; a man of high journalistic standards, funny, at times caustic, a colleague, a friend. Those of us lucky enough to have known him and worked with him, were blessed to have learned from him."

His "now listen to this" became his trademark. Milt died in a nursing home in San Francisco. We don't yet know the official cause. But he lived quite a life, and we think of him today.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports, including the Yankees vs. Red Sox game in the Bronx. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11. BILL RITTER