2018-04-19 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

April 15, the traditional Tax Day that conjures up so much anxiety, just passed. By the waytime’s up. Your taxes are late if you didn’t file for an extension. What does this reminder have to do with dogs or cats?

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 Fido’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 33 years ago in that pre-personal computer Paleozoic era before digital filing, 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 tasteless, 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 felons, including a neurotic and vocal Siamese who said “Wow” incessantly, and “christened” their open luggage when he didn’t want to be left alone. In retrospect, the Siamese 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 Attica 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 and attorney who love animals, possess a sense of humor and have the rare talent to do the impossiblethat is, and get a chuckle out of an IRS auditor. Practicing what I preach, we started going to the same accountant in 1995, and are still having him do our taxes.

Finally when all else fails, pin your mistakes on your pets. Kids have been using the “dog ate my homework” excuse for years. Furry friends can conjure up sympathy. If Nixon had said Checkers his controversial Cocker Spaniel erased the Watergate tapes, we may have forgiven the 37th president. Pets are always politically correct. As for the current resident at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he never owned a pet which in itself speaks volumes.

Note: Nixon’s Checkers, the Cocker Spaniel his family received as a gift, which later was the focal point of his famous “Checkers” speech is buried at Bideawee Pet Cemetery in Wantagh.

Spay/Neuter Day for Brookhaven feral cats:
• Sunday, April 29
• A joint effort of Save-A-Pet & Last Hope
• For feral cats trapped in the
Town of Brookhaven
• Held at C.L.F.F.S. Clinic
• Address- 608 Rt. 112 Pt. Jefferson Station
• $20 fee per cat covers spay/neuter,
vaccines, ear-tipping
• Cats must be in traps
• Limit: four cats per person
• Drop-off at 8:30 a.m.
• Reservations MUST be made in advance
• Call 631-473-6333 for reservations

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