Ask Elizabeth: 01/08

Dear Elizabeth: My feline housemates and I think your column is always interesting and informative. But we are beginning to wish our person would stop reading it to us, because now she wants to know why we cant write a column and be famous like you. I spend a lot of time on the computer – I mean, I even sleep on that keyboard! – but nothing good ever comes of it. And besides, Ive always thought that it was quite enough to be beautiful, well groomed and purrfectly delightful. How can I get my person to stop finding fault where there obviously is none? Princess

Dear Princess: It sounds like its time to let you in on a little secret. I dont write this column alone – I have TWO human helpers, and theyre both veterinarians! Their names are Carolyn McDaniel and Christine Bellezza. Theyve been helping staff the Feline Health Centers Camuti Consultation Service for years, so they are very good at understanding what I want to say. (Heres a hint to share with your human: I always leave the typing to them while I take care of the clutter on the desk.)

Dr. McDaniel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and had her own cat hospital in Philadelphia for 15 years. She sold that to move to Ithaca with her husband, Dr. Michael Kotlikoff, about eight years ago. He is also a veterinarian, and he recently became dean of Cornells College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. McDaniel says she misses her old patients a lot more than the demands of owning a practice. Now she enjoys tutoring veterinary students in anatomy and physiology and volunteering at Ithacas Southside Veterinary Clinic, which offers veterinary care to low-income families.

Dr. Bellezza got her undergraduate and veterinary degrees from Cornell. After going off to California to practice veterinary medicine for a while, she returned to Cornell to do research on hepatitis B, a virus that causes very serious liver disease in humans. She is trying to find a way to stop this disease from developing into liver cancer. (She says that cats dont get viral hepatitis, which is quite a relief!) She also volunteers with the community practice service in the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, where veterinary students get their first opportunity to deliver primary veterinary care. Dr. Bellezza is also married to a veterinarian, Dr. Jay Harvey, who is a professor of small-animal surgery at Cornell.

Dr. McDaniel and Dr. Bellezza really, really love cats. They both have several at home, in addition to their regular children. With people like them and interim director Dr. Fred Scott and the full-time staffers who take care of me (Don Personius, who I swear is trying to spoil me, and Sheryl Thomas, Pam Sackett and Kathy Mospan, who bring me great toys), I hardly have to do a thing to keep the Feline Health Center running smoothly. Thanks to all of them, I have all the time I need to keep up with the mailbag. Love, Elizabeth

(Elizabeth consulted with Jeanne Griffith in the writing of this column.)