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hermoineI’ve seen countless “lost pet” flyers over the years. Each one seemed so sad and hopeless; leaving me with a sense that the poor dog or cat was probably gone for good.

It’s is an animal lover’s nightmare... and rogue cats are particularly hard to find. Unfortunately, I recently joined the ranks of frantic pet parents, handing out one of those desperate notes throughout Scarsdale and hoping against hope that my cat would return.

If you’re not a pet owner, stop reading now. You’ll likely believe that “cats do this all the time,” and maybe scoff at my worry and upset. I’m sharing my story for the Scarsdale cat moms and dads who shared advice, encouragement and concern along the way. You know, there are those of us who feel pets are our children.

We have an absolutely fantastic cat named Hermione (Mione, for short). A 10-pound Siberian, she beautiful, outgoing and loving… definitely not the typical aloof feline. She comes when called, plays catch and follows us around from room to room. She dutifully lies next to my computer when I’m at work, and instinctively lets me know when I need a break by walking across my keyboard. Mione and her fabulous sister, our dog Shea make our family complete.

Here’s the rub. While she’s more like a dog than a cat, Mione is still a cat and wants to go outside. Google Siberians and you’ll see pictures of huge, furry cats covered in snow. Well, Scarsdale is not the Russian tundra and we don’t want our cat outside.

We’ve been resisting Mione’s efforts to escape for two years now. To keep her content, we placed perches and towers near windows so she can see out, attached birdfeeders to windows to keep her entertained, bought a harness and leash to walk her around the yard and regularly use “Czarina’s Chariot” – a pet stroller – to take her along on nighttime walks with Shea (leashed cats simply don’t keep up).

Despite all this or, maybe because of it, Mione occasionally darts out of the house. If we go after her she runs further away, so we’ve decided it’s best to let her go. Fortunately, she’s typically gone just for an hour or two and returns ravenous and tired each time. I’m starting to think that I need to create a “cat run” similar to what former Met Keith Hernandez has built for his cat Hadji – enclosed tunnels and tents that allow the animal to be outside and remain confined.

Just When You Think You’ve Figured Things Out…
In the meantime, we’ve learned to live with Mione’s jaunts; while irritating, they don’t panic us anymore. But, a few weeks ago Mione didn’t come back. She got out at night, which was unusual; she typically makes a break for it during the day. We left the door open for a couple of hours, called, shook her treats, opened a can of food, ran the ice dispenser (she loves playing with ice cubes – a Russian thing, I guess), all to no avail.

We were angry. Already feeling down because it was Sunday night and the weekend was over, we didn’t need to have to worry about the cat too. My husband and I decided to teach her a lesson and closed up for the night, confident she’d come back in the morning when he walked Shea. And, she’d probably be annoyed at the inconvenience of spending a cold night under a bush.

Monday morning arrived; my husband took out Shea. No Mione. I quickly decided that something was terribly wrong and immediately began searching, armed with both the dog and cat treats.

Mione is micro chipped, but the brat won’t wear a collar. I put one on, she indulges me for a day, I wake up the next morning and the collar’s on the floor. I’ve given up because of the microchip. But, as I searched for her, I wondered if anyone would take the time to check for it. Maybe people would think she’s just another unfortunate stray and ignore her. Uh oh… my mind raced.missingcat

As I walked the streets, and looked under decks and through shrubs, I beat up myself over the collar thing. I also realized that people might think I’m a thief casing their homes, so I decided to enlist my neighbors. I posted to the Scarsdale Moms and Scarsdale Social Facebook groups, and winced at the idea that my cat was another statistic. I emailed the microchip service, which was supposed to contact local shelters and vet offices; I wondered if they’d really do it.

I followed conventional wisdom and placed her used litter box on the patio. For once, I was happy I hadn’t cleaned it yet, because the stink was supposed to guide her home. I built a small shelter with her cat bed inside. I didn’t put food out, wanting her to be hungry enough to come inside to get the goods. A Scarsdale mom suggested that I contact Scarsdale police. I traveled to the Post Road building and knew the officers thought I was nuts as I told them my cat was missing. Regardless, they respectfully noted my information. I also contacted the emergency vet in White Plains; a friend had found her lost dog there just the night before.

Two more days came and went, with no sign of Mione. I visited shelters and vet offices, looked up in trees, searched at ungodly hours of the night and joined “lost pet” social media groups. I created the dreaded flyer and distributed it to pet stores, and planned to make more and go door-to-door. I was convinced she was probably hurt or sick, or simply too far away to get back home. When asking advice from relatives and friends, I was met with dark expressions and “I don’t knows;” they knew something all right – that Mione was lying dead somewhere.

I then broke down and placed food and dirty clothes outside to try and lure Mione back. A lot of people and animal organizations recommended I do this. My frustration and upset grew; this was like finding a needle in a haystack. I wondered if I should just stop. She’d come back when she was hungry enough, wouldn’t she? Was I doing everything I should? Was I good pet mom? WHERE IS SHE?!

Saved by the Cat Finder
Although I was grateful that word was spreading, and encouraged by the messages and texts from supportive cat lovers, I was miserable. How do I celebrate Christmas without my cat? It’s not going to be okay. Just as I was on the verge of giving up, the tide turned.

I received a text from a woman in California, of all places, who is part of a lost pets network. She mentioned services dedicated to retrieving lost cats and advised hiring one. Not surprisingly, I found no such service in Westchester but mentioned it to my husband. He started researching immediately, desperate to make me feel better. He found Kim Freeman, the “Lost Cat Finder,” who specializes in finding lost cats (lostacatfinder.com). Yes, she’s for real and just what we needed. Of course, I first thought she was some scam artist preying on distraught pet owners. Nope.

Freeman reports that an average of just two percent of lost cats are reunited with their owners. However, by following her techniques, one really can improve the chances of getting a rogue kitty back home. For $25, you can download her video and book – a small price to pay to get your fur baby back (printing color flyers costs more). After just a few minutes of watching the video, we found out that we were doing everything wrong. And, for the first time in a while, I had some hope.

Freeman’s Facts
We learned that most lost cats go unfound because their owners simply give up. Many times, they don’t come home because they are hurt or confused; you need to aggressively search. When they’re outside, indoor cats rely purely on instinct. No matter how friendly or easygoing they are in your home, they behave quite differently outdoors. You can call or use food, but they typically won’t respond, even if you’re just feet away. This explained why Mione wasn’t coming out when called.

Indoor cats usually do not stray more than a 250-foot radius from their homes. If they become startled or curious, they may go as far as 500 feet, but that’s it. They usually hide in cracks and crevices near buildings, and are able to go an average of 10 days without food and water. After that point, many will come out of hiding to try getting back home, but can be too disoriented to find their way. Ah, Mione wasn’t at the Weinberg Nature Center after all.

Get rid of the food, litter box and smelly old clothes. Yes, they’ll attract your cat… and every other animal that’s within “nose shot.” Wild and feral animals will pick up the scent and investigate, and most likely scare your cat away. So, we cleaned up the patio, and not a moment too soon, as rain was in the forecast and I wasn’t in the mood to clean up the mess.

If you know how your cat got out, keep that door or window open. Cats want to return the same way they left. Unfortunately, they are more likely to do this at night, when it is quiet and still. If you’re worried about a break in, you can attach a security chain.

After printing Freeman’s booklet and revising my search plan, I decided to keep the back door open that night, wide enough for Mione to slip through, but secured on one side with a heavy box. I settled on the couch, with the TV and lights on, and Shea by my side to discourage any unsavory character who may be lurking outside and waited.

Surprisingly, I fell asleep; I was exhausted from the previous nights’ searches and hearing about the pending government shutdown. At about 2:30 am, I felt something on my chest. Not unusual, as Mione typically lies on top of me during the night. I remember thinking, “Oh, it’s just Mione.” And, then, through the haze of badly needed sleep, the thought sunk in. I opened my eyes, and there she was, staring back at me, cold, but intact. On each side of her head was crusted-over blood; she had cut both ears and bled considerably. But the wounds had closed and she looked OK. No doubt, Detective Freeman’s advice surely set the stage for her return.

As for her injuries, I don’t believe Mione was in a fight; it’s more likely that she cut her ears on one of the old rusted chicken wire fences that dot our neighborhood. She had no other scratches or bite marks. My guess is that she hurt herself soon after running out, became frightened and hid under a bush somewhere close.

Needless to say, we all were beyond thrilled and relieved to have her back. Shea wouldn’t leave her alone for an entire day; in fact, Mione wouldn’t let anyone touch her ears except for Shea, who eagerly cleaned away the blood and wiped away the “outside smell” from her sister’s coat. The cat ate heartily and slept deeply for two days after her return, and we hoped she learned her lesson. She wasn’t even interested in scaling the Christmas tree; we began to believe the experience actually chastened her a bit.

No such luck. As my husband was leaving for work later in the week, the brat made a beeline for the back door. Mione didn’t get out that time but, needless to say, we’re back on cat watch every time we go in and out of the house. I’ve tried citrus oils to keep her away from the threshold and have moved on to a spray bottle. Well, I guess you can say that she, technically, has eight lives left. I, however, do not.

SalanitroIf you think that clearing your own driveway after a snowstorm is a big job, imagine trying to plow the roads and sidewalks for the entire Village of Scarsdale--- and not just once --- but over and over again for almost 20 years. That’s been on the shoulders of one man for almost 20 years.

And the snow is only one part of his job. He is responsible for managing a staff of 77 employees, maintaining the roads, the watercourses and the trees while supervising capitol projects and managing the central maintenance garage and Village facilities. He is on call 24/7 and in a Village that demands excellence, that’s no small job.

Superintendent of Public Works Benedict Salanitro, or Benny as he is known around town, will retire in January. He has been with the Village since 1999, first as the Village Engineer and later heading up the Department of Public Works. He came to Scarsdale from Tarrytown where he served as the Superintendent of Public Works – and plans to do some consulting in municipal engineering after he officially steps down.

What stands out about his 19 years here? He remembers the windstorms, blackouts, snowstorms and floods but is also proud of some of the improvements he implemented around Scarsdale. Thank Salanitro for the new pocket park in front of the train station in Scarsdale, and a new salt shed that can store 2,000 tons of salt and saved the village $250,000. More recently he has helped to shepherd through Westchester’s first food scrap recycling program – and this week he was proud to be at the opening of the Take It or Leave It recycling shed at the sanitation lot that was refashioned from an old bus stop.

What was one of the most memorable incidents during Salanitro’s tenure? In August 2003 there was a massive blackout that knocked out the power grid for the entire east coast … no power, no lights, no nothing. A train load of commuters traveling to the city from northern Westchester was stranded at the Scarsdale train station – with no way to get home. The situation was more fraught because all the shops in Scarsdale were closed and the group had nothing to eat. They couldn’t take taxis because the cabs had no gas. Imagine the dilemma depicted in the Broadway show “Come From Away,” (when planeloads of passengers were stranded in Newfoundland) on a more local level.

What to do? As Salanitro tells it, before the situation “got out of control,” he consulted with the police and came up with a plan. One of the maintenance workers from the Department of Public Works had a license to drive a school bus. They decided to commandeer one of the buses in the school fleet and transferred the train passengers to the school bus. As the commuters sang songs on the bus, the driver headed south and took the passengers home, one by one. After the storm, Salanitro was given a certificate of commendation from Westchester County.depotnewSalanitro designed and managed the construction of a new pocket park at Depot Place.

Salanitro is proud of some of the capitol projects he supervised during his time here. The South Fox Meadow water course runs from White Plains to George Field, down the Post Road to Harcourt Woods and terminates in the Bronx River and includes a seven acre timed release water detention pond. A silt removal project was done at Crane Berkely Pond in conjunction with the residents who live in that neighborhood. Other flood mitigation projects are in the works near Cayuga Pond and in Edgewood.

Salanitro says he will miss the opportunity to work on these types of project with his staff and will miss the camaraderie with Village staff. He is gratified that he was able to help so many solve their problems and hopes he gained the respect of the many people he worked with and served during his decades in Scarsdale. He said, “In a place like Scarsdale you have to be a little bit more than the regular superintendent” and is happy he had the chance to contribute.

Commenting on Salanitro’s retirement, Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert said, “I've known Benny for more than a dozen years. Due to his low-key style, it took a while to appreciate how valuable he has been to Scarsdale. I believe that only the people who had direct interaction with Benny could learn of his capability since he didn't publicize his role. However those who benefited from his work admired him. If there was a possible way to improve the quality of life in Scarsdale, within his range of responsibilities, Benny always figured it out. He will be missed.”

Former Scarsdale Mayor Jon Mark said, “Benny’s enthusiasm for the care our Village was unmatched. Supervising a truly nuts and bolts operation did not keep him from learning new techniques to do department work better and to expand into areas that help make our village more sustainable. His adoption — albeit with some persistent prodding by residents — of the LED street light program and the food scraps recycling program are two examples. Working with Benny was a delight and the Village will miss his energy and expertise.”

So next time you see a Scarsdale truck and workers vacuuming your leaves, picking up your recycling or watering a newly planted tree, realize that the effort to maintain our Village in a park takes a Village indeed…. and someone who cares to lead it.

SalanitroLetterLetter of Commendation from Westchester County after the Black Out in 2003

Streetlight Picture1Scarsdale Village will soon replace 1,510 streetlights throughout the Village with energy-efficient LED streetlights. Following a pilot program to test the lights, the LED Streetlight Committee recommended moving forward with the LED upgrade on all residential roads that have not already been converted to LEDs. It is anticipated the installation will begin in early 2019.

This phase of the LED Streetlight Conversion Project is expected to save the Village approximately $80,000 per year in electricity costs for an annual return of 22% and a full payback of the initial investment in four years. The lights are expected to last up to 20 years.

This is the second phase of the LED Streetlight Conversion Project. In May 2018 approximately 300 streetlights were replaced with LEDs. Once this second phase is completed, over 90% of the streetlights in Scarsdale will have been converted to LEDs.
A copy of the LED Committee’s report can be found here.

The LED Streetlight Committee can be reached at LED@scarsdale.com with any questions or comments.

Santa and Friends Davis Park 20182On a bone-chilling Sunday afternoon, December 9th, 2018, the Arthur Manor Neighborhood Association celebrated its 90th annual holiday sing and tree lighting ceremony in Davis Park. This annual event in Davis Park began in 1918, the founding year of the Arthur Manor Neighborhood Association.

The day’s festivities began with a brief speech by Scarsdale Village Mayor Dan Hochvert to those gathered in Davis Park about the significance and vital role that neighborhood associations play in the community in Scarsdale. Village Trustee and Arthur Manor resident, Matthew Callaghan, and his wife Georgann Callaghan, were also in attendance and had the chance to catch up with many old and new friends.

The crowd then sang their favorite Christmas and Hanukkah songs which were all magnificently directed by the voice of Arthur Manor’s Jeanie Bongiorno. Hot chocolate, brownies and holiday cookies were provided by all of the volunteer residents who pitched in to help out and make the day a special one in Arthur Manor.

Following the group sing, everyone’s all-time favorite, Santa Claus, arrived at Davis Park in true style AM2in an antique 1946 Scarsdale Fire Department truck driven by Arthur Manor’s own Michael Keating.

After Santa completed his rounds in Davis Park with many photographs taken and all of the candy canes handed out to the children, Santa Claus left the group at Davis Park, departing in Michael Keating’s vintage fire truck to visit other holiday celebrations in Scarsdale and beyond.

The day’s event ended with the lighting of the Davis Park tree. The tree lights were strung earlier in the week on the Davis Park tree under the direction of Scarsdale’s Superintendent of Public Works, Benny Salanitro, and his dedicated Pubic Works’ crew.

This year’s holiday celebration was sponsored by Heather Harrison of Compass Realty. Heather grew up in Arthur Manor and has many fond memories of this fun filled annual holiday event in Davis Park.

This annual festivity in Arthur Manor’s Davis Park is also only made possible by the collective efforts of the many Arthur Manor volunteers including especially the Marcus, Roche, Porco, Bartalos, AM3Salazar, Stuart and Bongiorno families, and all of the other Arthur Manor volunteers too numerous to list here. The Arthur Manor Board of Directors wishes to thank everyone who helped to make this year’s 90th celebration so special.AM4AM6AM7AM8AM9AM1

MedalsSamantha Ho and Maddie Seltzer After completing their first undefeated season (9-0) in school history and winning their League, the Scarsdale Varsity Girls Swim and Dive team won their post season Conference tournament and tied for 2nd place in the Post Season Section 1 Meet. The final step in this historical season were New York State Championships, held on November 16-17 at Ithaca College.

Scarsdale’s 7 state qualifiers each had success, earning points for Scarsdale and Section 1, which earned the most points of any section in the state:

1 Meter DivingDiver2Maddie Seltzer
Maddie Seltzer, So, 6th Place
Samantha Ho, Sr, 9th Place
Katelin Du, Sr, 19th Place

200 Yard Medley Relay, 14th Place
Anya Pabby, So - Megan Lee, So - Joy Jiang, So -Danielle Eforo, So

200 Yard Individual Medley
Megan Lee, So, 15th Place

100 Yard Breaststroke
Megan Lee, So, 18th Place

100 Yard Butterfly
Joy Jiang, So, 5th Place

100 Yard Backstroke
Joy Jiang, So, 10th Place

400 Yard Freestyle Relay - 20th Place
Anya Pabby, So - Megan Lee, So - Joy Jiang, So -Danielle Eforo, So

diverSamantha Ho

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