Remembering Belle

Belle Cherry, a catnip enthusiast, sleep specialist and Fancy Feast connoisseur who despised dogs and nurtured feral-turned-house cats, died Sept. 15, 2020, at home. She was 17.

The cause was complications from thyroid disease.

With her mostly snowy white coat and sparkling eyes, Isabella Christmas Cherry, known by all as Belle, caught the eye of her human companion Bobby on Sept. 18, 2003, at a pet store inside the Millcreek Mall in Erie. At about eight weeks old, Belle had snagged her tiny claws onto Bobby’s hoodie. It was love at first sight.

Belle was named to honor Bobby’s love of “Days of our Lives” and Christmas. She did not receive a name for several days as Bobby worked to find the best name to capture her energy and the spirit of those interests.

The first several months of her life were lived mostly in secret, breaking on-campus college housing rules to live with Bobby. Masking tape was used on the blinds to keep her from wandering onto a windowsill to lazily gaze at the city life that passed by, and, of course, the birds in nearby trees.

It is in this Erie apartment where Belle grew to enjoy using the bathroom sink as a napping spot, sitting on the bathtub ledge to catch water falling from the shower, stealing lunch meat from already made sandwiches on the kitchen counter, playing with Christmas village pieces, and, best of all, snuggling in warm blankets in a cool room with Bobby.

She eventually grew out of her interest in scooping water out of glasses before knocking them onto the floor.

Ultimately, though, the masking tape was no match for a young and curious Belle. Her mischievous behavior to sneak into the window led to her being discovered by a maintenance worker.

When Belle embarked on her new life at the Cherry family estate, she quickly became the Belle of the ball, making friends with Snowflake and Midnight, and being chased by Mindy, whom she detested.

She had a love/hate relationship with housemate Rocket. Simply put, she loved to hate him. On very rare occasions, such as when the house was cold, the pair could be spotted near one another.

Most of the time, though, the pair dueled. Belle always came out victorious in her quest to be the best cat of the house — the true Belle of the ball.

She disliked all dogs and had mild interest in other cats. She is survived by her human companions, including Bobby and his parents and Ryan and Robin, and by four-legged creatures she didn’t really care for — Rocket, Kaci, Anne, Macy, Quiver and Tuffy — and by her close four-legged friends Boo and Charlotte. She was preceded in death by Noel, Max, Sidney, Mindy, Midnight and Snowflake.

Some cats are independent, only seeking attention when they desire it. Belle could be described this way, except that she always sought out the companionship of humans. She craved a warm lap, a chest to knead, an arm to snuggle — however close she could get to a human is what she preferred.

Her infectious love of cuddling was like no other. Belle was a regal companion who could turn a moment of sadness into one filled with happiness and love just by purring, kneading or meowing in her soft and inviting tone.

In her waning months, as the disease progressed, her energy and love remained strong. Belle still found the drive to climb to the top of the cat tree house to gaze out the window, and somehow jumped down from the tallest perch.

Belle’s 17 years and a few months will live on in memory — a memory filled with all sorts of little moments to keep close and remember in times of sadness and joy.

In lieu of cardboard boxes and sparkly toys, Bobby requests you hug your furry little animals and remind them how much they mean to you.

More than pink!

I’ve joined WTAE’s team for Susan G. Komen’s Pittsburgh virtual event — because breast cancer doesn’t stop when the world slows down.

Patient services, advocacy and research are so important right now. Help support those needs by donating.

Tap/click this link to donate.

COVID-19 has impacted the lives of so many us.

The virus has also impacted the health and safety of breast cancer patients, their families and people who have delayed or put off chemotherapy, mammograms and other important medical care.

Patient services, advocacy and research are so important right now — as we navigate our way through life with the coronavirus.

Now, more than ever, organizations such as Susan G. Komen need our support to continue researching better treatments, researching more advanced early detection and supporting patient programs. (tap “read more”)

Komen funds programs such as Komen’s Breast Care Helpline, Clinical Trial Information Helpline, Treatment Assistance Program and other direct patient support services — all of which need our support.

I want to make an impact in the fight against breast cancer. Together, with your support, we can fuel the best science, the boldest community and the biggest impact in the fight against breast cancer.

I stayed at a hotel during COVID-19 and …

Navigating life in a global pandemic isn’t easy — we all know that.

After spending a week in Erie dog and house sitting for friends, I wasn’t quite ready to head back to my house, where I — like many other people in their own homes — have been cooped up nearly 24/7 since mid-March.

So I opted for my favorite Erie hotel: the Sheraton Bayfront.

Upon arriving, I noted face mask signs on the revolving door, social distance markers on the floor, plastic glass at the check-in desks and at least two hand sanitizer stations in the lobby.

But what stuck out was the lack of guests moving about without wearing masks. These people were not social distancing and were lingering for far too long — especially as the lobby, restaurant and bar were not set up as the spaces typically are.

I scurried to the elevator after checking in. I wanted to use the Marriott Bonvoy mobile key instead of having to stand in the lobby, but the app was being problematic and required me to see the front desk.

So, once at the elevator, I realized I was given a room on the second floor (I’ve only ever had higher floors). I would soon understand that this was a great thing.

I made sure to be the only person going up. But once I exited, I noticed a set of doors that were closed, meaning guests had to touch the door. And in the few seconds I was there, several people came and went through those doors.

But on the other side of the doors was the door to my room. And the main doors were separating guest rooms from conference space, which meant I had access to the main staircase, which meant I did not need the elevator again. Win!

Inside my room, I wiped down high-touch surfaces with disinfectant wipes that I brought. The room was not much of an issue for me — especially after doing a lot of reading in the days leading up to my stay about the spread of COVID-19 in hotel rooms and through air systems.

I did have to go back downstairs two separate times — once to retrieve items from my car and another to get my Grubhub order.

Both times, there were more people without masks than with them walking through the lobby and outside. That made me quite uncomfortable as any one of these people could be infected with or without knowing.

We’ve learned more about how masks are incredibly important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

One of my biggest issues was the cost of the room. With the pool and fitness center closed and the hotel decreasing some of its other services, I paid what I normally would pay for a room. And all I got for it was heightened anxiety while in communal spaces — and I had to disinfect high-touch surfaces on my own to make sure it was properly done.

Will I stay in a hotel again during COVID-19? Probably, but certainly with increased precautions.

Some mostly common sense tips to helping to protect yourself while staying in a hotel:

  • Wear a mask. It’s the least you can do to help protect the hotel workers and other guests. Wear your mask outside of the hotel as well as inside, and keep it on until you enter your room.
  • Bring your own disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer. Seems obvious, but it’s easy to leave them in your vehicle. You’ll want them on you so you can easily disinfect surfaces and clean your hands as soon as you get into your room.
  • Limit your time in the lobby. Right now, hotel lobbies aren’t for lounging or getting work done near the fireplace or gorgeous view. Do that in your room. Treat the lobby like an airport concourse — just keep moving.
  • Use mobile check-in and a mobile key if offered. This can help limit your time in the lobby waiting to check in. I am particular to Marriott Bonvoy, and try to only stay at Marriott properties (this includes Sheraton brands now, too) when possible. Their mobile key is great when it works correctly.
  • Pack light. If you don’t need all of your clothing and items in the hotel room with you, consider leaving them in your vehicle or at home. This will help you keep account of what you have and also help for the next bullet point.
  • Find the stairs. If you’re able to walk a few flights of steps, it might be the better option. This is not only to help protect you, but we all know what elevator delays in a hotel can be like — especially around check-out time. Packing light can make it easier to use the steps.
  • Limit your time outside of your room. Chances are, most hotels have closed their pools and fitness centers, and — if not fully closed — have probably decreased the amount of seating capacity in a restaurant or bar area. And except to get ice, there probably isn’t a need to linger in hallways. But if you do, mask up.
  • Bring light snacks, drinks. If you know your hotel room will have a small fridge, consider drinks to keep in there instead of ordering room service, visiting the hotel’s convenience corner or getting ice. Keeping small snacks on hand also helps to limit your time in common areas and can help keep staff out of the hallways (which helps protect them). I’ve read that hotels that typically offer light food services (club lounges, breakfasts, etc.) have either temporarily done away with those services or have moved to individually wrapped items. In addition, hotels have likely limited menu options for restaurants and room service. If you don’t eat meat, like me, you’ve likely found hotel menus (and some limited menus from standalone restaurants) to be quite frustrating.

Election Day: Allegheny County DA fends off challenger, and more election news

Did you know 2020 is a leap year? One extra day has been tucked into the circus that will be the 2020 presidential election.

But until then, there is a slew of important local elections happening across Allegheny County and the country. Local elections matter.

In Allegheny County:

  • Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald (D-Pittsburgh) easily defeated his challenger for a third term (WTAE)
  • Controller Chelsa Wagner (D-Pittsburgh) also came away with a big win against her challenger (WTAE)
  • District Attorney Stephen Zappala (D) defeated challenger Lisa Middleman (Post-Gazette)
  • Joe Biden surprised Allegheny County Dems tonight with a random visit (Post-Gazette)
  • An ally of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto will replace outspoken mayoral critic Darlene Harris on Pittsburgh council (Post-Gazette)
  • Pittsburgh residents to pay higher taxes after parks vote (Pittsburgh Patch)

By the way, it looks like voter turnout in Allegheny County was just shy of 28 percent. I think officials estimated a 27 percent turnout. (This percentage might change slightly as not all precincts are reporting, as of 12:10 a.m. Nov. 6.)

And some big news around the country:

  • Democrats projected to flip Virginia Senate and House, taking control of state government for the first time in a generation (WaPo)
  • Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is the apparent winner over Republican incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin (NBC News)

Plus, check out these stories:

  • One Western Pennsylvania voter cast his absentee ballot … from the International Space Station (AP/WESA)
  • Woman who was fired for flipping off Trump motorcade won an election in Virginia (BuzzFeed News)
  • For the first time since 1981, Democrats won a majority of city council seats in Columbus, Indiana, which just so happens to be the hometown of VP Mike Pence (WXIN)