I Never Want…..

I never want to travel to the place that seeing an animal hurt becomes so commonplace, it no longer effects me.

I neve want to travel to a place where a caring heart is replaced by one of stone…

I never want to travel to a place where seeing an animal suffering, I will not stop my busy schedule to lend a hand…

I never want to travel to the place where taking an animal’s life no matter what animal no longer matters to me…

I want to stay at the place that when seeing an animal in the road, causes me to swerve off the road and the cat escapes injury.

Not ten minutes ago, WK (Wild Kitty) was hit on the road. I heard the impact and went running out. I must have looked like a crazy person as I dashed out in front of traffic waving my arms wildly and screaming at the people who could hit her again. I stopped traffic, and picked her up and carried her over the side of the road where she died in my arms.

No one stopped to lend aid, no one thought one minute about this mackeral tabby. Probably thoughts were focused on the crazy lady who almost got hit trying to rescue a cat beyond rescue.

It was over in minutes, this wonderful true feral cat who had lived on my porch now for over two years and who I could never touch. In the throes of death, I hugged her to my chest and told her I was sorry as she left to join the angels waiting for her.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day it said, “Man was made to be stewards of the earth, not inconsiderate assholes who want to be God.”

For me, that says it all- We used to live among the animals, now for the most part, many disregard animals as having no worth.

“Dear Jeremy…”

Even though thirty-three years have passed since you were born, this day always presents challenges for me. I am five seconds away from picking up the phone and calling your dad, even though it is early in the a.m. but I am reasonably sure that his thoughts are also resting on you just like mine are.

In a few hours, it will be your birthday, and then just like the candles that flicker on a birthday cake, your life wavered and you were gone.

I wish so much my son, I have so much love and many sorrows on this day. I wish I had held you when you passed. Did anyone hold you Jeremy as you were in the neo-natal ward inside of that incubator? I have never even asked your father if he was there when you took your final breath and went to join the angels. Did you know that you were loved my son? Did a nurse perhaps in attendance scoop you up in your arms and hug you tight before that last breath faded?

I wonder how your father would be different had you survived. Would he finally have connected with someone and loved them unconditionally? Would he have settled down in life instead of floating from one project to the next, disconnected from the world and searching for answers to questions never asked? Would the tow of you been the best of friends, or the worst of enemies?

I think of you every day my son, but this day and tomorrow, the thoughts of you flood over me and I cannot hold back the tears even after this long of a time.

There is no grave to visit, you were scattered at sea, free to surf the waves and ride the wind. To feel the freedom to join with God and become whole and at peace.

My hope is that someday soon I will see you again. I will be able to hold you in my arms and give you a million hugs and kisses that you missed out of when you left…”

I wrote this letter last night after midnight. This morning, I took three bright yellow helium balloons and wrote a letter to my son. I released the balloons at the lake with the letter attached. I do not know where the letter will end up, I just hope that whoever reads it, is somehow ministered or moved to care about a child in distress.

Second Day with the Kittens

The new arrivals had taken to hiding under the bed. I am getting a bit old to be bending down and removing them from under our kingsize bed, so I made them in the corner of the room, a nice warm cave. It has a roof (I used an old plastic strawberry crate, cut off the bottom and attached that as the roof. Because the crate has holes in it, I laid a small dark blanket on the top to form the roof. Inside, I piled several soft warm blankets and then blocked off all sides with boxes leaving them enough room for a doorway.

I am pleased to report, they took to their hidey hole immediately and except if they are using the litter pans, eating, drinking or playing, they are in the hole. Access to them is easy, I remove one cardboard box and there they are. Since I anchored the roof securely to the wall, the roof won’t fall on them even if all the boxes are removed.

They are slowly coming out of their shock of being abandoned, and one of them slept with Mike last night right on the edge of the bed. The problem is telling them apart. Other than now knowing we have one female and four males, it is hard to tell them apart.

They were wormed and deflead and although they don’t appear to “get” the idea of dry food yet, they are eating canned.

Three of the babies in their new cave.

Three of the babies in their new cave.

Who Rescues the Rescuer?

This morning when I drove up to the grocery store, someone was pulling a box of kittens out of a dumpster. :( There are five of them, all of them pitch black. I am estimating that they are around 7 weeks old. Only one isn’t eating.

Yes, they are here…sigh. So much for my resolve to give up rescuing. I guess someone wants me to continue.

They are set up in the bedroom and I will let them be for a few days before attempting to sex them or name them. I love black kittens- black cats have amazing immune systems and rarely get sick. But heavens, I don’t need five of them! I already know that chances are slim they will be adopted out being they are black. Around here, folks are foolish and mighty superstitious.

Littered Lives

Andrew grows sad at the prospect of visiting his mom. She recently celebrated her ninety-fifth birthday. He sees little to celebrate. He recalls the last time he visited her. The stench assaulted his nose the minute the front door was opened. He could barely breathe. Inside the house the stains spreading out over the carpet, up the walls, and the piles of dried cat feces scattered on the floor were difficult to ignore.

Andrew’s mother is a collector. She doesn’t collect Barbies, or Beanie Babies. She collects cats. Several years ago, feeling sorry for the homeless cats showing up at her door, she cut a jagged hole in the screen above her sink allowing the cats’ easier access. They came in nightly, encouraged by dishes of leftovers placed on the counters. She decided they were all her “pets.” She filled the bathtub up with kitty litter, and began to take sponge baths in the kitchen.

Cat urine is quite caustic. The urine did its damage, eating away at the paint and the carpet. As bacteria formed and pooled underneath the carpet, the urine worked through the linoleum and rotted out the baseboards. Tomcats would come and spray on the old heater (that seemed to always be on) adding to the overwhelming stench.

The outside, littered with half-empty plastic containers (most of which contained moldy food) effectively blocked off the path to the back door. Andrew, dismayed and disgusted, realized that his once well-educated mother had now won the distinction of the title “Crazy Cat Lady”.

Andrew’s story is hardly unique. This situation plays out repeatedly in towns and cities all over the United States. Newspaper reporters write about appalling conditions discovered in homes, as well as in some animal rescue facilities. Are these just cases of good intentions somehow becoming misguided?

In an article by Lynn Tryba, “Trash Menagerie: The Disturbing World of Animal Hoarders”, Psychology Today, December 2002, pg. 22. She quotes an expert in this field.
“There appear to be more similarities than differences between OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) hoarding and animal hoarding,” says Dr. Gary Patronek, who is also an assistant professor of veterinary medicine at Tufts. The interaction between an animal and a person just adds a level of intensity that doesn’t exist with a pile of newspapers.

Animal hoarders may threaten to kill themselves or others if their animals are removed. They use the animals to fulfill their emotional needs, but at the same time, they’re denying the animals’ needs, says Patronek.”

Pets’ needs are fairly basic. They are: shelter, food, water, vet care and love. When a hoarder comes into the picture her needs are more deep-seated overshadowing the needs of the animals. The hoarder keeps collecting the animals believing she’s doing the right thing.

Since these cats are strays, most of the cats are not spayed or neutered, so breeding occurs, and then inbreeding starts resulting in litters of kittens born with birth defects or worse. With so much food being left around, territorial disputes begin and fights breakout. Without proper veterinary intervention many of the cats die painful and often unnecessary deaths.

The reality of the hoarder’s world starts when the truth becomes known and the home is raided. Investigators are horrified to find carcasses and piles of feces. Often when background checks are run, evidence shows that the hoarder has been either abused or neglected. The animals effectively supply the love and the needs of the person hoarding them.

In an HARC study (Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium), a joint venture of the Massachusetts SPCA and schools including Harvard Medical School and Tufts University: seventy-one suspected hoarders were surveyed and observed. The most common animal being hoarded turned out to be cats, followed by dogs, and then birds. The homes were discovered to be filthy with papers, books and debris blocking out most of the living spaces.

Experts estimate there are at least 700 new cases of hoarding reported every year in the United States. According to Dr. Gary Patronek, the animal hoarder becomes a repeat offender. “The drive to collect these animals is so overpowering there is almost always 100% recidivism.”

There are clear warning signs pointing to hoarders. The amount of animals being collected does not define a hoarder. What determines a hoarder lies in the condition of those animals. Most hoarders are highly intelligent with a knack of being able to gain sympathy. The warning signs to watch out for are:
The amount of animals under their care keeps changing. New ones come in and old ones vanish. The animals coats are dull. Eyes washed out in illness, claws overgrown. The house retains more than just the whiff of litter box odor. There are noticeable stains on the carpet, upholstery and walls. The person?s skin is pallid, of an unnatural hue brought about by the constant contact of the stench of decay. You are prevented from gaining access to the whole house.

If you suspect someone might be a hoarder, the responsible move would be to call your local Environmental Health Department. They will help direct your call. Failure to report someone would not only endanger the animals under their care but the health of the hoarder as well.

If you rescue animals, do so responsibly. Know your limits, both financially and emotionally. Spay and neuter every pet under your care. Understand there are far too many strays and ferals “out there” that need rescuing. When the quality of care of your felines suffers because you can no longer afford to pay for nutritional food for your cats, or proper vet visits that is when you need to re-examine your life and make changes…

Andrew can visit his mom now. He made that important phone call awhile back. His mom has since been placed in the care of professionals, The one-hundred and fifty-six feral cats that were trapped, Andrew had found out were humanely destroyed. Andrew had heard that as they escorted his mom out of her house, she kept muttering “I was only trying to help.”

There’s the problem, a true hoarder never believes they are hoarding. They simply believe they are helping.

The Rescue of Lake

This morning I took Gretchen down to the river. She likes to wade out in the river not quite to the current and splash around and just be a dog. As usual, there was all sorts of garbage strewn around the shore. Gretchen left her pursuit of chasing fish and started nosing a plastic garbage bag (black one) and whining. It was stuck on some submerged logs and she pulled it free and dragged it onshore.

I figured it had food or fish inside of it and went over to take it away from her. It started to move, so I put her on a stay sit and gingerly opened the bag.

Inside was a tiny white kitten! He was bedraggled, and shivering, he is about 5 weeks old. I rushed him to the vet where they gave him a rubdown, some fluids and he scarfed up some kitten food warmed up in the microwave. Poor baby! He is now snuggled down in the bedroom with Fiona (my long-hair calico) and she has taken an instant liking to him.

He is suffering from shock, dehydration, URI and god knows what else, but he is no longer a piece of flotsam on the shore!

What the frick is wrong with people? How can they just toss a tiny life to the elements and not think of the consequences beyond that? I named him Lake and hope he survives the horror of near drowning and being inside a plastic bag.

So much for no more rescue. Sometimes, God just yanks that option right out from under me.

Rowdy Renters

A few farms up from us, there has been a home long standing empty. Not any more. Renters have moved in with a whole pack of animals including twelve cats (so far as I have counted) Most of these are toms :( I don’t quite understand why renters have so many animals when their lives seem to be always in transition? Already, the front yard is littered with debris and there is loud music playing at all hours..sigh…..

I have brought all the cats back inside now. They are all restless and looking at me as if I have betrayed them. But with the toms running around and probably also fertile queens being that is kitten season, I am soon to start hearing the sounds of the matiing season. I don’t want my cats tangled up in this mess.

I know better than to talk to the newcomers. The empty beer cans on the lawn serve as a reminder of what these people value most. The pit bull in the back is also another deterrent. Boy some people do suck.

The cats are restless. I managed to catch all of them except for the barn cats. But my barn cats are savvy and hopefully will not be involved in any fights. Most of them stay out in the barn and shop and hopefully Gretchen will prevent any new cats from coming into the yard.

I already know from experience that when these people move out (usually in the middle of the night) they will leave the animals behind.

God’s Compensation

Losing Oliver so unexpectely, shattered both of our souls. Unless you have found such a bond with a feline, it is hard to put into words the impact they leave when they pass.

For me, Oliver was my steady boy. He was always at the door to greet me at night when I would come home from work. He was the first to greet me in the morning, usually because he would sleep on my chest and purr into my ear.

For Mike, Oliver was his constant comfort. Ollie’s favorite place to lay down was on mike’s recliner. No sooner would Mike reach down and gently place him on the ground, Oliver would leap back up into the seat. Many times, Oliver became close to being a pancake kitty! When Mike finally won the tug-of-war and could sit down, Oliver would leap onto his chest, nuzzle his beard and bite this nose gently. Then he would settle down for a long snooze, generally upside down on Mike’s lap and chest.

I was entertaining the notion of taking a kitten that I know of who needs a home in order to find another companion for Mike when I received a phone call from a lady who over four years ago adopted Oliver’s brother and Sister- Scuba and Sonic. Georgia asked to meet me, she is an elderly woman living with many health challenges. I drove over to her home where she proceeded to tell me she has been diagnosed with incurable and inoperable cancer and she doesn’t have long to live. She has asked me to please take Oliver’s siblings back and care for them until they join her. I was stunned and saddened at the news. I know these cats are one of the main reasons she gets up every morning and it must have been so hard for her to ask me this favor.

I told her I would and that I would visit her every week until she is ready to let go of them. She lives about 20 minutes away and the thought of something happening to her quickly and losing sight of these beautiful cats is something I want to avoid. She is not ready to let them go and who can blame her, so I will wait until she finally says I can bring them home.

I am a bit concerned about Sonic, this short-haired grey kitty has lost a substantial amount of weight, so I started dropping off food for both of them and also wormed and de-flead them at the last visit.

So, although Oliver is gone, God is giving us the opportunity to reconnect with these two kittens. Scuba who is a beautiful, sleek black boy, readily climbed into my lap during the visit, but Sonic stayed in hiding under the bed.

On a sadder note, Mike has to go in for two more surgeries soon. The diabetes has invaded his arms and hands and he is slowly losing strength in his hands. The nerves are so compressed according to the neurologist that Mike failed the recent electrode test miserably. They will be only able to do one hand at a time. I just wish Ollie were still here, I have a feeling Mike is going to need him more than ever in his recuperation process.