Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It Won’t Be Long Now

Pretty soon now, I’m going to be digging a grave and saying good-bye to Gibson. Gibson is only eight years old. It seems so unfair that I have to lose him so soon. His litter-mate, Tinkerbell, who has never been without him, will mourn as much as I. Daisy, who adores Gibson above all others, will mourn him most of all.

One afternoon, eight years ago, I was working in my backyard when the neighbor children ran over to show off their new kittens. I was shocked to see them running around with kittens that couldn’t have been more than four weeks old draped over their shoulders. There were four kittens; two white, one black and one grey. The kids told me they had found the litter in the bushes outside the nursing home where their grandmother lived. They assumed that the mother was gone and brought the kittens home with them.

As the weeks went by the kittens lived, much to my surprise, but I noticed that they weren’t thriving. On one occasion I noticed one of the white kittens, who was now developing dark spots and points, fighting over a piece of chicken with some fire-ants. The kitten was growling and occasionally stopping to swipe at its face but it would not let go of that piece of chicken.

One day I heard someone next door asking one of the kids if they had fed the kittens that day. The child hollered back, “I fed them yesterday!” I then listened to an argument about whether or not kittens needed feeding everyday because cats are hunters. That did it for me. That day I started enticing the kittens over to my yard with bits of chicken and tuna.

It didn’t take more than a day or two before the kitten were climbing through the chain link fence into my yard. They were so tiny, even at approximately eight weeks old, that they could fit through the links of the fence. I don’t know why I had let the neglect go on so long but I wasted no time in fattening them up.

Every morning and every night I would take bowls of food out and call, “Kitty, kitty, kitty,” and four little balls of fluff would race into my yard and devour all the food and all the love I could dish out. They were as starved for love as they were for food. And, of course, they were all little angels.

But they weren’t putting on weight and they weren’t growing, even after several weeks. So, I took the runt of the litter, the little black one, to the vet. She was infested with round worms, tapeworms and ringworm. The vet didn’t think she would live but he gave me enough medicine for the entire litter and sent me off without much hope.

Back at home, I paid a visit to the neighbors and confessed that I had taken one of their kittens to the vet and gave them the bad news. Then I informed them that I was going to take the kittens, lock then up on my porch and do my best to save their lives. I didn’t expect to get much opposition and I was right. The family wasn’t all that well off financially and I think the mother was really looking for an excuse to get rid of the kittens. So, I put together some little kitten beds and moved the babies onto the porch.

I bathed the kittens, treated their ringworm and dosed them with the medicine the vet had given me for their round worms. It nearly killed them all. They passed huge clumps of round rooms - clumps almost as big as the kittens themselves. It was ghastly. I had to force water down a couple of the kittens and they all were sick and lethargic for a couple of days afterward. But they lived. And soon, they thrived.

In a couple of weeks I had four of the feistiest, happiest kittens imaginable bouncing around on my porch. They played and they loved and they crawled all over me when I was with them. And, of course, the neighbor kids were asking about them, expecting to get them back. I’m here to tell you, I had no intentions of sending them back to be starved and neglected again.

Fortunately, I was about to move to a new house. What could have been a difficult situation was solved by simply packing up and moving away – with the kittens.

When I took the kittens in for their first shots the vet was so surprised and pleased to see them all healthy and happy and he oooed and awed over the baby pictures I took in. But I wasn’t out of the woods, yet. I had two adult cats at home and four kittens. That was just too many cats. So, I put an ad in the paper and started looking for homes for my little miracle kittens.

I wound up finding homes for two of the kittens. It was late summer and there were dozens of ads in the paper for free kittens, so I guess I was lucky to find good homes for even two of them. This left me with two permanent additions to my household; Tinkerbell, the little black runt, and Gibson, the kitten that I had seen fighting over a piece of chicken with the fire ants.

They were absolute and utter joys. They were also little terrors. I began calling them The Wrecking Crew because they climbed curtains, scratched on the furniture, raced through the house knocking things off tables and counters and made life absolutely miserable for the two adult cats. And I loved them more every day.

Gibson and Tinkerbell are now eight years old. The two adult cats that were in the family when they were babies have all died of old age. And Gibson has cancer. He has a lymphoma in his intestinal tract that causes him to vomit frequently and prevents him from getting all the nutrition he needs out of his food.

I put him through one course of chemo therapy that did give him some relief. Two squirts of liquid down his little throat twice a day. It upset him so much that he ran and hid from me for over two months. I just couldn’t put him through any more of it.

He’s been getting thinner and thinner over the last few months and now he’s just a little bag of bones. There is always a spot of vomit on the floor or the bed or the couch that needs cleaning up and he sleeps almost constantly. But he still wants to go outside and patrol his little backyard territory. He still brings his little toys to me for a game of fetch and he still cuddles up in the big chair with me at night and purrs like the little angel he’s always been.

Someday soon I’ll have to take him to the vet and ask to have him released from his suffering. Then I’ll bring him home and bury him in the backyard that he loves so much. For now, he’s not in much pain and he is still enjoying his life. I’m spending as much time as I can with him, giving him all the treats he wants, taking him outside as often as possible, doing my best to make his last few weeks as happy as possible. When he goes, I won’t have any regrets. But I’ll miss him. I’ll miss him so very much.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Daisy in the Garden

  Posted by Picasa

Finding Daisy

One June morning, as I was sitting in the kitchen drinking my coffee, I looked out into the back yard and saw, curled up on the roof of my garden shed, a tiny silver kitten. She was sleeping in the sun curled up in a tiny little ball.

I hurried to fill a bowl with tuna and opened the door to the back yard. Before I got the door opened the kitten had disappeared. I called “Kitty, kitty, kitty,” put the bowl of tuna on the roof of the shed and went back inside. I didn’t see the kitten come back that day but that night the bowl of food was empty, so I refilled it.

This was to be the pattern for the next month. I would occasionally see the kitten curled up in the sun on the shed roof but the minute she heard the back door open she would disappear. Every morning and every night I would fill a bowl with food and put it on the roof of the shed and the food would always get eaten.

I eventually began putting the food on the ground next to the shed and that food, too, would disappear. Every few days I would move the food bowl further away from the shed and closer to the house. Each time I put out fresh food I would call, “Kitty, kitty, kitty.” One day, as I was calling, I saw the most beautiful little kitten face peering at me over the top of the wood fence.

As the weeks went by, the kitten became more comfortable in my back yard and I would see her sleeping in the flower beds, playing in the azalea bush or chasing bugs across the grass. But she was still completely wild. If she so much as saw me watching her from a window she would disappear.

As she grew older she began catching birds. Normally, I would have been upset with a cat for catching birds, especially since I was giving her plenty of food to eat. But this little kitten had been all alone for so long – she could not have been more than 5 or 6 weeks old when she first showed up – that I could only be proud of how she was learning to fend for herself. And the birds soon learned to steer clear of her.

As autumn progressed and the nights got colder, I worried more about that little kitten. She had progressed to taking her meals on the patio and I would often see her sleeping on a patio chair. So, I put a small plastic pet cage out by her food dishes and filled it with towels for her to curl up in. The first night she claimed that cage as her own and after that I would often see her curled up in it, even during the day.

I decided that I needed to put more effort into getting the kitten into the house because it was beginning to get very cold at night. So, each night when she curled up in her little bed, I would open the door just enough to get my arm through it and hold out a piece of chicken or tuna or turkey for her. After a few days she was actually taking the food out of my hand!

I continued holding out special treats through the door for the kitten I had named, Daisy, and I also started holding out things for her to play with – bits of yarn and little stuffed mice. Daisy would come to play with the yarn and toys and sometimes she would grab my hand and wrestle with it. Her little body was the softest thing I had ever touched. But if I tried to fold my fingers around her she would be off like a shot. Still, she was getting more and more comfortable around me.

On the day the first winter storm of the year blew in I decided it was time for drastic action. Daisy was curled up in her little bed on the porch with the cold north wind howling through the vent holes. I took a towel out to the porch and quickly threw it over the opening in the cage, pulled it tight and rushed into the house with the cage, kitten and all.

Six years later, Daisy still lives with me. She is still pretty wild and I am rarely able to touch her. But she is happy and has made fast friends with the other cats in the house. In fact, Gibson is her special friend and she loves to cuddle up with him in the big chair in the living room.

She still likes to get special treats and she has a definite sense of time. Every night at 9:00pm Daisy starts talking to me. If I am moving around the house, she will cry a couple of times to get my attention and then start walking toward the kitchen, looking back at me as she goes. If I am sitting in the living room, she will stand in the kitchen doorway and talk to me. This is my cue to come give Daisy her kitty treats. When I bend down to put a few treats on the floor for her, Daisy will rub her whiskers against my hand and purr for me. On very special nights, she lets me pick her up and hold her for a little while as she purrs and coos.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Horse Slaughtering in America

Each year in the United States close to 100,000 horses are sent to the slaughter house. The horse meat is shipped abroad to be sold as specialty meat for human consumption. In addition, thousands of US horses are shipped to Canada for slaughter. There are only 3 horse slaughtering facilities in the US and all three are foreign owned.

Many people who have sold their horses at auction do not even realize that their pets are being bought expressly for slaughtering. These are people who bought a horse for their kids never realizing the amount of time and money it takes to care for a horse. Or people whose kids have grown up and lost interest in the horse. There are also people who think it is fun, special, or educational for the kids, to breed their horses. These people wind up with more animals than they have time for or can afford to support.

When these people decide they can no longer keep their horses they will put an ad in the paper, place ads in magazines, post ads at veterinarian offices, at stables, and a variety of other places. But because there are so many horses in the US, and relatively few people who have the time and money to care for them, these ads often go unanswered and the horse owners are forced to take their animals to a livestock auction where they are sold to the highest bidder.

During the auction the horses are subjected to noise and confusion, something most of them are not used to and none of them like. After they are sold, they are loaded into trailers, often double-decker, and often overcrowded. The double-decker trailer ceilings are not tall enough for most horses to stand up straight in the trailer. They are forced to hold their necks down low, which after several hours causes pain. The floors are often slippery and the horses often fall and are injured because they are unable to maintain their balance. Federal regulations were changed in 2002 to disallow the use of this type of double-decker trailer but not until 2007! Regulations also allow horses to be transported for 28 hours without food, water or rest.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was given jurisdiction over horse slaughtering by Congress in 1996. However, the new regulations that the USDA put into effect in 2002 still allow the transporter companies to oversee themselves and to certify the care that the horses receive!

Many horses arrive at the slaughter house sick, injured, unable to walk, exhausted and most have gone without food or water for over a day. These terrified animals are then lined up under stressful and frightening conditions and shot with a captive bolt gun that shoots a metal rod into the horse’s brain. The intent is to render the horse unconscious while they are strung up by their hind feet and their throats are slit. Unfortunately, many horses are not rendered unconscious by the captive bolt gun, yet the slaughtering process is not halted for these animals.

A bill titled, “To amend the Horse Protection Act to prohibit the shipping, transporting, moving, delivering, receiving, possessing, purchasing, selling, or donation of horses and other equines to be slaughtered for human consumption, and for other purposes,” has been passed by the House of Representatives and is currently on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar 631.

Please, let your Senators know that you want them to vote YES on this bill.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Angie, The Talking Kitten

I have three grown cats, all strays that I’ve tamed or rescued from terrible conditions. I live in a tiny 725 sq. ft house and for over three years I worked out of my home office. While I was still actively catching and rescuing feral cats, I was finding other homes for them or doing a neuter/spay and release program. I was absolutely not interested in bringing another cat into my family. Until my mother and I visited my aunt and saw the unbelievable conditions her 15 cats and kittens were living in.

One mother cat and her litter of 4 kittens were so undernourished and sickly I didn’t see how they could keep living. My aunt just ignored them. She didn’t feed them, she didn’t love them, she didn’t try and catch them to get them to the vet. Yet, they were her cats and she had an absolute fit when we suggested that it might be better to call Animal Control and have them come pick up all the cats.

We took all four of the kittens with us when we left. I was a little surprised at my aunt’s lack of resistance when we took them, since she professed such great love for them. But, I already knew that this was just another attention-getting device, because the babies were in such poor shape. Still, she refused to let us have the mother. It still breaks my heart that we had to leave her there. But at least she’s no longer trying to nurse 4 babies and can maybe regain some of her health.

It was difficult to catch the kittens, they were half wild, and we didn’t have much of a chance to assess their condition until we got them back to my house. We just knew that they were all very thin, constantly crying, restless and, of course, not well socialized. What we found when we got them home was shocking and heartbreaking.

The three boys were bigger and had quite a bit more body fat than the little girl, which isn’t saying much as even the boys were way, way too thin. But the one little girl was just a skeleton. She was the runt of the litter and had obviously never been as strong as her brothers. Her little face, once we were able to get a good look at her, was just a skull covered with skin and patches of fur.

Animal Control in my town works with several no-kill shelters and, fortunately, we were able to get the three boys into a shelter with their help. The little girl was so starved and sickly I was afraid that she would be deemed too far gone to save and I couldn’t bear the thought of her short little life ending when she had never know what it felt like to be well-fed and to feel good. So, I kept her and I called her Angie.

For the first few hours we had a tough time catching Angie to show her the litter box and the food. We fed her a small portion every hour and we’d have to chase her down and corner her every time we fed her. When it got time to go to bed I decided that she should probably spend the night in the bathroom because she hadn’t gotten acquainted with the other cats yet and because it would be easier to make sure she stayed warm enough in the bathroom. I chased her down and put her in her little bed and locked her in the bathroom. The minute the door closed on her she began shrieking at the top of her lungs. We let her go on for awhile thinking that she would calm down pretty soon and drop off to sleep. But Mom had to go to the bathroom and shortly after she went in things got very, very quiet. Then Mom called me to come look. Angie was sitting in her lap purring so loud I could hear it from the hallway.

I took her to bed with me that night and (except for one small accident in the middle of the night) she cuddled up to me and slept like a baby all night long. We never had a problem catching Angie after that. In fact, she would follow us everywhere we went and whenever either of us sat down she would climb up in our laps and cuddle and purr.

She was also quite the talker. She would climb into a lap, curl around and find a comfortable spot, and then meow at us for several minutes. If we answered her she’d just keep talking.

Mom’s visit ended and after she left Angie became my shadow. I was working from home at the time and I was never out of her sight. She would squeeze into my lap while I sat at the computer and when I talked to a customer on the phone she would talk, too. When she was awake she’d try and catch the mouse pointer on the computer screen and talk to me. Meow, meow, meow, meow. A constant stream of chatter. She was so tiny that she could sit right in between the computer monitor and the keyboard and never interfere with my typing or my paperwork.

It took several weeks for Angie to build up any strength and gain some weight. At one point she stopped eating completely and I rushed her to the vet, terrified that I was going to lose her. But her little tummy was just having trouble getting used to so much food. She was fine. The vet said, “I think you’re going to have a healthy little girl here – she just needs some patience and some feeding-up.” Such simple words, but music to my ears. Sure enough, she gradually gained weight and started feeling better. She learned how to fetch balled up cigarette wrappers and would wear my arm out wanting them thrown for her. She learned to climb curtains, hide behind chairs and jump out to scare me when I walked through the house, use a scratching post and ride in the car. She was my constant companion and it was such a joy to have her in my life.

I had fallen head-over-heels in love with Angie but my three big cats had not. They hated her, which is not unusual for cats. But, Daisy, who is still pretty wild, really hated Angie and kept trying to hurt her. She drew blood on several occasions and I kept a constant eye on the two of them. Angie was so small she still fit in my two cupped hands. I was afraid Daisy might actually kill her. It became such a serious issue that I began taking Angie to the neighbors when I had to leave the house, so that she would not be left alone with Daisy.

Then my company started another big reorganization and I was scheduled to visit 12 offices in 3 weeks. I’d be gone for at least a week at a time, maybe longer. I couldn’t leave Angie alone with the big kitties, even with a pet sitter coming in every day. And I began to have some serious doubts about forcing her onto the other three cats. All three of them came from very difficult situations. Daisy was a wild orphan, somehow separated from her mother when she was much to young to be weaned. It took me months to catch her while she lived in my back yard – a lonely, scared little kitten. Gibson and Tinkerbell were nearly dead from starvation and parasites when I found their orphaned litter. I had a lot of myself invested in those three cats and, after two months, they were all three still very unhappy about her presence. To be truthful, I was definitely paying much more attention to Angie than I was to them and it just wasn’t fair to them. I had to give Angie up.

Angie now lives with two little boys and a dog that she adores. I’ve visited her a couple of times. She still fetches balled up cigarette wrappers, jumps out from behind chairs and scares her little boys, then chases them through the house. She follows her new dog, Ernie Bear, everywhere and loves him dearly. She doesn’t pay much attention to me when I visit. She has a new family and a new life. She’s moved on. But, I still miss that tiny warm body curled up tight against me at night, and it’s so quiet with no kitten conversation to keep me company.